Friday, November 27, 2009

Congratulating Good Performance

I have written extensively about the emails and SMS messages I have sent to students at risk and the difference it has made to some students.  I have not just concentrated on the negative, I have also been sending congratulatory emails to students who have performed well.  For each assessment item, I sent an email congratulating all students who achieved a mark in excess of 85%.  I have also sent congratulatory emails to all students who achieved Distinction and High Distinction grades.  The final group of emails I sent were to a few less talented students who achieved great results through hard work and perseverance.  I do not know if these emails have had any impact on these students' performance but I like to think that the positive reinforcement made them feel better at least.  A few students have written back to me thanking me for my messages.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gripe: Students lack of Punctuality

I have been driven crazy by students arriving late to class.  They seem to think there is nothing wrong with arriving 5 to 10 minutes late.

This problem was highlighted in one of my final tutorials for the semester.  At the scheduled starting time, there were 8 students in the class.  I divided them into two groups of 4 students and had each group look at a question from last semester's exam paper.  They moved the furniture around so they could work in groups and got started on their problem.

A couple of minutes later, two more students arrived so I explained what we were doing and added one to each group.  Then another pair arrived.  I don't like having groups of more than 5 students so I pulled the earlier tardy students out of their group and formed them into a group with the more recent tardy students and gave them a different problem from the exam to solve.  I now had three groups of 4 students.

Another two students arrived.  I added one student to two of the groups.  Another student arrived and I added him to the remaining group.  Each time I had to explain what we were doing in the class and furniture needed to be shuffled to get the groups working together.  Just when I thought I had it settled, another student arrived.  I had to extract the 5th student from each of the groups to form a new group and added the latest arrival to now give me four groups of 4 students.

It was now 15 minutes after the scheduled starting time.  One group was just starting their task.  The other groups had not progressed very far on their tasks due to the disruptions of students being added and withdrawn.  These disruptions meant that the tutorial only covered half the material which I had intended to cover in that class.

The problem with lateness is exacerbated by some of my colleagues who are routinely five minutes late to class.  How can we expect better behaviour from students when the academics are setting the bad example.

I know that some students have valid reasons for being late but I doubt all the reasons for tardiness are valid.  I have worked in Thailand, a country renowned for its flexible concept of punctuality, and have not experienced this level of unpunctuality.  I teach in a business degree; Haliburton claimed that "Punctuality is the soul of business."  I can only wonder if students carry this behaviour to their professional life; I do not think many clients would put up with this treatment for long.

When I was at School, if you were late to class you had to go to the Principal's office to get a late pass and, if it happened too frequently, to be disciplined.  This approach cannot be applied in University however; I cannot imagine the Vice-Chancellor dispensing late passes.  In my ideal world I would develop an appropriate punishment for lateness.  As professionalism is a desired generic skill, students who are late to class will be docked marks for failure to demonstrate they can behave professionally.

Now, where is my horse and lance.  I see a windmill in the distance.

Innovations in Contemporary Issues in Accounting

This semester I trialled a number of innovations in Contemporary Issues in Accounting. These included:
  • Automated marking of practical assignments
  • New methods of communicating generic skills
  • Improving engagement in tutorials
  • Actively pursuing students at risk
It is now time to review the success of these activities.

Automated Marking

This process appeared to work reasonably well. The worst part of this system was the time taken to prepare the questions, check them and provide sufficient margin of error in the answers to allow for differences in assumptions. I did not receive any complaints from students about the time taken to complete the online submission of the answer. There were a couple of the individual questions where I did not allow sufficient range in the accepted answers. One group of students managed to make a mess of their submission by included a comma as a thousand's separator; Moodle does not recognise this as a numerical answer and is a weakness in Moodle. The system, as I had established it, did not allow for late assignments. The system did achieve its objective of providing quick marking.

Communication of Generic Skills

This was a partial success I think. This is purely a subjective view and I do not have any data to support this. The reason it was a partial success was that I listed the generic skills included in the topic. I did not explain how this topic delivered the generic skill nor did I identify the component of the topic which was associated with the delivery of generic skills. I will try to improve this in the future.

Improving Engagement in Tutorials

The techniques I applied worked well early in the semester but were not as effective later in the semester. The reason they lost effectiveness is that the engagement was already present towards the end of the semester and the techniques added little value. I will concentrate on applying these engagement techniques early in the semester only in the future.

Actively Pursuing Students at Risk

I used email and SMS to contact students at risk. Students were identified as "at risk" based on their non-attendance at tutorials, non-submission of assessment items, and poor performance on assessment items. I estimate that this program resulted in three students withdrawing from the unit before they failed and five students drastically improving their attitude to their studies during the semester. I think it also had an impact on other students and resulted in a slight improvement on their performance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attendance at Tutorials Revisited

An earlier post covered my concerns about students failure to attend tutorials. I now have the full data available to look at this more closely. The basic evidence remains pretty much the same, more than half the students attended less than 75% of tutorials. What this post adds is the data about the association between tutorial attendance and overall marks.

The correlation coefficient between overall mark and the number of tutorials attended is 0.70. However, a number of students who missed tutorials saw me during consultation times to review the work they missed. If I give those students credit for attending tutorials for when they saw me about their missed work, the correlation coefficient rises to 0.75.

For the students who attended more than 75% of tutorials, every one of them passed. The average mark for these students was 72%. 12 of the 15 Distinctions and High Distinctions earned in the subject came from this group.

For the students who attended between 50% and 75% of tutorials, just over 90% of them passed. The average mark for these students was 62%. The other three Distinctions and High Distinctions came from this group.

For the students who attended less than 50% of tutorials, just over 50% of these students passed. The average mark for this group of students was 43%. No students from this group earned more than a Credit.

All of this is telling a consistent story: attendance at tutorials has a reasonably strong association with academic performance in the unit. The question which remains however is how do I get students to act on this association.

Student Rationality: Marks, Risk and Perceived Wasted Effort When Preparing for Exams

I have been observing revealed rationality of students when preparing for exams. My exam in Contemporary Issues in Accounting was divided into two sections: Part A was designed to assess depth of knowledge; Part B to assess breadth of knowledge. Part A comprised four essay questions from which students could select any two. Students were given the essay questions in the third last lecture of the semester - one month before the exam. Part B comprised a series of short answer and calculation questions. Students were given no guidance about the content of these questions. Students were not permitted to take cheat sheets into the final exam ("cheat sheets" is University of Canberra students' slang for when students are allowed to take notes into an exam).

Students were encouraged to work with others to prepare answers for the essay questions prior to the exam. In their exams, it was apparent that most students had prepared extensively for the essay questions they has chosen to attempt. Very few students had prepared for the Part B short answer questions. Several students told me in consultations prior to the exam that their strategy was to prepare for the essays only and not to prepare for the short answer or calculation questions at all. This strategy appeared to be followed by many students from the work displayed in the final exam.

The students who told me about their strategy prior to the final exam justified their choice based on their limited time to prepare for all of their exams. Most of my students faced three exams in three days. One of the subjects that most students were taking had an evil reputation among students and students admitted they were devoting most of their time to that subject. The rationale for this strategy, as it was explained to me, was that there was a perceived strong correlation between effort and marks when preparing for the essay questions as the questions were known. There was a much weaker perceived correlation between effort and marks for the Part B questions. As students did not know what the questions were nor the topics from which they were drawn, they perceived that much of their study time could be "wasted" in that it would not lead directly to higher marks on the exam.

The question facing me for the future is should I pander to the students by providing greater information about the Part B questions prior to the exam. If I do provide them with more information, how much more information is needed to change their behaviour to one that is more satisfying for me; that they prepare thoroughly for the Part B questions and through that, develop a broad understanding of the issues which lead to the learning outcomes of the unit?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Attendance at Tutorials

This semester I have been monitoring tutorial attendance closely and contacting students who have not attended. A common response I have received is that, as attendance is not compulsory, the student does not think it is important to attend tutorials. I am astounded by this view. How do students think they will acquire the understanding necessary to successfully complete the assessment items if they do not attend classes?

Evidence of the lack of attendance is in the following two graphs:

My problem is: how do I convince students that attendance at tutorials is the most important factor in acquiring the understanding to successfully complete the assessment tasks? I do not want to set "participation marks" to force attendance when there is not a pedagogical reason for having a participation mark.

Balancing Study and Work

Contemporary Issues in Accounting is undertaken primarily by accounting students in the final semester of their degree.  Many of the students are working full-time in the industry.  Some of the students who are working full-time are also studying full-time.  I do not know how they intend to cope with the workload and pass.

Many students have told me that they are having difficulty balancing study and work.  I have been sympathetic with assessment deadlines for these students where their employer has verified that the student is required to work greater hours than expected.  But that is only a partial solution and is only effective if the excessive work commitments are for a few weeks only.  Extending deadlines is of no use if the excessive work commitments last for a substantial part of the semester.

Several students seem to think that work commitments are sufficient reasons for not attending lectures and tutorials.  While attendance at class is not compulsory, acquisition of understanding is.  Attendance at class is one of the key ingredients for attaining that understanding for most students.  I do not know how these students think they will attain the understanding if they do not attend class.  The materials provided to support learning are not designed to support distance learning, nor are they sufficient for that purpose.  They are designed to complement face-to-face delivery.  I do not know how to get this through to these students - announcing it in class is clearly a waste of time.

Students at Risk - Weeks 9 - 13

There were no tutorials in weeks 8-10 and there were no online tests running in weeks 10 & 11.

Starting in week 11, I continued my routine emails to students not attending tutorials.  I have now divided the messages into three standards:  A gentle reminder to students who have missed only 1 or 2 tutorials; a warning of poor performance to students who have missed more that 2 but less than half of the tutorials and a severe warning to students who have missed more than half the tutorials.  I have also sent SMS messages using the SMS manager system messages to students who have missed more than half the tutorials.

I sent emails to students who did not attempt the 4th online test and to students who performed poorly on that test.  A week before and again 2 days before the 5th online test closed, I sent emails to all students who had not yet attempted the test.  I also sent the message by SMS 2 days before the test closed.

I received greater responses to the SMS than I did to the email.  One student objected to being contacted by SMS.  Several students thanked me for the SMS about the test closing in 2 days.  About half of the students who received the SMS about tutorial attendance have contacted me.  Some of them are adamant that they will study their own way and will not come to lectures and tutorials.  Most, however have been promised to change their ways - while I have the promise, I do not have evidence yet of the promise being complied with.  This constant emailing and messaging has identified a few students with ongoing health problems impairing their performance.  I have directed these students to the supports services offered by the University and encouraged them to seek professional help.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Moodleposium Backchannel

The Moodleposium backchannel was brilliant. It was the first time I had participated in this. The backchannel was built using twitter with the hashtag #moodleposium. This twitter stream was aggregated into a coveritlive window on the Moodleposium Moodle site. The backchannel started several days before the event started and has drawn to a close several days after.

Lots of discussions and summaries of presentation on twitter - some RTs as well showing it moving to a wider audience.

The bad side of the backchannel was the appalling infrastructure the University has for this type of communication. It was an embarrassment - we looked like we were from the dark ages. There were inadequate powerpoints partially solved by ad hoc provision of a few powerboards. But the wireless internet connection was the worst. The wifi connection could not cope with the traffic demands and spat the dummy. Wireless broadband coverage was also poor. I could only get 2G coverage most of the time using my Optus dongle. This is just not good enough.

There should be sufficient powerpoints in the risers of the tiered seating and the WiFi system should be able to cope with 100s of simultaneous users. Also, 3G coverage from all major telcos should be available everywhere in the University.

Moodleposium Day 2

The second day of the moodleposium was the moodlepracticum. It started brilliantly but went downhill from there - not really, I was the first speaker for the day. Nearly everything on Day 2 was really good.

I got good feedback on my 10 minute session on glossaries. As did the others - many asked if more of these 10 minute slots could be included in the future. Margaret Robson repeated her material from the Gaggle on templates. Minh-tam showed the work he had done on the home page.

The keynote for the day was presented by Moodleman - Julian Ridden. Julian talked about the advantage of FOSS vs proprietary. Proprietary systems include features which will help it sell to many users - do not customise for unusual applications. Moodle comes with less in the box but has numerous modules written by others to add to the vanilla. is where you find them.

The second session contained a talk on a Formative Assessment Tool by Derek Chirnside. I did not see any great value in this tool for UC. The second talk in this session was by Mark Drechsler from Netspot. He looked at the pros and cons of using external Web 2.0 systems, custom modules or moodle basic. The basic issue was one of features vs control. External systems eg Wordpress, Mediawiki contained much greater features but passed control to those organisations. Internal moodle features had fewer features but more control and fewer risks. Customised modules were in the middle. The final talk was by Megan Poore on the legal risks of external Web 2.0 systems. She raised EUAs, IP, compulsory use, safety, reliability of supply. Lots to think about.

The third session was a discussion chaired by Alan Arnold on what was good and bad in Moodle from a teacher's perspective. Good things was the ability to see the students' view and the forums. Bad points were the difficulties in assigning students to groups, the problems with themes and the lack of an email function.

The final session had a series of 10 minute talks. Matt Bacon showed how to use audio files in Moodle including the way it put in an audio control bar when you created a link to an mp3 file. Nifty trick of creating a link from a single space if you want to hide the download link. Graham MacKinnell showed the dialogue module and how to use it - hint - choose separate groups and send a welcome message to all participants to prime the system. Felicia Zhang talked about the reporting features and research available from the reports function. I will be talking to Felicia about how to capture and analyse that data.

Moodleposium Day 1

The moodleposium was a great success. I had expected about 100 participants from around Canberra. There were almost 300 participants from all over Australia and New Zealand.

Te first substantive session had Denise Kirkpatrick PVC OU UK talking about the implementation of Moodle at OU. The talk was interesting about how a large distance university dealt with an LMS selection and implementation. Most of it was not relevant to UC's situation though.

The second session I attended was by Amanda Burrell. Amanda talked about group work and the methods she uses to get it to work. She spoke with a lot of energy and showed some interesting examples of her students' work. Some of the things she used was to get students to submit, weekly, their evaluations of the performance of the other group members along with their journals. She said that this required 90 mins of marking per week. She also monitored team performance by using a 2 hour weekly class session for work on the group projects. I am not sure if Amanda's techniques can be applied in my discipline.

Also in the second session was a presentation by Kerry Trabinger from CIT. I found Kerry's talk very useful. The big ideas I took from Kerry's talk were:
  1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression
  2. Training and induction are vital
  3. Facilitators need to manage the conversations initially by replying in positive ways that encourage further posts
  4. Actively need to pursue lurkers to make them participants
The third session was by the founder of Moodle, Martin Dougiamis. His talk focussed on the improvements coming Moodle 2.0. He promised a beta in December and production release in time for 2010 academic year. The big improvements were in integration and facilitating the creation of mashups. He also promised a focus on pedagogy through the Moodle 2.x life cycle.

The fourth session I attended had presentations by James Strong and Martin Dougiamis and it dealt with technical issues. James covered the hardware and software requirements for hosting, development and testing environments, backups and disaster recovery and service level agreements. Martin talked about the technical issues involved in Moodle 2.0. The bad news was that all hacks written for 1.9 were going to break.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Students at Risk 6399 - Week 8

I have sent emails to all students who have not attempted the fourth online test. This email reminded the students that they have less than a week to undertake the test.

I have sent SMS messages using to all students who have only attended one tutorial this semester. The SMS stated:
You have only attended 1 tute in Contemp Issues in Actg. You are at risk of failing. Please call me to discuss your performance. Andrew Read

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Students at Risk 6399 - Week 7

I have sent the usual emails to students who have not attended tutorials in week 7. I strengthened the email to the students who had only attended one tutorial by adding the following paragraph:

Come and see me during my consultation times (on LearnOnline) or call to make an appointment as soon as possible so I can help you develop a strategy that may give you a chance of recovering from the disastrous position in which you are currently located.

I have also sent emails to all students who did not attempt the third online test or who did poorly (<70%).

I have also posted a message on LearnOnline asking students to check their email accounts and reminding them of the new email account.

I have telephoned all students who have not attended any tutorials this semester. I was unable to reach two of the students but have spoken to all of the others about their performance. 5 of them have promised to improve their performance, 1 has indicated that he will withdraw from the unit.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Students at Risk 6399 - Week 6

I have sent the standard emails to all students who have not attended tutorials - see week 5 for wording. I have also sent emails to all students who have not attempted test 3 or who have performed poorly on test 3. This email was sent with sufficient time for students to attempt the test at least one more time before it closes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Students at Risk 6399 - Week 5

I have sent emails to all students at risk this week.  To the students who did not attend tutorials this week but have attended in other weeks, I sent:

Dear student

According to my records you did not attend your tutorial in Week 5. Tutorials are the most important component of the unit and it is essential that you make every effort to attend your tutorial every week if you hope to pass the unit.

If you have any questions about the material you missed, please come and see me during my consultation hours (on LearnOnline) or call to make an appointment.

To the students who have not attended any tutorials this semester, I sent:

Dear student

According to my records you have not attended any tutorials this semester. If you do intend to continue with your studies in this unit then missing these tutorials has seriously damaged your chances of passing the unit. It is imperative that you make every effort to attend tutorials every week for the remainder of the semester if you hope to recover from your current position and have a chance of passing the unit.

If you do not intend to continue with your studies in this unit, I recommend that you withdraw from the unit as soon as possible to avoid a fail result on your academic transcript.

If you have any questions about any of the material you have missed, please see me during my consultation times (on LearnOnline) or call me to make an appointment.

To the students who have missed this week's tutorial and have missed one other tutorial, I sent:

Dear student

According to my records you have not attended tutorials in 2 of the last 3 weeks. Missing these two tutorials seriously damages your chances of passing the unit. It is imperative that you make every effort to attend tutorials every week for the remainder of the semester if you hope to recover from your current position and have a chance of passing the unit. If you have any questions about any of the material you have missed, please see me during my consultation times (on LearnOnline) or call me to make an appointment.

I have also sent emails to students who have performed poorly in the second online test:

Dear student

You did not achieve 70% of the second online test.  This means that your mark for this test is 0.

As it appears you are having difficulty with the unit, please come and see me during my consultation hours or call to make an appointment. At this appointment I can help you overcome your difficulties with the unit and we can develop a strategy for your studies for the remainder of the semester which will maximise your chances of passing the unit.

Finally, I sent individual emails to the two students who did not attempt the second online test:

Dear xxxx

You have not attempted either online test in Contemporary Issues in Accounting 6399. This means that you cannot satisfy the conditions required to pass the unit unless you have a valid reason for not attempting the tests.

Please contact me as a matter of urgency.

Dear xxxx

You have not attempted the second online test in the unit. In order to pass the unit you must attempt 5 of the 6 online tests in the unit. If you do not attempt another of the tests you will fail the unit unless you have a valid reason for not attempting the test.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Flat Lecture - CCA

The CCA lecture in CIA PG last night was flat.  I need to rewrite this lecture from scratch to make it more engaging.  Some of the improvements needed include:
  • Get rid of the calculation of the firm specific rate of inflation.  It does nothing for achieving the learning outcomes and just confuses student by adding unnecessary complexity
  • Add some graphs to show the movement over the year of the monetary items.
  • Get rid of the second year in the example
  • Set up an exercise to be done in pairs to evaluate HC versus CCA measures of performance
  • Add some pictures
  • Explain depreciation and compare declining carrying amounts using NPV, FV, HCA straight line, HC reducting balance.  Use graphs.
  • Demonstrate DCF based periodic income
  • Talk about industrial disinvestment in Australia in the 70s - Barton's article - and the Button steel and car plans

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Students at Risk - Late Submission of Assignment

I have sent the following email to all students who have not submitted Part 1 of the Group Assignment.

Dear student

You have not yet submitted Part 1 of the Group Assignment. This was due last Friday (14th August 2009). Submission of Part 1 of the Group Assignment is a compulsory component of the assessment for all students. Late submissions are accepted but they will have a late penalty imposed if there are not valid reasons for the late submission. You will fail the unit if you do not submit Part 1 of the Group Assignment – see Section 5c of the unit outline.

If there are any reasons for your failure to submit on time, please contact me as soon as possible.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Six Secrets

Monica has sent me the six secrets.  They are:
  • Love your employees - employees are part of the organisation, not a resource to be exploited.
  • Connect peers with purpose - peer interaction and collaboration is vital - employees should form a community
  • Capacity buidling prevails - build the change skills which are necessary to build improvement
  • Learning is the work - learning is not something we do so we can do the work - learning is integrated with all work
  • Transparency rules - deprivatise practice - do everything in a fishbowl
  • Systems learn - develop many leaders and be open to new ideas

Friday, August 14, 2009

T&L Activities Friday 14th August

Today has been busy for teaching and learning activities. They have been:
  • Breakfast with a leader - six secrets of change leadership: Felicia Zhang, Laurie Grealish, Monica Kennedy
  • Finding the leader within - meeting 1
  • TATAL - holistic learning: Amy Griffin

Breakfast with a Leader

Despite the false advertising, this was a great session. It appears that only the intellect was to be fed - the body was starving at the end and was only appeased by a chocolate-chip muffin.

Laurie, Monica and the late Felicia discussed the six secrets which they had acquired at a recent conference (?). I carefully forgot to write down the secrets so they are still secret, nor did I record the reference. I will ask Monica later for the details. One of the major themes mentioned was the need for openness. Another was love your team (in an contextually appropriate manner). I really need to get the list of secrets - while the session made a strong impression on my, I cannot remember the details. Arrrrrrrrrrgh.

Finding the Leader Within

This was the first meeting of the group. Most of this was a getting-to-know-you exercise which also explored our concepts of leadership. The concepts shared were similar and focussed on themes of motivation, support, respect and inspiration. The remainder of the session dealt with admin matters for next week's retreat - I must remember to fill in the travel forms and email Janet the information she needs. The program looks promising.


Amy lead TATAL today and she spoke about holistic learning. She gave three definitions:
  • Teaching the whole person
  • Systems-based teaching showing the interconnectedness of the parts
  • Holistic learning style as opposed to sequential learning style (synonomous with global learning style)
She ran us through a Learning Style diagnostic (Felder and Soloman) with four dimensions:
  • Active - Reflective
  • Visual - Verbal
  • Sensing - Intuitive
  • Sequential - Global
I came out as stronly intuitive and global, moderately visual and weakly active.

I will use this instrument on my students later if I can make time in a lecture.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Students at Risk - Response to SMS

I sent 8 SMS messages to the students who had missed the first two tutorials and had not given me any reasons for their non-attendance.  I received 4 responses within 2 hours of sending the message.  I consider this to be an exceptionally high response rate for students that I had considered were disengaged totally.  I will continue to use SMS for this purpose and will recommend that other staff do the same.

The only downside of this approach was the tedium of sending 8 SMS from my personal phone at my personal cost.  I have called the ICT service desk to see if there is a method by which I can send bulk SMS messages to students simply using University resources - I am awaiting their reply.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Students at Risk - 6399 week 4

I have sent emails to all students who:
  • Did not attend tutorials in week 4
  • Did not attend tutorials in both weeks 3 and 4 but have advised me of their reasons for not attending
  • Did not attend tutorials in both weeks 3 and 4 but have not contacted me
I have also sent SMS messages to the third group if their mobile number was on Callista.

The emails to the first group were:

Dear student

According to my records you did not attend your tutorial in Week 4. Tutorials are the most important component of the unit and it is essential that you make every effort to attend your tutorial every week if you hope to pass the unit.

If you have any questions about the material you missed, please come and see me during my consultation hours (on LearnOnline) or call to make an appointment.

The emails to the second group were

Dear student

According to my records you have not attended tutorials in weeks 3 and 4. While you have informed me of your reasons for non-attendance, missing these two tutorials seriously damages your chances of passing the unit. It is imperative that you make every effort to attend tutorials every week for the remainder of the semester if you hope to recover from your current position and have a chance of passing the unit.

If you have any questions about any of the material you have missed, please see me during my consultation times (on LearnOnline) or call me to make an appointment.

The emails to the third group were:

Dear student

According to my records you have not attended tutorials in weeks 3 and 4 and you have not contacted me to explain your absence. As I have stated on LearnOnline, you will be deleted from the tutorial in which you are enrolled unless you email me before 1700 on Friday 14th August stating that you wish to remain in your tutorial. Remember to include in the subject line of your email the unit number (6399) and your student number.

If you do not intend to continue with your studies in this unit, I recommend that you withdraw prior to Census date which is Friday 14th August 2009.

If you do intend to continue with your studies in this unit then missing these two tutorials has seriously damaged your chances of passing the unit. It is imperative that you make every effort to attend tutorials every week for the remainder of the semester if you hope to recover from your current position and have a chance of passing the unit.

If you have any questions about any of the material you have missed, please see me during my consultation times (on LearnOnline) or call me to make an appointment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ting Wang's Seminar

Ting's seminar was presented on Wednesday 5th August 2009 at 12.30pm in room 1C29 at the University of Canberra.

Some of the things Ting mentioned resonated with me.  The first of these was the need to teach the definition of critical thinking.  While Ting was making the point about her students, I think the issue is broader than that.  We use the term so frequently that we forget that this concept can be new to students and that we should define it.  The problem Ting pointed out is that without this guidance, students associate the term "critical" with negativity.  We need to get students to overcome this preconception so we need to demonstrate what we mean by critical thinking.  Ting gave a quote from Lipman (1995) as her definition.  I think this quote is a little narrow.  Maybe I have been too polluted by the post modernists but I think that emotive, dogmatic and analogous thinking also have a role.  However students have to be aware of the style of thinking they are applying, the strengths and weaknesses inherent in that type of thinking, and the appropriateness of that form of thinking to the context and environment.  I like to adapt de Bono's 6 thinking hats for this purpose.

Ting also discussed the types of silences: no idea; germinating; and conflict avoiding.  John Gilchrist added disengaged.  She discussed strategies for creating space for the germinating and conflict avoiding silences to become less silent.  I have not considered this issue before and it has given me an immediate tool to apply.

She also addressed how to draw-out the knowledge of students, particularly when there power differences in the classroom (Frances - in an aside - that this was a problem at ADFA when students were at different military ranks).

Ting also presented her photovoice assessment item.  I think this is wonderful but I do not know how to apply it in accounting yet.

Tutorial Engagement 6399 - Week 3

The first tutorials for the semester were held this week in Contemporary Issues in Accounting 6399. Tutorial attendance was very poor with only 65% of students attending.

I conducted a meet and greet session in all of the tutorials which seemed to work reasonably well. I then divided the class into small groups and assigned one question to each group. Each group was given a transparency and OHP pens (interestingly, most of the women chose a purple pen and the men chose red or blue) and about 15-25 minutes to prepare an answer then present it to the class. This worked fairly well in most tutorials. Some of the issues that did arise were:
  • Some students were trying to find the "correct" answer in the textbook instead of discussing the issues.
  • In T4 in particular, some of the more mature students (LV, SP, RL) dominated the discussion space and allowing the more reticent students to hide.
  • Some students have appalling presentation skills.
I have told the students that the approach is not to find the answer in the textbook or the lecture notes and that they need to justify their conclusions with reasons. I will be giving more advice on presentation skills in tutorials as well. When I organise groups in future, I will try to arrange them to create a discussion space for the shyer students.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Students at Risk - 6399 week 3

I have sent emails to all students who:
  • Did not attend tutorials in week 3
  • Did not attempt the first online test
  • Achieved less than 70% on the first online test
Advising them that they are at risk and recommending actions they should take.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) in Accounting

The recent WIL week has had me thinking that the traditional internship or practicum unit model is not appropriate for accounting.  This model as it implemented in other disciplines is predicated on the assumption that the student does not already have relevant industry experience.  Frequently, this is not the case in accounting.  Many students are working full-time or part-time in the industry either through cadetships or by being recruited to entry-level positions during their studies.  It would give UC a distinctive feature if this work experience of students working in the industry could be developed into a unit which could count towards the students' degrees.

While I am considering this issue from an accounting perspective, its application is not restricted to that profession.  This model could be applied in any discipline which has sufficient students working in their industry and wishing to undertake this type of unit to make the unit viable.

The basic model I imagine for this unit would consist of:
  • Students maintaining a reflective journal for the period of their study
  • Students developing a professional and academic portfolio documenting their skills and accomplishments
  • Students preparing a paper on the fit between their University studies and the skills they need currently and for their future career
The coursework for this unit would consist of some intensive sessions at the start on portfolios and journals and some sessions during their studies for students to discuss the fit between their studies and their current and future work.

If the University structure allows, there is no reason why this unit needs to be run over a single semester or even a single year.

There is also no reason why this unit needs to be restricted to the for-payment work environment.  Students undertaking sufficient industry based work on a voluntary basis could also participate in this or a similar unit.

I will discuss this proposal with some others around the discipline and the University to see if it has legs.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lecture Attendance in 6399 - Weeks 1 and 2

The lecture attendance in 6399 so far this semester has been very poor.  It is not that they have become disenchanted by my lectures as they have not attended in the first place.  I have written to John White to ask if I can monitor who is downloading my lectures.  It should be possible as students have to login through OSIS to access the recordings.  I am going to start monitoring lecture attendance more closely.  It is not feasible to take attendance at lectures, nor am I using clickers which can be used as a sign-in.  To overcome this I am going to use my digital camera to photograph the lecture theatre.

This approach will, I hope, have two results.
  1. I can determine who is coming to class and reconcile this with tutorial attendance and LOL access to assess non-engagement
  2. I may get a Hawthorne-effect type result
I have also put a survey question on LOL asking who is using the recordings and how they are being used.

Tutorial Engagement in Week 2 - 6228

The first tutorial session for the semester was conducted last week. I divided the class into 5 groups - 4 containing 5 students and 1 containing 7 students. I assigned 4 questions to the 5 groups. The two groups who had the same question were asked opposite sides of the question. Some aspects of the process worked well, others poorly. The feature which worked best was the interaction within the groups. Most students seemed to be engaged in the group discussion.

The aspects which worked poorly were:
  • When presenting, students talked to the screen instead of the audiences
  • Students put far too much on their overheads
  • Students seemed to think that their role was to find the correct answer in the textbook and then read it to the class
  • If there was not an answer in the text, students did not know how to approach the question
The things I will do differently next time are:
  • Get students to introduce themselves and their group members when they start to present
  • Tell students about better presentation techniques
  • Let the students know I want their opinions and the reasons for their opinions, not regurgitation of my and Deegan's opinions

Friday, July 24, 2009

Improving Engagement

The engagement levels in my classes last semester were unusual. In Professional Accounting it was very high, in Contemporary Issues in Accounting PG it was reasonably high, and in Contemporary Issues in Accounting it was extremely low.

This semester I am going to try and incorporate techniques I used in Professional Accounting into Contemporary Issues in Accounting to try and increase the engagement level. I will be running a meet and greet exercise in the first tutorials. I have already done this in CIA PG this semester.

I will also be breaking the tutorials into small groups (5 per group) to address the tutorial question then present their solution to the class. I will give the students some OHP pens and transparencies on which to prepare their answers. I will be forcing the groups to be rainbow groups and I will be ensuring that all students do the presentation component at some point during the semester. Even though it is not being assessed, this engagement exercise will also help develop generic skills in teamwork, intercultural skills and oral communication.

I have decided not to include any online engagement components at this stage. I will review this decision later. The online engagement activity I would most like to incorporate from Professional Accounting is the reference database.

I have also not included any marks for engagement. While I may be forced to do this if the approaches I am using fail, I think it is a poor reflection on what I am doing if I need to resort to bribery to get the level of engagement I am seeking.

Some of my colleagues argue that providing material online is destroying engagement and that we should only provide materials in class to force engagement. IMHO, this is misguided. This policy forces attendance, not engagement.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Communicating Generic Skills

The evidence on teaching generic skills is paradoxical.  The survey undertaken by myself, Anne Daly, Monica Kennedy and Michael de Percy last year indicated that staff were teaching generic skills.  However, the CEQ was showing that students did not think they were being taught these items.  My conclusion from this confounding result is that while we are teaching generic skills, we are not communicating that we are teaching generic skills to students.

My position as the teacher of the capstone unit in the accounting major makes my role more significant - I am one of the last teachers students see before completing their CEQ.  The impression I make is likely to be greater than any other teacher's impression (I need to remember this point when I talk to Milind and Atique about resources).

I have changed significantly the way I communicate the teaching of generic skills to students this semester.  The changes I have made include:
  • Listing the generic skills I am developing and assessing in each assessment piece with the requirements of the assignment
  • Starting each lecture (slide 6) with the generic skills developed in that topic and I will explain how that is achieved in the lecture
  • Providing links on LearnOnline to the Library and ASP resources for improving generic skills
In undertaking this process I have constantly referred back to the University's policy on generic skills (which Mark Freeman called the longest list he has ever seen) and the USS (and CEQ) questions on generic skills.  I have discovered that the USS questions do not align with the University policy.  This is a problem that I will try to raise with Carole Kayrooz when I speak to her.

It will be difficult to assess whether this change has any impact as I do not have good baseline data from the USS and I do not know if my influence alone can increase the CEQ rankings for the Faculty.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Improving Speed of Marking

For some years I have been setting a practice exercise in Contemporary Issues in Accounting requiring the preparation of financial statements using CPP, CCA and CoCoA. This exercise has been resonable successful in achieving the outcomes I have been seeking. The downside of this assignment is that it is a bitch to mark. There are about 100 different figures I need to check and, if the student has it wrong, the calculations that resulted in that figure. It was taking me over an hour to mark each assignment and I was getting about 50 submissions a semester. This marking effort was untenable and, as a result, it was taking many weeks for me to get the marks back to the students.

To fix this marking problem, this semester I have changed things so in addition to the usual spreadsheet submitted by students, they also have to submit the key figures from the assignment through a Moodle quiz. There are about 130 figures that will need to enter which they will be instructed to do through copying from their spreadsheet and pasting in the quiz. With this method of submission, I can release marks as soon as submissions close.

The downsides of this approach include:
  • I can no longer award partial marks for working
  • Students may be penalised for data entry errors
  • It took me over 30 hours to set it up
  • I had to determine the error range acceptable on a priori grounds which may give me both Type 1 and Type 2 errors
I will evaluate this method after I have returned the marks to guage students' responses to the change and how they perceive the trade-off.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Planning for CIA in Semester 2 2009

I have not added to this journal for some years but events over the last semester or so have encouraged me to refocus on formal reflective practise.  These reasons include:
  • The journey through the TATAL program and the development of a teaching philosophy statement and a teaching portfolio
  • The formal training I have received in reflective practice through the distributed leadership project
  • The need to show evidence for the performance development review
I am making some significant changes to CIA this semester.  The motivation for these changes include:
  • Ideas I have acquired about teaching through the TATAL program
  • Ideas I have acquired through attending sessions conducted by A/Prof Helen Carter and A/Prof Mark Freeman
  • Results from the CEQ surveys showing some continuing weaknesses in student satisfaction and generic skills
  • Some problems with engagement with students which occurred in Semester 1 in CIA that may have contributed to the higher than expected failure rate
  • Some positive results from engagement exercises conducted in Semester 1 in Professional Accounting
I will detail the individual changes in separate entries.