Student-facilitated transition: Fostering empowered collectives

  • Clare Power University of Western Sydney
  • Evelyn Hibbert University of Western Sydney
Keywords: student-led communities of practice, transition as becoming, peer learning


Each student’s experience of transitioning to university is unique, complex and dynamic as they negotiate their sense of identity and becoming. While developing peer networks is one predictor of student engagement and retention, peer networks are also potential sites for cultivating critical pedagogies. In this paper we discuss an undergraduate subject, ‘Experiential Learning in Communities’ which developed at our university in response to increasing student diversity. Through engaging in a collective, multidimensional learning experience, which incorporates a core thread of reflexive praxis and student-led communities of practice, transitioning students and their peer mentors empower each other to create a sense of “becoming” a university student that uniquely suits their individual and group experience. Together they explore the meaning and practice of being a university student, and engage with the expectations of the academy on their own terms. This community of practice disrupts the imposition of one set of cultural values onto students of diverse backgrounds, while still enabling them to develop strategies to succeed in relation to those values. Whiteness studies are explored as a means of interrogating these often opaque cultural values. By academics positioning themselves as White cultural brokers, students are given permission to explore and leverage the various capitals they bring to the learning context. Together with their peers they help each other to discover strategies which enable them to succeed in what is often an alien environment. As all participants, including academics, continually reflect on their practice, we all develop in our understanding of the nature of learning and teaching. By engaging in this collaborative “becoming” process, students discover that they do belong in the university.

Author Biographies

Clare Power, University of Western Sydney
Lecturer School of Education University of Western Sydney
Evelyn Hibbert, University of Western Sydney
Lecturer School of Education University of Western Sydney
How to Cite
PowerC., & HibbertE. (2016). Student-facilitated transition: Fostering empowered collectives. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 10(1), A35-A47. Retrieved from