Sydney Teaching Colloquium

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I recently participated in the fourth annual Sydney Teaching Colloquium. Organised by the Institute for Teaching and Learning, this year’s Colloquium focused on assessment: “It is now well understood that assessment in universities performs at least three functions: to develop student learning, to measure student achievement, and to inform university teachers’ judgments about the quality of teaching and curriculum. While these purposes often sit uneasily next to each other, it is clear that the contemporary focus on standards is putting assessment tasks, practices and processes under the spotlight. What are the assessment standards we need to pay attention to, where have they come from, and how helpful are they to both academics and students?”

In one presentation, we shared Ask Charlie, an app that helps academics to access and interpret their student evaluations and then offers a variety of video resources, case studies, and online materials to improve their instructional practice. Funded by a grant from the Office of Learning and Teaching, the project was headed by Martin Tomitsch and the research team includes me, Kate Thomson, and Graham Hendry. Andrea Lau and the team at Small Multiples designed and produced the mobile website and app.

Our talk was entitled “Professional development for academics: Introducing a personalised app to learn from student feedback” and the slides from our presentation are available online. Here’s the abstract: This Office for Learning and Teaching-funded project has developed a world-first app for supporting academics’ professional learning from their student evaluation of teaching (SET) results in the key area of assessment. A traditional approach to supporting academics involved individual face-to-face consultations, which is labour- and time-intensive, and does not necessarily provide all academics with sufficient support (Marsh & Roche, 1993). The app anticipates academics’ learning needs and personalises recommended assessment strategies and video resources by harnessing SET database information. The app also provides networking opportunities for peer interaction, a key strategy recommended in the literature for enhancing traditional SET consultation (Penny & Coe, 2004). The project draws on design-based research methods to examine academics’ experiences of using the app and changing their practice over time to enhance student learning, and findings to date will be presented. Participants will be able to trial the app; they will view a set of student evaluation results and recommended resources. This trial will assist participants to consider how they can use their own SET results to identify how to improve their teaching, particularly the assessment for their unit of study. Participants will be invited to provide feedback on further development of the app, for example, whether including additional data could enable course directors to use the app to contribute to a program level review of assessment.

I gave a second talk with colleagues from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, Kelly Freebody and Alison O’Grady entitled “From novice to expert: The case for legitimate peripheral participation.” The slides are also online, and here’s that abstract: ”

In this session, we draw the concept of legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991) from cognitive anthropology, which argues that newcomers to a community of practice need opportunities to engage in simple, low-risk tasks. To illustrate this concept in higher education, we offer practice examples from the secondary education curriculum within the Faculty of Education and Social Work. It is vital that pre-service teachers engage in learning that is relevant to the disciplinary, professional, and community contexts (Korthagen et al, 1996). For that reason, they need diverse opportunities to engage in immersive teaching experiences that are low-stakes and school-based. Rather than assessing pre-service teachers directly on their teaching skills, we instead offer substantial formative feedback and assess their critical reflection and content knowledge. In the core unit Craft Knowledge and Professional Practices 1, students engage in teaching and observations in schools; allowing them to develop their pedagogy and extend their understanding of how educational theory is enacted in educational practice.  Students are not assessed on these experiences, allowing them to develop their pedagogical practice without the risk of ‘failure’. In Drama Curriculum, students engage in group performances in class and team teach lessons in schools; this effectively scaffolds their learning and encourages them to critically reflect on their understanding of the links between theory and practice. In English Curriculum, students engage in a viva voce with their tutor; this reflexive practice offers them with substantial formative feedback on a major assessment task that involves the creation of a unit of work. Moreover, it is indicative of the practice that graduate teachers will undertake in the high school classroom. In closing, we will offer participants an opportunity to consider how the concept of legitimate peripheral participation applies to their discipline and can be fostered within their assessment tasks.”



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