Friday, January 18, 2019

Higher Education Learning Framework

A Higher Education Learning Framework (HELF) has been produced by the Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC), an ARC Special Research Initiative, based at the University of Queensland.

The HELF has seven themes:
  1. Learning as becoming
  2. Contextual learning
  3. Emotions and learning
  4. Interactive learning
  5. Learning to learn and higher order thinking
  6. Learning challenge and difficulty
Also provided are strategies for university teachers, students and assessment.

Unfortunately I did not find the HELF particularly useful. The document uses the term "university teachers" and discusses "designing courses". But the key problem with university education, not addressed by the HELF, is that university academics do not see themselves as "teachers", and are not routinely trained in course design, or delivery.

The HELF describes higher education as a "... transformational journey of students to become citizens of the world ...". I don't disagree with this, but it does not help me decide what to teach, or how to teach it. Someone learning to drive may be told how a car will take them on a transformational journey, but what they really need to know is the pedal on the right makes it go and the pedal in the middle makes it stop. Similarly, university teachers need practical training in how to teach: what works, and what does not. Those teachers will benefit from a little theory and philosophy of education, but only to help them master the practical skills.


Nugent A., Lodge, J. M., Carroll, A., Bagraith, R., MacMahon, S., Matthews, K. E. & Sah, P. (2019).
Higher Education Learning Framework: An evidence informed model for university learning.
Brisbane: The University of Queensland. URL

Thursday, January 17, 2019

ANU Hiring Researchers to Transition the Asia-Pacific to a Zero-Carbon Economy

Dr Paul Burke, Professor Kylie Catchpole,
and Dr Emma Aisbett of the
Zero-Carbon Energy for
the Asia-Pacific Project.
The Australian National University is recruiting researchers for  its Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific Project.
"... Appointees will contribute to world-leading, high-impact research, underpinning Australia’s transition to becoming a renewable energy super-power. ... We are hiring researchers in:
  • Economics and energy market economics;
  • Law;
  • Political science;
  • International relations;
  • Sustainability transitions;
  • Chemical engineering;
  • Computational chemistry; and,
  • Energy systems modelling. ..."
From Candidate Information Booklet - Research Fellows: Grand Challenge, 2019

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Australian Employers Are Satified With Graduates

The "2018 Employer Satisfaction Survey" (QILT, 10 January 2019), indicates employers are very happy with the graduates they get. The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) team, was funded by the Australia Government. An analysis of 5,300 survey results from graduate supervisors showed 84.8% were satisfied with their graduates. The least satisfied were in creative arts. It may be that the more vocationally aligned STEM degrees are a closer match to jobs.

The Group of Eight "Leading Universities" did not do so well, with only half of them scoring above average for employer satisfaction. There is no clear relationship between university size, focus or location, and employer satisfaction. Perhaps it is just that Australia has high standards, and we don't have any "bad" universities. This is good news for employers, but does it indicate Australia is over investing in university education?

ps: Bond University topped the 2018 Employer Satisfaction Survey, so it should be worth listening to their Professor Keitha Dunstan, Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Academic), 26th February, 2019. The event is in Canberra, although Blackboard's web page confusingly says "Sydney".

Monday, January 7, 2019

Teaching Degrees Should Not be Limted to High ATAR Students

Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader,
Federal Opposition (Labor Party),
on ATAR.
Media reports indicate a Labor government would bar low-scoring ATAR students from becoming teachers. However, while students with higher ATARs have proven to be better teachers, this is not the most important factor. Wurf and Croft-Piggin(2015) found that engagement, and motivation were more important that ATAR.

Instead of increasing the ATAR, I suggest improving the quality of teaching degrees, particularly using "dog-fooding". Students should be provided with structured education using digital technology, working in teams, with support from tutors. University instructors should focus on improving the engagement and motivation of their students, and teach how this support can be provided to school students.

Wurf, G., & Croft-Piggin, L. (2015). Predicting the academic achievement of first-year, pre-service teachers: the role of engagement, motivation, ATAR, and emotional intelligence. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 43(1), 75-91. URL