Writing Centre Coordinator and Student Success Lecturer Jenna Goddard has recently been named as the recipient of the 2017 Audrey Fenwick Memorial Award for Studies in Adult Education at St. Francis Xavier University. The prize is given to the graduating student with the best academic record in the Master of Adult Education program.
Through her project, Jenna stated that she “sought to understand what contributes to and what detracts from an authentic practice, so that I might locate and address the gaps in my own practice for the ultimate benefit of learners and contribute to the body of knowledge on authentic practices in adult education.”
Considering the wide array of students on campus from a number of avenues, “I recognized the importance of supporting a diverse student population,” Jenna said.
The TRU population is a vast community that includes 52% Open Learning students, 45% mature students, 10% Aboriginal students and 16% international students—that collectively comes from over 80 different countries.
“Creating a learning environment that reflects and supports a multiplicity of educational and cultural experiences is essential. I was interested in finding balance between institutional requirements, one’s own teaching philosophy and a variety of student learning preferences.”
Upon further research, “it seemed that what I was looking for was ‘authenticity’. Although there is no single definition of what an ‘authentic practice’ looks like, the literature suggests that it is characterized by understanding and responding to individualization, addressing positionality and the resulting privilege and power in a transparent way, and creating a space in which emotion and vulnerability can be safely expressed.”
“Sadly, no checklist or step-by-step program for accomplishing this exists,” Jenna laughed.
Not only was she able to recognize the gaps in her practice, the literature provided Jenna with specific suggestions for addressing them. “Modifications were made with transparency, context and language all in mind: I adapted my course outlines, curriculum, assignments, assessment, workshops, presentations, and tutor-training program to reflect and respond to student diversity and autonomy.”
Above all, Jenna believes that “no amount of research into techniques or strategies matters without genuine care for one’s students. Establishing relationships built on mutual trust is at the foundation of facilitating student success.”
Jenna is thrilled to be finishing her master’s on a high note. Overall, the educational journey and professional development was the most satisfying aspect. To her, applying the research in a direct and practical way to her work in both the Writing Centre and the classroom is a reward in itself. In addition, making the Writing Centre services and Student Success courses increasingly accessible is key to academic excellence.
Already looking into the future, Jenna is planning further research initiatives regarding authenticity as well as presenting at conferences, giving workshops, further developing the tutor training program and revising Student Success curriculum. Finally, Jenna continuously seeks to improve the student experience, so that all can find success when navigating through the academic, physical, emotional, cultural and financial demands of university life.
Check out the website for more information on the Writing Centre: tru.ca/writingcentre