Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
Autumn 2014 Issue
Current issue (PDF) | Archive | Editorial Contact

Small group discovery experience: University rolls out new learning initiative

Undergraduate students are being exposed to exciting new interactive learning experiences this year as the University of Adelaide takes an Australian lead in delivering small group discovery.

The new education focus aims to provide a more adventurous form of learning for undergraduate students to challenge and be challenged.

The roll-out follows 18 months of planning by University staff to turn back the clock on the massification of higher education over the past 20 years.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Warren Bebbington says a shift by universities towards huge, passive lectures meant some students never had the opportunity of meeting their lecturers.

"That's not what I remember about university. When I was an undergraduate, we met professors in small classes and I was fortunate to learn from exceptional teachers who inspired and challenged," he says.

"That's exactly what I want for our students at the University of Adelaide. Small group discovery experience will be a key feature of university life, and will once again be central to our unique learning proposition."

The roll-out is a fundamental component of the University's 10 year Strategic Plan - Beacon of Enlightenment - which was unveiled in 2012.

Professor Bebbington says he is delighted that teaching staff have fully embraced the concept with lecturers rethinking how they deliver their content and engage with students.

The new approach includes a return to undergraduate research so that every student in every program has an opportunity to experience the thrill of discovery.

For many undergraduates, this will take the form of an individual research project in their final year, with preparatory skills and experience built through smaller exercises in the earlier years of their course.

Students who demonstrate a readiness for independent work at admission will be offered an Advanced Bachelor program involving research projects from the first year.

Professor Bebbington says small group learning is not a formulaic response about setting specific class sizes.

"It's about our academics considering the best way to spend their week and finding the best mix of lecture content, online learning and making sure they have time for face-to-face teaching with smaller groups of students," he says.

"It will be different for each course and each teacher but the principles remain the same. What matters most is getting students in front of key professors.

"This will lead us back to a far more serendipitous, adventurous kind of education. An education based on questioning and on a discussion that can go in any direction. That's a far cry from the passive transfer of knowledge."

Tailor-made teaching
"The importance of one-to-one lessons in music really does embrace the small group discovery experience philosophy of the University of Adelaide because there are so many aspects of technical and musical issues that can be addressed at that moment, face-to-face.

"We can trouble shoot ideas, discuss how to overcome problems of technique and address any obstacles in the preparation of study material and music repertoire. It is incredible how one-to-one lessons can set up a student for their career - it is tailor-made teaching.

"The teacher and student can collaborate to design short-term and long-term goals and design a series of practice sessions to directly target problems of that individual student. It is amazing how quickly improvement is shown.

"Time spent together one-to-one fosters the students' capacity to work in detail and not gloss over difficult technical passages in their repertoire. The outcomes can be easily revealed at the end of each lesson.

"Students focus better when one-to-one, making it easier for decisions to be made, goals set and outcomes targeted."

Associate Professor Elizabeth Koch OAM.
Head of Woodwind, Elder Conservatorium of Music

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact:

Media Office
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

For more news on the research and educational achievements of the University & our alumni read the University's bi-annual magazine, Lumen.