EDST5126 Week 12 – The role of technology in learning, teaching and assessment

Image result for posture devolution with technology


What’s in a word? TECHNOLOGY

My instinctual definition of technology is “new ways of doing things using a mechanical tool”

My trusty Etymology online dictionary tells me that this word comes from the Greek with the following elements:

  • Techno – Latinised from the Greek “tekhno” meaning “art skill, craft in work” or “a method, system or art of making or doing” ((Online Etymology Dictionary [OED], 2017a).
  • Logy – meaning “branch of knowledge or science” (OED, 2017b) or “the study of” (OED, 2017c).
  • Technology was apparently first recorded in 1859 to mean “study of mechanical and industrial arts” (OED, 2017c).

So perhaps the elements of my personalised definition are not too way out there!

What are the key issues and trends with technology in learning, teaching and assessment in your context

Considerations of key issues and trends in technology in learning, teaching and assessment in my context are considered in a tabular format below. The specific area of online assessment will be considered, along with a more general examination of the issues.

table 2

in summary, introduction of online technology for assessment for Rehabilitation Medicine Fellowship examination:

  • is identified as a potentially “sustaining technology” to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing assessment, particularly if the current assessment methodology is also changed to essay questions from the existing “short answers”…..if the changes made was simply to the SAQs being marked online, then it would largely become an assessment equivalent of “shovelware” educational material (Fraser, 1999),  other than the advantages of the exam being part of the ExamDeveloper program which facilitates blueprinting etc.
  • More excitingly, it could be seen as being a “disruptive technology”, bringing educational alignment into place. If barriers to using an educationally aligned assessment method (essays) are ameliorated by using this technology (allowing examiners to read candidates usually illegible writing), using this technology truly has the potential to change and improve the training program.
  • Multiple perspectives and piloting are needed before change is introduced and any change needs to be introduced with a strategic plan in place for communication of changes, community preparation  and addressing issues as they arise.
  •  Monitoring for unanticipated consequences associated with any change is important as each element of education exists as part of an ecosystem (Davis, Eickelmann, Zaka, 2013). This includes “pollination” of other educational systems by communicating between “cognate groups” , for example, other medical specialities where complex case formulation is needed, and in other RM training programs throughout the world.
  • Of course it must be supported by a plan for evaluation regarding various outcomes and at different timepoints as suggested by Parker (2016).

And finally, something to put a smile on your face!

Remember that not everything that goes “ping” in technology and teaching is everything that it is cut out to be…..enjoy one of my favourite Monty Pithon skits of all time:


  • Christenson, C. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma. Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Davis, N., Eickelmann, B., & Zaka, P. (2013). Restructuring of educational systems in the digital age from a co‐evolutionary perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(5), 438-450.
  • Fraser, A. B. (1999). Colleges should tap the pedagogical potential of the World-Wide Web. Chronicle of Higher Education, 48(8), B8.
  • Lumo BodyTech. (2016). The Evolution of Posture. Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: http://www.lumobodytech.com/blog/the-evolution-of-posture/ .
  • National Pen. (2016). The Benefits of Handwriting vs. Typing (Infographic). Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: http://www.pens.com/blog/the-benefits-of-handwriting-vs-typing/#.WTtvAu1-_G4.
  • OED. (2017). Techno. Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: http://etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=techno.
  • OED. (2017). ology. Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: http://etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=ology
  • OED. (2017c). Technology. Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: http://etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=technology+.
  • Parker, S. (2015). The Rehabilitation Medicine Trainee of the Future. AFRM, RACP. Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: https://www.racp.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/the-rehabilitation-medicine-trainee-of-the-future-report801e52afbbb261c2b08bff00001c3177.pdf?sfvrsn=0.
  • Parker, S. (2016). Rehabilitation Medicine Fellowship Written Examination Essay Proposal (Assessment task 2 for UNSW subject EDST5124). Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: https://moodle.telt.unsw.edu.au/mod/turnitintool/view.php?id=1034686&do=submissions.
  • Pearson. (2017). ExamDeveloper collaboration platform. Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: https://home.pearsonvue.com/Test-Owner/Develop-your-program/ExamDeveloper-Collaboration-platform.aspx
  • RACP. (2015). The President’s Message – 25 September, 2015. Retrieved 2017_06_10 from: https://www.racp.edu.au/news-and-events/newsletters-and-communiques/announcements/the-president’s-message—25-september-2015.

EDST5126 Week 10 – Academic development and building careers



First, some definitions……

Before we move onto that, though, I wanted to get some definitions straight in my head…and i have rather inexpertly tried to capture it diagrammatically.


What is Tertiary Education?

Wikipedia (2017a) defines Tertiary Education as education which follows secondary (high school) education and includes higher education and further or continuing education.

What is Higher Education?

Higher education, as defined by Wikipedia (2017b) is tertiary education resulting in awarding of degrees (as opposed to further or continuing education results in non-degree qualifications. HE institutions include: universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, conservatories and institutes of technology, and some vocational and trade schools.  An academic is someone who works as a teacher or researcher at a HE institution and who usually holds a higher degree (2017c).

What is a University?

The definition of a “university” as provided by Wikipedia (2017d) emphasises the key features of universities as an institution of undergraduate  and postgraduate  education and research consisting of a community of teachers and scholars which awards degrees. 

What is Vocational Education?

Wikipedia (2017e) defines Vocational Education )sometimes known as career education ) as education “which prepares people to work in a trade, a craft, as a technician or in professional vocations such as engineering, accounting, nursing, medicine, architecture or law.”  It can occur in all the tertiary settings as outlines, and also as part of secondary education.

What about medical education?

In Australasia, basic training of medical practitioners is vocational training which occurs at universities (either undergraduate or post-graduate, where students must already hold minimum of a bachelor degree), “Pre-vocational training” occurs during the first two years after graduation from the basic medical training and occurs under the auspices of each state’s postgraduate medical councils Australian Medical Council (AMC), guided by the Prevocational Medical Accreditation Framework and the Australian Curriculum Framework for Junior Doctors.

Post-graduate training of medical specialists and Continuing Medical Education (CME), which occur after completion of specialist training are delivered by Medical Colleges.

Medical Colleges

Wikipedia (2017f) defines medical colleges as “trade associations” which brings together practitioners in geographical and / or medical specialities. In Australasia, the medical colleges are Higher Education institutions delivering Wikipedia (2017f) defines medical colleges as “trade associations” which brings together practitioners in geographical and / or medical specialities.Vocational Education to postgraduate medical practitioners.

For example, the roles of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) (RACP, 2016) include:

  1. Provide accredited specialist training, which results in awarding of fellowship from the college (including divisions, faculties and chapters), which designates that the individual is a specialist in that particular field, as recognised by the AMC and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) which allow the doctor to bill under Medicare.
  2. Provide accredited continuing professional development / education following completion of training
  3. Advocacy for healthcare policies which promote the interests of the profession, patients and the community
  4. Support trainees / fellows in research through providing fellowships, grants and prizes.

….and so, on with the topic de jour, or semaine as the case may be

Identify and analyse trends in staff development and building careers in your context. What impact does this have on staff in your work place?

Teaching is part of the core business of HE institutions and documentation of qualtiy in this areas is receiving increasing focus, seeing the development of professional standards frameworks. But how can these be applied? And are they relevant in all populations of teachers in HE?

Mix and Match 

As mentioned in the definitional exploration above, the key roles of universities are research and teaching. Institutions vary greatly with respect to:

  • Relative prioritisation of teaching and research
  • Relative funding for teaching and research
  • Given ratio of teaching, research and service commitments within an academic’s workload, which may be standardised across the institution
  • Employment of academics with relatively heavier teaching or research emphasis
  • Relative priority given to teaching and research within different faculties and schools within one university, contributing to the net focus for the particular institution

Increasing focus on quality of teaching 

  • institutions compete for students and funding based on league tables which have traditionally been biased towards research outputs, particularly for those generated by various newspapers, such as the Times and the Guardian. The reason for this focus has an historical basis, and relates primarily to the relative ease of obtaining this information (counting article outputs) and the complexity of rating teaching.
  • There is an increasing focus on including measures related to teaching at universities. For example, the Complete University Guide. Even in this table, direct measure of teaching quality and professional standards for teaching are not included, only indirect effects of this essential element of universities. In ranking institutions, this service includes weighted considerations of:
    1. Entry standards,
    2. student satisfaction,
    3. research quality and intensity,
    4. graduate prospects, staff:student ratio,
    5. spending on academic services and facilities,
    6. honours, and
    7. degree completion.

Professional standards frameworks – constructive alignment for teachers 

There has  been rapid evolution of professional standards in higher education which may address one or more of: research, teaching and service. Parallels can be drawn between the roles of a professional standards framework for teaching and constructive alignment for learning. If professional standards are the equivalent of intended learning outcomes in Biggs’ constructive alignment, then it must be matched with the equivalent of Teaching and learning activities through a professional development program, and furthermore, married up with a means of assessment.


Utility of professional standards – why bother? 

  1. With the expansion of HE institutions, ensuring that a minimum standard of education is met – which has inherent advantages for the industry, as well as for parties with a vested interest in the industry,  investors, governments,  future employers and for reassurance of the general population
  2. Benchmarking – individual institutions are compared with others with the purpose of maintaining current strengths and improving domains where institutions are failing
  3. Evaluating and improving overall quality of teaching  in HE (Is there any evidence for this?)
  4. Evaluating and improving individual teaching quality 
  5. Evaluation as research where evaluation of practice feeds into enhancement and im
  6. Improve educational outcomes for students (Is there any evidence for this?)
  7. Assist potential students with self-selection of institutions at which they will study (via League tables)

Professional standards frameworks 

Professional standards are embedded within frameworks which include professional development activities and means of evaluating the standards, feeding into formal recognition internally and externally (promotions) through a process paralleling constructive alignment as previously explored.  Examples of professional development frameworks (plus see images below):

1. The United Kingdom Professional Standards Framework (UKPDF): this has been adopted by the Higher Education Academy), which is “), a nationally-recognised framework for benchmarking success within HE teaching and learning support” (HEA, 2015). This framework’s dimensions are: knowledge,  areas of activity and values (HEA, 2011), and level of performance in these areas as outlined in a “matrix” correlates with HEA related “levels” such as associate fellow, principle fellow, and inter-relates with the accreditation of universities nationally.


2. Framework for evaluating teaching in U21 institutions: The draft framework was released in 2016 by the Education Innovation Steering Group, Universitas 21 as “a common framework that could be used to guide practice across the network for evaluating teaching as part of academic promotion processes” (Universitas 21, 2017), which had been evaluated as being valid, fair and fit for purpose (EISG, 2016).  In the dimension of teaching (practice), it articulates three forms of expression / practice (practitioner – do, leader – develop and manager – evaluate) across four dimensions of teaching (learning facilitator, educational designer, reflective teacher, and scholarly teacher) (see below).


* Universitas 21 was founded in 1997 and currently consists of 26 member institutions including UNSW and is “the leading global network of research universities for the 21st century” (Universitas 21, 2017) and was established as “international reference point and resource for strategic thinking on issues of global significance” (Wikipedia, 2017g).

3. UNSW: The Academic Capabilities development Framework is the framework proposed by Marshall, Poole-Warren and Buttery (2016) for use at UNSW, and which is relevant both for paid academic and non-academic staff. For all staff, there is the “academic and staff development framework”, with three dimensions (level of depth of enquiry, capabilities and career stage) (top right two pictures) and correlating with a development program (top left picture). For  academic staff (research and teaching), there is the academic capabilities development framework, consisting of practice, leadership and management aspects (as described in the U21 framework above) (fourth image) – all screenshots from Fox (2017).


Furthermore, “Educational Excellence: the UNSW Scientia Educational Experience” is identified as a part of the “Academic Excellence” priority area in the UNSW 2025 Strategy (UNSW, 2015), and as part of this, the development of “Education Focussed Careers”, being supported by substantial investment of resources. Presumably, these above frameworks will play a key role in eliminating progression under this new paradigm.

Here, peer evaluation of teaching will be one element informing promotion pathways in teaching focussed careers (UNSW, 2017c). This subject will be further explored in Assessment two for this subject, particularly as it relates to promotion pathways for conjoint educators.

3. University of Notre Dame: this is another institution at which I have responsibilities. I was surprised to see it is using yet another framework: the: Australian University Teaching and Criteria and Standards, which consists of seven teaching standards (see below) which can be used to define quality teaching for universities and individual educators. It is based on the UKPSF, the literature and which has been trialled and validated. This was developed in Western Australia, and by extension, UND Sydney also uses it.


4. The RACP, being both an educational institutions nd professional body is introducing a “Professional Practice Framework” (RACP, 2016) (see below), one element of which will be teaching and learning. IMG_0652IMG_0654

For each “domain”, standards will be define for different points throughout the physician hourney: from basic training, to advanced training and practice as a physician.


Available information about the teaching and learning domain is limited. Currently, there appears to be little description of the role of supervisors / teachers / educators / mentors in the education process.

What about unpaid conjoints and casual staff? 

While engagement with frameworks such as those outlined above could be assured where national accreditation  ans career progression is dependent on a framework, using frameworks to motivate and drive improved teaching is less clearcut where an educator lacks investment in a particular institution, being a casual staff member, or where teaching services are provided voluntarily as in the conjoint medical workforce. For casual staff, investment of time and money in attending professional development programs and documenting evidence would both not be in the institution’s budget, nor would most staff be willing to invest their own resources there, and for medical conjoint staff, if requirements become too onerous, there may be a complete disengagement with the education process (as is anecdotally happening in some public hospital settings [personal correspondence, name withheld for confidentiality purposes, May 2017).  The existing conjoint promotions pathway at UNSW, for example (UNSW, 2010)) is rather indistinct and poorly defined. I have personally heard disquiet about appointment of certain conjoint senior positions, stating I that “they had done their time and deserved the A/Prof status, despite limited involvement in educaiton at UNSW. The university is stuck in a difficult position: either increase and tighten standards, risking disengagement with a thrifty teaching staff, or potentially deny medical students of optimal educational quality.

In conclusion 

Professional standards in teaching is receiving increasing attention as the HE industry shifts. Professional standards frameworks go some way to improving quality of teaching, but there are issues related to use of a wide variety of standards across institutions, and challenges in applying these standards in particular populations of educators.

Hopefully this renewed focus on quality of teaching will improve outcomes for students, which is really what education is all about. And further, that this direction will address the issues captured in Bob Fox’s quote from this week’s session: “There are not many professions where you don’t need a professional qualification to practice other than teaching in HE.”







  1. Education Innovation Steering Group (EISG), Universitas 21. (2016). A conceptual Framework for Teaching in U21 Institutions: The Framework Validation Project. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from http://www.universitas21.com/RelatedFile/Download/818
  2. HEA. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education 2011. Retrieved 2017_06_07 from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/downloads/uk_professional_standards_framework.pdf.
  3. HEA. (2015). UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). Retrieved 2017_07_06 from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ukpsf.
  4. Marshall, B., Poole-Warren, L., & Buttery, N. (2015). Academic and Staff Development: A model for a new context. UNSW.
  5. RACP. (2016a). About the RACP. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from: https://www.racp.edu.au/about/about-the-racp.
  6. RACP. (2016b). Professional Practice Framework. Retrieved 2017_06_09 from:
  7. The Complete University Guide. (2017). Methodology. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/methodology/.
  8. Universitas 21. (2017). Teaching Indicators and Framework Project. Retrieved 2017_07_06 from: https://www.racp.edu.au/trainees/curricula/curricula-renewal/professional-practice-framework, http://www.universitas21.com/article/educational/details/309/teaching-indicators-and-framework-project.
  9. UNSW. (2010). Guidelines for Conjoint Staff: Appointment and Promotion Levels. Retrieved 2017_06_09 from: https://med.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/_local_upload/others/Guidelines-conjoint-appointment-promotion.pdf.
  10. UNSW. (2015). UNSW 2025 Strategy. Retrieved 2017_06_09 from: https://www.2025.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/uploads/unsw_2025strategy_201015.pdf.
  11. UNSW. (2017a). Academic Performance Expectations. Retrieved 07_06_2017 from: https://www.hr.unsw.edu.au/employee/acad/Academic_Expectations_Framework_2017.pdf
  12. UNSW. (2017b). Education Focussed Careers. Retrieved 2017_06_09 from: https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/education-careers.
  13. UNSW. (2017c). Peer Evaluation of Teachijng. Retrieved 2017_06)( from:https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/peerreview.
  14. Vigentini, G. (2016). EDST5124 Class 5 slides: Steering change in the right direction: evaluating, monitoring and sustaining change. UNSW Moodle retrieved 2017_07_06 from: https://moodle.telt.unsw.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2167894/mod_resource/content/0/EDST5124_2016_Class5_v1.pdf.
  15. Wikipedia. (2017a). Tertiary Education. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tertiary_education.
  16. Wikipedia. (2017b). Higher Education. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education
  17. Wikipedia. (2017c). Academy (Educational Institution). Retrieved 2017_06_06 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_(educational_institution)#Academic_personnel
  18. Wikipedia. (2017d). University. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University.
  19. Wikipedia. (2017e). Vocational Education. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocational_education
  20. Wikipedia. (2017f). Medial College. Retrieved 2017_06_06 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_college.
  21. Wikipedia. (2017g). Universitas 21. Retrieved 2017_06_7 from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universitas_21.

EDST5126 Week 11 – Research and teaching nexus: ethics, autonomy and academic freedom


Image source

What are the key issues / trends regarding ethics, autonomy and academic freedom in your context? What impact does this have on staff?

Key observations / take always from this evening’s class and readings:

  • PROCESS – the process required for ethics approval for research in HE can hamper research. For example: cross institutional collaboration where there are differing standards and timings of meetings reduces efficiency and delays the process. I have seen this at play in research projects undertaken by a colleague Rehabilitation Physician who is doing her PhD in rehabilitation models of care in road trauma across multiple sites – the research was delayed substantially because of the timing of ethics meetings and minor edits and modifications required by individual hospitals / institutions. Identification of this as a potential delay in a project should occur and be strategically planned for in the planning phase of a research project.
  • NEED FOR APPROVAL – EVERYTHING IS EQUAL BUT SOME THINGS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS – there was a fascinating discussion about the differences and similarities between research  and evaluation (refer back to my post from week 5). One body of work, for example, reviewing the effectiveness of a particular teaching method could be used for two different purposes: for evaluation or for research…and the factor which determines whether or not ethics approval is required hinges on what the research is labelled as: whether it is labelled as  “research” (and therefore may be published) or “evaluation” (or quality assurance). An argument could be made that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” and that UNSW’s research policy “All UNSW staff or students who intend to conduct research as part of a degree must apply for approval from the appropriate ethics review body” should be applied to the letter of the law. However, if this were applied to the letter of the law, evaluation and therefore progress in education could be hampered……but is it a fine line!
  • THE ROLES OF THE ACADEMIC WHEN THINGS ARE GOING WELL: We discussed the three key roles of the academic as being: teaching, research and service (as a hospital based conjoint lecturer, I have a fourth leg on my stool being a clinician)…….the service role can be both internal and external…..the external role can include being sought to provide public comment on a particular topic……..because they may be seen as being “ethical” with the public perception of an academic as being independent, knowledgeable and impartial.  In the situation where the academic’s opinions and behaviour are in alignment with the institution, there are no issues.
  • ROTTON APPLES: When an academic engages in “unethical”” behaviour, this can have negative implications on a number of levels – on the reputation of the individual of course, but also on other academics at that institution and the institution itself, raising questions about other work done at that institution. As they say “mud sticks” and many can be “tarred with the same brush” as a consequence of unethical behaviour or a minority of individuals. This is a scenario with which I have been all too familiar in the last months following a “scandal” involving clinicians in another department at a hospital I work at , I have found myself answering questions about the integrity of other clinicians at the hospital. More subtle than this, however, are situations wehere an academic is oeprating on the fringes of what is “acceptable” in a particular institution. Clear delineation of expectations are necessary, balanced against the individual’s right to academic freedom.
  • ACADEMIC FREEDOM VERSUS PROCEDURAL / SUBSTANTIVE AUTONOMY. More subtle than overt “rotten apples” are situations where an academic is opirating on the fringes of what is “acceptable” in a particular institution. Clear delineation of expectations are necessary, balanced against the individual’s right to academic freedom. Ethicak questions arise when the independence of the individual is at odds with the direction or opinion of the institution. How this is resolved and which perspective takes precedence depends on the culture of the institution, the issues at stake and the implications……
  • FREEDOM VERSUS AUTONOMY: A PERSONAL TALE: I have been in a position where a program I set up with institutional support won a national industry award and was a finalist in a state government awards process……both of which were decided after the institution, because of funding pressures decided to cut the funding for that program. I was directed that in my public comments after these award ceremonies, I was not to mention the cutting of the funding……..procedural autonomy definitely trumped academic freedom in that case and I am still left with a very bitter taste in my mouth and cynicism in my heart.
  • FUNDING CONFLICTS – beyond the more overt ethical implications of “rotten apples” in HE, there are other ethical implications for funding in HE. For example, subtle influences from the incumbent government on research or teaching priorities for particular institutions, or perhaps the indirect influence of societal groups to whom a particular political party is seeking a favourable impression. Or where public funding is less available, funding shifts to private sources including individual donors and corporate entities which have the potential for as much influence on the operation and content of universities’ outputs as political influence. In these scenarios, there is a real potential for conflict between the institution’s autonomy and the influence of these other individuals / entities, particularly where their motives or priorities are at odds. Not only do institution’s need to do the right thing, they also need to be seen to be doing the right thing too, the concept as mentioned by my fellow scholar as “independence of mind and independence of appearance”.

 Research and teaching nexus

Incorporating research into education programs in HE offers advantages from many perspectives, including teachers, students, the faculty, the insitution and for society at large. Specific to medical education, the key advantages were well summarised by Abu-Zaid and Alkattan (2013)

I found the categorisation of research in HE put by Healey, Jenkins and Lea (2014) a useful framework with which to consider the role of research in the HE setting in which I am primarily involved (post-graduate specialist teaching). Equally, the application of Boyer’s scholarships to research activities was a very useful way of conceptualising research activities, and I was struck by the parallels between Boyer’s scholarships and Healey, Jenkins and Lea’s (2014) research classification.  These parallels and insights are explored in the table below.



A consideration of the role of ethics in higher education and research is vital. Standards and expectations need to be both clearly articulated, and communicated in a manner which is understandable and practical and these standards and expectations need to be applied in a judicious and equitable manner. Opportunities to review ethical processes and standards must be available and staff and students at all levels need to have authentic input into these processes. Changes in HE, particularly as it pertains to changes in societal standards and the introduction of new technologies demands that processes regarding ethics be reviewed and possibly re-conceptualised at a more frequent rate.

In summary, the ratio and importance of the scholarship of research in education varies greatly, with that variation informed and influenced by a number of key factors, including the priorities, culture and history of individual teachers, work groups, schools, faculties and the institution as a whole. Frank discussions about the relative focus and importance of research in education is essential, with the allowance of flexibility to account for the heterogeneity of elements which make up the institution.


EDST 5126 Week 9 – Assurance / Improvement of quality processes / outcomes…..from the inside out


inside out.png

Identify and analyse trends in assurance and improvement of quality processes and outcomes in higher education in your country / state and what impact this could have on your chosen institution. Make reference to the relevant literature.

In the table below, trends in QA / QI in HE in Australia are considered from various perspectives.

QA pic 1

QA pic 2

Internal vs external quality drivers – driving quality from the inside out. 

There seems to be an inherent tension for what is driving quality improvement in HE in Australia which boils down to where the drive for improvement is coming from. The drive to improve may be internal or external. External drivers are intended to ensure that there is a basic standards in place, a safety net which is often quite granular. Relying solely on this to drive quality can have a number of potential downsides. First, it can foster a false sense of security (where extremely basic standards are met), it can discourage pursuit of excellence by providing reassurance that the standards are met and nothing else is required, which is of particular concern if the documentation requirements are onerous , taking away valuable time from getting on with the business of teaching. It takes a determined institution / faculty indeed to improve beyond the basic standards. This capacity for more extensive quality improvement may well be predicated on it having the resources to invest in further innovation and analysis, virtually making a two tiered system.

While basic standards are necessary, ongoing discussion of what quality higher education really means and so these considerations become a fundamental focus of discussions within the industry. This inherent focus and drive will increase the likelihood that improvements in HE will be driven from the inside out – so that there is a “growth mindset” with expansive possibilities for improvement and creativity in education rather than having quality defined at a basic level from the outside in.

Quality Medical Education in Australia 

In the last decade, there has been a focus on the medical workforce numbers in Australia, prompting the dramatic rise in medical students across Australia (the so-called medical student tsunami). While the workforce issues has been addressed, flow on implications for quality of medical education has been less of a focus and is perhaps of a greater concern.

Akin to TEQSA, the Australian Medical Council (AMC) defines the standards for medical education at both undergraduate and specialist levels and these requirements are dealt with at the institutional levels. The basic capacity to teach (with a declining workforce and rising student numbers) is another question all together and how quality education can be delivered in this context.

Only basic requirements set out for institutional accreditation of teachers / supervisors who deliver the vast majority of clinical teaching and there is little formalised evaluation of the quality of that education. These conjoint teachers and supervisors do not enter into a paid contract with the institutions and usually engage with learning and teaching for usually altruistic reasons. It is yet to be seen whether peer review of teaching requirements that are increasingly applied to career academics will apply to conjoint teachers.  And there is furthermore a risk that if requirements are too great, that the volunteer workforce will disengage. How quality in this setting can be recognised by those teachers, and engaged with as a priority is an important question in ensuring quality medical education in Australia.


  • AMC. (2017). Accreditation and REcognition. Retrieved 2017_05_22 from http://www.amc.org.au/accreditation,
  • Bradley, D., Noonan, P., Nugent, H., & Scales, B. (2008). Review of Australian higher education. Final report. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia
  • Probert, B. (2015). The quality of Australia’s higher education system: How it might be defined, improved and assured. Office for Learning and Teaching.

  • UNSW (2016). UNSW 2025 Strategy. Retrieved: https://www.2025.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/uploads/unsw_2025strategy_201015.pdf
  • Uther, P. (2017). Assuring quality in Australia (Moodle forum). Retrieved 2017_05_23 from https://moodle.telt.unsw.edu.au/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=543340


Reflections on teaching…..another one from the unpublished draft archives FULT 2015 

The concept of focusing on process AND content is so important. You need to have complete mastery over the material yourself so that you can devote enough energy and attention to focus on the process of delivery, and incorporating how the students are responding. Teaching time is a fluid bi-directional process. Utilisation of specific examples which resonate with the student is important so that there is buy in from the students. Which means that you need to be aware of the other things that the students have learnt recently within the course and perhaps within the other subjects they are doing at the time, which is certainly relevant for me in teaching medical students. Using alternative media in the lecture is an interesting one, and one whic has worked variably for me. Connecting the media to the content is vital or otherwise they are left asking “Why?” and you run the risk of losing them.  

I think that what it meant for me is that you need to be brave enough to incorporate a variety of media / activities which both align wiht the material you’re covering, but equally that gives the greatest opportunity for the most students to move through the phases of mastery of the subject. 

Some other random thoughts

  • Learning is for for life……Connect it with life
  • Careful preparation
  • How students learn dictates how we teach them. Teaching should be learner centred. 
  • Passion and engagement doesn’t necessarily = good outcomes….from either the teacher or the student! 
  • How can we get students to apply the material in class. 
  • Learn theory first then apply it in real life 
  • Need to get students to care, that’s how they will create meaning and understanding. 
  • It takes courage to teaching things differently and to mix it up. It also takes confidence and humility. Building these things takes practice 
  • The students learn from the teacher and vice versa
  • Teaching is a priviledge. 

EDST5126 Week 7 – Changing Demographics in higher education: A taxing task or a curious exploration?

“Week 7 Task: Identify and analyse trends in student demographics in your country/state and what impact this could have on your chosen institution. Make references to relevant literature.”

BUT, I think that ‘TASK” is a word with pretty heavy connotations, and makes me feel even more weighted down than all the Easter eggs I have consumed in the last week. 

Therefore, rather than performing this ‘task’, I have decided to, with curiosity, explore student demographics using Burton’s three questions (1970) of: What? So What? Now what?

What so what now what

So the reflective cycle with which I will engage for this week’s topic on changing student demographics is as follows:

  1. WHAT?            What are the trends in student demographics in your country / state?
  2. SO WHAT?       What is contributing to these trends?
  3. NOW WHAT?  What impact could this have on your chose institution?


(Incidentally, mytax6 trusty Online Etymology Dictionary informs me that the origin of the word “task” comes from the early 14th Century Old North French verb ‘tasque’ meaning “a quantity of work imposed as a duty” which is interestingly the etymological fore-runner of the word ‘tax’…..hopefully my responses won’t be too taxing!)



True to my usual procrastinatory and long-winded form, before exploring changing student demographics, an etymological definition of demography is needed. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, ‘demography’ comes from Greek ‘demos’ for people and ‘graphy’ meaning ‘the science of divining from demographic statistics’ and interestingly had its origins in examining trends in television audiences…..

WHAT? What are the trends?

I have chosen to look at the trends from three perspectives: Australia, disciplines with a specific focus on health and third, people with disabilities….the reason for my interest in the latter relates to my medical speciality of Rehabilitation Medicine which focuses on people with disability, and the question of tertiary study often arises when moving into community-based rehabilitation. Second, I am frequently consulted on issues facing people with disabilities studying medicine, the reason for which is is threefold: the discipline in which I work, my particular interest in medical education, and the fact that I have a unique perspective as I have a significant vision impairment myself.


  • 3/4 of those enrolled are Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • Rapid growth since 1960
australia enrolments
Grattan Institute (2014) 
  • Post-graduate course work enrolments doubled in last 3 decades

level of study

  • Participation rates doubled in last 2 decades


  • Particular growth in health disciplines since 2000 – taking the share from Information technology
discpline trends
Grattan Institute (2014) 

Trends in medicine 

  • 100% increase in undergraduate medical student places since 2001
  • Now an oversupply of medical students and a misdistribution with excess in city areas and inadequate numbers in rural / regional areas 
  • This mismatch is seen because: 1. Medical schools largely city based 2. Accumulations of life ‘baggage’ throughout medical school and don’t want to move rurally after an investment of 6-7 years training 

SO WHAT? Trend analysis

  • Too many cooks: there are a dizzyingly large array of groups collecting demographic data on medical students and related workforce planning (see mind map) – a concerted effort to link and coordinate these datasets (data linkage) is needed with a larger perspective than the piecemeal analysis that ther seems to currently be. Perhaps a coming together of relevant stakeholders is what is called for with clearly defined questions is needed 
  • Need to develop training programs and clinical schools in regional areas (starting to see this happen but it is still a struggle…..i experience first hand the angst of second year students who have been told that they have to move to a regional area when there are mitigating circumstances which could / should keep them based in sydney eg partner / children. 

NOW WHAT? Implications

  • Look at redistribution of medical school places amongst existing medical schools to address mismatch (Woodley, 2016). 
  • Explore how to market rural placement to students……I don’t know how to do this…..the reality is that most students who spend significant time in rural / regional areas have a marvellous learning experience, but the question is: how can this be communicated with the unconverted? 
  • Consideration of ensuring that there are sufficient specialist opportunities for graduating medical tudents in regional areas to keep them there……it’s all very well to bring students to graduation rurally but they will not stay unless there are sufficient follow on training opportunities waiting for them there. 
  • Further speciality subgroup analysis is needed, especially for geriatrics and rehabilitaiton medicine to address population wide demographic trends. 

You can teach an old dog new tricks! 

I have become interested in ways of tracking and representing data so that recurring themes and issues can be noted in this subject and others. I have had the opportunity to play with a ‘mind mapping’ program. I selected “Mind Vector” to experiment with, selecting it based on the number of positive reviews on the Apple App Store. I found it intuitive to use and add items to but not so easy (at least with the free version) to modify an existing “branch” of the mind map. Perhaps I need to make an investment and / or do some more in depth research to work out how to achieve this. 

I would appreciate your feedback on your thoughts of how this adds (or not) to my blog! 


Assessment – one from the unpublished archives from FULT 2015! 

I reviewed a couple of assesssment options: 

PECHA KUCHA method for oral presentations – 20 slides in 20 seconds. 

Assesses key aspects of learning and also oral presentation skills. I think that this could be an excellednt way of engaging the students in the rehabilitation UNSW tutorial group that I run. I have previously found it difficult to engage the quieter students in the course. This would enable them to have an alternative way of making themselves heard in the course, which is different from the “pick on the poor student” or going around the class asking for answers. 

  1. Time efficient 
  2. Discourages “reading from the script” (but only if done right – there is the risk that students will just tyoe everything that they want to say in size 12 font and read it out…..we have all ben to presentations where this is done, and it is dreadful!!! The limit of 20 seconds per slide though should discourage this!   The slides have to be formatted to they AUTOMATICALLY move forward in 20 seconds. 
  3. Allosw creativity – in a contained way – it’s only 20 seconds!! 

Assessing inclusively 

Fascinating subject, especially considering my own vision impairment. But makes me think that disability or difference comes in many different forms – including: 

  • English as a second language
  • Social anxiety
  • Hearing 
  • Awakwardness with presentations due to difference in various body charactieristics…..

How can we balance the need to assess all students with the rights of the indificual not to be discriminated against……..interesting food for thought.. ….. 

Multiple Choice Questions 

  • Improve student learning performance (SP – but only if they are not learning purely by memorising MCQ questions!!) 
  • Improve perception of quality of learning experience (both Velan 2008) 
  • Easily assess lower order thinking
  • If they are to asserss higher order thinking, need to be carefully constructed and this requires significant subjective judgement. 
  • They should never form the only or major form of summative assessment in university level courses
  • Can effec tively be used as formative assessment….perhaps I could use this as part of my small group tutorial teaching for rehab placements in medical students….but this would require time to prepare the questions. Perhaps there are some questions which could be available online. Preparing the questions could serve several purposes, and could be used to assist with quewstion writing for the college exams
  • Interesting to read about quiz tool software where you can automate presentation and putglication and facilitate administration, scoring and feedback…I will have to look into this!!! 

Dimensions of feedback 

Great to have these parameters clarified for me!! 

  • Formative  versus summative
  • Individual versus generic
  • Manual versus automated 
  • Oral versus written 
  • Student led versus teacher led