Herdsa 2010

HERDSA 2010 program: Concurrent session one

The impact of assessment on learning achievement


Dennis Bryant and Felicia Zhang

University of Canberra, Australia

In an empirical study, Bryant & Zhang (forthcoming) show that the academic performance of a university subject (unit) could be understood through measuring learning results (operationalised from teaching outcomes). The present investigation demonstrates that assessment is important to learning results, because assessment involves selections that may have unintended effects on a unit. Understanding these effects might lead to an improvement in teaching and learning, which might in turn contribute to reshaping higher education. The assessment tasks considered were examination and essay tasks. These two tasks were frequently encountered in the preliminary pilot on feasibility. Also, significant weightings were attached to these tasks. To enable a comparison between different mixtures of assessment tasks, or different levels of weightings for each task, assessment tasks were classified according to their weighting’s degree of dominance. This strategy allowed for a clear comparison between different task mixes. Essays were distinguished as generally beneficial to learning results whereas examinations were noted as generally non-beneficial to learning results. In summary, there was support for the thesis that the selection of assessment task and weighting can have an unintended impact on learning result, and a suggestion that superior selections can be made in task and weighting.


Attitudes to assessment in university science education


Elizabeth Johnson

La Trobe University, Australia

Leone Maddox, Jamie Quinton and Karen Burke da Silva

Flinders University, Australia

This study explores the use of assessment in the science disciplines of the higher education sector. The data are drawn from parallel studies at two Australian universities, namely La Trobe University (Melbourne) and Flinders University (Adelaide). Published documents on subjects (topics) at each university were examined to survey assessment practice. Staff attitudes toward assessment practices were gathered through surveys and interviews. The study shows that the major form of assessment in science disciplines is examination, which is usually administered at the end of the teaching period. Staff reported that examinations were the assessment tool of choice because they avoid collusion, plagiarism and have less impact on staff workloads. Furthermore, staff believe that examinations are an appropriate assessment method particularly where there is an emphasis on acquiring fundamental information and concepts in a discipline. However there is also support for a reduction in the emphasis on examinations and an acknowledgement that examinations often encourage shallow learning and do not represent real world situations. The attitudes of educators will be a key factor in development of sustainable shifts towards more student-centred assessment.


Creating high challenge/high support academic environments through constructive alignment


Helen Larkin and Ben Richardson

Deakin University, Australia

A significant issue currently facing teachers in higher education is how to provide challenging yet supportive learning environments that cater for students with increasingly diverse academic needs and learning styles. The principles of constructive alignment (Biggs and Tang, 2007) provide a framework for addressing this challenge. The development of intended learning outcomes, aligned to relevant teaching activities and authentic assessment tasks, ensures a focus on learning environments that are both challenging and supportive. This paper outlines the implementation of constructive alignment in 2009 across all years of an undergraduate, occupational therapy program. Intended learning outcomes were developed for each unit and a framework developed to demonstrate how these were aligned with relevant teaching activities and authentic assessment. A reflective and reflexive approach to evaluating the effectiveness of this initiative using available data is described, including quantitative data from the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Units as well as changes in student academic grades between 2008 and 2009. Results showed a positive trend in the SETU data, although not statistically significant possibly due to small sample size. A number of units across the four years showed significant improvement in student grades, although the opposite pattern emerged for some units. Whilst formal evaluation findings are mixed, implementing constructive alignment across a program enables implicit or invisible curriculum to become more explicit and visible so that the learning of all students can be maximised. In this way, programs can ensure that they provide not only a challenging academic environment but also one that is supportive.


Program design practice in a New Zealand polytechnic: Caught in a language trap?


Elly Govers

Eastern Institute of Technology Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

This paper describes a research project aimed at understanding the ideological values and beliefs that influence program design practice in New Zealand polytechnics. This project identifies five interpretative repertoires that participants draw on to communicate the meanings of ‘program’ and ‘program design’ in relation to ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’. This paper characterises the identified repertoires in terms of metaphors: a consumable product, a production process, a guided tour, a guided adventure, and a mission. The differences and tensions between the metaphorical types are explained in terms of political-economic and educational ideological discourses. The paper proceeds to show how current educational language either compromises or excludes ideologies. It keeps educators captured within the discourses and practices that are favoured by policy-makers, and limits the opportunities for change and innovation.


An international business study tour: A student perspective


Debbi Weaver and Mark Tucker

Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Students with international study exposure appeal to organisations seeking employees with broader perspectives. As a result many universities seek to provide opportunities for students to differentiate themselves in this respect. An International Study Tour to Asia has been successfully operating at Swinburne University of Technology for a number of years, and anecdotal information from both the students and staff accompanying the tour is that it has been successful in exposing students to international business and different cultures, albeit at the cost of high levels of stress for some students. During 2008, a research project was initiated, where past students were interviewed to ascertain their perspectives of the professional and personal impact on them from participating in the study tour. This paper reports on the outcomes from interviews with the 2008 students. While all students felt they benefited professionally from participation in the tour, students were polarised about the level of individual scaffolding required. Students who had had no prior experience of other cultures or of international travel experienced severe culture shock and unexpectedly high levels of homesickness, indicating that these students may require additional personal support both prior to and during the tour.


Employing and evaluating inter-disciplinary collaborations to redefine academic practices in a nursing program


Jill Lawrence

University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Birgit Loch

Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Linda Galligan

University of Southern Queensland, Australia

This paper documents how interdisciplinary collaborations between academic staff helped redefine academic practices in the first year undergraduate Nursing program conducted at the University of Southern Queensland. The interdisciplinary collaborations constituted a response to the various contexts currently impacting the higher education sector in Australia. These contexts include changes in pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, academic identity, technology, research-informed learning, student and stakeholder expectations as well as the challenges of managing an increasingly diverse student body. The interdisciplinary boundaries were crossed so that academic practices were integrated to assist student nurses to transfer the academic, literacy, numeracy, e-learning and information technology attributes they need if they are to succeed at university and in the nursing profession. This research study used a continuous evaluative methodology to test the effectiveness of these academic practices from three perspectives: the staff, student and institutional perspectives. Overall, the evidence suggests that these interdisciplinary, embedded, situated and scaffolded academic practices enhance students’ capabilities to make successful transitions both to the university and into the nursing profession.


The diversification of Australian higher education: Is the academy prepared for the challenge?


Kylie Budge

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Australia

The last two decades have witnessed diversification of the Australian higher education student cohort with the introduction of the Dawkins’ reforms in the late 1980s. Further diversification and reshaping of the higher education landscape is now anticipated in response to the recommendations of the 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education, also known as the Bradley Report. In preparation for these changes a number of serious questions need to be asked: Are institutions prepared in terms of the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to support further diversification and expansion of the sector? How will universities support academic teaching staff to cope with further diversification and the ensuing increase in overall student numbers? Given the current reality of staff struggling to provide adequate support for the number of ‘new’ learners that have entered universities in the last two decades this will be a challenge for institutions on several levels. In considering the learning and teaching literature including aspects of diversity and inclusivity, this paper argues that institutions are under-skilled and unprepared to deal with a further diversified student cohort. It explores what an even more diversified student cohort might look like and the knowledge, skills and attitudes academics will need to teach this newer, expanding group of students. It outlines the challenges and opportunities ahead for institutions in preparing for the new tertiary landscape and considers possible ways forward to ensure that the continued reshaping of higher education delivers quality learning and teaching for all.


The unbundled academic: How academic life is being hollowed out


Bruce Macfarlane

University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Academic practice is rapidly disaggregating, or ‘unbundling’, as a result of the massification of national systems, the application of technology in teaching, and increasing specialisation of academic roles to promote a managerialist and performative culture. This is undermining the integrative nature of academic practice based on the three core elements of teaching, research and service. This paper will present an analysis of the way that academic practice is unbundling leading to the emergence of the ‘para-academics’ who specialise in one element of academic practice. Examples are drawn from the United Kingdom and Australia. The adverse effect of this change on the student experience and academic citizenship is considered.


Reviewing action research: From impediments to implementation


Neville John Ellis, Ann Cheryl Armstrong and Susan Groundwater-Smith

The University of Sydney, Australia

The modern professional development agenda of many education systems encourages the idea of action research as a means of improving classroom practice. The NSW Government Department of Education and Training (DET) have adopted such an agenda encouraging teachers to undertake action research in schools. In this small (n=4) exploratory study, four academics who have worked closely with teachers as action researchers were interviewed to explore the question: Who values action research and how is this evidenced? Results of the study suggest that the informants are staunch advocates of action research. In contrast, the degree to which action research is valued in NSW varies greatly between different policy makers, school leaders and teachers. While action research “penetrates little zones” there exist many impediments to its comprehensive implementation across the education system.


International postgraduate students experience in a UK University: Lessons for academic practice


Rodney Arambewela

Deakin University, Australia

Felix Maringe

University of Southampton, United Kingdom

This paper reports on a study of the international postgraduate student experience in a United Kingdom (UK) university, using a case study approach. Looking at both the academic and non-academic experience of students in the university, the paper attempts to identify differences in perceptions of staff and students on key issues related to the international student experience. The limited sample of this study is compensated for by the quality and depth of data obtained from in-depth interviews with students and staff in one UK university. Results indicate significant convergence of perceptions in relation to the quality of education in the UK though the issues of cultural integration, English language and inadequate student support and the serious threat these issues pose to the quality of experience for students. The paper identifies five key gaps in the way staff and students conceptualise the postgraduate student experience and concludes with suggestions for how management might narrow these gaps in the higher education context.


Enhancing student outcomes: A communication skills centre approach


Craig Baird

Curtin University of Technology, Australia

This paper examines ways that the Communication Skills Centre (CSC) in Curtin University Business School (CBS) implements its approach to facilitating student retention, enhancing higher degree and coursework student learning outcomes and supporting academic staff. Detailed here is the CSC staffing profile and the approach taken with workshops, dedicated one-on-one learning support services, and student learning resources to provide a holistic student university learning experience. The CSC focus on improving study skills, verbal, and written communication skills is explored here in terms of learning outcomes as seen through contemporary literature and student comments from workshop feedback and email communications.


Exploring critical conceptions of student led evaluation in Australian higher education


Stephen Darwin

The Australian National University, Australia

The student evaluation of teaching and courses is ubiquitous and an increasingly influential element of the Australian higher education landscape. It is significant in the assessment of the value of academic work and often central in promotional processes and privileged in institutional funding arrangements. Yet the assumptions of the student evaluation model remain subject to limited critical enquiry compared to other dimensions of practice in Australian higher education. This paper explores the potential reasons for this, as well as the range of research around student evaluation that has been undertaken, which is largely confined to statistical and functionalist explorations of student based evaluative practice. It suggests that evaluation of pedagogical practices needs to be considered as a complex social activity. The paper also argues that there is a need to challenge the range of significant mythologies that underpin student evaluation models that are based on reductive quantitative understandings of practice. It argues that such mythologies need to be recognised and subject to further critical exploration in scholarly research that matches other areas of higher education practice. Finally, it also proposes a potential frame for ‘second generation’ practitioner-based evaluation as an alternative to orthodox student-based models.


Design 4 Diversity: Enhancing interprofessional learning for architecture and occupational therapy students


Susan Ang, Stephen Segrave, Helen Larkin, Hisham Elkadi, Val Watchorn, Merrin McCracken, Dale Holt and Danielle Hitch

Deakin University, Australia

There is a growing national and international interest in inclusive design, its application to the built environment and to other environmental contexts. Significant local and global initiatives place inclusive design practice at the forefront of the political and social agenda and there is a growing demand for work-ready graduates in new and emerging areas of employment. This paper outlines a project being undertaken in 2010 at Deakin University that is embedding teaching in relation to inclusive and universal design into the curricula of undergraduate architecture and occupational therapy students. Inter-professional teaching using online resources (including the development of a Second Life environment) and face-to-face approaches have been developed and the project is informed through consultation with key community and industry stakeholders. Mapping of the curricula and trialing of the teaching resources and approaches will identify opportunities beyond 2010 for sustainable inter-professional teaching across the two programs; the embedding of inclusive design practice in architecture and occupational therapy education; and, the opportunities for inter-professional work integrated learning opportunities beyond 2010. A key component of this project, using a pre and post questionnaire methodology, is the evaluation of students’ knowledge regarding inclusive design practice and their experience with the teaching resources. Work and data collected to date as part of the evaluation will be presented in this paper. The project addresses a current gap in inter-professional learning both locally and internationally and aims to better prepare students with the skills and knowledge that reflect current and future workforce demands.


Team-based learning increases student engagement in post-graduate Critical Care Nursing


Judy Currey, Ian Story, Elizabeth Oldland, David Glanville, Maxine Duke, Deana Copley and Julie Considine

Deakin University, Australia

Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an innovative teaching strategy that promotes high level student engagement and learning outcomes. This study evaluated the introduction of TBL on postgraduate nursing students’ engagement with, and attitudes to, team learning. A prospective mixed methods study was conducted. Students’ attitudes to team learning were measured by a validated Team Experience Questionnaire before and after the introduction of TBL. Students’ level of engagement in TBL classes compared to lectures was measured using the STROBE observation tool. Students’ qualitative experiences of TBL were explored using an extended response questionnaire. Quantitative data were analysed with descriptive and inferential statistics; qualitative responses were thematically analysed. Students showed increased satisfaction with team learning following TBL. TBL significantly improved students’ clinical reasoning, quality of learning, professional development, and overall satisfaction with learning. STROBE data (228 observations) showed no student-to-student interactions in standard lectures; TBL classes manifested high levels of student-to-student interactions. TBL accelerated students’ adoption of a professional identity as critical care nurses. Four main subthemes were identified: Learning Effectiveness, Motivation to Learn, Critical Thinking, and Engagement. Postgraduate critical care nursing students responded positively to TBL. An important outcome for students of TBL was their early identification as specialist nurses, thereby enhancing their sense of professional reward and value in clinical and academic environments. Through TBL, students were highly motivated to acquire generic and discipline specific knowledge, skills and attitudes. Students were readily prepared for life-long learning and specialty clinical practice.


Students supporting students’ learning in higher education


Carolyn Silberfeld

University of East London, United Kingdom

This paper reports on and critiques an initiative at the University of East London designed to encourage peer supported learning through a series of six workshops, with students undertaking the BA Early Childhood Studies. Ten students and three staff volunteer members of the steering group spent four months developing the structure, content, process and marketing of the workshops which aimed to facilitate further development of learning, plus an exploration of the ways in which the students and their peers can make use of the skills which they have brought with them to higher education. The themes for the workshops are – Learning Strategies; IT Skills Support; Peer Learning; Writing Skills Development; Developing Independent Learner Skills; and an Open Workshop building on the outcomes of the previous workshops. Workshops offer an enabling environment through which students can explore different approaches to learning through the use of creative materials, role play, discussions and debates, supported by members of the steering group. Qualitative and quantitative methodologies are employed to collect data, through - focus group and individual interviews and a series of evaluations. Data analysis uses descriptive statistics and NVivo. So far, the workshops have been positively evaluated by the students who have participated. Students who are part of the steering group have become more confident and knowledgeable during the past three months. They are active in the discussions, have helped design the publicity materials, and collectively marketed the workshops. They confidently and competently discussed their poster presentation during a 3 day international conference.


Enhancing learning experiences to improve outcomes through sessional tutor conceptual expansion


Toomas Truuvert

Macquarie University, Australia

Tutor conceptions about teaching vary, reflecting a range of awareness about learning. Overall variability in teaching practices on any given unit increases with the number of tutors, which in turn tends to diminish students’ learning experiences. This is an issue that is amplified in first-year and introductory units. An in-depth study describes the operation of a teaching development program that uses the Third Party Observation of Teaching (TPOT) method to review in-class teaching practices. Marton and Booth’s (1997) awareness and learning theory informs the program design. Results show noticeable improvements in specific Course Evaluation Questionnaire (CEQ) measures, which support the view that less variability in teaching practices enhances learning experiences and may ultimately improve outcomes. The program extends across disciplines. Moreover, it is suitable for both early career tutors and experienced tutors, and even for experienced tutors teaching in a particular subject for the first time.


Pioneering a virtual sabbatical


Patricia Easteal

University of Canberra, Australia

Nicole Westmarland

Durham University, United Kingdom

International exchange is an important aspect of academic life. Thus overseas sabbaticals are seen as a measure of collaboration, networking and international standing. There are however a few groups who are likely to be disadvantaged by such (often implicit) criteria—those for whom international travel is problematic. Given that virtual libraries, virtual collaboration, virtual manuscript processing, online research centres, distance online learning have become normative practices within academia, we decided to pilot a virtual sabbatical to develop a template for the cyber sabbatical scholar and the host institution. Intended as a metaphorical ‘ramp’ – that is a way of making international sabbaticals accessible to more people - the project was conducted as action research and was continuously documented. First we identified the aims of sabbatical. Then we looked at how these aims could be achieved using electronic communication. Technological choices were made in consultation with IT experts. We learned that there is no dearth of technology with a huge number of possible software packages. All contact between the visitor and the host staff was through various electronic learning technologies including synchronous ‘morning coffees’ on Skype, pre-recorded presentations and use of blogs, email, YouTube, Skype and other emerging e-learning technologies. Evaluation of all steps was on-going and built into the action-research model. The practitioner researchers’ reflective analysis revealed some technological glitches and time issues, which could be dealt with by future virtual travellers. Both the virtual visitor and the host institution benefited though from the sabbatical project.


Developing leaders of sessional teachers in higher education


Terry Timberlake

Deakin University, Australia

Sessional teachers are increasingly contributing to teaching and learning in Australia and internationally. Hence, the role of their academic supervisor is quite considerable. In this paper I argue that not only do the development needs of sessional teachers require addressing, but so do those of their supervisors. By analysing the results of a survey of sessional teachers at Deakin University in Australia in 2009, I propose a tripartite model of academic development that sees the central academic development unit take a leading role in facilitating a ‘meeting of the minds’ between sessional teachers and those leading them.


Perspectives on the organisational impact of university teacher preparation programs


Jenny Pizzica, Robert Heard and Mary Jane Mahony

The University of Sydney, Australia

Jill Thistlethwaite

University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Formal programs preparing academic staff for their teaching role range from short seminars to award programs such as Graduate Certificate and Masters Programs. Program evaluations have reported positive effects upon academic practices and to some degree, upon student learning. In aiming to provide evidence of a program’s impact at the level of the organisation, this qualitative study explored teachers’ experiences of working in their home organisations following their completion of a Master (Grad. Cert., Grad. Dip.) in Medical Education at the University of Sydney. Participants were medical practitioners and medical educators including teachers of medical students in university teaching hospitals. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the ways these teachers related their experiences and actions to opportunities for organisational change after graduation. Preliminary findings highlighted themes such as power, privilege, negotiation, collaboration and isolation which were variously associated with interactions within the organisational culture. A program evaluation that asks whether and how the program had an impact upon participants’ organisations can be a risky venture, particularly if the evaluation attempts to attribute the cause of any changes directly to the program. However without at least looking for contributory impact, program leaders could be unconsciously assuming a transfer of knowledge and skill occurs after graduation from the program to the workplace. This study helps lay the groundwork for further evaluative work at this level by illustrating various ways organisational impact is experienced from the participants’ perspectives.


Coordinators leading advancement of sessional staff (CLASS)


Geraldine Lefoe

University of Wollongong, Australia

Jo Mckenzie

University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Janne Malfroy

University of Western Sydney, Australia

Yoni Ryan

The Australian Catholic University, Australia

Dominique Parrish

University of Wollongong, Australia

The focus of this ALTC funded leadership project is to establish a leadership capacity building framework for cross-disciplinary networks to support subject co-ordinators in their role of leading the teaching team. We build on a key finding from the RED Report that leadership and management of sessional teaching staff is a component of the role of subject co-ordinators who frequently have little support to develop their understanding of this role yet these people are critical in ensuring ‘quality teaching practices’ for our students. The purpose of the project is to address this identified gap through embedding quality practices. The project will enhance coordinators’ capacity to lead their teaching teams in the context of their subjects, while engaging in and reflecting on their own leadership development in a collegial and supportive network of peers. The first stage of the project has involved an audit of current resources within Australasian institutions through the Council of Academic Directors of Academic Development and the development of role statements, resources and trigger videos relevant to subject coordinators. The showcase will share this output and invite participants to provide feedback and peer review the trigger video clips of common dilemmas faced by subject co-ordinators in working with sessional staff and possible responses from a leadership perspective. Through targeting small steps for incremental change at the subject level this program provides opportunity for staff at multiple levels to start thinking differently about the role and contributions of both subject co-ordinators and sessional staff.


Personal transformation and empowerment of staff for student engagement


Kogi Naidoo

HERDSA Executive, Australia

This showcase focuses on an innovative approach aimed at transforming teaching practice, scholarly leadership and professional development of staff, filling a gap in current academic support programs. The main focus of the program is staff engagement (moving teachers beyond current reflective/reflexive practices to empowered teaching leadership and scholarship through to transformative self-knowledge, tapping innate passions and potential), thereby positively impacting on student learning and engagement. Participants are introduced to an easy, fun and practical system consolidating educational, psychology and educational research, with advanced neurological linguistic and re-patterning tools essential for accelerating profound change and leadership transformation. The pilot 2 day workshop was offered to an invited group of academic staff, amended and offered again. The level of interest and impact of the program is evident in the feedback. Critical factors impacting on the student experience and optimal learning include interest, relevance, engagement and motivation. Should teacher engagement be flawed or fail, all else will be less than satisfactory. It follows that only when we have teacher engagement, will we have better student engagement, hence quality learning. This program serves as a proactive response to low overall student satisfaction scores in the CEQ (Course Experience Questionnaire), AUSSE Report (2008), and the indirect demand on universities for quality teaching in the Government response (2008) to the Bradley Report (2008) recommendations. The program contributes to the quality agenda, providing practical enhancement strategies for professional development and consistent results. The showcase provides another opportunity for external feedback for program improvement and possible wider implementation.


Involving students in research decision making: Developing a competency graduated descriptors tool


Susanne M. Owen and Ieva Stupans

University of South Australia, Australia

Greg Ryan

The University of Sydney, Australia

Leigh M. McKauge

The University of Queensland, Australia

Jim Woulfe

The University of Sydney, Australia

As an outcome of reorganisation within the Australian health sector to establish national, rather than state and territory registration boards, many in the higher education sector are re-examining their role in building student knowledge and skills within competency frameworks. In regard to pharmacy education and experiential placements, Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) funded research during 2008-2010 has involved stakeholder consultations to identify competency graduated descriptors, with students as a key group. The importance of involving stakeholders in all stages of research processes from inception to results dissemination is highlighted in the literature. Researchers emphasise the ‘knowledge use’ dissemination model, which involves stakeholders in decision-making, including the use of extended workshops and follow-up action. In making decisions about higher education learning and assessment directions, evaluating differing stakeholder perspectives and valuing student ideas is an under-researched area. This paper reports on the processes involved in the development of the competency graduated descriptors tool including highlighting the role that students have played in various aspects of decision-making, including the competency graduated descriptor tool eventually developed. While some research and consultative work pays ‘lip service’ to or seeks to marginalise student responses, in this project the contribution of students has been foregrounded at all stages of the research process. This paper provides a model of a collaborative approach and has application across health education research and for other discipline areas in terms of working with practitioners and students in developing practically-based materials to support improved learning outcomes.


Improving undergraduates performance via an embedded generic skills program


Catherine J. Bamforth

Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Government and students expect universities to provide skills, knowledge and attributes that contribute to the country’s and individual’s gain. In 2008, The Bradley Report highlighted deficiencies in this regard, and called for universities to provide quality academic provision, increased student enrolments and higher completion rates. Central to achieving this is the development of generic skills, which provide the foundation through which discipline specific knowledge and skills are demonstrated. Whilst their importance is universally recognised, research into their successful development is limited and shows mixed performance results. This paper aims to contribute to these goals by reporting on the preliminary findings of an embedded intervention program targeting first year management students at Swinburne University of Technology. The program invites students to identify perceived areas of concern in their generic skill sets, which are then used to customise a workshop delivered early in the term as part of their unit. Preliminary analysis shows most students entered the management unit with both high, unrealistic result expectations and significant confidence in their generic skill sets. During the term, both changed, with over 50% finding the embedded program useful. The overall impact of the program on academic results compared to previous years was marginal but insights into specific areas of concern were identified. These may assist those considering implementing generic skill support programs. More research is now needed to identify the parameters of the response needed to bring significant change in performance.


Changing perceptions underpinning graduate attributes: A pilot study


Agnes Bosanquet, Theresa Winchester-Seeto and Anna Rowe

Macquarie University, Australia

The research discussed in this paper presents the preliminary findings of a comparative analysis of graduate attributes statements across Australian universities. Specifically, it addresses the change over fifteen years through a thematic and word frequency analysis of institutional definitions of and justifications for graduate attributes. An analysis of the scholarship around graduate attributes demonstrates four broad conceptions of their purpose: employability; lifelong learning; preparing for an uncertain future; and acting for the social good. Our findings reveal the emergence of a further three conceptions in the last five years: adapting to change, promoting change and community leadership. This is aligned with a shift in emphasis towards community and participation. This research demonstrates a number of assumptions embedded in attribute statements concerning the primacy of the individual, the future of work and life, and the privileging of particular moral and ideological perspectives or values.