O'Shea, Sarah Elizabeth. Associate Professor

Associate Professor and Australian National Teaching Fellow; Visiting Research Fellow NCSEHE, Curtin University

  • Faculty of Social Sciences
  • School of Education
  • Chair - Wollongong Academy for Tertiary Teaching and Learning Excellence
  • Principal Fellow - Higher Education Authority (UK) 2017 -
  • Fellow - Churchill Trust Fellowship 2017 - 2018

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • Dr Sarah O’Shea is an Associate Professor in Adult, Vocational and Higher Education in the School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences. Sarah has over 20 years experience teaching in universities as well as the VET and Adult Education sector, she has also published widely on issues related to educational access and equity.Her solid publication record includes 27 peer reviewed journal articles, three scholarly books and five book chapters - this work has also featured in The Conversation, University World News and The Australian.

    Since 2011, Sarah has obtained over $1 million dollars in research funding, all of which explores educational equity in the HE environment. In 2016, Sarah was awarded an ARC Discovery project exploring the persistence and retention of university students across Australia, Uk and Ireland. This international study builds upon an Australian Government Teaching and Learning Fellowship (2015-2016) and consolidates a decade of work in the student retention field (www.firstinfamily.com.au) which has focussed on students from a diversity of backgrounds. This includes a five-year partnership with AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) which has involved over $520,000 in national funding (ARC: $211,000; Federal Gov: $310,000) and included research activities across Australia with Indigenous young people , university mentors as well as key staff and stakeholders.

    During her career, Sarah has also received numerous awards for teaching excellence including a national Australian Award for University Teaching Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (2012), her work has been recognised as one of UOW 40 Research Impacts and in 2016 she was recognised as one of UOW's Women of Impact. Sarah is also an Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow, in 2017 she was both recognised as a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (HEA - UK) and awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to engage in study internationally.

Available as Research Supervisor

Available for Collaborative Projects

Selected Publications


Impact Story


  • <ul><li><em><br />What must it be like for a person to start university when they are the first in their families or community to do so? </em><br /><em><br />What types of challenges might students from diverse backgrounds encounter and what types of information or support might they need? </em><br /><em><br />Most importantly, what is it that helps <strong>ALL</strong> learners persist and ultimately succeed in higher education?</em></li><li> </li></ul><p>These are just a few of the questions that I have spent the last decade pondering and seeking answers to, my research has focussed on improving educational outcomes for all students but particularly those who are at risk of dropping out of their studies before completion. This work is centred on the stories of students; over the last decade I have interviewed or surveyed hundreds of university students (n=800+) from all walks of life, these narratives providing genuine and rich insight into the realities of higher education participation. I have also conducted research with the family and caregivers of learners and complemented these understandings with data derived from teachers and equity practitioners involved at the 'coal face' across the educational sector (schools, colleges and universities)<br /><br />Based on this understanding, I have developed numerous student interventions targeted at students at all stages of their studies, created resources for students and their families to assist them in this educational journey and also, worked with higher education institutions across Australia to embed new approaches to engaging and retaining diverse student cohorts.</p><p><strong>Why this Focus? <br /></strong><br />There are both personal and also more broader reasons why I have adopted this particular focus. At the broad level, the statistics tell us that while universities are attracting students from a greater diversity of backgrounds, some students do not achieve to the same level academically as others (for example those from low socio-economic backgrounds or rural/remote areas). While this growth in student diversity seems a positive development, it is vitally important to avoid this '<em>open door</em>' to university becoming a '<em>revolving door</em>'. In Australia, attrition or 'drop out' rates remain high at just over 15% across the student population (Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP), 2017). My work seeks to draw attention to this situation, not by attributing 'blame' to the student or the institution but rather by recognising the diverse range of skills and knowledges that all learners bring to this environment and exploring ways institutions can better capitalise on these. </p><p>Interested in hearing more about the personal reasons for this focus? The following <a href="https://youtu.be/VO2Wq-hnpIc" title="What got me started" target="_blank" rel="noopener">short video provides</a> an overview of why this area has sustained my interest for so long and was produced by University of the Sunshine Coast.</p>

Available as Research Supervisor

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Understanding the establishment of the AIME Vibe and mentoring model Johnstone, Ashleigh
    Experiences of First in Family Indigenous Australian University Students and the Affects it has on their Social and Emotional Wellbeing Neal, Nadia
    Doctor of Philosophy Making the Glass-Ceiling Visible: Cultural Capital and Aspiration McGowan, Sandra
    Investigation of the gap between learners’ expectations and their actual online experiences Jenson, Joanne
    Who do you think you are? Exploring the transformative experiences of students transitioning from TAFE to Higher Education Millman, Theresa
    Doctor of Philosophy Partnerships in learning: Building a framework for collaboration Austin, Kylie
    "Crossing the threshold into Higher Education". In what ways does accessing higher education through an enabling course impact upon male students who follow this pathway? McNamara, Jacinta
    A Leap of faith: the negotiation of risk amongst non traditional students entering higher education via enabling pathways Jarvis, Lynn
    Doctor of Philosophy Psychological barriers to participation in higher education Parkinson, Bradley
    The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Threshold Concepts in Early Online Adult Education Powers, Patricia

Outreach Overview


  • I am seeking to effect change within the higher education sector through research that focuses on the access and participation of students from identified equity groups. My institutional and nationally funded research studies advance understanding of how under-represented student cohorts enact success within university, navigate transition into this environment, manage competing identities and negotiate aspirations for self and others. My work is highly regarded for applying diverse conceptual and theoretical lenses to tertiary participation, which incorporate theories of social class, identity work, gender studies and poverty.

    To this end I have worked across the sector implementing outreach activities and play an active role in community roles in this regard, these activities have been summarised below:

    UStart@UOW: I initiated an orientation program for low SES students whilst at University of Newcastle and in partnership with the Dean of Students offered this at University of Wollongong across four faculties (Faculty of Education, Law, Science and Arts) in 2011 and then university-wide. I delivered training for all the student facilitators and also coordinated this program within Faculty of Education. I was also involved in introducing a similar program at Woolyungah Indigenous Centre (WIC) called IStart@Woolyungah and a program targeted at parents called UStart2@UOW

    Board Member, Kiama Community College: I have volunteered as a Board Director for the Kiama and Shoalhaven Community Colleges since 2011. In this role, I assist in guiding the strategic direction of the Community College but also provide advice in regard to outreach programs 

    I have participated in a number of reviews concerning UOW's outreach programs (In2Uni) and published reports on both reviews:

    O’Shea, S., Harwood, V., Howard, S., Cliff, K., & Delahunty, J (2016). Final Report: Investigating the effectiveness of the In2Uni Year 12 University Preparation Program (UPP).

    Harwood, V., O'Shea, S., Howard, S. & Cliff, K (2014). Final Report: Evaluation of the In2Uni Program. Available from:  http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/2299/

    I have worked with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) in both research projects and also consultation roles reviewing the impact of the program on Indigenous young people, details of this work follow:

    2013-2016      Part of the research team that is conducting a 3-year evaluation that will evaluate the viability of the expansion of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. Department of Education and Training ($200,000) 

    2012-2013      Harwood, V., O'Shea, S., Clapham, K., Bodkin-Andrews, G., Wright, J., Kervin, L., & McMahon, S. (2013) Evaluation of the AIME Outreach Program, DEEWR and University of Wollongong: Australia. ($110,000) 

    2013-2016 Harwood, V., Chandler, P., & O’Shea, S. Mentoring and Indigenous higher education: Understanding how university students mentor Indigenous school students. Australian Research Council Discovery Project. ($211,000)

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • Dr Sarah O’Shea is an Associate Professor in Adult, Vocational and Higher Education in the School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences. Sarah has over 20 years experience teaching in universities as well as the VET and Adult Education sector, she has also published widely on issues related to educational access and equity.Her solid publication record includes 27 peer reviewed journal articles, three scholarly books and five book chapters - this work has also featured in The Conversation, University World News and The Australian.

    Since 2011, Sarah has obtained over $1 million dollars in research funding, all of which explores educational equity in the HE environment. In 2016, Sarah was awarded an ARC Discovery project exploring the persistence and retention of university students across Australia, Uk and Ireland. This international study builds upon an Australian Government Teaching and Learning Fellowship (2015-2016) and consolidates a decade of work in the student retention field (www.firstinfamily.com.au) which has focussed on students from a diversity of backgrounds. This includes a five-year partnership with AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) which has involved over $520,000 in national funding (ARC: $211,000; Federal Gov: $310,000) and included research activities across Australia with Indigenous young people , university mentors as well as key staff and stakeholders.

    During her career, Sarah has also received numerous awards for teaching excellence including a national Australian Award for University Teaching Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (2012), her work has been recognised as one of UOW 40 Research Impacts and in 2016 she was recognised as one of UOW's Women of Impact. Sarah is also an Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow, in 2017 she was both recognised as a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (HEA - UK) and awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to engage in study internationally.

Selected Publications


Impact Story


  • <ul><li><em><br />What must it be like for a person to start university when they are the first in their families or community to do so? </em><br /><em><br />What types of challenges might students from diverse backgrounds encounter and what types of information or support might they need? </em><br /><em><br />Most importantly, what is it that helps <strong>ALL</strong> learners persist and ultimately succeed in higher education?</em></li><li> </li></ul><p>These are just a few of the questions that I have spent the last decade pondering and seeking answers to, my research has focussed on improving educational outcomes for all students but particularly those who are at risk of dropping out of their studies before completion. This work is centred on the stories of students; over the last decade I have interviewed or surveyed hundreds of university students (n=800+) from all walks of life, these narratives providing genuine and rich insight into the realities of higher education participation. I have also conducted research with the family and caregivers of learners and complemented these understandings with data derived from teachers and equity practitioners involved at the 'coal face' across the educational sector (schools, colleges and universities)<br /><br />Based on this understanding, I have developed numerous student interventions targeted at students at all stages of their studies, created resources for students and their families to assist them in this educational journey and also, worked with higher education institutions across Australia to embed new approaches to engaging and retaining diverse student cohorts.</p><p><strong>Why this Focus? <br /></strong><br />There are both personal and also more broader reasons why I have adopted this particular focus. At the broad level, the statistics tell us that while universities are attracting students from a greater diversity of backgrounds, some students do not achieve to the same level academically as others (for example those from low socio-economic backgrounds or rural/remote areas). While this growth in student diversity seems a positive development, it is vitally important to avoid this '<em>open door</em>' to university becoming a '<em>revolving door</em>'. In Australia, attrition or 'drop out' rates remain high at just over 15% across the student population (Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP), 2017). My work seeks to draw attention to this situation, not by attributing 'blame' to the student or the institution but rather by recognising the diverse range of skills and knowledges that all learners bring to this environment and exploring ways institutions can better capitalise on these. </p><p>Interested in hearing more about the personal reasons for this focus? The following <a href="https://youtu.be/VO2Wq-hnpIc" title="What got me started" target="_blank" rel="noopener">short video provides</a> an overview of why this area has sustained my interest for so long and was produced by University of the Sunshine Coast.</p>

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Understanding the establishment of the AIME Vibe and mentoring model Johnstone, Ashleigh
    Experiences of First in Family Indigenous Australian University Students and the Affects it has on their Social and Emotional Wellbeing Neal, Nadia
    Doctor of Philosophy Making the Glass-Ceiling Visible: Cultural Capital and Aspiration McGowan, Sandra
    Investigation of the gap between learners’ expectations and their actual online experiences Jenson, Joanne
    Who do you think you are? Exploring the transformative experiences of students transitioning from TAFE to Higher Education Millman, Theresa
    Doctor of Philosophy Partnerships in learning: Building a framework for collaboration Austin, Kylie
    "Crossing the threshold into Higher Education". In what ways does accessing higher education through an enabling course impact upon male students who follow this pathway? McNamara, Jacinta
    A Leap of faith: the negotiation of risk amongst non traditional students entering higher education via enabling pathways Jarvis, Lynn
    Doctor of Philosophy Psychological barriers to participation in higher education Parkinson, Bradley
    The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Threshold Concepts in Early Online Adult Education Powers, Patricia

Outreach Overview


  • I am seeking to effect change within the higher education sector through research that focuses on the access and participation of students from identified equity groups. My institutional and nationally funded research studies advance understanding of how under-represented student cohorts enact success within university, navigate transition into this environment, manage competing identities and negotiate aspirations for self and others. My work is highly regarded for applying diverse conceptual and theoretical lenses to tertiary participation, which incorporate theories of social class, identity work, gender studies and poverty.

    To this end I have worked across the sector implementing outreach activities and play an active role in community roles in this regard, these activities have been summarised below:

    UStart@UOW: I initiated an orientation program for low SES students whilst at University of Newcastle and in partnership with the Dean of Students offered this at University of Wollongong across four faculties (Faculty of Education, Law, Science and Arts) in 2011 and then university-wide. I delivered training for all the student facilitators and also coordinated this program within Faculty of Education. I was also involved in introducing a similar program at Woolyungah Indigenous Centre (WIC) called IStart@Woolyungah and a program targeted at parents called UStart2@UOW

    Board Member, Kiama Community College: I have volunteered as a Board Director for the Kiama and Shoalhaven Community Colleges since 2011. In this role, I assist in guiding the strategic direction of the Community College but also provide advice in regard to outreach programs 

    I have participated in a number of reviews concerning UOW's outreach programs (In2Uni) and published reports on both reviews:

    O’Shea, S., Harwood, V., Howard, S., Cliff, K., & Delahunty, J (2016). Final Report: Investigating the effectiveness of the In2Uni Year 12 University Preparation Program (UPP).

    Harwood, V., O'Shea, S., Howard, S. & Cliff, K (2014). Final Report: Evaluation of the In2Uni Program. Available from:  http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/2299/

    I have worked with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) in both research projects and also consultation roles reviewing the impact of the program on Indigenous young people, details of this work follow:

    2013-2016      Part of the research team that is conducting a 3-year evaluation that will evaluate the viability of the expansion of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. Department of Education and Training ($200,000) 

    2012-2013      Harwood, V., O'Shea, S., Clapham, K., Bodkin-Andrews, G., Wright, J., Kervin, L., & McMahon, S. (2013) Evaluation of the AIME Outreach Program, DEEWR and University of Wollongong: Australia. ($110,000) 

    2013-2016 Harwood, V., Chandler, P., & O’Shea, S. Mentoring and Indigenous higher education: Understanding how university students mentor Indigenous school students. Australian Research Council Discovery Project. ($211,000)

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