A case study: Do discipline-based programmes improve student learning outcomes?

Robert Kennelly, Anna Maldoni, Doug Davies


This paper contributes to the growing body of knowledge that supports a disciplinebased approach to academic and language development. To address the academic literacy needs of both international English as an Additional Language (EAL) and domestic students, universities are moving from generic to embedded models of teaching. This project was motivated by the realisation that students had unmet needs in terms of the academic competence required for successful tertiary study. This demonstrates a lack of educational integrity on behalf of the universities to ensure that students gain sufficient academic and language skills for success in firstyear university study. This paper reports on the use of a teaching and learning model which demonstrates the effectiveness of embedding the development of academic and language skills within a particular discipline for EAL students and others. The unique contribution of this paper is that it uses a team-taught approach across two disciplines. It shows that discipline management specialists working in conjunction with English language specialists provide a reconsideration of teaching and learning strategies and modes of assessment that lead to better outcomes for both students and staff. Success of the programme was indicated by student assessment, attendance data, student evaluations, and reflection of peer teaching practices. Finally, the paper makes recommendations for the inclusion of embedded programmes in first-year university study using a diagnostic tool to determine specific student needs. Longitudinal studies need to be undertaken to ascertain specifically whether the benefits of discipline-based programmes are sustained in the longer term and additionally why many “at risk†students do not participate in the programme.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21913/IJEI.v6i1.671