Tag Archives: GTS

Everyone can have their moment – Celebrating learning and teaching

Posted by: Ruth Moeller, Lecturer in Education and Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

BHFor me it can be easy to forget why I teach and more importantly why I love to teach; its about the students, the engagement, what I learn from them as well as imparting the odd bit of knowledge to them. Can anything be as rewarding as a student saying ‘You know we talked about “X”- I tried it and it worked!’? Or a student showing you they have come up with something that is unexpected, proof of effort and that they are proud of their achievements?

I believe that teaching is an art; well informed by theory and practice but in essence it is the way it is enacted with different students, in different situations, at different times that produce diverse and often unexpected results that make it such an exciting profession.

Having said all that, it can be somewhat demoralising to have your teaching distilled into a GTS (Good Teaching Score) that is such a cold set of numbers that may or may not JFreflect the experience of you or your students in the classroom. A misread question, numbering down the wrong side or students unhappy with _________ (fill in the blank) can all skew the results. That doesn’t mean that we should dismiss the GTS as it is a form of feedback from students but it is important to keep it in perspective.

So with that in mind, I am starting a movement to encourage all teaching staff to take a breath and think about their teaching, their students and the positive experiences they have had during the year and to value that.

How to do this you ask?

One way can be to ask yourself three questions: ‘What have I learnt when teaching?’, ‘How have my students surprised me?’ and ‘In my teaching I am pleased with…’

You may even want to do this with colleagues, to reflect, acknowledge and celebrate what makes you keep teaching.

RM

So complete the following sentences:

What I have learnt when teaching is…

My students have surprised me by…

In my teaching I am pleased with…

Thanks to Julie and Bronwyn for sharing their responses!

Share your thoughts in the comments!

 


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Linking to the recent Sessional Staff Symposium

Connecting Sessional Staff LogoPosted by: Kellyann Geurts, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, Design and Social Context College, RMIT University.

The College of Design and Social Context facilitated a Professional Development Symposium for sessional academic and teaching staff on Friday 6 September.

If you missed my last post, the 2013 Connecting Sessional Staff Project aims to:

  • Address individual learning and teaching needs
  • Share, present, discuss and reflect on teaching and learning experiences
  • Support collaboration, peer partnerships and mentoring
  • Connect with other sessional staff and learning networks across the University
  • Link to the online Sessional Modules from the Professional Development for Tertiary Teaching Practice (PDTTP). The Modules are accessible through Blackboard and information is online at: http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/pdttp/sessionals

The symposium workshops were practical and hands-on. They aimed to connect staff with their peers, their curriculum and with their students.

For those who missed the symposium or attended and missed a workshop, here is a brief overview with  the learning outcomes for each.  If you find something  of interest, you can follow the links or even contact the facilitator for more information:

Opening Session

Workshop 1: Technology… you’ve gotta have a Plan B!

Spiros Soulis, Senior Advisor Learning and Teaching, Learning and Teaching Unit

•Design back-up activities to include in lesson plans for when the technology fails
•Know who to call and what to say when you have technical issues in the class
•Identify resources to have on hand to continue to engage your students.

See also:
the teaching tomtom: http://theteachingtomtom.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/technology-you-gotta-love-it-when-it-works/
Teaching with Technology: http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/technology

Workshop 2: Assessment

John Benwell, Principle Learning & Teaching Advisor (Architecture and Design)

•Discuss and know how to use assessment as learning activity and a progress monitor
•Create an assignment in blackboard (with e-submission)
•Discuss and understand academic integrity using Turnitin.

See also:
RMIT University Student Assessment http://www.rmit.edu.au/students/assessment
Center for the Study of Higher Education, Melbourne University http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/resources_teach/assessment/
Turnitin http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/technology/turnitin

Workshop 3: Engaging your students using Inclusive Teaching practices

Andrea Wallace, Educational Developer, DSC

•Identify and discuss challenges in managing a diverse student cohort in your class
•Translate the principles of Inclusive Teaching into your practice
•Design activities that incorporate alternative teaching strategies.

See also:
Inclusive Teaching http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/inclusive

Workshop 4: Teaching in Next Generation Learning Spaces

Thembi Mason, Educational Developer and Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor Learning & Teaching (Art)

•Identify the characteristics of a Next Generation Learning space
•Locate relevant resources and discuss approaches to teaching and the use of technology in these spaces

See also:
Next Generation Learning Spaces http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=xnbgfx4a17h3
Teaching with Technology http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/technology

Workshop 5: Connecting courses to content

Bernadene Sward, Liaison Librarians and Anne Lennox, University Library

•Make the most of library licensed learning and teaching resources, open access and creative commons content.

See also:
Library Learning Repository http://www.rmit.edu.au/library/learningrepository
School Liaison Librarians http://www.rmit.edu.au/library/librarianshttp://www.rmit.edu.au/library/librarians

Workshop 6: Teaching students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds

Barbara Morgan, Study Learning Center

•Discuss the challenges facing students from diverse learning backgrounds
•Identify and integrate teaching strategies that address linguistic and cultural differences in the classroom.

See also:
Study and Learning Centre http://www.rmit.edu.au/studyandlearningcentreFinal Session

Workshop 7: RMIT Peer Partnerships: supported professional development for continuous improvement in teaching

Angela Clarke and Dallas Wingrove, Senior Research Fellows

•Find a focus for the observation of your teaching
•Provide sensitive and constructive feedback for a colleague
•Establish and build networks of professional relationships with DSC sessional teaching staff.

See also:
Peer Partnerships http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/peerpartnerships

Workshop 8: Flexible delivery, Blackboard Collaborate & Google Sites

Erika Beljaars-Harris, Howard Errey and Andrea Wallace, Educational Developers, DSC

•Use iPads and other mobile devices for teaching and learning
•Use and manage Blackboard Collaborate
•Setup and manage Google Sites.

See also:
Teaching with Technology http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/technology
DevelopME http://www.rmit.edu.au/staff/professionaldevelopment/training

School workshops: Talking about Learning and Teaching

School Senior Advisors of Learning and Teaching with School Liaison Librarians and School representatives

•Identify issues surrounding learning and teaching practice in your School
•Locate key learning and teaching resources at RMIT
•Discuss ways in which you can contribute and feel included in a collegial and supportive environment.

Final Workshop: CES and feedback

Ruth Moeller, Lecturer in Education and Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context

The final workshop for the day focused on what academic and teaching staff will be encountering now students have returned for remainder of the year.

See also:
FAQs about CES http://www.rmit.edu.au/ssc/ces/faq

As you can see from the range of what was covered (and with an hour limit for each workshop) the conversations have only just begun.

We have time to prepare well for our end of year symposium, continue constructive conversations in the Schools and time to develop a firm plan for ongoing learning and teaching support for sessional staff beyond this semester.

A few more useful links for Sessional Staff at RMIT University 

Quick guide for sessional staff http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/sessional

Professional Development Calender http://www.rmit.edu.au/staff/professionaldevelopment/calendar

Learning and Teaching Unit http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching

Senior Advisors, Learning and Teaching http://www.rmit.edu.au/dsc/learningteaching

If you have any questions please share them in the comments section or contact me (Kellyann Geurts) or your School’s Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching.

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RMIT Learning & Teaching Expo 2013

Guest post: Penny Mercer, Project Advisor, Learning and Teaching Unit, RMIT University.

Click to open the RMIT Learning & Teaching Expo 2013 page.

The Learning and Teaching Expo is an opportunity to showcase the excellent work of our dedicated teaching staff. It is a time for all of us to reflect on how we might enhance the student experience, reimagine our teaching and network with colleagues.

This year’s Expo takes the theme of “Inspiring teaching, inspiring learning.” Come along and hear what your colleagues have done to improve student learning outcomes, bring along your own experiences, or questions for discussion time. The Expo eLearning journey will allow all staff to identify a point of interest from which further learning opportunities can be explored.

Come along and hear from our invited keynote speakers about what is happening in the tertiary education sector, hear what your colleagues have done to improve student learning outcomes and bring along your own experiences or questions for discussion time.

Day 1: Tuesday 3 September – 12pm to 4.30pm, with lunch from 1pm to 2pm
Day 2: Wednesday 4 September – 9am to 1pm, with lunch from 1pm to 2pm
Venue: Design Hub, City campus.

Click here (or on the image above) to see the 2013 program and register now to attend (RMIT login required).

We look forward to seeing you there!

Keeping watch

Posted by: John Benwell, Principal Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Click to go to RMIT's Learning LabThe beginning of first year at university starts with a new physical environment, a new learning environment and even a new lifestyle. For school-leavers, gone are the teachers and the normal 9 till 3 classes and old school friends. The new environment is foreign, and to some intimidating. In comparison with the familiar, regular school schedule, this can leave some new students a bit bewildered and confused. In a different way, students who are returning to study after some years in the workplace (and those who haven’t studied in a tertiary institution) will probably be balancing work and family commitments.

All of this applies just as much to mid-year entry; an option that students are increasingly taking as we promise more flexible pathways through a qualification. Students who start mid-year might have a reduced range of orientation activities to participate in and feel less like part of the cohort.

Recent national figures indicate that about 18% of Australian students who commence as an undergraduate at a university in 2012 will not be at that university in 2013 (Devlin M, 2012).

Semesters are short, so students usually have to study from day one. They need help in the transition from secondary to tertiary education. A major part of this transition is moving from a somewhat dependent learner to an independent learner. This is a big challenge for young adults.

As tertiary educators we need to “keep watch” of these students in the first semester. I say “keep watch” rather than “take care” on purpose, as they are young adults. They mostly don’t need care, but monitoring to make sure they are academically progressing and not falling behind, as once behind in their work, their problems compound.

With study loads increasing, and work piling up, the easy solution for them is to withdraw and leave university, research as to why by academics Gail Huon and Melissa Sankey in a study at UNSW concludes:

“When we examined all variables that had been shown to be significant predictors of the consideration to discontinue, only three factors continued to have a significant association. Students’ perceptions of their workload, the number of paid work hours, and academic performance were associated with the decision to discontinue. The higher students’ academic performance, the less likely they had been to seriously consider discontinuing. It is important to note that academic performance has the most substantial contribution, when all other influences are taken into account.”

We can see that a student who is behind in their study program is potentially in trouble. Overwhelmed with their perceived load and general life stresses, it can seem that discontinuing is a real and easy way to solve their problems.

If academic performance is the most substantial factor in student perception to withdraw, as

Psychology students in a peer-mentoring program.

Psychology students in a peer-mentoring program.
© Margund Sallowsky (Photographer)

tertiary educators, we should be aware of and detect from an early stage in their first semester, how students are coping with their new environs and their academic load and test their involvement in a formative manner. This should occur in the first few weeks of the semester.

To “keep watch” we must have strategies to identify these students as well as strategies to help them. Whilst an early piece of assessment may seem to them initially as an instant hurdle, it will help to evaluate if the students are on track. Examples of how we can assess a students progress could be a simple online quiz about your course’s basic concepts, participation in a discussion in class or online, or even a small reflection. The data from Blackboard can be used to see whether your students are looking at course materials or whether they’ve looked ahead to the main assessment.

Devlin (2012) also suggests connecting “at risk” students with other students. This could include running a camp in the first few weeks to build a support community, or running classes or tutorials with students from all years of the program in one room. This is common in ‘vertical’ design studios at RMIT, which not only provides for the opportunity of peer learning interactions, but also means that senior students become peer mentors for the first year students. A number of student mentor programs are in place across the university.

All students should have access to Study Skills tutorials, both online and face to face. We may teach a first year Architecture student design, but are we teaching tertiary study skills to our new tertiary students?

As well as conducting an early assessment, at RMIT, services are available to assist students with their study skills. It is up to course co-ordinators and tutors to check in the first few weeks of semester one, that students are coping with the school-university transition, and advise them of the help available.

And consider a formative assessment for your students in the first few weeks of semester. Maybe you can take time out in one of your classes, if you haven’t already, to point students to the help that is available to them before it’s too late.

Resources available online and at RMIT University, Melbourne:

RMIT Learning Lab
A comprehensive online site with Study Skills, English Language development, Maths Help, Assessment tasks help, Writing skills and also help for new postgraduate students. (http://emedia.rmit.edu.au/learninglab/)

Library Tutorial
Library tutorials include pages to improve students research, referencing and information finding skills. (http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=fg3oadj847l01)

Study and Learning Centre
A place where students can go and get face-to-face study skills advice and English Language development tools. (http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=vaatmxwjav8k)

References:

Huon G. & Sankey M. (2000) The transition to University, Understanding Differences in Success, http://fyhe.com.au/conference/past-papers

Devlin M, First Year Survival Guide, The Age, Jan 16 2012, http://www.theage.com.au/national/tertiary-education/first-year-a-survival-guide-20120116-1q267.html#ixzz2S5UrDCv0

Share your thoughts about mid-year orientation in the comments below!

2013 RMIT Teaching Awards Reminder!

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

photo (1)We break radio silence on the tomtom just to mention that across the DSC, Deans and Chairs L&T are accepting and sorting through nominations for the 2013 RMIT Teaching Awards, so if you were thinking about applying for an award there’s still time to submit the mini-application to your L&T team.

Likewise, in the College of Business their own nomination process is in its final days and the College of Science, Engineering and Health has a cutoff for submissions of 15 July.

And if you’re working on an application, make sure you check out the following links!

Meredith Seaman’s: Teaching Awards – worth the paperwork?
&
Kym Fraser’s: Applying for a teaching award next year? Start collecting your evidence this semester.

These two posts form an excellent knowledge base for RMIT staff who are thinking about applying for an award.

Regards,

Jon

Developing Your Teaching

Posted by: Kellyann Geurts, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, Design and Social Context College, RMIT University.

logo for Developing Your Teaching DSC opportunitiesThis year, there are three projects that we at the DSC have united under the banner of ‘Developing Your Teaching’. The projects focus on developing teaching practice and providing staff with many opportunities to engage in hands-on, practical professional learning. Schools will also be able to customise sessions to suit their teaching needs. The projects address university strategic directions, namely teaching in new learning spaces, inclusive teaching and particularly support the professional learning of sessional staff in the DSC.

Sessional staff are key players in a productive and engaging learning and teaching environment but many are positioned in uncertainty. This uncertainty is pressured with increased demands on compliance, increased student numbers, changes in accommodation and new educational technologies, shifts in course offerings to accommodate student diversity, student expectations and industry needs. In this demanding environment, accommodating the needs of sessional staff in the teaching and learning space is critical. Connecting with a community of learners to advance practice is a priority to improve both staff and student satisfaction.

1. Connecting Sessional Staff

The Connecting Sessional Staff project will provide paid professional development for sessional academic and teaching staff and is to begin in Semester 2. With staff and School guidance, a symposium and School workshops will be designed to:

  • address individual learning and teaching needs
  • share, present, discuss and reflect on teaching and learning experiences
  • support collaboration, peer partnerships and mentoring
  • connect with learning networks across the University
  • link to the online modules from the Professional Development for Tertiary Teaching Practice (PDTTP) program designed for sessional staff.

2. New Learning Spaces

School-based peer learning networks will be offered in all DSC Schools for all staff teaching in New Learning Spaces in Semester 2 2013. Staff teaching in these spaces will be invited to join a School network that will run regular meetings, facilitated by the Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching. These meetings will include support for staff to trial new ideas and invite expert speakers to talk about their teaching practice. Additionally, staff will have the opportunity to undertake one of four approaches to enhance their professional learning. These include:

  • self-directed study supported by extensive web resourcesProjects3CirclesTEXTSM
  • peer partnership program
  • peer review of teaching
  • a module from the Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education.

3. Inclusive Teaching and Assessment Practices

This project addresses the needs of a diverse student population through an ‘inclusive approach’ to curriculum design, teaching delivery and assessment. The project team will work collaboratively with academic and teaching staff to:

  • design and trial existing and new inclusive teaching approaches, learning activities and assessment tasks
  • produce hands-on teaching resources and assessment materials which support inclusive teaching practice
  • provide and assist with professional development resources and delivery in inclusive teaching.
  • promote the principles for inclusive teaching practice across the university.

The six principles developed are: Design Intentional Curriculum; Offer Flexible Assessment and Delivery; Build a Community of Learners; Teach Explicitly; Develop a ‘Feedback Rich’ Environment; and Practice Reflectively.

What next?

All three projects are in their planning phases and now is a good opportunity to ‘feed forward’ about what areas of learning and teaching most need developing, enhancing or advancing.

1. Connecting Sessional Staff: A Google survey form will be posted from your School’s L&T committees in the next fortnight to gather your ideas. Results from this survey will launch us into arranging schedules, themes and facilitators. We will keep you posted.

2. New Learning Spaces: L&T Committees will soon be advised and Program Managers and staff timetabled into these spaces will receive email notifications early in Semester 2.

3. Inclusive Teaching and Assessment Practices: This project and its website will launch on 7 June. Andrea Wallace will be providing an update in a future post on the tomtom.

If you have any questions please share them in the comments section or contact me (Kellyann Geurts) or your School’s Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching.

***

L&T events coming up in the City and in Bundoora:

If you want to learn more about how to ditch your PowerPoints and teach like a pirate, James Arvanitakis (recipient of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Australian University Teacher of the year) will be sharing his stories and model practices in a series of workshops (11 and 12 June) to coincide with the lunchtime launch of the Inclusive Teaching and Assessment Practices project.

Tuesday 11 June 10.00-11.30, City Campus 080.02.003
Wednesday 12 June 10.00-11.30 and 1:30-3:00, Bundoora Campus – 205.3.10

Register now with DevelopMe.

Student feedback: What it can and can’t tell us

Posted by: Associate Professor Andrea Chester, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, Learning and Teaching, Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

As we move towards the end of semester we begin the process of collecting student feedback via the Course Experience Survey (CES). Student feedback on teaching is a complex topic and it typically raises a range of issues for academics.

Get any group of teaching staff together to discuss student feedback and you will be guaranteed a lively discussion. In addition to the many hours clocked up in our staff rooms on this topic, it has generated thousands of articles examining the validity of student evaluation tools; the best time in the semester for such feedback; how to most effectively close the feedback loop and how to communicate with students about changes made as a result of their feedback.

Lecturer showing a mindmap on an overhead projector.

Copyright © RMIT University. Photographer: Margund Sallowsky.

Previous tomtom posts like this one and this one have effectively captured the ups and downs of the process and both make mention of the importance of putting the CES in context for students.  The phenomenon of “survey fatigue” too (as we know from our own lives) is a risk in any drive to increase response rates, particularly as we move to online administration of the survey.

There is one issue, however, on which there is widespread agreement: student feedback is only one source of information available to us about our courses and our teaching. Triangulation is crucial. This means complementing student feedback with information from:

  • assessment tasks, giving due consideration to the learning your students demonstrate
  • peer observation, such as via Peer Partnerships, in which you invite colleagues to experience your teaching and provide feedback and your own reflections on what seems to work and not work and why.

The CES can provide us with useful information, but we do need to remember what it measures, namely student experience. In his useful summary of research on student evaluations, Terry Doyle (2004) reminds us that while student feedback can provide valuable information, there are a number of aspects about which students are not well qualified to provide feedback including:

  • if the teaching methods used were appropriate for the course
  • if the content covered was appropriate for the course
  • if the content covered was up-to-date
  • if the assignments were appropriate for aiding student learning
  • if what they learned has real world application
  • if what they learned will help them in future classes
  • if the type of assistance, help or support given to students was appropriate to the learning goals of the class
  • if the difficulty level of the course material was at an appropriate level.

What Doyle also provides here I think is a structure for a teacher or lecturer to speak to towards the end of her or his course. A quick reminder about each of the elements above would also be an appropriate introduction to students before they complete their survey.

RMIT TAFE Students in class.

Copyright © RMIT University. Photographer: Margund Sallowsky.

Before making changes in response to student feedback, we need to be confident in the validity of the data provided and this brings us to response rates. This semester the Survey Services Group has developed a reliability band calculator. During the administration period of the survey (May 6 – June 2) you will be able to check how your own response rates are tracking against the reliability bands (good, sufficient and insufficient). You can check the response rates by program and school here (RMIT Staff login required). Contact your L&T group if you’d like to use a short presentation that has been designed by the Survey Centre to be displayed in a class so that students can follow the links and complete any outstanding surveys.

The RMIT Academic Expectations have set expected and aspirational targets for the Good Teaching Scale. In the coming years there will be more pressure on academics to provide reliable snapshots of the student perspective on their teaching. The vast majority of academics have always used the surveys as a tool for self-reflection.

I’m confident that we can continue a culture at RMIT that puts an appropriate emphasis on major surveys like the CES as one way in which we identify both evidence of excellence and areas for improvement.

Resources:

  • Read more about Terry Doyle’s research into surveys and teacher effectiveness at his blog Learner Centered Teaching.
  • For more on the CES, read this FAQ published by the Survey Services Centre.

Share your thoughts about the CES in the comments section below!

Clapping erasers in a digital age

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

This week, instead of a post, let’s save time with a quick four question quiz on the Basics of Blackboard (or any LMS) that you can take in your head. Ready?

Too late! The F-shape of my text means you’ve already scanned the word ‘quiz’ and who can resist a quiz?

Test Caption

A full copy of this handy matrix showing Bb tools against their pedagogical use and Bloom’s Taxonomy can be found in the resources section of RMIT’s Blackboard Interactive Tutorials.

Blackboard Basics Quiz

1) Do you use Blackboard to store and distribute course content? 

If you feel comfortable creating an item in Blackboard that holds course content (PowerPoint presentations, eReserve material, links to web resources, YouTube videos and e-books) you don’t have to read this week’s post as long as you answer the next three questions in the affirmative. This is like using Blackboard as a file cabinet.

2) Do you use Blackboard to communicate with students and enable them to communicate with each other? 

If you know how to use Blackboard to make announcements to all of the students enrolled in your course (or to groups within your course) and how to set up a discussion board where students can participate with you and with their peers about what they’re learning, you don’t have to read this week’s post as long as you answer the next two questions in the affirmative. This is like using Blackboard as a noticeboard.

3) Do you use Blackboard for any part of your assessment? 

If you use Blackboard for quizzes or the Turnitin function for e-submission of assignments you don’t have to read this week’s post as long as you answer the next question in the affirmative. This is like using Blackboard as a drop-box.

4) Do you manage the ‘look and feel’ of your shell and review your shell each time you run your course?

If you can alter the look of your shell and export items and content over to other shells and you answered in the affirmative to the three questions above you don’t have to read any further. You might like to visit RMIT’s Teaching with Technology page that I recommend at the end of the post though. This is like using Blackboard as your own online space or portal. 

For those of you who routinely do the four things above, you’ll probably be at the stage where you’re wrestling with some of Blackboard’s more advanced functions and you’re probably moving towards the model of a flipped classroom or wholly online delivery. Or you at least know how you could go down those paths.

The skills in the list above are what I think we could call a minimum set for RMIT teachers and trainers. If you’re still reading this and don’t have these skills I want to assure you that you could gain them from scratch in just a few hours. RMIT staff could start with the DevelopMe training (Blackboard Essentials) and in the College of Design and Social Context your Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching would be able to assist you with the basics and help you with implementing the right tool for what you want to achieve. The great thing about the DevelopMe training sessions is that you can bring along your own content and build your shell with the materials you will use in your course.

If you’d prefer to figure this sort of thing out by yourself Lynda.com has an in-depth tutorial, Blackboard 9.x Essential Training for Instructorswhich is divided into subheadings and fully captioned and RMIT has Interactive Tutorials on Blackboard. These are screencasts that show you exactly what, for instance, embedding a YouTube video looks like in the myRMIT environment. You are asked to point and click along with the video so that you’re doing exactly what you would be doing in your own shell.

It’s always a risk in talking about educational technology that we overlook the rationale behind the use of these tools. So for the remainder of the post I want to concentrate on each of those four metaphorical functions (file cabinetnoticeboarddrop-boxportal). I want to explain the benefits that they offer to students and staff in boosting student engagement with your course or in simply saving you time.

File cabinet

Uploading your course materials online does involve time and preparation but it’s a clear winner in terms of what it provides both you and your students. A course logically arranged can put an end to handouts and printed materials for starters. You can have texts that students can access at any time, often in a format of their choice. Students can go through materials (or support/extension materials) at their own pace (or multiple times) and can get an idea of the scope of your course. You can see how the metaphor of the file cabinet begins to strain as a Blackboard shell might have a huge amount of resources (documents, images, links to resources). So as well as orientation materials and Frequently Asked Questions about a course that a late enrolled student can access, you might also have a documentary (that in the past would have been put on closed reserve or shown in class) which is viewed by students outside of class or e-books that students can read on their tablets.

Noticeboard

In Blackboard you can email announcements to the entire enrolled set of students that are then posted to the homepage of the course.  Simple, but effective. You can put links in your announcements that take students straight to the content you want them to interact with. For instance, you might remind them of the upcoming assignment and link to a recording where you have gone through what the task requirements are or a video where you discuss a model answer. Blackboard’s discussion boards also make peer-to-peer communication possible. It’s likely that you’ll have to lead the way for a while in these discussions, and Blackboard gives you a lot of options regarding the moderation of posts, but many lecturers have reported genuine ‘social learning’ taking place in their courses using discussion boards and some assess that participation.

Drop-box

The advantages of using the Turnitin function in Blackboard (which comes with a full coversheet and generates a student preview and receipt) is something I’ve seen a quite few lecturers really embrace. As well as taking the load off professional staff and closing some of the ‘leaks’ of paper submission, the electronic submission in Blackboard is as simple as addressing an email for the students and provides a lot of benefits to the tutors and lecturers who grade and give feedback on these submissions.

Portal

This last one really ties most of the points above together. It’s interesting that the word portal goes back to the French and Latin words for gate and that we also think of portals connecting us to other lands or dimensions. In a sense, the ‘open web’  is that other land— it looms in all of our lives in the form of social networks, MOOCS, or whatever the web generates that seems more compelling than the window we have open at the moment.

For our students (as for all of us) this is only ever a click away. The challenge is to make a space on the web for your course that has that kind of life. It will be difficult to foster that life if you’re not an active participant in your own discussion boards or if you haven’t welcomed your students to your course or if you haven’t put contact details on your page.

Test caption

Click here to open a new window to the Teaching with Technology pages at RMIT

There are many tools that are easier and slicker than Blackboard. Take a look at www.rmit.edu.au/interact for examples of how the start of the year at RMIT looks through the lens of a tool like Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram. You should get some ideas about how you could use these tools with your class.

But none of these are as powerful as Blackboard. A Blackboard shell can really be your curated space on the web. Yes, it is constrained to a set of enrolled users and therefore quite unlike the ‘open web’ or social media platforms, but there are advantages in those constraints — a point I’ll take up in a future post on the use of Facebook and other applications.

I can assure you that the skills you learn in dealing with Blackboard are valuable in themselves and are transferable to other platforms. Your skill at managing this particular ‘gated space’ can also make you think more deeply about the structure of your course; about what you offer your students in terms of resources.  It should make you think about how you communicate with your students and how you can encourage them to communicate with each other. In short, these are some of the new core of skills for the 21st century educator. Ideally they can extend our reach and enhance our proficiency to facilitate learning.

I’ve only touched on a small part of Blackboard’s functionality. I’ve avoided entirely the metaphor of ‘the blackboard’ itself: the tools in Blackboard which allow you to present material — that too will have to wait for another post. My title is also misleading. I needed a blackboard reference. But I will hint that just like physical blackboards, there are fiddly little administrative tasks that simply can’t be avoided and that trial runs are a must for most of Blackboard’s advanced features. ‘Blackboard’s chalk dust’ could be a whole other post.

In closing I will mention the great resources on RMIT’s Teaching with Technology page which provides good practice guides to the many supported tools in place here at RMIT.

Share your thoughts on Blackboard! We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

2013 RMIT Teaching Awards

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

2012 RMIT Teaching Award Winners

Professor Margaret Gardner, AO, Vice-Chancellor and President and the recipients of the RMIT Teaching and Research Awards in 2012. Click here to see a list of past winners.

It’s already March which means there’s a little over two months before nominations open for the 2013 RMIT Teaching Awards. Here at the tomtom we’ve written about the awards in the 2012 posts below:

Meredith Seaman’s: Teaching Awards – worth the paperwork?
and
Kym Fraser’s Applying for a teaching award next year? Start collecting your evidence this semester.

These two posts form an excellent knowledge base for RMIT staff who are thinking about applying for an award.

What comes out clearly in each of the above (and in my conversations with past applicants) is the value most participants felt in the process of reflecting on their practice and the importance of having a narrative to your teaching that is backed up by evidence. To bring it back to what you might be doing this month in your classes, examples of assessments that you have run with actual student outcomes displayed (de-identified and used with their permission) can make powerful examples in the evidence you supply with your application. The use of visuals and materials supplied on DVD is an option applicants are increasingly taking advantage of to display the achievements of teachers and learners.

Importantly, the awards are also open to professional and support staff. We all know those who may not teach but are crucial to the success of our students and Category P7 is especially relevant to those members of staff.

As the DSC’s coordinator for the awards, (click here for the Business and SEH coordinators) I wanted to grab some of the mental real estate that might be available at this time of year to advise staff of some of the key dates, categories and a couple of changes to the process for 2013 through a short series of FAQs:

How do I nominate?

You can nominate a colleague by contacting your college’s coordinator. You can also discuss your own application. In the DSC, these nominations will be forwarded to the Schools’ L&T Directors/Chairs. These nominations open20 May.

I’ve heard there will be peer review of teaching for Teaching Awards?

Yes, but for 2013 this will be a voluntary process. There are workshops being run for interested staff on 18 March and 10 May. As the Learning and Teaching page on the pilot states: “For 2013, review of teaching is being piloted and will be available on a voluntary basis to teachers who plan to apply for an RMIT Teaching Award. On request, two trained reviewers will review the intending applicant’s teaching and provide reports. These reports can then be used as evidence to support a teaching award application.” So you can think of peer review as another piece of evidence, just like your CES data and professional references. For more information, click here.

What are the categories for the awards?

Click on the following links to find out more about a particular category:

  • Category A – Teaching Excellence, Higher Education
    • A1 College of Science, Engineering and Health
    • A2 College of Design and Social Context
    • A3 College of Business
    • A4 Early career academic (Higher Education)
    • A5 Priority area – Teaching a diverse student body
  • Category B – Teaching Excellence, TAFE
    • Category B1 TAFE Outstanding Teacher / Trainer of the Year Award
    • Category B2 Early Career Teacher / Trainer of the Year Award
    • Category B3 Outstanding Training Initiative of the Year Award
  • Category C – Sessional Staff
    • C1 Outstanding Sessional Teaching Award (Higher Education)
    • C2 Outstanding Sessional Teaching Award (TAFE)
  • Category P – Awards for Programs that Enhance Student Learning
    • P1 Widening Participation
    • P2 Educational Partnerships and Collaborations with Other Organisations
    • P3 The First Year Experience
    • P4 Flexible Learning and Teaching
    • P5 Innovation in Curricula, Learning and Teaching
    • P6 Postgraduate Education
    • P7 Services Supporting Student Learning
    • P8 Indigenous Education

What about team applications?

As long as all members are eligible, team applications are encouraged in categories A, B, C and P. Last year in the DSC, teams from the Schools of Art, Education and GUSS won awards.

Will I have to make a full application to the College?

No, in the DSC you will only have to address one criteria in your initial application. If you are selected as the College’s nominee you will be supported in writing the full application. There are also workshops scheduled for June to assist you in writing your application.

Okay, I’m interested or I know someone who would make a good nominee. What should I do next?

I’d love to hear from you. Getting an early start on the process can make it a lot more enjoyable. We can discuss what category might be appropriate for your nomination and I can put you in touch with past winners of the awards. Contact me to discuss the best use of your time in the upcoming months!

Do you have thoughts on the process of applying for a teaching award? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

Writing critical thinking learning outcomes

Posted by: Associate Professor Kym Fraser, L&T Group, Design and Social Context College, RMIT.

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinker, Rodin (cc) Wikimedia Commons. Photographer: Andrew Horne

Building on Helen McLean’s post Bloom ‘n’ Biggs and John Benwell’s post Course guides: Bloomin’ verbs, this post provides ideas for writing critical thinking learning outcomes. Critical thinking is one of the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) cognitive skills requirements that all programs will need to demonstrate from 2015.

Critical thinking is a complex process that requires the use of the higher level cognitive skills in Bloom’s taxonomy: analysis; synthesis; and evaluation (Bloom et al, 1956). We may expect students to demonstrate that they are thinking critically in many different ways, including: raising vital questions and formulating them clearly; gathering and assessing relevant information; using abstract ideas; and thinking open-mindedly. We also may expect our students to consider the context, justify their answers and analyse their own thinking in terms of clarity, accuracy, relevance, logic and fairness. Some theorists suggest that critical thinking is social in nature and therefore requires reflection followed by communication (Choy and Cheah, 2008: 199).

We can make our critical thinking skills development explicit for AQF requirements through the writing of our course guide learning outcomes. Through these we alert students to the focus of the course in terms of both the discipline content and the skills. We also help staff teaching courses in later semesters to see the outcomes students have achieved in our course and how they might build upon those achievements. Outcomes let students know some of the specific ways in which you expect them to develop and demonstrate their critical thinking skills in your course (how to think like a journalist/teacher/engineer). They also help students to better understand the language of the discipline and ways of thinking, which can often be quite discipline specific.

Writing critical thinking learning outcomes that are useful to students can be challenging. Table 1 provides a list of verbs that can be used in the formulation of outcomes. They should also aid you in aligning the learning experiences and assessment tasks that lead to those outcomes.

Table 1.  Useful terminology for writing critical thinking learning outcomes*

Analysis Synthesis Evaluation
Analyse Argue Assess
Apply Categorise Appraise
Break down Combine Challenge
Compare and contrast Compile Compare and contrast
Deconstruct Create Conclude
Determine Devise/develop Criticise/critique
Discuss Design Defend
Describe Explain Discriminate
Differentiate Generate Evaluate/judge
Discriminate Modify Explain
Distinguish Organize Interpret
Identify Plan Justify
Illustrate Prioritise Recognise
Infer Rearrange, reconstruct Relate
Manage Reorganise Review
Outline Relate Select
Relate Revise Summarise
Review Rewrite Support
Select Summarise
Separate

* Adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, 1956. (At our institution ‘outcomes’ rather then ‘objectives’ are used in course guides.)

Figure 1 below provides examples of critical thinking learning outcomes. As you will see, some of these incorporate all three of Bloom’s higher order cognitive skills (analysis, synthesis and evaluation) while others reflect just the one skill.  I hope that you find these useful when thinking about your course planning.

Figure 1. Critical thinking learning outcome examples

  1. select, analyse, interpret and evaluate a range of source materials.
  2. describe patterns or relationships in large amounts of written and/or visual information.
  3. evaluate available written and/or visual information, evidence and argument for reliability and authority/usefulness (e.g.; observation, testimony, measurement, experiment).
  4. look for, recognise, articulate and challenge assumptions and presuppositions, gaps/silences, suppressed/overlooked evidence in their own, peer and professional opinions.
  5. identify and manage the risks associated with making and implementing decisions.
  6. make a reasoned argument
  7. analyse and assess the strength of an argument and the implications for a course of action that follows from it.
  8. access or generate alternatives and select the most appropriate.
  9. develop a well-supported, clearly articulated argument to support a view and use it to justify one or more conclusions.
  10. prioritise tasks according to their own or other considerations.
  11. apply systematic research processes.
  12. develop industry/professional standards that may affect their decision making.
  13. develop a clearly articulated argument to support a view and use it to justify one or more conclusions.
  14. select and discuss written and/or visual information to produce a comprehensive picture for different ways of viewing a problem.
  15. determine the component parts of a problem/issue, their relationships to each other and to the issue/problem as a whole.
  16. identify and explain/rectify logical and/or other errors in an argument.
  17. assess the strength of an argument and the implications for a course of action that follows from it.
  18. develop a rationale for performing a character in a particular way.
  19. compare and contrast (eg documents, accounts, arguments, different styles of presenting a performance, the rights of individuals in different regional contexts).
  20. judge the validity of a group’s right to self determination.
  21. analyse a conflict and draw relationships with historical examples.
  22. generate critical questions about historical examples.
  23. reflect on the strength and weaknesses of yourself and your team members and suggest ways in which you and others could improve the work of the team in the future.

Resources

Griffith University Critical Evaluation Toolkit (accessed November 9, 2012 at http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/290659/Critical-evaluation-skills.pdf)

This toolkit was developed by Griffith University and is intended for use by academics. The toolkit identifies principles of critical thinking and analysis, elaborates on employer and graduate needs with respect to critical thinking and includes information on designing learning activities and assessing critical thinking.

Oliver, B. Assuring Graduate Attributes. (accessed November 9, 2012at http://boliver.ning.com/)

This is a site to which individuals can subscribe. Once subscribed, go to the ‘Set Standards’ section and in the right hand column you will see examples of standards in different disciplines. Some of those examples include detailed standards for critical thinking.

Bibliography

Bloom, S., Engelhart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W. and Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. David McKay Company, Inc: New York.

Choy, S.  and Cheah, P. (2008). Teacher Perceptions of Critical Thinking Among Students and its Influence on Higher Education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 20 (2), 198 – 206.

Facione, P. A. (2009) Critical thinking: what it is and why it counts. Online at http://www.insightassessment.com/pdf_files/what&why2006.pdf (accessed August 18, 2009).

Fagin, B., Harper, J. Baird, L., Hadfield, S. & Sward, R., (2006). Critical thinking and computer science: implicit and explicit connections. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 21(4), 171-177.

Jones, A. (1997), Multiplicities or manna from heaven? Critical thinking and the disciplinary context. Australian Journal of Education, 51(1), 84-103

Jones, A. (2004). Teaching critical thinking: an investigation of a task in introductory macroeconomics. Higher Education Research & Development. 23 (2): 167 – 182.

Moore, T. (2004). The critical thinking debate: how general are general thinking skills? Higher Education Research & Development,23(1), 3-18.

Sharma, P. & Hannafin, M. (2004). Scaffolding critical thinking in an online course: An exploratory study, Journal of Educational Computing Research, 31(2), 181-208.

Tapper, J. (2004). Student perceptions of how critical thinking is embedded in a degree program.  Higher Education Research & Development. 23 (2): 199 – 222.

Thomas, T., Davis, T. & Kazlauskas, A. (2007) Embedding critical thinking in IS curricula. Journal of Information Technology Education, 6(1), 327-346

Share your thoughts about critical thinking learning outcomes (or critical thinking skills in general) in the comments! 

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