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 

EDST5126 Week 8: teaching, assessment and feedback in blended and open learning environments 


I enjoyed tonight’s session…amazing how a little break can envigourate! 

  • Not blended learning, just learning – The format in which education is delivered must be fit for purpose. If education is situated within a constructive alignment paradigm, the teaching and learning activities will be conducted in the most suitable format for the articulated intended learning outcomes and that they are assessed in the most appropriate way…..this may include online at times,  and at other times, face to face……and most likely, a combination of different methodologies…..so not blended learning, just learning , which if constructively aligned will include the most relevant mix of formats. This definition is a more inelegant description of 
  • The perennial Einstein quote about the definition of insanity came to mind: simplyy hoping for the alchemy of  the improved learning in students by maintaining existing face-to-face content but delivering it in an online could be the embodiment of pedagogical insanity.  
  • This led onto an interesting discussion about constructing authentic learning outcomes and that we may need to look at new ways of articulating learning outcomes. I identified communication skills as an example where videos could serve a useful purpose and apparently Churchill has done some work on defining learning outcomes in the digital space, an articulate I will be interested to read and see what paralells can be drawn with other skills based settings like medical education 
  • Further extending the horses for courses concept, we explored other ways of creatively solving educational issues other than online learning, such as increasing hours that educational institutions are open and / or changing the structure of terms such as how UNSW is moving to the trimester. We pondered what unintended consequences may emerge as a result of these changes. There is the possibility of growth and renewal and innovation because of  if the opportunities afforded by this “spring clean” of existing courses, being able to look at current teaching methods and assessments……but there is equally the risk that the existing processes may be degraded if change is not consciously planned and if the opportunities aren’t recognised. I wonder how much strategic planning is occurring to reinvigorate courses and to reap the benefits of this change which is coming. 
  • We spoke about pitfalls in blended and online learning which I have attempted to capture in the mind map below. 

Lucky 13 pieces of food for thought. 

There were a few other serves of food for thought, which arose throughout the session, which I will list below for future reflection: 

  1. The start of innovation is building on what other people have done “the power of the second person”
  2. How can we conceptualise learning outcomes differently so that they are more useful? 
  3. How can we effectively relate learning outcomes to graduate capabilities? Should / can all learning outcomes be explicitly taught? 
  4. Can all learning outcomes be measured or assessed? What is the value of a dichotomous classification of achievement of learning outcomes? When does it all turn into “ticking boxes” and how can we keep them authentic as they were intended? 
  5. Embracing technology is all about teaching the teacher how to teach
  6. Online / blended learning should take no more time for the teacher and student than face to face
  7. How can we move from making higher education institutions from surviving to thriving and what would define that? 
  8. The more complex the tools the more complex the issues and the more expert the educator needs to be
  9. What defines engagement  in education? For teachers? For students? Is it a time investment or is it passion? 
  10. As university funding shifts from government to private, this will shift to balance of power from the public to the individual and may impact how teaching occurs eg demanding more intensive teaching, different ways of teaching. 
  11. What happens when the strategy of an institution is incongruent with the philosophy or practicality of a faculty / school…when one size doesn’t fit all
  12. Simulation is a starting point for medical education not a destination and can have particular use in rare conditions and procedures 
  13. How to we value add to teaching time? How is value defined in education? Is it learning? 

And so onto the task for this session: 

Why is there a rise of  blended learning in traditional on-campus higher education institutions, especially in Australia? 

Experiences of blended learning 

  • To date, my only experience with online learning has been as a consumer: through participation in courses for the FULT and GCULT courses at UNSW, using Moodle to access pre-class material, to view videos online and make notations and to interact on online forums. 
  • The most immersive and authentic experience was with EDST5123 which was conducted whollly online. I personally experienced a degree of “social anxiet” in interacting ***** INCOMPLETE