Herdsa 2009

Program: Thursday Day 4 - Concurrent Session Seven

Four different approaches to improving the student learning experience (Showcase)

Lynne McArthur
RMIT University Melbourne Australia

Enhancing the student experience at higher educational institutions is currently considered to be one of the most challenging roles of academic staff at Australian Universities. The reasons for this shift in focus are due partly to the changing nature of the students' interaction with the institution: Students today have less time on campus due to their commitment to work and other extra-curricula activities; the abolition of the compulsory student union fees have contributed to the "university experience" being significantly different to that of recent years; educators are expected to produce "work ready" graduates, from increasingly diverse student populations. In addition, the increased financial burden on students has also contributed to the change in role of educators from ‘lecturer to student', to 'service provider to client'. All of these factors have driven the need to alter the traditional tertiary teaching pedagogy. In the Department of Mathematics at RMIT University, the academic staff has engaged in a number of incentives designed to address some of the issues faced by our students, both those entering and those leaving the university. These initiatives include projects funded by the University to improve course material and enhance the online presence of courses; funding for action research in teaching and learning; a peer mentoring project (Student Learning in Mathematics Education, S.L.I.M.E.); and courses in professional practice at both the first year and third year levels. This paper presents the details of some of these initiatives, with discussion of the objectives and the outcomes of each.

Keywords: Student experience; action research; course enhancement; peer mentoring; professional practice


Learning design through role-play glasses (Showcase)

Tim Lever
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Fran Everingham
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Elizabeth Devonshire
University of Sydney Sydney Australia

This is free flowing conference activity, anchored by a poster and set in motion by a small group of role-based learning "spotters" who will cruise the conference for role-based learning related material, conduct on the spot reviews and report on their discoveries to the Role Play Glasses seminar session on the final afternoon of the conference. The "spotters" will be assisted in the task by a simple one page 'spotters guide' plus distinctive optical equipment (thick-rimmed role-play glasses) that make them easily recognisable for other conference participants. The design reviews will focus primarily on descriptive side of design evaluation: how we define and distinguish design ideas and their specific innovative qualities, rather than value judgements about what is good or bad in learning design generally. The concluding discussions will focus on issues regarding role-based learning and review of learning design encountered in the course of the activity. The session will be an opportunity for spotters to compare notes and for other conference participants to add their own reflections. Those interested in a more lengthy role-based learning experience and wanting to contribute as "spotters" themselves are welcome to collect their role-based learning optical accessories and "spotter's guide" at the Role Play Glasses poster stand. This activity is an initiative of the Project EnRoLE University of Sydney cluster, inspired by the project's ALTC-funded Role-Play Evaluation workshop of November 2008.


Talking Texts, Reading Texts, Writing Texts (Showcase)

Nicola Rolls
CDU Darwin Australia
Fran Tolhurst
Agha Kahn Foundation Bahmian Afghanistan

This presentation describes a literacy scaffolding approach to teaching reading and writing in academic contexts. The methodology "Reading to Learn: Learning to Read', advocated by Rose (2004), makes patterns and meanings in texts explicit to students and highlights the construal of these patterns and meanings. The impact of this new methodology on one group of Advanced ESL students' academic reading and writing ability is established through measuring the shift in literacy levels and through interviews with the students. The results will show that in taking our teaching a few steps further into a more explicit realm we can revolutionise students' progress and help them to more rapidly become competent, confident readers and writers.

Through this scaffolding process students are assisted to not only understand the meaning of the text in detail but also the words and patterns that have helped construct those meanings. In turn this knowledge translates to student's understanding of how they should write their own text in the particular genres exemplified by the readings. Thus "... the strategies integrate the tasks of reading and writing, of learning in various academic fields, and critically analysing texts" Rose et al (2004).


Transition and Identity: Linguistic Minority International Students'Experince (Showcase)

Nira Rahman
Monash University

Recent writing in applied linguistics has shown strong ties between identity and language learning. As a result identity has become a key concept in language learning research. For many scholars, it is now taken as axiomatic that identity and language learning are inextricably linked. However, with the emergence of globalisation the demographic profiles of once mono-lingual nation states are rapidly changing as they become multicultural and multilingual although founded in most cases on discourses of more narrow cultural and linguistic parameters. This pluralisation is not only the product of formal immigration or refugee and other settlement movements. Student mobility also makes a contribution. Often with high expectations, well-specified career goals and the will to work hard for higher and/or better education, international students from different language and cultural backgrounds, who mostly belong to linguistic and cultural minority groups in the host country, also contribute to broader changes in culture, language and identities. Adjusting to a new environment through the use of a second language involves challenges to self-concept, worldviews, values, and attitudes. These students need to be prepared socio-culturally and emotionally to deal with a multitude of non-linguistic factors in order to succeed academically in an unfamiliar educational environment.Therefore, there is a need for studies that provide insight into the ways in which such linguistic and culturally minority international students negotiate and represent identities and are themselves constructed through discourse in specific instituted context.

In this paper I will report on a three year investigation of the role of international students in an Australian university, with a specific focus on the processes of adaptation in culture, language and identity. The study reports on a diverse group of students in transition from a pre-university language course to commencement of their formal university study. The data are connected to theory in language learning, identity change and social adjustment to produce a map of the complex interactions involved as student mobility investigate the relationship between identity and language learning, between the individual language learner and the larger social world, this paper will therefore consider the efforts of linguistic minority international students in an Australian university with reference to their investment in learning English and their changing identities in a different social and cultural space. As a result the paper will take a socio-culturally framed view of dominant language learning in multilingual/multicultural context addressing the covert and overt representation of the identity of linguistic minority international students. Through a case study, this paper will also examine how linguistic minority international students negotiate their identity and form multiple identities and whether this process impacts on their access to various resources and community practices of the university.


"The person who called me was so encouraging - especially at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed by the requirements of my study." Peer support for indigenous student engagement, retention and success. (Showcase)

Catherine Ross
Open Polytechnic Lower Hutt New Zealand

The retention and success of tertiary students in New Zealand, particularly indigenous and ethnic minority students, is of strategic importance. Government policy remains focused on increasing indigenous and minority student participation and achievement, and, while there has been significant growth in the number of indigenous and ethnic minority people enrolling in tertiary education in recent years, the retention and success of these students continue to be problematic.

Engaging and retaining students can be particularly challenging in the distance learning environment where students are separated from teaching and support staff and other learners. In such an environment students often report feelings of isolation, little sense of connection and belonging, and difficulty in maintaining engagement in and motivation for learning. Early, appropriate and regular support, however, can have a positive and lasting effect on retention and academic and social outcomes.

This showcase describes a programme aimed at enhancing the engagement, retention and success of first-year indigenous students studying in degree and diploma programmes through the provision of culturally relevant peer support. The programme was informed by Kaupapa Māori Theory and principles of inclusive teaching practice. It focused on working with students to identify learning needs, provide support and advice in a timely manner, help build a sense of connection and belonging to a community of learners, and increase academic enjoyment and motivation.

The programme was based on making proactive contact with students rather than relying on student self-referral, and contact with them was at times that have been identified as critical points in students' progress through their study. The programme's specific objectives were to: welcome students to the Open Polytechnic learning community and make a positive start to study; help them plan their study and manage assignment tasks; assist students to identify areas where they need support and provide that support; encourage them to contact their tutor or other staff for assistance with any concerns.

Results revealed that the students who participated in the programme valued the opportunity to have regular contact with knowledgeable peers in addition to their tutors. They found the contact encouraging and motivational; it enabled them to deal more effectively with the demands of study and to feel part of a learning community. This contact, which occurred at key decision-making points in students' progress through their study, assisted in the identification of issues that might have been a barrier to that progress and provided opportunities to resolve these in a timely manner.


Undergraduate student mentor training and accreditation: the experience of Welsh Higher Education institutions and beyond (Showcase)

Fran Castle
University of Wales Newport Newport United Kingdom
Simon Haslett
University of Wales Newport Newport United Kingdom
Louise Bowen
University of Wales Newport Newport United Kingdom

Student mentoring is becoming commonplace in Higher Education institutions (HEIs), providing additional support to undergraduate students, with a view to encouraging student engagement, increasing retention rates, and generally enhancing the student experience and their well-being (mentoring is reasonably well-researched in HE with a growing body of literature and dedicated journals). Formal mentoring schemes usually function through the recruitment of student mentors; however, the success of such schemes lies to a large extent in the performance of these mentors. Therefore, the training of mentors is of key importance in the operational success of mentoring schemes.

A debate currently taking place regards the relationship of mentor training to the curriculum, and whether training should be accredited as part of the mentor's undergraduate studies. Arguments for and against such accreditation exist, for on one hand it is entirely appropriate that students are properly credited for training undertaken, but should that be at the expense and substitution of an element of the students subject-based course, for example. In this context, it might be foreseen that introducing accredited training may discourage both potential mentors from applying and academics from recommending mentoring to students if it dilutes their subject experience.

The present study reviews current practice and experience in Welsh HEIs to inform decisions regarding the implementation of institution-wide accredited mentor training at the University of Wales, Newport. The research was undertaken in July-September 2008 by analysing institutional literature and telephone interviews with all Welsh HEIs (n = 12). The survey captured information on 1) whether a peer mentoring scheme existed, 2) the nature of the scheme if one existed, 3) whether training was provided for mentors or not, 4) whether any training was accredited, and 5) whether mentors were paid a salary or volunteered.

Of the institutions invited to participate, two declined. Of the remaining 10, four have formal mentoring schemes in place, whilst another two have schemes under development. Of the remaining four institutions, two encourage informal mentoring, one provides mentoring for disabled students only, and the other had no mentoring scheme. Eight institutions provided training for mentors, covering formal and informal schemes, but such institution-wide training received accreditation in one institution only, although one other ran a course-specific module in mentoring. In three institutions mentors were paid a cash salary, and at another they were paid in book tokens, whereas mentors were volunteers elsewhere. Examples of these schemes will be explored during the paper presentation.

Although this national survey was undertaken in a small country of only 12 HEIs it demonstrates significant variation in practice with regard to student mentoring and is somewhat surprising given the clear benefits of mentoring identified in the literature. To extend the examples of mentor accreditation, given that only one Welsh HEI offered credits, a follow-up survey of selected schemes outside Wales was then undertaken and yielded eight institutions in Australia, United Kingdom and the United States. However, of these eight accredited schemes two were withdrawn due to low recruitment of student mentors.


Enhancing the student learning experience through the development of quality indicators of teaching and learning (Showcase)

Denise Chalmers
University of Western Australia Perth Australia
Kate Thomson
The University of Sydney Sydney Australia

This paper reports on a national ALTC project to identify and implement quality teaching and learning indicators in Australian universities. The project provided universities with the opportunity to proactively engage in the process of defining and developing indicators and outcomes of quality teaching and learning focussed on the student learning experience.

It is argued that we need to focus on developing indicators that relate to student learning and their learning experience in order to understand and enhance our practice. An extensive review of the international literature and empirical research contributed to the development of a framework of dimensions of teaching quality for use at multiple levels within a university. The four dimensions are: university culture, assessment, diversity, and engagement and learning community. Indicators that contribute to and enhance student learning and the student learning experience were identified for each dimension.

This framework has been trialled in eight Australian universities to assess its usefulness in providing an approach to implement and embed teaching and learning indicators in higher education institutions. Each of the universities selected one dimension to implement. The presentation will provide an overview of the project and specifically report on the experiences of three pilot universities that focussed on engagement and diversity.


Preparing academic teachers in higher education (Showcase)

Gail Wilson
Bond University Gold Coast Australia
Margaret Hicks
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia
Heather Smigiel
Flinders University Adelaide Australia
Ann Luzecky
Flinders University Adelaide Australia

This showcase session reports on progress in the Preparing Academic Teachers in Higher Education (PATHE) project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). The project arose from the Foundations Colloquium meeting in Launceston in 2005. The Colloquium has been operating since 2002, and is an annual two-day meeting of academic developers and teachers who are actively involved in the development and teaching of induction programs for university teaching. Following the Launceston meeting of the Colloquium, six people were tasked with putting a proposal together for an ALTC grant which was approved in March 2007 as a discipline-based initiative.

The project is devising a framework for preparing for university teaching programs that will benefit the sector by promoting a set of shared expectations and understandings about the nature of university teaching and learning, and locating these programs in that wider context. Under such a framework, when an academic is recruited from another university there will be some common understanding of core learning and teaching principles. This is not to impose homogeneity amongst foundations of university teaching programs, but, rather, to encourage collaboratively-developed perspectives.

The project has three major stages:

The project encourages and models national collaboration across Australia's higher education institutions using a distributed leadership approach which is evidenced both in the cross-institutional nature of the Steering Committee who guide the project, and in the composition of the sub-project teams of staff representing different universities involved in Stages 2 and 3 of the project. In addition, 31 universities are partners in the project. Partner institutions are those who made a contribution to support the development of the original proposal submitted for funding. They also provided input to the development of the project proposal and have the opportunity to participate fully in the project throughout its duration.

Major achievements of the project to date are:

Presentation at annual Herdsa conferences about progress and outcomes of the project is an important element of this project's dissemination strategy. At the time of presenting this showcase session, the project will be nearing the completion of Stage 3 of the project which is focused on producing deliverables relevant to the focus of each project sub-group. This session will report specifically on these deliverables and plans for the project evaluation.


Giving students voice - and learning to hear what they say through the AUSSE (Showcase)

Linda (Yun-wen) Chen
University of Canterbury Christchurch New Zealand

The importance of monitoring tertiary students' level of engagement with learning has recently been recognised. The Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) is particularly designed to observe and measure such phenomena from the students' perspectives. This information will be beneficial for the improvement of teaching and learning if institutions use it effectively. The AUSSE data are collected via structured surveys with 37 Likert-scale questions and two open-ended queries about student engagement. Most of the data are analysed quantitatively, so that the results can be readily utilised for various purposes such as benchmarking. However, in the open-ended section students are given the opportunity to express their ideas in context. The responses they provide, which may not be reflected in the quantitative data, can expand and enhance our understanding of engagement issues. In addition, listening to students' voices is a way to include them in the evaluation process, since their comments provide specific examples and practical suggestions for future improvements. This paper explains one viable method for analysing the qualitative data in the AUSSE, and demonstrates how valuable students' written comments are to a more complete and nuanced understanding of engagement.

The data in the two open-ended questions of the AUSSE are the focus of this research. These two questions asked about how universities engage their students with learning, and what could be improved in this process. A blended qualitative-quantitative method, modified from 'Hermeneutic-classificatory content analysis', was applied to take full advantage of student comments, and over 400 students' answers were analysed. SPSS Text Analysis for Surveys was employed to record and categorise students' answers. The construction of categories included theoretically- and data-driven models, and this paper will illustrate examples of both.

Preliminary results will be shown through interlinking-web models, illustrating the connections and dependencies between various concepts. Preliminary analysis indicates that the most important factor in influencing student engagement involves the teachers (including lecturers, tutors and lab demonstrators) who delivered course content and had direct interactions with students. Although other categories, such as 'course design', 'campus wide support systems', and 'technologies', also play important parts, students most often referred back to 'people elements'.

Another interesting finding is that relatively few students mentioned internal factors such as 'self-motivated learning' and 'academic challenge' as the main drivers for feeling engaged with the programmes or learning materials. Although these internal factors approximated the definitions of 'Active Learning', students have under-emphasised these in preference to remarking on the external factors (such as 'teachers'). This implies that their level of engagement was mainly affected by external factors. Therefore, this paper suggests that institutions should reconsider the degree of reliance on student self-motivation with respect to active engagement in learning. These results indicate that from the student perspective, the level of engagement is likely to depend on the course designers or curriculum developers, and the teachers who reach out to students to actualise programmes successfully.

Keywords: student engagement, higher education, data analysis


Student engagement online: an agenda for research (Showcase)

Pauline Hagel
Deakin University Burwood Australia
Rodney Carr
Deakin University Warrnambool Australia

This showcase will describe an institutional research project aimed at investigating students' online engagement and its measurement.

The Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) was developed to measure the engagement of higher education students in Australia and New Zealand. It is administered by the Australian Centre for Educational Research (ACER) which is also responsible for the design and psychometric testing of the AUSSE instrument. It comprises a questionnaire that is administered to students at participating universities and is based on a very similar, well-studied instrument used in North America annually since 2000, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Both the AUSSE and its parent, the NSSE, survey students about their involvement in activities for their studies and the conditions they experience (Kuh, 2001). However, the AUSSE/NSSE measures are based largely on research related, primarily, to traditional, campus-attending, undergraduates in North America (Chen, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2008). A question therefore arises about how well the AUSSE captures the engagement for off-campus and online students. Thus the first research aim is to:

A second focus of the research is to establish the face validity of items developed to measure online engagement. Face validity is a measure of validity whereby the questionnaire "looks right" to a person who is not necessarily an expert in the content. We are especially concerned to create items that are considered relevant and important to academic staff. If items are not seen to be relevant and important by this group then they will be less willing to accept results from any survey and less inclined to make changes to their practice. Consequently, the second of our research aims is to:

We expect the outcome of our research to be a (hopefully small) set of online actions, similar in style to the AUSSE and NSSE items, which signify online engagement. We intend these to complement the existing AUSSE items, in a similar way to other sets of engagement items such as those developed to measure first year engagement in Krause and Coates (2008). We hope the set of items will be useful for all universities - online learning is now mainstream for all students regardless of their mode of enrolment at all universities.

In this showcase we will outline the methods we are employing to investigate both these research questions and seek feedback from our colleagues about the issue of online engagement, the methodology we have employed and our findings to date.

References

Chen, P.S. D., Gonyea, R., & Kuh, G. (2008). Learning at a Distance: Engaged or Not? Innovate Journal of online education. ( http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=issue . Retrieved 20 January 2009.)
Krause, K. & Coates, H. (2008). Students' engagement in first-year university. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 33(5), 493 - 505.
Kuh, G.D. (2001). Assessing What Really Matters to Student Learning. (Cover story). Change. 33(3), 10.


 

The Indigenous Learner Experience: how do indigenous teachers contribute? (Showcase)

Meegan Hall
Victoria University Wellington New Zealand
Peter Adds
Victoria University Wellington New Zealand
Ocean Mercier
Victoria University Wellington New Zealand
Rawinia Higgins
Victoria University Wellington New Zealand
Mamari Stephens
Victoria University Wellington New Zealand
Te Ripowai Higgins
Victoria University Wellington New Zealand
Alice Te Punga Somerville
Vicrtoria University Wellington New Zealand

Despite the advent of indigenous universities, many full-time, tenured indigenous academics still work in mainstream tertiary institutions. Their positive contribution to the learning experience of indigenous students in mainstream tertiary institutions is often noted or assumed in the literature about higher education learning and teaching.

This research project set out to identify what, if any, distinctive and common characteristics could be found within a sample of Māori academics teaching at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and what positive effects, if any, their 'Māori-ness' had on their students.

The qualitative study looked at the course design and teaching delivery approaches taken by individual Māori academics working in a range of disciplines and explored a series of research questions, including:

  1. Are there any distinctly "Māori" approaches that Māori academic staff in mainstream tertiary institutions take in their teaching?
  2. How, if at all, do Māori academics in mainstream tertiary institutions cater for their Māori student cohort?
  3. How do Māori academics know that what they are doing in their teaching is working for their Māori students? Or any of their students?

This showcase presentation will summarise the findings of this research and suggest options for sharing and refining successful teaching approaches amongst indigenous and non-indigenous academics.


Academic students or student academics? Indigenous academics and higher degree research (Showcase)

Susan Page
Macquarie University Sydney Australia
Christine Asmar
University of Melbourne Melbourne Australia

In considering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher degree completion rates in Australia, which (like Indigenous undergraduate completions) continue to be a concern, a number of explanations are offered. Such explanations identify student characteristics such as non-traditional educational backgrounds, mature age, and family and community responsibilities, in relation to whether Indigenous students are likely to successfully complete research degrees or not. Indigenous higher degree students are imagined as emerging, perhaps tentatively, from 'the community' to knock on the forbidding doors of academia. We argue that, contrary to this imagery, many such 'students' are already an integral part of the scholarly world, holding positions of considerable responsibility. Our own research reveals that those higher degree Indigenous students are often, in fact, our own academic colleagues. They are student academics (or academic students), simultaneously wearing two hats, and dealing with a correspondingly complex set of challenges. Our findings relating to academic workloads, career imperatives, and personal motivation are briefly analysed. We look forward to discussing these and related issues with other conference delegates.

Keywords: Indigenous academics, research, higher degree


Developing Auckland's new academic developers: where to from here? (Showcase)

Barbara Kensington-Miller
University of Auckland Auckland NZ
Ian Brailsford
University of Auckland Auckland NZ
Chelsea Blickem
UNITEC Auckland NZ
Peter Gossman
Glyndwr University Wrexham UK

This showcase builds on work presented at last year's HERDSA conference (Blickem et al., 2008) from a group of new academic developers in Auckland responding to Shelda Debowski's keynote address from the 2007 conference: are we there yet? Instead of indulging in more naval-gazing (Rowland, 2007) on how we became developers, we set out to explore how directors of academic/education developments units in the Auckland region recruit, induct and then develop their new recruits. Now we were academic developers we wanted to explore the ways in which our careers were being directed.

Our investigation was grounded in academic development's status as a coherent profession (Knapper, 1998), an academic 'territory' its own right (Bath and Smith, 2004), its ethical foundations (Knight and Wilcox, 1998), measuring the quality of an academic developer's work (Hicks, 1998) and the fractured character of development work (Harland and Staniforth, 2008). Directors were interviewed about their assumptions regarding the purpose of academic development generally and within their institutions (a polytechnic, a new university and a research-led university), the skills, abilities and experiences they look for in new, untried academic developers and, finally - and most importantly for this research - how new appointees are inducted into their roles. We reveal the various responses from the directors to these issues; as new developers who have all arrived from different academic disciplines (geography, history, maths education and languages/applied linguistics) we respond in kind. In this presentation we endeavour to answer the question: how best to nurture the next generation of academic developers?

Keywords: academic/educational development; professionalism; staff development

References

Bath, D. and Smith, C. (2004). Academic Developers: An Academic Tribe Claiming their Territory in Higher Education. International Journal for Academic Development, 9(1), 9-27.
Blickem, C., Brailsford, I., Gossman, P., Martin, H., Ratima, M., Sword, H. (2008). New Zealand Academic Developers: Are we where yet? A journey of metaphors, in Engaging Communities, Proceedings of the 31th HERDSA Annual Conference [CD-ROM], Rotorua 1-4 July
Debowski, S. (2007). Are we there yet? A critical reflection of higher education academic development, in Enhancing Higher Education, Theory and Scholarship, Proceedings of the 30th HERDSA Annual Conference [CD-ROM], Adelaide 8-11 July
Harland, T. and Staniforth, D. (2008). A family of strangers: the fragmented nature of academic development. Teaching in Higher Education 13(6), 669-678.
Hicks, O. (1998). Challenging assumptions about effectiveness and ethics'. International Journal for Academic Development, 3(2), 110-113.
Knapper, C. (1998). Is academic development a profession?. International Journal for Academic Development, 3(2), 93-96.
Knight, P.T. and Wilcox, S. (1998). Effectiveness and ethics in educational development: Changing contexts, changing notions. International Journal for Academic Development, 3(2), 97-106.
Rowland, S. (2007). Academic Development: A site of creative doubt and contestation. International Journal for Academic Development, 12(1), 9-14.


Tetoka āhuru: an indigenous framework for whakaako (academic development) (Showcase)

Ngairo Eruera
Te Wananga o Aotearoa Hamilton New Zealand
Shelly Davies
Te Wananga o Aotearoa Hamilton New Zealand

Te Toka Āhuru is a Mā ori framework for academic development created and being trialled by Kaiwhakaako (academic developers) in the Tainui Rohe of Te Wā nanga o Aotearoa.  The framework is grounded in the Mā ori concept of ako, a concept which encompasses both teaching and learning and within which the two are interconnected and inseparable.  Given this consideration, the framework is kaiako (teacher)-focussed with the kaiako as both kaiako and tauira (student).  The defining feature within the framework is that the contribution of the tauira is as much a factor for determining and achieving ‘success’ as the contribution of the kaiwhakaako—an “ako-centred” approach.  The framework is constructed using a combination of traditional Mā ori representations: the pā tiki, niho taniwha and kawau māro.   Inherent within all these is the recognition of nestling the most precious assets centrally for maximum protection. Te Toka Āhuru is similar in that the protected asset only emerges when the surrounding issues are bedded down into place. The description Te Toka Āhuru refers to the place of comfort and safety that is provided when all facets of preparation are implemented. When a tauira is enshrined within a space of comfort, safety, challenge & support, the learning and teaching reaches an organic state, reducing friction and tension in the ako environment.  The three facets (tuakiri, wā nanga, and kaupapa) represent reflective, developmental and supportive practices which we believe to be congruent with human universals of self-determination.

Keywords: academic development, indigenous, ako


Engineering critical conversations to enhance the generalist degree (Showcase)

Michelle Kofod
UNSW Sydney Australia
Sean Brawley
UNSW Sydney Australia
Will Rifkin
UNSW Sydney Australia
Rosanne Quinnell
UNSW Sydney Australia
Noel Whitaker
UNSW Sydney Australia

In generalist degrees such as the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts, students can take any number of combinations of subjects according their own learning goals. Tracking their progress in regard to graduate attributes development is therefore particularly difficult. Over half of our undergraduate science and arts students are enrolled in the flagship generalist degree programs (BSc and BA), and most of our staff teach into these degrees, which provides a powerful incentive to examine where and how students are being offered opportunities to develop graduate attributes (GA) within their program. This work builds on our previous initiatives to demonstrate how we mapped GA development across programs for both commonly chosen pathways (goat tracks) within the generalist BSc and BA and professionally-defined pathways or specialist degrees. Engineering space for critical conversations, with staff and students, to explore student learning requires a catalyst. In the case of the BA at UNSW, the catalyst was provided by a complete BA program renewal, a management-driven process. The catalyst for staff to engage in GA mapping in BSc at UNSW was provided by scholarly leadership from within the discipline. From these critical conversations, regardless of the type of catalyst, staff were able to become more explicit in identifying where and how the GA were linked to the students' learning activities and assessment tasks.


Impacting the student experience through the unit coordinator: The total package (Showcase)

Lynne Cohen
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Alison Bunker
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia

The focus on higher education today is on providing a quality learning experience for students.  Students should be provided in each unit of study with the opportunity to focus on subject specific learning outcomes which provide them with the knowledge and skills to become lifelong learners.  Many issues fall under the sphere of influence of the unit coordinator (Tinto, 2002).  Lecturers and tutors should present the material in innovative and exciting ways which engage the student in the subject matter thereby creating an environment which takes into account the needs of the students.  Even if these guiding principles are part of the university learning environment, there is a transition into each unit which may be overwhelming, where the unit coordinator has a pivotal role to provide opportunities for the students to develop and learn in a supportive and structured environment. As suggested by Kift (2008) Students need equitable access to resources, good teaching, and fair assessment.  It is the unit coordinator who is responsible for the student experience through the quality of the unit, curriculum design, managing staff teaching into the unit, supporting students and resource management. In addition, much teaching is currently carried out by sessional teachers which adds another dimension to the student’s experience and unit coordinator role (Nelson et al., 2006).  Unit coordinators are academics who are thrust into this leadership role without adequate preparation, thereby directly impacting on the quality of the student experience.

This paper will present the findings from a university-wide survey which examined the unit coordinator role in relation to student experiences.  This study has identified a range of challenges for unit coordinators in providing a quality learning experience for their students. There were 137 unit coordinators who participated in the study by completing an online survey of 30 questions.  Many issues concerning unit coordination were examined. These included the support received by staff, their organisational skills, experience in designing the curriculum, challenges in executing their role effectively. The findings suggest ways to improve the role of unit coordinators.  The level of support received by unit coordinators is often inadequate and incidental. Most unit coordinators found that managing their diverse role was the most challenging aspect of this position. Unit coordinators acknowledged their responsibilities in providing support for students to ensure the quality of their experience. Many participants suggested that little or insufficient support and training was available to enable them to perform the role as unit coordinator effectively. Fellow unit coordinators were the most frequent means by which unit coordinators source information and support.
The findings from this research project demonstrate that the role has the potential to impact the quality of the student experience and have implications for appointing, developing and supporting unit coordinators to perform effectively.

 Keywords: unit coordination, leadership, academic development.