In our final instalment of the Dean’s Awards, we speak with Alison Barnes, co -convenor of BBA102, winner of the First Year Experience Award. You can check the other winners’ posts: Steve Ericsen, Lawrence Ang, Andrea Chareunsy.
The first thing that struck me chatting with Alison was the genuine concern she has for her students. She talks in detail about all the initiatives she and Nikki (Nikola Balnave) run to make life easier for their first year students. Every activity, every slide, every contact with students is carefully though of to ensure equity and respect for students. And 5 minutes into the interview, it hits home – BBA102 did not win this Award because it’s a fun and engaging unit (which it is), it won the Award because Alison cares for the students.
“BBA102 works because we make it fair. We treat the students with equity.” Some of the ways this is done are:
- Speaking with tutors consistently about respect for students and their views.
- Assessments are designed to be clear and straightforward. Alison recounts an incident where she met an ex-student and the thing that stuck with them was that the unit was ‘clear.’ And this is by design. There is much care taken to ensure that students coming into first year are not confused.
- Similar to the above, there are also clear procedures for both tutors and students, in case something goes wrong. Alison believes greatly in transparency and works hard to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- BBA102 lectures also include information about the various support services available to students, including the pastoral care at Campus Well Being.
- She also makes a sure that there is enough information on the slides during class, but not too much.
These small, but significant and well thought of practices definitely help the students transition better.
However, providing the great first year experience that Alison aims for means going beyond making their experience fair and equitable. It also means making their experience engaging and memorable. She achieves this through turning slides into cartoons, using images to visually represent concepts that are easy to understand and regularly updating the content so there is real world relevance for the students.
Alison also strongly believes in KickStart. “It not only helps students overcome anxiety but is also a great resource for those who are keen. As it is a big cohort, KickStart helps support and guide students in the right direction, and is more than the sum of its parts,” she adds.
Alison also acknowledged the support service that Janise Farrell provides to the students within the faculty.