Herdsa 2009

Program: Wednesday Day 3 - Concurrent Session Five

 

A wikied student experience: A collaborative project (Full Research Paper)

Ruth Billany
Charles Darwin University Darwin Australia
Trevor Billany
Charles Darwin University Darwin Australia

This article reports on the development, implementation and qualitative evaluation of an innovative and authentic learning environment in a higher education setting. The changeover of a course of study from internal students only to include both internal and external mode has many ramifications, not least the necessary redesign of a group project and presentation assessment task.

Analysis of the student demographics, the learning environment and the pedagogical underpinnings, together with the requirements of the task led to a redesign to enable virtual collaboration between group members culminating in the creation of a set of communal resources in a wiki.

The researchers were particularly interested in the student perception of an innovative application of collaborative software (a wiki) in an authentic learning and assessment task with diversity of outcomes. The wiki is considered to be one of the emerging technologies with a real-world relevance and will have a major impact on teaching and learning yet is one least used amongst students.

Concerns about the digital divide between digital natives and second wave adopters were shown to be unfounded. Student comments are interspersed throughout the article to reflect their lived experience relating to the process which seamlessly integrated learning with the task. Descriptions by them show how they became embedded in a collaborative social practice. They were empowered to examine information from a variety of perspectives as they articulated, reflected upon and shaped content in an iterative manner.

Implications and recommendations for improvement in future practice are made.

Keywords: authentic assessment, psychology, wiki


Off-campus nursing students (Concise Research Paper)

Joy Penman
University of South Australia Whyalla Australia
Jan Cook
University of South Australia Whyalla Australia

The first author, a lecturer of nursing, developed an initiative in which online problem-based conferencing was employed with a group of off-campus students studying a science course in the undergraduate nursing program.  The second author, a second-year nursing student, reflected critically on her experience as a participant in the initiative.  Both were motivated to write this paper following their positive experiences with the approach.  Their reflections were supported by the results of an anonymous web-based survey administered to the class.

This pilot study revealed that students learnt more about the content, felt more connected with peers and lecturer, experienced less anxiety, and valued the approach as an effective way to learn. The importance of clear guidelines and optimal duration of conference could not be overemphasised.

Key words: nurse education, online learning, problem-based learning


Enhancing transition from health courses by incorporating capstone experiences into the final year (Showcase)

Robyn Nash
QUT Brisbane Australia
Sandy Sacre
QUT Brisbane Australia
Pauline Calleja
QUT Brisbane Australia
Peter Le Rossignol
QUT Brisbane Australia
Karen Sullivan
QUT Brisbane Australia
Rowe Jillian
QUT Brisbane Australia

Capstone experiences present undergraduate students with the opportunity to draw together the knowledge, skills and reflections that they have gained throughout their course. In health professional courses, the capstone experience can be viewed as a way of connecting a range of educational activities including coursework, practical experience, project work and other kinds of learning in preparation for transition to the real world of professional practice. As part of a University-wide Teaching and Learning project focussing on ‘Transitions Out’, the Faculty of Health began work in 2008 on building capstone experiences into the final year of its undergraduate health courses. An important component of this initiative has been the design of learning experiences to facilitate students’ reflection on learning gained throughout their courses and, in particular, the connections between various learning experiences and their meanings in terms of practice as a professional in their respective disciplines. The design of these reflective activities took different forms in particular disciplines, with most students documenting the outcomes of their capstone learning experiences through the use of the E-portfolio tool. Exemplar e-portfolios were constructed by students who had recently graduated from three of our health professional courses – nursing, psychology and human movement studies. These graduates were also filmed discussing the process by which they thought about and used their e-portfolios near the end of their course and after graduation. These resources emphasise the use of e-portfolio for whole-of-course reflection, students’ self-provision of evidence that supports their achievement of professional competencies and Graduate Attributes, and confidence building with respect to their readiness for transitioning to the real world of practice as professionals. Student feedback about the experience was collected via focus groups. While students were very positive about the benefits of reflective learning and constructing an e-portfolio, they also had many constructive suggestions about how such activities could be better scaffolded within the courses. We are now in the process of incorporating these suggestions and making changes to the activities on the basis of what we have learned from the students and staff involved in 2008, with a view to evaluating the revised activities in 2009. Some of the challenges of introducing this initiative will be discussed, along with the strategies that were used to implement the changes on a faculty-wide basis. The role that the e-portfolio played in the development of students’ generic skills will be discussed.


A demonstration of the usefulness of Web2.0 collaborationware as an effective learning tool (Showcase)

Shane Bullock
Monash University
Scott Bradey
James Cook University
Anna-Marie Babey
James Cook University

Fifteen final year biomedical science/science students enrolled in a pharmacology subject constructed a collaborative literature review using Wikis.  At the outset, students were surveyed about their perceptions of group work and their understandings of Wikis.  After completion of the Wikis, the students were again surveyed on their experiences of using ‘collaborationware’ for such a task.

Analysis of the pre-task survey revealed that students had mixed feelings regarding their experiences of group work, with most preferring to work on their own.  All students were aware of Wikis and had used them as sources of information.

The end-of-task survey showed that the students were engaged by the task and were positive about this approach.  Most students indicated that they regarded the task assessment as fair and were comfortable with their final marks.

The approach of the groups to creating the Wiki was that each member nominated specific sections to write with one member acting as an overall editor.  The students reported that they worked independently on their sections but felt they could contribute co-operatively toother sections without fear of criticism.  The students also commented that they gained insights into Wiki creation and editing.

Overall, the students found the Wiki to be an engaging method to write a literature review and a satisfactory way of collaborating with their peers.  Staff members found this an engaging task to mark and particularly valuable as it was quite easy to evaluate the contributions of individual members, a feature often absent from traditional group work.


Teachers' design knowledge, epistemic fluency and reflections on students' experiences (Full Research Paper)

Peter Goodyear
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Lina Markauskaite
University of Sydney Sydney Australia

This paper presents a novel line of research into university teachers’ thinking about some of the design-like aspects of teaching. The research investigates teachers’ talk about educational design issues and about how they integrate different forms of knowledge and ways of knowing when they are reflecting on their teaching experiences and making decisions about how to improve their teaching. We use the term ‘epistemic fluency’ to describe the abilities, predispositions and practices involved in combining multiple ways of knowing. We argue that epistemic fluency can be observed in many areas of professional practice; that it is not sensible to see educational practice as something founded on a single, coherent epistemology, and that university teachers – like other people – should be seen as capable of working fluently with apparently conflicting ways of knowing. On this view, epistemological beliefs are not fixed traits but reconfigurable mental resources. In this paper we draw on a series of eight interviews we conducted with one university teacher, focussing on design decisions they had made or were considering. The interview transcripts are used to illustrate different kinds of knowledge that appeared in the teacher’s talk. A striking feature of the interview transcripts is the extensive reference the teacher makes to their students’ experiences. Much of the knowledge the teacher appears to work with, in discussing design decisions, is refracted through their students’ experiences. We discuss some of the implications of this conception of epistemic fluency in ‘teaching-as-design’ for the improvement of educational practice as well as for future research.

Keywords: teaching-as-design; epistemic fluency; teachers’ knowledge and beliefs


Evidence-based narratives to reconcile academic disciplines with the scholarship of teaching and learning (Showcase)

Rosanne Quinnell
UNSW Sydney Australia
Carol Russell
UNSW Sydney Australia
Rachel Thompson
UNSW Sydney Australia
Nancy Marshall
UNSW Sydney Australia
Jill Cowley
UNSW Sydney Australia

A raft of models and definitions of SoTL exist and the best appear to transcend disciplinary contexts, and are sufficiently robust for academics to measure scholarly practices. Critical engagement with the scholarly literature is necessary for academics to gain a realistic view of where their work practices are situated within the scholarly domain. Because academic staff are disciplinary experts they are best placed to comment on whether the models of scholarship describe the scholarship of learning and teaching within the context of their own disciplines as well as within the confines of the Australian higher education sector. This paper pushes the existing debates on reconciling what evidence of scholarship in the disciplines actually is and what is considered valid, and in doing so uncovers why the process of reconciliation, between current practice and supporting evidence, remains elusive.

Higher education academics need to identify and reconcile tacit disciplinary knowledge with their SoTL approach in order to unpack the complexity and value of their practices. Enabling academic staff to annotate their activities, roles and accomplishments and then map these items onto the various models of scholarship will enrich the status of scholarship of teaching and learning within the higher education sector. 

Keywords: scholarly practice; academic disciplines; learning and teaching.


Redefining teaching and learning experiences: Shifting conceptions of knowledge, teaching and learning (Showcase)

Jane Abbiss
University of Canterbury Christchurch New Zealand

Societal changes in the ‘knowledge society’ and theoretical arguments relating to postmodernity present challenges for tertiary educators, particularly those engaged in teacher education.

The emerging theoretical literature calls for a paradigm shift and radical change in education systems. This entails changes such as redefining what it means to achieve (Gilbert, 2008), reconceptualising what it means to be a learner or a teacher (Davis, Sumara & Luce-Kapler, 2008), creating a transformative rather than transmissive type of education (Sterling, 2001), teaching for understanding rather than for knowing (Hook, 2006), and equipping learners to participate in a knowledge society as producers rather than consumers of knowledge (Gilbert, 2005). It is ultimately about students’ learning experience and redefining those experiences. Underpinned by ideas that learners in the twenty-first century require practitioners to perceive learning and education differently, which entails an epistemological shift (Andreotti & Souza, 2008; Gilbert 2005), the challenge is to find ways in which these changing needs and conceptual shifts can be explored and understood by practitioners. 

This presentation introduces and showcases a Teacher Research Learning Initiative (TLRI) research project relating to shifting conceptions of knowledge and learning in the integration of the new New Zealand Curriculum in initial and continuing teacher education. The recently developed New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) is shaped in part by new ideas relating to knowledge, teaching and learning.
Framed as a case study with multiple (ten) contributing cases, the project involves participating teacher educators in action research relating to their practice in respect of the implementation of the new curriculum. They are specifically engaged in designing pedagogical initiatives based on new conceptions of knowledge and analysing shifts in conceptualisations of knowledge that occur as a result of these initiatives. In so doing they will engage in critical analysis relating to their own practice and affects on beginning and continuing teachers with whom they work.

Andreotti, V. & Souza, L. (2008). Global learning in the knowledge society: Four tools for discussion. Journal of International Educational Research and Development Education, 31, 7-12.
Davis, B., Sumara, D., & Luce-Kapler, R. (2008). Engaging minds: Changing teaching in complex times. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the knowledge wave? The knowledge society and future of education. Wellington: NZCER Press.
Gilbert, J. (2008, March). “Progress” in 21st century education? Making progress – measuring progress: Conference proceedings. Wellington: NZCER.
Hook, P. (2006). A thinking curriculum. Curriculum Matters, 2, 81-104.
Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.
Sterling, S. (2001). Sustainable education: Re-visioning learning and change. Foxhole: Green Books.


A model of teacher learning: critical self-regulation (Showcase)

Kathryn Bartimote-Aufflick
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Angela Brew
Macquarie University Sydney Australia
Mary Ainley
University of Melbourne Melbourne Australia

Our central concern in this work is the continuing professional development of university academics as teachers. The teachers under consideration here are employed in positions that involve research, teaching, and service. This work is oriented around a belief that student learning should be the central focus of teaching (see Prosser & Trigwell, 2006; Trigwell, Prosser, & Ginns, 2005; Trigwell, Prosser, & Waterhouse, 1999), and an acknowledgement of the influence teachers have on their students and particularly their learning (at the time of study and beyond). We offer that teachers are in fact leaders in learning, and as such set an example for their students to follow and to walk alongside of.

Professional development is about intentional engagement in change (transformation, conversion). To change in this way is to take on, to expand, and to let go (of knowledge, of habits, etc). In this work we pursue learning as ‘intentional conceptual change’ (Sinatra & Pintrich, 2003) initiated and consciously controlled by the learner. Associated with this type of thinking are constructs such as self-regulation (Zimmerman, 2004), metacognition (see Pintrich, 2002), motivation, and volition (that which “controls intentions and impulses so that action occurs”, Corno, 2001, p. 194).

Within the motivation literature we give prominence to goals and goal setting. Goal setting and the definition of the nature of the task by the learner are very important as they determine the strategies employed in completing the task, the product of learning, and one’s evaluation of it.

We wish to consider the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ of university teacher learning in this presentation. Kreber and Cranton (2000) propose that teachers engage in three domains of teaching knowledge–instructional (teaching strategies), pedagogical (how students learn), and curricular (goals, purposes and rationales for subjects and programs) (Kreber, 2004). Shulman also describes three kinds of teaching knowledge (1986, cited in Kreber & Cranton, 2000) – subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and curricular knowledge. If we presume academics to be expert learners in their own discipline, what strategies and choices could be made explicit to assist student learning? Also, what skills and strategies used in gaining discipline knowledge may also be employed in learning about teaching?

In this presentation we focus on learning that is driven by, and arises because of, a perceived need by the teacher to address a teaching or student learning problem or dilemma (the ‘why’). The formulation of this problem and subsequent learning task corresponds to the personal concerns and intent of the teacher.

In addressing the ‘how’ of university teacher learning we propose a four-phase model of teacher learning that draws on the literatures of self-regulated learning, metacognition, and critical reflection (see Brookfield, 1995; Mezirow, 1990, 1991). Further, vehicles for reflective learning are considered, including how teachers may learn individually and together. A consistent emphasis is placed on learning through inquiry.


Internationalizing the curriculum in Taiwan: what department heads think (Full Research Paper)

Li-chuan Chiang
National University of Tainan Tainan Taiwan

There are many studies on internationalizing the curriculum, presenting different arguments and practices. One common thread in studies is to quote the typology suggested by Bremer and van der Wende (1995). However, such studies do not take the next step of checking what department heads think even though they play a key role in internationalizing the curriculum in their disciplines. The nature of the discipline causes different views about internationalized curricula. However, there are no explicit studies in the literature to describe the features of internationalized curricula for different disciplines. This paper presents the results and analysis of an online survey of department heads regarding the features of internationalized curricula they may consider to be essential, whether these views differ due to background variables, and similarities or differences in the importance of the features in 16 disciplines. The study, funded by the National Science Council, was conducted in the summer of 2007 and received 436 questionnaires for a 21.7% rate of return. The results show that over half of the respondents thought that only 8 out of 19 features of internationalized curricula were essential. The results indicate that respondents’ views differed significantly by background variables on certain features of internationalized curricula. The portrait of the importance of the features of internationalized curricula across 16 disciplines creates an interesting result. Finally, the results of the study that extends the literature are discussed in the end of the paper.

Keywords: internationalizing the curriculum, department head, discipline, Taiwan


Taking Study Abroad beyond `suitcase envy' (Showcase)

Ann Cheryl Armstrong
The University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Lesley Harbon
The University of Sydney Sydney Australia

Gone are the days of Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ where students who roomed together would size each other up by the type of travel luggage they possessed and perhaps experience a bit of suitcase envy if they were not seen to be part of the bourgeoisie. Though some may argue that globalisation is a step in the right direction towards uniting the world and promoting social and environmental commitment, others may insist that it is a ‘double-edged sword’ which brings economic disparity to many regions. Whichever position you hold, it is also changing the face of education which has become an international commodity that is bought and sold freely. Study abroad programs in higher education are one example of internationalisation strategies. The study abroad experience is now a common feature of study opportunities at most university campuses around the world and studying abroad is increasingly viewed as a regular part of education in a globalised world. This research project examines the perceived efficacy of the study abroad experience among six cohorts of Study Abroad students at the University of Sydney over a period of three years. This study which began in Semester 1 2008 will identify changes over time in the social and educational experiences of the study abroad students capturing their perceptions of a broad range of academic and “non-academic” capacities, aspirations, attainments and pathways while in Sydney. The research is designed to enable us to ascertain whether the USYD study abroad experience enriches these young people’s learning experience to the extent that they will be building their social and cultural capital and therefore contributing to the knowledge economy. In this paper, we will look at the findings gleaned from the online questionnaires which were answered by newly enrolled study abroad students who had consented to participate in the study. At the beginning of semesters 1, 2008 new in-coming study abroad students were invited to participate in an online self reporting questionnaire which hoped to gauge their views on what they hoped to gain from the Study Abroad experience. At the end of each of those semesters, a further invitation was sent out to the students inviting them to complete an exit questionnaire to ascertain to what extent their initial perceptions have been met along with any other knowledge, skills and competencies they may have gained as a result of the experience. The findings from this study will be compared with other international study abroad data to understand the perceived impact of study abroad programs on the lives of the young adults of the global world.


Experiences of onshore international students: the implications for educational success of a holistic perspective (Showcase)

Morgan Smith
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia
Robyn Nayda
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia
Elaine Rankin
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia

This paper focuses on onshore international students’ total experiences of studying in Australia. Students’ experiences of meeting their daily living and social needs are explored and discussed in relation to their capacity to study effectively and gain the most from their cultural experience in Australia.

The finding from this study confirm information was available to students on issues around accommodation, health care, food, transport and social opportunities and strategies for making friends, however, accessing this information was sometimes complex. Additional opportunities for support were also available but not always acknowledged by students. Students varied in their opportunities to make friends but many would have welcomed additional opportunities to meet and befriend Australian students.


Evaluating the Certificate in Global Workplace Practice: meeting international student needs (Showcase)

Sarah Lambert
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia

The Certificate in Global Workplace Practice is a new program offered for the first time by Careers Service at the University of Wollongong in 2008. It targets international students and seeks to improve their graduate/employability skills, which literature shows is a need common to Australia and Australian universities. This paper describes the program and in particular the first student evaluation, offering demographic and qualitative feedback to support incremental improvements to the program and to try and explain the student attrition rates. This program’s strategy for improving International Student Satisfaction has had a positive impact. The majority of students not completing can primarily be attributed to their inability to juggle the seminars and activities on top of their main degree commitments – something that has always been a factor in Careers Service Programs which are ‘add ons’ to full or part-time study.

Keywords: International Student, Workplace Skills, New Program, Evaluation, Employability


Enabling leadership capacity through authentic learning: The Faculty Scholars Program (Full Research Paper)

Geraldine Lefoe
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia
Dominique Parrish
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia

An identified gap in the higher education sector is the development of leadership capacity for teaching and learning. Significant funding has been allocated by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) to support the development of academic leadership in higher education. The outcomes of this initiative will ultimately improve the student experience as a more scholarly approach to the many aspects of teaching and learning is adopted. One project funded by ALTC supported four universities to develop and trial a framework for leadership capacity development. Five critical factors for success were identified including authentic learning activities that were situated in real contexts; formal leadership training and professional development initiatives; engagement in reflective practice including opportunities for dialogue about leadership practice and experiences; and activities that expanded current professional networks. In this paper we specifically examine how authentic learning environments enabled leadership capacity development and informed assessment practices within institutional and national contexts.

Keywords: leadership, authentic learning, capacity development


Can emotional intelligence enhance the student experience? (Showcase)

Dominique Parrish
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, understand and manage one’s own and other’s emotions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). As a construct it has been reported to predict about 80 percent of a person’s success in life and identified as a vital requirement for success in virtually any job (Goleman, 1998, 2000). Despite the fact that emotional intelligence has been acknowledged as a foundation for student achievement and success in a higher education setting (Petrides Frederickson & Furnham, 2004; Parker, Summerfeldt, Hogan & Majeski, 2004; Lopes, et al. 2004; Pau & Croucher, 1999), there is still limited empirical evidence to support the notion that emotional intelligence will enhance the student experience. This paper will examine emotional intelligence competencies from an ability perspective of emotional intelligence, which Mayer and Salovey present as a means of explaining the constructs of emotional intelligence, and discuss the relevance and practical applications of these competencies for enhancing the student experience in a higher education context.

Keywords: emotional intelligence, student experience, academic leadership


Leading effective higher education teaching and learning communities: The head of school perspective (Showcase)

Shelda Debowski
University of Western Australia Perth Australia

Heads of school play a key role in promoting a quality learning experience for students. However, the tension between research and teaching – particularly in a research-intensive university, can make it difficult to achieve the desired outcomes. This paper reports the results of a research investigation in which thirty three heads of school explored their perceptions of leading teaching within their schools. The results demonstrate the need for more focused support to encourage academic leadership, and also highlight the critical need to build broader systemic support such as rewards, recognition and evaluative tools.

Keywords: Academic leadership; teaching leadership; academic development


Coalface subject co-ordinators – the missing link to building leadership capacities in the academic supply chain (Showcase)

Lynne Cohen
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Judy Nagy
Deakin University Melbourne Australia

This showcase seeks to solicit views about a market based approach to the provision of postgraduate education for students that are shoppers for educational products. The concept of strategically providing alternative pedagogies within large postgraduate subjects (somewhat like streaming) as a means of increasing student choice means that consumers can select the way in which they are going to learn. The proposed model seeks to empower both the students and academics by allowing them the ability to choose the approach that suits their educational philosophy and preferred learning/teaching style. This represents an innovation in flexibility that explicitly recognises diversity in learner and teacher foundation skills and reaches both teachers and learners by utilizing their own frames of reference.

The view that all students can be blended into one learning environment presumes that a standardised approach to learning is appropriate. The concept of ‘one size fits all’ education may have been traditionally valid when the presumption of a common entry level skill set had some validity. Contemporary students select the type of institution and modes of learning they desire bringing with them diverse competencies particularly for post-graduate international students that have already experienced a culturally defined learning style. In this environment it makes sense to approach the task of designing an appropriate learning environment which takes the predominant student frames of reference into account increasing the chance that students will absorb the information we seek to teach (Eisner 2003).

The suggested model is not proposed for all units of study and may only be justifiable/economical in large/core subjects. Current student centred learning approaches require students to critically engage and be actively involved in collaborative learning. However, planned curriculum development that encompasses strategies to build skills and graduate attributes does not necessitate embedding all skills into every unit of study. There is room for a flexible approach that allows variable pedagogical approaches in perhaps first semester studies allowing a smoother transition from prior learning foundations, with latter units of study building and further developing skills. The implementation of alternative pedagogies has the capacity to smooth learning pathways and encourage greater retention and progression.

This project has received internal university funding to conduct a staged on-line survey of commencing students to illicit responses to issues such as perceptions about progress, constraints, expectations, affinity with or alienation from teaching styles, tools employed in the learning environment and relationships with fellow students. By comparing data across the demographic groups, it is anticipated that differences in learning progress and styles will be highlighted. Data collection is complete and analysis is in progress. A reference group will be asked to examine the data and consider whether a trial of alternative teaching/learning models is appropriate. Styles chosen will encompass best practice pedagogies and assessments for each style allowing students flexibility to achieve outcomes in a manner that is closer to their preferences.


Engaging students and academics in work-ready learning contextualised for each profession in the curriculum (Full Research Paper)

Jessica Frawley
University of Technology Sydney Sydney Australia
Andrew Litchfield
University of Technology Sydney Sydney Australia

Universities are facing increasing pressure to better prepare graduates for the workforce. Employers, professional societies and the government are increasingly calling for graduates who are work-ready. The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Work-Ready Project is a curriculum renewal initiative that aims to improve graduates’ professional attributes and employability skills. The collaborative project aims to design, develop, implement and evaluate into the existing curriculum high-quality, professionally contextualised, work-ready learning activities to better prepare students for the contemporary workplace.

The paper provides an overview of the project’s curriculum renewal strategy of contextualised by profession integrated into the curriculum. Interviews with representatives of relevant professional societies identified their key graduate attributes. These attributes inform the structure of online matrices of work-ready activities and down-loadable learning and teaching support resources. These learning activities have been contextualised for each profession to maximise relevance for students and academics. Formative evaluation of the project's website is presented together with the strategies used to renew, integrate and embed work-ready learning into UTS’s diverse professional and disciplinary curriculum.

Keywords: Contextualised and integrated learning, work-ready professional graduate attributes, curriculum renewal


The relevance of University degrees for developing work-ready Information Technology Graduates (Full Research Paper)

Srivalli Vilapakkam Nagarajan
University of Technology Sydney Sydney Australia
Jenny Edwards
University of Technology Sydney Sydney Australia

There is an increasing expectation that Universities have a responsibility to produce work ready graduates. Past and current literature focuses on academic, professional associations and employer perspectives of graduates. Understanding and studying the lived experiences of graduates at work has been given little or no attention. In this paper we present the findings of a research study that was undertaken to describe and analyse the non-technical work experiences of recent Australian Information Technology (IT) graduates. We conducted a grounded theory study of such graduates with less than three years experience in the IT industry. They were interviewed to determine their perceptions of the relevance of their University studies to the non-technical skills they needed in the workplace.  Additional online surveys were also conducted with IT graduates. The research focussed on the non-technical requirements at work, development of non-technical skills required at work, most useful aspects of University courses and major challenges faced by IT graduates at work. Overall, the findings suggest that while graduates recognise the contribution their University IT degree had made to their technical skills development they greatly value the essential work-ready skills, which they had developed largely through sources external to their University studies. These results have implications for IT academics, graduates and employer groups and general implications for the higher education sector.

Keywords: University degrees, work-ready graduates, non-technical skills


Relationships and agency in doctoral and early career academic experience (Full Research Paper)

Nick Hopwood
Oxford University Oxford United Kingdom
Kathryn Sutherland
Victoria University of Wellington Wellington New Zealand

Research on doctoral and early career academic experience has emphasised relationships within departmental communities, although a limited number of studies suggests the importance of interactions with a wide range of individuals. In this paper we consider new empirical evidence, and theorise experience in terms of relational agency. We show how knowing how to know whom to ask for help can be a significant means for individuals to influence their own experience. Given that doctoral students are in many ways undertaking academic work, and many undertake doctoral study with academic careers in mind, our discussion explores parallels between the doctoral student and early career academic experience, finding strong resonances across the two. We argue that relational agency is indeed important, but that it is often accompanied by knowing how to know when the locus of agency resides in oneself.

Keywords: agency, relationships, doctoral experience


Higher Degree by Research candidates and skills development: What do we really mean? (Showcase)

Margaret Kiley
ANU Canberra Australia
Jim Cumming
ANU Canberra Australia
Mandy Thomas
ANU Canberra Australia

This paper reports on some of the issues identified in a study funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council into Research Graduate Skills. The paper argues that developing the academic and research skills of higher degree by research (HDR) candidates has traditionally constituted a fundamental objective of most universities that conduct research intensive postgraduate programs. However, increased diversity in the HDR population, along with increased pressure for timely completions in recent years, has created a demand for more structured approaches to research education. At the same time, employers, industry groups and governments have expressed concern that many university graduates—including those with masters and doctoral degrees—are inadequately prepared for the world of work. Eight key findings emerged from the project, including the nature and extent of the ‘skills agenda’ in higher education, the variation in nomenclature, the importance of acknowledging the skills and attributes that candidates demonstrate on commencement of candidature, relevant conceptual models of skill development, dimensions of capability, dominant approaches to capability development, and the notion of ‘contextualised performance’. Participants will be invited to discuss the concept of 'contextualised performance' and its relevance in graduate research education.


Improving the research higher degree experience at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney (Full Research Paper)

Merran Govendir
The University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Paul Ginns
The University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Rachel Symons
The University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Imke Tammen
The University of Sydney Sydney Australia

Research higher degree students are an important cohort of students for any faculty within a research intensive university. Institutional factors that minimise student attrition rates include the quality of supervision and support received from their faculty and peers. The Student Research Experience Questionnaire (SREQ) is used at The University of Sydney to obtain anonymous feedback from continuing students on their perceptions of their postgraduate experience. The 2002 SREQ dataset demonstrated that Veterinary Science students had the lowest perceptions of the quality of supervision, research infrastructure, research climate and overall satisfaction of any students within university. Consequently the faculty implemented initiatives to improve the research postgraduate experience resulting in a statistically significant improvement in the 2007 SREQ dataset. This paper discusses the importance in supporting students through their candidatures, the SREQ instrument itself and initiatives implemented by the faculty to improve students’ perspectives of their postgraduate experience since 2002.

Keywords: research postgraduate experience, research higher degree experience, experience


Student evaluation: What predicts satisfaction? (Full Research Paper)

Helen Dalton
University of New South Wales Sydney Australia
Nida Denson
University of Western Sydney Sydney Australia

The main goals of course evaluations are to obtain student feedback regarding courses and teaching for improvement purposes and to provide a defined and practical process to ensure that actions are taken to improve courses and teaching. Of the items on course evaluation forms, the one that receives the most attention and consequently the most weight is the question, “Overall, I was satisfied with the quality of this course.” However, no attention has been placed on examining the predictors of students being ‘satisfied with the quality of this course’ overall. This study attempts to address this gap. The findings show that while student characteristics and reasons for enrolling in a course are predictors of overall satisfaction, it is the evaluation questions that predict the majority of the variation in course satisfaction. The findings also reveal that faculty-selected optional questions are stronger predictors of overall satisfaction than compulsory questions. This unique finding suggests that faculties are in tune with their students’ needs and experiences as they have chosen questions which are more predictive of overall satisfaction with course quality. This study has provided the basis for future exploration. In a changing culture towards ‘compliance and accountability’ there is a shift to performance indicators, increasing reliance on outputs such as student evaluations of teaching by government bodies, university performance reviews and rewards. This considered; there is some urgency in ensuring that we know what these instruments are in fact measuring and that these instruments are designed to be reliable and valid.

Keywords: student ratings, course evaluation, overall satisfaction


Digging deeper into course experience questionnaire data (Showcase)

Theda Thomas
Australian Catholic University Melbourne Australia

The Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) has been used by universities in Australia to benchmark themselves against other universities with regard to student experience.   This paper reports on a study carried out at the Our University to try to gain a deeper understanding of the students’ experience of their development of generic skills and their experiences of assessment practices.    The study uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques to ask students to explain why they answer the questions as they do.    Students’ comments were grouped to determine why they felt negatively or positively about the various aspects queried in the quantitative questions.   The students’ comments and aspects from the literature study are used to make recommendations for improving the students’ experiences in the future.

Keywords:  evaluation, student experience, course experience questionnaire


Best-Worst Scaling: a `magnifying glass' method for university teaching evaluation (Full Research Paper)

Twan Huybers
UNSW@ADFA Canberra Australia

Student evaluation of teaching at universities is subject to widespread debate.  The discussion in the academic literature relates to various aspects of teaching evaluation including the range of determining factors and, broadly, the validity of its measurement of teaching effectiveness.  This paper focuses on the measurement of the relative importance of the different aspects of teaching covered in a teaching evaluation instrument.  Best-Worst Scaling is proposed as a new method to evaluate university teaching.  Based on a pilot study of a small undergraduate class, the findings of the study demonstrate how Best-Worst Scaling, in comparison with conventional rating scales, better highlights the true differences in measurements across a range of teaching evaluation criteria.  In doing so, it provides enhanced feedback to educators about students’ perceived teaching performance along various dimensions of teaching.

Keywords: student evaluation of teaching, rating scales, Best-Worst Scaling


Supporting academic development to enhance the student experience (Full Research Paper)

Hazel Owen
Unitec NZ Auckland NZ
Bettina Schwenger
Unitec NZ Auckland NZ

Students' learning experiences and study success can be significantly enhanced through a combined approach that embeds Literacy, Language and Numeracy skills enhancement explicitly into discipline content. An essential aspect of this approach is the provision of academic professional development that is engaging and helps staff review their methodology in a supported and sustainable manner.

This paper describes stage one of a pilot research study and ongoing initiative between one of the vocational disciplines (Automotive Engineering, which is part of the Unitec Applied Technology Institute) and the Academic Development Unit at Unitec New Zealand. At this stage, using a 'Tradeshow approach', fifteen Literacy, Language and Numeracy related tools and strategies, as well as mini-demonstration teaching sessions, have been chosen as a way to introduce and discuss effective practice in collaborative and contextualised professional development sessions.

The findings from a pilot study around the Tradeshow approach, including the iterative cycle of evaluation and improvement in response to participant feedback, are shared. The study has helped identify and evaluate how this new capability building approach has assisted with supporting and motivating discipline specialists in their initiatives to embed and add value to students’ learning experiences and study success.

Describing a number of key strategies and tools, this paper will discuss the results of the study as well as lessons learned and associated implications.

Keywords: professional development; embedding literacy, numeracy and language skills; strategies


A cross-disciplinary approach to language support for first year students in the science disciplines (Showcase)

Felicia Zhang
University of Canberra Canberra Australia
Brett Lidbury
University of Canberra Canberra Australia
John Rodger
University of Newcastle Newcastle Australia
Brian Yates
University of Tasmania Hobart Australia
Adam Bridgeman
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Jurgen Schulte
University of Technology, Sydney Sydney Australia

A key goal of the study entitled ‘A cross-disciplinary approach to language support for first year students in the science disciplines’, funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, is to examine the role of language in the learning of science by first-year university students. The disciplines involved are Physics, Chemistry and Biology. This national project also aims to transfer active learning skills, which are widely used in language teaching, to the teaching of science in first year. The paper discusses the background to the study and reports preliminary results on the language difficulties faced by first year science student cohorts from data collected in 2008 as well as qualitative data was also collected on 2008 students’ attitudes towards online science learning.

Keywords: First year science teaching, role of language in science teaching, active learning skills


Challenges of the large survey subject: teaching and learning how to read history (Full Research Paper)

Georgine Clarsen
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia

The large survey subject is a challenge to all humanities teachers, but many of the problems it poses are specific to each discipline. This paper tracks the difficulties of teaching a first year university history subject, as class sizes increase and the traditional tutorial delivery mode is placed under pressure through financial constraints and administrative policy. It utilises the emerging literature on teaching and learning history, History SoTL, which reflects a new interest in disciplinary-specific pedagogical practices. This paper outlines the moves I have made - in keeping with recent the historiographical emphasis on developing students’ historical consciousness, rather than simply expecting students to acquire knowledge of past events – to give students a better understanding of how historians think, read and write.

Keywords: Decoding the Disciplines, HistorySoTL, Reading tools


Negotiating discursive positions within a police culture: Critical reflections of a student researcher (Full Research Paper)

Cheryl Maree Ryan
Deak In University Geelong Australia

I traverse a number of identity boundaries every day within a work context. This paper discusses the blurred boundary of two identities - (1) a part-time PhD student undertaking a cross-jurisdictional study of police training and education and (2) a full-time, ‘unsworn’ employee advising on education and training at a police academy. Study and work are concurrent. I describe myself as a token insider – different, partly accepted, yet tolerated, or alternatively as an outsider-insider. It is taxing to maintain an outsider’s standpoint in a police organisation. My role regularly places me in a position of challenging the dominant ideology, D/discourse (words, beliefs, thinking styles) and subcultures whilst experiencing the imposition of power by the dominant to accept the status quo. Frustration combined with a desire to name and reframe everyday experiences has led me to engage in critical reflection, enlist a critical friend, and undertake doctoral research. As an outsider-insider, critical reflection is a tool that enables me to negotiate discursive positions by questioning my engagement and subject position within and against the taken-for-granted and unquestioned dominant D/discourses.

Keywords: D/discourses, identity, outsider-insider, critical reflection.


Students experiences of Personal Learning Environments (Showcase)

Jocene Vallack
Central Queensland University Rockhampton Australia

In this paper I set out the research design and some autoethnographic data for our current research project on the students’ experiences of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs@ our university). This paper focuses specifically on the reflective and highly subjective phase of the Action Research methodology that we are using. Analysis of candid blog data has revealed themes about the learning experience of a Web 2.0 novice, as she struggles to master the social media that will enable her to build her Personal Learning Environment(PLE).
The first part of this paper argues that systematic positivism, the favoured approach of traditional technological researchers, will need to yield to more candid and comprehensive, qualitative data if the student experience is to be appreciated. It becomes an argument for qualitative rigor in our practice. The second part of the paper analyses this candid, Blog data, to map the emerging elements and themes of the student’s experience, which will have consequences for the ongoing research project.


"I'm not a man, I'm a graduate student:" academic discourses and the construction of gender in higher education (Full Research Paper)

Jennifer Wolgemuth
Charles Darwin University Darwin Australia

The academy has long been critiqued by feminists for privileging masculinity; as another institution in which gendered power is constructed and resisted.  While graduate school is where new academics are socialized into their disciplines, gender is infrequently considered as part of the process of becoming an academic, especially from the perspective of male graduate students. This study examined the production of gender in the academy by analyzing the academic discourses (evolutionary psychology, humanist, social science, [pro]feminist and poststructural) four male graduate students took up in a series of conversations about gender in the academy.  Findings revealed discourses were drawn upon to theorize the nature of the gender order, most discourses resulted in reification of a binary gender, and that, even for men who identified as ‘feminists,’ feminist discourses were not taken up to critique other academic discourses. Only the poststructural discourse challenged the naturalness of a binary gender and permitted a fluid and active construction of masculinity in higher education.  Implications for academic disciplines are discussed.         

Keywords: academic discourse, gender, graduate education


Exploring the role of the teacher-as-designer in online creative writing pedagogy (Full Research Paper)

Cynthia Tait
University of the Sunshine Coast Sippy Downs Australia
Wendy Fountain
University of Tasmania Launceston Australia

Creative writing is particularly well suited to the online teaching and learning environment. There is an emphasis on the creation of text, reading of text and the participation in critique and deconstruction of text; all of which can be easily shared and the learning supported online. The relationship between creative writing academics and their students is one which clearly puts both parties on a similar footing: both are creative text makers. Supporting the creative writing academic to understand how to design an online environment specific to both themselves and their students is a way to investigate and develop the larger pattern of a professional development approach that is designed to enable academics to learn how to design and teach in online learning environments, in a way that best suits their particular context.

Keywords: design pattern language, creative writing, academic development, online environment


Developing students' critical and reflective thinking skills: an alternative to reflective journals (Showcase)

Robyn Philip
Charles Darwin University Darwin Australia
Jenny Nicholls
Macquarie University Sydney Australia

The development of critical and reflective thinking skills is essential for all students in higher education. One form of assessment increasingly used to facilitate the development of these desirable graduate attributes, and to evaluate students’ achievement in this area, is the individual reflective journal. The creative and performing arts have often used reflective journals as an adjunct to assessment of practical performance. While the value of individual reflection is recognised, not all students understand the requirements of this assessment type, particularly in terms of structure and analysis. There is a need to offer students scaffolding and support for the task, in order for them to go beyond mere stream-of consciousness description and explanation, to reach more formalised interpretation and generalisation.

In this showcase, the authors present the results of an action research project in the discipline of drama. Through a process of curriculum redesign, the traditional personal, reflective journal was replaced with a collaborative online task. In small groups, third year drama students at an Australian university were expected to contribute to a group blog (an online diary) to support the devising of a  play from inception through to performance, and to document and analyse the process as a group. The affordances of Web 2.0 social networking technologies were explored in the  project, and assessed for their potential to encourage students to share ideas and insights, to engage more with their learning, to document thinking, and to make explicit the process of playbuilding.

Overall, the research aimed to discover in what ways group blogging differs from individual journal reflection in drama; how group blogging contributed to or limited engagement in playbuilding; and the benefits and limitations of group blogging as a collaborative form of assessment. Data was gathered from the following sources: two print-based surveys, focus groups and interviews, student texts, i.e. blog entries and essays, as well as reflections and documentation of the process maintained by the researchers, and statistics from the web logs.

The findings from the research indicate that the impact of the new assessment on students’ experience of the course was considerable. The blogs provided better support for group processes and the associated assessment task of creating, building and performing a play; the ‘conversational’ and public nature of the group blog helped to improve analysis and reflection; there was noticeable collective ownership of the online space, yet students were able to retain autonomy and control of their learning within the group context; and the learning space was media rich and engaging. Overall students regarded the assessment as challenging, an important part of their learning, well integrated into the course and vital to the achievement of the major assignment. The findings indicate that the design of the assessment as a means of improving students’ critical thinking skills and analysis has potential for other disciplines and educators.

The showcase will focus on the rationale for the project and the student experience.

Keywords: reflective journals, collaboration, group blogs


The student experience, with variations (Full Research Paper)

Helen Sword
University of Auckland Auckland New Zealand
Michele Leggott
University of Auckland Auckland New Zealand

English 347 Poetry off the Page is an intimate, engaging undergraduate English course at the University of Auckland that weaves together three related areas of inquiry – live performance, digital poetics and the poetry archive – to provide an authentic learning experience for literature students exploring the role of poetry beyond the printed page.  Our essay offers an unconventional case study filtered through the retrospective gaze of former students who responded to a detailed questionnaire. Structured as a series of non-sequential ‘learning spaces’, the paper concludes with an account of the authentic learning lessons that we, the teachers, have drawn from our former students’ experiences in and beyond the course. 

Keywords: authentic learning; student-centered learning; experiential learning; student experience