Tag Archives: Policy

September Senate Summary: The Top 5 Issues

Academics are, on the whole, excellent communicators. We hone our communication skills over thousands of hours; crafting research papers, articulating our ideas at conferences, mentoring our students, and engaging in the performance art of lecturing. So one might ask “when it comes to some of the really big academic decisions we make as an institution, why is it that we are not good at getting an effective message out there and engaging in a much broader open discussion of principle and practice?”

At least part of this is a function of available time. With so many pressing issues at hand, not to mention the ever-present round of meetings, it can be hard to prioritise the time necessary to engage fully in this communication process. But that isn’t the whole story.

Continue reading September Senate Summary: The Top 5 Issues

Evolving English: Our new English Language Policy

Evolving English: An update on our new English Language Policy

At Macquarie University we are proud of our diverse cultural and language communities. We are also committed to producing graduates who are effective communicators with discipline-specific knowledge and skills. Achieving this requires students to be skilled in using the English Language.

For a native speaker this may seem easy, however English is constantly evolving, and varies in different contexts. For example, language in disciplines and professions can be used in a particular way (such as ‘derivative’ in finance or mathematics), or can be specific to that discipline (jargon).  No matter what their background, all students will encounter unfamiliar language at some point at University, and all students must continually develop their skills to be able to successfully communicate in academic and professional settings.

Comic about language (Creative Commons)

There are a lot of great resources available across the University for students  including self-directed resources, learning skills workshops and programs such as Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) and conversation groups.

One way for students to acquire skills is when they are included within programs. There are many resources for staff in designing materials, in particular two excellent professional development guides  How to Embed Discipline-specific Discourse – Learning Through Communication  and  Developing your students’ English Language proficiency. As language is constantly changing we must ensure we change with it.

In May the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee (SLTC) set up a working party with representatives from across the University to draft a new English Language policy. The policy will outline expectations of both staff and students in actively developing English language skills including the use of academic and discipline-specific discourse.

To draft the policy the working party has reviewed existing policies, resources available across the University, the  Australian Qualifications Framework and the DEEWR English Language Standards for Higher Education.  Draft copies of the policy, procedure and guideline were distributed last month through Faculty Learning and Teaching Committees for consultation.

The SLTC will meet shortly to discuss comments that have been received so far. If you have any feedback, remember to offer it to your Faculty Learning and Teaching committee or email directly to Antonia Dykes.

Quality and the market

In the report, Dimensions of Quality, Graham Gibbs (former Director of the Oxford Learning Institute at the University of Oxford) synthesised significant research over the last 30 years or so that identified valid success factors in undergraduate education.  It attempted to identify what data we should take seriously when making judgements about the quality of learning and teaching and associated resourcing.  Much more than input and output, what mattered most were process variables – what institutions do with their resources for the students they have.

In late 2012 he published another report, Implications of ‘Dimensions of Quality’ in a market environment, which considered how institutions are variously responding to demand driven, data based markets as they attempt to improve market share, quality and value for money.

Sound familiar?

Both reports draw evidence form the USA, Australia and elsewhere, but the higher education system Gibbs was most interested in was the UK’s.  So as the Australian sector increasingly focuses on the market to drive quality, is there anything we can learn?  Probably.

Implications found that reputation still dominates even though this is an invalid indicator of educational quality and institutions with already high reputations have a vested interest in resisting the introduction of more valid indicators.  It found that quality assurance in most institutions overlooked the most crucial indicators of quality, namely: class size, who does the teaching and the contact students have with them, learning resources, feedback, collaborative learning, and belonging and engagement.

Gibbs went on to look at the practical consequences of the data market and the ways in which institutions are reacting.  He observed a retreat from the unitised system toward program level organisation and assessment; quality enhancement focused at the team level (along with reward and recognition for leadership in teaching and learning); new processes for institutional change (including things like changing the students’ role from consumers to partners); a focus on hygiene factors and service delivery; promotion of institutional distinctiveness; and a re-built emphasis and systemic infrastructure for teaching (one that aligned things like recruitment, initial training, promotion, resources, library, priorities, etc.)

If, as the Minister for Education expects, the market will drive quality I believe these two reports offer much in providing us with a glimpse of a possible future, its opportunities, and mistakes to avoid.  There is more in them than I can summarise here and I leave it to you to consider where we are and will be in the years hence.

10 Reasons Why Your Unit Guide Might Not Be Approved

Unit GuidesAre you a Unit Convenor preparing your Unit Guide for publication?

Before you submit your Unit Guide to be approved on UNITS, check this list of the most common reasons Heads of Department give for sending Unit Guides back.

    1. Learning Outcomes don’t start with an action verb.
      Think about how to finish the sentence: ‘at the end of this unit of study, students will be able to….’ . The next word should be the ‘action’ verb that begins your Learning Outcome. This resource on writing Learning Outcomes offers more guidance.
    2. Readings aren’t listed.
      List all unit materials, including textbooks, required and recommended readings.
    3. Curriculum Mapping is incomplete.  You need to map Learning Outcomes, Assessment Tasks and Graduate Capabilities against each other. Click here for some instructions.
    4. Learning Outcomes and Assessment Tasks must all be mapped against each other, and against Graduate Capabilities.
    5. Typos, factual errors or broken links.
      Make sure information from last year is updated, such as teaching staff contact details, or hyperlinks.
    6. Assessments don’t meet the requirements of the Assessment Policy.
      Check the requirements here.
    7. All the Graduate Capabilities are mapped.
      You should select only the Graduate Capabilities which are addressed most in your unit.  Check the LTC’s resources on Graduate Capabilities for more information.
    8. Some of the Assessment details are missing.
      Macquarie’s Unit Guide Policy specifies certain information that must be included about assessments, including dates, length, weightings, submission method, grading criteria or standards, and more.
    9. There’s no explanation of changes from previous offering.
      If you’ve made changes to the unit since last time, it’s a Unit Guide Policy requirement that these are listed in the Unit Guide.
    10. Technology Used and Required is not listed.
      You should list all technology students will need to use in the Unit, including broadband internet, iLearn, and any software.

Did you know?

Students may have grounds for appeal of their grade if the Unit Guide was not in accordance with the Unit Guide Policy, or the student had been disadvantaged by variation of the assessment requirements or feedback provisions laid out in the Unit Guide.  Check the Grade Appeal Policy for further details.