My main professional expertise lies in the field of higher education research and evaluation. Previous projects have ranged from institutional research through to ethnographic fieldwork.
FAIR: From Academic Integrity to Responsibility, 2011-2013 (University of Melbourne)
FAIR was an innovative project that developed a cross-platform mobile app for university students, focusing on developing students’ understanding of academic integrity and related issues, including information literacy and how to avoid plagiarism. Together with my colleague Melissa Russell in the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne, I directed a small project team to design and build the pilot version of the app for the University of Melbourne. Evaluation of the FAIR app will be ongoing in 2013.
Belonging Place: Developing students’ sense of identity and community in the new building, 2011-2013 (University of Melbourne)
From 2011-2014, the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne committed to designing, constructing, and moving to a new building. Such a major initiative raised questions for current and future work practices and organisational culture, for students as well as staff. This research project investigated questions relating the logistics of the move to the theme of “sense of belonging”, including: How does the current Faculty building, and how might the new building, contribute to students’ sense of belonging? Is the meaning of “sense of belonging” the same for different student cohorts? In what ways might the new building contribute towards social interaction, collaborative learning, and students’ developing sense of identity as practitioners? The project revealed patterns of use, giving insight into the meanings that students attach to these patterns. Data generated by the project was intended to serve as a body of evidence that could be used as a springboard to explore ways in which the design of the new building might facilitate the development of student identities and sense of community. Read more.
Curriculum Review, 2011-12 (University of Melbourne)
The Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne undertook a comprehensive curriculum review of its program offerings. A major challenge was to design an appropriate system for curriculum review that was sufficiently detailed and thorough, while meshing with existing systems and not placing too high a load on individuals who participated in the review process. New review processes put in place also needed to dovetail with external accreditation reviews, with the internal process functioning as a “light touch” system.
Learning Landscapes, 2006 – 2008 (University of Cambridge / HEA)
Learning Landscapes attempted to describe the broad learning and teaching context for undergraduate students at the University of Cambridge. Conducted as one of the UK Higher Education Academy‘s Pathfinder projects, the project was a major venture involving a large team of academics, research staff, and senior administrators from across the university.
The project, administered from the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies, had various strands: a whole-of-institution e-learning benchmarking exercise; a study of students’ experience of learning spaces; a pilot study of international students’ learning experiences; and a series of time-use studies with students and staff. Inspired by our visiting collaborator and colleague Dr Mike Arnold of the University of Melbourne, a series of innovative social research methodologies were adopted. Descriptions of these research methods (including the “Day Experience Method” and “Movers and Shapers Method”) are available on the project website. Learning Landscape collaborator Matthew Riddle has since used variants of these in a subsequent, separate study funded by Ascilite and conducted at La Trobe University – see his personal website for details.
Live Sociology, 2006 (ESRC Researcher Development Initiative)
Live Sociology was an advanced research methods training course hosted by Goldsmiths College, London and led by sociologist Les Back, well known for his work on urban sociology. Participants were introduced to a range of new methods and techniques for conducting innovative social research, with a special focus on empirical visual methods.
Knowledge Resource Network, 2003 – 2006 (Cambridge-MIT Institute and University of Cambridge)
Knowledge Resource Network (KRN) was an initiative of the Cambridge-MIT Institute (a partnership between the University of Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The aim of the KRN project was to foster the exchange of innovative learning materials, and to support the growth of “communities of practice” in higher education. The project was strongly influenced by the innovative “i2i” (or: “instructor-to-instructor”) concept, developed by MIT’s Engineering Systems Learning Center. Accordingly, the project developed a repository of high-quality teaching materials, designed to be shared between educators. The example of MIT, whose OpenCourseWare offers a widely admired model in the growing movement towards open educational resources, inspired the KRN project team to focus on human factors. The team of three researchers — myself, Matthew Riddle, and Dr Lee Wilson — conducted a concurrent research investigation examining the opportunities and challenges associated with the sharing and reuse of teaching materials created by peers. The project also sponsored the creation of three professional communities of practice, in collaboration with external partners the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Physics.
Personal Development Planning, 2004 – 2005 (University of Cambridge / HEFCE)
This project at the University of Cambridge, funded by HEFCE and managed by the University’s Education Section, developed a range of resources and support to enhance students’ transferable skills. As lead researcher for the project, I conducted a survey of approximately 1500 undergraduate students, investigating students’ attitudes towards learning and skills development. Findings led to the development of a range of resources, including a website. Content from the Personal Development Planning report and findings has since been incorporated into the University’s Transferable Skills website and into careers resources produced by the University’s Careers Service.
Sentence Aligner Project, 2004 – 2005 (University of Cambridge / HEFCE)
This exploratory development project aimed to support the learning needs of tertiary students studying a foreign language. Led from the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET), the Sentence Aligner project aimed to assist students studying translation, by creating an online, computer-based translation tool to enable and enhance peer learning. The tool was created with an implementation of the Gayle-Church algorithm (technical lead: Dr Dan Sheppard), with a web interface. It enabled students to submit their translations online, and then compare translated texts with the foreign-language original. Students were able to view and comment on their peer’s translations. Comparison of translated texts could then become the basis for tutor-facilitated, small-group discussion.