Advertisement

A Critical-Relational Approach to Community Development That Increases Well-Being, Learning Outcomes and Retention of International Students

  • Athena LathourasEmail author
Chapter
  • 28 Downloads

Abstract

This chapter analyses the contemporary context of a greenfield public university whose vision it is to grow its international standing and be an asset for the regional communities in which its campuses are situated. A key strategy for its growth is to attract international students and provide them with a high-quality educational experience. In 2013–2015 a four-semester participatory action research project explored what a critical-relational approach to community development could bring to increase the well-being, learning outcomes and retention of international students. The need for the project arose when international students were facing significant barriers impacting on their educational outcomes. This was the catalyst to develop a more ethical approach to education and four phases of action-research employed ‘dialogue circles’ for peer support, surveys and in-depth interviews, creating feedback loops informing subsequent action. Findings revealed that with a focus on equity it is possible to develop inclusive processes that create a sense of community and belonging, foster well-being, positive educational outcomes and retention. The co-learning environments proved to benefit both students and their educators who created more inclusive and engaged participation in the cross-cultural classroom. This work endures today with findings from the formal research project embedded institutionally. With theoretical knowledge and collegial support for educators to experiment with actions in line with a critical tradition of community development, overall, it remains an ethical stance to resist the worst elements of commodified education system.

Keywords

International students Internationalisation Community development Community 

Notes

Acknowledgement

I am grateful for the support of colleagues who have contributed to the project: Carey Shaw, Kezi Holmquest, Sam Glazier, Natalie Alexander, Sindhu Pauly, Kerry Greene, Mandula Barta and Phillipa Wiley.

References

  1. Australian Government. (2011). Strategic review of the student visa program 2011. Retrieved January 2020, from https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/reports-and-pubs/files/2011-knight-review.pdf
  2. Australian Government Department of Education and Training (AGDET). (2018). Research snapshot: Export income to Australia from international education activity in 2017. Retrieved January 2020, from https://internationaleducation.gov.au/research/Research-Snapshots/Documents/Export%20Income%20CY%202017.pdf
  3. Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. (2019). Skilled occupation list. Retrieved December 2019, from https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/working-in-australia/skill-occupation-list
  4. Banks, S. (2016). Everyday ethics in professional life: Social work as ethics work. Ethics and Social Welfare, 10(1), 35–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Banks, S., Armstrong, A., Carter, K., Graham, H., Hayward, P., Henry, A., … Strachan, A. (2013). Everyday ethics in community-based participatory research. Contemporary Social Science, 8(3), 263–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brookfield, S., & Holst, J. (2010). Radicalizing learning: Adult education for a just world. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  7. Butchart, S., Handfield, T., & Restall, G. (2009). Using peer instruction to teach philosophy, logic and critical thinking. Teaching Philosophy, 32(1), 1–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carter, J., Hollinsworth, D., Raciti, M., & Gilbey, K. (2018). Academic ‘place-making’: Fostering attachment, belonging and identity for Indigenous students in Australian universities. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(2), 243–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Devlin, M. (2011). Bridging socio-cultural incongruity: Conceptualising the success of students from low socio-economic status backgrounds in Australian higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 38(6), 939–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dick, B. (1994). Approaching an action research thesis: An overview. Chapel Hill, QLD: Interchange.Google Scholar
  11. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  12. Harrison, G., & Ip, R. (2013). Extending the terrain of inclusive education in the classroom to the field: International students on placement. Social Work Education, 32(2), 230–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hart, C., Hammer, S., Collins, P., & Chardon, T. (2011). The real deal: Using authentic assessment to promote student engagement in the first and second years of a Regional Law Program. Legal Education Review, 21(1), 97–121.Google Scholar
  14. Kelly, A., & Westoby, P. (2018). Participatory development practice: Using traditional and contemporary frameworks. Warwickshire: Practical Action.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lathouras, A. (2010). Developmental community work – A method. In A. Ingamells, A. Lathouras, R. Wiseman, P. Westoby, & F. Caniglia (Eds.), Community development practice stories, method and meaning (pp. 11–28). Illinois: Common Ground.Google Scholar
  16. Ledwith, M. (2011). Community development: A critical approach (2nd ed.). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  17. Nistor, N., Daxecker, I., Stanciu, D., & Diekamp, O. (2015). Sense of community in academic communities of practice: Predictors and effects. Higher Education, 69, 257–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Productivity Commission. (2015). International education services. Research paper. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  19. Reitmanova, S. (2011). Cross-cultural undergraduate medical education in North America: Theoretical concepts and educational approaches. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 23(2), 197–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shaw, M. (2007). Community development and the politics of community. Community Development Journal, 43(1), 24–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stringer, E. (2007). Action research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Universities Australia. (2019). Data snapshot 2019. Retrieved January 2020, from https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Data-snapshot-2019-FINAL.pdf
  23. University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). (2019). USC Strategic Plan 2019–2022. Retrieved January 2020, from https://www.usc.edu.au/explore/vision/strategy-quality-and-planning/strategic-plan-2019-2022
  24. University of the Sunshine Coast, Strategic Information and Analysis Unit (USC SIAU). (2020). Attrition rates by year, citizenship and enrolment type. Sippy Downs, QLD: USC SIAU.Google Scholar
  25. Westoby, P. (2014). Theorising the practice of community development: A South African perspective. Surrey: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  26. Westoby, P., Lathouras, A., & Shevellar, L. (2019). Radicalising community development within social work through popular education – A participatory action research project. British Journal of Social Work, 49, 2207–2225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Yan, L., & Pei, S. (2018). ‘Home away from home’? How International students handle difficult and negative experiences in American higher education. Journal of International Students, 8(1), 453–472.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydoreAustralia

Personalised recommendations