Herdsa 2011

HERDSA 2011 program: Concurrent sessions

Developing an understanding of effective, high-quality excellent teaching

Marcia Devlin, Angela Carbone

The Australian government have recently indicated that consideration about the development of a composite indicator of teaching quality at a national level will be given. This roundtable will consider how effective, high-quality teaching should be defined, understood, facilitated, measured and monitored.  Perspectives of students, coal-face staff, institutional managers and leaders, government, industry and other stakeholders will be considered. The relationships between good, excellent, high-quality and effective teaching will also be explored. We will use the roundtable to gather considered expertise, utilising a thorough and determined investigative approach. Potential outcomes of this session may include:

  1. contribution to clarifying Australia's definition of effective teaching;
  2. contribution to clarifying the relationships between good, excellent, high-quality and effective teaching;
  3. input into the national discussion on a composite indicator of teaching quality; and
  4. informing programs devoted to the development of higher education teacher preparation.

Research and teaching: Integration or an interruption?

Sylvia L. Edwards, Peter O'Shea, J. Sheard, J. Hurst, W. Brookes, B. Lakshminarayanan

Australia is facing a significant higher education leadership succession challenge along with facing a future crisis in research leadership (Bradley Report 2008) that have implications for both the quality of research and the quality of teaching. This has been due to the interesting dichotomy created by institutions that hire faculty primarily to teach but give them promotion and salary advancement based primarily on their research and scholarship. These issues have implications both for higher education and for Australian research, and for higher-education students’ pathways to research from within undergraduate studies. This workshop will focus on these interconnected and interdependent issues based on the findings from a 3-year study of four faculties within three Australian universities (QUT, UTS, & Monash) made possible by an ALTC Leadership Grant Project . A brief presentation of the results from a series of surveys and workshops within these three universities will be followed by an interactive group discussion that will facilitate the comparing and contrasting of participants' experiences from different universities and countries, along with generating ideas on how best to approach this problem. This workshop is expected to serve as a forum for a frank and open exchange of opinions, ideas, and suggestions in regard to the perceived connection between research leadership and educational leadership, and the tension between research and teaching and its implications for teaching and learning.

Writing a PhD by publication: Has the traditional thesis reached its use-by date?

Cally Guerin

Increasingly, PhD candidates are presenting their theses by publication rather than following the traditional format; indeed, it is now the norm in a number of disciplines. This in turn raises new questions for doctoral education. Are there some disciplines in which there is no longer any reason to write a PhD using the traditional structure? Are we seeing the demise of the genre of the traditional ‘thesis’ and is it time to actively discourage PhD students from writing a thesis as such? And if so, how does this change the pedagogy of supervision and the work of academic developers? Research on the challenges of writing PhDs by publication in Australia is still in its infancy (Robins & Kanowski 2008; Francis et al. 2009; Lee 2010), although there is an emerging literature responding to some of the challenges created by PhD students publishing parts of their work during candidature (Lee & Kamler 2008; Kamler, 2008; Cuthbert, 2009; Aitchison et al. 2010). Given these limited resources, it is timely to consider how supervisors and academic developers can respond to the specific demands of writing a PhD by publication. What are the possible models for a PhD by publication and does the role of the examiner change accordingly? How does the process of supervision change if the focus is on publication? How can supervisors and academic developers respond to this? Finally, what are some of the less obvious disadvantages of writing a PhD by publication, and how can we avoid/mitigate them?

Assessing and assuring graduate learning outcomes in and across disciplines

Clair Hughes, Geoffrey Crisp, Simon Barrie

This roundtable will invite participants to explore potential assessment implications of institutional adoption of disciplinary graduate learning outcomes such as those developed through the ALTC Learning and Teaching Academic Standards (LTAS) project. Assurance of graduate outcomes – like any other aspect of assurance in higher education - is a multifaceted undertaking, with assessment of relevant student learning a key element. However, while there is a growing recognition in many quarters of the need to assure graduate learning outcomes– there is less clarity about how University assessment can deliver evidence to contribute to this assurance exercise. The roundtable discussion forms part of the consultation process for a project the ALTC has funded to investigate issues and options for “Assessing and Assuring Graduate Learning Outcomes” (AAGLO). The project will identify and disseminate effective practice and make it accessible across the sector through a highly consultative approach that builds on and continues the productive conversations already taking place among disciplinary communities and the previous work undertaken through the LTAS project.  Following a brief project overview, the roundtable discussion will focus on:

Roundtable participants will also be invited to register interest in being included in ongoing consultation activities planned for the life of the AAGLO project.

The pathway to PhD entry via a coursework masters

Margaret Kiley

With the substantial increase in enrolments in coursework masters and with a growing number of applicants seeking PhD entry and scholarships in Australia with qualifications other than Honours this roundtable will examine the extent to which a coursework masters that includes a research project, provides an effective, supportable entry to a research program in Australia. Coursework masters programs generally do not purport to be preparation for entry to a research degree, in fact most coursework masters graduates continue in professional employment with no specific thought of a research degree. However, the evidence suggests that some students are using their coursework masters results as a form of PhD entry and the recent review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF, 2010) positions coursework masters as level 9, the same level as a research masters. This might be for a number of reasons, for example we can surmise that students realize, as mature-age learners, that they are more interested in, or more capable of research than they thought in their undergraduate programs once having been exposed to a research project. But, we do not actually know hence, the need for this discussion arising from a recently funded ALTC grant.
The roundtable will discuss issues related to the pedagogy and curriculum issues of research projects in Australian coursework masters programs and their possible role in preparing candidates for a research degree.

Widening participation: Challenges and approaches to improve outcomes for first generation students

Sharron King, Ann Luzeckyj, Sheila Scutter, Russell Brinkworth, Carol Nairn, Lesley-Anne Holder

Changing government policy in both Australia and the UK to widen participation at university is aimed at producing significant changes in the student demographic, in particular the number of students from non-traditional backgrounds such as those with low socio-economic status and those from rural or isolated areas.  Many of these commencing students will also be the first member of their immediate family to attend university. Previous research has shown that first in family students may be disadvantaged as they do not share the cultural capital and intergenerational knowledge of students who have had close family members attend university before them. By drawing on Bourdieu’s (1991) notion of cultural capital the convenors will lead a discussion of how prior knowledge and experience of tertiary education can impact upon student’s understandings and expectations of university study.  Data from the UK showing how an innovative program of progressive, targeted activities can raise the higher education aspirations and attainment levels of school aged children will be contrasted with research outcomes of a large Australian ALTC project that shows first generation students are less likely to enrol in high prestige courses such as Law, Medicine, and Dentistry and have different expectations of university study when compared to other first year university students.

Improving the student experience by moving evaluations on-line

Alison Kuiper, John Boereboom, Hamish Paton

What are the consequences of moving course and teaching evaluations on-line?  Can better evaluation processes result in improved courses and outcomes for students? As information technology increasingly enables systems to be rationalised, universities face difficult decisions because of the complexities of the processes involved, including questions about the adoption of new technologies, about privacy and access and response rates, and staff concerns about the impact of changes.  This roundtable aims to provide a forum for the sharing of views and information. While no longer novel, experiences of the adoption of on-line evaluations vary among institutions. There are stories to be shared and lessons to be learned, some of them unexpected.  The decision to trial on-line evaluations at a New Zealand university was based on the general trend towards blended learning with many courses having an on-line component, on the perceived benefits of changes to the existing process and on a literature review which suggested advantages of on-line over in-class evaluations.  While benefits in terms of efficiency, such as the saving of time and money, were anticipated the greatest potential benefits appear to be in the ability to provide more comprehensive feedback to lecturers. These findings have implications for course improvement and mean that staff learning and teaching development can be appropriately targeted based on student feedback, thus enhancing student-centered learning. The emphasis of this session is, therefore, on sharing information and experiences on the costs and benefits of moving to on-line evaluations, especially the impact on teaching and learning.

What do learning analytics really tell us about student learning and how does the data inform practice?

Jason Lodge, Debra Bath, Calvin Smith, John Bourke

With increasing accountability in higher education comes a need for performance metrics that reliably measure the value adding benefits of university education. Within this context, the most recent edition of the Horizon Report (Johnson, Smith, Willis, Levine & Haywood, 2011) suggests that learning analytics is a technology to watch over the next five years. Learning or academic analytics refers to the “interpretation of a wide range of data produced by and gathered on behalf of students” (pg. 28). Dawson, Heathcote and Poole (2010) argue that this data can be useful to academic elements beyond admissions and finance units, where they are more commonly used. For example, Macfadyen & Dawson (2010) report on the ‘early warning system’ that allows faculty to intervene when a student is flagged as only rarely interacting with online course material. Despite these benefits, learning analytics do not actually gauge how much ‘learning’ has taken place. Although there is an impressive accumulation of data using these methods, there is significant variability in this data and this poses problems for predicting student learning and designing learning activities that will engage all students. This variability is one of a number of potential problems with using analytics as a proxy measure of student behaviour. This round table session aims to initiate a dialogue about the usefulness of this data in understanding student engagement and learning as a forerunner to an ongoing critical analysis of these tools in the higher education context.


*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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