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In the Block Model at Victoria University (VU), subjects are delivered one at a time in intensive four-week Blocks, instead of concurrently in semesters. VU introduced the Block Model for all first-year subjects in 2018, and is now expanding it across all higher education courses. Student retention and outcomes in first year have improved significantly since the Block Model was introduced, with the greatest gains in pass rates and learning achieved by equity students. VU enrols one of the highest proportions of equity students of all Australian universities.
This study focused on the impact of the Block Model on retention and outcomes for equity students in first-year science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. STEM subjects face particular equity challenges, including under-representation of students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. STEM subjects also have high potential for student-centred, inquiry-based learning, which is a feature of the Block Model design.
For policy-makers, the Block Model shows the importance of regulatory environments that actively support innovation, especially as financial necessity generates more institutional experimentation. It reaffirms the importance of quality teaching, especially for equity group students, and of actively involving academics in defining and improving their practice. For STEM, the Block shows how active learning can improve engagement and generate skills that are valuable for the workplace; and how interdisciplinary classes can break down the disciplinary segregation between students from different ability groups and backgrounds.