Drop-in learning centre (writing, EAL, study skills)

Contact person info
Name of contact person: 
Elizabeth McKenzie
Email of contact person: 
What is the rationale for this practice?: 
Perceived need by ALL staff
Perceived need by faculty staff
High demand from students
Supports university obligations/initiatives
First year experience initiatives
Language proficiency initiatives
What support exists for this practice? (Institutional or other): 
Departmental strategic/operational plan
Teaching/learning management 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
Focus groups with students
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 English language and academic writing and communication. On arrival, the student sits with an adviser and discusses the issue they want to work on. The adviser identifies the need, teaches the skill/concept using resources as appropriate, then the student works independently until the adviser returns to see how they are going, thereby developing a practice/feedback loop. For academic writing and language, this seems to reduce students' expectations that we will proofread. The students are able to come and go whenever it suits them. Two staff for writing/English/study support are rostered on every day, mostly from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm and support students as they come in (no appointment necessary). 

What are the weaknesses?: 

Requires a large space, and because we have two staff timetabled on at any given time, staffing can be an issue. The large numbers of students also means the service 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, requiring a language/learning 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. English language is taught within an academic literacies approach.

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

Presentation to faculty/university

Paper based resources

Online resources

ALL Publication