AFR recognition for ACU

Three innovative projects involving ACU staff were shortlisted in the recent Australian Financial Review (AFR) Higher Education Awards 2020.

ACU congratulates the nominees who were finalists in the categories for Education Technology, Industry Engagement and Employability. Their achievements were honoured at dinners in Sydney and Brisbane on 18 November.

Education Technology

The Improving the Quality and Impact of Teacher Education project is led by an ACU team which is forging collaboration in complex performance assessment, digital infrastructure, data and visualisation in order to improve assessment of teaching graduates.

The team created a new system, Evidence for Quality in Initial Teacher Education (EQuITE), which uses customised IT infrastructure built to collect, store, analyse and visualise digital data for using a common standard and as feedback for learning.

EQuITE enables the annual intake and analysis of data essential to building public confidence in the quality of graduates entering the profession. A key element is that it collects large-scale data online from multiple universities, including scores from the Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment (GTPA), a test of professional readiness for teaching graduates. This team’s work on the GTPA has also been recently awarded second place in the European e-Learning Excellence Awards by Academic Conferences International.

The project is being undertaken within the GTPA Collective of 18 higher education institutes from across Australia. Around 15,000 preservice teachers will have completed the GTPA by December 2020, receiving scores across aspects of professional competence. The learnings provided by developing the assessment and the scoring rubric and innovative data analyses in EQuITE is being used to improve the quality of teacher education through collaborative partnerships with universities, sector authorities, and government at state and national levels in Australia.

The project was led by a multidisciplinary team from the Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education, including experts in teacher education, assessment and evaluation research, digital architecture and information systems, and statistical data analysis.

Team members include: Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith, Professor Michele Haynes, Dr Andrew Smith, Alex Chen, Dr Chantelle Day, Dr Melanie Spallek and Associate Professor Lenore Adie.

Industry Engagement

The Future-Proofing Education project has seen ACU partner with Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM) to create an Executive MBA qualification that is the first of its kind in Australia. The MBA program is specifically designed to equip school principals with the knowledge and skills to run modern schools.

Some private schools have employed former business CEOs with no teaching/education background to be principals, which can lead to a misalignment of the culture and fit required to run a school. ACU Executive Education has taken a different approach with our philosophy to empower those already in the education system to have the confidence and capabilities to understand, thrive and lead in an ever-changing school ecosystem. The MBA’s workplace assessment also allowed for more individual focus and alignment to apply learnings to solve the real-world issues facing principals.

The partnership aims to bring into line the function of school principals as CEOs. This innovative course highlights that schools are in the business of educating young people. Like many other businesses, principals face the same challenges of ensuring financial viability, ensuring the school ‘product’ is fit for purpose and aligned to an ever-increasing range of stakeholders. and that the latest HR practices are utilised and aligned to support achievement of the schools objectives. The MBA challenges principals to consider how contemporary business models can embrace ethical values and sustainable growth, and how these two apparently competing ambitions are, in fact, intertwined and interdependent.

The initiative has improved CEM staff retention, creating a pipeline of talent with the right skills across the 330-plus CEM schools.

Team members include: Tom Ristoski, Dr Ricky Chan and Jodie Beckmann.

Employability

The Interchange project is an inter-university initiative that has been recognised for its contribution to supporting job-readiness skills in undergraduate and postgraduate international students. Interchange has been available for international students since 2016 and is a collaborative project with ACU, UNSW, UTS, Western Sydney University, UON, CQU, Sydney University, Notre Dame University, StudyNSW and the FRANK team.

In July and August 2019, more than 180 students from the Greater Sydney area participated in ‘Interchange – Change yourself, Change the World’. Over four consecutive weekends, students were led on a fast-paced learning journey aimed at developing their inner entrepreneur. The event culminated in a Gala Pitch evening, where students pitched their ideas to a panel of selected judges from industry and start-ups.

Interchange puts students into teams and challenges them to solve ‘real-world’ problems in order to develop key business and employability skills such as communication, innovation, leadership and networking. English is a second language for many participants, who must work with others from more than 20 countries to produce a video pitch and a live presentation. The event also brings together accomplished industry representatives and entrepreneurs, who impart their skills as mentors and keynote speakers.

The ACU Career Development Service and ACU International teams devoted to the program worked collaboratively with the wider Interchange team. They were responsible for advising on program content, promoting and recruiting for the program, and supporting students throughout the program.

In 2019, a total of 19 ACU Sydney-based international students completed the program, in addition to four peer mentors and six volunteers. In 2020, the Interchange program moved to 100 per cent online delivery in response to COVID-19 restrictions, and 37 ACU students from six campuses completed the program.

ACU team members include: Kathryn Williams, Linda Reardon, Peter Freeman, Susan Cowin, Diana Stevens and Brigitte White.


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