Early in 2021, the Teaching and Curriculum Team (TACT) launched a new series of Hot Topics around teaching and curriculum themes. The themes emerged in UTS from a range of sources, including student learning experiences, Student Feedback Surveys, consultations and webinars, the Learning and Teaching Forum, the FFYE Program, DVC (E&S) keynotes, Learning.Futures 2.0, UTS BluePrint and UTS strategic projects, as well as the recent literature on COVID-19 and its impact on higher education learning and teaching. 

The four hot topics are: 

  1. Student engagement and belonging (February/March) 
  2. Student agency and teamwork (April/May) 
  3. Feedback and assessment (July/August) 
  4. Work Integrated Learning (WIL) and industry engagement (September/October).  

The series so far has welcomed participants from across the university in academic and professional roles, encouraging creative exploration, open dialogue and cross-faculty collaboration. In case you missed it, here’s your quick guide to what’s been covered, and where you can go to watch, read and discuss more on any of these Hot Topics.

Hot Topic 1: Student engagement and belonging

At the start of 2021, the Teaching and Curriculum Team in IML invited us to think about UTS as a ‘compassionate university’. How could we take what we had learned about ourselves, our students, learning environments, and society during a most challenging year and actively nurture kindness, compassion and belonging? 

This first Hot Topic, facilitated by Alisa Percy and Kathy Egea, shared practices to humanise the learning environment, build community and connection, and make a difference to students’ sense of feeling connected, cared for and respected at UTS.

TACT events and blogs for this series included:

(29 Jan)
Belonging at UTS: cultivating a compassionate university
Alisa Percy (TACT, IML)
(9 Feb)
Building Belonging and Engagement: Cultivating a Compassionate University (First & Further Year Forum)
Kathy Egea & Alisa Percy (TACT, IML) with Guest presenter: Maha Bali (American University, Cairo)
(16 Feb)
FFYE Forum recap: cultivating a compassionate university
Alisa Percy (TACT, IML)
(17 Feb)
Designing for kindness in Canvas
Guest presenter: Kona Jones (Richland Community College, IL)
(15 March)
Making sense of belonging: developing a strategic vision and a connected ecosystem at UTS
Jan McLean (IML), Brett Smout (SSU), Sascha Jenkins (UTS Library), Tracie Conroy (CSJI), Mitra Gusheh (CSJI), Tyler Key (TD School)
(4 March)
Cultivating True Belonging: Creative Approaches for the Classroom
Lucy Allen (TD School)
(11 March)
Students as Partners, Creating Connections and Belonging in the Classroom
Elham Hafiz and Bethlehem Mekonnen (UTS students); Susan Hansen and Dianne Moy (project staff)
Regular eventBuilding Belonging: Community-building activities to use in class
Alisa Percy (TACT, IML) & Tyler Key (TD School)

In addition to the events organised as part of this Hot Topic, belonging was the focus of contributors from different teams and faculties early in the year. These are represented in our ‘Belonging at UTS’ blog series:

(1 Feb)
Belonging at UTS: supporting students with the Embedding English Language framework
Rosalie Goldsmith & Deborah Nixon (ALL, IML)
(9 Feb)
Belonging at UTS: the value of a welcome message
Vicky-Kerry Offord (LX.Lab, IML)
(5 March)
Belonging at UTS: partnering with students to build a sense of belonging
Alycia Bailey (Student Learning Hub)
(6 April)
Belonging at UTS: supporting Indigenous students in Business
David Waller, Deborah Cotton and Christopher Bajada (Business)

Hot Topic 2: Student Agency and Teamwork

Student agency and teamwork is about students being actively and collectively engaged in their own learning and sensemaking with others. Students are enabled to show initiative, to ask questions and learn from and with each other. Teachers play a crucial role in enabling students to develop their sense of agency.

TACT events and blogs for this series, which was facilitated by Franziska Trede and Dimity Wehr, included:

(22 March)
Student agency and teamwork: an introduction to TACT’s latest hot topic
Franziska Trede (TACT, IML)
(9 April)
Enabling student participation through teamwork by fostering relational agency (First & Further Year Forum)
Kathy Egea & Franziska Trede (TACT, IML) with Tania Machet, Jeremy Lindeck , Eva Cheng and Scott Daniel (FEIT)
Event/ blogMaking space in your teaching to invite the unexpected (event from 20 April)
Student agency and teamwork: 3 insights from TD School (blog from 18 June)
Giedre Kligyte (TD School)
Event/ blog
Teamwork nightmares to teamwork dreams: exploring student devised strategies for agentic teamwork (event from 27 April)
Student agency and teamwork: role play and rehearsal in the theatre of dreams (blog from 10 May)
Dimity Wehr & Aurora Murphy (IML)
(6 May)
ResHub Launch: research inspired learning through teamwork
Steven Ling (FEIT)
Event/ blog
Teamwork at the movies with popcorn (event from 14 May)
Student agency and teamwork: at the movies (with popcorn) (blog from 8 June)
Dimity Wehr & Franziska Trede (IML)
(20 May)
Designing for transformative learning: Observing the self in action in the classroom
Bem Le Hunte (TD School)
(21 June)
Student agency and teamwork: Hot Topic summary
Franziska Trede (TACT, IML)

Thanks to the IML events and LX media team for all of their support behind the scenes of these Hot Topic events!

Up next: Hot Topic 3

The next Hot Topic tackles feedback and assessment, which shifts our attention to some of the big ideas that have emerged out of the research on feedback in the higher education sector over the past two decades.

This topic focusses on the key concepts of feedback for learning and developing students’ evaluative judgement. This signals a paradigm shift from the traditional focus on ‘teacher-centred feedback’ on formal assessments to an understanding of feedback as a reflexive and student-centred activity, building our students’ capability in making informed judgements about the quality of their own and others’ work.

The Series will feature guest speakers and showcase good practice at UTS, and include practices ranging from designing feedback loops into your teaching, designing assessment for feedback uptake, capitalising on multiple sources of feedback, and developing students’ capabilities for complex appraisal. Keep an eye out for an introductory blog and an upcoming FFYE event as this topic launches in July!

Don’t forget you can join the conversation and access resources, favourite papers, blogs and links by self-joining the Hot Topics Teams space. All are welcome to join – please spread the word through your networks!

If you have an idea for a session or would like to contribute to a topic please contact IML_OPS@uts.edu.au.

Feature image by Andy Roberts

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