The VU Research Symposium profiled a cross section of VU’s research programs and partnerships that are bringing immediate value to industry, community and government and through this influencing the world around us. The event was part of Victoria University’s 2015 Research Festival.

Small sector, big impact: Increasing access and inclusion for young people through alternative and flexible education

Presented by: Kitty te Riele – Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning

Dale MurrayFor all the evidence about school education acting as a circuit breaker of disadvantage there is also evidence of schooling practices, however unintentionally, contributing to exclusion and reinforcing societal inequalities. To address this phenomenon, alternative and flexible learning programs provide a different context and approach in order to assist marginalised young people complete secondary school if they have disengaged from, or been disenfranchised by, conventional schooling. Many of these young people face a variety of challenges that make academic success difficult, but they also have strengths that are often drawn out through applied and creative activities, and in a learning environment closer to adult education. With 70,000 students nationwide in flexible learning programs, and noteworthy international affinities, this is a rich and rewarding area for policy and for research.

This presentation explores doing applied and translational approach research drawn from a selection of my projects investigating the role of flexible learning programs, including first-hand insights from one of my industry partners. In understanding ‘what works’ for doing research, winning funding and achieving high value research outcomes, we point to key factors such as collaboration with key stakeholders, being actively engaged on site, jointly testing ideas, examining relevance and co-authoring publications. As a consequence, we argue that these projects provide understandings and evidence about how a diverse and small sector of education makes a big impact enhancing educational and social equity for young Australians.

Dale Murray and Kitty Te RieleIndustry partner co-presenter: Dale Murray is Director of the national Youth+ network for Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA). For the set of research projects outlined in this presentation, EREA Youth+ is a provider of fieldwork sites, collaborator, co-funder, end-user and advocate.

Presenter: Kitty te Riele is Principal Research Fellow and Associate Professor (Alternative Education) in the Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning. Kitty’s research program is designed to improve educational provision for marginalised young people, consisting of a suite of Category 1 and commissioned research grants and associated scholarly and translational publications.  Her recent books include ‘Ethics and Education Research’ (2014, BERA/SAGE Research Methods Book Series) and ‘Interrogating conceptions of “vulnerable youth” in theory, policy and practice’ (2015, Sense Publishers). Kitty is also the author of the acclaimed 2014 report, ‘Putting the jigsaw together: Flexible learning programs in Australia


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