In conversation with the 2019 GEM Scott Teaching Fellows

Plenary: GEM Scott Fellows in conversation with Professor William Locke

Associate Professor Gavin Buskes (Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology), and Associate Professor Meredith McKague (Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), 2019 GEM Scott Teaching Fellows

The GEM Scott Teaching Fellowships are designed to raise the profile of teaching, and the recognition of teaching excellence across the University. The Fellowship allows staff to further develop their understanding and practice in University-based teaching, learning and assessment and will ask them to share this more broadly across the University.

2019 GEM Scott Teaching Fellows, Associate Professor Gavin Buskes (FEIT) and Associate Professor Meredith McKague (MDHS), discussed their projects and experiences of undertaking a Fellowship.

Below are the descriptions of each Fellow's project:

Associate Professor Gavin Buskes

This project took a strategic approach to re-imagining a large, first-year subject for students interested in engineering that, in addition to providing an introductory experience of engineering through project-based learning, simultaneously addresses the issues of transitioning to university, lack of social engagement, cohort-building, and the curriculum structure recommendations of the FlexAP initiative.

The outcome of the project is the creation of an engaging, collaborative, supportive and cohort-building experience for first-year students enrolled in the first-year engineering program, through:

  • Development of a project-based curriculum delivered through small-group active teaching workshop classes and embedding of academics and teaching assistants in these classes to provide an immersive experience for the students.
  • Creation of a suite of self-paced skills modules to run in parallel with subject teaching and learning activities to assist with developing skills relevant to the project and more general, transferrable skills. The modules can be chosen on a needs basis and involve teaching and learning activities that are facilitated by senior students and clubs.
  • Development of teamwork, feedback and peer-based review activities throughout the duration of the project to build a sense of cohort.
  • Tracking of student engagement and identifying those at risk of performing poorly academically early on through participation in the active-learning workshop classes and involvement in the skills modules.

The project was partially delayed due to a consolidation of the first-year engineering teaching program and further delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The subject will run for the first time in semester 2, 2021.

Associate Professor Meredith McKague

This project was entitled, "Using computer-supported problem-based learning to promote the development of evidence-based reasoning skills and socially shared regulation of learning amongst first year undergraduate students." The project addressed the two priority areas of building cohort and connection among students, including international students, and enhancing first year teaching, learning and assessment experiences that framed the inaugural GEM Scott Fellowship. I addressed these two key areas by exploring the potential educational applications of a computer-supported collaborative reasoning platform called SWARM. The SWARM platform was originally designed to enhance the quality of reasoning amongst teams of intelligence analysts. My goal was to explore how SWARM’s unique interface and the process of ‘swarming’ that it enables might be applied to the development of meaningful and engaging problem-based learning projects for culturally diverse groups of first-year students (van Gelder, et al., 2018).

I collaborated with the designers of SWARM and with the Attorney General’s Department to pilot the platform with teams of analysts working to solve realistic intelligence problem scenarios. My experience co-designing the exercise, seeing the platform in action, and talking with analysts about their experiences using the platform were invaluable for informing my thinking about how to design computer-supported collaborative problem-based learning projects for students. Additionally, the Fellowship enabled me to conduct a review and synthesis of the literatures on computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL), collaborative problem-solving, and socially-shared self-regulated learning (SSRL) so as to distill the key social, cognitive, motivational and technical elements that must be considered when designing engaging real-world problems for collaborative student work in large first-year cohorts.

The Fellowship provided richly rewarding opportunity that has deepened my understanding of both the potential for designing truly meaningful and engaging computer-supported collaborative learning experiences and of the significant challenges that must be met to achieve effective design and implementation, including needs in the areas of training, resourcing, and investment in technology. The Covid-19 year in which the bulk of the work was conducted presented its own challenges (impacting planned overseas travel experiences), but also provided a compellingly real opportunity to experience how computer-supported collaborative learning activities might support diverse groups of students learning asynchronously from distant locations across the globe.

van Gelder, T., De Rozario, R., & Sinnott, R. O. (2018). SWARM: Cultivating evidence-based reasoning. Computing in Science & Engineering20(6), 22-34

This Zoom webinar was part of the Teaching and Learning Conference 2021.