Teaching@Sydney

Welcome to Teaching@Sydney. Stay informed about teaching and learning news and events with this monthly bulletin produced by the Institute for Teaching and Learning.

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Congratulations to Dr David Easdown for receiving an ACE Quality Teaching Award for NSW

Dr David Easdown, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics, will receive one of the 2010 NSW Quality Teaching Awards, for the tertiary sector, at a Presentation Ceremony at Government House, Sydney, on 5 November.

These awards, under the auspices of the Australian College of Educators (ACE), and administered through the NSW Department of Education and Training, are widely regarded as being among the most prestigious awards for teaching in Australia. The assessment process is comprehensive and rigorous, involving refereeing, a learning portfolio and in-class observation and interviews by ACE experts with Dr Easdown's professional colleagues and students.

Dr Easdown was judged on his professional knowledge, understanding, skills and values using criteria developed by the ACE. Dr Easdown is a mathematician who has taught at the University of Sydney since 1990, and before that at several other Australian Universities. He has written a successful textbook on undergraduate mathematics, which incorporates and contributes towards contemporary theories and models of learning, and has many years experience as a postgraduate supervisor and mentor.[close]

Dr David Easdown, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics, will receive one of the 2010 NSW Quality Teaching Awards, for the tertiary sect...[more]

Teaching Insight: Writing good feedback, have I got the time?

Would you like to improve the feedback you provide to students?  Research in higher education shows that feedback is rated by students as one of the most important factors in their learning, yet is often perceived as unsatisfactory. There are many ways that experienced teachers use to make their feedback easier to write and more effective for students’ learning.

When your time is at a premium, focus on making the feedback you give more usable.

To make your feedback more usable, write two or three sentences explaining how a student could improve some aspect of their knowledge/skill that they can apply in their future assessments or work. A simple example might be to explain how they could better structure an opening paragraph for their essays, and suggest a wording for part of their first sentence. This also helps to personalise their feedback, which is important to help students connect with what you say. Avoid being vague and overly critical.

Another way to make your feedback more usable is to give credit where it is due up front, and tell students (one sentence can be sufficient) why something that they have done is good or excellent. Students often are not sure exactly why something they do is good (because they are acting on intuition or guessing about your expected standards). Telling them makes the standards you and colleagues expect in their future work more transparent. Acknowledging their good work also helps students maintain their motivation and effort. Try to finish with a note of encouragement.

Writing short (one paragraph) effective feedback is mainly about targeting your advice for students’ future use. If you combine phrases from your assessment criteria and standards (or grade descriptors) with personalised comments about an area of improvement for each student, then your feedback should be both easier to write and more beneficial to students.[close]

Would you like to improve the feedback you provide to students?  Research in higher education shows that feedback is rated by students as one of the most important factors i...[more]

New teaching development grants: STEPs

From 2011 The University’s Teaching Improvement Projects (TIPS) will be replaced with a new scheme called the Strategic Teaching Enhancement Projects (STEPs). University staff will be able to access a grant scheme which will support Divisions in developing better engaged inquiry experiences for students in coursework curricula using either Research-Enriched Learning and Teaching (RELT) in the sense that learning through enquiry is at the heart of the student experience, or Community Engaged Learning and Teaching (CELT) which promotes engagement with communities in the formal and co-curricular experience of student learning (business, academic, societies, student etc).

Project are asked to specifically address any of four core focus areas, which allow for a broad variety of projects, namely:

  1. Renewal of curricula to provide RELT /CELT experiences that foster greater student engagement
  2. Implementation of RELT /CELT teaching strategies that foster greater student engagement
  3. Implementation of RELT /CELT assessment activities that foster greater student engagement
  4. Development of faculty / school / department activities that offer students greater engagement with the research culture of the faculty / school / department or greater engagement with the professional / broader community.

Staff in all university divisions are encouraged to identify suitable projects and develop applications in this new grant scheme. If you are interested in support to develop an application your first step is to contact your Associate Dean (L&T) to discuss developing an “Expression of Interest”.

The ITL will hold University-wide information sessions in March when the call for applications is made. Following the call, the ITL will work with Divisions to host Grant Development workshops to support the review of Expressions of Interest and the development of prioritised grant applications by the Divisions. Divisional Boards will endorse selected applications for consideration by the central committee with full applications due on 1 June 2011.

More detail can be found here [close]

From 2011 The University’s Teaching Improvement Projects (TIPS) will be replaced with a new scheme called the Strategic Teaching Enhancement Projects (STEPs). University st...[more]

Teaching more inclusively

Good inclusive teaching which values and celebrates diversity has the capacity to enhance and enrich the learning and teaching experiences of all involved.

On November 9, the ten recipients of the University’s Social Inclusion conference scholarships will meet with members of the Social Inclusion Unit, the ITL and the Learning Centre to bring to the table their insights into the possibilities and challenges associated with bringing social inclusion into the foreground of University policy and teaching practice. As champions of social inclusion these scholarship recipients have a key role to play in the university's efforts to foster more inclusive teaching. Respecting and engaging with diversity to inform their teaching, these members of the University community will hopefully form part of a network of teachers across schools and faculties who will contribute to recognizing and rewarding of inclusive teaching. As champions they will hopefully be approachable and visible, able to advise their colleagues as to what and how we might teach more inclusively and where we might direct our students if they are in need of further support. Hopefully they will also be able to start some conversations in their faculties about how our teaching and our students’ learning, can benefit from the diversity of students in our classes.

There recipients are:

2nd Annual Social Inclusion in Education Summit - Sydney
Dr Christine Chapparo (Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences)
Dr Melanie Collier (Associate Dean Students, Faculty of Veterinary Science)
Dr Andrew Merchant (Lecturer, Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources)
Dr Meloni Muir (Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences)
Dr Lisa Pont (Lecturer, Faculty of Pharmacy)
Dr Marianna Sazbo (Lecturer, School of Psychology)
Dr Tim Wilkinson (Senior Lecturer and Sub Dean Undergraduate, Faculty of Engineering & Information Technologies)

2nd Annual Student Equity in Higher Education Conference - Melbourne
Dr Jennifer Barrett (Senior Lecturer and Pro-Dean, Faculty of Arts)
Ms Tanya Mitchell (Lecturer, Faculty of Law)
Dr Fran Waugh (Senior Lecturer and Associate Dean (Learning & Teaching), Faculty of Education & Social Work)

Please take the opportunity to touch base with these people, draw upon what they know and what they do, and speak about ways you might enrich your teaching through the diversity of your students. Also keep a look out for follow up meetings and discussions you might join on ‘inclusive teaching’ in your faculty!
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Good inclusive teaching which values and celebrates diversity has the capacity to enhance and enrich the learning and teaching experiences of all involved. On November 9, the t...[more]

Postgraduate quality principles adopted by education leaders from 17 countries

Assessment of quality in postgraduate education is critical to the success of both masters and doctoral students, and to the future of global research within and beyond academe, according to a set of principles recently adopted at an international conference of higher education leaders from 17 countries held in Brisbane in September.

The Fourth Annual Strategic Leaders Global Summit, Measuring Quality in (Post)Graduate Education and Research Training, was sponsored by the Group of Eight research-intensive universities and the US-based Council of Graduate Schools.

"The summit has been a great opportunity for the leaders in postgraduate education from around the world to learn from each other about how we might better assess the quality and outcomes of postgraduate research and consequently improve the postgraduate education of future generations of researchers," said Professor Max King, Dean of Graduate Studies at Monash University.

During the final session, participants reached agreement on the set of principles intended to serve as a framework for establishing and exchanging best practices in quality assessment, both in the participants' home countries and via international networks.

A summary of  the key principles are listed below

  1. The primary objective of quality assessment is to ensure and improve the quality of (post)-graduate training and student learning and professional development.
  2. Another key objective of quality assessment is to assure external stakeholders of the quality of (post)-graduate education. Sharing the goals and outcomes of assessment with all relevant stakeholders, including the public, helps ensure that assessment efforts are understood and valued.
  3. While quality can be assessed in a variety of ways, evaluation should be based on clearly defined objectives, criteria and processes, and the intended uses of the results should be made clear to all relevant stakeholders. Different or multiple processes may be needed to meet different goals and audiences.
  4. The development of specific quality metrics for research degrees is a key priority.
  5. Quality assessment is most effective when academic staff play a role in designing or refining evaluation procedures.

The full set of principles are available on the Council of Graduate Schools Website[close]

Assessment of quality in postgraduate education is critical to the success of both masters and doctoral students, and to the future of global research within and beyond academe,...[more]

Writing an application for an ALTC citation: Tara Murphy and James Curran

Continuing our series of profiles of the 2010 VC’s award recipients, we spoke with Dr Tara Murphy, who together with Dr James Curran received a Vice-Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Teaching. Tara and James also received an ALTC Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. James is from the School of Information Technologies in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies and Tara has a joint position between the School of Information Technologies and the School of Physics in the Faculty of Science.

Tara and James started off teaching an introductory IT course to advanced computer science and science students: “The course was very popular and got good feedback from students. Part of the reason it worked was that we were teaching 30 to 40 advanced students. We had to work out how to scale it up to larger classes. We’ve also spent 10 years doing high school outreach for students interested in IT. We run a summer camp that students say is awesome and life changing, but we can only take 60 students a year. So again we had the issue of how to broaden the opportunity.”

To solve both issues, Tara and James developed an online learning support system for programming that provides automatic feedback. They now use the system in their first year advanced IT unit, in their first year Engineering service unit, with 750 students, and for the 1500 high school students who participate in an annual online programming competition.

Tara explains that the system “is not a replacement for quality teaching but it’s a way for the students to access quick feedback at any time. Students find the system very helpful in helping them figure out programming themselves, and some even say that it’s like talking to a real person. The high school students love it and they try to hack it and beat the system.”

Another issue that Tara and James faced with their teaching is that IT is still a very male dominated area, with the male students starting IT degrees having typically spent many more hours on computers than the female students. “Some female students find it intimidating that the male students can already ‘talk IT’. So we started the Girls’ Programming Network where female undergraduate and high school students talk to senior female students and to women successfully working in the industry. The students can see that it’s a good career path, and that it’s possible to do well and also have a life outside work. They all get together and do some really fun activities, like building their own computer. It’s all run by undergraduate female IT students.”

Reflecting on these initiatives, Tara says that “the main unexpected thing is that we started all of these things from a purely academic perspective, but we’ve now created a whole community that links high school and undergraduates and PhD students with professionals. They’re all interacting and moving through, so that some of the original high school students are now doing PhDs with us.”

If you want to know more about their teaching you can contact Tara or James for a chat or read their award applications in the ITL front office, Level 3, Carslaw.[close]

Continuing our series of profiles of the 2010 VC’s award recipients, we spoke with Dr Tara Murphy, who together with Dr James Curran received a Vice-Chancellor's Award...[more]

Profile: Associate Professor Rob Ellis, Director of eLearning, Learning Space

Associate Professor Rob Ellis works with faculty and support colleagues at Sydney to integrate eLearning into curricula across all faculties. This work is coordinated through Sydney eLearning. From Rob’s perspective in comparison with some of our research-intensive partner institutions in England, Hong Kong, Tokyo and California, colleagues in faculties are some of the most innovative and inventive practioners of integrating eLearning into the student experience of learning in a predominately campus-based education.

In 2009, the DVC(Education) asked Sydney eLearning to lead a teaching and learning grant application to the Government for infrastructure for students. Colleagues from CIS, ICT, the Library and the Finance Office worked tirelessly over a three week period to complete an application which would normally take six months to prepare. The outcome of the successful application is a refurbishment of three floors of the Fisher Library, learning hubs in Carslaw and the PNR buildings, as well as a postgraduate shared desk area in Wallace and some formal teaching spaces also in the PNR building. A key aspect of the project led by ICT is the virtual desktop which will help deliver discipline-specific software to faculties. Work on this project will be complete by beginning of 2013.[close]

Associate Professor Rob Ellis works with faculty and support colleagues at Sydney to integrate eLearning into curricula across all faculties. This work is coordinated through Syd...[more]

Synergy: Call for contributions

Have you recently tried something new in teaching and learning in your context? Have you recently identified a challenge in teaching and learning in your area? Then we would like to invite you to write about it for the next edition of Synergy, the University’s magazine forum for the scholarship of teaching and learning.

This journal is viewed by all teachers at the University of Sydney and provides direct in-house examples of good practice from your colleagues.

To see the kind of work that gets published in Synergy take a look at the latest issue. You will find a wide selection of articles that involve systematic reflection and inquiry into aspects of teaching and learning in higher education, and provide a foundation for advancement in approaches and practice.

The deadline for submissions for the 2011 edition of Synergy is 4 March 2011.

The length of contributions is between 2000 and 4000 words. More information and guidelines for authors is available here.

We encourage you to consider submitting an article to Synergy and we look forward to continuing to showcase the range of scholarship of teaching and learning at the University of Sydney. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are thinking about writing an article synergy@itl.usyd.edu.au.
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Have you recently tried something new in teaching and learning in your context? Have you recently identified a challenge in teaching and learning in your area? Then we would like...[more]

Is collaboration in blended curriculum design a dangerous idea?

This colloquium is hosted by an interdisciplinary research team drawn from the Humanities and Social Sciences and Sydney eLearning at the University of Sydney. The research has focused on supporting academics in their engagement with blended learning. A key outcome of this research has been to highlight the importance of collaboration in blended curriculum design.

After a brief overview of the research and key findings, the day will be structured around opportunities for exchanging ideas and experiences in a relaxed and collegial environment, and activities aimed at building conceptual pictures of collaboration in blended learning design. We will THINK MOVE SHARE CREATE NETWORK COLLABORATE.

Date: Friday 10 December 2010
Time: 9.00am – 4.00pm (registration from 8.30am)
Venue: Seminar Room 028, New Law School building
Cost: $30 pp. (incl. gst) standard, $15 pp. (incl. gst) concession (currently enrolled students) 
Includes morning tea, lunch and closing drinks.

For more information please contact Anita Hancock on ph: 9036 6523 or via email. For program details and how to register head to the colloquium webpage.[close]

This colloquium is hosted by an interdisciplinary research team drawn from the Humanities and Social Sciences and Sydney eLearning at the University of Sydney. The research has f...[more]

National Curriculum Innovation and Quality Forum 2010

A premier event for those involved in higher education curriculum development and delivery, with expert insights and interactive workshop sessions developing talent, tools and strategies for education and training providers will be held soon in Melbourne.

This forum, to be held at Crowne Plaza in Melbourne from 1-2 December, is intended to provide food for thought to those involved in teaching and curriculum design, focusing on innovations and new approaches to curriculum development. A key issue is managing the transition to new learning environments and managing their evolution over time. Delivering material via digital or virtual environments raises questions around quality, particularly in terms of the experience for the learner. Quality dimensions in terms of the educational outcomes delivered via these new mediums will also be examined.

Featured speakers include Dr Michael Crock (General Manager Academic Products and Services, Open Universities Australia) and the University of Sydney’s own Professor Michael Jacobson (Chair of Education and Co-director of the CoCo Research Centre). Michael will present research findings and curriculum design implications arising from two Australian Research Council funded projects on advanced learning technologies (virtual worlds, computational models and visualisation tools) and their use with what is termed “Productive Failure”.

Other topics to be explored include:

  • Learning Management Systems: Implementing a Systematic Approach
  • The Role of Virtual Reality in Connecting Students to their Profession
  • Risks and Opportunities in Authentic Learning via the Internet
  • Digital Portfolios: Investigating the Potential and Reality of Using Digital Portfolios
  • Cross-Institutional Development and Collaboration
  • Inclusive Curriculum Design for Students with Disabilities

There are also two separately bookable workshops to be held on 3 December:

  • Self-paced E-Learning Course Development
  • How to Use Simulation to Extend and Support Learning

Further information and registration
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A premier event for those involved in higher education curriculum development and delivery, with expert insights and interactive workshop sessions developing talent, tools and st...[more]

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