Improving the Provision of Learning Assistance Services in Higher Education
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This study is motivated by the need to look continually for ways to improve Griffith University’s learning assistance services so that they meet the changing needs of stakeholders and are at the same time cost-effective and efficient. This study uses the conceptual tools of cultural-historical activity theory and expansive visibilisation to investigate the development and transformation of learning assistance services at Griffith University, one of Australia's largest multi-campus universities. Cultural-historical activity is a powerful theoretical framework that acknowledges the importance of dimensions such as cultural context, local setting, collective understanding, and the influence of historical variables on interactions in settings. Expansive visibilisation is a practical four-stage process that was used in this study to make visible and analysable the work context of the Learning Assistance Unit. The study uses these conceptual tools to illustrate how learning assistance services at the University have moved through several stages of historical development and that historical variables, such as the political setting and physical location of services continue to influence current work practices. The investigation involved gathering data through interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders in order to map the University's Learning Assistance Unit as an activity system that appears to have separated out from the overall activity system of the University. It involved making visible problems and tensions in the activity system, and identifying ways of improving future practice. The study reveals problem clusters and underlying tensions amongst the interacting activity systems of the Learning Assistance Unit, faculty, library and student. These problem clusters relate to different understandings about the purpose of the Learning Assistance Unit and the role of the learning adviser, the difficulties in offering a quality service on a restricted budget, and tensions between contextualised and de-contextualised learning assistance. The study suggests that resolving these tensions depends on staff taking an active role in critically examining their practice, in particular the way that they collaborate with key stakeholders in the learning environment. The dissertation concludes by suggesting that one way forward is to expand the activity system on its socio-spatial, temporal, moral-ideological, and systemic-developmental dimensions (Engeström, 1999c).
Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Doctor of Education (EdD)
School of Cognition, Language and Special Education
Item Access Status
learning assistance units