Thursday, April 08, 2010

Engagement to Improve Learning and Teaching Techniques

I am part of a team applying for an ALTC grant to work on techniques for teaching Green ICT and applying it in universities. Essentially the idea is to take the Green ICT course I designed and use it as the basis of standards in the area and demonstrate its use in a green electronic classrooms. An interesting part of this is considering how to disseminate the results of the work. For a normal research grant the researchers would write some papers and talk at some conferences. But the ALTC requires more than just some papers and talks, as they want to see the results actually used.

ALTC produced two reports:
The project proposals are required to include "formative" evaluation o provide feedback as it goes along. Large projects (over $150,000 currently) also require formal external "summative" evaluation at the end (the cost of this evaluation can be part of the grant).

ALTC have a ten step process for evaluation:
  1. Project Clarification: What is the nature of the project?
  2. What is the purpose and scope of the evaluation?
  3. Who are the stakeholders for the project and the audiences for the evaluation information?
  4. What are the key evaluation questions which the evaluation will address?
  5. How will the information be collected and analysed?
  6. What are the criteria for making judgements about the findings of the evaluation?
  7. What resources and skills are required to conduct the evaluation?
  8. How will the evaluation findings be disseminated?
  9. What is the timeline for the evaluation activities?
  10. Is the evaluation plan internally coherent and of high quality?
For a green project some ways this might be done is to provide online forums to help get green educators together and provide them with resources. Also in person they would try out the green electronic classroom. Rather than having a two phase approach where part of the project is to do the research and then separately disseminate it, we would build tools and facilities which would be used for dissemination as well.

One of the difficulties is to find interested participants in the ALTC project. These need not be limited to university and can be companies or other organisations. It occurs to me that some of my former Green ICT students may wish to appreciate, as they work in the field in government agencies, multinational companies, Australian and North American universities. Also an obvious partner is the Australian Computer Society's educational arm, which originally commissioned the Green ICT course.

The traditional way to find partners is to quietly sound out people. However, I thought it useful to make a public blog posting and invite people to express interest.

ps: ALTC do not appear to have practice what the preach, having produced their recommendations on dissemination as large hard to download, hard to read, PDF documents. So I have extracted the summary of one, to make it easier to read:
Unravelling the complex relationship between ideas and innovations, their dissemination and their recontextualisation within and between the different levels of society, government or the higher education system as a whole, individual universities, and the students and teachers in universities has been a central task of this project in order to identify and devise strategies to engage these multiple levels in systematic and strategic change. Ideas about educational policy and reforms and innovations supporting educational change
are received and interpreted differently within and between each of the levels and the various contexts in which institutions operate (Ball, 1998). Most current models of dissemination of good teaching practice and innovations focus on sponsored workshops, seminars and courses, upgrading infrastructure, showcases of good practice and some form of ‘teaching excellence’ awards.

While these are useful and constitute a degree of dissemination, they are not sufficient to lead widespread changes in practice or implementation across an
institution or discipline.

The question faced by the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education as it considers developing a grant scheme is ‘How can large-scale educational reform in Australian universities be developed and sustained by grant schemes and other centrally funded projects?’

The aim of this project was to systematically investigate Australian and international learning and teaching grant schemes and their outcomes to determine strategies the Carrick Institute might employ to maximise the
likelihood of achieving large-scale change in teaching and learning across the Australian higher education sector, especially through its grants program. The project has identifi ed a number of conditions that have been shown to be effective in achieving dissemination of project outcomes and that engage the multiple levels of the higher education sector. It has recommended strategies for the Carrick Institute and leaders of institutions to manage multiple innovative strategies that impact on the culture and practices of universities and their departments as well as on the practices of individual academics. ...

From: Strategies for effective dissemination of project outcomes, Deborah Southwell, Deanne Gannaway, Janice Orrell, Denise Chalmers, Catherine Abraham, 2005

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