Herdsa 2011

HERDSA 2011 program: Concurrent sessions

Leading on the edge of chaos: Mergers in higher education

Linet Arthur

This paper examines the leadership aspects of a merger between a Church College and a post-1992 university in England, focusing on leadership. The case-study was longitudinal, with data gathered from interviews and questionnaires, starting before the merger and continuing until seven years after it. In the confusion that followed the merger, the institution developed the characteristics of a complex system, in which there were multiple, interacting variables. People’s feelings, particularly the need for a sense of efficacy, led them to behave like ‘self-organising agents’ in complexity theory. They achieved ‘fitness of purpose’ in relation to work outcomes and emotional needs by reducing their participation in organisation-wide activities and focusing on students. As a result it proved difficult to shift from a directive to a more participatory leadership style and to re-engage staff at an organisational level. The paper identifies a number of recommendations for those leading mergers. Recognising that it is difficult to attend to the ‘human side’ when operating at a strategic level, the recommendations include creating a communications post to ensure rapid two-way feedback between staff and managers, and planning in advance for a prolonged period of chaos to ensure that key activities are maintained.

Regulating quality and standards in higher education: How does Australia stack up?

Jeanette Baird

This paper aims to assess the likely adequacy of Australian higher education regulatory reforms in maintaining quality and academic standards in an efficient manner, using three overlapping analyses. The evaluative frames used are: the direction of the regulatory reforms in the light of normative models of regulation, considering both ‘hard and ‘soft’ regulation; the adequacy of the regulatory reforms as a means of maintaining academic standards, using a comparison with the United Kingdom and internationalised criteria proposed by Dill and Beerkens (2010); and the efficiency of the reforms against theoretical perspectives on good regulatory practice, including the need for regulation, proportionality and duplication in regulation. Overall, many of the proposed regulatory reforms appear reasonable and adequate. There is, however, one major omission, namely the absence of discussion of the role of self-regulation in maintaining academic quality and standards. The paper concludes by identifying a need for greater attention to self-regulation and better articulation of the proposed overall national mix of regulation for higher education.

Building peer assistance capacity in faculties to improve student satisfaction of units

Angela Carbone

This paper describes a Peer Assisted Teaching Scheme (PATS) that integrates unit evaluation data with discipline-based academic development opportunities to build leadership capacity amongst academics. This is achieved by building on the current research that highlights the benefits of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) programs and applies it to academic teaching staff. The scheme was supported by a 2010 Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Teaching Fellowship. Results of the pilot study and phase 1 of the full study, in which PATS was integrated into the physical science cluster of Monash University are reported. PATS is now into its final phase of integration across all Monash University clusters.  The aim of PATS is to strengthen commitments by universities to quality assurance and enhancement, as needed by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

The tertiary research milieu: Agile management for positive engagement

Jennie Billot, Andrew Codling

Internationally, higher education institutions are encountering increased stakeholder and funding demands and are restructuring their organisations in order to design procedures and processes that address new accountabilities. New Zealand is no exception, having experienced increased external funding pressures on tertiary institutions in the last two decades. During this period of economic restraint, which encompasses increased accountability and control within universities and the call for greater ‘utility of research’ (Hansson & Monsted, 2000), research funding is increasingly tied to institutional outcomes and performance. Organisational reactions have included the utilisation of a management culture to enhance efficiency and productivity. As a result, teaching and research contexts are being repeatedly modified. One outcome has been the remodeling of academic practices combined with increased compliance measures for academic staff. Continuous change, as against episodic change, demands a management response that can address change of an evolutionary nature. Ironically, while leadership, organisational culture and supportive practices generate the most positive academic responses, there has not always been the provision or visible framework for these. Since academics perform more effectively when research expectations are supported by acknowledgement, resourcing and opportunities for independence, we contend that ‘agile management’ could flexibly integrate systemic requirements with collective practices. 

VET in Higher Education: A future for regional Australia?

Barbara Cram

The need to connect Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Higher Education (HE) systems is widely acknowledged (e.g. Bradley et al. 2008, AQF 2010, and DIUS 2008). Governance structures supporting cross-sectoral pathways in Australia include co-located dual-sector institutions, degree program offerings in TAFE colleges (HE in VET) and MoU-driven partnerships that guarantee articulation and credit transfer for students from a vocational institution to a University or vice versa. The qualities of each system have been broadly debated (e.g. Beddie & Curtin 2010; Moodie et al. 2009, Wheelahan 2010) and existing structures provide neither seamless nor transparent mobility to students wanting to extend their studies beyond VET.

This paper offers a critical perspective on the potential for cross-sectoral models to raise higher education access, participation and achievement levels for young and mature aged people living in regional Australia. Data is presented to demonstrate how collaboratively designed credit arrangements can enhance access and increase retention in education, create meaningful pathways and promote student success and retention. Provision of professional development for teaching staff and academic support for students is also important for successful delivery in regional and low socioeconomic status contexts.

The paper presents a cross-sectoral model for the design of courses and pathways between school, VET, HE and employment. The model values the role of VET in HE and promotes joint delivery of Diplomas in regional locations. The author proposes that the model offers a viable approach to the delivery of tertiary education that promotes access to higher education for under-represented groups in non- metropolitan centres.

Learning and teaching from the edge to centre stage: Critical factors in embedding sustainable university-wide engagement in external awards and grants funding initiatives

Georgia Smeal, Deborah Southwell, Rae-Anne Locke

Teaching awards, grants and fellowships are strategies used to recognise outstanding contributions to learning and teaching, encourage innovation, and to shift learning and teaching from the edge to centre stage. Examples range from school, faculty and institutional award and grant schemes to national schemes such as those offered by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in the United States, and the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning in higher education in the United Kingdom.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has experienced outstanding success in all areas of the ALTC funding since the inception of the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in 2004. This paper reports on a study of the critical factors that have enabled sustainable and resilient institutional engagement with ALTC programs.  As a lens for examining the QUT environment and practices, the study draws upon the five conditions of the framework for effective dissemination of innovation developed by Southwell, Gannaway, Orrell, Chalmers and Abraham (2005, 2010):

1. Effective, multi-level leadership and management
2. Climate of readiness for change
3. Availability of resources
4. Comprehensive systems in institutions and funding bodies
5. Funding design

The discussion on the critical factors and practical and strategic lessons learnt for successful university-wide engagement offer insights for university leaders and staff who are responsible for learning and teaching award, grant and associated internal and external funding schemes.

Programme approval and accountability: Exploring the service gap

Maggie Stewart, Shelley Paewai

This paper provides a case study of one university’s approach to building capacity for the internal quality assurance processes supporting the approval of new programmes and changes to programmes.  The results of an evaluation of the central services provided by the university to support staff in their navigation of the policy and regulatory requirements associated with programme approval are discussed.  The response of the university is chronicled according to the establishment of a service unit designed to meet the needs of staff while ensuring the continued fulfilment of external accountability requirements.  The service gap between the support previously provided by the University and that requested by staff is explored in the context of structural devolution and quality assurance requirements.  The need for continued vigilance to ensure that policy and regulatory support continues to service the needs of academic and professional staff within universities is discussed.


This thing called blended learning – a definition and planning approach

Geraldine Torrisi-Steele

Despite prolific use of the term ‘blended learning’ in tertiary institutions, agreement on a definition remains elusive. The definitions and understandings of the concept are many (Driscoll, 2002; Vignare, 2007) and often offer little pedagogical direction. This is problematic. Under the umbrella of so many definitions almost any teaching practice can be viewed as blended learning. In the absence of pedagogically focused definitions it is difficult to designate the nature of implementation, measure success and provide appropriate institutional support.

This paper attempts to help address these issues and so contribute to the fulfilment of the promise of blended learning. The definitions of blended learning in literature and across twenty Australian universities are explored. Against this background, drawing on principles of constructivism, constructivist alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2007) and universal design for learning, a definition of blended learning is proposed. An accompanying planning approach is presented. At the crux of the planning approach is framing blended learning, not as an exercise in technology use but rather as a problem solving exercise, directed at how best to engage diverse groups of learners in learning activities (Shuell, 1986) in order to maximise opportunities for achievement of desirable outcomes. Implicit in this view is the importance of reflective practice as the driving force for continuously improving blended designs.


*Please note that this program is indicative only and subject to change. Pre-conference workshops incur additional fees and require registration. If you have already registered to attend the conference and would now like to register to attend pre-conference workshops please download and complete the pre-conference workshop registration form.

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