• CMM Series | Needed now: A revaluing of HASS education

    20th July 2019

    CMM article

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

    According to the dominant rhetoric of Australian industry, politics and funding models, the future of the world is STEM-based. As a consequence, Australian higher education appears to be moving towards a STEM-centric world. Humanities and social sciences (HASS) are relegated to the past, perceived as un-inventive and irrelevant.

    We are consistently told that the future world needs flexible, fluid, global workers, who can switch between different kinds of knowledge and different ways of thinking, who can be responsive and innovative.  The quintessential element of innovation, intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship is human: as developers, designers, users, consumers… And who knows and understands humans better than social scientist and humanities specialists? Humans past, present and future. Who better trained in working through multiple choices, in flexible patterns, through and across diverse disciplines than Bachelor of Arts (BA) students – still the way that most Australian students experience HASS. Thus, it could be argued that the foundation of an innovative future can be found in HASS and that BA graduates are catalysts for that future.

    Unfortunately, at a time when countries like Canada and China are actively investing in understanding human elements in innovation, Australia is in danger of losing traction in this space. HASS disciplines are increasingly devalued – the result of reliance on employment rates on graduation as a quality measurement and the absence of vocational outcomes directly linked with particular professions. This view reinforces short-sighted fixation on jobs on graduation rather than longer term educational outcomes, a situation perceived to kerb prospective student enrolments. These perceptions threaten the continued survival of many HASS disciplines, as ongoing funding is inextricably linked to student enrolment numbers.

    Simply incorporating Arts into a STEAMy acronym is no adequate replacement. HASS then becomes a handmaiden to the sciences; a mechanism to communicate, excuse or market STEM developments. What Australian higher education needs is a revaluing of the vital contribution that HASS education can and should make to an unknown future.


    Dr Deanne Gannaway

    Senior Lecturer, Higher Education Institute of Teaching and Learning Innovation

    Senior Curriculum Consultant, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

    University of Queensland

    National Teaching Fellowship 2017



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Evolutions in higher education systems

    13th July 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 13 July 2019

    Much has been made over the last decade about technology and how it will change higher education. Despite appearances, this is just one of the big ticket items that will disrupt higher education over the coming years. Slow burn shifts in school curriculum and day to day life that change student expectations and starting points, and international providers offering comprehensively different models of education, present a far greater challenge.

    In Australia and beyond, students are being offered a school experience that is self-determined, un-modularised, both discipline-based and inter-discipline, and focused on mastery – a new real world apprenticeship in some respects. Google University is a real (albeit limited) thing, and international providers with new ideas of portfolio learning are encroaching. The joining up of prior and contemporaneous experiences and entry to a University in this context challenges, not only pedagogy, but ideas of subjects in courses, linear and time-based learning and funding models, and the ways we spend time with students.

    It is not easy to fully grasp the nature, likelihood or immediacy of these challenges to our current modes of thinking. Nor is any revolution in our educational norms to meet them straight forward. The sector is highly constrained by structural assumptions built into regulation and funding, built upon early 20th century norms of higher education. Upending education models in universities challenges entire systems of thought, both internal and external.

    Embracing and working with these challenges needs the collective intellectual application of the staff who know it best in order to realise the innovation that is an evolution in higher education. As Audrey Watters says: There is no inevitability to the future of education, but there is a need to continue to examine and test the boundaries of the system.


    Professor Nicolette Lee

    Executive Director Quality and Standards

    La Trobe University

    National Senior Teaching Fellowship 2013



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Transition from university to professional life: Are we short-changing graduates?

    30th June 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 30 June 2019

    The debate about whether universities should concern themselves with student employability and careers is over. Today’s question is – how can universities have the most impact on graduate success with employability.

    In Australia, nearly 180,000 students graduate with a bachelor’s degree every year, and they are moving to a world characterized by rapid and complex change, globalization and lower graduate employment rates.

    Australian government reports on the future of work in 2016 and 2019, argue that graduates will experience multiple occupations over the life of their careers. The complexity and uncertainty inherent in a graduate’s future presents particular challenges for educators and students.

    Capstone units and experiences are favored by the Australian higher education system as the most appropriate way to assist final-year graduates to demonstrate knowledge and skills.

    An Australian Government National Teaching Fellowship study from 2015 – 2018 into the effectiveness of capstones, discovered that to succeed in the ever-changing world of work, graduates now need a much a larger tool kit that includes competent research and analytical skills, broad general knowledge, practical industry skills, multi digital skills, teamwork problem solving and effective communication skills.

    The research also discovered that capstone curriculum design is often limited to the demonstration of knowledge and skills with less emphasis on well-developed personal and professional identities, solid reflective practices and life-long learning skills. This imbalance needs to be addressed.

    Ultimately, capstones should prepare graduates for a lifetime of learning and work, not just for their first professional job.


    Professor Trevor Cullen

    Edith Cowan University

    2015 National Teaching Fellow.

    Associate Dean – Design, Media and Communications

    Director – CREATEC Research Centre



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Working with students in partnership

    23rd June 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 23 June 2019

    What the sector needs now is to work with students for students, inside and outside the classroom in partnership. Student partnership is a way of thinking, not simply an activity. Traditionally, student engagement has meant management-driven feedback and consultation, and token representation on committees and boards. By comparison, authentic student partnership is an institutional commitment to systemically accessing the voice of the ‘expert learners’ – our students – to understand their evolving needs and expectations. It also contributes to the development of students as critical thinkers, leaders, innovators and citizens in a global society.

    Australia has been slow to embrace the benefits of working in partnership with students to enhance the quality of their learning experience, even though a partnership approach to student engagement has been a fixture in higher education internationally for many years (for example, sparqs in Scotland, TSEP in England and NStEP in Ireland). Under one of the last National Senior Teaching Fellowships awarded, UTS’s Professor Sally Varnham has worked collaboratively with national student bodies and individual students, staff and managers from Australian institutions to develop a set of Principles (Students and Tertiary Educators Undertaking Partnership (STEPUP)) to assist the implementation of student partnership initiatives.

    In 2019, the Student Voice Australia Pilot Project has been funded by ten institutions to pursue this work at the national level. The Fellowship and Project are leading a shift in thinking and many others are now coming on board. But sector-wide embedding requires the collective support of students, institutions, government and national agencies. And resourcing at a national level, for example, to train student leaders for professional and positive engagement with their institutions. In the perennial struggle to provide a quality experience for all students in the face of competing demands, true student partnership offers a destination worth pursuing.


    Professor Sally Varnham

    University of Technology Sydney

    2016 National Senior Teaching Fellow



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here



  • CMM Series | Fostering the future capability of our learners, our universities, and our communities

    16th June 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 16 June 2019

    QILT survey data tells us that Australian universities make a reasonable fist of preparing graduates for the jobs out there now. But how well do we prepare graduates to transfer their skills across the subsequent 16 work roles and 5 industries the Foundation for Young Australians (2016) predicts for their working future? What kinds of value are we teaching them to add? What breadth (or not) of capabilities do we wish them to develop?

    Students want a good job after university and their work adds value to the economy. But many graduates want more than just a job. They also seek meaningful ways to contribute to their communities and wider society. Many worry deeply worried about environmental issues (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2018). To solve such local and global challenges, our graduates must be critically informed, globally confident, civic-minded citizens.

    The ‘21st century civic university’ is gaining traction in Europe (Civic Universities Commission, 2019) and is worth exploring for Australian higher education. Civic universities engage in close, reciprocal partnerships with local / regional and global communities to add value across economic, social and environmental bottom-lines. They proactively innovate, identify emerging issues, and both strengthen and learn from their partners (21st Century Lab, 2018). The ‘21st century’ angle adds an explicit future-understanding and forward-influencing focus and all of these commitments are infused into student learning, fostering future capability for learner, university and community.

    Many Australian universities adopt some of these aims and practices but rarely systematically. Current indicators and measures of university performance do not reflect these ideas. We must rethink how our universities contribute to sustainable, resilient and constructive futures.


    Professor Ruth Bridgstock PFHEA

    Learning Futures, Griffith University

    2015 National Senior Teaching Fellow



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | University teachers need teaching qualifications.

    10th June 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 10 June 2019

    How would you feel about sending your children to a school whose teachers hadn’t learnt how to teach? Chances are that you would be appalled by such a prospect – and rightly so. It’s unthinkable that we would risk a child’s future with unqualified teachers.

    And yet this is what we do with our nation’s university students.

    While university students amass significant HELP/HECS debts through federal loans to attend university, they are paying to be educated by academics who often have neither teacher training nor a teaching qualification. Surely a country as rich as Australia is, and as dedicated to world class education standards as we purport to be, can improve the teaching and learning knowledge and skills of academics?

    To do this, we need federal legislation and federal funding to support the necessary programs. Academics are both time poor and strategic. While academics continue to perceive that career advancement is dependent on research success, they will spend little to no time completing teacher training or qualifications, unless required to do so. The Federal Government needs to legislate that university teachers require a qualification just as qualifications are required to teach in early childhood, primary, secondary and vocational education. Then they need to fund both the programs and the time required to complete the qualifications, especially for sessional staff who make up the vast majority of our higher education teachers.


    Adjunct Associate Professor Kym Fraser

    Swinburne University of Technology

    2016 National Teaching Fellow



    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Needed now: student equity that’s more than an add-on

    2nd June 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 2 June 2019

    As our higher education (HE) sector advances equity and outreach imperatives (with HE institutions topping world rankings on reducing inequalities), it is timely to reflect how our student populations have never before been so highly differentiated nor intersected by such a range of demographic, material and life stage characteristics.  As a sector we have definitely moved beyond singular categories or definitions of learners such as ‘traditional’ students (i.e. white, middle-class, privileged learners) versus ‘non-traditional’ ones (i.e. everyone else). Instead, our students are at all stages of life with complex and rich lived experiences to contribute to learning agendas.

    However, the sector seems unable (or unwilling) to fully embrace this diversity and reconsider equity not as an ‘add-on’ to mainstream (or accepted) forms of teaching / learning / support but instead, as a fundamental principle underpinning everything we do for our student populations. Consider university marketing: images of those young, carefree (predominantly white) students that don billboards and websites actually achieve little more than alienating our actual student populations, contributing to feelings of not belonging or being an ‘imposter’… so what does the sector need now?

    Consistent and thoughtful work that ensures that equity and access is positioned centrally within the goals and activities of the entire institution, rather than considered as periphery or additional to ‘core business’. Whether it be designing a new teaching program, curriculum initiative or internship opportunity: content, delivery and structure should always be underpinned by recognition (and celebration) of this diversity; maximising the extensive work and life experiences brought by our student cohorts rather than implicitly (or unintentionally) assuming youth, ignorance or dependency. Interested in hearing more: Check out the latest strategic equity planning document: available here


    Professor Sarah O’Shea PFHEA CF

    University of Wollongong

    2016 National Teaching Fellow


    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here

  • CMM Series | Three issues for STEM Education

    25th May 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 25 May 2019

    Despite much good work in teaching and learning, there are some fundamental problems, particularly in STEM disciplines and foundational learning across disciplines, that continue to re-emerge no matter how much they are ‘swept under the carpet’. Three are highlighted here.

    The mixed messages given to many early career staff about balancing research and teaching are far more hypocritical than 40 years ago, and even go so far sometimes as to encourage irresponsibility in teaching. Many junior academics aspire to combine teaching and research, and universities must give genuine and non-hypocritical support to achieve this.

    All postgraduate training should have an integrated, authentic and non-trivial component of learning to university teach, in the form of mentored experience, deep discipline understanding, training and internships; the concept of authentic work integrated learning should be applied to learning to university teach. Such teaching skills are invaluable in all workplaces not only academia.

    My third point relates to my own discipline of statistics but in fact refers to all disciplines, particularly in this era of big data, data science and data analytics in which statistical thinking and the foundational teaching of statistics across disciplines are of even greater importance than ever before. The disastrous side-effects of ‘silo-funding’ and ‘empire-building’ must be counteracted by genuine rewarding of authentic effective collaboration between cutting-edge expertise in teaching statistics and curricula in other disciplines. Ignoring or relegating the former creates a ‘closed shop’ which repeats and perpetuates the inappropriate teaching and lack of understanding of many decades ago.


    Professor Helen MacGillivray PFHEA
    President, International Statistical Institute (ISI)

    Chair, UN Global Network of Institutions for Statistical Training (GIST)

    Editor, Teaching Statistics

    2006 Australian Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow
    Adjunct Professor QUT

    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here



  • CMM Series | Overhauling assessment practices

    19th May 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 19 May 2019

    Burt Baccharat and Hal David gave us their insights into what the world needs now, and it is hard to argue with their response of love, sweet love. However, in addition to love (and maybe some additional funding), the education sector needs a complete overhaul of its assessment practices to drag itself into the modern age. We need everyone to rework their assessments so that students are offered inspiring, meaningful tasks that allow them to show us what they can really do, rather than forcing them to panic and wonder whether they can precisely regurgitate what we already know and what they could easily find on the Internet. I have rarely heard a student exclaim in excitement that they were inspired by an assessment task they were given or that they were asked to do something that truly allowed them to be passionate about putting together a response that had meaning beyond a mark or grade (and some feedback if they were lucky). There are effective ways for students to demonstrate an understanding of basic discipline knowledge, so let’s agree to do this efficiently and with minimum angst for students. Then let’s involve students in helping us design assessment tasks that will inspire them, that will allow them to draw on all their talents and passion, and will allow them to put together potential solutions to real problems or issues. Let’s overhaul assessment and make it the high point of learning and a source of pride for students.


    Professor Geoffrey Crisp PFHEA FHERDSA

    Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, University of Canberra

    2009 ALTC National Teaching Fellow


    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here



  • CMM Series | Preparing Students for Future Professional Life

    12th May 2019

    CMM article

    This article was first published in Campus Morning Mail on 12 May 2019

    What is needed now in higher education is that teachers turn their attention to preparing students for the professional life of the future. This means engaging students in research-based learning projects where they generate and critically evaluate new knowledge. Universities must stop teaching students outdated knowledge in nineteenth century ways. A particular challenge is that many academics have no or little experience of teaching undergraduates how to actively generate knowledge. They had no experience of this when they were students and, with the demise of university learning and teaching centres and the lack of national leadership, the expertise needed to upskill academic staff in ways of teaching that are appropriate for new ways of working is sorely lacking.

    During my 2009 Senior National Teaching Fellowship, delegates at the National Summit on the Integration of Research Teaching and Learning prepared a Communiqué addressed to national leaders which emphasised the vital importance of research experiences for undergraduates, stating that it goes to the heart of our future competitiveness as an innovative country. Since that time, in most Australian universities, undergraduate research engagement has grown markedly, encouraged in part by the establishment of the Australasian Council for Undergraduate Research (ACUR) – an independent, membership organisation aimed at promoting and advancing undergraduate research. Eight annual conferences have now been held, which provide opportunities for student researchers to present their research in a public forum, meet undergraduate researchers from other universities and create networks. New this year is the ACUR UGR-Xchange Colloquium which begins to address the need to support academics and university leaders in implementing research-based experiences for students.


    Emeritus Professor Angela Brew SFSEDA

    Chair Australasian Council for Undergraduate Research (ACUR)

    2008 ALTC National Teaching Fellow


    ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here