Learning Down Under

Ruth Matheson, Head of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience at the University of South Wales, recently had the privilege of a trip to Australia to deliver a paper at the ‘6th World Curriculum Studies Conference’ in Melbourne and visit Brisbane’s Griffiths University. Here she reflects on the experience:

“My interest in Griffiths University and their ‘Learning Futures’ Unit (focusing on learning and teaching development) grew over the last few years, as much of their work resonated with my own, in particular the research of Prof Alf Lizzio on using the student life-cycle to inform programme design:

I used Alf’s integrative framework to provide the introduction and subsequent chapters to our book ‘Transition In, Through and Out of Higher Education’ published in 2018. If you haven’t come across Lizzio’s work before then do take a look, as it provides insight into students’ development across their degree and out into the world of employment or further study.

Learning Future’s hospitality and willingness to share was second to none, enhanced by sunshine and outdoor spaces – in marked contrast to the grey and drizzly Wales I left behind!

Here I just want to highlight a few aspects of their work:

First, Griffith Learning and Teaching Capabilities Framework. This framework recognises that high quality student learning experience depends on remarkable staff; and the framework seeks to define the capabilities that underpin different roles in learning and teaching – helping us identify how we can support the development of individuals within these roles. This framework directs many of the Unit’s activities but also enables individual reflection and the development of a CPD plan. The Framework utilises extensive research and staff consultation to not only identify capabilities but also the values that underpin practice.

Second, the Peer Assisted Course Enhancement Scheme provides an opportunity for individuals or groups to work together to reinvigorate and enhance the quality of a course. A workbook supports a variety of activities to enable peer-based professional learning.

Finally, leadership develop is a priority via a programme of mentorship and networking opportunities and taught face-to-face and online provision.

Moving on, I headed to Melbourne to attend the International Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies Conference, entitled Decolonising the Curriculum. Much of the gathering focussed on the study of school-based curricula, which tended to be specific to the country on origin. Those coming from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa demonstrated passion for a curriculum that acknowledged the custodians of the land; and to reduce the influence of colonialism. The Conference started with an acknowledgement of ‘the Elders and peoples of the Boomwurrung and Wuttenjeri of the Kuli nation, who remain the sovereign custodian of the lands where the conference was held’. Many of the presentations emphasised reclaiming indigenous heritage.

Much of the work I have been involved with encourages an emphasis on curriculum design that embeds the development of graduate attributes. This is not about understanding our heritage but rather trying to enable our students to appreciate different cultures and heritage in order to develop them as global citizens. For me, decolonising the curriculum and the focus of my presentation, was on utilising the cultural diversity of the student population to decolonise student thinking. I came away with more of a desire to look at our Welsh heritage and how this could further inform the curriculum.”

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