Drop-in learning centre (maths, physics, chemistry)

Contact person info
Name of contact person: 
Brendan Cooney
Email of contact person: 
What is the rationale for this practice?: 
Perceived need by ALL staff
Perceived need by faculty staff
Perceived need by other department/s
High demand from students
Supports university obligations/initiatives
What support exists for this practice? (Institutional or other): 
University strategic/operational plan
Departmental strategic/operational plan
Administrative support
Promotional support
What restrictions are there on this practice? (Institutional or other): 
Room availability and suitability
If you have evaluated this practice, please select evaluation type(s): 
ALL unit administered student surveys
Usage numbers
What are the strengths of this practice?: 

This is a particularly efficient learning and teaching practice for developmental learning such as that for maths. On arrival, the student sits with an advisor and discusses the issue they want to work on. The advisor teaches, using resources as appropriate, then the student works independently until the advisor returns to see how they're going, thereby developing a practice/feedback loop.
The students are able to come and go whenever it suits them. Two staff for maths and physics support are rostered on every day, mostly from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm and support students as they wander in (no appointment necessary). A sessional chemistry advisor is rostered on 3 days each week for a total of 7 hours.

What are the weaknesses?: 

Requires a large space, and because we have 2 staff timetabled on at any given time, staffing can be an issue.
The large numbers of students also means the service also requires substantial admin. support, particularly with record-keeping.
Another issue is that we never know if a particular period will be busy or not. Some sessions are frantically busy, in others we have very few students.

What improvements (if any) would you like to make?: 

A larger space would allow for more students, and would allow for a more 'commons'-like approach, where many students would come and work independently, only requiring a maths/physics advisor from time to time. At present, students largely come for direct support, although many do continue to work independently.

What approaches/theories of language and/or learning underpin this practice?: 

We adopt a scaffolded approach to our teaching in the drop-in centres. There is also a recognition that developmental learning requires a practice/feedback loop.

Other publications/products arising from this practice? (Not already included in previous question): 

Paper based resources

Online resources

ALL Publication