The annual ACDS Teaching and Learning Conference sparkled this year with vigorous discussion in all sessions. The Conference kicked off with a challenge from Peter Adams (UQ, Conference Chair) to address ‘what keeps us awake at night‘. Discussions at the conference have initiated new work from the ACDS on assessment strategies, driving student engagement and challenges for teaching first year science and maths. More on these to come soon…
At the conference, opening keynote, Royce Sadler (UQ) presented a recipe for three key assessment reforms in courses. He proposes rethinking of assessment design, what constitutes a pass and the effect of accumulating marks on small assessments. These ideas were hotly debated with discussion continuing throughout the conference. Read Prof Sadler’s work in the latest edition of Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education (DOI:10.1080/02602938.2015.1064858).
Our science and maths OLT fellows presented updates on their projects. Pauline Ross (UWS) pointed to rapidly changing academic roles and challenged us to think about the future of academic work. Joe Shapter (Flinders) proposed tossing out the course rule book in favour of a student-directed course of study. Joe is currently running national workshops to explore student-led courses. Roy Tasker (UWS) challenged us to think beyond words and symbols to get our students interacting with tangible, visible representations of science. Roy has finished national workshops on his topic and is heading to the US to take up a position with Purdue University where we wish him the very best.
A session on benchmarking and standards opened with Prof Pip Pattison (UoS) describing recent sector schemes for external quality assurance. Prof Pattison noted the challenge embedded in the draft Higher Education Standards which require externally referenced benchmarking every seven years. Achieving this for all the majors in our general science degrees is certainly a big task but the conference agreed that disciplines need to take leadership in measuring quality. Our chemists are working on this through a national OLT grant and biologists have recently trialled a multi-disciplinary benchmarking workshop.
On Friday, Craig McInnes (PhillipsKPA) and Hamish Coates (UoM) tackled the challenges of practical academic leadership particularly for ADTLs. Craig and colleagues have published an insightful guide on academic leadership in the Australian context through the OLT. Les Dawes also presented his experiences of leading a multi-disciplinary project linking teacher education, science and maths.
The final session opened the conversation on Work Integrated Learning. John Rice announced the ACDS has been awarded $165000 by the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) to lead a national project on WIL in Science. This project is designed to build leadership of WIL in Faculties of Science and responses to a recent study on WIL in Science from the OCS due for publication late July. Janet Hergt (UoM) presented her experience of an internship program for final year science students which she described as some of the most rewarding teaching of her career.
Our Chief Scientist, Prof Ian Chubb wrapped up the session with a challenge to have 50% of science graduates experience an industry placement during their degree. The WIL study from the OCS shows science lagging seriously behind engineering, ICT, agriculture and environmental science. Prof Chubb notes that we need to work much more closely with industry and schools, and over longer periods, to ensure our degrees are relevant and our graduates ready to make a difference in industry.
Thanks also to our conference photographer, Jamie Quinton (Flinders).