Staff profiles

Project lead
Dr Barbara Cook
Position
Acting Director and Senior Lecturer
School/area
Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management (CENRM)
Faculty
Science
Team members
Dr Harriet Paterson, Dr Peter Speldewinde

Project outline

The Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management (CENRM) runs 3 field-intensive units where students spend a week in the field; these CENRM field units are unique in that the vast majority of students are Perth-based. The units are developed and delivered from a regional base, making it difficult to maintain face-to-face contact after the field trip camp. To date there is no 'after camp' ongoing academic support for these field units with limited usage of the on-line tools that are available.

Feedback from students is that they find the fieldwork very rewarding, but feel a lack of direction and academically un-supported once they return to UWA to complete assignments. This has resulted in low Students Unit Reflective Feedback (SURF) scores for the units. Overall, this project will implement changes to the design of the units that include the incorporation of e-tivities to create a blended environment for learning that gives the post-camp support needed by the students.

The program of e-tivities includes; group discussions, meetings, debates, Q&A sessions and staged release of content material to create a supportive e-environment for students while they complete assignments. It is also clear that better use of the UWA's online Learning Management System (LMS) and 'storyboarding' would make the organisation of the units more transparent. This project will make all resources available through LMS and will also provide an opportunity for 'e-support', which will give increased access to lecturers, and greater opportunities for students to learn from their peers. SURF scores before and after this intervention will be compared to see if there is a significant improvement in student satisfaction as a result of the project activities.

Project findings

Key accomplishments of the project included; the use of a systematic process to identify and improve teaching practices, significant improvements made to the delivery of two level 3 units at UWA and the preparation of a manuscript for submission to an appropriate journal for publication. The project successfully developed and applied a generic model for blended learning field-based units and will be shared with other unit coordinators running similar units to share the learning's.
Students Unit Reflective Feedback (SURF) scores did not increase significantly as a result of the implementation of improved teaching practices in the two target units.  The project team would be interested in developing a larger project that focuses on an improved understanding of the relationship between SURF scores and teaching practices across the university.  

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