HERDSA conference post

HERDSA cartoonHERSA cartoon – Gavin Blake & Team

Conferences are not all about meeting up with friends and colleagues to gossip, eat oysters and sip drinks while Monash students entertain you with jazz. That’s only part of the time. This post of the recent HERDSA conference in Melbourne talks about the other part.

The theme of the conference was ‘Learning for life and work in a complex world’ which meant a big focus on graduate employability and producing evidence of attaining graduate outcomes. I took away the message that creativity is an essential capacity for the modern economy. If we are serious about producing graduates who can obtain employment and/or develop their own forms of employment, then we need to take creatively seriously. This came out in the very first panel of the conference, moderated by Sally Kift. Other questions raised on this panel included; Do we teach students early enough about employability?, How can we move beyond internships?, How do we recognise employability experiences of mature-aged students? How do we increase academic staff engagement with evidencing outcomes?

Another issue that stood out for me was the importance of partnerships. We have addressed partnerships in the blog – Associate Professor Kathryn Von Treuer and Professor Kieran Lim. At the conference the importance of partnerships with industry, with opportunities external to the university, with other professionals and with alumni were highlighted. These type of partnerships; allow for development of curriculum, shared assessment opportunities, development of working relationships between professionals, networking, mentorships, learning from alumni and teaching from those working in the fields.

I especially enjoyed learning about new ways of teaching. I learnt about an innovative assessment program in Building Surveying at Holmesglen TAFE from Cedomir Gladovic that aimed to tackle the high 3rd year failure rate. Seems that students are not given grades during the first stage of the program but are taught to reflect upon their work in order to improve. The failure rate has dropped considerably. I learnt about the Belonging Project developed at RMIT. This project has an intense focus on encouraging students connecting with the university and increasing employability. I learnt about OLT Fellow Claire Palermo’s project aimed at developing new forms of nutrition and dietetics curriculum in response to competencies. This project had a great deal of industry and alumni engagement.
From all accounts, George Seimans was a very good speaker. He covered the big theme of the future of higher education. Drawing from many threads – emerging technologies, engaging students, partnerships and external opportunities, economic down turns, fragementation, income level as a predictor of finishing university – he painted a picture of the future of higher education as somewhat bleak yet offered insights into working productively with and for students.
Other highlights included Justin Heazlewood – aka The Bedroom Philosopher. He entertained us for about half an hour on the first morning. Also fun was the cartoonist Gavin Blake & Team (see above and his Twitter link for more) who roamed the conference and drew what they experienced.
It was great to see students speaking on every panel and offering a unique perspective.
Check out Twitter HERDSA to read what people experienced.

Thanks to Susan Bird for her sharing her experiences.

Vikki Pollard

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