Herdsa 2009

Program: Wednesday Day 3 - Concurrent Session Four


Taking plagiarism personally: negotiating a psychological contract to enhance the student experience (Full Research Paper)

Kate Wilson
University of Canberra Canberra Australia
Doug Jackman
University of Canberra Canberra Australia
Monica Kennedy
University of Canberra Canberra Australia

This paper explores the interaction between lecturer and student in the development of academic integrity, utilising the findings from a single graduate unit. Through this case unit, we explore the lecturer’s response to student plagiarism through the metaphor of a psychological contract (Rousseau, 1995) between student and lecturer and its perceived violation. As a result of the perceived violation, it became critical that the lecturer and student work to restore equity in the contract. In the process of restoration, student and lecturer together built shared understandings of what it means to write with integrity from sources.

The lecturer followed a continuous improvement process, refining the ways in which he interacted with his students in attempts to improve academic integrity within the unit cohort. The findings illustrate the many ways in which the lecturer ‘takes plagiarism personally’: firstly through the personal affront he experiences when identifying plagiarism in student work; secondly, by taking personal responsibility for student plagiarism; and finally, by taking a personal interest in the students’ development of academic integrity. The outcomes highlight the impact of the lecturer/student relationship on understandings of plagiarism specifically, and on the student experience generally.

Keywords: academic integrity, psychological contract, lecturer/student relationship

Developing pedagogy for integrating generic skills in course delivery (Showcase)

Linda Thies
Deakin University Warrnambool Australia
Anne Wallis
Deakin University Warrnambool Australia
Matthew Ebden
Deakin University Warrnambool Australia

The importance of generic skills is now well established, and most universities in Australia have adopted a set of generic attributes, which students are expected to acquire at different stages of their university studies. At Deakin University a review of language and learning services recommended that learning advisers work collaboratively with discipline specialists to facilitate the development of courses, which integrate academic skills development and content. This presentation will focus on three different approaches to embedding skills development in courses in science, history and health, all of which highlight the benefits of this collaboration. Jolly (2001) provides some guidance for the implementation of  generic skills by emphasising the importance of links between graduate attributes, learning objectives, learning activities, assessment tasks and assessment criteria. Initially the assessment task was the construct for the development of generic skills in each of the interventions outlined. However, although this was the starting point, a collaborative approach lead to a more holistic evaluation of curriculum, and had an impact on both learning objectives and learning activities. Each pedagogical model is at a different stage in the action research cycle.

In the third year environmental science unit the skills selected were writing and critical analysis. One learning objective was to have students reflect on their thinking about a current environment issue. The skills involved in completing the assessment task were scaffolded during a two hour workshop and students then placed themselves in the position of the reader to determine the criteria that would be used to evaluate the quality of their writing.  One week prior to submission the students were asked to recall and re-visit the assessment criteria. Although the students’ writing was of a high quality, student feedback and assessment results suggested that their ability to critically analyse data information and issues was not well developed by the third year of this course.

In a first year Australian history unit the intervention, which  aimed at embedding tertiary literacy, included on-line resources on Deakin Studies On-line (DSO) and learning activities based on the skills students needed to complete their first essay. Evaluation of this approach (student focus groups, student feedback on the unit and teachers’ reflection) resulted in the following changes to unit delivery:

The curriculum for the first year health unit included a number of hurdle tasks, which students completed prior to their first assessment task. This model emphasised writing as a process of thinking about new ideas, but also scaffolded the skills required for essay writing. These included effective reading, referencing and academic writing. To be assessed as having passed these hurdle tasks students were required to workshop their responses with a group of their peers. As a large number of off-campus students are enrolled in this unit the challenge was to plan effective on-line student interaction.


Jolly, L., (2001). Graduate Attributes Fact Sheet 1.10 Implementing Graduate Attributes. The Value Added Career Start Program. Brisbane. Australia: University of Queensland.

Can't I just google?: Developing scholarship in first year undergraduates (Showcase)

Jenny Corbin
La Trobe University Melbourne Australia
Claire Brooks
La Trobe University Melbourne Australia
Fiona Salisbury
La Trobe University Melbourne Australia

How can we encourage scholarship in students in a world where huge amounts of information seems only a mouse click away? This showcase illustrates the strategies Latrobe university is putting in place to develop high levels of information literacy and research skills in the first years of the student experience. In 2009 La Trobe is implementing a new common first year curriculum in health sciences. The library is supporting the curriculum renewal process in a variety of innovative ways. We are currently developing responses to the critical issues of embedding academic literacy with other faculties. We will demonstrate the learning objects, learning designs and other materials created to support academic staff and independent student learning for research skills in the first years. The initial results of the extensive evaluation process will be available and plans for future embedding of information literacy in the curriculum will be outlined.

An early investigation into factors in student's choice of technology for e-learning (Full Research Paper)

Kathy Lynch
University of the Sunshine Coast Maroochydore Australia
Justin Debuse
University of the Sunshine Coast Maroochydore Australia
Meredith Lawley
University of the Sunshine Coast Maroochydore Australia
Sherre Roy
University of the Sunshine Coast Maroochydore Australia

This paper presents an exploratory study identifying factors that may influence a learner’s choice of technology for e-learning. These factors include learning style, technology acceptance, use and competence, as well as stage in course. The respondents were predominantly from Generation Y, were technologically competent and positively disposed towards e-learning technologies. Their learning styles were predominantly ‘doing’, with no ‘diverging’ students represented. E-learning appeared to be most useful in replicating face-to-face lectures, and the recreational popularity of social networking technologies appeared not to flow through into formal education settings.

Keywords: e-learning, educational technology, technology acceptance, learning styles

"But they won't come to lectures..." The impact of recorded lectures on student experience and attendance. (Showcase)

Helen Larkin
Deakin University Geelong Australia

The move to provide increasingly flexible platforms for student learning and experience through provision of on-line lecture recordings, is often interpreted by students as meaning attendance at lectures is optional.  The trend toward the use of such recordings is often met with resistance from some academic staff who cite anecdotal evidence that student attendance will reduce.  This study aimed to explore students’ views of the use of on-line recorded lectures and to measure the impact of this technology on student attendance at lectures.  A pre and post evaluation methodology was undertaken using a self-administered questionnaire that gathered both quantitative and qualitative data from students.  Overall attendance was recorded at each lecture throughout the semester. Results indicated that attendance remained high throughout the semester and while only a minority of students used the recorded lectures, those who did found them to be helpful to their learning.  Most students used the recordings to either supplement their learning or to make up a lecture that they had not been able to attend due to other circumstances.  The study also provides evidence that contrary to popular belief, not all Generation Y students aspire to replace lectures with downloadable on-line versions.  Many of the students in this study still valued the opportunity for interactive learning provided by face-to-face teaching.  Finally, a model that outlines the attributes that contribute to quality teaching is used to describe how recording technology can contribute to positive student experiences and can enhance reflective teaching practices on the part of teachers.

Keywords: lectures, educational technology, student experience

Passion or Podcasts? Students' views about university lectures (Showcase)

Helen Cameron
UniSA Adelaide Australia

As reflected in recent literature, university students are less engaged but have sharper expectations about what is provided by way of lectures and other learning processes. In particular, the literature acknowledges that increased hours of paid work and other responsibilities often mean that students question the need to attend classes at all especially when the teaching and learning processes do not capture their interest. Consequently, some approaches to lecture delivery within universities are often ineffective in engaging students and academic staff members feel increasing pressure on them to attract students’ attendance by employing IT and other media. Literature from Australia and other countries however, critiques the learning value of both traditional and more innovative approaches to lecturing in universities. This paper also reports on results from a Tell-Us study focused on the perceptions of students in the School of Social work & Social Policy about the university lecture – and the range of reasons for attending these or staying away. Based on these research outcomes, other findings from the literature and reflections about these sources of data, the paper makes some suggestions about how lecturing processes could be adjusted to better support students in becoming more engaged in their learning.

Keywords: University lectures; student attendance; IT support

Using practice based learning to improve the student experience (Full Research Paper)

Deb Clarke
Charles Sturt University Bathurst Australia
Carol Burgess
Charles Sturt University Bathurst Australia

Practice based education (PBE) is an invaluable experience as it offers students an essential bridge between the conceptual tools gained in a university classroom and the realities that occur in the social and physical context of the workplace (Clifford, Macy, Albi, Bricker & Rahn, 2005). The rationale for PBE at Charles Sturt University (CSU) is to enhance the student experience and ensure “work-ready” graduates. As a Teaching Fellow seconded to CSU’s Education for Practice Institute (EFPI), this research used a document analysis (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994) of course profiles, subject outlines, assessment descriptions and field observation notes to identify guiding principles that inform the design of practice based education in three purposively selected case studies.  The case studies represented undergraduate courses that demonstrated quality practice, represented traditional and new approaches to implementing PBE, were on various CSU campuses, and in different Schools and Faculties.
The results of the research are significant as these guiding principles can be extrapolated to other CSU courses and tertiary institutions who offer their students PBE opportunities to enhance the student experience.

Keywords: practice based education, case study, guiding principles

Providing an authentic practical experience for graduate law students (Showcase)

Tony Foley
ANU Canberra Australia
Margie Rowe
ANU Canberra Australia

A work based “placement” experience is a compulsory part of training for new lawyers. This takes place within a postgraduate program often completed by distance education. The work placement has 2 purposes:

The challenge has been how to enhance and integrate the work based learning component and to promote specific learning objectives so it is more than simply “serving time”. We have developed a unique Legal Practice Experience program which incorporates off-site supervision and mentoring by academic staff using telephone, email and online forums as a vehicle to share ethical and legal practice issues being experienced by the students. This has the additional purpose of addressing the isolation of distance learning. Student engagement and capacity for reflection is improved by customising learning experiences within a diverse student population, in terms of location – requiring us to accommodate different legal jurisdictions, age, differing levels of experience, work places and levels of supervision.

The program has run for several years and in 2009 we modified the program to better meet these challenges. The paper will report on the program, the modifications and feedback from students. Students tell us that the program makes them work ready by combining the acquisition of skills, knowledge and attitudes within a learning experience which encourages a habit of reflective practice.

Keywords: Legal Education, Workplace learning

International research students' experiences of feedback (Full Research Paper)

Ting Wang
University of Canberra Canberra Australia
Linda Li
University of Canberra Canberra Australia

Supervising international research students has drawn increasing attention in recent years, but inadequate research has been conducted to examine their experiences of the feedback from their supervisors and its impact on the thesis writing process. This paper seeks to fill the gap and contribute to understanding international research students’ feedback experiences in postgraduate research supervision. The data were collected through semi-structured interviews with a small group of international research students from non-English speaking backgrounds at an Australian university. The interviewees reported a wide range of both positive and negative experiences with supervisory feedback, which reflects their unique pedagogical needs in the thesis writing process.  The students’ voices revealed through this study will have significant implications for enhancing postgraduate research supervision with international research students.

Keywords: feedback, postgraduate supervision, international students

Critical Discourse Analysis: enhancing the quality and uptake of supervisor writing advice (Showcase)

Michelle Picard
Adelaide University Adelaide Australia
Lalitha Velautham
Adelaide University Adelaide Australia

The HDR supervisor’s role in the “knowledge economy”(Singh and Knight 2002) has evolved into a “productive pedagogy”(Hill 2007) especially in terms of facilitating the development of student research writing.  Effective commentary on student writing requires that supervisors and students have a mutual understanding of the task, their responsibilities, standards and initiatives (Cargill and Cadman 2005) and that  the students are able to “feed-forward” this understanding into future tasks as part of a self-management strategy (Rae and Cochrane 2008). Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) has been used both as a research and as a teaching tool (Janks 1991; Janks 2000; Janks 2001; Janks 2005). In this paper, we contend that CDA unpacking of supervisor comments can benefit both HDR students and their supervisors. Enhancing supervisor awareness of their implicit pedagogies and the power relationships they reveal can transform praxis (Janks 2005), while student understanding of what supervisors mean by ‘good writing’ and the categories by which they judge ‘good writing’ as well as the institutional, disciplinary and individual power relations that underlie these categories can empower them as research writers and as participants in the supervisory relationship (Cadman and Cargill 2007). This research involves an analysis according to Fairclough’s (Fairclough 2003) steps of Critical Discourse Analysis of supervisor comments on ten HDR research proposals. The supervisor comments are categorised according to the types of feedback (discourse) they contain as well as the social and ideological relationships (Discourse) they reveal. Pedagogical implications aimed at improving student experience of the supervisory relationship are thereafter discussed.

Power and desire in team supervision pedagogy: student experiences of team supervision (Showcase)

Catherine Manathunga
University of Queensland Brisbane Australia

Team supervision is currently regarded as best practice throughout Australasia and the UK.  It is clearly designed to enhance student experiences of learning at the research higher degree (RHD) level. Yet few researchers have studied the effects of team supervision or confirmed its expected benefits for student learning.  This paper explores several students’ experiences of team supervision in the Humanities and Social Sciences.  In particular, it seeks to trace how power and unconscious knowing and desires are enacted in team postgraduate supervision pedagogy and the impact these features of supervision have on students.  This paper is part of a study that draws upon postmodernist (Foucault, 1974 & 1986) and post-colonial theories (Bhabha, 1996; Hall, 1996) and poststructuralist discourse analysis methodologies (Lee, 2000) to investigate the effects of team supervision. This study involved the taping of 4 team meetings of 4 different supervisory teams in the Humanities and Social Sciences, with supervisors and students sending separate email reflections after each team meeting. 

In particular, this study seeks to extract moments within supervisor/s-student interactions when unconscious knowing and desires are revealed through contradictions and ambivalences in the supervisor/s-student dialogue (Grant, 2003).  These contradictions and ambivalences have a significant effect on student learning that this paper traces through a fine-grained linguistic analysis of the rhetorical devices used in the team meeting transcripts and supervisors’ and students’ post-meeting emails (Meyer, 2001).  Particular attention will be paid to the following linguistic devices:

By illuminating these aspects of several students’ experiences of meetings with their supervisor, it is hoped that new understandings of effective team supervision will be generated.  

After briefly outlining the conceptual framework, methodology and data collection of this project, I will outline some of the preliminary findings about students’ experiences of team supervision in the Humanities and Social Sciences.  The forum will then be opened up for a discussion of team supervision and information will be sought from the audience about their experiences and perspectives about student experiences of team supervision.  Feedback will also be sought about the forms of analysis being used in this study.

How Australian universities fund the student experience (Full Research Paper)

Lawrence Cram
Australian National University Canberra Australia

An investigation of the relationship between total expenditure, research outputs and education outputs for Australian universities 2004-2007 reveals an intense correlation between expenditure and research outputs.  The analysis is consistent with the expenditure of approximately $ 20,000 per student completion and $ 220,000 per Higher Education Data Collection publication point in 2007, with comparable values in three earlier years.  It is suggested that public policy drives Australian universities to direct the maximum expenditure towards the generation of research outcomes, raising serious questions about the adequacy of funding for the student experience.

Keywords: expenditure, education, research

Space Matters - Particularly when you don't have a lot (Showcase)

Geoff Mitchell
QUT Brisbane Australia
Gill Matthews
ECU Perth Australia
Romana Pospisil
ECU Perth Australia
Barbara White
CDU Darwin Australia

Most Australian Universities have invested in recent years in learning space developments designed to enhance the student experience and to support more active and collaborative pedagogies. The reality for most students is that their student experience is formulated in teaching spaces (lecture theatres, general purpose teaching spaces, specialised laboratories) which were designed for pedagogies that were considered innovative and relevant for industrial times, rather than the rapidly advancing technological age of the twenty first century and beyond. Retrofitting the twentieth century classrooms that form the majority of learning spaces in most Australian Universities, for twenty-first century learners will be quite a challenge for Australian Universities in the coming years. Particularly when these learners are generally more IT savvy than previous generations of students, and often own and are familiar with more sophisticated technologies than those either available or permitted in their University. This paper will discusses the context of an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Priority grant focused on retrofitting, redeveloping and updating the University teaching spaces of the twentieth century. One of the outcomes of this project will be a set of design principles informed by the available literature focusing on space, technology and pedagogy issues will be developed and the authors will utilise these principles to guide and inform the redevelopment process of three learning spaces at three Australian Universities throughout 2009/2010. 

Keywords: Learning Space Design, Active Learning, Student Engagement

"That which we call an 'A' by any other name would smell not quite so sweet..." (Showcase)

Sally Hunter
University of Canterbury Christchurch New Zealand

Media reports on higher education regularly raise the issue of grade inflation. Since evidence of this ‘problem’ must of necessity be measured over time and cannot therefore reflect the performance of the same students undergoing the same educational experiences, there remains the possibility that any observed upward trend in grades may be due to factors other than increasing leniency in grading.

At the author’s university two regular analyses of the grading in undergraduate papers have been undertaken for over two decades. The first is a summary for a five-year period of grade distributions in different subjects areas by year level. It is this sort of analysis that may provide evidence of ‘grade inflation’. The second analysis involves comparing the grades of students in an individual paper with the average grades achieved by the same students in all their other papers at the same level -- thereby providing a measure of ‘grade variability’.

This second analysis, wherein the grading of individual papers is identified as relatively ‘easy’ or relatively ‘hard’, is based on one main assumption: that given a sufficiently large group of students, it is reasonable to draw conclusions about the relative grading standards of papers by comparing measures of the performance of identical groups of students. Such a comparison eliminates some variables, such as student ability, although individual students do have specialised abilities and interests.  Overall, though, it is assumed that in any paper there are some students who are ‘better’ at the subject -- some who are better motivated or work harder -- and others who are not.  Therefore, significant discrepancies between the numbers of students performing at a ‘higher’ level and a ‘lower’ level may indicate papers in which the grading is significantly different from average.

The first analysis referred to above shows that within Colleges, at a given year level, there are widely different grade distributions in different departments, not all of which reflect the different ‘quality’ of their students.  The second analysis reveals that with respect to individual papers there are also widely different grading practices within departments.

Does this matter? On equity arguments alone, it does. Students should expect to be treated equally in different papers. There should not be ‘easy’ papers and ‘hard’ papers, or at least not such widely varying standards.  And although it may be difficult to ensure consistency across different departments, within departments there remains a large variation in the treatment of the same students that could be addressed.

The various arguments advanced to explain the observed variations in grading standards will be discussed, as will the implications of the latter for students.

Keywords: grading, grading standards, students

An initiative to improve the professional communication skills of first-year pharmacy students (Full Research Paper)

Leigh McKauge
The University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
Lynne Emmerton
The University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
Jacqueline Bond
The University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
Kathryn Steadman
The University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
Wendy Green
The University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
Terrilyn Sweep
The University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
Mary Cole
The University of Queensland Brisbane Australia

Competence in communication skills is essential for pharmacists, and is assessed in all years of the BPharm program at The University of Queensland, Australia.  Students of non-English-speaking background often demonstrate communication difficulties in academic assessments. 
This project aimed to determine the outcomes of extra-curricular tailored communication training on academic performance and self-evaluated competence.  First-year students were identified based on academic performance, and invited to participate in tailored tuition by an independent provider for 2h/week during Weeks 1-8 of Semester 2, 2008.  Workshops involved self-assessment and needs-driven communication exercises based on pharmacy scenarios.  School-based mentoring was offered from Weeks 9-12.  Outcome measures included academic performance and self evaluations of communication competency.
54 students attended the first workshop (42 from 54 identified academically, 12 self-identified).  80% of these attended at least half of the workshops.  The most common communication challenges were self identified as colloquialisms and pronunciation.  Greater attendance was associated with higher achievement in communication-related and unrelated assessments.  Moreover, 30 of the 54 academically-identified students had been identified ‘at risk’ of failing the final oral assessment; only 4 failed, 3 of whom had poor workshop attendance.  Self-evaluated improvements in competence were notable.
Early introduction of this initiative is ideal.  Students were receptive to the extra-curricular tailored assistance in communication skills, and aware of the emphasis on oral assessment through the BPharm program.  The protocol for identifying students is suitable for further application.  The future of this initiative will be determined by feedback, academic indicators and funding.

Keywords:  communication, language, competency

What experiences do students value in the development of their oral presentation skills? (Showcase)

Meg Rosse
La Trobe University Melbourne Australia

How do we decide what is effective for teaching oral presentation skills in a capstone subject? An individual or small group project is a common element in such subjects. The culmination of the project work is typically the writing of a report and a presentation of the work to classmates, teachers, other academics in the department, and often members of relevant industries or professions, etc. The ability to deliver an effective presentation is prominent on lists of graduate attributes, but the development of effective teaching practices to develop such skills has received little attention in the scholarship of teaching and learning. In this research, which is the first stage of a larger study, we ask students about their experiences and perceptions of developing presentation skills. “Research Project - Environmental Engineering” is a 4th year capstone subject in which students from a variety of engineering disciplines are taught as a group but mostly work individually to create and conduct a semester-long project. Eleven students (from the class of 17) were interviewed immediately after giving their final talk which took place at the end of the examination period in the final semester of their degrees. Students were asked 11 questions which covered four main areas: their experiences and opinions about what has influenced their development of presentation skills in this subject (7 questions); their experiences of giving presentations and of receiving instruction in presentation skills in other subjects in their course (2 questions); their opinion on what constitutes a successful 4th year presentation (1 question); and their view about the importance of competence in presentation skills in the workplace (1 question). Initial impressions of the transcribed data suggest an enormous diversity amongst the students. They differ widely in their understandings of how a person develops competence in giving a technical presentation, and in their views about the helpfulness of the instruction they have received, both in this subject and also, to some extent, in other subjects. Some students give far more weight than others to factors outside the university classroom: their own maturity, and their life experiences, such as going on student exchange and communicating in a foreign language, workplace experience, e.g. part-time jobs, internships, etc. In the other two areas explored in the interview – what constitutes a successful talk and the importance of presentation skills in the workplace – there appears to be more unanimity. These initial impressions need careful investigation, and no doubt other insights will emerge in the data. Furthermore, future stages of the study will include: interviews with the teachers, observations of the teaching session and the poster presentations, and a detailed discourse study of the transcripts of the videorecordings of the students’ final presentations. The larger project should help inform the definition of exactly what component skills we can fruitfully teach (and measure!) in the classroom. An informed approach to designing the learning experiences is required, so that students can understand and work towards clearly defined objectives.

Prioritizing Communication: Theory, Practice and the Student Experience in the Bachelor of Health Science (Showcase)

Lynne Harris
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Melinda Lewis
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Peter Driscoll
University of Sydney Sydney Australia

Context & Setting.
The Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHlthSci) at the University of Sydney was substantially revised with new curriculum commencing in 2008. The degree aims to prepare graduates to work in the health and community sector after three years of study and provide a pathway to graduate entry professional preparation programs and research higher degrees. One of the most important identified aims of the new curriculum was to develop communication skills. Communication is a generic workplace skills identified by employers (Washer 2007) and is essential for the health and community sector, where inadequate communication has been linked to serious patient outcomes (Department of Health 2001). Communication is one of five key generic attributes of University of Sydney graduates. This paper describes the use of assessment within a semester 1 foundational unit of study to develop a range of communication skills, and discusses the impact of these activities on student perceptions.

What was Done.
At the end of semester 1 2007 first year students completed an on-line survey. Average student agreement that the course had developed skills in spoken communication and ability to use written and / or visual communication was neutral (neither agree nor disagree) and open-ended student comments indicated that students identified this was lacking:
‘more oral presentations and focus on written communication skills’.
Students also called for:
‘smaller, more spread out assessments’ and ‘more assignments’.
The assessment of a foundational, semester 1 unit of study for 2008 was developed in response to this feedback. Four summative assessments, two that directly targeted written and spoken communication skills (literature review, reflection, interviewing, and group work) were included. An additional formative assessment required them to (a) give an oral group presentation; (b) provide peer feedback to other students; (c) receive and respond to peer feedback.

Evaluation and Impact.
At the end of semester 1 2008, average student agreement that the course had developed skills in spoken communication and ability to use written and / or visual communication was significantly higher than in 2007. Open-ended comments suggested that students identified the relationship between assessments and key learning objectives. Referring to the foundational unit of study a student commented:
‘assessments were varied and related to course objectives’.
Students also commented that the assessments in the foundational unit developed inter-professional awareness and teamwork:
‘The assessment task for …….. helped me to better understand and develop interprofessional skills and issues.’
The on-line survey was designed to provide information about the student experience of key themes of the course. The findings guided the development of assessments in 2008 and allowed the impact of changes to be evaluated.

Washer, P. (2007). Revisiting Key Skills: A Practical Framework for Higher Education. Quality in Higher Education, 13, 57-67.
Department of Health (2001) Learning from Bristol: The Report of the Public Inquiry into Children’s Heart Surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary 1984–1995, London, HMSO.

Towards a literacy of attention (Full Research Paper)

Sheona Thomson
Queensland University of Technology Brisbane Australia

In 1997, business trend analyst Linda Stone proposed the term "continuous partial attention" to characterise the contemporary experience of wanting to be ‘a live node on the network’. She argued that while it can be a positive and functional behaviour, it also has the potential to be disabling, compromising reflective and creative thought. Subsequent studies have explored the ways in which technology has slowly disrupted the idea and experience of a "centred" and "bounded" self. Studies of ‘Gen Y’ show the ease with which young people accommodate this multiplying of the self as they negotiate their partial friendships and networks of interest with family and work. In teaching and learning circles in tertiary education we talk a lot about problems of student ‘disengagement’. In characterising our challenge this way, are we undermining our potential to understand the tendencies of contemporary learners? This paper begins a consideration of how traditional models, frameworks and practices might oppose these partially engaged but continuously connected and interpersonal "dividuals". What questions does this provoke for learning environments towards harnessing yet counterpointing the crisis students might experience; to recognise but also integrate their multiple selves towards what they aim to become through the process of learning?

Keywords: attention management, engagement, multi-tasking

Graduated Descriptors and Assessment of Clinical Experiential Learning in Allied Health Sciences: Involving Students in Research Process Decision Making (Showcase)

Susanne Owen
UniSA Adelaide Australia
Ieva Stupans
UniSA Adelaide Australia
Leigh McKauge
Uni Queensland Brisbane Australia
Greg Ryan
Uni Sydney Sydney Australia
Jim Woulfe
Uni Sydney Sydney Australia

The university role in preparing students for professions and workforce responsibilities increasingly acknowledges the importance of building student knowledge, skills and attitudes within the framework of the competencies required by professional and registration bodies. While competencies have sometimes been viewed in simplistic terms such as technical checklists, a more holistic approach relevant to professions acknowledges complexity and situational contexts. Dreyfus & Dreyfus (1996) have acknowledged graduated competency levels from novice to expert, while Norcini (2003) emphasises the importance of assessing clinical competence within real life situations.

Australian research funded through the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) (formerly Carrick Institute) in 2007, highlighted that university pharmacy experiential placement programs provided opportunities for students to gradually build their skills and knowledge during the university program and within the one year pre-registration internship process. However, the links to the profession’s competencies needed to be more explicit.

Additional ALTC funding in 2008-09 has supported further research and stakeholder consultation, with one aspect of the project being in relation to the identification and development of graduated descriptors for competencies relevant to the pharmacy profession.

The graduated descriptors are intended to provide additional support for preceptors and students in improving student learning through clarifying outcomes and criteria and also giving specific feedback. Graduated descriptors are related to the degree of direction required by students, time and efficiency in carrying out tasks, client-focus or self-focus motivation, rule -bound or flexible application and holistic versus partial-task focus.

The research literature highlights the importance of involving stakeholders in the research process at all stages from inception to conclusion. The ‘knowledge use’ dissemination model which includes involvement of stakeholders in decision-making through longer workshops and then being involved in follow-up action is emphasised (Froyd, 2001; Louis & Dentler, 1988).

This paper reports on the current research phase within the overall two year project. In the initial months, a workshop was held with the national student pharmacy association representatives at their annual congress. Students in groups were invited to discuss and record ideas about the current and future health context. Current pharmacy competencies for the profession were examined after an introduction about graduated descriptors for beginner and advanced beginner students and the indicators of these levels. Students in pairs then devised beginner and advanced beginner ‘cues’ for each of the current pharmacy competencies.

While some research and consultative work pays ‘lip service’ or seeks to marginalise student responses, in this work all student responses were collated for further consideration by other workshop groups. Further work based on the student documented responses was then undertaken to develop competency graduated descriptors and additional consultations with a wider range of stakeholders including students and others in each state and territory occurred.

This showcase presents some of the issues arising in relation to student perspectives and invites discussion from conference participants about ideas for more effectively building in student views to improve curriculum and overall student experiences.


Dreyfus, H.L. & Dreyfus, S.E. (1996). ‘The Relationship of Theory and Practice in the Acquisition of Skill’. In P. A. Benner & C. A. Tanner & C. A. Chesla (Eds.), Expertise in Nursing Practice: Caring, Clinical Judgment, and Ethics. (pp. 29-47). New York: Springer Publishing Company
Froyd, J. (2001). Developing a Dissemination Plan. 31st ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference. October 10-13. Reno.
Louis, K. & Dentler, R. (1988). Knowledge Use and School Improvement. Curriculum Inquiry. Vol 18: 33-62.
Norcini, J. (2003). ABC of Learning and Teaching in Medicine. BMJ 326:753-755. [online]. URL:http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/326/7392/753 (Accessed 28/1/07).

Understanding experience beyond university: the development of an Employer Feedback Survey (Concise Research Paper)

Margaret Hicks
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia

Most established ways of gaining information about the student experience at university are from the students themselves. Limited input is gained from other stakeholders such as staff or employers. Many universities have well developed statements about the qualities or attributes that they develop in their graduates and focus considerable attention on employability outcomes. Although there have been attempts to gain feedback from employers about graduates, this has often been problematic or limited. In 2008 the University of South Australia piloted an Employer Feedback Survey. This paper briefly describes this experience, highlighting some of the challenges that were faced and how they are being addressed. Employer perspectives are an important source of information and assist in completing a more holistic picture of the student experience.

Keywords: employer feedback, employability, graduate attributes

Towards student autonomy in literature and field research (Full Research Paper)

John Willison
University of Adelaide Adelaide Australia
Eleanor Peirce
University of Adelaide Adelaide Australia
Mario Ricci
University of Adelaide Adelaide Australia

Various studies have shown the advantages of undergraduate students participating in research, including improved performance, motivation to complete studies and progression rates to Higher Degrees by Research. A contemporary focus is on how these advantages may be realised for all undergraduate students within the curriculum.  A small number of studies have measured tangible improvements based on objective data, showing the benefits of explicit research skill development in the curriculum on laboratory research skill and on exam grades. This retrospective correlational study involving 5 consecutive cohorts in First Year Human Biology courses found a surprising increase in correlation over the 5 year period between the skill measures of the final prescribed literature research task in the First Semester, and of the open-ended field-based research in Second Semester. One major implication is that the explicit development of student literature research skills may facilitate the development of some of the skills required for complex, open-ended field research.

Research skill development, literature research, field research, curriculum design, assessment, correlation analysis

Authorship experiences of Research Higher Degree students (Showcase)

Suzanne Morris
University of QLD Brisbane Australia

Research intensive universities recognise that the research conducted by Research Higher Degree (RHD) students contributes importantly to the institution’s research profile and overall research effort. Typically, students are encouraged and keen to publish their thesis results to lay a solid foundation for a successful research career. However, the pathway to research publication can be fraught with danger for the unsuspecting student, with many student/supervisor relationships permanently damaged by authorship disputes. This paper will explore the publishing experience of several RHD students and some of the authorship dilemmas they faced when discussing authorship of their thesis publications with their supervisors. These students shared their personal stories with the author during authorship management training held with RHD students from education and social science disciplines at The University of Queensland in March 2008. The stories shared by these students are not unique to these disciplines, with similar stories also shared by students and early career researchers from the biological, health and medical sciences during other training sessions.

In addition to collecting information on the students’ publishing experience, the effectiveness of the authorship management training was evaluated using pre- and post- test questionnaires. Underpinning the training sessions were the institution’s publishing and authorship policy and the Revision of the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice: Australian code for the responsible conduct of research (National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia, 2007). It was clear from these sessions, and others held by the author during 2007 and 2008, that both students and academic researchers are unaware that institutional and national policies exist to promote ethical practices in authorship assignment, and that institutions are potentially not delivering on their claim that they produce graduates with a full ‘appreciation of the ethical issues involved in the conduct of research generally’ (Department of Education, Science and Training).

Keywords: authorship, postgraduate, publication

Students' supervision needs and experiences: What are postgraduates (un)happy about? (Showcase)

Bitzer Eli
Stellenbosch University Stellenbosch South Africa

Transitions in an era of globalisation, increased internationalisation and universal change impact on postgraduate supervision practices at higher education institutions. This study aimed to determine the experiences of master’s and doctoral students at one higher education institution in South Africa where increasingly larger numbers of international students pursue their studies. Questionnaires were administered to students who had graduated and who suspended their studies between 2000 and 2008. Follow-up e-mail interviews were also conducted with ten graduates in 2008. Contrary to expectations, the study indicated that PhD students completed their studies in a shorter period than MPhil students. The fifty per cent research component of the coursework MPhil was experienced as problematic and the need for supervision support in research skills was noted. Academic input of assessing progress and evaluating quality were regarded as the most important supervision need experienced by all students.  Personal attributes, support from supervisors and institutional support are noted as important factors contributing to students’ postgraduate success. Addressing students' expressed needs and expectations seem essential to promote accountability and quality within supervisory practices.

Keywords: postgraduate students, supervision, postgraduate experiences.

Students prefer lectures to peer-teaching (Poster)

Yvonne Hodgson
Monash University Melbourne Australia

Pathology has been taught in the Radiography course at Monash University by a specialist pathologist using conventional didactic lecture format for a number of years.  In 2008 a peer-teaching program was trialled. The peer-teaching program was discussed with and agreed to by the student cohort (n=48) at the beginning of the semester. Students, working in groups of 2-3 were asked to research a particular disease and to prepare a presentation and teach the class about the disease.  A structured format was provided as a guide for the presentations. A specialist pathologist was available for consultation during preparation time and presided over each student presentation. 

The aim of this paper is to report the student experience of these student pathology projects (SPPs). A survey similar to that described by Macaulay & Nagley (2008) was used to gauge the students’ experience of learning from and teaching to peers.  Students were asked to compare their learning from lectures and the SPP’s.  In response to the question “Which did you find more interesting?”, 27 out of 36 students said that the lectures were more interesting while only 2 students said that learning from their peers was interesting.  A similar result was seen when students were asked “Which improved your understanding of the topic most?”, 26 out of 36 students identified lectures as improving their understanding of the topic while only 4 student said that learning from their peers improved their understanding.  

Students were asked to rate their learning achieved in peer-teaching program using a Likert scale.  Students generally gave favourable responses to their learning achieved while preparing SPPs (ratings from 3.28 – 3.72), but poor ratings to their learning from peers (ratings of 1.82 – 2.94).  Students were further asked to rate their learning from each modality on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being low and 10 being high.  The modality with the highest rating (8.06) was for that of preparing the SPP, lectures rated next with a score of 7.39 while listening to peer SPPs received a very low rating of 2.94.  Preparing the SPP’s requires active learning by the participants.  They must analyse, evaluate and integrate information, all high order thinking tasks.  The findings of this study support the notion that active learning promotes a better understanding of the topic (Michael, 2001).  Lectures and listening to the SPP’s involve passive learning.  The survey results demonstrated that students perceived lectures from a specialist as contributing more to their learning than listening to a presentation given by their peers.  Comments from students indicated that they did not have confidence in the ability of their peers to research and explain a disease.  Even though a specialist pathologist was present at each SPP to modulate and provoke discussion about the topic, students still did not feel that they learned as much as they did sitting and listening to a specialist pathologist give a lecture on the topic.  Further qualitative analysis of these student perceptions will be presented.

Macaulay, J.O. and Nagley, P. (2008). Student project cases: a learner-centred team activity broadly integrated across the undergraduate medical curriculum. Medical Teacher, 30, e23-e33.
Michael, J. (2001). In pursuit of meaningful learning. Advances in Physiology Education, 25, 145-158.

Confirmatory factor analysis and use of the AUSSE in a New Zealand sample (Poster)

Marc Wilson
School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington Wellington New Zealand

Following the popularity and utility of the National Survey of Student Engagement, it is no surprise that an Australasian version of the survey is also achieving prominence as a tool for investigating the student experience and its correlates. This poster investigates the psychometric structure of the survey in a sample of more than 1500 students at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and assesses the predictive validity of the factors derived. Student engagement and order-of-learning factors significantly but differentially predict actual academic achievement, satisfaction, and departure intention. As well as addressing the question of the dimensionality of student engagement, this poster confirms the (limited) utility of the survey in this particular sample.

Learning in the online environment: A university-wide web resource about online learning for students (Poster)

Gail Huon
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Maria Northcote
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Nicholas Barham
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Elizabeth Burns
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Leanne Milne
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Tammy Robinson
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Peter Santone
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Andrew Yardy
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia

Learning in the online environment is a web-based resource that has been designed specifically to assist commencing students to become effective learners in online and technology-supported learning environments at the University of Newcastle in NSW. This poster will provide information about the context in which the resource was developed and used, the design and development processes, the structure of the resource and outcomes to date of student use of the resource.

The resource was designed specifically for new students at the University. Approximately half of the University’s students come directly from school. The other half are primarily mature-aged students. While some students are computer literate and comfortable working in an online environment, others have less experience with and confidence about using teaching and learning technologies.

The University is committed to increasing online learning opportunities across all degree programs. This development has resulted in increasing concern among academic staff about the manner in which they present online courses, the way in which they facilitate learning in the online environment and the quality of the student learning experience. To respond to these concerns, the Centre for Teaching and Learning is creating a suite of resources that are designed to support quality learning in the online environment. This first resource is for students.

The design of the resource was informed by research about learning in the online environment and specific student and staff concerns about online learning at the University of Newcastle. It has three modules: the first, a video, focuses on learning at University; the second presents a guided tour of online learning technologies, and the third is a detailed guide for the local online learning environment at the University of Newcastle. A mixture of media, including interactive graphics, audio, video, text and animations, are carefully placed throughout the resource to enhance the students’ learning experience about online learning. Practical examples and instructions about using technologies and experiencing online learning at the University of Newcastle are also included. The resource encourages students to be reflective about their own learning, the use of online learning technologies and the benefits and challenges associated with online learning environments.

Learning in the online environment was launched in August 2008. Since then, almost 9000 students have accessed the resource with approximately 2000 hits per month. Both quantitative and qualitative evaluation data are being gathered. This poster will present data concerning the impact of this resource on student learning at the University of Newcastle.

Currently, staff from the Centre for Teaching and Learning are developing a parallel online resource for academic teaching staff titled, Teaching in the online environment. Together, the two resources are intended to support both staff and students at the University to facilitate and experience high quality online learning experiences that may take place within courses and degree programs that are offered solely within the online environment or those that are facilitated within a blended learning environment, incorporating a mixture of on-campus, off-campus and online learning experiences. Although this poster focuses primarily on Learning in the online environment, progress about Teaching in the online environment will also be reported.

Embedding graduate attributes; a collaborative approach (Poster)

Anne Wallis
Deakin University Warrnambool Australia
Linda Thies
Deakin University Warrnambool Australia

Most universities in Australia have adopted a set of graduate attributes which all students are expected to acquire at some time during their study. However, although this focus on generic skills is not new, course development aimed at integrating skills development and content delivery has been slow. The literature puts forward a number of interrelated factors to explain this, one being that the generic attribute agenda has been managerial-driven, and has been promoted by sources outside universities such as employers and governments (Leveson, 2000; Sumison & Goodfellow, 2004; Legget et.al., 2004). It could also be suggested that practical considerations such as insufficient resourcing have contributed to the limited success of this approach. Other constraints include the fact that the knowledge and skills of a discipline are often considered paramount by teachers and there appears to be much knowledge to impart. Again there has been debate about how transferable generic attributes may be across contexts, and whether or not the generic concept idea is more relevant to vocational training than higher education (Sumison & Goodfellow, 2004; Moore & Hough, 2005). There are very few studies which provide evidence to support specific pedagogical approaches to integrating the teaching of generic skills.

While there is still no shared vocabulary in the generic attributes debate and no agreement on the relative importance of specific skills, there is general support for the teaching of skills in context, with theory focusing in the interrelated nature of skills and knowledge (Biggs, 1999). One of the challenges of course development is to plan curriculum which makes explicit the skills that students need to be successful in their discipline and those skills which transfer across disciplines.  What innovative approaches to integrated delivery can be adopted to meet the challenge of ensuring that graduates are not only strong in their discipline, but also have the required generic skills to give them a good standing within their selected professions? One way to plan and evaluate models of integrated delivery is a collaborative approach between language and learning advisers and discipline specialists, with language and learning advisers providing an ‘outsider perspective’ (Chanock, 1994). This poster will illustrate a collaborative action research project aimed at embedding skills development in the delivery of a third year environmental management unit. It will include an evaluation of this approach. 

Jolly (2001) provides some guidance for the implementation of graduate attributes by emphasising the importance of links between graduate attributes, learning objectives learning activities, assessment tasks and assessment criteria. Clearly by making the learning objective for generic skills explicit during the course development the skills are more likely to be embedded in the teaching of the course. However although the starting point for each of the approaches outlined was the assessment framework, a collaborative approach lead to a more holistic evaluation of curriculum, and had an impact on both learning objectives and learning activities.


Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for quality learning at university, Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.
Chanock, K., (1994). Introduction to the conference: disciplinary subcultures and the teaching of academic writing. Proceedings of the Language and Academic Skills Units Conference. Integrating the Teaching of Academic Discourse into the Course in the Disciplines. (pp. 9-15). Latrobe University: Melbourne.
Jolly, L. (2001). Graduate Attributes Fact Sheet 1.10 Implementing Graduate Attributes. The Value Added Career Start Program. Brisbane. Australia: University of Queensland.
Leggett, M., Kinnear, A., Boyce, M., & Bennett, I. (2004), Student and staff perception of the importance of generic skills in science, Higher Education Research and Development, 23(3), August, 295-312.
Leveson, L.  (2000). Disparities in perceptions of generic skills; Academics and employers, Industry and Higher Education, 14, 157-164.
Moore, T., & Hugh, B. (2005). The perils of skills: Towards a model of integrating graduate attributes into the disciplines. Conference paper, LAS2005 critiquing and reflecting. Retrieved 12/12/2008, www.aall.org.au/conferences/las/papers.
Sumison, J., & Goodfellow, J. (2004). ‘Identifying generic kills through curriculum mapping: acritical evaluation’. Higher Education Research and Development, 23(3), August, 329-346.

Assessing for Desired Learning Outcomes in Tertiary Physics Education (Poster)

Jamie Quinton
Flinders University Adelaide Australia
Leone Maddox
Flinders University Adelaide Australia

It is widely recognised that good assessment design is crucial for successful learning outcomes in any course of study. Not only is it important for directing and supporting student learning but it can also give a strong picture of the student experience across their entire course. The method of assessment is the primary motivator for students - it gives them a clear picture of what is considered important and drives where their effort is placed in performing the various tasks asked of them. In Physics (and also in other Science disciplines) the assessment traditionally takes the form of a summative 'end of semester exam' that makes a considerable contribution toward the overall grade, in addition to smaller laboratory and problem paper or quiz components during the semester. If this is occurring in all of the topics in their course of study, how does this affect the student experience and how does it take into account the diverse body of students? The question becomes: Why is this 'paradigm' adopted? Is it because it is recognised as the most effective form of assessment or because this is what we have all experienced?

Assessment is recognised as being a measure of how well the students have achieved the learning outcomes. Therefore it is vitally important that the assessment and the learning outcomes are aligned to ensure that students have the opportunity to successfully achieve the desired outcomes.

Is the alignment between assessment and learning outcomes sufficiently considered by staff that deliver tertiary Physics programs? If not, then what factors inhibit the evolution of improving teaching practices in this area? A review of assessment alignment has been undertaken in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Flinders University during 2008. All academic staff were surveyed to gain insight into practices, staff attitudes and obstacles to assessment reform in Science Higher Education. There was a particular focus within this project on Physics and Nanotechnology staff that coordinate topics within these Science undergraduate programs. This group of staff were interviewed to further elucidate the ideas raised by the survey. For this group the topic documentation was also examined for assessment alignment, type and weighting. The key factors and commonalities identified by this process will be highlighted in this poster.

This project work was part of the Faculty Scholar program of the 2008 Distributive Leadership Project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Teacher education students' use of concept maps as cognitive tools within assessment (Poster)

Victoria Neville
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Sue Bennett
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia
Lori Lockyer
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia

Students enrolled in a first year teacher education subject about using information and communication technologies (ICT) in teaching were required, for an assessment task, to construct a concept map that illustrated their knowledge of how ICT could be used in teaching. Students were instructed in using Smart Ideasä concept mapping software which is available in many schools.

A concept map is a cognitive organisational tool to help learners clarify their knowledge and make that knowledge explicit through the structural arrangement and linking of concepts and their relationships to generate meaningful propositions (Novak & Gowin, 1984, 2008). Learners’ use of cognitive learning tools, such as a concept map, is influenced by their “approach to learning”, either a deep approach or a surface approach to learning (Entwistle, 1998).

This study sought to identify: 1 -  the structural features of participants’ concept maps as demonstration of their knowledge of how to use ICT in teaching; 2 - participants’ approach to learning as revealed through map content word choice. Accuracy of participants’ knowledge was not assessed.  Two different methods for analysing the concept maps of the twelve study participants were utilised. Method 1 analysed structural features of each participant’s map using Novak and Gowin’s (1984) structural scoring system. This method is appropriate for an analysis of structure rather than content accuracy. Method 2 analysed how the use of words on each map conveyed participants’ “approach to learning”.

All participants were able to use Smart Ideasä concept mapping software to construct their concept maps. However, their maps generally reflected few of the structural features necessary to convey meaning. The maps included concepts and hierarchical organisation, but concepts were often combined, poorly organised and embedded in a hierarchically shallow structure. In addition, none of the maps included valid cross-links or propositions of any kind.

Only half of the participants’ maps demonstrated some evidence of a deep approach to learning through the use of novel words and ideas, explanations, and examples. Surface learning was demonstrated by eight participants’ maps through direct duplication or minimal paraphrasing of lecture notes.

Analysis suggests that explicit instruction in how to construct concept maps, not merely in how to use the software, is essential for this assessment strategy to be effective. When students develop a good grasp of the structural features of a concept map and its relevance to enhancing their cognition and, consequently, their learning, then they may feel encouraged to adopt a deep approach to learning.

Entwistle, N. (1998). Approach to Learning and Forms of Understanding. In B. C. Dart & G. Boulton-Lewis (Eds.), Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (pp. 72-101). Melbourne, Australia: ACER Press.
Novak, J. D., & Cañas, A. J. (2008). The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them: Technical Report IHMC CmapTools 2006-01 Rev 01-2008, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. (Retrieved 15 April 2009) http://cmap.ihmc.us/Publications/ResearchPapers/TheoryUnderlyingConceptMaps.pdf.
Novak, J. D., & Gowin, D. B. (1984). Learning How to Learn. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Update on the ALTC Exchange (Showcase)

Patricia Treagus
Australian Learning and Teaching Council Sydney Australia

The ALTC Exchange is an online professional networking site established by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.  The Exchange is been developed for those who teach, manage and lead learning and teaching in higher education in Australia. Membership is open to all. The Exchange site provides tools that facilitate members contributing, collaborating, and sharing knowledge with like-minded professionals about innovative teaching and learning practices.

The Exchange is designed to provide members with:

Considerable input into the design requirements and development of the Exchange has been made by practitioners, sector leaders, professional associations and other interested teaching and learning professionals.

This showcase will report on the current status of the Exchange and outline recent developments to improve ease of use and enhance functionality.  The Exchange has been used successfully by a number of teams involved in ALTC-funded projects. Three brief case studies will be presented to demonstrate how the Exchange has assisted teams to collaborate, share resources, and to disseminate the results of their findings.

Keywords: ALTC, ALTC Exchange, Web 2.0, community of practice