Prof. Richard Baker, ANU: Improving the quality of the student experience

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Professor Richard Baker, Pro Vice Chancellor (Student Experience), ANU delivered this presentation at the inaugural Student Experience conference in 2013. A quality student experience is a critical component when examining the attributes a university offers a prospective student. It is equally as important sector wide, in producing highly educated, well rounded and qualified individuals that make up the future of the national workforce. As a result, it is crucial for universities to assess not only ways they can improve their institution’s student experience but ways they can differentiation themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Factors that holistically impact student experience include the interconnections between student services, methods of course delivery and the use of technology along with all that this entails. The Inaugural Student Experience Conference will endeavour to address these complex and challenging issues within the context of the evolving Higher Education sector. For more information about the event, please visit the conference website http://www.informa.com.au/studentexperienceconference

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Prof. Richard Baker, ANU: Improving the quality of the student experience

  1. 1. Enhancing the student experience: ANU as a case study Richard Baker Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience)
  2. 2. Outline of talk 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Need to remember what is so special about universities in general and then identify what is special about our individual universities and then do everything we can to enhance these respective strengths Need to examine the complex interconnections of the student experience and focus on improving positive feedback loops Value of high impact learning strategies of George Kuh Value of a focus on student leadership Value of making the most of the research-education nexus Conclusions
  3. 3. Aung San Suu Kyi and ANU students last Friday
  4. 4. What is the purpose of universities?
  5. 5. The purpose of universities “A University is a place … where inquiry is pushed forward, … discoveries verified and perfected, and … error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge” Newman, J.H. The idea of the University. Notre Dame University Press. 1852. 5
  6. 6. “Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes.”
  7. 7. Distinctive aspects of ANU • 34% of students living on campus • Equal number of graduate and undergraduate students – c10,000 of each – on one campus • Approx. half our commencing undergrad students enrolling in double degrees • Research-led education focus • Access to national cultural institutions in walking distance • Long history of Asia-Pacific research focus • National focus of our domestic student intake – highest % interstate of any Australian university?
  8. 8. Quality of our students • Wonderful mix of rural and urban Australians and of international students and Australian students • Demonstrating extraordinary leadership
  9. 9.  Bhiamie picture
  10. 10. Extent to which student activities are integrated into ANU research culture and practice Extent to which ANU community is intellectually stimulating Extent to which ANU supports student health and wellbeing Extent to which ANU students are empowered by their intellectual and social experiences Quality of ANU student experience Quality of campus and extracurricular experience
  11. 11. ANU effort develop innovative curricula Extent to which student activities are integrated into ANU research culture and practice Extent to which ANU community is intellectually stimulating ANU commitment to providing a rich student experience Extent to which ANU supports student health and wellbeing Extent to which ANU students are empowered by their intellectual and social experiences Ability of ANU graduates to lead in Australian and International communities Extent and quality of ANU research Quality of ANU student experience Ability of ANU graduates to build influential careers Strength of Alumni connection with the ANU Quality of campus and extracurricular experience Ability of ANU to attract high quality students and staff Extent of Alumni support for ANU Attractiveness of ANU as a centre of learning Reputation of ANU
  12. 12. Creating pathways between: Domestic students Residential students Students from different degrees International students Non-residential students Students from different degrees Current students Research Groups who are traditionally poorly represented at universities Former students Teaching ANU
  13. 13. It was teachers who thought outside the box who inspired me • Being asked in High School to run English class on my favourite author • Same teacher linked Bob Dylan to TS Eliott, Van Morrison to WB Yeats • Life long learning exemplar of best books of the year to read • Research led teaching at ANU – Mulvaney’s suitcase
  14. 14. Need to ignore this advice and think outside the box to make a difference to the student experience
  15. 15. George Kuh high impact activities 1. Thinking outside the box – other ways of doing things – don’t just teach the way we were taught 2. Making our teaching relevant by bringing in real world issues and connecting the known with the unknown 3. Internships 4. Field courses
  16. 16. High impact activities for academics • Cross discipline teaching • Cross cultural experiences • Skills in getting effective feedback from students – e.g. one minute papers, mid course evaluations, end of course evaluations, reflective student assessment pieces, letter to future students, keeping in touch with former students
  17. 17. High impact activities for institutions • • • • • • • Linking research and teaching effectively Effective student consultation processes Effective educational planning processes Promoting learning outside the classroom Supporting students to become leaders Fostering residential and campus communities Allowing students and staff to take risks
  18. 18. Leadership focus for ANU
  19. 19.  Chieu photo
  20. 20. International students give domestic students the most extraordinary learning opportunities
  21. 21. Learning Communities
  22. 22. Lena Karmel Lodge
  23. 23. Our students are global citizens 31
  24. 24. Cross Disciplinary Student Academy – google “ANU XSA”
  25. 25. Student representation processes in science at ANU • Details of 2 reps from each course plus the ANU Student Association Science reps listed on every LMS page • Head of Education in each discipline meets class reps from their areas in week 3-4 to identify and address issues while course is running • Director of Science Education end of each semester runs focus groups with all reps • And separately meets with exiting Honours students and has regular meetings with ANUSA Science Reps and ANUSA President and VP
  26. 26. Consultation has benefits Innovations that came directly from this student feedback include the establishment of 1.First year PAL 2.A whole of Science Student Society 3.Interdisciplinary whole of Science first year course – “Science under the Microscope” 4.More details google “ANU Science student representatives”
  27. 27. Peer Assisted Learning
  28. 28. Planning and share ideas
  29. 29. Conclusions in 2012 on research-led education • Start in first year • Model research mindedness • Develop critical thinking and awareness of how research is done and what researchers do • Focus at beginning of first year on what is not known to create inquiry based ethos from beginning of degree • Link into lab design and assessment • Create more research project courses
  30. 30. What is it that our students value about ANU?
  31. 31. Students clearly value: • Our small size and flexibility • maintaining an ANU identity and networks post ANU – our students see the necessity of life long learning and are keen to assist us in this task • opportunities for real application of learning - our students have a hunger to apply their knowledge in practical ways • multidisciplinary approaches and feeling welcomed across the arts-science bridge • Research opportunities
  32. 32. “What is the best thing about ANU” – survey of 86 completing Science Honours students in 2010 “Moving from learning about science to doing science”
  33. 33. Teaching-research links • “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled” (Plutarch, c46–127 AD). • So need to focus on process rather than content • Learning to think like a biologist rather than knowing all the “stuff” a professor of biology knows
  34. 34. Linking teaching and research a key to keeping alive students passion to learn “Teaching students to be enquiring or research based in their approach is not just a throwback to quaint notions of enlightenment or liberal education but central to the hard-nosed skills required of the future graduate workforce.” http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ourwork/research/teaching Linking Teaching and Research in Disciplines and Departments - April 2007 Alan Jenkins, Mick Healey and Roger Zetter
  35. 35. Research led/based/informed/enhanced teaching is an iterative process that integrates • Teaching informed by the research we do • Developing the research skills of our students • Researching the effectiveness of our teaching and the learning outcomes of our students • Need to see research as a continuum of finding out things new to individuals to things new to humankind
  36. 36. All students can engage in student research • But to do so we must see “student research as a continuum of knowledge production, from knowledge new to the learner to knowledge new to humankind, moving from the commonly known, to the commonly not know, to the totally unknown” • John Willison and Kerry O’Regan 2007 Commonly known, commonly not known, totally unknown: a framework for students becoming researchers. Higher Education Research and Development Vol 26 no4, December 2007, 393-409.
  37. 37. The Vice-Chancellor’s Courses “The Vice-Chancellor’s Courses epitomise ANU. They are inter-disciplinary in terms of content, teaching staff and the students enrolled in them. They involve ANU researchers from different disciplines sharing leading research ideas and discoveries with students.”
  38. 38. Four courses that students can do as part of nearly any ANU degree • • • • Unravelling Complexity Creating Knowledge Leadership and Influence Mobilising Research 53
  39. 39. Need interdisciplinary approaches to solve complex problems • VC courses aim to give students skills to see across disciplines, cultures, time and space • Really interesting things happening where disciplines meet • Eg camera pill for gastrointestinal viewing result of discussions between missile designer and gastroenterologist 54
  40. 40. Encourage students to be bold in taking interdisciplinary approaches to address real problems 55
  41. 41. Leadership & Influence • Leadership and Influence gives students opportunities to directly ask questions of people who have created major change in their own fields. • Guest lecturers have included the Chief Scientist, prominent Indigenous leaders, retired high court judges and the former chief of the armed forces • The final assessment piece is a group research project to develop an idea to improve the ANU student experience that each group has to pitch to the ViceChancellor
  42. 42. 57
  43. 43. Unravelling Complexity • Examines how engineering, science, maths, visual art, history, psychology, political science, and other disciplines address complexity. • Assessment pieces require students to draw lessons from different disciplines and apply them to contemporary global problems
  44. 44. Unravelling Complexity “Universities serve to make students think: to resolve problems by argument supported by evidence; not to be dismayed by complexity, but bold in unravelling it.” What are universities for? Geoffrey Boulton and Colin Lucas September 2008 http://www.leru.org/?cGFnZT00
  45. 45. Unravelling Complexity • Course has had “field trips” to the PM’s office and final assessment piece involves groups of students developing a solution to a key problem facing Australia and to deliver a brief to the “PM”
  46. 46. Student responses to the course • Very ready to step outside the disciplinary boxes • Very conscious that many will soon be working in the “real-world” • One student described the course as a “think tank” and “Everything else I am studying is making more sense in the light of the mode of thinking we are engaging in”. • Students putting together ideas in novel ways
  47. 47. Extract from Cathryn Stephen’s learning journal
  48. 48. Google “ANU Vice-Chancellor’s Courses” for lots of other examples of work from this course
  49. 49. What is it that our students value about ANU?
  50. 50. Students clearly value: • Our small size and flexibility • Maintaining an ANU identity and networks post ANU – our students see the necessity of life long learning and are keen to assist us in this task • Opportunities for real application of learning - our students have a hunger to apply their knowledge in practical ways • multidisciplinary approaches and feeling welcomed across the arts-science bridge • Research opportunities
  51. 51. ANU’s strengths • Small human scale and opportunities this presents • Interdisciplinary options – eg joint degrees • Our academics are research leaders and our students are leaders often before they get and even more after they leave here • Teaching in a research intensive environment • Residential colleges
  52. 52. Unravelling Complexity “Universities serve to make students think: to resolve problems by argument supported by evidence; not to be dismayed by complexity, but bold in unravelling it.” What are universities for? Geoffrey Boulton and Colin Lucas September 2008 http://www.leru.org/?cGFnZT00
  53. 53. Student responses to the course • Very ready to step outside the disciplinary boxes • Very conscious that many will soon be working in the “real-world” • One student described the course as a “think tank” and “Everything else I am studying is making more sense in the light of the mode of thinking we are engaging in”. • Students putting together ideas in novel ways
  54. 54. Conclusions – we need to:  define the “student experience” broadly  include both what happens in the class room and what happens outside it by focusing on the connections between the two  facilitate pathways for students  Acknowledge and maximize the transformative power of university education
  55. 55. Thank you for your attention • Google “Richard Baker ANU” for my personal webpage • Do email me if you ever have any questions Richard.Baker@anu.edu.au
  56. 56. My role to facilitate the building of bridges between: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Domestic and international students Residential and non residential students Students in different degrees Current and former students Research and education foci of ANU Groups traditionally poorly represented at universities and the ANU

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