At the end of Semester 1, 2010 the course, ‘Information Systems For Service Industries’ (1220HSL), a first year core course focussed on how technology (websites, social media, e-commerce) can be used to achieve specific business goals, and embedded into a multitude of business degrees offered by Griffith University, was generating a student-based Rating Interpretation Benchmark (RIB) of ‘Low’ for all official Student Evaluation of Course (SEC) questions (Figure 1). In the Semester 2, 2010 I was employed as a sessional staff member and tutor for the course on Griffith University’s Nathan campus, conducting the majority of tutorials and by Semester 1, 2011, I was the Primary Convenor of the course offered across both the Nathan and Gold Coast campuses. By the end of Semester 1, 2011 (1 year after I became involved), the same course was obtaining an RIB ranking of ‘High’ for all SEC questions on the Nathan Campus and at the end of Semester 1, 2013, the course had routinely held a Quartile Band Rank (QBR) of 4 for all SEC questions; an RIB ranking of ‘High’ for the same questions up until the survey was changed in Semester 2, 2012 (Figure 1) for two years running*. My personal Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) responses have followed a similar trend and since Semester 1, 2011, have routinely generated a QBR of 4 (Figure 1).
The rapid improvements in student perception of the learning environment created in this course, and the maintenance of this perception is a direct result of the following seven interventions I have integrated into this course in a strategic, prioritised manner: 1. Introduction of knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and passionate teaching delivery (Sem. 2, 2010). 2. Overhaul and realignment of both course content and the assessment tasks (Sem. 1, 2011). 3. Application (extensive) of Griffith University’s online communication system (Sem. 1, 2011). 4. Launch of an exemplar website, www.1220hsl.com and linked social media (Sem. 2, 2011). 5. Integration of an i-Pad-based lecture initiative called, ‘The Lectorial Project’ (Sem. 1, 2012). 6. Application (effective) of an Early Assessment Item targeting ‘at risk’ students (Sem. 2, 2012). 7. Introduction of TED talks and enhanced discussion-based lecture approach (Sem. 1, 2013). Course design and teaching practice interventions incorporated were based on authoritative command of the field, highly pragmatic approach to the alignment and relevance of assessment (to course content and transferable skills respectively), scholarly approach to assessing my own and the course’s effectiveness, genuine respect for students and their potential, strong sense of self-identity offset with critical reflection of successes and failures in this field, and my desire to inspire students to dream big and have confidence in their abilities.
Figure 1. Improvement and maintenance of 1220HSL SEC (A) and applicant’s SET (B) over three years. SEC: Engaged, ‘This course engaged me in learning’; Organised, ‘This course was well organised’; Satisfied, ‘Overall I am satisfied with quality of this course’; SET: Respect, ‘This staff member treated students with respect’; Knowledge, ‘This staff member showed a good knowledge of the subject matter’; Satisfied, ‘Overall I am satisfied with the teaching of this staff member’; ’L: Low RIB; M: Medium RIB; H: High RIB (RIB: Rating Interpretation Benchmark); 3 and 4: QBR (QBR: Quartile Band Rank). * Semester 1, 2013, first QBR of 3 (organisation) awarded since Sem. 1, 2011. Related to inexperienced team member trial, minor blemish to exemplary record and easily rectified.
I have delivered a multitude of seminars and presentations based on my interventions, was featured in the 2012 Gala Teaching Night education video (specifically referencing the i-Pad-based ‘Lectorial Project’), have recently delivered a ‘Showcase Presentation’ at the 2013 Higher Education Research and Development (HERDSA) Conference in New Zealand, have enrolled in the Griffith Institute for Higher Education (GIHE) Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (I also feature on the course’s advertising brochure), and I am currently working on a publication proposing a conceptual, yet pragmatic framework from which educators can build upon to develop the right kinds of powerful learning environments. I was honoured to be awarded a Group Learning and Teaching Citation (GLTC), Griffith Business School, in 2012 for my achievements within this course, have my 2012 GLTC submission available as an exemplar on the Griffith Higher Education Institution’s (GIHE) online resource, and act as a ‘teaching expert’ in GIHE’s Peer Review Of (PRO) Teaching Project. My efforts in this field have been undertaken in a scholarly manner and have resulted in a situation where I have become, somewhat unintentionally and unexpectedly, a leader in the field of higher education at Griffith University, further evidenced by the following student comments, ‘Awesome lecturer!!!’, and ‘I suggest he would be a good role model for other lecturers in his approach to teaching’ (SET, Sem. 1, 2013).
1. APPROACHES TO TEACHING THAT INFLUENCE, MOTIVATE AND INSPIRE STUDENTS TO LEARN
Crafting powerful, engaging, and inspirational learning environments should be the ultimate goal for educators in higher education and I have demonstrated rapidly, a high level of success in this area over the past three years. Aware that student engagement is correlated with positive relationships where staff engage with students as individuals (Cooates, 2009; Mcinnes & Hartley, 2002), when lecturers allow a strong sense of their personal identity to permeate their teaching (Parker-Palmer 1997), and the ‘relationship’ between the teacher and learner’ is one of the foremost prerequisites to quality education outcomes (Pittman, 2012), my philosophy includes three intertwined, student-centred foundations: 1. Transparency. 2. Relationships. 3. Respect. A staunch advocate of the view, ‘If teachers are responsible for what they teach, students are also responsible for the teachers they choose to listen to’ (Pittman, 2011), I place a large degree of emphasis on my roles of lecturer and convenor. The manner in which I deliver lectures, assessment, communication, and feedback is a live, enduring representation of the standards students can measure themselves against, and ultimately strive to exceed. I passionately promote and demonstrate attention to detail at every opportunity and I use the course content and its relevance and transferability as a stimulus to cultivate confidence, self-reflection, self-improvement and the advantages of lifelong learning in student’s ideologies. Lectures are open for debate, discussion, and rigorous enquiry and are delivered at an intensity to match the online multimedia content the majority of the student cohort routinely interacts with. I also have an extraordinary amount of respect for human potential and what Griffith undergraduate students are innately capable of and consequently, work to unearth and refine this potential and simply instil in students the confidence to 1. Realise that they possess this capability and 2. Utilise it to make a positive difference.
A strong sense of my personal identity and a large degree of transparency are inherent in my approach. This allows the realisation of simple, powerful educational goals; the formation of positive relationships between teacher and student and the creation of a powerful, engaging, and inspirational learning environment. Sir Ken Robinson (creativity expert) stripped complicated teaching practices bare in 2010 when he stated that learning at its most fundamental level, is an unpredictable organic process and ‘All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish’. Whilst eloquently scripted and inspirationally delivered, the statement offers little in the form of a pragmatic framework to create these ‘conditions’. Since Semester 2, 2010, I have implemented teaching interventions (some innovative, some quite simple, detailed later in this application) in a methodical, prioritised, and critically reflective manner and as such, have not only created a powerful learning environment but also developed a pragmatic model of how Robinson’s objective can be achieved. My underlying approach, effort, and ability in this field routinely generates positive student perception related to personal teaching performance such as, ‘Contagious Passion. Very Enthusiastic. Inspires Free Thinking’, ‘Very Innovative’, ‘Best lecture to go to in my week’ (SET, Sem. 1, 2013) and referencing the learning environment itself such as, ‘I learned so much. It was overwhelming and challenging but interesting at the same time’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2013), ‘Course content provided valuable knowledge for any future working environment’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2013), and ‘Best course of the year’ (SEC, Sem. 2, 2012). These are perceptions of an inspiring, influential, and motivational environment highly aligned with Griffith’s ‘Seven Principles to Promote Excellence in Learning and Teaching’ and the educational goal associated with the ‘New Griffith’, ‘producing ‘Queensland’s next generation of leaders, scholars and professionals with the skills and knowledge to thrive in an ever-changing world’.
2. DEVELOPMENT OF CURRICULA AND RESOURCES THAT REFLECT A COMMAND OF THE FIELD
I possess extensive industry experience and authoritative command of fields related to 1220HSL content and assessment. I am the principal consultant for a website design and online marketing community, ‘Hype Media Lab’, create and manage website and social media networks for small businesses, and routinely deliver presentations on online marketing (the most recent was for Yachting Australia’s Annual Coaches Conference, May 2013). I have extensive industry experience in elite sport and technological innovation (my primary research field) and whilst not technically related to the business focus of 1220HSL, allows me to infuse a deeper perspective on technological innovation into my teaching. I couple industry experience with pedagogical awareness that effective higher education is related to classroom arrangement factors, including ‘lecturer expertise’ (Hill, Lomas, & MacGregor, 2003) and ability of lecturers to present knowledge clearly (Kember & Gow, 1994). My cognizance of these findings has allowed me to clearly demonstrate knowledge and experience to students in all of the seven interventions I have integrated into the 1220HSL course. One demonstrable example begun in Semester 1, 2011, when I built upon the enthusiastic delivery methods implemented in the previous semester as a sessional staff member and used my industry experience and command of the field to undertake an overhaul of the course’s theoretical and practical content and assessment items. The focus was to: 1. Align the content being taught more closely with transferable skills, real world application, and the relevance of theoretical and practical components to success in university and future careers, a component of education highly valued by students (Hill, Lomas, & MacGregor, 2003) and 2. Align the assessment more closely with the content being taught, in order to better facilitate meaningful learning (Hendry, Bromberger & Armstrong, 2011; Kember & Gow, 1994).
Content taught and associated assessment is an integral aspect of the teaching-learning cycle and if used correctly, holds the key to better learning (Elwood & Klenowski, 2002). The content and assessment now offered within 1220HSL has moved away from the limited conception of learning that prioritises accumulation of separate pieces of knowledge and is now more closely related to the conception that knowledge and information learnt has purpose beyond initial acquisition, that of real world application, as encouraged by Entwistle & Tait (1990). Learning is therefore equated with understanding and students can now find personal meaning in the process. For example, by allowing students to link course information to a business idea of their choosing (and something they are passionate about) and promoting 1220HSL as a platform to teach transferable, competitively advantageous knowledge and skills, they can clearly relate course content and assessment to previous knowledge, experience, and personal goals (Entwistle & Tait, 1990). This intervention (in addition to extensive application of Griffith’s online communication system, integrated in the same semester), had an immediate impact on course SECs and my own SETs, increasing student-based RIB rankings to ‘High’ for all official SEC questions (Figure 1), increasing student-based RIB ranking of my teaching to ‘High’ for all official SET questions, and generating student comments such as, ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it to be structured and taught extremely well. It engaged me in learning with clear and precise direction. The assessment items were interesting and ensured multiple facets of students’ abilities were assessed’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2011), and my personal teaching, ‘He was concise, clear, and talked about information in the real world!’, ‘He used his own experiences to demonstrate real world application of topics’ and ‘You can tell he knows what he is talking about’ (SET, Sem. 1, 2011). In 2013 the perception of relevance and transferability continues, ‘It was a great experience towards my degree, extremely relevant material, I loved it’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2012), ‘Very useful content I can use in the real world!’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2013), and my command of the field, ‘Jason knows what he is talking about’ (SET, Sem. 2, 2012), and ‘Very professional and showed exceptional knowledge of the subject matter’ (SET, Sem. 1, 2013).
3. APPROACHES TO ASSESSMENT AND FEEDBACK THAT FOSTER INDEPENDENT LEARNING
In Semester 2, 2011, I built upon the previous semester’s content and assessment realignment (also linked to this section), and the enrichment of communication techniques to further augment the course’s learning environment. 1220HSL lends itself to creating a powerful, engaging assessment environment (with ability to foster independent learning) in an innovative manner and I utilised a pedagogical approach to generate this. I launched and integrated an external website, www.1220hsl.com (using the same software students use for their Website Project) and two coupled social media pages, ‘1220hsl Facebook Page’ and ‘1220hsl Twitter Page’ (Figure 2). The primary reason was to provide students a demonstrable, live example of how technology can be used to manage and deliver information quickly to a wide audience (an assessable theme) and to ‘show students how I personally had applied the written standards associated with the assessment’ (Hendry, Bromberger & Armstrong 2011). Hendry et al (2011) advocates the promise of exemplar-based assessment as they provide concrete illustrations of the style and structure expected and not expected in a good assignment, is essence shaping effective student learning. The intervention subsequently allowed an objective standard to be defined against which students could compare their own work (Nicol & Milligan, 2007) and provided a concrete representation of what I (the lecturer) was actually looking for (Hendry, Bromberger & Armstrong 2011). There was also a secondary reason; to further enhance the level of communication and engagement with the student cohort. Today’s higher education students are well connected, capable, and confident of conducting personal and professional activities in digital environments (ACMA, 2010, 2012). A fact well understood by most teriary-level educators. Whilst patterns and quality of use vary substantially, over 90% of faculty in the United States now use some form of social media in courses (Moran, Seaman & Tinti-Kane, 2011). In the context of 1220HSL, however, the use of a live website and linked social media (in addition to its use as an assessment exemplar) was a targeted marketing approach – in that if we view students as clients, we need to convey our message in environments where they integrate and interact. In today’s converged society, this environment is more often than not, online.
This intervention again had an immediate positive impact on course SEC (Figure 1) and generated positive perception related to assessment such as ‘I and I think many others found the assessment really interesting, I actually had fun and enjoyed doing the assignments!’ (SEC, Sem. 2, 2011), ‘He always tried to simplify questions by showing examples so we could better understand any complicated areas, especially with the website project’, and, ‘Jason used great examples which assisted us in the assessment’ (SET, Sem. 1, 2013). Similarly, in terms of enhancing communication with the student cohort this intervention had a profound impact, providing further evidence that today’s students view online networking as an important component of their educational experience, ‘The diversity of sources to study and follow lecture content and assignments from is fantastic’, ‘There were so many ways available to students to be kept up to date with the course – besides L@G and Gmail, it has its own website, Facebook and Twitter’, and ‘Your use of social media is far ahead of other lecturers’ (SEC, SET, Sem. 2, 2011). I continued to refine the concept and it has become one of the course components that is routinely commented on. For example, ‘Having notification/reminders sent to me via email, Facebook, and L@G meant that I never forgot anything even when I was busy’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2012), ‘Could find information you needed everywhere’ (SEC, Sem. 2, 2012), and ‘Use of social media is very useful and ahead of others who should use social media as well’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2013).
Figure 2. Assessment exemplars and online communication and engagement interventions (live website, www.1220hsl.com, and coupled social media networks, ‘1220hsl Facebook Page’ and ‘1220hsl Twitter Page’) implemented by applicant into 1220HSL.
4. RESPECT AND SUPPORT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF STUDENTS AS INDIVIDUALS
As a sessional staff member I simply set about implementing extremely enthusiastic delivery of the course’s then current content into the tutorials throughout Semester 2, 2010. I believe all undergraduate students have an innate, untapped potential and ideas worth unearthing. When this was coupled (and transmitted to students) with a clear enthusiasm for the importance and relevance of 1220HSL content, the impact was immediate, contributing to increases in student-based RIB ranking of this particular course to ‘Medium’ (from Low) for most official SEC questions (Figure 1) and obtaining ‘Medium’ to ‘High’ rankings for my own SETs. I had learnt that the teacher enthusiasm espoused by Hill et al (2003), Kember & Gow (1994), Pittman (2012), and Robinson (2010), the infusion of a strong sense of the educator’s self-identity championed by Palmer (1997) and a focus on the relationship between teacher and learner promoted by Robinson (2010) goes a long way toward engaging students and satisfying some of their individual needs as noted by the following, ‘Encouragement, experience, and a passion for content taught were evident in Jason’s teaching style. No question was insignificant and students were not scared to make an approach’ (SET, Sem. 2, 2010). As of Semester 1, 2013, the positive perception of this aspect of my teaching practice is regularly commented on, ‘That Jason Harding is my favourite lecturer, makes them enjoyable to go to, and is really focussed on students’ (Unsolicited quote to Griffith SSA), and ‘He is very approachable and easy to talk to and he likes to help students without it seeming like a problem’ (SEC, SET, Sem. 1, 2013).
On a technological note, further to the overhaul of course content and assessment (in Semester 1, 2011), in the same semester I implemented an extensive, extremely organised, and heavily targeted use of Griffith University’s blackboard system, Learning @ Griffith (Figure 2). The goal was to provide students structured access to course information, content, assessment information, and announcements (which were written in a clear, concise, engaging and inspiring manner). Technologies like Griffith University’s online content and communication system have enormous potential to enhance the delivery of courses with high student numbers and alleviate issues created by the competing work and study commitments of students simply by offering information at any point in time (Massey & Wilger, 1998). This is only possible, however, when sufficient time and effort is put into using these technologies in the correct manner. Hill, Lomas, & MacGregor (2003) showed students appreciated and value courses that are well organised and provide flexibility of access in order to meet individual needs. Furthermore, these types of technologies are fantastic devices for engaging with student cohorts on another level outside of the classroom. The impact in Semester 1, 2011, was again, immediate and substantial, increasing student-based RIB ranking of this particular course to ‘High’ for all official SEC questions (Figure 1), and increasing the student-based RIB ranking of my teaching to ‘High’ for all official SET questions. This structured, personalised use of this communication technology has remained a key 1220HSL component and retains positive perception, ‘The lecturer was so well organised’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2012), ‘The lecturer used numerous outlets to notify students of updates’ (SEC, Sem. 2, 2012), and, ‘How communicative Jason was. Information was always there when needed’ (SEC, Sem. 1, 2013).
5. SCHOLARLY ACTIVITIES THAT HAVE INFLUENCED AND ENHANCED LEARNING AND TEACHING
I have used ‘design research’ methodologies (first introduced to teaching disciplines separately by Brown and Collins in 1992 and later refined by Collins, Joseph, and Bielaczyc in 2004) over the past three years to implement successive changes in my teaching and course design practices and further, to simultaneously assesses their effectiveness. This scholarly approach has influenced and enhanced the learning and teaching environment offered within 1220HSL. Design research methodologies allow the sort of progressive refinement in course design I have demonstrated, where each new change to courses or my personal teaching practices was based upon findings from previous ‘tests’ in a real world classroom and / or previous research findings, theoretical approaches, and critical reflection (Brown, 1992; Collins, 1992; Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, 2004). The approach allowed me to easily test new ideas, retain the ones that were successful and alter or discard the ones that failed. The methodology itself became as embedded into my teaching philosophy as much as any other component and has allowed me to generate (relatively quickly) a pragmatic and transferable framework (where the most basic components of the teaching/learning nexus take precedence over technological innovations and thereby act as indispensable footholds of the overall course design) that I believe all tertiary-level educators can use as general guide to generate powerful learning environments, regardless of course type or individual teacher characteristics.
In Semester 1, 2012, with a $35,000 GBS grant, I was also able to begin ‘The Lectorial Project’, targeting the effectiveness of interactive i-Pad based lectures. Employers now require graduates to possess extensive experience with information technology and demand a high level of computer literacy (Elwood, Changchit, & Cutshall, 2006). On the surface, teaching technology and software skills should be simple, involving the learner, task (the creation of a website in 1220HSL), and mediating artefacts; technology, software, and rules that govern their use (Issroff & Scanlon, 2002). In reality, it is not always as straightforward resultant of prior knowledge and learning style differences. Elwood & Klenowski (2002) offer that teachers and students should work together in knowledge construction and grow in a community of ‘shared practice’. This intervention allowed students use of portable computing equipment to follow content during lectures and work alongside the lecturer when practical skills were delivered. At its most fundamental, the initiative allowed for mass customisation of the learning process, accommodating differences in individual learning styles and offering access at any point in time, improvements championed by Masey & Wilger (1998). Part charity (not all students own or have access to portable computing), part large scale interactivity; this intervention aimed to challenge the status quo associated with lecture delivery and turn lectures into large scale ‘lectorials’ focussed on practical skills. Whilst essentially just an ‘enrichment add-in’, it allowed the lecturer and student cohort to grow in a community of shared practice and was positively perceived as an innovative aspect of the course, ‘I, any one actually, can have an i-Pad if they do not own one so we can actually do what Jason is doing in the lecture at the same time’, ‘The integration of i-Pads in lectures helped in using information straight into assignments’ (SEC and SET, Sem. 1, 2012), ‘Having i-Pads available to students was a great idea as it really connected us to the material’, ‘It was extremely interactive and hands on’ (SEC, Sem. 2, 2012), and finally, in the high stakes context of inter-university competition for student enrollments, one of the most powerful student comments associated with this intervention, occurring immediately after the first lecture trial was, ‘You wouldn’t get that at QUT’.