Dr Sidhu is a Senior Lecturer in Statistics in the School of Science at UNSW Canberra.
Leesa is a former high school teacher and has extensive experience in developing and lecturing undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including Science courses, service courses, and a prescribed course taken by all "non-maths" students. Though several courses are extremely difficult to teach given the students' diverse backgrounds and lack of confidence and/or interest, her passion for teaching, ability to establish a supportive classroom environment and exceptional communication skills allow her to engage students and make difficult content accessible.
Leesa has taken on leadership roles at UNSW Canberra including Undergraduate Coordinator, mentor for casual teaching staff and peer reviewer of teaching. She has shared her teaching expertise at Learning and Teaching Days at UNSW Canberra and UNSW Sydney, and has engaged with high school students and teachers by visiting schools, and giving presentations at teacher outreach sessions. She is currently working on the following learning and teaching projects: supporting students in their transition to university studies by building learning communities, studying the relationship between diagnostic test results, ATAR scores and demographic factors, and examining the relationship between first-year results and factors such as ATAR, socio-economic status and State of origin.
Her achievements in learning and teaching have been acknowledged via the inaugural Australian Mathematical Society Award for Teaching Excellence (2018), the UNSW Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence (2017) and the UNSW Canberra Rector's Award for Teaching Excellence (2015).
Supporting students in their transition to university studies
Introduction: One of UNSW's objectives in delivering Educational Excellence is to admit the most talented students "irrespective of background or socioeconomic status". While these students should have the necessary aptitude to succeed at tertiary study, they may require support in their transition to university in order for them to successfully complete their degree programs and reach their full potential. One important aspect of dealing with the difficulties which some students face in transitioning to university is reducing the students' sense of isolation and helping them feel that they belong to a learning community. Other students find that they are lacking self-management capabilities and require additional support in this area in order to succeed at their university studies. This project will identify issues relating to first-year students' transition to university studies that are detrimental to their learning and well-being (via a literature review and audit of existing strategies used across Schools at UNSW), as well as devising and trialling transition support strategies to improve their experience.
Aims: This project aims to improve student experience for those involved in the implementation of the trial transition support strategies. In particular, it will address issues of equity and diversity by helping students, including those whose backgrounds or socio-economic status make them more likely to require additional support to ensure a successful transition to university studies, to feel that they are valued members of their learning communities. It also aims to provide them with the self-management capability needed for them to cope with university studies.
Progress / Outcomes / Next steps
Progress so far includes: employed research assistant; gained ethics approval for staff and student surveys; entered UNSW Canberra student transition survey data; conducted literature review on transition issues and strategies as identified in existing literature; audit of existing transition strategies across UNSW Schools underway; planning of transition support strategies.
Next steps include: completing literature review report; completing staff interviews across UNSW Schools; report summarizing findings of audit; implement trials of transition support strategies; report on successful and unsuccessful trial transition support strategies; produce “how to” guides for successful strategies; extend trials in other UNSW Schools.
Trial transition support strategies include: networking events with alumni speakers, students and academic (and perhaps military) staff; video transition advice from upper level students; increased integration of self-management capability development within the curriculum (eg. study skills, time management, expectation management); increased focus on curricular design and delivery strategies to support student transition.
UNSW level contributions