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.