Herdsa 2011

HERDSA 2011 program: Concurrent sessions

A new perspective on the identification of threshold concepts

Sarah Barradell

The original work on threshold concepts arose from a project that aimed to improve the teaching – learning experiences of students (Entwistle 2003; Meyer and Land 2003). The study of threshold concepts has since grown. The identification of threshold concepts is an important step in furthering the depth and strength of the literature. Whilst many disciplines have explored the identification of threshold concepts, healthcare is not well represented. There is currently no literature related to physiotherapy. Transactional curriculum inquiry (TCI) is recognised as being important to the identification of threshold concepts. TCI is the dialogue that takes place in order to identify threshold concepts (Cousin, 2009). It typically involves lecturers, students and educational designers. It is proposed that involvement of the wider professional community should also be considered. This presentation reports on the first stage of a project related to threshold concepts in physiotherapy. The purpose of this stage was to use Nominal Group Technique (NGT) to support a group of physiotherapy clinical educators to identify threshold concepts for an undergraduate physiotherapy subject. This project was unique in that it involved stakeholders new to the TCI process. If threshold concepts are truly bounded and linked to the ways of thinking and practising within each discipline, then involvement of discipline representatives outside the educational realm seems a natural progression. NGT is similar to a formalised TCI process, whilst also achieving a degree of agreement. There are potential advantages to such methods when identifying the threshold concepts of certain disciplines.

University and school partnerships: A new model for pre-service secondary education at Australian Catholic University

Josephine Brady, Carolyn Broadbent, Sandra Darley

To be effective, professional preparation requires a partnership between the university, employing bodies, schools, and the pre-service teachers (ACDE, 2003). Such a partnership was initiated in 2005 between the Australian Catholic University (ACU), Canberra, the Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra Goulburn), and Catholic schools with the introduction of the Graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary). In the partnership leading teachers (mentors) from the schools in Canberra inducted pre-service teachers into units in curriculum specialisations. While over the past decades teacher preparation courses have utilised a mentoring program during the practicum, the program at ACU Canberra differs in having the mentor teachers fulfilling a more academic role in the provision of small group tutorials (professional learning communities) addressing educational theories in practice, professional performance and effective teaching strategies.  The ongoing role of the mentor throughout the year provides another level for reflective practice beyond the practicum. Building on the success of the mentoring program, students enrolling in the 2011 Grad Dip Ed (Secondary) course became part of a new initiative which embeds the course at St Mary MacKillop College, in Tuggeranong Valley ACT. Pre-service teachers have become part of a community of practice at the college and are enculturated into school through membership of faculty and pastoral care teams. This paper reports on research on this new initiative, which   is mainly qualitative and uses interviews and focus groups. The evaluation of the program found that there were significant reciprocal benefits for both the mentor and pre-service teacher as highlighted by Kruger (2007) that such partnerships have the potential to transform pre-service education.

Response to scenario-based content delivery as an additional resource in a first year human bioscience university course

Jim Clarke, Michelle McCulley, Terry Stewart, John Milne

The use of scenarios in a first year Human Bioscience course provides the opportunity to explain and learn scientific concepts in everyday language using real life situations. This investigation explores the reaction to, and effectiveness of, supplementing traditional course content with a scenario based alternative in a first year cohort often inexperienced in science and lacking confidence in their scientific knowledge.
Scenarios were developed for endocrinology and reproduction topics, taught as part of a first year human bioscience course. The scenarios were made available to the students via their online learning environment, (Moodle). Students were encouraged to use the scenarios as an additional learning tool.
The success of the scenarios were evaluated by identifying themes from an online questionnaire provided to students at the end of the course, as well as detailed analysis of usage data collected as part of the scenario software. Analysis of the selection bias and performance on final exam questions related to endocrinology and reproduction in comparison to previous cohorts who did not experience the supplementary material was carried out.

The challenges of introducing change in a large interprofessional undergraduate subject on ageing

Moira Cordiner, Marguerite Bramble

Interprofessional education (IPE) occurs when one or more professions learn with, from and about each other. The aim of interprofessional learning (IPL) is to produce a workforce that can work effectively as a team across professional boundaries, thereby facilitating collaborative practice to improve the quality of patient care. The drivers for universities to implement IPL in health professions include: to mitigate the global health workforce crisis; meet the increasing burden of chronic disease associated with aging; to improve patient safety; and to break down stereotypes about professions by fostering respect. There are many difficulties and challenges in developing and sustaining IPE, such as lack of on-going funding; logistics involving high student numbers, many disciplines, remote campuses, clinical placements, timetabling and workload issues. In 2009, major changes were made to a second year aged-care unit (subject) on four campuses in the Faculty of Health Science in an Australian university. The aim was to improve alignment between teaching, learning and assessment thus enhancing attitudes, knowledge and interprofessional team skills of 557 students. The online environment was redesigned so that students, each in designated health professional roles, worked together in small teams of ten, managing complex realistic scenarios in the aged sector. These skills were assessed, and later applied to exam scenarios. Analysis of data compared to 2008 revealed significant increases in knowledge of aged care, positive attitudes towards the aged; and respect for other health professions. Our study has provided sufficient evidence to recommend changes towards achieving a sustainable model of IPE.

The experience of academic work

Lawrence Cram

It is widely believed that university teaching is a seriously undervalued part of academic work. Far less common is the idea that research is undervalued. What does this difference signify? This showcase explores the ways that academic work is framed and keyed. The frame comprises the little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters in relation to academic work. The keyings comprise the conventions that transform the meaningful frame of academic work into two things that might be quite different – teaching and research. Communicative texts (academic promotion policies; recruitment documents; work-load calculators) are searched for motifs that establish the frame and any of its keyings. A compelling difference between research and teaching lies in their evaluation methods: teaching is evaluated through its processes, while research is evaluated through its outputs. Leadership and scholarship are also common motifs -- while they might be regarded as keyings, they are better viewed as components of the primary frame of academic work.  The presentation will apply Goffman’s test for keying (“Is this academic work, or is it only teaching?”) to suggest that teaching and research are part of the primary frame. If research and teaching are re-keyings, then the psychology of framing (Nelson et al) implies that undervaluing of teaching will be susceptible to further (improved) keying by academic workers. On the other hand, if teaching and research are part of the primary frame of academic work, the undervaluing of teaching will be extremely resistant to manipulation and modification.

Factors affecting first-year students’ participation in interdisciplinary PBL tutorials in Japanese higher education

Rintaro Imafuku, Norimitsu Kurata, Ryuta Kataoka, Mitsuori Mayahara

In Japan, a PBL approach was firstly incorporated into a tertiary-level curriculum in 1990 at a medical college (Kozu, 2006). Since its initiation, 75 Japanese medical schools (94%) have currently applied PBL to their curriculum (Suzuki et al., 2008). Showa University has implemented a new innovative curriculum, that is, the interdisciplinary PBL where students from different faculties work together in a group as part of inter-professional education. This PBL approach aims at mainly developing students’ understanding of the importance of team medicine. This study investigated the factors influencing the first-year students’ participation from a perspective of Japanese cultural adaptation of the interdisciplinary PBL. A case study approach was employed to obtain an in-depth understanding of student learning in PBL. Specifically, the learning experiences of nine first-year students, who were randomly selected, were longitudinally observed through video-recordings of PBL sessions and interviews in 2010. As for data analysis, to understand their PBL participation, video-recorded data of tutorial sessions were analysed based on Eggins and Slade’s (1997) speech functional classification. Furthermore, the interview data analysis involved the application of Grounded Theory Approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). A certain number of factors affecting students’ PBL participation were identified: Students’ prior learning experiences, Japanese sociocultural norm, perceptions of learning context, interpersonal relationship with peers, and identity as a future professional. Although the findings cannot be generalised due to the limited number of research participants, identifying the factors in student learning allows the educators to obtain a better understanding of what actually happened in PBL.

Doing it with CLASS: Subject Coordinators leading teaching teams

Geraldine Lefoe, Jo McKenzie, Janne Malfroy, Yoni Ryan, Dominique Parrish

A need for systematic integration and support for sessional staff has been identified as an issue in Australian higher education. Current research highlights a need for significant change in the professional development of sessional staff but also the role of the subject/unit coordinator (called the coordinator) in leading this change. Whilst many institutions conduct valuable generic or discipline-specific induction, teaching expertise development may be best done in conjunction with development of a collegial network by co-ordinators at the subject level. This ALTC funded professional development initiative, Coordinators Leading Advancement of Sessional Staff (CLASS), was implemented in four Australian universities in 2010. A workshop program for subject coordinators that focused on their leadership roles prepared them to implement a subject-based action learning activity with their teaching teams. An academic developer supported the initiative and facilitated reflection and the development of a cross-disciplinary community of practice. This showcase provides examples from the Subject Coordinator led initiatives plus feedback from the national road show. Resources will also be made available for wider implementation. Significant organisational change happens over a longer period than the two years of the funded project. Through targeting incremental change at the subject level this program provides opportunity for staff at multiple levels to start thinking differently about the role and contributions of subject co-ordinators and sessional staff. At a time when there are calls for better quality outcomes for students we believe this program addresses a need to embed quality practices in the leadership and management of teaching teams.

A model for curriculum design based on threshold concepts and phenomenographic research: A case study of first year law

Mandy Lupton, Gerlese Akerlind, Jo McKenzie, Susan Carr-Greg, Rachael Field, Leanne Houston, Judith Jones, Cheryl Treloar

This showcase describes part of a larger initiative (Akerlind et al 2010) designed to develop and evaluate a model of curriculum design for assisting student learning of ‘threshold concepts’. Threshold concepts are foundational disciplinary concepts that are inherently troublesome, transformative and integrative in nature (Meyer & Land 2003).  The project used phenomenographic action research (Marton and Booth 1997) to explore variation in students’ understandings of legal reasoning, and the associated ‘variation theory of learning’ (Marton & Tsui 2004) to guide the subsequent curriculum design.  The phenomenographic action research consisted of a team of educational researchers working with a team of law academics from three Australian universities. There were four stages in the action research process: 1) identification of legal reasoning as a threshold concept; 2) phenomenographic investigation of the variation in students’ understanding of legal reasoning; 3) design of a curriculum initiative to address understandings of legal reasoning; and 4) implementation of the curriculum initiative and assessment of learning outcomes.  The curriculum initiative consisted of delivering four teaching sessions at three universities using the same lesson plan. The sessions were video recorded and analysed for the variation between the intended and enacted curriculum. Students’ learning outcomes were assessed by analysing a written short answer response completed at the end of the session. The analysis of learning outcomes revealed a positive relationship between the enacted curriculum and student understanding of legal reasoning. The teaching team reported a transformed understanding of teaching, learning and curriculum design.

Embedding cross-cultural competencies in an Australian Pharmacy course: A case study of Middle Eastern students

Satish Maganlal, Naomi Blauberg, Michelle Barker

Health educators are increasingly faced with the need to prepare students to effectively care and communicate with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients. The EXCELL intercultural skills program has demonstrated effectiveness in enhancing participant’s interaction skills in culturally diverse classes. Six generic communication competencies are taught: seeking help, making social contact, participation in a group, refusing a request, expressing disagreement, and giving feedback. EXCELL was embedded in ‘Introduction to Pharmacy and Practice’ within the Bachelor of Clinical Pharmacy. Scenarios drawn from Pharmacy practice were role-played by students.

The Saudi Arabian students rated how useful they found components of the EXCELL program and their level of confidence in each competency. Six types of social interactions skills was measured and compared at two time points. Mean ratings for the usefulness of EXCELL program components were 5 and above (range 1-7). Almost all students rated their confidence in the competencies as moderate to very well. Significant improvements were reported in specified interaction skills. Students also reported greater learning about Australian culture and Pharmacy practice. Evidence suggests the EXCELL program helped the Saudi students improve their social interactions skills in their new cultural context. In order to have wider applicability for Health students across the Higher Education sector, vignettes from practice scenarios need to be developed and filmed for use in the classroom. Opportunity exists for the program to be adapted for pharmacy practice to improve practitioners’ intercultural competence in an ever-growing CALD environment.

Improving student performance and satisfaction by the development of visual summaries

Michelle McCulley, Jim Clarke, Rachel Page

Visual diagrams such as mindmaps that summarise linkages between materials are valuable tools for visual learners. This study investigated whether visual summaries improved both student performance and satisfaction. Visual summaries were generated for key concepts in two undergraduate papers. There were a number of opportunities where these were incorporated in teaching sessions; final versions were made available to the students. In large lectures lecturers used the student generation of visual summaries as a means of making the session more of an active learning process. In tutorials the visual summary was used to recap at the start of a session. Initial feedback from teaching staff has been positive, the incorporation of visual summaries has benefited large group teaching and used as an ‘in class’ activity or as a revision aid. This has generally taken place as short ‘time out’ sessions where students brainstorm and work in pairs to come up with key concepts for a visual summary. Both staff and students have commented on the benefit of this opportunity for students to reflect and question their learning and thus enabled more active and effective learning. Key points voiced by students were that the visual summaries have significantly helped their self-directed learning and made them feel more focused in their preparation for their paper assessments. Feedback from teaching staff has been that the students seem ‘more prepared and switched on’ in tutorials. Results of pre and post inclusion of visual summaries will be presented.

Early career researchers on the edge: Peer support through writing groups

Margot McNeill, Agnes Bosanquet, Elaine Huber, Angela Voerman, Christa Jacenyik

Early career researchers face particular challenges in attaining job security, establishing research profiles, gaining funding and networking with other researchers. Supporting them to develop confidence in publishing is one of the keys to their successful engagement with the academy.  Writing groups have been espoused as one method of developing a community of practice to support early career researchers but little has been written on the evaluation of such writing groups, reflecting on how they function, what works well and what doesn't and how they can be kept sustainable. This showcase explores the establishment and evaluation of a writing group set up as part of a wider program of initiatives to build the research profile of a central learning and teaching development unit at a metropolitan Australian university. Eight participants volunteered, including three academic developers, three research officers and two educational developers, from a range of disciplinary backgrounds.  All identified themselves as early career researchers.  This presentation outlines the processes used for establishing the group, from the initial determining of the rules of engagement, to the tools used for capturing ongoing reflections of the members and the novel strategy used for evaluating its success. Challenges and issues are also reported, including the importance of overtly acknowledging the meetings and tasks of the group as authentic and valuable work. Recommendations for improvements are also presented, which could have value for departments and faculty-based groups to help build cohesion, foster interdisciplinary dialogues and develop communities of practice around writing for early career researchers.

On the edge of higher education research: Negotiating new research identities through a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education

Tai Peseta, Sarah Barradell, Sarah Down, Damian Spencer

The challenges faced by academics in learning about higher education research, and the scholarship of teaching and learning have been documented for some time (Knight, Tait & Yorke, 2006; Peseta et al, 2007). Educated and trained as researchers, scholars and practitioners in one discipline/profession, the turn to researching teaching and student learning (through something like a Graduate Certificate) brings academics into an encounter with a new field, its languages, methods and forms of knowledge organisation. It is an encounter that carries joys and pleasures as well as frustrations and difficulties.
 This showcase brings into conversation, three recent graduates of La Trobe’s Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Curriculum, Teaching and Learning to discuss the experience of conducting research into their teaching, curriculum and student learning. Together, these graduates have confronted the range of typical experiences: the literature on approaches to learning and phenomenography; the conceptual organisation of a literature review; and threshold concepts. The projects themselves are important because they contain the potential to add new knowledge. Moreover, the learning from them opens up new ways of seeing academic practice. However, there are questions too about how higher education research is taught, represented and experienced in programs such as Graduate Certificates. The showcase  ends with a consideration of Prosser’s (2008) distinction between research, investigations and evaluations, literature reviews and the scholarship of teaching and learning - a potentially useful heuristic device to help participants negotiate the complex dimensions of a new field of research.

Investigating the leadership needs in communities of practice: An audience driven empirical journey

Cassandra Star, Judy Nagy, Tony Burch, Jacquie McDonald

The role of facilitator within a community of practice requires significant skill to manage upwards, downwards and across formal leadership structures in higher education. The facilitator needs to understand the motivations of, priorities of, and institutional pressures on, academics to effectively engage them in social learning around their teaching practice. Facilitators must also manage the external environment. Thus, the role of the facilitator in community building, orchestrating the sharing of practice, organising the building of knowledge and reading the context are important for CoPs to lead change and transform teaching and learning practice. Effective facilitation is essential to creating and sustaining an environment in which CoPs can thrive (Ortquist-Ahrens, 2009; Cox, 2004, 2006). Experience and research (McDonald & Star, 2006, 2007, 2008) in the Australian context have confirmed this crucial element in CoP success and sustainability. This showcase outlines a comprehensive needs analysis and health check conducted on communities of practice facilitators in universities throughout the higher education sector. This investigation provides a snapshot of the leadership potential, realities, challenges and supports for those facilitators. In this session, the project team will provide an opportunity for the audience to nominate, via mobile clicker technology, the themes within the results of most interest to them, and these themes will be the ones addressed in the showcase. This will provide an audience driven journey through the survey data focussed on three detailed snapshots of the most significant leadership needs and challenges for those that facilitate communities of practice.


*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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