UniSA Case Studies

Case study: Western Sydney University

Western Sydney University logoThe [xe] project aims to understand how Australian universities are developing initiatives to improve Higher Education study pathways for Indigenous students in the disciplines underpinned by science and mathematics.

To meet this aim the University of South Australia has undertaken research using a case study approach to examine 6 university exemplars.

One of the universities studied was the Western Sydney University.


Core features Engagement strategy: School engagement programs
Student catchment: Outer Sydney and regional NSW
Age-group: Starting Year 3-4, currently through to Year 10 (Year 11-12 program under development)
Funding source: Primarily HEPPP funding and philanthropic
Outcomes Engagement program has not been running long enough to have students complete to university entry age. In 2015, 452 students from 22 schools participated in the Pathways To Dreaming program. A website was launched in 2015 featuring an interactive educational game called Lightning Runners which draws on traditional Indigenous knowledge and sustainability, linked to Heartbeat’s themes. Since 2010, over 1,300 students have taken part in Heartbeat.
Strengths Range of inter-connected programs that build capacity for university study and familiarity with the university environment. Extensive consultation with communities, Aboriginal Elders and educators through an Engagement Plan which responds to community needs.
Challenges Sustainability post-HEPPP funding.

From the report:

Beginning in Year 8 and continuing through to the completion of schooling, ‘Pathways To Dreaming’ is designed to engage Indigenous students in education … This initiative is not specifically STEM focused, but does include some STEM subjects.

The ‘Heartbeat’ program for Indigenous school students focuses on health, medicine and related sciences.

Examples of STEM-related activities offered within the ‘Heartbeat’ program include:

* Healthy Food Choices: Students learn about the Food Pyramid. (Years 3/4)
* Aboriginal Science: A walk and talk about the plants on campus – including their medicinal and bush tucker uses. (Years 5/6)
* Chemistry: What chemistry is and what it is used for, including an experiment. (Years 5/6)
* Sensory Physiology: Students are seated in a computer lab, looking at optical illusions, look at their own eyes and learning about colour blindness – exploring why people see particular things. (Years 7/8)
* Simulation Lab: Students see the nursing simulation lab used for training. They learn basic life support simulation training and test their CPR skills. (Year 9)

Full report: Strengthening Indigenous Participation and Practice in STEM: University Initiatives for Equity and Excellence (PDF) >>

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