• Introductory workshops

    Using graduate attributes to win the curriculum culture wars: Developing practical strategies to achieve university wide curriculum renewal

    Simon Barrie, University of Sydney, Australia

    Universities continue to struggle to embody their purposes in the curriculum and learning experiences they offer to students. This struggle often finds a focus in calls for curricula to address employability skills and foster generic graduate attributes. These calls are not new, and nor is the struggle, however it is becoming clear that the way we have tried to address these calls has not always been as effective as we would have hoped. In part the persistent struggle reflects unresolved and often unacknowledged - tensions as to what this purpose is - for instance the familiar though inappropriate dichotomy of preparation for employment or for disciplinary thinking and knowledge creation - a curricula version of what some in Australia term the 'culture wars'. At another level the persistent difficulties also reflect the assumptions made - by both champions and opponents of graduate attributes curriculum reform - as to how to go about achieving such outcomes for graduates. These assumptions are embodied in more than simply curriculum decisions; they find expression in all facets of the complex system that is a university, from recruitment practices to academic workload formulae and academic development strategies.

    This workshop will consider how some of these issues might have contributed to what many see as the failure of universities to achieve systemic embedding of the development of graduate attributes in university learning experiences. It will do so by encouraging participants to consider the challenge from a variety of institutional perspectives - as teacher, curriculum designer, Dean/Head of school, quality assurance manager, researcher and academic developer. Using reflection, role-play and group problem solving, it will focus on identifying practical renewal strategies in relation to those graduate attributes prized by proponents of employability and 'thinkabilty' alike. The workshop draws on the findings of a current national study into the embedding of graduate attributes in Australian university curricula

    Making the most of statistics

    Rob Edmunds and John Richardson, Open University, UK

    The aim of the workshop is to highlight the range of statistical tools that are commonly used in educational research. It is not proposed to teach statistics, but rather to give a brief description of the types of statistics that are used and the conditions under which it is appropriate to use them. Topics covered will include the analysis of demographic characteristics, performance measures and measures of self-report. The workshop will focus on factor analysis and its application to questionnaire data. Those attending the workshop will be taken through the steps involved in carrying out factor analysis and, with the use of examples, will be asked how many factors they think arise out of an analysis and what dimensions those factors capture.

    This workshop will cover similar ground to the one presented by John Richardson at the 12th Improving Student Learning Symposium in Birmingham in 2004.

    Thinking beyond boundaries: threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge

    Ray Land, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

    ‘I am a part of all that I have met;
    Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
    Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
    For ever and for ever when I move. (Tennyson: Ulysses.)  

    This workshop will outline and invite discussion of a new analytical framework to inform programme design and assessment. The approach builds on the notion of 'threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge' which can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something, without which the learner cannot progress. As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view. This transformation may be sudden or it may be protracted over a considerable period of time, with the transition to understanding often involving 'troublesome knowledge'. Such a transformed view or landscape may represent how people think or practise within a particular discipline, or how they perceive, apprehend, or experience particular phenomena within that discipline (or more generally). Difficulty in understanding threshold concepts may leave the learner in a state of 'liminality', a suspended state or 'stuck place' in which understanding approximates to a kind of 'mimicry' or lack of authenticity. Insights gained by learners as they cross thresholds can be exhilarating but might also be unsettling, requiring an uncomfortable shift in identity, or, paradoxically, a sense of loss. A further complication might be the operation of an 'underlying game' which requires the learner to comprehend the often tacit games of enquiry or ways of thinking and practising inherent within specific disciplinary knowledge practices.   The thresholds approach reflects a transformational model of learning. It addresses discipline-based learning and is currently being implemented in a wide range of disciplinary contexts.

    Using problem based learning in immersive virtual worlds  

    Maggi Savin-Baden, Coventry University, UK

    Learning in immersive virtual worlds is an important and vital learning space since learning in late modernity offers little space for stability, since knowledge and learning always appear to be on the move. Immersive virtual worlds are not only transient spaces but also spaces where it is possible to see that what one once believed to be truths and ways of being are now merely contingent and provisional. Developing problem-based learning in such spaces introduces a challenge about how we design curricula and how we can design them for more process-based approaches to learning. This workshop will present different approaches to using problem-based learning in immersive virtual worlds, demonstrate scenarios developed for use in Second Life and offer practical opportunities for participants to explore ways of implementing it in their own discipline.