Gordon, what is your role at Moore College?
My title is Academic Support Coordinator, and my goal is to help every student flourish in their studies here at Moore.
What sort of help do you offer students?
All sorts of things! But mainly, I meet with students, and I write resources to help them.
Meeting with students can be one-on-one appointments, drop-ins, or even seminars. The one-on-one meetings cover whatever they need – anything from managing deadlines and commitments, to exam preparation, to working out how to tackle an upcoming assessment. And things like how to study amid a busy life or grief, or how to navigate ADHD or dyslexia, which a lot of good people struggle with.
Four hours a week, students can drop in during ‘The Doctor is In’ sessions in the library. I’m not a doctor, but it’s time for any academic question, one minute or one hour. My motto is ‘No question too small.’ It’s great, and I get to work with lots of students there. Also, when students ask, I run seminars on topics they ask for.
That is all face-to-face, but there is only one of me, and there are 200+ students, and I can’t meet all the time with everyone. So I extend my reach by creating permanent resources, too. I produce blog posts on different academic skills and topics – skills such as reading, note-taking, choosing the best sources, studying in groups, and preparing for exams. I also produce guides for many of their major research essays. Many students I’ve never directly worked with tell me they read and use my posts regularly.
How have you helped students grow in their knowledge and abilities at Moore College?
It took me two-and-a-half years to figure out how to study at College. Granted, that was over 30 years ago, but I don’t want to see that again for any student!
So one goal is to help students adjust to College much more quickly and smoothly, so the academic demands of College don’t get in the way of their godliness and faithful service. I’d like to think that I help them do that, wherever they come from, whatever their background.
Related to that, I want to help students grow independent of me, and need me less and less. So I try not just to answer their questions but to equip them to answer those questions for themselves in the future.
By the time they get to the end of third year, I am no longer providing specific guidance on their final essays, but I am available to work with them if they want. Likewise, I am currently developing resources on academic writing and on writing clearly. Very few of us are ever really taught how to write clearly and effectively. This will help them in their studies, of course, but also in ministry. Practically all my students are heading into word-based ministry. Helping them communicate even more clearly is vital for their service to the Lord.
Could you share a story of how your students moved from struggle to growth?
Sure! Every semester I get to work with some students who lack confidence or university study skills, and I see most of them grow and learn and pass their subjects.
But one of my favourite stories is about four students.
A year ago, one student came to me and said she was having trouble keeping up with her readings – they were advanced, and there is also the motivation factor of reading and studying alone. I asked if she had considered a reading group with a couple other students. So she organised one. They learned, they loved it, and they then decided to meet a second hour every week to discuss more readings and to review their lectures that week.
All I did was point her to a useful strategy. They went and perfected it. So this year, I am pushing students across College to consider reading and revision groups. Research consistently shows that discussing readings and lecture content with others leads to better understanding and deeper learning. Plus, it’s fun.
I see a lot of my work being the delightful coaching and personal stuff. But I am also a resource person who helps students apply lots of excellent research into students, study, and learning. Like a preacher, my job is to take those goodies from the top shelf and serve them up to my people – our students!
Each year, I want to help many students directly, and to leave a growing bank of resources to help future students and academic support officers here.
Gordon is starting his fourth year working at Moore. He lives in Western Sydney and enjoys food and cooking, nature walks, and chilling with his family. You can read his academic skills blogs here.
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