In Support of Excellence

It's all about the students

National Citations for Passion … It doesn’t get much better than that!

Linda and Allan photoOn behalf of the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) I am pleased to advise that your nomination for a 2012 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning has been successful” that opening line of an email made my week .. actually it made my last 10 years.  I grabbed the mobile and called a good friend and colleague “Did you get it?” …. pause  “Yeees! did you?”  “Yep!” was the best I could reply in the excitement.  I was talking to Linda Westphalen from the School of Education here at the University of Adelaide.  We had just found out both of us had been successful in winning a National Citation or award, that is the top of the Learning and Teaching heap for the Higher Education space in Australia.  Only 152 of these prestigious citations are granted across 38 universities and Adelaide has been granted two and we did it.  Besides the kudos which is big, it comes with a A$10,000 prize for professional development … that is also nice.

Linda’s citation reads: “For vibrant and compassionate approaches to teaching and learning, which inspire students’ enthusiasm and passion for the profession of teaching.” While my citation reads: “For sustained commitment to inspiring, challenging and mentoring academics to teach with activity-centric pedagogies and the latest learning technologies, to enrich the student experience.”

This podcast episode is the first in a series of conversations together to discuss the teachable moments we both have had while reading each others citation applications.  We have links below to download our application documents and I encourage you to read them, as they are roadmaps on our journeys and full of personal “ah ahas”.  We never saw each others application before submission, yet the overlaps were significant. In the podcast Linda refers to them as bookends of the same thing – I agree.  The title hopefully got your attention, for to achieve best practice a teacher must be passionate about their content and their craft.  However as Linda shares in this podcast  a good teacher must also have a passionate care for their students as well.

We introduce the question “Can passion be taught and can we actually build PD resources and training to teach a teacher to be more passionate about their practice?”  The jury is still out on this, so please chime in with your comments below we would love to have your opinions.

Linda introduces in her application, an intriguing concept called “the chain of care” and talks more about it in the podcast.  She explains how Nel Noddings developed the thinking on this and there are some great resources linked below.  Could she be right? The starting point is easy to understand but the end point she claims is “never”. The chain of care continues after the students move on.  Boy that could have radical implications if implemented? Any thoughts? Another proposal is that university leadership should recognise caring in teachers.

We also begin to unpack this great extract from Linda’s application:  “Piaget and Vygotsky argue that people learn by experiencing knowledge at fundamentally emotional and cognitive levels:  they don’t learn because a lecturer prattles.  Enthusiasm, care and passion are essential for all teachers, whether in a university or in a school, since this makes the student experience (in the lecture theatre and in the cranium) enjoyable and satisfying.  Student experience is considered an imperative in universities these days.  Unless university teachers care, this imperative is nothing more that fluffy rhetoric.  More importantly, this pedagogy ensures that students learn actively and retain knowledge.”  The best student experience at a university must include caring teachers, skilled in best practice methods. get it out of balance and it is fluffy logic … hmm!

There is a great deal of information online about Piaget and Vygotsky, but we had to include this YouTube video as a clear explanation of their theories. Also this video is an example of the way creative use of media can in-fact enrich the teaching … “Piaget and Vygotsky in 90 seconds”  is characteristic of how video is being used by today’s students … mixing up information from different sources  and creating mashed up content some with excellent results.

Linda’s final challenge is on how technology might enrich the teaching experience and gives us the lead in question for the next episode. Please listen to the conversation and we value your input.

Let’s continue the conversation

Podcast Episode:

Online Resources of interest:

The final Youtube video is an example of the learning style of the future.  The author says “I couldn’t find anything on youtube to use in my presentation , so decided to try my hand at making my own”   Here is the mashup result …. it’s good.

Nel Noddings on Caring

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Graduate Attributes – Spin or Education?

Simon Walker is the head of the Education Development Unit (EDU) at the University of Greenwich and he had just showed us a room that looked to me like I have always imagined how the Sistine chapel would look in Rome, but we were in London and it was raining. Nothing new about that but Simon then took us through a tunnel no less, connecting the buildings of the Naval Museum and the university.  I will never forget the surreal experience of standing in a tunnel which in the late 1600’s housed doctors operating on wounded sailors. Then seeing the worn stones where these doctors sharpened the available technology (their scalpels) on the stone surfaces. Now here we were on the way to the EDU, the learning and teaching with technology hub of a 21st century university.

In this podcast episode Simon talks about the University of Greenwich Graduate Attributes long term initiative which started in 2009 to develop academic skills and framework and to push this into a pedagogical framework.  A great deal of research and a couple of years later the university believes their graduates are about good scholarship and independent thinking they are about confident and distinctive students always learning and always developing with creativity at it’s core.

They have identified three dimension of attributes :

  1. Scholarship and Autonomy
  2. Creativity and Enterprise
  3. Cross cultural and international awareness

Simon shares that right from the start they decided to do this much more holistically and not to get bogged down with the ticked box mentality so they now have broad university overarching attributes and they expect their programs to interpret those attributes. Teachers/curriculum developers are then expected to make course activities that reflect the program outcomes.  The tricky thing is to develop a pedagogy to reach those outcomes.

When asked Simon explained that the academics are buying in. He has found a lot do this anyway but it is not explicit. One big “ah aha” their research has found is it gives graduates a framework to answer the question from employers  “What did you learn at university?”   He then goes on to talk about the big question “Does a graduate attributes framework and mapping course outcomes increase employability?”

The EDU is developing and using a “Taught, Practiced, Assessed and Experienced” (TPAE) tool designed to map the Greenwich Graduate Attributes through a course, over a programme and display a threshold value when a program team feel a student has had successful opportunity to attain each graduate attribute. Some resources are below.

Finally we discussed how they involve the students in a separate framework and are having them contribute to the “Student Guide to the Greenwich Graduate”  Simon explained that it is not about what students know on graduation but what they can do …. it’s all about application.

I encourage you to listen to the audiboo episode “What does the Greenwich graduate look like?” browse the resources and if you have any further questions, ideas or collaborative possibilities  please contact Simon by email.

Further online resources:

  • Outline of the University wide attributes webpage
  • Graduate attribute statements with outcomes – PDF Document
  • TPAE Tool discussion document
  • TPAE Mapping Grid
  • Feedback from a Student Forum on the Students’ Greenwich Graduate Guide to help raise more awareness of the Greenwich Graduate Attributes.
  • Graduate Attributes – Spin or Education” a vimeo video (33 mins)  of a lecture given  at Greenwich by Dr Anna Jones who is a Reader in Education in the Centre for Research in  Lifelong Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University. Before that she worked at King’s College London and at the University of Melbourne.

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Education … now for something completely different

In the middle of the trip around the mainland USA visiting Universities about their graduate attributes, student experience and use of technology in learning and teaching I was able to be involved in something completely different.  I headed for Miami for three days break and over the weekend to meet with 25 educators from around the world invited to participate in a think tank about a completely new model of higher education.  It is about training leaders in the liberal arts and professions and is called CaCHE – an acronym which stands for Church-based and Community-centred Higher Education.

The CaCHE initiative strives to equip local churches and universities to mobilise local communities with the capacity to use blended learning and teaching that combine learner-centred online education with face-to-face mentoring using a new curriculum developed by experienced teachers, proficient in applying a biblical worldview to individual development and nation-building.  CaCHE will support national churches and universities to tailor global curriculum for local use, including strategies appropriate for each environment.

The two countries where this is being piloted are in Indonesia to train Christian teachers for working in Christian Schools working mainly with the poor and now in Guatemala.  As we struggled with the possibilities and challenges, a friend sent a link to the this TED Talk Video.

It is  Bunker Roy sharing about “Learning from a barefoot movement”.  In Rajasthan, India, an extraordinary school teaches rural women and men — many of them illiterate — to become solar engineers, artisans, dentists and doctors in their own villages. It’s called the Barefoot College, and its founder, Bunker Roy, explains how it works.

This completely different approach to education is inspiring and encourages us to keep believing there is always a better way.

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Food for the Soul … believe it!

Our visit to Azusa Pacific University started with some very productive and intense meetings where we discussed all things elearning, graduate attributes and student experience.  We were engaged (and always running overtime I might add) right up to and during lunch.  Dr Andrea McAleenan the Special Advisor to the President of APU and our host, was extremely gracious and accommodating in trying to get all the pieces to fit.  Andrea had done a wonderful job in organising leaders from different parts of the university to see us.

However just after lunch things didn’t go as planned and spontaneously Andrea informs us they had a surprise. She guided us across campus teasing us by not telling where we were going nor what was about to happen.  We entered a room which was quickly filling with 100 male students and we realised this was a choir and this was going to be a rehearsal. Well it started out that way with Harold Clousing the choir director guiding this “army of males” through some of the best men’s choir music I have ever heard.  Who said you had to be Welsh.

Part way through the “rehearsal” they suddenly regrouped in a circle around us and began to worship and sing to us. Everyone there could sense that this was something special and being delivered from a completely different level.  This quickly became food for the soul, everyone was visibly moved. Take time to to watch but more importantly listen to “100 of the best men on campus’ to quote Harold.  I spend a lot of time thinking about graduate attributes and what graduates will “look like’  … these students are fine examples of what is possible.

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The student experience takes work – lots of it!

Terry Hanson APUHowever our time with Terry Franson Senior Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California  sure did prove this work is worth it. I was particularly happy we could talk over lunch because of the emphasis on the student experience we have at the University of Adelaide right now – we are waiting the arrival of our new Pro Vice Chancellor Student Experience a new strategic role for us to help the university address this critical area.  APU has been successfully engaging with students, caring for them pastorally and supporting their learning goals for the last 113 years. In this episode Terry shares some of the wisdom he and his team have learnt.

Terry’s opening statement about “holding the umbrella of the student’s out of classroom experience” and the list of things and mention of 26 different departments that followed, is a reminder of the need for holistic thinking when developing students to be the sort of graduates all stakeholders hope them to be.  When asked to describe today’s students and “where are they at?” Terry’s response has significant implications for any university. He clearly flags that the students have a huge interest in justice, their focus is about injustice to any person and writing the wrongs of society.  Listen carefully to the list of injustices about which the students care passionately and the global scope of their concern.  As I reflect on this I will revisit the pedagogical framework of “Challenge Based Learning” as it holds a lot of promise for the needs of today’s students.

We talk about the qualities of the “new bred of students” and how the student will champion the rights of their fellow person and also goes on to describe that which the faith based school can bring to the table.  Terry describes APU’s Natural Affinity Group and how with approximately 11,000 students how they make “little groups out of big groups” … they work hard at it. First year students are paired in a one to ten ratio with second year students who have leadership tendencies.  It is exciting to hear how these groups work. APU is very intentional about developing community to learn to live together and it is clear everybody matters who comes to APU no matter their background.  This year they are developing a cohort of about 600 student leaders and they meet about 6 times a year for personal development …. it is clearly all about the students and APU is very very intentional about developing community.

I asked Terry what he thinks APU does best with the student experience and he goes on to describe its integration with the academic experience and how the academics or teachers are not just about the classroom but are about the quality of life of the student and them reaching their life goals. APU also works hard to see the academics have the support they need for this holistic approach to the life of the student at university and try to make the integration of student life with their academic endeavour as seamless as possible.

This podcast episode summarises the goals of today’s students is to make a difference and it is the opening of an ongoing conversation and Terry has offered to part of it. APU is setting up an Online University and there are a lot of questions how do we build the quality of student life in a virtual world. It is not impossible, it is just different.  I will be asking him to participate in a webinar or two when I return to Australia so stay tuned.

Helpful Resources:
The Office of Student Life at APU

Challenge Based Learning Components

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