Monday, July 19, 2010

Ako Aotearoa Research in Progress Colloquium 2010 - day one morning

Was at the ako aotearoa research colloquium Thursday & Friday of last week. Pretty full on two days & this & the next three posts consolidate my notes from presentations on the various projects in tertiary education
 funded by both Ako Aotearoa and the Ministry of Education Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) Fund. The symposium provides an opportunity for researchers to share findings and work in progress plus to do the usual networking. I am especially interested in research methodology and approaches used by the many projects along with catching up with other researchers in the field.

The symposiusm was formally opened with a mihi whatatau from Ngahiwi Apanui, Kaihautu Maori for Ako Aotearoa and an introduction and warm welcome from Dr. Peter Coolbear, the director of Ako Aotearoa.

First up, Dorothy Spiller from University of Waikato and Stuart Terry from Otago Polytechnic present on 'Unlocking the impact of tertiary teachers' perceptions of student evaluations of teaching.' Project on 3 tertiary institutions - 2 universities and 1 ITP. Project seeks to find out if student evaluations influence teacher thinking and behaviour, does institutional use constrain teaching innovation, why teachers undertake evaluation and do teachers use student evaluation feedback to improve teaching, do they engage in dialogue with students about evaluation feedback and how can findings from the project be used to enhance the use of evaluations to improve teaching and learning. Progress to date includes literature review and collection of survey data. Lit review reveals gap between acceptance and use of evaluation to inform practice; could using multiple sources of evaluation help? teacher emotions and receiving student feedback important and are there relationships between teaching beliefs and using evaluations to inform teaching? PD/guidance required to support use of evaluations to inform teaching; institutional support & incentives help; perceptions of the ownership of the student evaluation process important. Online survey used with a 45% return rate from 2445 staff. Interviews to be conducted with 10 staff from each institution. Early data indicate new staff tend to use evaluations although established staff in two institutions use them too. Further data analysis to compare commonalities and differences between insitutions to be undertaken form next semester.
Then, 'Help or hindrance: A blended approach to learner engagement' from John Milne, Gordon Suddaby and Dr. Andrew Higgins from Auckland University of Technology presented by Dr. Lynne Jeffrey from Massey University. Based on Dewey's principles of learning through experience, engagement in activities of personal relevance and learning collaboratively and promise promoted by introducing and using technology to enhance learning. However despite heavy investment in technology infratructure within education, may students still tend to learn through informal, outside of school engagement with technology. Study of 8 2nd year business classes from 4 NZ tertiary institutions to find out what engagement strategies may work. These include interactive activities, matching student learning style influences with engagement strategies and collect student feedback on what works or does not. A toolkit is to be developed to help teachers select appropriate blended approaches. Toolkit includes, needs assessments (student, course, curriculum characteristics), development and delivery (design, engagement strategies, communication /inteactive activies, student support, diagnostic/formative activities and evaluation strategies) and evaluation and teacher reflection. Use of blended learning seen as one way to build student engagement with the institution and also the content of their study. Engagement requires a'grab attention phase involving using building on the curiosity of students and need for relevance; Removing both student and organisational barriers; and building social presence through integration of students to obviate feelings of alienation and isolation, helping cohorts/groups congregate /consolidate, personalisation and teacher presence (immediacy and attention).

After morning tea, an overview of the various TLRI tertiary projects was provided by Associate Professor Nick Zepke and Dr. Linda Leach from Massey University. The main objective is to provide information on the projects to date as TLRI has a focus for future projects to build on existing / completed research it has already funded. 18 post-school projects funded so far with 11 reports now available with several more about to come up on website. There are connections between Ako Aotearoa and TLRI projects which can be build on for instance learning dialogues in field- based education( Ako Aorearoa) and learning communities (TLRI). Both focus on teaching practice / building research capability and capacity, also on building relationships between students/ teachers / communities, assessments. Other emerging themes include competence (teachers and students), transition to independent learning, diversity of students, teaching is complex and challenging, impact of institutional and organisational cultures on teaching and learning. Need to network within the small tertiary education community in NZ and to look beyond own little project, to liaise and work on collaborative projects where possible.

Following the overview, a presentation on'Integrating information literacy and discovering voice in the NZ tertiary context', presented by Angela Feekery from Massey University who is an Ako Aotearoa PhD scholarship recipient in 2009. Angela's supervisor is Dr. Lisa Emerson. She reported on the participatory action research (PAR) research project focused on integrating / embedding the development of info. literacy (IL) skills and improving writing. Who provides students with IL debated but the collaborative model between library staff and academic staff most common. The main objective of study is to identify and implement ways students can appropriately work with a wide range of information and relate these to their assessment tasks within their discipline. To begin, semester one studied with a group of 'planning' students. This found many things related to IL which required working with. Last semester, interventions like draft submission/feedback, guided peer review, using i-maps, reading/learning log and evaluating sources. Now investigating key skills via interviews with programme staff and then develop model for IL for this discipline.

Then Dr. Willem Fourie, Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) and Beverly McClelland, Counties Manukau District Health Board DHB present on their project 'dedicated education unit: enhancing clinical teaching and learning. The project now completed so report on findings and recommendations undertaken at this presentation. Concept of Dedicated education unit (DEU) originated in Australia with DEUs established with CPIT/Canterbury District Health Board collaboration since 2007, MIT and Manukau DHB in 2008 and Middlemore in 2009. This study uses action research to identify best practice. In each cycle of the action research, commonalities and dis-similarities were identified. Findings include importance of orientation and planning for both staff and students, roles within DEU, teamwork expectations especially between clinical learning nurse and academic learning nurse, support required from peers, students learning at different levels/years and staff, student learning needs with relevant feedback and enhancing self-confidence for all concerned. Final recommendation is for a continuation with the DEU model. Other recommendations include structure for 3rd year students to support 1st year students, selection of CLN, work on feedback from both staff and students who participated in project, continuing collaborative approach, perhaps a DEU coordinator role to be established and engagement of a multi- disciplinary team across various DEUs, consult with Maori PHOs and to consider student rotation.

A full on morning with a convivial lunch to recover and ready for the afternoon.