There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week Geoffrey Crisp (Uni Canberra) writes on assessment, in CMM’s series on what teaching needs now. On Monday, there will be a new essay by Helen MacGillivray, on three issues in STEM education.

Vann gets the big picture 

At CSU Andy Vann alpaca’d them on story day

It was National Simultaneous Storytime Day, Wednesday but this year CMM heard nothing of HE leaders breaking from being proactive to read little kids a picture book. Last year Chief Scientist Alan Finkel read and ANU VC Brian Schmidt did in ’17, ( CMM May 24 201180). However, no-one appeared to have stepped up, well sat-down, this week. But then the mail coach got in from Charles Sturt U, with word VC Andy Vann had in fact read Alpacas with Maracas to an engaged audience.

What Klomp wants for CQU

New VC Nick Klomp is asking the CQU community about the draft strategic plan for 2019-23, which makes sense, given its called, “Our future is you”

The discussion will likely be less analysis than agree-a-thon given, in the way of university plans, it is heavy on aspirations and objectives, with details on structure and programmes absent. But there are a bunch of examples of what Professor Klomp wants done when the work starts, including:

* “full-spectrum curriculum” from school to postgrad with work-based learning “embedded”

* a “real-time” student feedback system to support CQU teachers

* courses “informed” by research and collaboration with industry and government

* “user-friendly, real-time data systems” for staff self-improvement

* more higher degree students

Good-o but Professor Klomp outlined what is probably a first priority in his inaugural address to staff, back in February, when he talked about, “the cultural-educational walls.”

“Industry does not care about the labels and our arbitrary educational distinctions – they just want the best job-ready workforce we can give them. If that’s engineering graduates with welding skills, let’s give that to them. … If that is beauty therapists with business and accounting skills, let’s go there,” he said (CMM February 8).  Which sounds like it needs a plan all of its own.

Technology unis turn to Labor for a lobbyist

The lobby’s new head joins from Tanya Plibersek’s office

Luke Sheehy is the new executive director of the Australian Technology Network, commencing June. What, you ask, Luke Sheehy, the former staffer to some-time Labor education ministerSilent Chris” Evans and now adviser to Deputy Opposition Leader and education portfolio shadow, Tanya Plibersek? That’s the one.

ATN members are Curtin U, Uni SA, RMIT and UTSQUT withdrew last year. It is now headquartered in Adelaide but it is understood Mr Sheehy will be based in Canberra.  He is expected to lift ATN’s policy and public profile.

UTas review of international student standards

U Tas has not mucked about on reviewing its international student standards

Before the Four Corners programme on international student standards went to air word was the University of Tasmania was included. The university did not wait for any allegations and announced a review of international admissions, a few hours before Four Corners aired (CMM May 7).  The programme did not include much about UTas.

They do not muck around at U Tas, when they announce a review, they start reviewing. “We’re putting in place an evidence based model to ensure that our prospective students have academic and English achievements at levels appropriate to their proposed course of study,” Provost Jane Long told staff last week. She added external reviewer Hilary Winchester was starting Monday this week, that submissions were requested and Professor Winchester could talk to people on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Professor Long reminded staff that the review was on and that they had until today to make submissions.

All in the timing

Apparently, Wednesday was “flexible work day,” (sorry no idea who decides this stuff), which UNSW celebrated with an email message to staff about, “work-life integration for people at all stages in their lives and career.” Learned readers report it was issued Wednesday 6.15pm.

Elizabeth Finkel on scientific evidence: explaining is defending

She’s comfortable in the two cultures of science and journalism and spoke from the both at a Monash graduation

Dr Finkel was originally a research biochemist, moving to co-found science-for-all journal Cosmos. She spoke from the core values of both disciplines in a Monash graduation address this week, warning of threats from fake news and how to face them down.

“The clear communication of science is also our best tool for trying to blow away the dark and dangerous fog of the post-truth era,” she said.

But while Dr Finkel pointed to the power of scientific method to achieve the astonishing, the detection of gravitation waves, the first glimpse of a black hole, she acknowledged anti-science “grows ever-stronger.” The measles epidemic in the US is a “victory for the anti-vaxers,” she said.  But while zealots are beyond convincing, “there are plenty of people who are open to reason and evidence and to them we must communicate.”

“I entreat you not to sit on the sidelines, take up the baton that has been passed to you,” she told science graduates.

“Around the family table, your workplace, at bar or on-line, challenge the group-think, test the evidence and do your bit to bring back enlightened thinking,” she said.

New credentials currencies coming

The next big thing in education isn’t arguments about funding  

There’s a bunch of work underway on assessment and certification of learning, across multiple levels and in all sorts of packages. There is also talk of a major state-level initiative being planned.

With the Australian Qualifications Review said to be considering micro-credentials and private providers already active in the space this is set to be wide and contested ground.

Cue Sandra Milligan, director of the Assessment Research Centre in Uni Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, who impressed learned readers at a presentation on secondary school assessment in Melbourne a couple of weeks back.

Aspro Milligan tells CMM, the centre is working with a range of partners on, “a digital-era way to represent the profile of complex competencies that young people (and the not so young) attain in schooling, and that they need to thrive in the modern workplace and society.

“In our sights is exclusive reliance on ‘old technologies’ such as unit grades, ATAR scores, GPAs, standardised test scores, and written-exam results They can hide more than they reveal about a person, narrow learner attention, de-motivate, kill a passion for an area, and discourage development of broad competence.”

The challenge, she says, is not to give up on qualities like scalability, reliability, fairness, comparability and commonly agreed standards.

So how are they going? “We are trialling a new currency for recognition of learning, especially in post compulsory education, likely to comprise elements such as warranted micro-credentials, learner profiles, developmental assessmentprogressions of competence, multi-level standards, cross sectoral agreement; HE and employer agreement too.”

 UK unis set principles to mark well

Apparently there are five principles to stop grade inflation

Universities UK responds, via Twitter, to the grade inflation debate in the UK “with a joint commitment” to five “key principles”. Clear criteria, Fair Rules, Transparent practices. Consistent approaches. Reliable assessment.

Curious that these need to be spelt out.

Appointments, achievements of the week

 The University of Tasmania announces Terry Bailey is the new executive director of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. Mr Bailey is a career bureaucrat in environment and national park management.

The University of Queensland appoints Tracey Bunda  professor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. She joins from the University of Southern Queensland.

Curtin VC Deborah Terry takes possession of the HE chair  today, taking over at Universities Australia as the Morrison Government’s majority in the Reps was confirmed. She succeeds Monash U VC Margaret Gardner. Ian Jacobs (UNSW VC) and Margaret Sheil (VC QUT) also join UA’s board.  Continuing directors re-elected are Brian Schmidt (ANU), John Dewar (La Trobe U), Andrew Vann (CSU), David Lloyd (UniSA) and Annabelle Duncan (UNE).

Maxim Goryachev wins the National Measurement Institute 2019 award for “measurement excellence in a young individual”. Dr Goryachev is a post doc fellow at UWA’s Frequency and Quantum Metrology Lab.

John Fahey is reappointed chancellor at Australian Catholic University. His second five-year term starts in September.

Suzanne Fraser is announced as director of La Trobe U’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society. Professor Fraser moves from the Curtin U based National Drug Research Institute. She will be joined at La Trobe U by her collaborator at the National Drug Research Institute, David Moore.