Herdsa 2011

HERDSA 2011 program: Concurrent sessions

Student evaluation of teaching: Performance-importance analysis and best-worst scaling

Twan Huybers

Student evaluation of teaching (SET) is used widely in the higher education sector to elicit feedback about perceived teaching performance and effectiveness (Richardson, 2005).  When using that feedback to reflect on their teaching approach and courses, educators may simply assume that the attributes evaluated are equally important.  However, if this equi-importance assumption is not valid, teachers may be drawing incorrect inferences from the evaluation findings.  Performance-Importance Analysis (PIA), derived from the services literature (Martilla and James, 1977), is a tool that can be used to compare a teacher’s perceived performance with the students’ views on the relative importance of each of the aspects evaluated.  The main shortcoming of previous PIA applications to SET is the use of rating scales to derive measurements for both the performance and importance dimensions.  Huybers (2009) discusses the drawbacks of the use of rating scales in SET and demonstrates the particular advantages of the Best-Worst Scaling (BWS) technique (Finn and Louviere, 1992; Marley and Louviere, 2005).  The contribution of this paper is to show how BWS can be used as a tool in conjunction with PIA in higher education teaching and course evaluations. 

Is it worth taking time out of first year science courses to explicitly teach team skills?

Amanda Rasmussen, Renee Rossini, Louise Kuchel

We set out to better define which aspects of team work first year science students find challenging and to determine whether students found team training activities, which were embedded in a science course, useful. Our study was conducted at a research-intensive University, in a first year, first semester biology course in 2009 and 2010.  The course had approximately 600 students from a diversity of backgrounds, programs and OP scores. Students were required to create a short documentary video as a team of four. Our intervention sought clarification of the difficulties students face when conducting group work, and targeted these aspects via three in-class activities. Student perspectives were gathered using surveys over two years. The survey results indicate that the aspects of team work of most concern to students were: unequal workload, reconciling differences, personal/social, and logistical issues. Each team training activity was useful to one-half to one-third of the cohort of students, and students that found activities useful isolated particular elements of their training that they will use again in future team work scenarios. Students with a positive attitude to team work shifted their reasoning from social elements to those with a more academic element over the semester. These data indicate that embedding activities that explicitly address team issues is of benefit to first year science students, including courses with large, diverse student cohorts, such as first year biology. We recommend that team training activities in first year science courses target unequal workload, reconciling differences, personal/social and logistical issues.

Have passport, will learn: History study tours and student learning and development

Daniel Reynaud, Maria Northcote

Study tours provide students with authentic, in-context learning experiences that offer the potential for integrative cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual development. By exploring the students’ experiences from multiple perspectives, this research study investigated how an overseas study tour to historical destinations impacted on student learning and development. The study tour provided learning opportunities in the form of structured and unstructured scenarios which placed students on the edge of their usual learning patterns. The theoretical framework of the study drew upon Palmer’s (1993) integrated learning theory, the linguistic-anthropological etic-emic paradigm (Pike, 1954), Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory and Berkhofer (2008) and de Groot’s (2009) construction of History as a socio-cultural discipline. The paper provides detailed findings about how the students’ learning and development was transformed through their involvement in this experiential study tour. The study’s findings have informed the way in which students and lecturers plan, facilitate and contribute to future study tours.

Using threshold concepts to transform entry level curricula

Sylvia Rodger, Merrill Turpin

Occupational therapy academics at The University of Queensland undertook an extensive curriculum reform process leading to changes in both the undergraduate and masters entry occupational therapy curricula. Staff members explored a number of educational theories to assist with determining a more coherent educational philosophy to underpin our curricula. While several theories were useful, threshold concepts (Meyer & Land, 2005) provided us with a transformative and integrative way forward.

In this paper we describe our experiences of using threshold concepts as a mechanism for engaging in transformative curriculum renewal and planning. We compiled a list of troublesome knowledge, namely aspects of each course that were difficult for students to grasp. This resulted in 20 pieces of troublesome knowledge. Using thematic analysis we reduced this list further to 8 items and then subjected these to rigorous questioning to determine whether they were threshold concepts. We asked whether each potential concept was transformative, irreversible, integrative, bounded and troublesome. Five threshold concepts were identified if they met all five of these characteristics. We also reflected on Barnett and Coate’s (2005) key features of professional programmes - knowing, doing and being, which are consistent with contemporary occupational therapy philosophy.

We have made these concepts explicit to staff as well as students entering our programmes and have used these to underpin our new curricula. Significant staff cohesion has been developed through this process as we used a shared language that has contributed to ownership of the curriculum and a basis for building content from gateways through to capstones.

Extended professional experience, does the ‘edge’ and the ‘value added’ outweigh the burden on teacher education programs?

Lynn Sheridan

A group of graduating pre-service teachers were asked to identify aspects of their course that they believed contributed to their development as professional teachers, by far the most important was their belief in the ‘value added’ nature of the extended professional experience. Students defined ‘value added’ as the extra bonus on top of the existing benefits offered by professional experiences and targeted this degree for its generous professional experience opportunities.  Pre-service teachers completed professional experience of 155 days over four years compared to the typical degree offering 60 - 120 days of professional experience.  This overwhelming belief in the importance of the professional practice was subject to placement variables, highlighted through the themes drawn from the students’ data and supported by the literature. 
This paper reflects upon the themes that emerged from the pre-service teachers’ data, focusing specifically on the participants’ view of the ‘value added’ nature of the professional experience.  The four key areas that participants believed contributed most to their development included, authentic/real life experience, the linking of theory to practice, the role of the schools and university mentors and the variables of the placement.  The ‘edge’ or challenge addressed in the paper is the capacity of Teacher Education programs to provide extended professional experience and address the issues raised in the four themes. These themes include aspect such as, equity of experiences, sufficient and target support by mentors, timing and flexibility of the practicum, access to a diverse range of learning opportunities, expertise of the mentor teacher and clear achievable expectations. The findings were considered within the bounds of the pre-service teachers’ ability to gauge their own conceptual frameworks in a Teacher Education degree.  This work starts to explore the issues resulting from the ‘perceptions’ of students and what they value in professional experience  and the delivery challenges facing teacher education programs. 


*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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