“Students as Partners” was the topic of the first LTX event of the year (for those of you unfamiliar, LTX stands for Learning and Teaching Exchange), with a panel of Student Representatives from the Faculty of Business and Economics. The well attended event opened with a brief introduction of how the Student Representatives Program works within the faculty.
However, before long, we jumped straight onto the real reason we had gathered – to hear student feedback. On the panel was Harriet Ashton Maxwell (Department rep – Accounting), Jenwai Huang (Department rep – Accounting), Joyce Tan (Department rep – Economics) and Munira Syeda (Department rep – Post graduate accounting).
Even as I donned my Tony Jones persona (#qanda), I decided to give the students an easy one to start with, ‘How would you describe a good tutorial learning experience?” The answers ranged from “getting us involved”, to “uploading slides with intentional blanks so we are forced to pay attention”, to “breaking us into groups to ensure engagement”.
The discussion on group work got my attention, because I had assumed both staff and students hate group work with a vengeance. Turns out I was wrong! Both Harriet and Jenwai spoke about the importance of group work and if done right, how it helped them make friends and kept them on their toes. They recommended the tutors choose the groups for them, to get them out of their comfort zone.
However, as postgraduate students don’t have tutes, Munira pitched in with her ideal seminar experience: industry speakers and real world examples of the application of the theory. Sounded simple and sensible to me!
Employability is a big focus across all FBE programs. So what did our students think of employability opportunities? Overall, PACE seemed to be the winner. Most students knew about it and had experiences to share on how useful it was. Joyce and Munira hoped that internship opportunities for international and postgraduate students would someday be on par with the domestic undergraduate cohorts and expressed the challenges they faced trying to find work. Harriet gave a shout out to the Law PACE team for their regular emails and contrasted it with a perceived lack of opportunities for non-accounting jobs within FBE. I spotted the PACE team in the audience taking frantic notes.
I invited two academics on the stage to share their experience of running the Student Reps program within their units – Dr Jana Bowden-Everson and Dr Narelle Gordon. Jana spoke about how she had always hoped to get student input and this was a perfect program for it. She uses a wiki page to help her collect ongoing feedback.
Narelle talked about the benefits of running a Student Representatives program as a lecturer and implementing it as a unit convener. The most telling story of the afternoon was her testimony of using Excel. As a lecturer (with an industry background) she wanted to stress the importance of Excel, but struggled to get the students to take her Excel assignments more seriously. She quizzed the student reps and based on their feedback, increased the weightage of the assessment – resulting in the students taking it more seriously.
Takeaway – base your assessment weightage on how important you think the topic is!
For the final segment of the event we took questions from the floor. The questions ranged from internships for FBE students to the outcomes of implementing the program.
Catch a glimpse of the event above. What you miss in the video is the social networking that happened outside the theatre. Students and staff talked about student engagement drinking tea, and munching brownies. Thanks to the Learning Innovation Hub for the sugar rush and co-organising the event!
As I munched on my delicious brownie I realised that my biggest takeaway from the afternoon wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but a simple realisation that students WANT to be engaged. In the same way that when I am in a meeting, typing away on my laptop, what I really want is to be part of an engaged group of stellar colleagues, the students WANT to be motivated and engaged. Whether you do it through Disney memes, group work, or external speakers – what matters is that you care.