Herdsa 2011

HERDSA 2011 program: Concurrent sessions

Facilitating transformative learning through critical reflection in work integrated learning

Alyce Davies, Helen Larkin

In an increasingly diverse higher education environment, the challenge is to support a greater number of students to achieve academically at the level that more academically inclined students achieve more readily.  Reflective practice as part of transformative learning is an important graduate attribute and work integrated learning is an opportunity for students to develop these skills.  Academics need to ensure that such programs are integrated with classroom learning and that workplace learning is embedded within the curriculum rather than being seen in isolation.  Reflective practice is one way of bridging this gap.  The Fieldwork Learning Framework (Larkin & Hamilton, 2010) was developed to support the reflective practice skills of students while undertaking fieldwork practicums and aims to support students to optimise their work integrated learning opportunities.  This paper describes an evaluation of the Framework and its use in embedding reflective practice in a third year, occupational therapy program.  A mixed methodology study explored the experiences of third year occupational therapy students and their fieldwork educators regarding their use of the Framework, and the level of critical reflection evident in student journals.  Students and fieldwork educators reported that the Framework helped students to reflect more easily on their preparation for, and during fieldwork.  Student journals were also analysed for the level of critical reflection.  The Framework described in this paper and the evaluation presented, aims to enhance students’ experience of work integrated learning and provide a pathway promoting work integrated learning pedagogy that facilitates transformative learning and assists students in establishing a pattern of lifelong learning.


Student peer and self assessment in the context of Work Integrated Learning: Making it work

Suzanne Harman

Students are now experiencing opportunities in practice education where their learning is facilitated by professionals of varied backgrounds thus leading to issues of how to assess student performance while on placement.  Educators have had to re-think the way in which students’ performance is assessed and to integrate the key graduate attributes of critical reflection, self and peer assessments and feedback. Using recommendations by Mason (1999) in relation to a collaborative group model for workplace learning and ‘The Self-Directed Learning Model’ by Gaiptman and Anthony (1989) the Occupational Wellness and Life Satisfaction (OWLS) program encourages students to reflect on their experiences in an environment of self and peer evaluation, focussing on the process of learning rather than purely on outcomes.  Students are required to complete a self and peer assessment of their learning using a nationally recognised fieldwork evaluation instrument and develop a practice portfolio consisting of learning contract and supporting evidence for their self-assessment. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected via a questionnaire to alumni.  The most frequently identified skills that were valued by respondents were autonomy and independence.  Other benefits identified were facilitation of self directed learning, and ability to problem solve with colleagues and to share learning. In a higher education environment where lifelong learning and the ability to work collaboratively are valued graduate attributes, a focus on peer and self assessment within the context of work integrated learning contributes to graduates who are well placed to work in both traditional and newer and emerging areas of practice.


Improving efficiency and quality in assignment marking using well-designed toolsets

Eva Heinrich

The main support Learning Management Systems (LMS) give for dealing with assignments is to accept and record student submissions and to make marking results available to students.  The actual tasks of marking receive only limited support. This gap in the provision of suitable features causes problems for efficiency and quality of marking. The work presented here addresses this gap. After intensive requirements gathering analysis of current practices a new electronic toolset was conceptionalized and implemented. This toolset (see http://lightworkmarking.org) builds on the strengths of existing LMS and complements such systems with new functionality on marking rubrics and the explicit allocation of markers to students. The main aims were to lower the barriers to electronic submission as perceived by teachers, to increase the efficiency of marking and to enable better quality formative feedback. A qualitative study examined to which degree these aims were achieved. Twenty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers and marking assistants from four New Zealand tertiary institutions. The analysis of the interview transcripts was guided by the criteria of current context, previous methods of marking, perceptions of efficiency, and marking quality. The study confirmed the advantages of electronically-supported assignment submission and marking. It shows that a toolset, building on LMS functionality complemented with specific assignment support, can fill the gap that otherwise exists with regard to marking support. Of specific importance is the impact on formative feedback, with study participants stating that the toolset helped to provide more complete and better structured feedback. In addition, using the toolset has had the positive effect of encouraging reflection and sharing, as many aspects of assignment marking become more explicit.


Outside the comfort zone: Including creative practice research in an English honours programme

Frances Kelly, Marcia Russell, Lee Wallace

This showcase considers the challenges raised by the inclusion of creative practice research in an English honours programme. In previous papers generated from this study, initiated to evaluate the impact of a new honours-level course (Kelly, Russell & Wallace, 2010), we have talked about the "in-between" status of Honours as enabling the transition from coursework to independent research (Kiley et al., 2009; Willison and O’Regan, 2007). In this paper, we discuss findings from the 2010 focus group interviews in which experiment, risk and a degree of "craziness" emerged as the dominant themes. Conceived by student and supervisor as consciously "on the edge," creative practice research is boundary-crossing, particularly in relation to disciplinary protocols of scholarship and the assessment-standard model that often accompanies them. Drawing on prior discussion of Honours and its relation to a changing tertiary agenda (Kiley et al., 2009), this paper sits "on the edge" of conversations about creative practice and the place of non-standard forms of research in a climate which relies on quality metrics derived from traditional forms of scholarship and knowledge creation.


Reading in the Humanities: Building reading resilience through the use of reading journals

Rosanne Kennedy, Kate Douglas, Anna Poletti, Judith Seaboyer, Tully Barnett

A decline in the ability of tertiary students to competently read complex texts has been noted widely but there are no recent studies in Australia that document and respond systematically to the problems that emerge when students are faced with unfamiliar or demanding texts. We argue that reading resilience – the skill of reading complex aesthetic and rhetorical texts with patience, perseverance, understanding and appreciation – remains a core skill for success in university study. The importance of this skill and means of acquiring it can be communicated to students through course materials and assessment strategies. Our research emerges from a large ALTC-funded project called Building Reading Resilience: Developing a Skills-Based Approach to Literary Studies. We promote the use of a ‘reading journal’ as a mode of formative assessment. Various studies have asserted the pedagogical value of the reading journal as a reflective tool, allowing students to consider their learning in a topic. Reading journals were trialled across second/third year literature subjects at the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University, Flinders University and University of Queensland. Students were asked to complete short, critical responses to questions on set reading. They were assessed on their level of engagement with the literary text and the literary concepts applied. We found that students’ deep engagement with literary texts and concepts was enhanced. Students’ results improved when contrasted with those from previous years, and we saw improvement across students’ performance across this formative assessment task within the subject. Students rated the reading journal as very useful in their learning.


Shifting paradigms, contesting silos and changing cultures: A community of practice approach to the leadership challenges of facilitating learning and teaching in a regional university

Jill Lawrence, Jane Summers, Lorelle Burton, Karen Noble, Peter Gibbings

This showcase depicts higher education at the edge in a number of different ways. First, at the transitional edge where universities must shift from a print or on campus design and delivery to a digital design and delivery if they are to remain strongly positioned in a complex and rapidly changing milieu. Second, at the learning and teaching edge where staff and students meet and engage.......whatever the administrative and service divisions may think, and third, at the leadership edge where territories and silos are rapidly becoming unviable. This showcase outlines how an Associate Deans (Learning and Teaching) Community of Practice at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has initiated a whole-of-institution approach to learning and teaching policies, practices and infrastructure, contesting the silos built up between faculties, departments and service sections.  The initiative has also engendered a range of professional development activities, incorporating pedagogical conversations, workshops, presentations and peer review activities, designed to change the learning and teaching culture at USQ and to meet the challenges stemming from the print-digital operational shift currently under way at the university.


Exploring inter-professional and inter-industry education: Outcomes and future directions

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

There is growing interest in inclusive design and its application to built environments and a demand for work-ready graduates in this emerging area of practice.  This paper reports findings from a study that evaluated inter-professional educational experiences for architecture and occupational therapy students; an approach not previously reported in the literature.  The aims of the study were to: evaluate the experiences of students in relation to the inter-professional teaching and learning; measure the level of students’ self-reported readiness for inter-professional learning; and, measure the level of students’ self-reported achievement of intended learning outcomes.  Teaching initiatives included a range of face-to-face teaching activities and virtual and ‘real life’ simulations.  Qualitative and quantitative data was collected and the Readiness for Interprofessional Learning Scale (RIPLS) was used to measure students’ attitudes to inter-professional learning.  Significant differences were found between students on the RIPLS.  Occupational therapy students had significantly higher scores in relation to inter-professional readiness, although the gap narrowed at post-assessment.  Occupational therapy students also showed a trend to become less positive about the benefits of inter-professional education after their experience.  Students reported limited previous use of Second Life™ which impacted on their comfort with, and value attributed to, this medium.  This study has informed future directions for embedding universal design practice into the curriculum of architecture and occupational therapy students.  It also raises key questions about how learning experiences such as ‘real life’ simulations can be maintained within the context of massification of higher education and increasing off-campus enrolments.


Examining student outcomes from undergraduate research experiences

Paula Myatt, Susan Jones

Undergraduate research (UR) is a recognised form of engagement used to enhance student learning and can be broadly defined as any active experience in which students are exposed to research within their discipline. These experiences have been associated with positive student outcomes such as gains in communication skills, and confidence. This project examined one School within an Australian university and investigated the extent to which undergraduate students were exposed to UR and the student outcomes. The research utilised interviews with staff and an online student survey. Interviews with eight staff highlighted a strong culture of integrating research into teaching and creating research opportunities for students, with many examples of UR activities identified. A common characteristic was the design of authentic experiences for students. Through the online survey 42 students reported a variety of outcomes, mostly positive, from their UR experiences. More than 70% of students believed they had made gains in all ‘becoming a scientist’ areas investigated, including the ability to work independently, to develop patience and the need to take care in conducting procedures. More than 85% of students reported they had made gains in areas such as ‘discussing scientific concepts’ and ‘working collaboratively’. The UR experiences also influenced their thinking about future career paths, including postgraduate research. This study revealed an intention by academics to provide authentic learning experiences for students through research, and strong student evidence indicating learning gains. The strong gains reported by students in this study were similar to gains reported previously in other literature.


Pedagogy of PowerPoint: Redemption of the didactic lecture as an effective and engaging teaching tool

Selvanayagam Nirthanan

With newer learning and teaching methodologies such as problem-based and team-based learning being widely applied worldwide, the need for the didactic lecture to reinvent itself as a more interactive, effective and appealing instructional strategy is apparent. Judiciously applied and carefully constructed animations in PowerPoint can considerably improve a didactic lecture’s impact by focusing the learners’ attention, engaging their interest and sustaining motivation as well as emphasising the core content and key take-home messages (Nirthanan, 2008). Several simple animation concepts, within the grasp of teachers with a basic working knowledge of the software, can appreciably contribute to the learning process.  With, empirical studies assessing the usefulness of this technology in higher education being relatively sparse (James et al, 2006), the impact of PowerPoint animations in the delivery of didactic lectures in nursing courses was assessed at Griffith University in 2010. Animations focused on anatomical and physiological concepts that underpin the pathophysiology and pharmacology of the cardiovascular system were presented as a total of 8 hours of lecture time, followed by the web-based delivery (via BlackBoard®) of the lecture material, compiled as a self-learning PowerPoint module. A questionnaire-based survey of 2nd-year nursing students (n = 155) was conducted to evaluate student perceptions of this teaching and learning strategy. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to the application of PowerPoint animations in didactic lectures, with a majority of respondents in strong agreement that animations were useful in recalling prerequisite material (70%), understanding new content (75%) and offering visual cues to facilitate learning (77%).


Pilot mentoring program for physiotherapy clinical educators

Melanie Nguyen, Kate Thomson, Irene Leithhead

Health sciences students undergo clinical placement as part of their training in healthcare. This workplace learning is provided by clinical educators – qualified health professionals with little-to-no formal education in teaching, or ongoing training. The issue of educator support and student clinical experience was addressed by the development of a mentoring program for physiotherapy clinical educators. This study is unique in its targeted audience and developmental process. Our mentoring program was formed through consultation with clinical educators and literature with the aim of supporting these teachers and, through that, providing better clinical placement experiences. The 10-month mentoring program included formal and informal, in person and online case-based discussions and group workshop meetings. Strategies for sustaining mentoring relationships were provided at the conclusion of the study. Participating clinical educators were surveyed prior to, during, and at the conclusion of the program on issues related to teaching and learning, time management, workload balance and university expectations. After each placement, students were surveyed about their learning experience. Students of educators who participated in the program felt they spent more time with their educators and were more comfortable with the delivery, content and amount of feedback received. Clinical educators reported improvements in their ability to create effective learning environments, counselling skills and time and stress management. They also reported a greater ability to liaise with the university. The importance of clinical education in the student learning experience provides an argument for supporting clinical educators. Mentoring is demonstrated as a viable program for this support.


Professionalisation of academic staff in higher education: Constraining and enabling factors

Lynn Quinn

In this paper existing research on higher education in South Africa is used to back up the commonsensical claim for the centrality of academic staff development as a way of dealing with the ‘edgy, uncertain & intellectually challenging times we face in higher education’.  This research shows that the throughput and graduation rates in higher education in South Africa are poor and that, overwhelmingly, the success rate of black students is far below that of their white peers (Scott, Yeld & Hendry 2007).  One of the ways of addressing this risk of failure and ensuring greater success for more students in higher education is through “building education expertise in the sector to enable the development and implementation of teaching approaches that will be effective in catering for student  diversity” (ibid:viii). To achieve this, professionalisation of academic staff seems to be a priority for higher education in South Africa, and arguably elsewhere too.  Using doctoral research findings (Quinn 2006), as well as a meta-analysis of teaching and learning at a sample of South African institutions (Boughey 2011) the paper explores the enabling and constraining factors for introducing formal programmes aimed at professionalising the practice of academic staff.  Archer’s (1995; 1996) social realist concepts of culture, structure and agency are used to move beyond face value explanations to uncover the underlying enabling mechanisms which create the conditions for professional development. This has the potential to equip lecturers to provide educational offerings which will result in more equitable outcomes for all students.


Crossing the threshold – language and identity in learning concepts in biology

Pauline Ross, Paul Parker, Taylor Charlotte

Following Meyer and Land (2003, 2005), the acquisition of threshold concepts is transformative, resulting in an irreversible shift in how discipline knowledge is understood.  In the context of biology, Ross et al (2010) suggests that such a shift requires an intellectual and social apprenticeship using the specialized language of the discipline, which in biology forms a significant barrier for many learners.  These observations resonate strongly with a range of studies that identify that becoming literate in an academic discipline involves coordinating language learning and thinking (Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1987; Cummins, 2001; Lea and Street,1998; Ivanic, 1998; Haggis, 2006; Carter, 2007; Wingate, 2007; Bruce, 2008).  They also align with the extensive literature on difficulties for learning the language of biology (Zhang and Lidbury 2006; Ross and Tronson 2007;  Brown and Ryoo, 2008; Ross et al., 2010) where the challenge for novices is the variety of language forms and communicative genre (McCune and Hounsell 2005).  The literature, however, on how to engage linguistically with learners so that a transformational and identity shift occurs is more diffuse (Lemke 2004).   Here we report on an empirical study in a large first year class at a mainstream tertiary institution where students took on the identity of a biologist to write narratives throughout the semester in key concept areas, to surface the tacit, threshold concepts identified by Ross et al., (2010).  Our study provides insights into students moving from ‘peripheral participants’ into ‘legitimate peripheral participants’  through a ‘cognitive  and linguistic apprenticeship’(Becher and Trowler 2001).


Rethinking assessment of competence within a first year nursing science module

Jane Stewart, Angela Stewart

The project evaluated an innovative assessment tool that was developed to provide evidence that students were developing science-informed competence for nursing.  Measuring and assessing competence in nursing education is a current world-wide concern, with few solutions offered (Anderson, 2008).  At Waikato Institute of Technology, the prescription of Nursing Council of New Zealand (NCNZ) nursing competencies into the science modules of the Bachelor of Nursing curriculum commenced in 2009.  Examination of the alignment of pedagogy, curriculum and assessment revealed that existing methods of assessment did not effectively assess all aspects of competence.  This research investigated what tools could be used to assess evidence of the development of all aspects of science-informed competence in nursing education, and developed a new assessment tool. The tool was evaluated in terms of its construct, concurrent and consequential validity through a variety of data collection methods.  Findings indicated that the new assessment tool enabled assessment of all aspects of competence, including the contribution of student attitudes, values and abilities.  It was also effective in providing students with opportunities to make links between science learning and nursing practice.  Questionnaire and focus group results indicated that most students had some understanding of the purpose of the assessment tool and understood the practical test as linking to a ‘nursing perspective’.  However, the students’ immediate response to the assessment was negative, due to their experience of having limited time during the assessment.  Future changes to the assessment tool are more likely to be based on students’ pedagogical preferences (Boud, 2007).


Cutting edge or bottom line? An unruly cost-benefit analysis of three academic development initiatives

Helen Sword

Academic developers work at the cutting edge of higher education research and development.  Yet if we cannot persuasively demonstrate to academic administrators the ‘added value’ of our work, we will be among the first to suffer when budget cuts arrive.  How do we assess and evaluate the long-term effectiveness of academic development initiatives, both on the academic staff we work with and the students they teach?  This Showcase presents a comparative analysis of three academic development initiatives at a large Australasian university: a 3-day foundation program for new academics; a Postgraduate Certificate for academic staff; and one-on-one teaching consultations for lecturers.  The point of my paper is not to ‘prove the effectiveness’ of these specific programs but rather to develop new mechanisms for weighing the respective costs of any academic development intiative against its benefits, a methodology that can be adapted by other academics for use at their own institutions.  I begin by crunching the raw numbers – the ratio of academic developers to academic staff, the cost of each program per staff member per hour, and so forth – but go on to factor in non-quantifiable elements such as camaraderie, commitment and long-term institutional impact.  My analysis is intentionally ‘unruly’, subverting and challenging the managerialist discourse of the bottom line. 


New contexts for concept map assessment of classroom learning: Chinese business students' conceptualisation of marketing

Tania von der Heidt, David Spriggs

Our study used concept maps to measure the sensitivity of pre- and post-instruction in the undergraduate Marketing Principles course within the Bachelor of Business Administration program delivered to 140 Chinese students in China in 2010. The instruction was in the form of a nine-day, thirty-six hour intensive workshop, comprising 28 lecture hours, five hours involving student oral presentation assessments and four hours computer lab time for online multiple choice question assessments. The actual mapping task was kept simple to reduce time for instruction and practice for students to develop skills in concept. Students were asked to construct concept maps – one at the beginning of the workshop period, another at the end - from scratch with minimal task constraints by using pen or pencil on the paper provided. Three scoring methods were used to assess pre- and post instruction learning – topic key word count, relational and holistic. Comparison of 102 completed paired concept maps before and after instruction revealed significant mean increases in the number of topic areas and propositions associated with marketing. This indicates conceptual growth after instruction. Students’ representations changed (improved) as the result of instruction.  Case studies document the incidence of deep, surface and non-learning. Our study extends findings from educational and science disciplines to the business discipline. It also provides support for the use of concept maps in CHC contexts as a ‘value-added’ style of teaching.


What does explicit research skill development in the curriculum actually achieve?

John Willison

What is the evidence from the past four years of the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework’s capacity to guide teaching and learning practice? This showcase outlines a study of the outcomes when academics used the RSD to frame how to develop and assess students’ research skills in regular semester-length courses. In the study, 27 academics devised or modified assessment matrices in accordance with the RSD framework. Changing the assessment regime tended to have a rippling effect, causing changes in other parts of the curriculum. Twenty eight courses in total were modified in this manner. These courses ranged from small (n=17) to medium-large (n=222) and include those from first year to masters, in Business, Engineering, Health Science, Humanities, and Science, across five universities in three Australian cities. The two-year study used three data sets to determine the outcomes: student pre- (n=779) and post-questionnaires (n=601), interviews with students (n=46) one year after completing a course that developed research skills, and interviews with academics (n=17) who had assessed students’ research skills. These multiple sources provided evidence that students developed a variety of discipline-specific research skills, and that these skills were useful for subsequent studies and especially for employment. Academics indicated that by making the development of student research skills explicit, their teaching was enhanced through the clarification of learning processes and through the provision of more substantial feedback to students. Academics also indicated that it changed their understanding of disciplinary research, and for some, even suggested new directions.



*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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