Saturday, 30 May 2015

May Newsletter

This Month’s Question:
Two months we asked the question, what is the biggest hurdle preventing you from using more new innovations in the classes you teach, or units you manage? We had a variety of multiple choice responses from the community ranging from lack of access to appropriate teaching spaces or professional development in teaching innovations to a heavy workload especially in the area of administration demands. (Click here for the results in last month’s newsletter.)

Here we present a couple of reflections from members of the SaMnet community. Do you have something to share on this discussion or a future topic? Email us at

From Theo Hughes – Monash University
The chart supports a line I have been pushing for a while; that getting the admin side of teaching right is critical due to the indirect effects it has on both staff and students. Admin should be organised so well that (1) it blends into the background so it is never/rarely an issue that students complain about and so that (2) academic staff only have to spend a small amount of time on it to have things run smoothly and hence have a much larger amount of time to focus on teaching innovations. This will not happen magically by itself. Someone needs to take responsibility for ensuring this happens and I would suggest the employment of high quality, discipline specific admin staff to support teaching is essential - one of whom is tasked to be the "Manager". You want to be providing administrative support for say Physics, then you better have a degree in Physics. This also provides employment opportunities for Physics graduates.

From Manju Sharma, with Helen Georgiou – The University of Sydney
My OLT Teaching Fellowship found that in many instances of sustained good practice there was support of the type advocated by Theo.  Sometimes, these were administrative roles, at other times these were not administrative.  But discipline specific support such that teaching teams can innovate, find out if their innovations are effective, and improve is really important for local pockets of excellence in science and mathematics education in universities. Keep an eye out for my report. 
Thank you to Theo, Manju, and Helen for contributing to the discussion.

2.  Conferences & publication
Perth, 30 September – 2 October, 2015
ACSME submissions are now open. This is the main gathering and sharing event on the SaMnet calendar each year. The theme is Transforming practice: Inspiring innovation.
Early bird registrations close August 6th,
Submissions due June 5th.

Melbourne, 1-4 July, 2015
The conference organising committee is almost the same as FYHE in recent years but the scope of the conference has broadened to include all year levels in HE, not just 1st year.  The change in focus provides a broader platform for the dissemination of works associated with student experiences in higher education as a whole.

Monash University, 25-27 November, 2015
Universities are invited to send two person teams to showcase a laboratory experiment for improvement. Due date for EOI for experiments to be evaluated at the workshop: 17 August

3.  Connections/Events  
February SaMnet Leadership Development Workshops

QLD/NT SaMnet Leadership-Development Workshop - Brisbane                 
There are a small number of last minute registrations available - please contact workshop host Sarah-Jane Gregory directly -
Date: Tuesday 9th, June, 2015
Location: Nathan Campus, Griffith University

4.  SaMnet activity 
Last chance to register for the QLD/NT SaMnet Leadership-Development Workshop with special guest, OLT National Teaching Fellow, Professor Pauline Ross.
- enable sharing strategies for spurring adoption of innovative teaching practices,
- offer training in participating in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL),
- provide insight on leading change in universities, and
- offer advice on career progression and leadership in academic institutions.

The workshop will run approximately from 10am to 3:30pm. Registration and lunch is free for attendees.

Contact host Sarah-Jane Gregory to register -

5.  Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

Adeline Koh in The Chronicle of Higher Education
“In each course [that I have integrated Wikipedia into] I’ve been amazed by student reactions to the assignment: they overwhelmingly report that this is the most engaging — and nerve-wracking — aspect of the course, as their work has public impact, and that editing Wikipedia is tremendously empowering.” The examples are not from science or maths education, but could you see this working in our context?
Steve Kolowich in The Chronicle of Higher Education
As educators we seek to support students as they attempt the courses we teach. In the classroom we see students becoming increasingly distracted by mobile devices and social media, what about their Facebook use when doing assignments or studying? A helpful article, especially for those in roles promoting a healthy first-year student experience.

6.  Leadership insights

Review by Shelley Nicholson, Book by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal
This article provides an overview of one the classics in the study of organisations.  It aligns with our thrust to expose science academics to just the insights into organisations that have real staying power and scaffold their understanding in a way that will be understood by others. That is, it helps to give them the language of organisational studies and insight.  

Nilofer Merchant, Fellow at The Martin Prosperity Institute on “New Power”
How one can come up with an idea that resonates with others, but the credit may not flow back to the originator.  And that is not a bad thing.