Herdsa 2009

Program: Tuesday Day 2 - Concurrent Session Two


Student experience in combined and accelerated Master level programs (Full Research Paper)

Lynne Harris
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Melinda Lewis
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Sandra West
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Peter Driscoll
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Lynne Brown
University of Sydney Sydney Australia

Context & Setting. Tertiary education in Australia has undergone significant change in the last two decades. In health, generic undergraduate programs have proliferated to align with graduate entry professional preparation programs. In health sciences and nursing at the University of Sydney an innovative degree structure enables students to undertake a generic undergraduate degree combined with a professional preparation Master level program, commencing graduate level units of study as early as Year 2. This new approach is being adopted at La Trobe University in 2009. These accelerated professional preparation programs have implications for teaching practices and student support. This paper considers student experiences in graduate entry and combined degree programs in health sciences and nursing.

What was Done. Students enrolled in (a) combined Bachelor / Master professional preparation programs in health sciences and nursing and (b) graduate entry professional preparation programs in health sciences and nursing completed a survey to examine the student experience during the transition from graduate level units of study.

Evaluation and Impact. The findings indicated that students in both graduate-entry and combined degrees had a similar understanding of graduate-level study, and many were making a smooth transition. For graduate entry students, workload and managing work-life balance were key concerns, while students in relatively new combined degrees were apprehensive about how their qualifications would be received after graduation.

Keywords: Health professional education; Graduate-entry study; Transition.

Experiences of students from diverse backgrounds: the role of academic support (Concise Research Paper)

Robyn Benson
Monash University Melbourne Australia
Lesley Hewitt
Monash University Melbourne Australia
Anita Devos
Monash University Melbourne Australia
Glenda Crosling
Monash University Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Margaret Heagney
Monash University Melbourne Australia

This paper examines the experiences of a group of students who have entered higher education via diverse pathways in order to consider the implications of their experiences for academic support. Drawing on students’ accounts provided as part of a longitudinal research project, we outline how these students manage their studies in the context of the competing demands on their time and the challenges they face. Perspectives from phenomenography, constructivism, distance education and adult education are used to frame the students’ experiences. One major finding is the participants’ limited usage of student support services provided by the university. Their primary source of formal support tended to be academic staff at the departmental level, while family and friends (including other students) were major sources of informal support. We discuss the implications of these findings for student support, raising questions about the boundaries of academic support, and how support services can be made more useful for these students.

Keywords: diversity, student experience, student support

The confidence to continue: Helping students succeed through a first year elective (Showcase)

Colin Beasley
Murdoch University Perth Australia
Sarah Veitch
Murdoch University Perth Australia
Phil Arena
Murdoch University Perth Australia
Craig Whitsed
Murdoch University Perth Australia

All first year university students have to adjust to the challenging demands of a new learning culture, with its own distinctive expectations of language, thinking and behaviour. For some, the adjustments may be unproblematic, while for others, particularly students from diverse and non-traditional Australian educational backgrounds (such as working class, indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds), the first year experience and acculturation process may be far more difficult and potentially traumatic. This presentation showcases the on-going design and development of an elective unit open to any first year student at our university which aims to help students adjust by explicit teaching about the university culture’s features and expectations and by progressive development of key academic skills through carefully scaffolded learning tasks and activities that promote reflection, critical thinking and deep learning, and a keener awareness of the transferable skills, knowledge and experiences that each student brings with him or her to university. The elective was introduced in 1997 specifically to improve the retention of ‘at risk’ students and since that time has given many students “the confidence to continue” and to succeed. It now exists in two parallel streams: the original Humanities and Social Sciences stream and a more recent Physical and Life Sciences stream, and is available across our campuses. The authors, as co-ordinators and / or tutors, have worked as a very effective team to refine and develop the curriculum, assessment tasks, and teaching and learning materials and activities over the past five years, based on their own teaching experiences, ideas and reflections, as well as very useful feedback from students. This presentation is thus a longitudinal case study of that curriculum design and development, informed by both formal student evaluations and informal student feedback over a period of considerable change in students’ backgrounds, skills and needs.

Helping Students Succeed (Showcase)

Heather Sparrow
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Adrianne Kinnear
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Mary Boyce Edith
Cowan University Perth Australia
Sharon Middleton
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Marguerite Cullity
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia

This showcase will present some findings from an Australian Learning and Teaching project, Diversity: A longitudinal study of how student diversity relates to resilience and successful progression in a new generation Australian university. We surveyed over 1300 students in 2007 and followed this up in 2008 with focus groups and face to face interviews involving 71 students. The interviews have provided us with a rich set of narratives that is informing us and providing insights into the students learning experience and the factors that have contributed to their success and resilience. Five themes have emerged that we believe underpin student success and resilience one of which is "seeking help to persist and succeed at university" and this is what we will present today.

The student background, attributes, beliefs, behaviours, values, goals and experiences coalesced to create either proactive or reluctant help-seekers. The proactive help-seekers were self-regulated learners and believed they were at university to learn and that part of their learning was seeking another person’s understanding. Reluctant help-seekers represented passive learners who did not want to "bother" staff, who didn’t know how to obtain help or were too shy.

It was clear from the interviews that students sought help from staff and their immediate learning community with whom they have developed a working/positive relationship. The students need to feel confident in the helper’s interest in and ability to assist them. Many students are highly apprehensive about seeking help as they are uncertain about whom to approach and where to seek assistance. Once students know where to seek help and whom to approach they start to develop a network of people who can assist them. This network is pivotal to them persisting with their studies and overcoming critical moments.

Our showcase will invite participants to discuss the results of this work and suggest some implications for practice.

Distance education students' attitudes towards increased online interaction: desired change or unwanted imposition? (Full Research Paper)

Sharon Watson
Chifley Business School Melbourne Australia

This paper reports on the second phase of a mixed methods study investigating the attitudes of students enrolled in a distance education MBA program towards engaging in greater online interaction with other students.  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four respondents from the project’s first phase to explore key issues in greater detail.  The results indicate a division in the attitudes of Australian and Indian students that may be a product of different perceptions of the nature of distance education courses, different learning preferences and different ways of managing their time and other commitments.  They also suggest that wholesale unit design changes based on social-constructivist pedagogy would not be received positively by many of the students studied.  Further research is required to explore these findings and determine their applicability to other distance education programs.

Keywords: Distance education, online interaction, student attitudes

Utilising student diversity to enhance student experience in learning contexts (Showcase)

Sophie Arkoudis
University of Melbourne Melbourne Australia
Amanda Pearce
Victoria University Melbourne Australia

One of the more significant changes in higher education in recent years has been the increase in the number of international students in higher education. Their presence has added to the diversity of students, placing greater emphasis on the role of academic staff in developing teaching and learning activities that enhance the student experience. Most of the research to date has focused largely on the problems that international students bring to teaching and learning. These include adequate levels of English language proficiency (Birrell 2006), different approaches to learning (Watkins and Biggs 1996), concerns by academics about the quality of students (Watty, 2006), plagiarism , and a lack of social engagement both within and outside the learning environment (Hamilton, Hinton et al. 2003; Sawir, Marginson et al. 2008). In effect, international students have been positioned as bringing with them attributes that do not easily fit into the western style of higher education in Australia. At the same time, higher education institutions are placing greater emphasis on internationalization. In terms of the student experience, the focus is on the notion of global citizens and preparing students to take part in working within the global community. Yet, there appears to be very little research into how the large numbers of international students can be used as a resource to achieving these goals and adding to the student experience for all students.

This paper will report on the first stage of an ALTC funded research project which investigates local and international student interaction within teaching and learning contexts. Interviews were conducted with academic staff in three different universities, as well as interviews with local and international students, to gain their perspectives regarding teaching and learning strategies that can enhance interaction between diverse student groups and how these are judged to be effective in terms of achieving student learning objectives. Data was analysed using positioning theory (van Langenhove and Harré 1999), which analyses the different rights and responsibilities within the institutional practices in which they operate. The data is analysed using a template for planning, mapping, monitoring and reviewing both classroom and institutional practices regarding student interaction within the learning environment. Examples will be offered from the analysis that typify practices within the template.

Birrell, B. (2006). Implications of low English standards among overseas students in Australian universities. People and Place 14(4): 53-65. Hamilton, D., Hinton, L. et al. (2003). International students at Australian universities: plagiarism and culture. Educational Integrity: plagiarism and other perplexities, Proceedings of the First Australasian Educational Integrity Conference, Adelaide, South Australia, University of South Australia. Sawir, E., Marginson, S. et al. (2008). Loneliness and international students: An Australian study. Journal of Studies in International Education 12(2): 148-180. van Langenhove, L. and Harré, R. (1999). Introducing positioning theory. Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. R. Harré and L. van Langenhove. Great Britian, Blackwell Publishers Ltd: 14-31. Watkins, D. A. and Biggs, J. (1996). The Chinese learner: Cultural, pedagogical and contextual influences. Melbourne, Australian Council for Educational Research. Watty, K. (2007). Quality in Accounting Education and Low English Standards Among Overseas Students: Is There a Link?, People and Place,Centre for Population and Urban Research, Monash University, Australia, 15 (1), 22-29

Orchestrating an inter-cultural engagement experience by manufacturing a need in a student group work project (Showcase)

Kay Salehi
Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne Australia
Akbar Rhamdhani
Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne Australia

Preparing students at an Australian campus to be able to perform “…professionally/socially in an international and multicultural context..” (OECD), is challenging and complex. The challenge for academic staff is to provide learning experiences that are meaningful and transformative for local and international students. The pressure to concentrate on technical skills of required assessment tasks has in the past limited the opportunity for developing inter-cultural communication skills. The work of Volet and Ang (1998) has provided a basis for this study to pursue the relationship between community connectedness, comfort level and preparedness for engaging with culturally mixed groups. 

This paper describes an intervention in a single unit of study in an engineering program, where 80% of the students were local. Students were surveyed to look at how connected they felt within the current university community, how respected and valued they felt and whether they had experienced working in culturally mixed groups. The class was then divided up into mixed project groups, mixed in the sense that they were not self-selecting and at least one international student was included in the group. The project required students to design a system to deliver electricity to a small village with a population of less than 200 people in a remote area; one in Australia and one in another country. The countries that the groups could choose from were those countries represented by the small number of international students in the class. The idea was to encourage local students by necessity to value the knowledge of the international students and at the same time, provide an opportunity for the international students to work with local students. During the semester there were supports put in place; a cultural diversity lecture, mentoring and invitation for consultations with staff if required. The students/groups were encouraged to make contact with the teaching staff at any time regarding problems related to "working in group" or the detail of the project.

At the completion of the project, students were surveyed about whether the project had raised curiosity and awareness of perspectives and whether it had encouraged them to work in culturally mixed groups.  A focus group provided more insight into what students would value and what opportunities they would appreciate to encourage mixing inter-culturally. The findings from this study have provided an insight into the ways students work in groups, and how difficult it is to get engagement even when it is placed as a necessity. Students demonstrated a variety of responses to this project from one extreme of frustration and anger to a more positive response of valuing the experience. Some international students appreciated the opportunity to work with local students and appreciated the efforts put in place to make this possible. This is the first time such a mixed group project has been run within this program and appears to have had some benefits to student learning and will be refined and explored further in subsequent semesters.

The experiences of Chinese lecturers in the role of students (Showcase)

Mary Panko
Unitec Institute of Technology Auckland New Zealand

This showcase examines the experiences of a group of Chinese applied-trades lecturers who came from mainland China to a New Zealand institute of technology to learn 'how to teach students in the Western manner'. This project touches on a number of significant international educational issues. What may be the experiences of international tutors when put into the position of becoming students in a student-centred learning environment? To what extent is it ethical to expect Chinese lecturers to introduce student centred learning into their teaching, and does this expectation also contain the assumption that Chinese lecturers are not currently using constructivist teaching techniques? To help examine these questions, an action theory for change framework (Fletcher, 2008) was used to evaluate the processes and outcomes achieved on both sides of this partnership project. Initially the visiting lecturers/students were asked to complete an online Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) using Pratt's five perspectives on teaching in adult and higher education (1998). The questionnaire (Pratt & Collins, 2002) explores the underlying philosophies held by teachers and also identifies any discontinuities between the espoused perspective and the intentions and actions of the individuals. At every step of the course the visitors were asked to describe their own teaching experiences and then to visualise ways in which their students might respond to the classic (i.e. western) constructivist forms of teaching. It was hoped that this exploration of the `normalness' of Chinese teaching would counteract any aspects of a deficit model, measured against deviance from mainstream, that is to say, Western, norms. At the end of the two week course the visitors took part in a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis evaluation to see what their perceptions of the course were, and their overall reflections on the educational value of their time in New Zealand. The information was both encouraging and perhaps surprising. The Chinese lecturers were as diverse as any group of teachers anywhere and the stereotypic concept that they might be predominantly transmission-based and non-nurturing turned out to be fundamentally incorrect. However, what also emerged were their ambivalent reactions to our models of student-centred teaching, while examples of constructivist strategies employed by the Chinese lecturers were largely teacher-centred. This small project opens the doors to further questions about the value and ethics of the wholesale importation of western educational concepts into Confucian heritage educational systems (De Barry, 2007) and concerns about the continuing spread of the western-focussed education policy epidemic (Levin, 1998).


Using a Wiki to develop first year engagement (Showcase)

Tim Sawyer
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia
Sheila Scutter
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia

The first year of University study has been recognized as of importance in the success and retention of students. During the first year, the development of a sense of belonging to a community has become increasingly difficult, due in part to restrictions on space for students to socialise, larger classes, a more diverse student body and increased on-line study.
This paper describes the use of a freely available and private “wiki” to provide opportunities for medical radiation students to interact and develop first virtual and then physical communities and academic and social networks. In the first few weeks, students were initially offered small incentives to contribute to the wiki, which was monitored but not regularly contributed to by academic staff.
The wiki was used extensively by students in the first term to identify and introduce each other. The wiki was subsequently used by students to develop 56 discussion “threads” with 96 members joining the wiki. Topics of discussion threads ranged from social activities to organising study groups and sharing experiences of clinical placement.
Conclusions: a wiki provides one way of assisting in the development of a student culture in first year students.

Keywords: first year experience, wiki, engagement

How and why students use online learning support sites (Showcase)

Jennifer Thompson
The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand Wellington New Zealand

The option for web-based delivery offers new possibilities for improved provision of learning support services. However, it is important to research students’ experience and perceptions of using such services and to use this research for informed development of online services. This paper reports on findings from sections of a doctoral study that investigates the questions: how do students make use of online learning support sites? and why do they use these sites? The research is based on surveys completed at two tertiary institutions in New Zealand. The research examined students’ use of online support at an on-campus institution and a dual-mode institution.

This paper provides a summary of the main findings from the two surveys in relation to the research questions. Major findings from the study include: students especially value the opportunity to access learning support that is free from the time and space restraints of traditional on-campus support service delivery; and the resources most sought by students are those that assist them with tasks directly related to their assessments, especially those that are concerned with researching and producing written assignments and preparing for tests and examinations.

Keywords: Online support, academic learning support, student support services

Using web 2.0 and new media to increase retention, and the fun of the first four weeks at uni (Showcase)

Katie Hughes
Victoria University Melbourne Australia

This showcase will discuss a set of initiatives put in place in the Arts, Education and Human Development faculty at Victoria University in Melbourne in an attempt to increase the sense of engagement and cohesion with the organisation and, in turn, to halt (or reduce) the rate at which our first year undergraduates withdraw from the university during their first year. The Higher Education (as opposed to the VE faculties) face a series of issues which result from the fact that the majority of our students are the first in their families to go to university. The 'first in family' moniker is synonymous with low socio economic status and in our case, this is almost always true.

But importantly (from our point of view) there is one result from our students' demographic profile which is hugely detrimental to our students and our institution and that is we have an undergraduate retention rate of around only 79% - around a fifth of our first years drop out. Some return, but many do not.

For the most part we understand why this is - they are not committed to going to university or their course and they have a number of forces which act to draw them away from study (these are commonly financial and/or familial concerns). Although as an institution we cannot exert leverage on the latter, it is possible to have some impact on the former, that is, to put in place a series of interventions designed to increase the students' feelings of connection and cohesion with the university.

Four effective retention initiativeshave been used to have impact on our students FYE:

1. An interactive multimedia game called SCOOT, which is played during Orientation. This is designed to facilitate students working in teams of four with people in their course At times during the game, they must find another team to co-operate with so will also have touched base with four more students. It involves following clues around campus so they visit the key areas of interest, is conducted via SMS and concludes with a visit to a `initiation' room which they pass through, thus becoming a VU student.

2. The provision of a free 1gig USB stick at enrolment which contains a student toolbox which guides them through the support services available, though the university website and social networking sites.

3. The establishment of a website for transitioning students to meet a range of their needs called First Class Talk (designed by senior multimedia students as part of a Learning in the Workplace and Community project) and

4. The appointment of a faculty transition and retention lecturer whose role involves ensuring that all incoming students had a `one stop shop' for any questions they have or resources they need, and who uses `intrusive contact' with vulnerable students to ensure that they feel welcomed and empowered to overcome early difficulties. This showcase will explore these initiatives, focusing on what did and did not work and the impact overall on the first year experience.

Keywords: Retention, Attrition, Undergraduates, First in family.

CCARDS - A framework for assessing Work Integrated Learning (Full Research Paper)

Joan Richardson
RMIT University Melbourne Australia
Friederika Kaider
RMIT University Melbourne Australia
Kathy Henschke
RMIT University Melbourne Australia
Beverley Jackling
Victoria University Melbourne Australia

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is a signature feature of study at RMIT University and takes many forms including industry projects, field work, internships and one year co-operative education programs. Student ‘work readiness’ is a strategic priority. This capability relies on successful WIL experiences that ideally integrate the advancement and application of academic knowledge and skills with personal and generic employability capabilities.  Assessing the acquisition and application of these skills in a work based learning situation is the challenge addressed in this paper. Traditional assessment practices are typically used to measure the understanding and application of academic knowledge disseminated within the confines of the higher education environment. As these tools are not always the most appropriate measure for assessing work-based learning, research was conducted to map emerging innovative tools and practices designed for use outside the classroom and educational institutions. Surveys were conducted to obtain information from all stakeholders (academics, students, industry representatives) to provide their perceptions of assessment task validity in terms of professional and generic skill development. A synthesis of the findings formed the basis of the Contextual, Capability driven, Action-based learning, Relationship and collaboration building, Developmental, Student Centred (CCARDS) Assessment Framework. Each phase of our investigation either reinforced previous findings or gave new insights into the complexities surrounding WIL assessment practices. This paper presents the CCARDS Framework as a simple checklist to be used to improve the quality of WIL assessment resources.

Keywords: Work Integrated Learning, Work Based Learning, Assessment in the workplace

Medical students experiences of a newly introduced work-integrated assessment strategy (Showcase)

Iris Lindemann
Flinders University Adelaide Australia
Anna Smedts
Flinders University-NT Clinical School, Darwin Australia

The MiniCEX (Mini Clinical Evaluation Exercise) is an assessment strategy for medical student skills and behaviours in a clinical setting. It was initially developed to replace lengthy case based assessments, and has been shown to be a valid and reliable form of assessment (Norcini et al 2003, Durning et al 2002). Students are assessed during a short student-patient interaction (in any clinical setting and for any patient problem) by the supervising clinician as part of their daily work practice. Variance introduced by multiple settings, patients, and supervisors is compensated by students undertaking multiple assessments. The MiniCEX assessment readily fits educational practice into a work routine (Norcini et al 2003) and therefore is considered feasible for busy practitioners who can do “assessment on the run.” The MiniCEX has potential as an assessment option for other health professional programs.

The MiniCEX has a number of educational strengths. It occurs in an authentic health care setting with real patients, real health issues, and working clinician supervisors in a real time setting, thus emulating settings that students will experience as professionals. Students are expected to take responsibility for their learning through shared decisions about the number and focus of MiniCEX encounters. The MiniCEX provides clear opportunities for active participation, feedback, and reflection, three elements which drive skill acquisition (Higgs & Edwards, 1999). The use of the MiniCEX assessment process satisfies the concept of ‘feed forward’ in encouraging the use of feedback in subsequent assessment tasks (Knight, 2007). In this way, the assessment serves ‘as learning’ (Bloxham & Boyd, 2007) and promotes sustainable self-assessment practices (Ecclestone, 2007). A high level of engagement with the MiniCEX is required from students to capitalise on the learning potential of the task.

At Flinders University, the MiniCEX was introduced in 2008 into Year 3 of the four-year medical program and contributes to 10% of the final grade. Students were asked to engage in multiple MiniCEX encounters across their work-based rotations, and to submit their best eight scores for final assessment. As one aspect of the evaluation process, the student experience of the MiniCEX was investigated at the end of 2008. Small group interviews with 8 students provided student perspectives and a follow up written survey to all year 3 students (59% response rate) aimed to investigate these perspectives further.

This paper will report on student feedback to the MiniCEX and its use as an assessment tool. Students were clear in their support of the MiniCEX assessment and the learning benefits it offered. They also expressed concerns, some of which related specifically to faculty support, experience and training. Key benefits and issues raised by students will be highlighted and discussed. This work has provided a deeper understanding of the student experience, has verified the need for increased engagement with clinical teaching staff around assessment practices and highlighted the need for further research into the perspectives of the clinical teacher. This study further supports the broader applicability of the MiniCEX assessment for other health professional programs.

Students' experience of assessment: What don't we know? (Concise Research Paper)

Gordon Joughin
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia

It is commonly held that students’ experience of assessment exercises a very strong influence on how they go about learning. Three sociologically-based studies conducted between the mid-60s and early 70s are frequently cited to support this belief. However, these studies have serious limitations arising from their particular contexts, small sample sizes, and research methods used. At the same time, studies within the student approaches to learning tradition have failed to support the possibility of improving approaches to learning simply by changing assessment. It seems that we may know less about assessment and its effect on student learning than is commonly thought. In light of this, an agenda for research into assessment and learning address, inter alia, a series of questions based on a clear understanding of past work and focused on contemporary students’ experience of assessment and its influence on their study.

Keywords: assessment, learning, research

Students' experiences of online multiple choice assessment (Showcase)

June Slee
Charles Darwin University Darwin Australia
Stephanie Smith
Charles Darwin University Darwin Australia

A large class of pre-service student teachers studying a unit in a graduate diploma in teaching and learning course was given the choice of completing either an online assignment or an online multiple choice examination as one of their three assessment activities. This opportunity was offered to students studying internally, externally and off-shore. They were also invited to complete a brief online survey describing the reasons for their choice. Following the examination they were sent another online survey asking them to describe the online examination experience and whether on reflection, they would undertake online multiple choice examinations voluntarily in the future. Using a case study approach, this paper analyses the data from both surveys to inform any future use of online multiple choice examinations. Specifically, it reviews participants’ expectations and experiences and how thoroughly they understood the nature of online examinations, testing protocols and multiple choice test strategies. The case study approach was chosen primarily because of its value to a research project in which researchers had limited control over important events including technological and electronic transfers of information. The actual examination delivery is described with concomitant recommendations for future risk management strategies relating to software, technological support, internet reliability and preventing cheating online.

Optimising Personal Audience Response Systems technology to enhance student learning in teacher education lectures (Full Research Paper)

Terry de Jong
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Jenny Lane
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Sue Sharp
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia
Pat Kershaw
Edith Cowan University Perth Australia

New technologies are integral to the lives of most “Generation Y” students. They tend to be visually oriented learners, prefer relaxed and socially conducive learning environments, and anticipate engaging, relevant, and authentic learning experiences. Work environments commonly assume prospective employees to be technologically competent. In particular, school teachers are expected to embed new technologies in their teaching. As teacher educators at Edith Cowan University mindful of these imperatives we recently trialed a Personal Audience Response System (PARS) in our education lectures to enhance student engagement and learning. This technology is widely used in higher education in North America and increasingly so in Australian universities. It permits students to give instant individual responses to questions posed. The data are automatically analysed and displayed to the students. Our evaluation of the role of PARS in our lectures indicated compellingly that it enhanced student engagement and learning. We identified four discernable learning processes that the technology appeared to enhance for our students, notably: expediting immediate formative feedback; promoting dialogue; facilitating reflection; and advancing higher order thinking. These findings raised an important question for us: “How best can the role of PARS technology be optimised in enhancing key learning processes for students?”. We respond to this question by proposing a set of fundamental, interdependent strategies categorized into three broad areas (Preparation; Pedagogy; and Professional Learning) that we believe should be embraced in optimising the role of PARS.

Keywords: Student engagement and learning; lectures; clickers  

Exploring the affordances of online chat messaging for teaching and learning: A case study in higher education (Concise Research Paper)

Mazlan Hasan
National Institute of Education Singapore Singapore
Marissa Wettasinghe
National Institute of Education Singapore Singapore
Pratima Majal
National Institute of Education Singapore Singapore

Compared to asynchronous tools, the advantage of synchronous learning environments is that it allows for enhanced interaction amongst learners and educator. While we are aware of the advantages of this technology, more research can be done in this field of technology to add to current body of knowledge of pedagogical strategies in an effort to create engaging and meaningful learning environments for our learners. The objective of this study is to begin to examine the affordances of online chat messaging during an online video conferencing session to supplement traditional face to face classroom sessions and to consider strategies of integrating it into teaching and learning. This study utilized the Wimba Classroom tool, at the National Institute of Education, Singapore with lecturers from three different academic groups.

Keywords: synchronous learning, online chat messaging

Peer Assessment of Oral Presentations Using Clickers: The Student Experience (Full Research Paper)

Graham Barwell
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia
Ruth Walker
University of Wollongong Wollongong Australia

This paper reports student reactions to the use of a personal response system (clickers) to provide peer assessment.  Trials were conducted in three upper level seminar classes in two different subjects in an Arts Faculty, where students were required to give individual in-class presentations as part of their assessable work.  Class members assessed the presenters using criteria based on those used by the tutor, but modified to make them appropriate for student use.  At the end of the session some students in the trials discussed their experiences in focus groups.  The comments of those focus group participants are analysed to reveal the key issues for the students.  Their experience was generally positive, and the comments indicate that using clickers for the purpose of peer assessment can make a significant contribution to student engagement.

Keywords: personal response systems (PRS), oral presentations, peer assessment

The development of critical thinkers: do our efforts coincide with students' beliefs? (Full Research Paper)

Jane Mummery
University of Ballarat Ballarat Australia
Elise Morton-Allen
University of Ballarat Ballarat Australia

Critical thinking is one of the key attributes that crops up regularly in discussions concerning the role of tertiary education. In particular, it manifests in discussions about graduate and employability attributes: along with disciplinary content and skills, stakeholders contend that graduates should emerge from their tertiary studies with enhanced abilities in critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, logical reasoning and so forth. Indeed, excellence in teaching is seen to be tied to students’ development of these skills just as much as to their building of discipline-specific knowledge. So, given that the development of these skills is thought to be an essential part of students’ university experiences, what are they, how might we go about fostering them, and how do our students perceive our efforts? What are their perceptions of not only critical thinking, its importance, development and transferability to other subjects in their education or aspects of their lives, but of our attempts to inculcate it in their education as a core value and set of skills?

Hence, rather than expounding on the importance of critical thinking skills or outlining the various strategies I have developed as a philosophy lecturer to best facilitate students’ acquisition of these skills, this paper tells another story. Specifically it presents highlights from the results of a recent research project (carried out in 2008 and involving philosophy students at the University of Ballarat) that analysed students’ own beliefs regarding their development as critical thinkers.

Keywords: critical thinking, student beliefs, self-reporting

Secret Students' Business (Showcase)

Erst Carmichael
University of Western Sydney Penrith Australia
Helen Farrell
East Ryde Australia

The problematic issue of developing student critical thinking has been acknowledged in universities since before the 1990s. A long standing debate about what critical thinking is and whether it consists of a generic or subject specific set of skills has somewhat dominated the literature, however the central theme of this research is the student perspective.

Within each discipline area there are key concepts which are vital to student learning. These are often referred to as threshold concepts which are described as transformative, integrative & irreversible (Meyer & Land, 2003). Critical thinking is a significant threshold concept which is essential for university study, professional skills development and lifelong learning.

This project has practical application as the researched information is helpful in providing materials to stimulate student critical thinking. Student identified processes have been used to develop online materials including interactive activities and multimodal information. Part of the multimodal approach is a book of annotated student assignments from various disciplines highlighting different critical practices in different disciplines.

The online materials are particularly useful for students who study off campus, are multilingual students or who will benefit from learning at their own pace. The project has encountered difficulties in that the researchers function as academics outside mainstream teaching of degree courses, thus it is not as easy to embed materials into subjects and maintain a focus on critical thinking within the curriculum or have ready access to students. This paper evaluates an interdisciplinary online critical thinking project and its impact on the student experience.

Keywords: critical thinking, online learning, interdisciplinary

An intervention program for practising critical thinking: on-shore and off-shore students blogging together (Full Research Paper)

Julia Hobson
Murdoch University Perth Australia

An intervention program was devised to assist off-shore students develop critical thinking skills through blogs. On-shore students were assisted in setting up group blogs and off-shore students engaged in discussion with the issues raised. In this manner one academic taught 40 students face to face who then reached out in critical discussion with 70 other students to create a community of critical thinkers.

Keywords: critical thinking, off-shore students, blogs.

Understanding the relationships between student identity and engagement with studies. (Full Research Paper)

Ian Solomonides
Macquarie University Sydney Australia
Anna Reid
Macquarie University Sydney Australia

Previous empirical research by the authors, focussing on the experience of students studying design, has enabled the development of an illustrative model that may explain variation in the ways that students engage with their studies. This paper extrapolates from the outcomes of that research towards a more generic application of the model. This paper proposes an extension to the model and invites colleagues to reflect on the nature of engagement in various disciplines.  At the core of this model ‘Sense of Being’ and ‘Sense of Transformation’ mediate the way in which students focus their attention on different experiences and elements of their studies. In this paper we explore the pedagogical implications of this model as it has the potential to help us understand the ways in which higher education inclines students towards different levels of engagement with their studies.

Keywords: Engagement, sense of being, identity

Capstone courses: The challenges of enhancing student engagement (Showcase)

Liz van Acker
Griffith University Brisbane Australia
Janis Bailey
Griffith University Brisbane Australia
Brona Farrelly
Griffith University Brisbane Australia
Ray Hibbins
Griffith University Brisbane Australia

This paper reports on an exploratory study of capstone courses taught in a university business school.  A capstone course is the culmination of a student’s studies, designed to integrate previously acquired knowledge and skills and to prepare students for employment. Capstone courses have diverse aims, preparing students for professional employment, cementing generic skills such as collaboration and teamwork, and developing professional identities amongst students. The capstone course project  involved auditing capstone courses and interviewing course convenors, using a number of themes drawn from the literature. While several themes emerged in this study, this paper addresses only one of the issues: the challenge of improving student engagement. While capstone courses potentially should deeply engage students, and many students were engaged, a number of course convenors reported the reverse. The findings demonstrate the importance of promoting active participation in classes by encouraging ‘communities of practice’ that deliver ‘student focused’ teaching.

Keywords: student engagement, capstone courses

Student motivation and engagement in learning (Full Research Paper)

Nick Zepke
Massey University Palmerston North New Zealand
Linda Leach
Massey University Palmerston North New Zealand
Philippa Butler
Massey University Palmerston North New Zealand

This paper uses self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) to investigate important motivators for student engagement. It reports the results of a survey of students enrolled for the first time in a post-compulsory education programme in one of nine institutions in Aotearoa/New Zealand: two universities, one wānanga, four institutes of technology/ polytechnics, a private training establishment and a community organization. The survey, in the form of a questionnaire, addressed the following research question: ‘How do institutional and non-institutional learning environments influence student engagement in diverse tertiary settings?’ This paper reports one aspect of the questionnaire. It examines differences and similarities between students in the nine case study institutions. It outlines some ways in which teachers and institutions might use the findings to improve student engagement.

Keywords: student engagement; student experience; self-determination theory

An authentic learning community: social work at Charles Darwin University (Full Research Paper)

Deborah West
Charles Darwin Universi Darwin Australia
David Heath
Charles Darwin University Darwin Australia

This paper explores the theory and practice of embedding authentic learning and assessment activities into the social work curriculum at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory. Authentic pedagogies are a natural fit for social work education more broadly, but also fit with the specific ‘learning community’ approach that the University applies to local social work education. The focus of this paper is on implementing a partnership based process for developing authentic learning tasks. Four case studies exploring diverse authentic learning tasks from the University’s social work curriculum are presented. These relate to field education, community work, building safe communities and research methods.

Keywords: authentic learning, learning communities, social work

A student initiated conference - fostering the teaching-research nexus in medical radiation science (Concise Research Paper)

Eileen Giles
University of South Australia Adelaide Australia

The teaching-research nexus is integral to the teaching and learning framework of many universities as a form of experiential learning to engage students.  It can be thought of as those activities that allow students to develop a research orientation towards their discipline or profession. Whether they plan a research career or professional practice, these research skills are integral to ongoing professional development.

Medical Radiation Science students regularly examine discipline specific content through case based learning. Students investigate topics related to patient cases and consult evidence in the literature to apply best practice recommendations to their case study presentations. This form of assessment fosters the link between evidence, discipline knowledge and professional practice.

A group of Radiation Therapy (RT) students motivated by the idea of a RT Student conference successfully converted this concept through a case study, into a student-initiated reality, with support and resources from the university and their professional body.

Keywords: teaching-research nexus, student conference

Cognitive apprenticeship in accounting education: Preparing students for the profession (Full Research Paper)

Nona Muldoon
CQUniversity Australia Rockhampton Australia
Jennifer Kofoed
CQUniversity Australia Rockhampton Australia

Sourced from a review of generally recognised problems in accounting education, the aim of the research discussed in this paper is to help ensure that students are well equipped to enter the profession. This research forms part of a curriculum renewal initiative within the business faculty of a multi-campus regional university, and involves the redesign of an undergraduate course in accounting. Guided by design-based research methods, the implementation of the redesigned course is documented, analysed and evaluated. Research findings suggest favourable results, as highlighted in the students’ perceptions of their learning experience, and as evidenced in the significant improvements to students’ academic performance. The experience reported in this paper may serve to advance understandings of learning innovation in accounting education, and promote the adoption of apprenticeship-style learning in the classroom.

Keywords: situated learning, seven principles, constructive alignment

The impact of student experiences with diversity on developing graduate attributes (Full Research Paper)

Nida Denson
University of Western Sydney Sydney Australia
Helen Dalton
University of New South Wales Sydney Australia
Shirley Zhang
University of New South Wales Sydney Australia

Past research has shown that culturally diverse universities tend to create richly varied educational experiences that help students learn and prepare them for participation in an increasingly diverse workforce and society, whereas more homogenous universities do not. However, student body composition is an insufficient condition in itself for maximizing educational benefits; rather, its value depends on whether or not universities encourage students to engage in diversity-related activities. Such purposeful programmatic efforts include exposing students to diversity through the curriculum and/or providing students with opportunities to interact with diverse peers. While the emerging body of international research suggests that students’ experiences with diversity tends to impact positively on student learning and their preparation for entering a diverse workforce, no similar research is available in relation to students in Australian universities. Many of these outcomes, such as problem-solving, ability to work with others, and appreciation of and respect for diversity, are attributes that most – if not all – Australian universities value and work hard to instil in their graduates. This study explored whether student experiences with diversity impacts on the development of selected graduate attributes and whether this relationship differs between international and local students at one Group of Eight (GO8) university. The findings demonstrate that student experiences with diversity positively impacts on problem-solving, ability to work with others, and appreciation of and respect for diversity. The magnitude of these relationships, however, differs between international and local students.

Keywords: student diversity, diversity engagement, graduate attributes

ePortfolio adoption on single course level - guiding questions and experiences (Showcase)

Eva Heinrich
Massey University PalmerstonNorth New Zealand
John Milne
Massey University Wellington New Zealand

In tertiary education the adoption of ePortfolios and the underlying reflective approaches can occur in a coordinated fashion on programme level or localised for individual courses. This paper explores these options to set the scene for the description of guiding questions assisting in the design of ePortfolio interventions in individual courses. The guiding questions are used by an educational developer to assist the lecturer in clarifying questions around pedagogy, administration and support. The work with a specific science course is provided as example, showing the type of ePortfolio intervention developed and giving feedback collected from students after they have performed the ePortfolio tasks. The usefulness of the guiding questions and the challenges of introducing ePortfolios on single course level are discussed.

Keywords: ePortfolios, implementation, design

Toeing the line: Mapping Graduate Attributes on to assessment in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Concise Research Paper)

Ana Maria
Ducasse La Trobe Melbourne Australia

The tide has turned on Graduate Attributes from faculty level imposition to program level definition. Changes in awareness in the scholarship of teaching mean that graduate attributes, alignment and assessment are required by faculties. The aim of alignment is a positive effect on curriculum renewal. The result of such changes ultimately benefits the student experience. This paper discusses a particular process, a method for gathering domain experts’ opinions on a predetermined list of graduate attributes in order for the attributes to be meaningful within diverse disciplinary contexts in a faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS).

Keywords: Graduate attributes, teacher centred leadership, alignment

Looking Forward: What Skills Will Undergraduates Need? (Full Research Paper)

Alexis Esposto
Swinburne University Melbourne VIC
Gerald Meagher
Monash University Melbourne VIC

An important function of the university sector is to equip graduates with a mix of employability skills that meet the needs of a rapidly changing economy and labour market.  Unfortunately, discussions related to employability skills and its connection to the skills requirement of the Australian economy have failed to materialise.  It is this deficiency that this paper addresses.  We combine two databases with the Monash Forecasting System.  The US Department of Labor introduced the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a comprehensive database linking worker (or employability skills) with occupations in both qualitative and quantitative terms.  In this paper, the O*NET is applied to the Monash Forecasting system to conduct ‘employability skills’ forecasts.  The results suggest that the structural details of the future state of the economy do indeed have important implications for the relative demands for various types of employability skills, and that general qualitative considerations provide only an incomplete basis for allocating training resources between those skills.  Finally, the application of such forecasts can further assist the university sector in three ways: to develop graduate attributes; to allocate education resources; and to prepare courses closely related to the employability skill needs of university students.

Keywords: Employability skills, graduate attributes, forecasts

Belonging, becoming & being:- The role of ‘proximal participation’ in  apprentices’  decisions to begin an indenture and its application to preparing young people for work (Showcase)

Selena Chan
Christchurch Polytechnic Insitute of Technology Christchurch New Zealand

In a PhD research project investigating the journey of apprentice bakers, the term proximal participation was coined to describe the entry process of young people with unclear career destinations into the trade of baking.
This paper begins the process of unravelling the significance of proximal participation in the decision making processes of young people who enter a trade via associated occupations.  In the research study, all but one of the apprentices who participated in the study began their indenture after working in jobs associated with baking. These jobs could also be generically applied to other hospitality related trades. However, proximal participation provided the research participants with the opportunity to preview a specific trade not as a ‘legitimate peripheral participants’ as defined by Lave & Wenger (1991) but as participants who were outside the actual trade community of practice.  An exploration of proximal participation may therefore contribute to a wide range of vocational and professional occupations whereby proximal participants migrate into ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ after initial interaction with the trade.
The paper concludes by discussing factors that may be useful in planning programmes which prepare young people for the world of work.


Learning design through role-play glasses (Poster)

Tim Lever
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Fran Everingham
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
Elizabeth Devonshire
University of Sydney Sydney Australia

This is free flowing conference activity, anchored by a poster and set in motion by a small group of role-based learning "spotters" who will cruise the conference for role-based learning related material, conduct on the spot reviews and report on their discoveries to the Role Play Glasses seminar session on the final afternoon of the conference. The "spotters" will be assisted in the task by a simple one page 'spotters guide' plus distinctive optical equipment (thick-rimmed role-play glasses) that make them easily recognisable for other conference participants. The design reviews will focus primarily on descriptive side of design evaluation: how we define and distinguish design ideas and their specific innovative qualities, rather than value judgements about what is good or bad in learning design generally. The concluding discussions will focus on issues regarding role-based learning and review of learning design encountered in the course of the activity. The session will be an opportunity for spotters to compare notes and for other conference participants to add their own reflections. Those interested in a more lengthy role-based learning experience and wanting to contribute as "spotters" themselves are welcome to collect their role-based learning optical accessories and "spotters guide" at the Role Play Glasses poster stand. This activity is an initiative of the Project EnRoLE University of Sydney cluster, inspired by the project's ALTC-funded Role-Play Evaluation workshop of November 2008.

Engaging students through critical pedagogy (Poster)

Linda Stanley
University of Southern Queensland Springfield Australia

This poster presentation evolved from the research project conducted as the Honours component of a Bachelor of Education degree undertaken at the University of Southern Queensland’s Springfield and Toowoomba campuses in Queensland, Australia.

The intent of the Honours project is to analyse the elements that create an effective critical pedagogue by critiquing the observations made of the pedagogical practices deployed by the mentor teachers encountered while completing the compulsory practicum components of my undergraduate degree. The purpose of this presentation is to generate discussion on what these elements might include, because the teaching practices of these mentors are elements on which I am required to model my own beginning teaching practice.

The impetus for the Honours project has been my developing conscientization, a process through which I have become aware of the effects on teaching practices of the undercurrents of power, forces (if often unspoken) within all schools. Conscientization has repositioned me from a consumer of pre-fabricated knowledge to a critical creator of new knowledge through the ethnographic interpretations of discourses that encourage and support certain aspects of teaching while subduing and discouraging other aspects. Australian society has evolved to portray inclusivity of the diverseness of population, but this portrayal is at odds with the discourses that create either a socially cohesive or disunited community (Babacan, as cited in Jupp, Nieuwenhuysen & Dawson, 2007).

Concerns for social justice engendered a passion to address the incidences of subjugation witnessed during the course of this project. Especially where insights were provided into how aspects of identity considered divergent from each sites' socially constructed norm were pathologised into "otherness". Incidents included racial vilification at one site, gender stratification at another, and the charitable view of teaching (McLaren, 1994), exemplified at a third school by the literacy unit in which students were being taught to fill out social security forms.

Semiotic clues provided unspoken guidelines for desired modes of behaviour within each site, directing students, staff and visitors towards operating comfortably within each site's particularised dynamics and enforceable social structures. However, these semiotics are complicit with the power relations in creating the social structure of each school, and are not always readily decoded by all. The case sites from which the data for this project are drawn include a private school in a privileged location and two state schools in socio-economically disadvantaged locations. In my case, my engagement was influenced by my perception and decoding of the semiotic indicators and my behaviours within each site were variously constrained, encouraged, inhibited, accepted, guarded, affirmed, compelled and legitimised by them as much as by the individuals I was observing and interacting with. Accordingly, my reactions to each site are reflections of my interest and passion for emancipatory education, and my concern about how to engage students with notions of critical thought.

Initially, the observations were purely for identifying effective critical pedagogies compared with ineffective pedagogies, with a view to developing improved personal pedagogical practices to facilitate greater engagement of students who inhabit marginalised positions. However, this project has evolved to acknowledge the powerful impacts the social structures of the site can have on the engagement of participants, and to take into account how this in turn affects the individuals rights to practice their chosen form of emancipatory critical pedagogy.


Supporting work-ready learning and teaching (Poster)

Andrew Litchfield
University of Technology Sydney Sydney Australia

The UTS Work-ready project aims to enhance the student experience and improve professional attributes and employability skills on graduation. Our purpose is to improve graduates’ readiness for the contemporary professional work-place. The project directly addresses the UTS strategic plan’s objective to increase graduates’ preparation for pursuing successful careers in a changing professional work-place.

The Project is a collaboration between:

Our identified professional work-ready attributes
(in alphabetical order):

The project aims to design, develop, implement and evaluate work-ready learning activities and new subjects into the existing professional and disciplinary curriculum. The objective is to improve our graduates’ preparation for the professional understandings and skills required in today’s workplace.

We collaborated with professional societies to identify eleven key professional work-ready attributes. Under each key attribute we have started to identify relevant sub-attributes, understandings and skills to form the structure of an online matrix of generic work-ready learning activities. Each profession and discipline has its own distinct matrix with contextualised work-ready activities ready to be integrated into current subjects and curricula. Through contextualising activities professional and academic relevance is optimised and motivation for learning enhanced.

In February 2009 there are 300+ work-ready learning activities accessible from the project’s online matrices. Most of the activities are designed to take 50 minutes within a tutorial or laboratory class. The online activities link to down-loadable teaching support resources for easier integration into the academic program. These resources are usually in the form of lecture slides, tutorial activities, case-studies, hand-outs and take-away readings. For copyright compliance the online teaching resources are available only to UTS staff.

Work-ready activities are gradually being integrated into subjects. Each Faculty in the project has developed its own implementation plan to cater for local-area differences. These plans include mapping attributes into curricula and identifying subjects for work-ready renewal. Each Faculty has a local-area leader to start integrating work-ready learning activities into subjects, facilitate awareness-raising seminars and quality-assure their profession or discipline’s contextualised work-ready learning activities.

The work-ready learning activities can be viewed at: <wiki.it.uts.edu.au/workready>.