The Sessional Academic Success (SAS) project

Hamilton, Jillian (2013) The Sessional Academic Success (SAS) project. In Harvey, Marina & Luzia, Karina (Eds.) BLASST National Leadership Summit : Setting the Standard for Quality Learning and Teaching by Sessional Staff, 22 February 2013 , Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

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The Sessional Academic Success (SAS) project is a sustainable, distributed model for supporting sessional staff at QUT. Developed by the Learning and Teaching Unit. SAS complements our Sessional Academic Program (SAP): a sequence of formal academic development workshops explained in complementary nomination. SAS recognises that while these programs are very well received and a crucial aspect of preparing and advancing sessional teachers, they are necessarily encapsulated in the moment of their delivery and are generic, as they address all faculties (with their varied cultures, processes and pedagogies).

The SAS project extends this formal, centrally offered activity into local, ‘just in time’, ongoing support within schools. It takes a distributed leadership approach. Experienced sessional academics are recruited and employed as Sessional Academic Success Advisors (SASAs). They provide sessional staff in their schools with contextually specific, needs based, peer-to-peer development opportunities; one-on-one advice on classroom management and strategies for success; and help to trouble-shoot challenges. The SASAs are trained by the Learning and Teaching Unit co-ordinator, and ongoing support is provided centrally and by school-based co-ordinators. This team approach situates the SASAs at the centre of an organisation map (see diagram of support relationships below).

The SAS project aims to support sessional staff in their professional development by: • Offering contextual, needs-based support at school level by harnessing local expertise; • Providing further development opportunities that are local and focal; SAS aims to retain Sessional Staff by: • Responding to self-nominated requests for support and ‘just in time’, safe and reliable advice in times of need; • Building sessional staff confidence through help with dealing with challenges from a trusted peer; • Building a supportive academic community for sessional staff, which helps them feel a part of faculty life, and a community of teaching practice. SAS aims to support sessional staff in the development of academic teaching careers by: • Recognising the capacity of experienced sessional staff to support their peers in ways that are unique, valuable and valued and providing the agency to do so; • Providing career advancement and leadership opportunities for sessional staff.

SAS takes unique approaches within each school using strategies such as: • Welcomes and schools orientation by SASAs; • Regular check ins; face-to-face advice and online support; • Compiling local resources to complement university wide resources. • Sessional-to-sessional ‘just in time’ training (eg. assessment and marking when marking commences); • Peer feedback and mentoring (the opportunities to sit in more experiences sessionals’ classes; • Sessional staff awards (nominated by students); • Communities of practice to discuss topics and issues with a view to (and support for) publishing on learning and teaching.

In these ways, SASAs complement support offered by unit coordinators, administrators, and the Learning and Teaching Unit. Pairing senior and ‘understudy’ advisors ensures a line of succession, sustainability and continuity.

A pilot program commenced in 2012 involving three schools (Psychology and Social Work; Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Media, Entertainment and Creative Arts). It will be expanded across schools in 2013.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 66121
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Sessional Academics, Sessional Teachers, Academic development, Distributed leadership, HERN
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > EDUCATION SYSTEMS (130100) > Higher Education (130103)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Current > Research Centres > Higher Education Research Network
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 please consult author.
Deposited On: 14 Jan 2014 01:13
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2014 05:01

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