• CMM Series | It’s not rocket science: English language communication and international students

    28th June 2020

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 31 May 2020

    The discussion of international students’ English language competence has been a hot issue since 2007 when the media reported Birrell’s study. It putthe spotlight squarely on the English language skills of international students and the standards of our universities.

    Even in 2020, issues of English language standards continued to simmer.  Australian universities have developed a number of practices to address the learning needs of their international students. However, they can also be vulnerable to claims of using international students as cash cows and claims of soft-marking. The challenge for universities remains that communication skills are not explicitly assessed in many disciplinary subjects and that there is an assumption that students will develop these skills by osmosis. This is more relevant than ever in the current COVID-19 environment, with the swift shifts from campus based to online teaching and learning and concerns regarding experiences of international students learning online.

    Read more…

  • CMM Series | Teaching as Design for Learning

    26th April 2020

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 26 April 2020

    For a few years now, university students have been voting with their feet. When they come to campus, it’s to engage in practical activities. They are time poor and don’t want to commute for a lecture they can easily watch and replay online.

    But there’s no substitute for working face-to-face with others on challenging team-based projects. The use of inquiry-based ‘active learning’ projects is multiplying, across many areas and stages of the curriculum. New kinds of learning spaces are being built to accommodate it. Teaching staff are learning how to make effective use of these spaces and become more efficient at supervising students’ activity. Their role is expanding, from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’. What this cliché overlooks is crucial upfront investment in educational design.

    Read more…

  • CMM Series | Educating health professionals in the age of Dr Google

    19th January 2020

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on January 19,  2020

    Once upon a time if you were feeling unwell or something hurt you went to the doctor. The doctor listened, examined you, diagnosed the problem and then explained what you should do about it.

    Today, if you feel unwell or something hurts, you are more likely to google your symptoms, gather copious amounts of information, decide what you think is wrong, look up what might help and then go to a health professional with your self-diagnosis handy.

    In the information age, when knowledge is at our fingertips, patients increasingly come to health professionals looking for advice about managing information sourced from the internet. Read more…

  • CMM Series | Stopping ‘Pass the Parcel’ with practice-based student learning

    8th December 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 8 December 2019

    Graduate capability and employability are regarded as critical success factors for degree programs by universities, industry and students. A common response by the higher education sector to demands for better employability outcomes has been to develop and further work-based experiences for academic credit within degree programs.

    Successful work-based experiences are very dependent on the quality and continuity of academic-industry liaison. Particularly, the value of the opportunities afforded to students is reliant on the understanding each party has about the other’s business: meaningful, responsive and continuing conversations are paramount for worthwhile learning experiences. Ideally, student involvement in work-based encounters then builds student self-efficacy, advances student knowledge and skills, encourages questioning and guides student reflection on practice that advances ways of knowing and working. Read more…

  • CMM Series | Connectedness 2.0: Towards a theory of HE connectedness for the best chance for all.

    17th November 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 17 November 2019

    Having recently contemplated the veritable frenzy of education-related reviews currently in play that have consequences for Australian higher education (HE), I now wonder if there is possibly a less transactional and more relational approach to advancing our nation’s educational future. In this spirit, I offer a vision for hyper-connectivity – Connectedness 2.0 for The Best Chance For All. If you stay with me, my thinking here is that Connectedness 2.0 might help diffuse some perennial binaries and smooth a number of HE’s hard edges.

    What if we embraced connectedness unplugged, starting with HE’s positioning in a connected educational ecosystem from ‘high chair to higher ed’; an ecosystem where education was connected with opportunity for all? What if our sector took responsibility for pursuing inescapable opportunities for connectedness – with and between all staff, students, students’ families and communities, curricula, learning environments, sectors, industries and professions – with good purpose and empathy?

    This may sound a bit kumbaya, but if not now, when? In the face of a rising chorus of complaints about ‘arrogant’ and ‘out of touch’ universities, Glyn Davis urged in 2017 that we ‘build a strong base in society – among graduates as among those who never attend university’. The Coaldrake Review of Provider Category Standards has taken this a step further and recommended that ‘requirements related to industry engagement, civic leadership, and community engagement should be introduced or bolstered in the university categories of the [HE] Provider Category Standards…’.

    So what if we stepped-up our third mission engagement – for broad societal good – and deployed civic leadership for educational equity, at a time when lifelong learning for a productive, inclusive nation is the grandest of challenges. The Monash Commission and the Mitchell Institute have led on this, but AI and automation, and unknowable work futures, demand our full collective action. The OECD has nominated reducing inequality as central to social and economic progress. Education is one of the most efficient mechanisms we have for social mobility. How does a connected continuum for lifelong learning become a practical reality for all citizens?  One where formal, informal, non-formal and short-form learning are credited and valued alike, and where educational attainment for national prosperity and wellbeing is much more evenly distributed.

    The Australian Industry Group says employers want closer connections with all education sectors; in HE for research, placements, projects and curricular development. We now have better alignment between the respective roles of HE and professional accreditation bodies, with hopes for an associated reduction in regulatory burden. This new era of sector-industry cooperation should extend to dialogue on equitable future skills’ acquisition, post the initial-qualification stage of lifelong learning, for a much warmer handover to assured professional CPD. Our agentic students and graduates are obviously central to this, as critical connectors, partners and beneficiaries (with employers) of a connected continuum’s mediation.

    But wait – there’s more! There is an innately human(e) connectedness also ripe for educational exploitation. Obviously, learning is a profoundly social experience. But both students and staff are struggling with their mental wellbeing, exacerbated by many factors, including a perceived loss of agency. We know that autonomous motivation – doing things that are intrinsically interesting, satisfying or facilitate valued goals – is enhanced by experiences of belonging, positive relationships, autonomy and competence; what have been called the five ‘wellbeing essentials’. Is The Best Chance For All not an intrinsically valuable goal on which we could all agree? Pursued with generosity, inclusiveness and respect via connected curricula based on our connected humanity, better educational outcomes will follow and we may even deliver a circuit breaker to what many see as a neo-liberal contagion.

    Kumbaya indeed, but if the OECD can call for economic policy reform based on the need to ‘properly to understand the sociality of human life’, then it’s good enough for HE to connect to the ‘sociality of higher education’ in the nation’s, and all of its peoples’, interest.


    Professor Sally Kift

    Visiting Professorial Fellow, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)

    President, Australian Learning & Teaching Fellows

    2006 Senior Teaching Fellow


    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Review Wrangling for Tertiary Sector Literacy

    20th October 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 20 October 2019

    Presenting a NCSEHE seminar last week, I set myself the challenge of making HE sense of the current frenzy of education-system reviews. Reviews on Performance Based Funding (and PBF’s design for 2020), the reallocation of CSPs for enabling, sub-degree and postgraduate places, the Provider Category Standards and the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) don’t tell the whole HE future-state story. There are other big moves afoot that HE ignores at its peril.

    Minister Tehan has signalled that his first priority is coming up with “a new university funding model that meets two key goals”: a commitment to rural and regional HE, and ensuring HE delivers for the economy. With limited funds available, the tricky issue of finding places for Costello’s baby boom cohorts arriving in a few years’ time remains unresolved. The HE complexity is clear.

    But if we lift our gaze beyond HE’s horizon, a plethora of other reviews require HE wrangling. In vocational education and training (VET), the Joyce Review reported in April 2019. Ministers Cash and Irons have already announced an Expert Panel to action Joyce, while Joyce’s recommended National Skills Commission has been established and $525m has been committed to the Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package. In August, COAG announced its vision for Australia’s VET system; one where VET and HE are “equal and integral parts of a joined up and accessible post-secondary education system.” The government is serious: Scott Cam’s been recruited to boost VET’s profile.

    In January 2018, the Halsey Review into Regional, Rural and Remote (RRR) Education was delivered. In November 2018, the government announced a Regional Education Package of $134.8m over four years to provide these students with greater access to HE. In August 2019, the Napthine Review articulated a RRR Tertiary Education Strategy and the government accepted the “aims of the seven key recommendations”.

    And in August, the Education Council commissioned WSU’s Chancellor Peter Shergold to Review Senior Secondary Pathways with a particular emphasis on supporting students from equity groups. This has coincided with a fresh outbreak of calls to move Beyond ATAR, overhaul the ATAR or just calm down, with Shergold himself having previously expressed reservations about the strong reliance on ATAR’s “single measure of achievement”.

    Joining the review dots, four themes emerge: a connected tertiary sector with parity of esteem between VET and HE; skills with “industry at the centre and… VET as a career pathway of choice”; RRR student pathways to tertiary education; and careers foci. HE is definitely taking a back seat; VET/tertiary is on the ascendency.

    The agenda makes economic and social sense in the context of Industry 4.0 automation & AI, but HE is exposed on a number of fronts. First, the cap on funding HE places has “already led to an overall decline in regional student numbers and a dramatic reduction of growth for other equity groups”. Second, it is more expensive to support LSES students in HE than their medium/high SES peers. Third, young regional students are increasingly moving to the city to study: increasing from one third in 2005 to 57% in 2015. Fourth, HE has few effective pedagogies for VET-HE curricular collaborations.

    As the Mitchell Institute entreated, a holistic approach to these various reviews must be adopted. Absent a NZ-style discussion for a tertiary education strategy, HE needs to articulate its future role in a connected educational ecosystem or be left languishing.


    Professor Sally Kift PFHEA FAAL

    Visiting Professorial Fellow, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)

    President, Australian Learning & Teaching Fellows

    2006 Senior Teaching Fellow


    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here



  • CMM Series | The new graduate capability: how to think for a living (employability redefined)

    3rd October 2019

    CMM article

    This article by Professor Dawn Bennett was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 3 August 2019. It comes from commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

    The new graduate capability: how to think for a living (employability redefined)

    With half the Australian population now engaging in higher education, the sector is under increasing pressure to align the needs of students, industry and community. This requires policy and funding models which recognise the sector’s economic and societal value and which promote inclusivity and cooperation. Such policy is in stark contrast with existing rankings exercises and steering mechanisms, which promote self-interest and status competition.

    Higher education policy could recognise the development of graduates who can meet the demands of life and work well beyond their discipline. For students to become capable graduates who think for a living on behalf of themselves and others, they need first to learn how to recognise, articulate and demonstrate their abilities. They also need to accept and manage their responsibilities as learners and thinkers.

    Engaging students as partners demands that all learning is relevant to the possible disciplinary, societal, personal and/or professional futures of students. If the learning asked of students is relevant, its relevance should be articulated. If it is not relevant, we should stop teaching it. This is a challenge not to make programs vocational, but to make them developmental and societally relevant.

    Employability development in the higher education context is not limited to discipline skills, knowledge and practices. Rather, it concerns students’ abilities to create and sustain meaningful work throughout the career lifespan and in changing contexts. It integrates the metacognitive capacities with which graduates are not only ready for work, but ready to contribute and ready to learn.

    Higher education needs policy that distinguishes between job-getting (employment) and the ability to create and sustain work over time (employability). Educating for employabilityrather than employmentmeans educating for life rather than for a job, for society rather than self.

    Professor Dawn Bennett

    Curtin University

    National Senior Teaching Fellowship 2016


    Twitter: @toemployability

    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Going meta: Reimagining tertiary education

    3rd October 2019

    CMM article

    This article by Professor Sally Kift was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 7 July 2019. It comes from commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

    Australian HE is well positioned to embrace Industry 4.0 disruption thanks to two decades of bipartisan investmentin pedagogical R&D via the national Office for Learning & Teaching and its predecessors. But it won’t sustain us.

    2019 is both the best and worst of HE times: peak pedagogy due to enhancement funding, but exceptional vulnerability absent agile iteration. And this at a time when our nation’s grand challenge is to conceive of an integrated post-secondary system that supports student pathways and lifelong learning in response to workforce precarity.

    What to do? We could hold our collective breath for a post-election epiphany that investing in tertiary education future-proofing makes good economic sense. But the optics aren’t great. Labor’s National Inquiry into Post-secondary Educationwould have been a good start, aligning as it did with the Business Council of Australia’svision for a unified tertiary sector, but the May 18 result put an end to that. The Monash Commissionrecommendations, Wheelahan’sTAFE policy framework and the dual sector universities’reform agenda all provide actionable conceptualisations. But then what?

    Even with an agreed national roadmap, transacting effective and efficient pedagogical change for an integrated tertiary reimagining is a herculean task.

    We need to go meta. New course architecture and pedagogy are required to mediate Google age knowledge ubiquity and Industry 4.0’s skills instability. Predictionsthat future workers will spend more time learning than previous generations demand fresh thinking around credentialing, pathways and the continuum of professional development. Social equity must be front and centre.

    As HE is challenged to (re)establish its relevance, now is the time to deploy thought leadership for the public, not self-interested, good. Transformative education for a thriving nation requires our full collective resources. Students in partnership, graduates, institutions, professions and accreditors, government, industry and regulators must come together to co-create and deliver a relevant, future-facing educational ecosystem fit-for-purpose for 21stcentury Australia and all its peoples.


    Professor Sally Kift PFHEA FAAL

    President, Australian Learning & Teaching Fellows

    2006 Senior Teaching Fellow



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Why engaging with ‘students as partners’ is more than a trendy hot topic

    8th September 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 8 September 2019

    University communities want to nurture meaningful and lasting relationships with students. That is the why the students-as-partners conversation is a hot topic. But we risk over-promising and under-performing without the right leadership.

    Naming each student as a partner is a powerful idea that creates new ways of thinking and working, moving us beyond the unhelpful students-are-customers mindset. Relating to students as partners signals a culture where students are meaningful members of the university community.

    In Australia in the past few months alone, the University of Adelaide hosted over 100 students and staff from eight countries at the 4th annual International Students as Partners Institute. The 5th annual Australian Students as Partners Roundtable at UNSW brought together people from 14 Australian universities along with colleagues from New Zealand, UK, and China. The research is growing too. For example, a literature review published in July on benefits of engaging in partnership reads like a QILT indicators jackpot.

    Genuine partnership takes work. It demands a willingness to re-imagine learning and teaching as a collaborative endeavour with all students. Real partnership enables productive conflict that underpins creativity, innovation, and co-creation.

    Is there commitment to genuine partnership with students in your university?

    Institutional commitment means creating the opportunities for all students to be partners through an array of practices, pedagogies, and programs that reach students and staff, both in and out of the classroom. It is a commitment to adopting an expansive conception of partnership with students that is a values-based practice. It is a ten-year plan, not a quick win.

    Thoughtful leadership and a clear vision on how students are positioned within your university are key. How are leaders in your university enabling a culture of student partnership?


    Associate Professor Kelly Matthews

    Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation

    University of Queensland

    Australian National Teaching Fellow 2015



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Who is teaching our students?

    1st September 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 1 September 2019

    As students arrive on campus they do so with an assumption that there will be a professor teaching them. Yes, there will be a professor, an academic, teaching them. But what these students are often unaware of is that their teacher is likely to be a sessional academic.* We can conservatively calculate that the majority of teaching across Australian universities is undertaken by sessional staff.

    Sessional teachers contribute many benefits to student learning such as cutting-edge research knowledge or authentic industry, professional or clinical experience, with a strong commitment to student learning. Yet, our ‘significant reliance’ on sessional staff has been identified as a risk indicator by TEQSA. The risk relates to sessionals being able achieve “effective integration and engagement”; for example, their contracts may not allow time to engage in student consultations and participate in professional learning opportunities for better support of student learning.

    What do we need to do?

    To manage this risk we need to:

    • know our sessional staff, by collecting and maintaining comprehensive data in order to identify their professional learning needs
    • increase the provision of support for sessionals’ career development
    • engage all universities, including private and non-self accrediting institutions, in benchmarking their practices as regards sessional staff, and
    • engage university executive to effect a more systematic approach to good practice for sessional staff. We need proactive leadership for better understanding and support of sessional staff.

    Without our sessional teachers we would not have a functioning higher education sector.

    * Sessional Academics are “any teachers in higher education who are employed on a casual or contract or sessional basis. This may include lecturers, tutors, unit, program and subject convenors, demonstrators, and markers.” Sessionals are also known as adjuncts, contingent or non-tenured staff.


    Associate Professor Marina Harvey

    Director, Academic Development Services

    University of New South Wales

    Australian National Teaching Fellow 2014




    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here