Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Research Week @ Ara - DAY 2

Second day of staff 6 minute presentations. 

Wei Yu is a visiting scholar from Chengdu University to Ara’s Department of Engineering and Architectural Studies. He is today’s guest Speaker and presents on his institutions research direction. Began with quick overview of his institution - video. Summarised the rationale and objectives of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship – with cutting edge –electric cars etc. disciplines. University is in close proximity to industrial area which has multi-national IT and engineering companies (e.g Foxcomm, Lenova, Pepsi etc.).  Applied research in environmental technology, intelligent manufacturing and UAV and robot applied technology. Summarised some of his work, with AUT, on smart monitoring and diagnosing of anaesthetic monitoring processes. Mazharuddin Syed Ahmeh – Ara engineering tutor - presents on a collaborative project between Ara and Chengdu University – healthcare precision engineering. Through management of data from internet of things, to help people keep healthy.

Taka Yokoyama summarises a section of his PhD on ‘Should native English speakers complete teacher training before teaching English in Japan’. Overview of the ‘job satisfaction’ section – match = satisfaction and mis-match – frustration. How does having training increase job satisfaction for assistant teachers of English in Japan. Only if completed more than 20 papers or have had practicum, then satisfaction higher.

James Murray from Commerce, presents on ‘equity crowdfunding in NZ’. Summarised definitions of crowdfunding – from charity through to peer2peer and equity (selling shares). Legally available in NZ since 2014 – selling shares of a company on line. Caveats apply as ‘disclosure rules’ do not need to be met. Generally 60% successful, so not guarantees. Used textual (AI) analysis to find out the ways equity crowdfunding work.

Lynda Roberts speaks on ‘problematising youth policy’ which is part of her PhD. Provided rationale and overview of her research question, methods and frameworks. Looking into policies related to policies on youth transitions. Using a bio-political lens to see how educational policy construct and govern ‘disengaged youth’. Framed by Foucoult’s concepts of power.

Then Gwyn Reynolds provides an overview of the ‘Sumo jazz album #2’. Currently in progress and a continuation of work completed 5-6 years ago. Each staff / graduate writes one work and the group performs the work. Played an example. Album now recorded and mixing currently occurring.

Tracy Kirkbride from medical imaging presents on ‘educating MARS’. Detailed what MARs is – adding colour to xray images – Medipix all resolution systems. The systems needs to be taught how to turn signals into colours associated with organic materials. Seeing ‘different’ materials is important – eg. Difference between bone, cancer, gout crystals.

David Hawke presents on ‘detecting lab mistakes in stable isotope analysis’. Presented background and rationale for work. Use ‘control’ (try tea bag for plant samples) as part of sample delivered to lab for analysis and if results return with different result, then need to re-look at analysis. Ways to undertake quality control always important. 

Sam Uta’I – presented by Margaret Leonard - gives us an update on ‘implementing the Pasifika success toolkit with 3 Canterbury tertiary organisations and evaluating its effectiveness in practice’. An Ako Aotearoa Southern Hub funded project (original project here). Detailed the research process. Currently, the project is implementing a tool-kit which is an outcome of the project. 3 areas are in academic – more contextual relevance; student services; and Pasifika visibility. Tool kit includes definition of success from student POV; exemplars for practice; to be put onto Moodle for staff access.

Bronwyn Beatty presents on ‘access radio for the long term’. Used Plains FM 96.9 and experiences beyond 2010 / 2011 earthquakes. Detailed the struggles experienced by staff and volunteers to disseminate information crucial to ethnic communities. No funding availed for information to be translated, checked for accuracy before it was used. Plains sourced funds for off-site capability and timely translation of messages from Council / Civil Defence – Samoan, Tagalog and Hindi. Participated in advisory / advocacy groups – CLING – community language information group / Multi-cultural Strategies into 2018. Renegotiated relationships and forged new agreements to ensure access radio continues. Increase awareness to 12 access radio stations in NZ.

Ryoko de Burgh-Hirabe on ‘the current trend of reasons why tertiary students study Japanese in NZ’. Drop of students 48% over last decade. Some reasons provided but many are beyond teachers’ control. Collaborative across NZ (5 institutions) using on-line questionnaire with 300 plus replies. Reasons include to be able to communicate in Japanese, interest in language, pop culture and travel to Japan. Obtaining work was not a top reason. Japanese majors generally would like to live / work in Japan but students doing Japanese as an elective usually interested in visiting.


Another interesting range of presentations. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Research week @ Ara - 2017 - DAY 1

The annual research week runs through the whole of this week. Over today and tomorrow, staff present short overviews of their work. On Wednesday, there is the popular Great Debate. This year’s topic is “A robot will do your job better than you do!”. Students present their work across Thursday and Friday with ‘Pitch a project’.

Today’s presentations include:

Guest Speaker Associate Professor Craig Bunt from Lincoln University talks about the ‘collaborations between Lincoln University and Ara’. Began with overview of research scene – has 456 undergrad enrolments in Agricultural / Environmental Science. 220 full-time PhD students (75% are international) with 50% in Ag/Env Science. Presented examples from his projects including 3D printed darts to inject steroids into animals; alternatives to 1080 –  stabilisation of a toxin used in pest control now registered for commercial use; electron spun nanofibers that can be holders of fungicides etc. to be used on plants; and analysis of dog biscuits collected from Antarctica to find out how they were made 100 years ago. Each came about from trying to understand a problem, funded in different ways and reliant on networks of other researchers and goodwill across science community.

Staff follow with 6 minute overviews of their work:

Cameron Pearce from the Jazz School shares ‘Symposium X – original works for jazz big band. Provided background on the group, made up mainly of current, ex- Ara staff and graduates, which has been together for 10 years and provided a snippet of the groups’ original work. Described the creative process involved in composing a piece of work. Using a piece of art work by another Ara staff, John Maillard, as the inspiration.

Tony McCaffrey presents an update on his on-going work ‘we will look after you’: the radical promise of the time after’ in a recent theatre involving actors with intellectual disabilities. As usual, reads an eloquent presentation on his work. Tony’s work continually develops through the production, direction and support of actors, not normally seen performing theatre. Tony is currently working on a book to disseminate his PhD thesis.

Mary Kensington then presented collaborative work (with Rae Dallenbach and Lorna Davis) and with the Universities in Aberdeen and Glasgow on ‘rural midwifes making a difference in NZ and Scotland: achieving a sustainable model of rural practice. A quick overview of a larger presentation – see ASL presentations from a couple of months ago for summary.

Allen Hill from Outdoor Education and Sustainability presents on an externally funded project - ‘Policy practice gaps sustaining unsustainability in schools’. How policy gaps have made it difficult to include sustainability into school curriculum – hence ‘Steven’s Gap’ which is difference between rhetoric (Policy) and reality (Practice). We can express in curriculum documents but teachers do not know how to actually integrate into teaching.

Joy Kuhns presents work (with Julia Wu and A. Habib) on ‘living through uncertainties as the norm: lessons from NZ regional family businesses’. Provide overview of rationale – the uptake of accounting and management systems by family businesses. How did they use these systems and why. Used a responsive interviewing technique. Summarised findings – little use of formal use of accounting systems; agile through continual learning required to keep their businesses profitable and sustainable; learnt by doing, from mistakes and through networks.

Kerstin Dofs updates her on-going work on ‘autonomous learning in the world – Rio and Ara’. Presented on experiences as convenor of the conference in Rio. Themes of conference also detailed and Ara’s approach to autonomous language learning. Detailed current work on PhD and how there is a continual need for learners to be even more adept has self-directed learning.

I (Selena) provide a quick overview on ’eAssessments for learning: examples of innovative practice’. Go over the rationale and objectives, detail the 7 sub-projects and benefits for learners and teachers of e-feedback’.

Ian Williamson from engineering presents on ‘how to save money on your electricity / energy needs’. Provided overview on NZ context. Presently, information from various companies etc. is confusing, difficult to access and understand. Not all options available in every part of NZ. Discussed implication of going off-grid (recommended if now building), solar (not recommended in city), install monitoring equipment, check how house is wired to maximise ability to go on specific plans, being efficient and using less power, is the most important achievement.

Then Dorle Pauli from Creative Industries presents a summary of ‘the work of Michael Reed’ – ‘Feeling blue and Seeing Red’. A distinguished printmaker who has just retired from Ara. Presents the challenges on writing a biography of an artist who is still living, including the ‘collaboration’ that eventuates and the voice/ role of the biographer. The biography will be based on conversations. Shared some of Michael’s work archived at Ara.

Brendan Reilly from Broadcasting presents on ‘sports news on commercial music radio: diversity or disappointment’. Why is rugby the main sport covered? Looked at ZM and The Edge to see what was reported. Rugby, league, cricket and netball – made up 70% of stories. Although females are main audience, male sports still dominate. Presented on some of the reasons why.

Heather Josland (with Kay Milligan, Maggie Meeks, Phillipa Seaton and Julie Withington) from Nursing presents a project which is in collaboration with Otago University on ‘do we need to start earlier: undergraduate inter-professional simulation’ in the context of doctor / nurse communications. Introduced various tools used to help students learn the intricacies of communication, the language differences between doctors and nurses and how to work together.

Then Gareth Allison from Commerce, presents on ‘justification in wWOM – Electronic Word of Mouth’. Seeks to find out how consumers make decisions based on what they find on-line. Described how the move to digital has changed marketing. Many of the past methods, now no longer effective. However, e-advertising is fragmented and still relatively new. ‘Word of Mouth’ seem to be a form of ‘informal’ information used by consumers. Studied a website  - as an exploratory study - with discussion forum to see efficacy of product recommendations.

Grant Bennett from Science on ‘Survive on Mars’. A project that arose from his work on finding how to get probiotic bacteria to last on breakfast cereals. One application is to prepare cereal for astronauts travelling to Mars. Set up student project to find the best type of cereal, that will still taste good and last.

As usual, synergies between the work of several of the presenters to be followed up :) 




Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A decade since attaining Supreme Excellence in Tertiary Teaching Award - a reflection

In 2007, I was awarded the Prime Minister’s award for excellence in tertiary teaching. Yesterday evening, the 2017 award winners join the select group of NZ tertiary teachers recognised for sustained excellence in teaching. All awardees automatically become members of the Ako AotearoaAcademy. The Academy is a community of practice for award winners, they have a mandate to  advocate within their own institutions, nationally and internationally, for support of excellent teaching. The Academy also organises a yearly symposium, always a wonderful, supportive and enervating professional development opportunity. This year, the symposium - Talking Teaching - will he held at the end of November in Dunedin. The first two days will be an open forum for all tertiary educators to share practice. 

In 2007, I was on the cusp of shifting from being a trades teacher, teaching baking into a ‘staff development’ position. Since 1999, I had proportional (0.2 or one day a week to 0.4) positions on various ‘elearning’ projects. Mainly supporting tutors in a diverse range of discipline areas, to shift from being f2f to on-line or blended learning facilitators. In 2008, I shifted full-time into a shared role as a teacher educator and ‘staff developer’. When the then CPIT Centre for Educational Development came into being, I was one of 3 other people, horizontally shifted across to be part of the Centre. Since then several internal organisational changes and a change of institutional name to Ara has seen my role morph and evolve over time. My current role as an educational developer / ‘learning designer’ in the Learning Design section of Academic Services Division at Ara Institute of Canterbury includes about 3/5 of programme design / development, 1/5 of supporting staff in a range of teaching and learning and 1/5 as a researcher and scholar in vocational education. The role has its challenges but is always rewarding and interesting.

When I received my award, I was one of very few non-university staff to attain the award. For many years, I have been inspired by the life of Sir Edmund Hillary. He not only was the first, along with Tenzing Norgay, to climb Mount Everest, but also founded the Himalayan Trust.  The trust raises money to assist the Nepalis to build schools and hospitals and through its almost 50 years have contributed to the betterment of the lives of many people in Nepal. Therefore, Hillary made use of his status, to better the lives of others.

My aspirations are more modest but greatly inspired by a need to foster better teaching and learning capability within NZ vocational education. I was lucky with the timing of my award. Ako Aotearoa, the NZ Centre for Tertiary Teaching excellence, was set up at the same time. The award provided me with networking opportunities with the new organisation, assisting me to build sound relationships and to participate in a range of Ako Aotearoa activities. To date, I have been able to garner funding to undertake two Nationally funded projects and seven smaller projects, funded through the Southern regional hub (see Projects page on this blog for list and links to project outputs). My post PhD scholarly journey has therefore been largely ‘learning by doing’ through the completion of externally funded projects which require results. In line with my goal to build capability within the vocational education sector to carry out ‘practitioner-led’ inquiry, both the National and four of the smaller projects involved other trades tutors or ITO staff. For most, the projects were the first time these tutors have had the opportunity to complete an in-depth study into the efficacy of their teaching innovations.


There has now been a decade of contributing to the ‘evidence-base’ to assist the improvement of vocational learning. There is still much to do, and my contribution has been small but hopefully a start at building awareness and capability. The current project on e-assessments brings together many of my learnings from previous projects. In particular, the project also builds capability with a team of tutors who have a mandate to undertake some research as part of their teaching roles. I am hopeful some of this team will go on to lead other projects as vocational education research is still sparse. Modest beginnings are always better than no work at all :) 

In so doing, I hope some of the following quote, attributed to Lao Tzu, has transpired.

“A leader is best
When people barely know he exists
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves.”