Herdsa 2011

HERDSA 2011 program: Concurrent sessions

Student-centred teaching at the Royal University of Bhutan

Maureen Bell

Academics at the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) are deliberating the possibility of blending the varying approaches and methods of traditional and modern systems of learning and scholarship while integrating the national policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) into the curriculum. The approach is to shift the emphasis from traditional teaching to ‘student-centred’ learning. The showcase reports on a case study (in progress) of teaching and learning at RUB and discuss approaches to teaching and learning at RUB where traditional teaching and student-centred teaching practice co-exist.

There was variation across the institutes that make up RUB however from the study so far the majority of staff and students reported similar views on the purpose of education at RUB and the role of the teacher at RUB. From the survey most staff indicated agreement that there is a student-centred approach to teaching at RUB yet interview comments from students and teachers and responses to a question asking students what teachers were actually doing in class seem to contradict this. An initial scan of classroom observation data suggests that various forms of active learning were at times taking place in most observed teachers’ classes.

Data are still being collected and it is expected that the final research report will be provided to RUB in early 2012. Questions arising include the depth of understanding of the concept of ‘student-centred’ learning and the relationship between the concept of Gross National Happiness and the RUB curriculum.


Students' perceptions of the development of critical thinking skills, or "Mrs Cleaver Goes Back to School"

Linda Bowden, Kathryn Sutherland

At last year’s HERDSA conference, attendees were introduced to Mrs Vera Cleaver, the Recruitment Adviser, and Georgia Rudd, the first-year student (Bowden & Sutherland, 2010). This year, we reprise the award-winning “Vera and Georgia show” and follow Georgia through her second year of study, as she takes Vera on a tour of the courses she’s been undertaking and how they’ve been helping her to develop (or not) the graduate attributes set out by Victoria University of Wellington. Research on generic graduate attributes shows that they are often misunderstood or differently understood by academics and students (Barrie 2004), and that even when mutually understood, the right pedagogical practices are not always in place for ensuring that students develop these attributes (Hager and Holland 2006). This year’s showcase presentation – once again in the form of a play – will focus particularly on the development of critical thinking skills.


Educational Journeys: The challenges of VET to Higher Education transition

Janice Catterall, Janelle Davis

Strategic initiatives aimed at widening participation and creating ‘seamless’ pathways have led to an increase in the number of students entering universities on the basis of their VET qualifications, and in many cases, to an increasing diversity in age, language background and family educational experience.  As part of an ALTC funded project, one large metropolitan university has undertaken an investigation of  students who entered university in 2009 and 2010 on the basis of a VET qualification in the fields of Business and Law, Nursing and Early Childhood.  529 students responded to a survey, and 60 attended a focus group or participated in a telephone interview.  While findings of the study showed students to be remarkably resilient, many students reported difficulties, particularly in short term transition, due to insufficient prior knowledge about the demands of their university course and unexpected differences between expectations and actual learning experiences.  This paper will summarise the research findings and report on the trial of three strategies implemented in 2010 and 2011 to address areas of critical concern.


A student pathway project in first year biology and its systemic impact

David Crabbe, Amanda Gilber

The Pathways to Success project at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) focuses on improving the student experience using both top-down and bottom-up change processes (Gilbert & Crabbe, 2010).  Top-down change processes originate from political or university wide initiatives for improvement while bottom-up processes are grounded in the work of individual teachers and course teams. Linking these approaches in university curriculum development has been shown to be problematic (Kift, Nelson, & Clarke, 2010). In this presentation we examine the problem by considering a case study of a series of innovations made in a large first year biology course. We chart its impact across the first year curriculum and examining its relationship to top down approaches emanating from higher levels of the university. Innovations in the biology course included redesigning the course to focus on relevance of biology to science and society, the use of active learning techniques in lectures (including use of clicker technology) and enquiry based laboratory classes. Evaluation data showed positive outcomes for students both in terms of engagement and in performance in assessment.  Teacher satisfaction also increased. In addition, the success of the work undertaken with this course led to further requests for involvement and to the beginning of what appears to be a trend in course improvement. We conclude by suggesting how this case study illustrates ways in which the strengths of top down and bottom up activity can be integrated into one systemic institutional endeavour.


How content creation for iTunesU enhances the understanding of science in physiology and communication students

Hardy Ernst, John Harrison

First year students in physiology (n =140) and communication students (n=125) on separate campuses collaborated in Semester 2, 2010 on a common assessment task: a short (3-4 min) video demonstrating how disruptions to homeostasis can lead to acute illnesses and chronic health disorders. The purpose was not only to demonstrate interdisciplinary collaboration, but also to develop the generic communication skills of physiology students, and the skills of communication students in the effective communication of complex systems without loss of scientific integrity.  The project was an attempt was to find a middle path between the technical forms of inter-professional communication in the health sciences, and the symptom-driven forms of much paid public communication (including advertising) about health and disease. The uploading to iTunesU was an additional portfolio building incentive. Both cohorts found the task demanding, and reported insufficient inter-cohort collaboration, but positive intra-cohort collaboration, even though a robust inter-cohort collaboration website was available from the outset. The next iteration will contain more structured opportunities for inter-cohort collaboration.


Maintaining standards: Teaching writing in conjunction with disciplinary concepts

Kerry Hunter, Harry Tse

This showcase presents data from a project in which a disciplinary expert and a writing specialist collaborated to design a writing program to be delivered by the disciplinary expert to large classes (300+). The program was integrated into an intermediate macroeconomics course at UTS and was designed to expose students to the processes they needed to complete two assessment tasks (essays). The processes were made explicit within the disciplinary content and were delivered by way of a series of assignment discussion sessions as part of the weekly two hour lecture. An overview of the assignment discussion sessions explaining how the processes (for example, critical reading/structuring a coherent text/analytical writing) were taught within specific subject concepts makes up part of the presentation.

The program resulted in significant improvement in student performance.  Statistical analysis of assignment results and comparison of grades with previous years will be presented with thematic results from student and tutor focus groups and questionnaires.

The concepts driving this research project are not narrowly focused on one disciplinary area
as such a program is of value potentially to any discipline. The discussion will explore strategies that could be useful in undertaking a similar program. The strategies include: building a collaborative partnership; facilitating the surfacing of tacit beliefs into explicit teaching; gaining and using funding; and disseminating effectiveness.


Tuākana learning community: Enhancing academic success for Māori and Pasifika students

Robyn Manuel, Catherine Dunphy, Geremy Hema

Māori and Pasifika students are under-represented at The University of Auckland. As a community, these students are subject to significant social and economic disadvantage. The result of these disadvantages being that relatively few Māori and Pasifika gain entry to the University and those that do, are generally academically less prepared, socially isolated and economically less resourced. This situation does not bode well for successful University study. The Tuākana programme broadly provides mentoring and tutoring for all Māori and Pasifika first year students, generally by senior Māori and Pasifika students, addressing the issues of isolation, under-preparedness and historical underperformance of previous cohorts.For this showcase we will present the rationale for the programme, some specifics as to how some departments deliver it, the results in terms of engagement rates, retention and pass rates and, results from an evaluation of the programme by teina (mentees), tuākana (mentors and tutors) and kaiwhakahaere (departmental co-ordinators). The presenters provide tuākana with professional development for teaching and learning (Manuel) and work with kaiwhakahaere to ensure the programme is delivering positive outcomes for teina and tuākana (Dunphy and Hema).


The student voice hidden in the quality and standards

Kelly E Matthews

Changing quality assurance policies in Australia, and many other countries, have led to the articulation of broad, disciplinary standards.  The Learning and Teaching Academic Standards project recently produced a set of standards for science in Australia, which highlight the need for science graduates to have quantitative skills (QS).  Responsive curricula reform efforts to build QS in science have magnified the challenges associated with educational change, largely evidenced by research into academic beliefs, attitudes and teaching practices.  The student voice, which should be a key requirement for understanding and informing reform efforts and the attainment of standards, has been largely neglected.  This showcase proposal is situated within a broader, mixed methods research study exploring the QS of undergraduate science students over three years. Specifically, it will report on the longitudinal phase of the research where data were collected from students at four points in time through a mix of face-to-face interviews, and asynchronous online open-ended questionnaires.  To illuminate the heuristic nature of individual stories, a narrative inquiry approach was adapted within an analysis framework built on the work of Barnett and Coates (acting-knowing-being), Barton (vision-philosophy-orientation-role) and Snyder (hidden curriculum).  This study attempts to demonstrate how the student perspective can contribute (1) to our understanding of how curricular interactions can influence student learning, and (2) to our efforts to improve undergraduate curricula in a manner that directly facilitates student achievement of our desired standards and quality learning outcomes.


Peer review of teaching: Moving learning and teaching practice from the edge, by developing a public culture of academic practice

Kathleen McEvoy, Susan Shannon

The Faculty of the Professions at The University of Adelaide has developed an integrated program to support and enhance the learning and teaching skills, knowledge and practice of the academic and related staff who teach over 30% of the University’s students.  The purpose is to develop a community of scholars supporting and promoting learning and teaching as a scholarly activity open to collegiate scrutiny, as is research.  The focus is to move learning and teaching from a private sphere on the edge of scholarly activity to a central role, alongside research, as a public and influential scholarly activity of the university.  While not significantly new, the challenge and novel dimension is to achieve this in a Go8 research intensive environment. In 2010 the Faculty introduced a pilot program of peer review of teaching, with its genesis in the ALTC funded project, Peer Review of Teaching for Promotion Purposes (June 2009).  The pilot proposed a formative and mutual process to promote change and improvement, to enhance the quality of teaching through shared reflective collegial discussion as a key factor in both staff development, and student learning opportunities and experience.  The role of peer review to enable and support personal development as a good University teacher, rather than for promotion or tenure purposes, was identified as a specific parameter.  The Community of Practice was used to gauge the utility of the process.  Through evaluation following the pilot, limitations, benefits and future applications in the Faculty’s particular environment, were identified.


Talent pushing talent in a university wide honours college

Cor Suhre, Ellen Jansen

In 2010 the University of Groningen introduced a university wide honours programme for bachelor students from different disciplines. The aim of the programme is to (1) implement a lever to raise students’ study ambitions and education quality and (2) to assist talented students in becoming leading persons in science or society. Following ideas of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model by Renzulli, the honours programme comprises of discipline specific course units, debating and academic writing skills courses and talent career support. In order to assess the success of the implementation, the experiences of the first cohort of students and their academic performance were evaluated. First year honours students received an electronic questionnaire containing Likert type scales about their ambitions, perceived academic value, perceived career benefits and course experiences. The results show that the average performance gap in the regular bachelor programme between honours and other students increased after the start of the honours programme. Female honours students perceived more benefits from participation than male students, but they also experienced more academic pressure. About 10 % of the students left the programme during the first year. A causal path analysis showed that students’ persistence in the honours track mainly depended on their perceptions of the academic value of the programme, personal benefits and amount of academic pressure. The evaluation led to improvements in teaching and finetuning in lesson time-tables.



*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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