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L&T Grants – to apply or not to apply, that is the question

Posted by: Ruth Moeller, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, Design and Social Context College, RMIT University

“Contemplating in Vanuatu” Picture © by Ruth Moeller

 At RMIT it’s L&T grant writing season

I have been sitting here contemplating the many grant proposals I’ve seen. As the DSC College’s Learning and Teaching Investment Fund (LTIF) co-ordinator I have seen many proposals, the good, the bad and the ugly. Over this time I have garnered some insights into what makes a successful proposal and would like to share them with you. (My experience and examples relate to LTIFs but the advice generally relates to all L&T grants.)

1. Have an idea, but make sure it’s the right kind

Grants will have a particular focus and to be successful you need to ensure that what you are proposing reflects that.

LTIFs are about learning and teaching and specifically things that “lead to quality learning experiences for students” and “provide students with a cohort experience that makes a difference to their lives”. So the focus here is the student and their outcomes. I have seen many proposals that were thinly disguised research applications, proposals that were focused on course/program development that is really part of normal business, and every now and again an idea that’s put forward just to see if someone will pay for it. These proposals may have merit but not for an LTIF.

2. Let someone know

This is a dilemma, as grants are competitive. By sharing your concept you may feel that you are giving away your idea but it is better to test your plan before you invest in a proposal that may be better placed elsewhere.

I have seen groups put forward similar projects – committees are unlikely to fund proposals about the same thing. If the groups consulted they could have been linked to talk about the direction each were taking and ways they could cooperate or differentiate. Likewise there are the proposals that are similar to ones previously submitted. This means they were successful, so it’s been done, or unsuccessful, and you need to find out why before proceeding.

Talk to the relevant grants co-ordinator to test out your idea before you become too invested in it.

Contacts for LTIFs and Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) grants at RMIT

Design and Social Context College

Business College

Science, Engineering and Health College

3. What are the conditions/parameters for the grant? Work within them.

This information will be on the website and presented at information sessions. You need to make yourself familiar with “The Rules” of the particular grant you are applying for and follow them.

I am always surprised that when the criterion says: “Travel and equipment purchases will not be funded unless there are extenuating reasons” there is a request for travel to a conference or the purchase of 25 iPads.

Even if you have applied for many grants, checking the guidelines and going to information sessions can provide you with insights and tips for your application.

4. Consult

Have the people/groups that can make your proposal a reality been consulted and are they involved?

By listing an EdTech group on a proposal there is an expectation is that they will take part but have they been asked? Conversely, proposing a technology dependent idea and not consulting with the experts weakens the application.

Also you need to consider issues of work planning and work load when forming your project team.

5. Be realistic

Ask yourself the following questions before the review panel does:

  • What do we actually want money for?
  • Could we do it within our current resources?
  • Can we really achieve what we are promising in the time allocated?
  • Is our budget optimistic/aspirational or realistic?
  • Is the idea sustainable? What happens next year without funding?
  • Does our idea have application beyond our course/program? When investing money the expectation is broader application
  • If it was my money, would I pay for this?

6. Read the form – and then fill it out – all of it

If a box isn’t completed it begs the question are you avoiding or ignoring or not good at proof reading – either way, a quality application is a complete one.

In the LTIFs, you are asked to identify “Which strategic objective(s) does this project address?”. In many of the proposals this is not addressed, begging the question, does it not align/ do you not know or do you not care?

On the matter of signatures, all grants require sign off by various roles with in the university. Make sure you allow enough time to do this and even better, consult before you ask for a signature.

In the LTIFs, your Head of School is required to support your application. It would be politic as well as good manners to tell them what you are proposing before you ask for a signature that shows their support.

7. Have a ‘critical friend’ read the final proposal

Your team members know what you are talking about but will others? Get someone who is not part of the team to read your application, do they understand it? You need to think about who will be reading and assessing your proposal. This can be particularly challenging when you have people from different disciplines assessing proposals.

These are my insights on writing a successful application. The one thing I haven’t mentioned is the element of luck that goes with any completive endeavour as that is out of our control. But I do wish you good luck with your application and if you need further information:

Or contact the LTIF/OLT grants co-ordinator for your college listed in No.2

Do you have any advice/tips/strategies you would like to share on L&T grant writing?

Share your thoughts in the comments section!
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Twitter: @teachingtomtom
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This article has a readability score of grade 9 assessed by the program Hemingway App

A short break between semesters…

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

hoopThe tomtom will take a short break for the middle of the year but we will be back on 17 July. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can access articles in the Archive.

See you in two weeks!

- Jon.




Find us on:
Twitter: @teachingtomtom and

Welcome back to the teaching tomtom for 2014!

Hi and welcome back to the teaching tomtom for 2014: The drum on learning and teaching: helping you navigate the tertiary education landscape.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog:  'The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it...'

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog: ‘The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it…’

The Learning and Teaching Group in the College of Design and Social Context (DSC) are all now back on deck and ready to beat the drum on the teaching tomtom.

This week we just want to say “Hi, we’re back!” and to let our academic and teaching staff at RMIT know who their Learning & Teaching Advisors are.

We publish every Thursday afternoon (Melbourne time, GMT +11) during the Australian academic year. We look forward to your contributions and we hope you’ll comment or even write a post.

RMIT University, College of Design and Social Context: Learning and Teaching Group

Associate Professor Andrea Chester

Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning & Teaching

John Benwell

Principal Advisor, Learning & Teaching: School of Architecture and Design

Jon Hurford

Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching: School of Art

Thembi Mason

Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching: School of Education

Kellyann Geurts

Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching: School of Fashion and Textiles

Meredith Seaman

Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching: School of Global, Urban and Social Studies

Ruth Moeller Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching: School of Media and Communication
Dallas Wingrove

Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching: School of Property, Construction and Project Management

Jane McGlashan

Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching: Vocational Education

Erika Beljaars-Harris

Educational Developer, e-learning

Howard Errey

Educational Developer, e-learning

Andrea Wallace

Educational Developer, Inclusive Teaching

Helen McLean

Project Officer

Megan McPherson

Project Officer

Sarah-Jane Terrill

Manager, Quality Assurance

Please feel free to contact your School’s Learning & Teaching Advisor for assistance during the year.

There will be a short break in our transmission…

Hello fellow bloggers and educators. The teachingtomtom is having a short holiday for 2013, and will return on Thursday 6 February 2014.

A view of Melbourne from RMIT University building 1

A view of Melbourne from RMIT University building 1

I would like to thank all our readers and contributors for 2013 who thought, wrote and commented on so many posts for us to read and enjoy. We hope you may have put some of the ideas posted here into use in your teaching practice. During the break, maybe you’d like to review some of our 108 previous posts.

Currently the teachingtomtom has 341 blog followers, 514 Twitter followers and 19 Facebook followers. We have posted 38 articles on learning and teaching for 2013, and we had on average over 1,500 hits per month. If you like our blog, we look forward to seeing you again in 2014. If you really like our blog, please pass our link onto your friends and colleagues, and if you really, really like our blog, please ask to contribute a post by emailing us at

RMIT University is a dual sector university in Melbourne, Australia with approximately 74,000 students of whom 30,000 are from overseas. We are the learning and teaching unit in the Academic Development Group of the College of Design and Social Context.

Regards and safe holidays to you from our team.

- John Benwell

A short break for the end of semester…

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

The tomtom will take a short break for the middle of the year but we will be back with a post on mid-year orientation on 17 July. In the meantime don’t forget that you can access articles in the Archive.

See you in a month’s time!

- Jon.


A short break for Easter…see you next week!

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

The tomtom will take a short break for the Easter long weekend in Australia, but we will be back with a post on Blackboard on April 4. In the meantime don’t forget that you can access all of our articles in the Archive.

- Jon.


2012 in review for the teaching tomtom

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Here’s what the stats helper monkeys prepared for this blog:

“4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 18,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals…”

Caring about what you do

This week we have a guest post from David DeBrot, Manager of the Learning Skills Unit, RMIT Vietnam. The team at LSU run a blog ( with a focus on the student experience of tertiary study.

Visit the blog and watch a video they created to explain their role on campus here

Fruit stacked at a market, Vung Tau

Fruit stacked at a market, Vung Tau, (cc)

‘An organization is not an entity of its own – it is a group of individuals.’

It’s a strength, not a weakness

What is it that separates people with talent and opportunity who achieve quality outcomes from those who also have talent and opportunity but don’t achieve in the same ways? I would suggest it’s the ‘C’ word – care (that is, to feel interest or concern). To care is the god particle of human enterprise – it makes all other individual effort possible.

The quote above is from my former colleague and it continues to follow me around campus, to meetings, during informal discussions and in response to e-mails. It remains with me because of its power in recognizing the potential of individuals to enact real change at any organization, universities included. I also see it in the team I work with – they talk about what they care about and the change they want to see. And a big part of making any change happen is caring that it does happen.

But it hurts

Caring about what you do is frequently self-eroding. A quick thought experiment can illustrate this. Imagine you care about something getting done well. Would you put more effort into it? Would you have high expectations for the outcomes of your effort? And if you became even more invested in the outcome and your level of caring increased, would the levels of effort and expectation increase as well?

Your answer, combined with the philosopher Seneca’s view on anger, reveals an interesting conclusion. If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, consider Seneca’s definition of anger: it is the gap or distance between your expectations and reality. Meaning, if you care and your expectations increase and reality doesn’t match these, then you may be disappointed or angry and hesitate to care more in future.

Caring hurts sometimes, but it can also make ‘work’ a lot less – well – work. It can make your 9-5 more enjoyable, easier to invest in and more rewarding. Rather than occupying a significant part of your day and week with activities whose outcomes you may not have much interest in, the same time could be spent engaging in these activities with effort you genuinely expect to deliver some positive outcomes – be it intrinsic or extrinsic. This could shift your experience of ‘work’ from a (perhaps unpleasant) distraction from things in life you really care about to a spectrum of what you care about, made up partly of your working hours, which can be rewarding professionally, personally or both.

It takes a village

Being able to care does require some tending from others. First, feeling that others above you and next to you also care about similar things – and dare I say it – you. If no one seems bothered about what you’re doing or how well you do it, then your interest in investing more energy will likely decrease. Often this isn’t the case and people do care about what you’re working on, but they are afraid to say so. See this Harvard Business Review article for the commonplace of negativity at work and the importance of appreciation.

Second, we must observe that cynicism is not a norm in our organization. In other words, we need to see that the majority of the people around us can be open, frank and realistic when discussing an idealistic or optimistic future goal or vision without also being expected to snark and naysay. And when we demonstrate our care for a project or issue, we need others to recognize this.

Third, we must have a good model. Someone who is comfortable speaking about their own care or commitment on an issue and attempts to get other people to do the same. It helps if this person is also in a supervisory or leadership role and is aware enough of their own actions and context to avoid causing people not to care.

But what if they just don’t care

  • Don’t waste time caring about people who clearly don’t care. Perhaps they don’t know what they’re doing at your organization or why they’re there. This could be a cause for their apparent lack of care.
  • Be aware of your expectations – if you are contributing a lot more care and effort than others, there is likely to be a gap between your expectations of the outcomes and reality. A healthy trimming of expectations may reduce disappointment later and reserve your energy and care for other areas or projects.
  • Talk with those you are working with about what you do care about as individuals and a group. Language such as ‘invested’, ‘interested’ and ‘matters to me’ can be used if ‘care’ is too touchy-feely for you.
  • Ask people directly if they care about something. See what happens. You can always rephrase with ‘Do you want (x,y,z) to succeed?’, ‘Are you interested in this?’, ‘Does it bother you if this doesn’t succeed?’.
  • Caring is a strength not a weakness – be ready for warfare from those who are cynical, consistently negative or combative – The Art of War and The Prince are two particularly useful books for anyone in any organization who may come up against these types.
  • It is often easier to make someone not care than to care. Be careful that you are not willingly doing the former as both are infectious.

If you accept causal determinism, and that caring about something leads to greater effort, then the link between how we act on what we care about and the result seems to be strong. Given that universities are working largely with ideas and people, it would be hard to confine or measure just how far your care and the results can travel.

If you’ve read this far, it seems you care – at least a little. And now you’ve just got to show it.

Share your thoughts and comments below!

Flipping the classroom: the new acrobatics of teaching?

Post By Kylie Budge

“Flipping the classroom” is a new buzzword floating around the education sector at the moment. You may have come across it and wondered if this is some kind of strange new acrobatic maneuver or craze that’s hit teaching.

Well, yes and no!

What exactly is being flipped?

“Flipping the classroom” is an inquiry and problem based learning model of teaching.  As the name suggests, it is the flipside of the still popular lecture/content or teacher centred models still being used in universities today. The Economist explains that flipping the classroom is the ‘reversal of the traditional teaching methods—with lecturing done outside class time and tutoring (or “homework”) during it…’.

While in some ways flipping the classroom might appear as a new strategy to engage students in learning, the basic concept behind it has been around for some time. This recent article in Wired by Makice details the more recent history of flipping the classroom and how it is connected to teaching strategies such as enquiry and problem based learning.

Let’s think about some of the practicalities of how this might work.

Instead of students attending face-to-face classes to hear presentations from lecturers about a new topic, theory or series of ideas, students do this in their own time prior to class. That is, students are directed to read information about the topic or theory, view a lecture online, and/or listen to a podcast independently of their lecturer. When students attend their face-to-face classes, the focus is on applying the knowledge they gathered prior to the class. Application might involve problem solving or doing an activity alone or with other students to see how their ideas and new-found knowledge work in practice. Therefore classes are for being active, not passive.

Learning from a specific example is often the best way to understand a new concept. The following link shows how and why teacher, Michelle Pacansky-Brock, flipped her Art History classroom.

For many, to flip our classrooms will take a significant cultural shift in the way we see teaching. It will also require a shift in the expectations and mindset of many students. Some students have grown used to being passive consumers of education even if they don’t enjoy learning that way. Changing this attitude and approach to learning will take time, but possibly not as much time as you might think. Students are used to searching information on the Internet when they want to know more on a topic that interests them. They’re active knowledge seekers in their own time, for their own interests. It’s about continuing that active frame of mind and setting up contexts where they can apply it to their learning.

In terms of teaching, it might mean reconsidering the whole notion of weekly face-to-face classes. Do students need to attend classes weekly in order to learn? Could they come to a monthly workshop/seminar/tutorial instead and in between be focused on a series of reading/listening/viewing tasks in conjunction with their ongoing assessment pieces? They could still be actively linked with each other (and you as their teacher) doing tasks in online forums between workshops.

For many of us it’s about flipping traditional notions of teaching on their head and approaching things in a very new way. It’s also something worth thinking about in terms of being current with educational policy and technology.

There are a lot of resources available online if you’d like to know more about flipping the classroom. There’s even an annual conference you can attend.

And for those who use Twitter for professional development you can follow the hashtag: #flipclass and connect with others who are experimenting with this model in their teaching practice.

Have you already made the change and flipped your classroom? If so, we’d like to hear from you about what’s worked, what hasn’t and what changes you are making.

Peer Learning and Study Groups

Posted by: Megan McPherson, Project Manager, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Megan tweets for the Not a Waste of Space Project @NaWoS and personally @MeganJMcPherson.

During last year, student feedback and peer learning were a bit of a focus in posts on the Teaching Tom Tom. In this post I want to extend those ideas by outlining a project that investigates peer learning and student feedback in the design studio. In my role in the College of DSC, I research how students and educators experience the process of learning formally and informally in studios or labs, traditional classrooms, lecture theatres, high tech new spaces, face to face, virtually, individually, in groups or teams that are teacher-led and student- led, or in any combination of these interactions. Basically, I research how people learn to become practitioners and experience being practitioners in the academy.

The Learning and Teaching investment Fund (LTIF) supported peer learning project Contribute: Peer learning for inclusive practice in Art and Design was developed from a student’s suggestion in a Student Staff Consultative Committee (SSCC) meeting that students could do more peer interaction and give feedback to further support their studies in art and design studios. As a result, the project encouraged opportunities for student-led formalised activities such as giving and receiving feedback about coursework in studio study groups. A number of students also volunteered for a specially developed RMIT LEAD program to support leadership and communication skills in studio study groups. The project explored how first year studio students can collaboratively support each other in small student led study groups outside of class time. We investigated the impact of peer learning in studio study groups by analysing student and teacher evaluations of their experience, learning outcomes and assessment measures, student confidence in the feedback from their peers and the social contexts of learning. We also considered the aspects critical to the design and implementation of student led study groups in the art and design university studio. The full report of Contribute: Peer learning for inclusive practice in Art and Design will be available online through RMIT University’s LTIF site later in the year.

One of the key findings of the Contribute project that we are further developing is how students value the design and authenticity of curriculum and assessment tasks as part of their learning about practice and how to practice. Students value explicit connections being made to practice and the wider world of practice. Developing the capacities to evaluate and make judgements about your own or others’ feedback is a vitally important professional skill. To be able to develop and try out these skills in an environment that encourages and supports students to find their own voice is an important step in becoming art or design practitioners. As Beckett and Hager suggest, practice is a much ‘richer set of phenomena’ than just learning a technique to ‘manipulat[e] materials, objects, process or ideas’(2002, p12); practice is ‘a body of knowledge, a capacity to make judgements, a sensitivity to intuition, and an awareness [that] the purposes of the actions are all involved in some way’ (2002, p12).

As Contribute has shown us, part of learning how to be a practitioner through encouraging interaction, peer learning collaborations and discussion in your course design may help develop students’ professional abilities to evaluate, critique and make judgements about their own work and the work of their peers.

There are many examples of peer learning activities to support learning and the development of professional practice capacities in Jaques, D., & Salmon, G., (2006). Learning in Groups: A Handbook for Face-to-face and Online Environments. London: Routledge.

University of Melbourne, Five practical guides, about assessing groupwork

Infed bibliography for more groupwork references:

Learning Higher Videos to support groupwork:

Beckett, D. & Hager, P. (2002). Life, Work and Learning: Practice in postmodernity. London: Routledge p12.

Further information about peer learning approaches:

In the College of DSC, Senior Advisors Learning and Teaching are a point of contact for advice and information about peer learning, review and assessment strategies.

This year Contribute 2: Broadening peer learning for inclusive practice into Creative Arts Diploma and Associate Degree programs in TAFE was successful in gaining funding to develop the peer review and assessment project in the tertiary university.

If you would like any information about the Contribute project, please contact:

Rebekha Naim,
Project Manager, Contribute 2: Broadening peer learning for inclusive practice into Creative Arts Diploma and Associate Degree programs in TAFE

Megan McPherson,

Project Manager, Contribute: Peer learning for inclusive practice in Art and Design

Co-Project Leader, Contribute 2: Broadening peer learning for inclusive practice into Creative Arts Diploma and Associate Degree programs in TAFE

Professor Barbara de la Harpe
DPVC DSC Project Leader, Contribute: Peer learning for inclusive practice in Art and Design, Contribute 2: Broadening peer learning for inclusive practice into Creative Arts Diploma and Associate Degree programs in TAFE.

Contribute: LEAD Studio Study Group Facilitation program, through RMIT LEAD, is a student peer facilitator support program developed in conjunction with the School of Art and Industrial design, School of Architecture and Design. RMIT Student Services has a newly appointed Peer Learning Senior Coordinator: Carolyn Rundell


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