Posted by: Dallas Wingrove, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.
The Australian Qualifications Framework shines a torch on quality, establishing benchmarks within a flexible assurance framework. As a national framework the recently revised AQF seeks to ensure the “national and international portability of comparable qualifications” and to support “flexible qualifications linkages and pathways” within a framework that guarantees that “qualification outcomes remain relevant and nationally consistent”.
The AQF may be perceived as merely another compliance framework that adds to an already pressured workload, adding yet another bureaucratic layer of paperwork and mapping. In the context of higher education, the AQF undoubtedly heralds in a new era of quality assurance in a sector already weighed down by compliance and performance measurement.
The AQF compels academic learning and teaching leadership, and teaching staff, to engage in discussions about learning and teaching, and to reflect on what they deliver, how they deliver and why they deliver their courseware. As program guides and course guides are reshaped, the opportunity presents, if appropriate, to reimagine, reinvigorate and restructure the curriculum.
Included in its many requirements, the AQF prescribes learning level descriptors appropriate for each type and level of qualification. Within these parameters, the AQF defines knowledge in terms of “depth, breadth, kinds and complexity”. Skills too are described in relation to type and complexity, with the application of knowledge and skill defined in relation to the context in which a graduate applies their knowledge and skills. Regardless of the discipline, the descriptor for each qualification type is intended to underpin consistency in graduate outcomes for each qualification type.
So, in order to support a meaningful engagement with this framework what do tertiary teachers need to support them to both comply with the AQF, but to also truly engage with its intent, and to revisit, redesign or create curriculum that is underpinned by best practice and innovation? How can tertiary teachers be supported to engage with the AQF in ways which support reflective practice and ultimately ensure continuous improvement? What can the university offer to support a meaningful, supportive and seamless process?
Clear guidance and direction from TEQSA, that is distilled and communicated clearly by the institution is an essential starting point. So too is creating opportunities for staff to learn from one another, including within and across the disciplines, and across learning and teaching leadership. Equally important is the recognition of time, including the time it takes to unpack, interpret and contextualise the prescribed learning level descriptors, and translate these into a meaningful and coherent series of program and course learning outcomes. Time is also required to receive and respond to constructive and critical feedback from colleagues and learning and teaching leadership. Ideally, such work would be done collaboratively, supported by academic developers and Senior Advisors in Learning and Teaching, and other relevant specialist staff. Ideally, such work would be inclusive of the immediate teaching and discipline team, building staff capacity. Ideally, university systems and processes would ensure a consistency of approach, with clear and resolute direction top down as to how the many requirements of the AQF have been interpreted by the institution and how they are in turn to be implemented on the ground.
As we recommend for our students, the AQF journey should also entail a formative process, with opportunities for teaching staff to build capacity in a supportive, non-punitive environment. Tertiary teachers and program leaders need to be supported by senior academic management to innovate, to share and reflect on models, and new ways of working, and to seek and gain feedback from their peers.
No doubt for some programs, complying with the AQF involves a relatively straightforward exercise in re-assembling and refining existing program architecture and curriculum. Yet for others, complying with the AQF compels more radical change, or perhaps even acts as a catalyst for a more significant and far-reaching curriculum overhaul. Regardless, herein lies an opportunity to discuss, debate, contest and formulate a curriculum that ensures high quality education for our students.
As quality debates and rhetoric surrounding educational standards and outputs continue to unfold, the AQF puts quality front and centre in a way that can empower and renew programs for the betterment of all. What needs to be embedded in the change process is appropriate and timely support for staff, and clear guidance from senior academic leadership. As universities grapple with the many challenges of meeting the requirements of the AQF, the 2015 deadline looms large.
Here’s to the next year or so building capacity where it counts, on the ground.
Share your thoughts about the AQF requirements and opportunities in the comments!
Upcoming Professional Development opportunities being offered by the Inclusive Teaching Project:
Mid term break is fast approaching for staff at RMIT and for staff there are a number of professional development opportunities coming up:
The Inclusive Teaching Team will be running an interactive, hands-on session at the Learning and Teaching Expo which is taking place on the 3rd and 4th of September in the award-winning Design Hub.
This session will take you an inclusive journey from principles to practice, and provide you with a ‘take-away’ of practical activities and ideas to use in your own practice.
To register for this session click on the registrations link here and select the Inclusive Teaching Practices Session on the 4th of September at 2pm.
DSC Sessional Staff Symposium, 6th of September
If you didn’t get to the last DSC Learning and Teaching Workshop for sessional staff, a (paid) full day of hand-on activities is planned for Friday 6th of September with sessions that range from teaching with technology, inclusive teaching practices, new generation teaching spaces to feedback – what do you with it. For more information about this symposium contact Kellyann Geurts, Project Leader.
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