Paper for HEA conference E McDonald ALTC v1.1


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Paper for HEA conference E McDonald ALTC v1.1

  1. 1. Australian universities’ response to the priorities of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Paper prepared for Higher Education Academy Conference Theme: Designing higher education of the future Dr Elizabeth McDonald (Australian Learning and Teaching Council) 30 June – 2 July 2009.ContextAmong the various priorities funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council(ALTC) are three that relate to the framework for ‘designing higher education of thefuture’: curriculum renewal/development; learning and teaching spaces, and;addressing student diversity. The various ALTC grant programs began in 2006, sothe work discussed in this paper covers the three year period 2006-20081. Many ofthe projects have yet to report. All projects are designed to be substantive in natureand are expected to embed some aspect of change. Only a small group of projectswhich were part of the strategy to address discipline needs were designed asinvestigations. The majority of projects are designed with the intention of creatingsome form of change or providing the resources to do so. While projects that are notcompleted are referred to in this paper, only those that were completed by early Mayare referenced.Curriculum renewal/developmentThe definition of ‘curriculum’ can be very broad. In some definitions, curriculumencompasses all that influences the student learning experience. In this paper, theterm ‘curriculum’ encompasses the actual content taught, how it is taught and theassessment of the content of courses.The ALTC has commissioned a large body of work related to curriculum renewal anddevelopment. Some of this arose from the Discipline Based Initiatives (DBI)discussed above and some arose from competitive funding rounds under the GrantsScheme priorities particularly those related to benchmarking academic standards andassessment and more recently under a priority curriculum renewal/development.Between 2006 and 2007, 31 discipline scoping studies were commissioned as part ofthe DBI. These studies provide an analysis of the environment in which the disciplineis operating and by doing so also give a context for new work and identify areas ofneed in relation to the discipline. Discipline groupings covered by these studies rangein breadth from Science, Law and ICT2 to more focused investigations such as Mathsin Engineering3 and Occupational Therapy4. Some studies cover a discipline within abroad discipline field, for example Physics. Fourteen of DBI projects had reported by4 May, the remainder should have reported by the end of 2009.In an unpublished article, Neridah Baker (May 2009) suggests that the variation inapproach taken by the different teams has been driven by two characteristics, thematurity of the discipline and the type of discipline. She suggests that disciplines canbe categorised as those with a well established professional body that results in a1 During the planning year, 2005 six projects were funded and are included in the discussion in thispaper. All six projects have been finalised.2 Koppi et al (2009)3 Broadbridge & Henderson (2008)4 Rodger et al (2009) 1
  2. 2. strong professional identity and those that support graduates to go to many andvaried careers and jobs. The reports arising from the former group ‘highlight theimportance of curriculum renewal and the development of forms of assessment thatmirror professional practice’. The reports from the latter group tend to ‘emphasise theimportance of developing appropriate graduate attributes’. The latter group ofdisciplines has sought to find common territory for example the arts scoping studyhas looked at the characteristics of its base qualification: the Bachelor of Arts5; andthe Science study: laboratory teaching.In 2008, with the finalisation of the Discipline-Based Initiative, the ALTC Boardapproved a new Grants Scheme priority ‘Curriculum Renewal/Development’ to assistin addressing the issues arising from the DBI studies. The criterion in the fundingguidelines specifies that the expected outcomes from projects addressing curriculumrenewal/development is to “develop and model contemporary curricula that meetstudent and employer needs and provide the basis for ongoing personal andprofessional development for students’ and that ‘curriculum development/renewalproposals should integrate content focussed discipline developments with learningand teaching innovations’ 6. In designing the new funding priority there was anassumption that the work arising from most DBI projects would be around aspects ofcurriculum renewal/ development.The curriculum funding priority has attracted the majority of applications in the PriorityProjects Program in the last two years – 77 out of 125 in 2008; 88 out of 144applications in 2009. At the request of the ALTC, Owen Hicks undertook an analysisof the 2008 applications. The findings were enlightening. There was wide disciplinecoverage in the applications; some 25% of which breached conventional disciplineboundaries. None of the applications made explicit what they understood by ‘curriculum renewal’ and few provided much contextual background in which to locate the project….. In relation to many of the applications, the question could have been asked: “Is this curriculum renewal?” (Hicks, 2009a)According to Hicks, for those applications that could be considered to be developingcontemporary curricula there was little argument as to how the proposed work wouldmeet the needs of industry or students. Overall the applications did not demonstratean integrated coherent attempt at curriculum development or renewal as intendedunder the funding criteria. Although many of the proposals touched on curriculum asdefined in the broadest context the majority did not comply with the criterion specifiedin the guidelines.It seems clear from the experience in this program, that even when strongbackground work has been undertaken such as in the case of the DBI scopingstudies, projects seeking to achieve widespread change through curriculum renewalare not likely to arise without very specific funding rules or briefs. It is interesting tonote that many of the teams did not elect to follow on from DBI studies with work inwide scale curriculum renewal. Funding to follow-up work identified through DBIscoping studies is equally likely to be sought under other program priorities as underthe curriculum priority.5 Gannaway & Trent (2008)6 ALTC (2008) Priority Projects Programs – Guidelines and supporting information 2009 v 1.0 p. 5 2
  3. 3. Curriculum DevelopmentDespite the lack of applications that address the curriculum renewal priority asdescribed in the funding guidelines, the ALTC has funded some curriculumdevelopment and renewal projects. A small number of projects involve newdevelopment or renewing specific curriculum in courses. The projects cover smalldisciplines such as entomology, science education for early childhood, exercisescience which results from a DBI project7 or a focused area of a large discipline suchas post graduate ICT and clinical psychology.Curriculum relatedRather than meeting the type of project envisaged under the funding priority forcurriculum renewal/development, many projects address a curriculum issue which forthe purpose of this paper is captured as ‘curriculum related’. Many of these projectscould impact on curriculum development. This category covers a wide group ofprojects from those that deal with specific curriculum issues within a discipline, tothose that are more generic in approach. The latter group are often related to thedesign of teaching and learning or focus on a common issue that has importance formany if not all disciplines.Specific curriculum issues within a discipline often arise from dealing withassessment as a key driver of learning. Among the topics covered in this group areundergraduate competencies in nursing, work on threshold concepts in biology andacademic standards for Planning Practice Education8. Other projects arise out ofspecific issues identified within a discipline such as gender inclusive curriculum inengineering, professionally relevant learning in business education and qualityindicators for pharmacy experiential placements9.Addressing issues related to Indigneous knowledges and understandings are twocurrent fellowship programs, that of Associate Professor Michael Christie and DrSandy O’Sullivan. A recently completed project10 on the incorporation of Indigenouscontent into psychology undergraduate courses has been using the lessons learnt inpsychology to provide broader advice on how to incorporate Indigenous content incurriculum.In the latter category of curriculum related work are those projects that addresslearning design, work integrated learning and graduate attributes. While manyprojects have aspects related to professional experience or work experience, a moregeneral approach is found in a study of work integrated learning11 and the work ofProfessor Stephen Billett (2009). Considerable work is being undertaken in learningdesign influenced by the work of two of the Fellows, Professor Ron Oliver (2009a, b)and Professor Peter Goodyear. A number of projects also address this broad topic.The topic of graduate attributes is covered by two projects: one looking at attitudes toembedding graduate attributes and the other looking at the integration andassessment of graduate attributes in curriculum.7 Coombes et al (2008)8 Jones et al (2009)9 Owen et al (2008)10 Ranzijn et al (2008)11 Patrick et al (2009) 3
  4. 4. Learning and Teaching SpacesFive projects have been funded under a discrete funding priority, learning andteaching spaces. Only one12 of these is complete. It was funded under the learningand teaching spaces priority in 2006. Despite being a single institution project, it hashad a major influence in Australian universities through the sponsorship of twonational colloquia to share both innovative approaches and to test the frameworkdeveloped from the project, the pedagogy-space-technology framework. Thoughthere were other project proposals in 2006, most targeted smaller issues and tooklittle account of the work that had already been done, consequently these were notfunded.In 2007, a small amount of the funding was used to bring out an internationalspeaker, Les Watson as part of a program of workshops in five capital cities. Theinternational presentation was supported by examples of good practice fromAustralian architects, learning and teaching experts, facilities managers, technologymanagers and others including one vice-chancellor. An intensive week longworkshop13 sponsored by the University of Melbourne and RMIT offered a smallgroup of interested participants the opportunity to work on a project that involvedthem in redesigning an actual teaching space. The workshop modelled bringingdifferent types of experts into the design process.The applications submitted in 2008 under this priority were stronger than the previousyear and reflected the lessons explored in the national workshops and report.Student Learning ExperienceMuch of the work undertaken that covers this theme addresses learning resourcesfor students14 15 16 17 18 meeting the needs of particular groups of students, or broaderpolicy issues and practices that impact on or measure student’s experience.The types of issues addressed have varied so there is little coherent thematic workapart from the student diversity priority where topics covered include: • international students including issues of cultural literacy and academic honesty for Chinese students, enhancing domestic and international student engagement and addressing on-going language development for international students • refugee students • transition and retention for different groups • work on accessible teaching and support for students with a disability in the project called Creating Accessible Teaching and Support (CATS) (see Radcliffe et al (2008)13 Jamieson (2007)14 Adams (2008)15 Hatsidimitris & Wolfe (2007)16 Solomon et al (2008)17 Lowe et al (2008)18 Herrington et al (2009)19 Payne et al (2006 a,b) 4
  5. 5. Policy issues around student engagementA topic of interest both nationally and internationally is student portfolios. An excellentproject which scoped current use of portfolios in Australia with particular reference toe-portfolios gathered a large number of interested national participants to build anetwork and share practice20. This project is being followed by a project designed tobuild a strong national community of practice linked to international experts. Unlikethe UK experience, in Australia portfolios are not linked to personal developmentplanning as this has not been part of the policy agenda in Australia.Other policy areas are examined in projects designed to build a better understandingof the student experience in areas like career development learning, studentgrievance and discipline matters and students’ use of technology and the potential forthe use of social networking technologies with students21.Issues around student resilience, retention and attrition are addressed in twoprojects: one looking at transitions for particular groups of students during theiruniversity study22 and the other looking at these types of issues in the discipline ofBusiness.Measuring student experience and engagementThe ability to measure student satisfaction and engagement has been of interest notonly for the discrete data about these matters, but also as indicators of the quality oflearning and teaching in higher education. There has been a long history of studentevaluations and the use of the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) in Australianuniversities. One piece of work is looking at the relationship between studentresponses on university teaching quality instruments and the data collected onstudent experience in the CEQ. Another study has measured among other things,student engagement23 and shown some interesting links between studentengagement (as measured by use of the Learning Management System) and studentresults.Priorities of the disciplinesLate in 2008 the ALTC invited about 180 discipline leaders from across Australia to asymposium to explore the priorities for the disciplines from the perspective of learningand teaching. The national Australian symposium sought to identify a set of cross-disciplinary priorities to be addressed through the new ALTC initiative.20 Hallam et al (2008)21 Fitzgerald et al (2008)22 Kinnear et al (2008)23 Dawson & McWilliam (2008) 5
  6. 6. Professor Owen Hicks (2009b) provided a report on the symposium which distilledthe key messages. Hicks suggests that the issues and priorities identified throughparticipants at the Leading Change Symposium can be captured under threethemes24: • Curriculum and Engagement • Staff engagement in learning and teaching • Student learning experienceCurriculum will be the first priority addressed with a national forum in early 2010.ConclusionThere is substantial work funded by the ALTC in a number of areas that focus onhigher education for the future. Early lessons from the projects suggests that work ofa substantive nature in curriculum will demand a broad representation fromstakeholders and will need to bring together different expertise and interests.Bringing industry and professional bodies together with those interested in theadvancement of learning and teaching requires a new skill from project teams andoften a new way of thinking and working, particularly if this work is for the value of thesector at large. The Australian experience suggests curriculum work of nationalinterest will require a planned and facilitated process.The work supporting student learning experience is less demanding in terms of widestakeholder input, though it often brings with it new ways of operating with knowledgeand technology. Sharing the resources, capacity building and understandings fromthis work is a challenge yet to be fully explored in the Australian context.24 These categories have been slightly adapted from those in Professor Hick’s report which is availableat 6
  7. 7. References(Most reports referred to here are found on the ALTC website www. P, Alcock J, Bulmer M, Grotowski J, Hong MC, Jennings M, Miller V, O’BrienM, & Scharaschkin V (2008), A new enabling technology for learning and teachingquantitative skills Mathematics Samples, ALTC website.Baker, N, (2009) Unpublished paper prepared for briefing of discipline scholars.Broadbridge P & Henderson S (2008), Mathematics Education for 21st centuryengineering students - Final Report, ALTC website.Billett S (2009), Developing agentic professionals through practice-basedpedagogies Final Report, ALTC website.Coombes J, Groeller H, Spinks W, Leicht A, LeRossignol P, McDonald M, Otago L,Pascoe D & Raymond J (2008), Meeting the challenges of clinical exercise scienceand practice: a collaborative university-industry approach - Final Report, ALTCwebsite.Dawson S & McWilliam E (2008), Investigating the application of IT generated dataas an indicator of learning and teaching performance - Final Report ALTC website.Fitzgerald R, Steele J, Barrass S, Bruns A, Campbell J, Fitzgerald R, Hinton S,McGuiness N, Miles A, Ryan Y & Whitelaw M (2008), Digital learning communities:investigating the application of social software to support networked learning –Website ALTC Accessed 11 May 2009.Gannaway D & Trent F (2008), Nature and roles of arts degrees in contemporarysociety: A national scoping project of Arts programs across Australia - Final ReportALTC website.Hallam G, Harper W, McCowan C, Hauvile K, McAllister L, Creagh T, van der Lee J,Lambert S & Brooks C (2008), Australian ePortfolio project, ePortfolio use byuniversity students in Australia: Informing excellence in policy and practice - FinalReport, ALTC website.Hatsidimitris G & Wolfe J (2007), Physclips: multi-level, multi-media resources forteaching first year university physics - Website 12 May 2009.Herrington J, Herrington T, Ferry B, Olney I, Mantei J, Lefoe G, Wright R, Bricknell G,Brown I, Chinnappan M, Forrest G, Hoban G, Kervin L & Verenikina I (2009), Newtechnologies, new pedagogies: using mobile technologies to develop new ways ofteaching and learning - Website Accessed 12 May2009.Hicks O (2009a), Report on the proposals and expressions of interest from the firstcall for Priority Projects Grants under the ‘Curriculum Renewal’ priority – unpublishedcommissioned report ALTC.Hicks O (2009b) Report on the Leading Change Symposium, ALTC website. 7
  8. 8. Jamieson P (2007), The Carrick Institute Forum on the Design of LearningEnvironments: Evaluation Report website.Jones M, Jackson J, Coicetto E, Budge J & Coote M (2009), Generating AcademicStandards for Planning Practice Education – Final Report, ALTC websiteKinnear A, Boyce M, Sparrow H, Middleton S, & Cullity M (2008), Diversity: Alongitudinal study of how student diversity relates to resilience and successfulprogression in a new generation university – Final Report, ALTC websiteKoppi T, Naghdy F, Chicharo J, Sheard J, Edwards S, & Wilson D (2009), Managingeducational change in the ICT discipline at the tertiary education level - Final ReportALTC websiteLowe D, Murray S, Li D, Lindsay E (2008), Remotely accessible laboratories -Enhancing learning outcomes - Final Report, ALTC websiteOliver R (2009a), Promoting the Sharing and Reuse of Technology-SupportedLearning Designs. ALTC Associate Fellowship Report, ALTC websiteOliver R, (2009b), Promoting the Sharing and Reuse of Technology-SupportedLearning Designs. Website Accessed 12 May 2009.Owen S, Stupans I, Davey A, March G, Hotham L, McAteer S, Chaar B, McLachlanA, Brien J & Ryan G (2008a), Experiential Placements in Pharmacy; Qualityindicators for best practice approaches to experiential placements in pharmacyprograms – Final Report and Appendices ALTC website.Payne T, Kirkpatrick D, Goodacre C, & McLean P (2006), Creating AccessibleTeaching and Support for Students with Disabilities Final Report, ALTC websitePatrick C, Peach D, Pocknee C, Webb F, Fletcher M, & Pretto G (2009), The WIL(Work Integrated Learning) Report: A national scoping study - Final Report ALTCwebsite.Radcliffe D, Wilson H, Powell D & Tibbetts B (2008), Designing next generationplaces of learning: collaboration at the Pedagogy-Space-Technology nexus FinalReport, ALTC website.Ranzijn R, Nolan W, McConnachie K, Hodgson L, Spurrier W, & Passmore G (2008),Disseminating strategies for incorporating Australian Indigenous content intopsychology undergraduate programs throughout Australia – Final Report ALTCwebsite.Rodger S, Clark M, O’Brien M, Martinez K & Banks R (2009), Mapping the future ofoccupational therapy education in the 21st century: review and analysis of existingAustralian competency standards for entry-level Occupational Therapists and theirimpact on Occupational Therapy curricula across Australia - Final Report, ALTCwebsite.Solomon A, Edwards J, Lister R, Kay J & Shepherd J (2008), LinuxGym: Asustainable and easy-to-use automated developmental assessment tool for computerscripting skills Accessed 12 May 2009. 8