Evaluating, Enhancing and Expanding Academic Advising in the Sutherland School of Law
This Academic Advising project has been funded through the HEA and the National Forum.
|Evaluating, Enhancing and Expanding Academic Advising in the Sutherland School of Law
|Dr Cliona Kelly
Dr Níamh Howlin, Deirdre Norris, Marlene Douglas, Michelle Kadiri, Katie Morrissey, Martha Ní Riada, Daniel Power, Altamash Shaikh
|Undergraduate Students in the Sutherland School of Law
The need to review the Academic Advising programme in the School of Law had already been recognised, with recent initiatives such as the integration of the programme as part of the new core first year module, Legal and Professional Skills. However, to further develop the quality and effectiveness of academic advising in the Law School, further research and feedback was needed on the programme.
Importantly, this is a collaborative staff-student project, which takes a ‘Students as Partners’ approach to obtain feedback on the programme. We therefore formed an Academic Advisory Student Strategy Group, consisting of six students across a range of undergraduate law programmes and stages, and from a diverse range of backgrounds. Students were given the lead in driving the project and, with guidance from the Research Assistant and Project leads, in establishing the most appropriate means to review the programme.
The aims of this project were:
- to identify gaps and weaknesses in the current academic advisor programme in the School of Law
- to recommend suggestions to improve the programme, and
- to implement initiatives to enhance the programme.
The Innovative Approach
The project was led by the Academic Advisory Student Strategy Group, consisting of six students across a range of undergraduate law programmes and stages, and from a diverse range of backgrounds. Four different approaches were taken as outlined below:
1. Students as Partners approach
The Student Strategy Group worked with a Research Assistant who helped guide the students through the process of organising regular meetings, managing workloads and deadlines, facilitating student focus groups and surveys, obtaining ethical approval where needed and facilitating staff and student workshops. Students analysed the results of the student focus groups and surveys, and drafted the recommendations of the group.
2. Student Focus Groups
Four student focus groups were held, in November 2021 and February 2022. Two focus groups consisted of stage one and two students, and the other two contained stage three and four students. The focus groups were facilitated by the Student Strategy Group, assisted by the research assistant.
3. Student Surveys
Short surveys drafted by the student group were sent to undergraduate students. Survey responses were obtained from 178 students.
4. Staff survey and workshop
Staff were also invited to complete a short survey in trimester two. This survey was completed by 16 members of staff. The Student Strategy Group held a Staff Workshop, in which the results of the research were presented to the staff and faculty and further feedback obtained.
The Academic Advisory Group produced a final report which (i) identified the main issues with the existing Academic Advising Programme arising from the surveys and focus groups and (ii) made 21 recommendations to improve the Academic Advising Programme in the School of Law. These recommendations focus on the need for
- clarity regarding the purpose of the academic advisory programme
- clearer communication about the programme for both staff and students
- guidelines for meetings between students and academic advisers
- a great emphasis on the holistic nature of the role and
- greater awareness of the diverse nature of the student body and different support needs of students.
These recommendations will be presented to the Law Taught Programmes Governing Board in September 2022 and will form the basis of a new School of Law Academic Advising Policy.
Based on feedback from students, the Academic Advisory Group held two student workshops:
- All you need to know: Guide to law Workshop (October 2021)
- Academic Advisory Workshop: A Step by Step Guide to Essay Writing (April 2022)
A staff workshop was also held in April 2022, in which the results of the student surveys and feedback were presented to faculty.
Any questions regarding the project or the approach used can be emailed to email@example.com.