A model for enhancing assessment and teaching practice at the coalface : Insights from a Fellow-In-Residence engagement program

Boles, W. & Beck, H. (2012) A model for enhancing assessment and teaching practice at the coalface : Insights from a Fellow-In-Residence engagement program. In Mann, Llewellyn & Daniel, Scott (Eds.) Proceedings of the 2012 AAEE Conference, Melbourne, Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria.


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Australian universities are currently engaging with new governmental policies and regulations that require them to demonstrate enhanced quality and accountability in teaching and research. The development of national academic standards for learning outcomes in higher education is one such instance of this drive for excellence. These discipline-specific standards articulate the minimum, or Threshold Learning Outcomes, to be addressed by higher education institutions so that graduating students can demonstrate their achievement to their institutions, accreditation agencies, and industry recruiters. This impacts not only on the design of Engineering courses (with particular emphasis on pedagogy and assessment), but also on the preparation of academics to engage with these standards and implement them in their day-to-day teaching practice on a micro level. This imperative for enhanced quality and accountability in teaching is also significant at a meso level, for according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 25 per cent of teachers in Australian universities are aged 55 and above and more than 54 per cent are aged 45 and above (ABS, 2006). A number of institutions have undertaken recruitment drives to regenerate and enrich their academic workforce by appointing capacity-building research professors and increasing the numbers of early- and mid-career academics. This nationally driven agenda for quality and accountability in teaching permeates also the micro level of engineering education, since the demand for enhanced academic standards and learning outcomes requires both a strong advocacy for a shift to an authentic, collaborative, outcomes-focused education and the mechanisms to support academics in transforming their professional thinking and practice. Outcomes-focused education means giving greater attention to the ways in which the curriculum design, pedagogy, assessment approaches and teaching activities can most effectively make a positive, verifiable difference to students’ learning. Such education is authentic when it is couched firmly in the realities of learning environments, student and academic staff characteristics, and trustworthy educational research. That education will be richer and more efficient when staff works collaboratively, contributing their knowledge, experience and skills to achieve learning outcomes based on agreed objectives. We know that the school or departmental levels of universities are the most effective loci of changes in approaches to teaching and learning practices in higher education (Knight & Trowler, 2000). Heads of Schools are being increasingly entrusted with more responsibilities - in addition to setting strategic directions and managing the operational and sometimes financial aspects of their school, they are also expected to lead the development and delivery of the teaching, research and other academic activities. Guiding and mentoring individuals and groups of academics is one critical aspect of the Head of School’s role. Yet they do not always have the resources or support to help them mentor staff, especially the more junior academics. In summary, the international trend in undergraduate engineering course accreditation towards the demonstration of attainment of graduate attributes poses new challenges in addressing academic staff development needs and the assessment of learning. This paper will give some insights into the conceptual design, implementation and empirical effectiveness to date, of a Fellow-In-Residence Engagement (FIRE) program. The program is proposed as a model for achieving better engagement of academics with contemporary issues and effectively enhancing their teaching and assessment practices. It will also report on the program’s collaborative approach to working with Heads of Schools to better support academics, especially early-career ones, by utilizing formal and informal mentoring. Further, the paper will discuss possible factors that may assist the achievement of the intended outcomes of such a model, and will examine its contributions to engendering an outcomes-focussed thinking in engineering education.

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ID Code: 58252
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: HERN
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Wageeh Boles and Hilary Beck.
Copyright Statement: Wageeh Boles and Hilary Beck: The authors assign to AAEE and educational non-profit institutions a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive licence to AAEE to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web (prime sites and mirrors), on Memory Sticks, and in printed form within the AAEE 2012 conference proceedings. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the authors.
Deposited On: 14 Mar 2013 04:40
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2015 19:06

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