Carla Bardella & Shawna Lavis
Maximising Student Engagement

Students often suffer from a lack of support around orientation when first arriving in Melbourne. This can lead to isolation and confusion. When students transition to their main course, they can be overwhelmed by these emotions a second time. Educational institutions may address this problem by running various information sessions, often in a lecture theatre with little student involvement. However, we feel our approach is more engaging and ultimately effective. Together with Shawna Lavis, I have designed an information scavenger hunt to address both inner city orientation and cross campus orientation. Both scavenger hunts follow the same set of tasks. Students work together in groups of 4. They are given instructions and a list of tasks to complete around the city and cross campus. Each task is assigned points according to the level of difficulty. Before students set off, they are given extra time to brainstorm additional tasks to complete. This has the function of maximising student involvement, relevance and provides a chance for greater group cohesion as well as creates a bank of tasks for teacher use. Students are then let loose on the city/campus but must collect proof in the form of photos, videos and brochures. All media must be uploaded to a Whatsapp group in real time. Time to complete the task is limited and a prize is awarded to the team with the highest points. Students are then asked to reflect on their experience using a reflective journal that includes prompt questions.

Carla is a qualified secondary teacher with TESOL as my method. Over the past 10 years, she has taught ESL in a number of settings including China, Hong Kong and Melbourne. Most of her experience has focused on delivering General English and university preparation courses to a range of international students at Victoria University English. In addition to teaching duties, Carla has coordinated programs abroad and is currently the Academic Support and Student Engagement Coordinator. Having taught for many years and having learnt a foreign language herself, she is aware of the need to provide rich and authentic learning experiences to students.

Over the past 10 years Shawna has taught ESL in a number if settings, including Japan and Australia. While in Japan she taught General and Business English classes to professionals and university students. Most of her experience has focused on delivering General English and university preparation courses to international students at Victoria University English. During her career she has also been involved in student engagement activities. Shawna ran a pastoral care program for a group of 32 Japanese students, which included assistance with transition into Australian life, help with issues relating to housing and general skills classes.