writing + thinking teaching awards

helen tomtom pic

Image from morguefile.com

This week, Helen McLean, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching and Rosemary Chang, Project Manager – Scholarship of Learning & Teaching (SoLT) project, write about the college’s new approach to supporting academics applying for teaching awards.

This year in the College of Design and Social Context (DSC), we are supporting our college participants in the RMIT Teaching Awards process by using a community of practice model that makes writing and sharing of knowledge about learning and teaching the central methods for developing deeper understanding of individual teaching practice. We are exploring how teaching staff might be enabled to deepen their understanding and articulation of their teaching practice as they develop teaching award applications.

We are providing a supportive space whereby participants learn from each other in the drafting and development of submissions under the guidance of two College LT team members. We are offering three sequential workshops and five writing + thinking spaces to support the writing and development process of submissions using hands-on writing sessions, models and feedback on drafts. The workshops invite participants to engage with theoretical frameworks about writing and the genre of teaching awards through scaffolded reflection and dialogue, as well as engaging in writing activities and sharing of drafts for comment. The writing + thinking spaces are opt in and unstructured. They are designed to assist applicants with maintaining momentum and time management as they weave their applications together.

We aim to nurture a supportive community where applicants receive individual, formative and ongoing feedback from college L&T team members and peers through review of drafts. We discuss writing strategies for the teaching award genre and for selecting learning and teaching evidence to support applicants’ stories. The approach seeks to enable teaching staff to genuinely deepen their knowledge and articulation of teaching practice in the context of the teaching awards application process.

We are also taking a long term view of developing teaching awards applications and encouraging applicants to consider working on planning and preparing their submissions with sufficient lead time. In many cases, applicants are opting to take a year or more to reflect on their teaching practice and gather focused evidence. We are supporting participants to think strategically about the teaching awards process in relation to their individual career plans, taking into consideration their aspirations and suitability for national awards, grants and academic promotion. We therefore help with mapping out an individual schedule for developing learning and teaching practice, collecting evidence and applying for grants and awards over the immediate future.

This overall approach for supporting teaching award applicants builds on previous posts on the teachingtomtom which have emphasized the planning and benefits of the effort and writing involved for developing a successful and rewarding application.

We are realistic with applicants about the competitive nature of teaching awards, particularly at the national level. We therefore aspire to ensure that the work that applicants put into the development of an RMIT award has the potential to seed a strong case that will both demonstrate the contribution that has been made to learning and teaching and tell a convincing and memorable story for the purposes of another award, promotion or even a publication (see Iain Hay’s book Inspiring Academics for a lovely read of award-winning university teachers’ explorations of their practice).

We hope that the college process we are using this year will set the foundation not only for supporting quality submissions, but also for enabling deeper understanding and expressions of practice, leading to scholarly reflections and writing in learning and teaching and the relevant fields for each applicant.


Share your thoughts on this new approach to teaching award applications by leaving a reply in the comments section!

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RMIT Learning & Teaching for Sustainability Teaching Fellowships – a celebration, and tips for applicants

This week Thembi Mason, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, in the College of Design and Social Context, and Dr. Jude Westrup,  Senior Advisor, Strategic Initiatives, Learning and Teaching from the Office of Dean, Learning and Teaching, at RMIT University, interview two academics on their “RMIT Learning & Teaching for Sustainability Teaching Fellowships” (Pilot) 2014 project.
Two RMIT Learning and Teaching for Sustainability (LTfS) Teaching Fellowships were awarded in 2014, one to Dr Yoko Akama (School of Media and Communications – DSC) and the other to Dr James Wong (School of Property Construction & Project Management – DSC). Yoko and James kindly agreed to share their experiences in winning the award, what their proposals were about, what they learned and what tips they would give to others considering applying for a Fellowship. In 2015 there will be funding available for three Learning & Teaching for Sustainability Teaching Fellowships – one for each Academic College. 
The primary focus of the LTfS Teaching Fellowships is on developing strategic, high-quality curriculum resources and learning activities, created in collaborative and innovative ways with industry-focuses. They not only advance LTfS in the curriculum across RMIT, within their specific discipline, but also within their industry or profession and across the global tertiary sector. In addition, they enhance the student learning experiences and outcomes in relation to sustainability and graduate employment outcomes.
Designing future designers: Pedagogy of building capacity in designing for complex social and environmental issues Implementing lessons learned from the development and delivery of a blended course on ‘Sustainability in the Built Environment’ at broader program level
 Yoko_smlDr Yoko Akama (top left) with Communication Design students) The TeamDr James Wong (right) with research assistant, Linnea Eriksson
What was your proposal?

My proposal built on a course we piloted with final year Communication Design students in 1st semester 2014. Developed in partnership with Oxfam’s Design for Change program, students designed communication strategies to engage Australian youth on climate change and food security. The teaching integrated my research expertise and introduced human-centred design methods to assist students’ learning of design’s role in addressing complex issues.Consolidating its fruitful outcome and Oxfam’s enthusiasm to continue the successful partnership, I evaluated the pilot program through feedback from students and Oxfam staff. This was then strengthened further with a literature review to integrate social and sustainable principles into the curricula. I undertook several workshops with various stakeholders to call upon a range of expertise in Oxfam, RMIT and beyond to ensure evaluation and critical input to deliver internationally relevant curricula.

How did you feel, when you found out that you’d won the fellowship?Very pleased and grateful – the timing was perfect! It also meant that the program we could develop with Oxfam would be stronger and they were really thrilled with the news as well.

What was your experience of the process for submitting for a sustainability fellowship?

The time when the call came through the e-mail to when the application was due was very short. I had to pull all stops, work evenings and weekends to get the application done, but it was worth it. I’m used to pressured deadlines ;-p

What would you recommend to others who might be considering applying?

I would recommend people to play to their strengths, build on their current research and teaching practice.

What did you learn through the fellowship project you proposed?

It was great to have consolidated time to thoroughly examine sustainability and social innovation in design from literature, case studies and experiences of those who are teaching it now. This was a great learning experience.

What would you do differently next time?

If I could do it differently next time, I would like to involve more people, through discursive and generative workshops. We only ran three workshop sessions in the end, and each one felt like there was more that could’ve been shared and iterated.

What does winning the fellowship means to you?

Winning the Fellowship meant that I could explore and deepen my approach and knowledge on how sustainability can be taught in design. It felt like a philosophical quest, actually, and very rewarding too.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to thank the Learning and Teaching for Sustainability project (Office of Dean, Learning & Teaching) and RMIT’s Sustainability Committee for this initiative, and I hope it continues from strength to strength into the future.

What was your proposal?

The aim of the project was to implement lessons learned from the development and delivering of the ‘Sustainability in the Built Environment’ course into the Master of Energy Efficient and Sustainable Building which will be offered in 2015 within the Construction Management Program. This course will be delivered in conjunction with the Master program.The project explored the viability of the delivery mode of the course in implementing it to other courses in the Masters program; exploring ways and methods in enhancing student learning for online course through implementing virtual collaborate problem-based workshop; and to explore possibilities in implementing online real-time case studies with building industries.

How did you feel, when you found out that you’d won the fellowship?I was really excited and encouraged by the fact that important issues for sustainability in teaching and learning have been acknowledged.

What was your experience of the process for submitting for a sustainability fellowship?It has been a challenging experience but the process has been a pleasant one with the encouragement, support and advises from the school.

What would you recommend to others who might be considering applying?Prepare early, consult relevant people in your school and excited about sustainability in tertiary education.

What did you learn through the fellowship project you proposed?

The project has helped to extend my knowledge and understanding in developing and delivering online courses in construction management programs.

What would you do differently next time?Prepare proposal with industry inputs/advise.

What does winning the fellowship means to you?It has encouraged me to plan for submitting proposals to relevant external research funding.

If you are interested in applying for a Learning and Teaching for Sustainability (LTfS) Teaching Fellowship details will be made available in January 2015. For more information email the L&T Sustainability Group

However, here are some planning points you may like to consider:

Does the project proposal:
  Address at least one priority area derived from the RMIT Strategic Plan and Sustainability Action Plan?
  Show that there is support by the school or college?
  Have a budget compliant with accounting standards and which uses current salary scales?
  Show evidence of consultation with relevant stakeholders including the ODLT including LTfS Project Manager where relevant?
You will need to demonstrate:
a. Demonstration of clear potential to improve student learning experiences, outcomes and employment opportunities in relation to LTfS
b. Evidence of a clear return on investment, by demonstrating the potential for application in areas of the university beyond their immediate context
c. Demonstration of the ability to deliver project outcomes within approved timeframes and with requested resources (table format)
d. Demonstration of the need for the project, including reference to previous relevant projects, published literature and LTfS context
e. Demonstration of sound project design and methodology
f. Demonstration of how the impact of the project will be evaluated (e.g. by improved data in PARS or by improved CES or other LTfS metrics or indicators)
g. Demonstration of how knowledge and best practice from the LTfS Fellowship project will be shared and disseminated

These Teaching Fellowships are an integral component of a LTfS project that is reinvigorating and creating new curriculum resources, professional development (PD) and interactive LTfS experiential learning resources in alignment with RMIT’s Sustainability Policy and action items from the RMIT Sustainability Action Plan (to 2020)  and our Graduate Attributes


Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!
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Designing your Research Dissemination

Megan McPherson, Project Officer from Learning and Teaching in the College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University, writes on Designing your Research Dissemination. Thanks to our friends at The Research Whisperer for this cross post.

Megan McPhersonMegan McPherson is currently working on the Dissemination of Learning and Teaching Resources Project for the College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University. She is supporting multiple research teams and internal and external processes for engaged dissemination.

She has project managed, led, and evaluated higher education research in the areas of peer learning and assessment in the creative industries, elearning approaches in the university studio, and professional development for teaching in new generation learning spaces.

Megan is a practicing artist and has taught and researched in the university studio for 18 years. She is a PhD scholar in the Faculty of Education, Monash University.

Megan tweets and instagrams at @MeganJMcPherson.

Tote. Sack. (Artwork/photo by Megan McPherson)It used to be that dissemination was all about the academic publishing and conference presentations you would do at the end of the project to make public your findings and recommendations.

In the grant-lands of internal and external funding bodies, the idea of dissemination is changing.

Engaging in dissemination with your stakeholders is expected from the beginning of the project. An example of the support for this move is the Australian Government’s Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) ‘engaged dissemination’ project resulting in The D-Cubed project and resources.

Most learning and teaching funds emphasise engaged dissemination, and there are things that we can learn from this space. Dissemination can be more than an academic conference paper or article in a pay-walled journal.

Dissemination has moved into the more specific arena of ‘engaged dissemination’ where there is a planned process of ‘understanding potential adopters and engaging with them throughout the life of the project, to facilitate commitment to sustained change” (p.12). This means that you identify and interact with the audience for your research from the beginning of your project.

It involves a process that is thoughtful and focused on the change you want to enact through your project. An example of this is the Eating for Two study by Dr Emily Kothe. The study examines eating habits and pregnancy, and is making connections with, and disseminating information to, the audience that is most affected by these issues. Emily, an early career researcher (ECR) at Deakin University, is disseminating information, updating her audience, and recruiting participants through Facebook.

Dissemination is closely connected to your project’s methods and methodology. You can think of engaged dissemination as:

  • Distributing project products or information
  • Telling others about the project
  • Others using the project outcomes
  • Spreading and embedding project impact
  • An ongoing two-way process aimed at bringing about change

(The D-Cubed project, p.10)

These concepts can help you think through the research process and what change you want to achieve. Different artefacts, events, and methods can work in multiple ways and for diverse audiences. These multiple ways are best illustrated by the different dissemination examples below.

Static web resources are the lasting web based artefacts like a website from the project, resources, and reports that are accessible. Many of the contractual agreement with learning and teaching funds require that they have to remain accessible on the web for five years.

An example of a static web resource is the Teaching Larger Classes site. Under the sessional teaching tab, it provides examples of learning and teaching resources on multiple platforms and outputs for sessionals teaching in universities. This externally funded project links into an institutional presence and manual. Other learning and teaching resources and documents can be lodged into repositories and shared from this point. Writing manuals to support the change being enacted provides a way for your audience to undertake action without having to read your reports or academic articles. However, this type of dissemination depends on the audience finding the resources – it is a ‘distributing project products or information’ type of engaged dissemination.

Engaged dissemination is also about telling others about the project and having them use the project outcome. Trish McClusky (@Trilia) and Kylie Readman (@kyliereadman) have designed the Social Media Toolkit, a project for higher education leaders who are interested in developing knowledge and skills in connecting, sharing, and creating through social media. It is a repository of information, and customisable by users to suit different locations and priorities. For example, you can copy the content of the site with author attribution, and then add and adapt links to introduce a particular topic, a particular location, and add your university’s social media policy and guidelines to suit your audience.

Other forms of engaged dissemination spread and embed the project impact by using blogging over the life of the project to engage with stakeholders. Professor Pat Thomson regularly blogs about her research experiences. She lists a number of her ongoing project blogs on her blog’s research page; these project blogs are where she and her research team document their research. In the comments the audience can interact, ask questions and contact the researchers.

Non-traditional outcomes for engaged dissemination include films and participatory art exhibitions. The Heroic Strategies Exhibition came out of a large, long-term project that addresses staff concerns in Bournemouth’s School of Health & Social Care. The project describes its methodology as ‘a unique arts-based approach to change management to engage staff in the process’. The project researchers, Dr Kip Jones and Professor Gail Thomas, used a guest blog post on the LSE Impact blog to engage with an audience interested in change in academic institutions.

Professor Adra Cole’s project, Putting care on the map, investigates care giving and Alzheimer’s disease with an arts-based methodology. It used engaged dissemination, including participatory art exhibitions. The project invited carer-participants to add to the data in situ in the gallery as well as in more formal ways. The idea of the research was to educate the public about the complexities of care giving by connecting with diverse communities. By exhibiting collecting stories, artefacts, and documenting experiences, it disseminated the information at the same time that it gathered it. It exhibited the works over a two year period, and Cole continued to present the project academically over 6 years. It is an example of an ongoing two-way process aimed at bringing about change.

Designing dissemination

To start thinking about dissemination in the design phase, the OLT recommends these starting questions to think through the process:

  • What do you want to disseminate?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Why do you want to disseminate?
  • How are you going to do it?
  • How might you involve your target audience throughout the process?
  • Have you allowed time for evaluation, reflection and replanning?
  • How will you know that your dissemination has been successful?

(The D-Cubed project, from King, 2003, p. 89 )

Follow up steps

My secondary questions are:

  • What are the best ways to make contact and engage your audience?
  • What are the outcomes that are going to be most useful in this conversation?
  • How do I make this sustainable for the research team and my audience to engage in this process?
  • What is the cost (money, time and personnel) of these strategies and outcomes?
  • Have we included the dissemination process in our evaluation plan?

Dissemination is about building profile for your project and about you – the researcher – as a part of the team. Recently, I made a webpage for the project, Academics who Tweet. It’s research I am working on with Dr Narelle Lemon (La Trobe University) and Kylie Budge (Victoria University). The webpage has an “About” section that is replicated on Narelle’s blog and linked into Kylie’s profile on LinkedIn. This simple act of making the project known on multiple platforms has enabled us to make connections with other researchers in the area.

There’s sure to be an audience that will engage with your research. It’s up to you to tell them about it, in ways that make sense for your methodology and research design.

Share your thoughts and questions on Designing your Research Dissemination in the comments section below!
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