This is a creative space for our Scientia Education Fellows to share their insights and expertise to enhance learning and teaching across and beyond UNSW. 

This page will be regularly updated with submissions.

Published: 23 November 2020

Building a Supportive Learning Community: An Appreciative Feedback Exercise

By Professor Peter Heslin

How can students be inspired to manage themselves and encourage each other to build a supportive learning community with your class?

When appropriately prompted, students can:

  • generate great ideas about what they could each do (and avoid doing) to create a productive and inclusive learning community. 
  • provide high-quality feedback about each others’ valued contributions to fostering the learning that happens in the class. 

After receiving appreciative feedback about their contribution to building a supportive learning community, students are often:

  • delighted by publicly sharing how a class colleague has recognised their unique contributions to our learning community. 
  • inspired to emulate the positive contributions of fellow students 
  • willing to set specific goals about how they will enhance their contribution to our learning community.

The presentation below – that was delivered as part of the UNSW 2020 Inclusive Education showcase — discusses a procedure that reliably generates these positive outcomes. 

Published: 12 October 2020

Providing Multiple Means of Representation in Online Courses: Universal Design for Learning

By Professor Terry Cumming

Just as the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework can be used to guide the promotion of accessibility and engagement in online courses, it can also be used to suggest multiple means of representation. Because everyone perceives and comprehends information that is presented to them differently, there is not one single means of providing information that is optimal for all learners. People with disabilities (sensory or learning) and people with language and/or cultural differences all requires different ways of approaching content. Some of us just prefer to learn via visual or auditory modes rather than printed text. Also, using multiple representation of concepts strengthens learning and the transfer of learning because it allows students to make connections within and between concepts.

  • The first guideline under the Representation pillar is perception, which is also closely aligned with accessibility. Provide information so students can Interact with flexible content that doesn't depend on a single sense like sight, hearing, movement, or touch. This can be accomplished in an online course by providing students with choice in regard to how they meet their learning outcomes each week. 
     
  • The second guideline suggests that we communicate through languages that create a shared understanding. This involves clarifying vocabulary, symbols, syntax, and structure. Pre teach any vocabulary, symbols and mathematical notation. In an online course, this may simply involve directing students to websites that explain vocabulary or translate language. Another way to do this is to use multimedia (without the need to read) to illustrate important concepts.
     
  • The third guideline, Comprehension, involves constructing meaning and generating new understandings. This is one that we are all probably most familiar and comfortable with as educators. Techniques such as anchoring instruction by activating prior knowledge, using advance organisers, scaffolding, teaching concepts through demonstration or modelling, and using storytelling, analogies and metaphors to aid student understanding. In an online course, this can be done through synchronous and asynchronous sessions, the provision of checklists and guides and activities that allow students to generalise their knowledge to real life situations. The screen shot below of one of my online courses demonstrates how multiple modes of representation can be used in an online course.
Providing Multiple Means of Representation in Online Courses: Universal Design for Learning

***

Professor Terry Cumming

Terry Cumming is a Professor of Special Education in the School of Education and Academic Lead Education for the Disability Innovation Institute.

Terry has had extensive leadership experiences in learning and teaching, including a three-year term as Deputy Head of School, Learning and Teaching, and membership on the Faculty Academic Programs and Academic Quality Committees. Her teaching and research focus on promoting the use of evidence-based practices to support the learning and behaviour of students with disabilities and the use of technology to create inclusive, accessible, and engaging learning environments. Read more.

Area of interest: Inclusive online learning

Published: 28 September 2020

Wrapping it up

Written by Dr May Lim 

Exam wrappers are short activities, usually a set of survey questions, which that direct students to reflect on their exam performance, identify their area of strength and weaknesses, and adapt their learning methods and strategies. 

I started using exam wrapper in my courses last year. I stole the idea from Dr Jose Bilboa, who always have very good ideas on how to teach better. It wasn’t hard to set up the wrapper using Moodle’s Feedback activity and had the student complete the wrapper as a requirement for viewing their mid-term exam grades. The wrapper takes about 5-10 minutes to complete.  

The students are very willing to share their experience of the course. The students’ responses helped me work out how they study and prepare for the assessment tasks, what resources are they using, what they found useful/useless about the course, and their view of the exam questions. It also helped me pinpoint where they are struggling, and more importantly, who is struggling and why. I can reach out before it is too late. It is also a good way to get student feedback about the course. I now know where to focus my energy when it comes to improving the course.  

You can create your own questions -- some sample questions here or feel free to import and adapt the questions I used for my course. If anyone can think of good/better wrapper questions, or you have wrapper questions for specific type of courses or learning activity (design, teamwork, report etc.), please share! It would be nice to have a UNSW repository of wrapper question we can all use. 

***

Dr May Lim

Dr May Lim is a Scientia Education Academy Fellow, Faculty of Engineering Education Innovation Fellow and a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Chemical Engineering.

She has worked closely with her Faculty, PVCE, student societies, industry and professional bodies to improve the Scientia education experience, and contributed to the development of learning activities, tools and guidelines for capturing, assessing and evaluating student professional development. She is also experienced in the development of capstone undergraduate laboratory courses and Level 2 fundamental engineering courses.

Special area of interest: Student Wellbeing and efficacy

Published: 22 September 2020

Rheology Class

Written by Dr May Lim 

“Why do we need to learn about pseudoplastic?”, the students asked.  

Good question. What is a pseudoplastic? What on earth can be more fake than plastic? 

“Would that be in the test?” 

The students have asked this question every year for 12 years. 

“Let’s find out by creating a cheat sheet together.”, I said. 

“A4 double sided?”, the students ask. 

“Double sided is fine.” 

Each group made a cheat sheet and upload it to Padlet. Votes were cast with love hearts and thumbs up. The most popular cheat sheet wins a prize and we road test it on a mock quiz. More questions were asked. But they are good questions. And the pass rate went from 60% to 100%. 

We learnt nail polish is a pseudoplastic fluid. Nail polish don’t drip from the brush until we paint them on our nails. Thickening agent ensures nail polish flows better only when shear stress is applied. 

“Just like learning.”, they said. “It’s harder at the beginning, then everything started to flow.”  

“Yes.” 

“And it is better together.” 

“That too.” 

***

Dr May Lim

Dr May Lim is a Scientia Education Academy Fellow, Faculty of Engineering Education Innovation Fellow and a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Chemical Engineering.

She has worked closely with her Faculty, PVCE, student societies, industry and professional bodies to improve the Scientia education experience, and contributed to the development of learning activities, tools and guidelines for capturing, assessing and evaluating student professional development. She is also experienced in the development of capstone undergraduate laboratory courses and Level 2 fundamental engineering courses.

Special area of interest: Student Wellbeing and efficacy

Published: 27 August 2020

Upskilling Together, Learning Together

Reflection by Professor Patsie Polly

Term 1 courses in 2020 at UNSW started like they normally should. Orientation lectures outlining course requirements and expectations were delivered with classrooms full of students re-connecting after the summer break. For PATH3205 students, settling into the ‘new norm’ was starting to learn and think more independently as senior students in a third-year course in pathology in the medical sciences.

As we progressed into week 5 of a 10-week structure, COVID-19, the global pandemic started to affect UNSW. The idea of a novel coronavirus somehow taking control of the world would undoubtedly pique the interest of this student cohort given the course was partly focussed on wayward immune systems. However, none of us expected that we would upskill in digital literacy and learn how to work and understand a new culture of remote learning online at high speed. This was definitely beyond downloading lecture content!

Staff and students became partners in navigating these new frontiers in learning. COVID-19 broke down the typical teacher-student barriers. It was fair to say that we were all learning together and from each other. That concept in itself was exciting; upskilling an entire course community, students, tutors, mentors and staff. We quickly explored and applied technology simultaneously. There was no time to pilot or to trial, just to implement. Students “chatted” with each other and teachers more regularly. Teachers “chatted” in departmental huddles each morning to share stories of triumph, tips, tricks and some terrifying moments – like WiFi dropping out. Learning together got us to week 10 and then to exams with a sense of triumph and achievement. Thanks COVID-19!

***

Professor Patsie Polly

Professor Patsie Polly teaches Pathology, within the School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine. 

Patsie is recognised nationally and internationally as a medical research scientist, leading teacher and innovative education researcher. Patsie has held five international, national and institutional fellowships. Patsie has infused her extensive medical research experience into the classroom by strategically integrating adaptive lessons, ePortfolio pedagogy and collaborative communities of practice to allow her students to learn these career-relevant skills. Patsie has expertise in authentic assessment, course and program-wide ePortfolio implementation/use within science-based degree programs at UNSW Sydney to facilitate student reflective practice and professional skills development. Read more

 

Published: 22 July 2020

Promoting Accessibility and Engagement in Online Courses: Universal Design for Learning

By Professor Terry Cumming

The COVID-19 crisis has necessitated a move from F2F to online courses. This has left many searching for guidance. Identifying and meeting the learning needs of our students, particularly keeping them engaged online, has become paramount. Students have indicated that in an online environment they want to feel included and valued, be responded to, receive feedback, and feel connected to both instructors and their fellow students (ADCET, 2020). To summarise, they want accessible, well designed experiences with personal contact.

Instructors of online courses can use the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework (http://udlguidelines.cast.org) to guide their instructional design by considering its three principles: Representation (providing various ways of acquiring information), Action and Expression (providing various routes for demonstrating what they know), and Engagement (tapping into students’ interests, challenging them, and motivating them to learn). 

Accessibility is an important consideration, and this can be improved by providing simple, consistent navigation throughout the course, making sure that documents are accessible, and text is readable (including with a screen reader). Provide captions for videos and transcripts for audio clips. 

To foster engagement, it is important to provide an introduction to the course that includes the student learning outcomes and why they are important. Detailed instructions and signposts throughout will assist in navigation and keep students on track. To enhance students’ feelings of engagement and personal contact, build interactivity into tasks and encourage student collaboration with peers. Find a way to be consistent with your communication (how and when you will respond to posts, provide comments, offer encouragement, suggestions, feedback etc.) and make sure students know how to contact you. The more you engage with students, the more they will engage with you and their classmates!

Source: Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Version 2.2 (CAST, 2018)
Source: Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Version 2.2 (CAST, 2018)

***

Professor Terry Cumming

Terry Cumming is a Professor of Special Education in the School of Education and Academic Lead Education for the Disability Innovation Institute.

Terry has had extensive leadership experiences in learning and teaching, including a three-year term as Deputy Head of School, Learning and Teaching, and membership on the Faculty Academic Programs and Academic Quality Committees. Her teaching and research focus on promoting the use of evidence-based practices to support the learning and behaviour of students with disabilities and the use of technology to create inclusive, accessible, and engaging learning environments. Read more.

Area of interest: Inclusive online learning