Through continuous reflection and review
The program is also strongly committed to being responsive to the changing needs of the student population.
Through processes of continuous reflection that takes into account the views of students, teaching staff and external expert evaluation we aim to ensure that the common units maintain relevance and effectiveness.
The mechanisims that drive our reflective practice include research, formal student evaluations and internal review:
- Ongoing Review
The key evaluative project for the Common Unit Program has been the ongoing research into retention and success in common units and the first year of learning. This ensures that we continue to be responsive to the needs of first year students by examining the effects of demographics and other factors on student success.
The most recent report from the project indicates an 8% increase in
retention in common units from 2004 and a higher mean grade for
students in the lowest TER Band 30-39 than those in the 40-49 band
suggesting common units play an important role in closing the gap.
Additionally, students’ perceptions canvassed as part of the research
confirm the impact of the units beyond the course and the application
of skills and knowledge to other spheres within and beyond university.
These reports can be viewed here:
- Predictors of Attrition Common Unit Program 1999-2002 (pdf 700kb)
- Report on Common Units Diversity and Development 2003-4 (pdf 700kb)
- Retention and success in Common Units 2005-2006 (pdf 830kb)
- Responding to Findings of Retention and Success project (pdf 113kb)
- Retention and Success Stage 4 Presentation to Management Group (pdf 6.2mb)
Student evaluations of the units are conducted both formally and informally each year and these form an essential component of our review of teaching approaches, assessments and support of students in then units. Results from these also help inform specific research projects.
The CDU formal evaluation tool is the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Learning (SELT). This is conducted by the CDU quality office as a voluntary online evaluation. Separate results are provided for external student’s views and internal students views. The most recent results (for 2010) suggest that the majority of students’ are very satisfied with the program, with the medium of all responses in the affirmative between 5 and 7 on the 1-7 Likert scale (7 being most satisfied). Recent SELT results and student commentary can be found below:
Student’s views are also canvassed through surveys to ascertain specific responses to issues not covered in the SELTS. We also receive regular unsolicited emails from students sharing their thoughts and often commendations especially for the supportive approach we take. Some of these have been summarized in the attached under the topics:
- A pastoral approach: supporting students learning by being responsive and empathetic;
- The benefit of gaining academic and graduate attribute skills;
- Usefulness of Online communication tools
External evaluation by experts from the Centre for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) has been conducted at key points in the evolution of the program by Baldwin and McInniss (2000) and Baldwin (2008). Both reviews have commended the program for its responsiveness to enabling first year transition. They have also provided valuable recommendations for improvement. Baldwin and McGuiness (2000) recommended a reduction in the number of common units from five to two: one core unit in academic skills and the other covering contextual knowledge. They also recommended the appointment of an academic coordinator. Baldwin (2008) recommended a formal record be kept of internal unit reviews and that the issue of standards be addressed. These recommended changes have been addressed. Overall the program has been strongly endorsed by these reviews particularly for the vision, design and implementation of the program and the commitment of Common Unit staff.
The report from the most recent review (Baldwin 2008) can be viewed below:
- Review of Common Units Program (Baldwin 2008) (pdf 102kb)
We utilise our evaluation and research to inform the ongoing review of our teaching and learning in common units so that we remain responsive to changing students’ needs, technologies and pedagogies. The attached document encapsulates actions arising in response to the findings of the retention and success study:
Each year the units go through a cycle of internal review with an advisory team drawn from relevant disciplines across the university. To insure the process of developing assessments is efficient, productive and enjoyable a well defined process and record keeping template is provided. This suggested sequence of steps which can be adopted as part of an ongoing cycle of reflection.
- Template for Review or Development of Units (.doc 383kb)
This template enables a process of mapping of learning objectives with assessments, graduate attributes and learning materials. The following demonstrates the cycle and stages of unit review/development:
Our review documents can be viewed through the following links:
Some guiding literature for the review of our practice includes:
- Rose et al (2004) (pdf 63kb)
- Introducing Tablet PC Technology into CUC107 Tutorials (pdf 48kb)
- Retrofitting University Learning Spaces (ALTC 2010) (pdf 1.5mb)
- Mainstreaming tablet classrooms: Engaging first year learners (Williams et al 2009) (pdf 52kb)
- Scaffolding Academic Readiing and Writing (pdf 63kb)
- Enhancing student learning through effective formative learning (Juah et al 2004) (pdf 303kb)
- Modes of Flexible Learning (pdf 98kb)
- Curriculum design (Centre for Studies of Higher Education)
- Creating Effective Websites for University Teaching: An educational framework (2008)
- Report on implementation of tablet personal computers in CUC107 classroom (pdf 352kb)
Internal funding grants also allow us to continue to ensure the common unit program is in the vanguard of teaching and learning innovation and quality at CDU. Details of current initiatives can be viewed at:
- Developing Tablet Classrooms (E-Learning Studios) (pdf 95kb)
- Enhancing First Year learning project (pdf 31kb)
- Scaffolding literacy for successful university transition (pdf 63kb)
- CUC107 Revision Proposal (pdf 185kb)
- Peer Support (pdf 79kb)
- Enhancing learning for distance mode students (pdf 31kb)