Reflections on HERGA 2018

This year’s HERGA conference moved from its traditional home at Adelaide University to the Flinders Tonsley precinct. This had one very positive result: as a regular HERGA attendee, I was pleased to see a larger number of Flinders staff attending than seemed to me to have been the case in the recent past.

The opening keynote provided a number of very useful insights into a large-scale project exploring feedback as an integral component of the learning process. The messages presented resonated with and affirmed much of the work being done in innovative practices here at Flinders. Feedback is a process that needs to actively involve students, to prompt them to further their own learning. It is part of an ongoing communication process about students’ learning and certainly not just making comments on student work.

One slight disappointment for me was the small number of presentations by Flinders staff: my count was four which was substantially fewer than previous HERGAs. Three of these presentations were by staff from the Paramedic Unit where there is some excellent innovative assessment practice happening. The fourth was from Health Care Management in the College of Medicine and Public Health. [In the interest of full disclosure, I was a co-author on 3 of the 4.]

The various sessions that I attended were all well subscribed with both James Thompson and Anthea Cayetano from the Paramedic Unit presenting in rooms that were standing room only. Both presentations generated significant interest from colleagues from other institutions and potential for cross-institutional collaborations.

HERGA 2018 clearly demonstrated the major benefits that HERGA provides: the opportunity to showcase interesting and important innovations in teaching and learning, and the opportunity to connect with colleagues from other institutions about teaching and learning. The annual HERGA conference is a very worthwhile local initiative, well supported by local institutions and staff engaged in teaching and learning. Hopefully in future years, Flinders staff will continue to attend and more importantly take advantage of the opportunity to showcase their efforts to enhance the learning experiences of our students.

Contributed by Dr Don Houston
Senior Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

The keynote address from Associate Professor Michael Henderson centred around Feedback for learning – closing the assessment loop, which he referred to as an excellent resource. Other notable sessions included:

  1. ‘On formative assessment approaches that improve learning’ by Izu and Weerasinghe, which reignited the concept that embracing failure can prepare students for learning. Letting students know that most learning arises from mistakes and deliberately designing some formative assessment for controlled failure can then lead to productive learning.
  2. ‘”Students-as-partners” digital strategies and social media enhanced co-creations for formative assessment and feedback tools to improve student engagement and attitudes in anatomy’ by Rees, Williams, Gutschmidt and Lottering, where past students were tasked as peer leaders in creating social platforms, such as Snapchat, Instagram and podcasts to engage students in their learning.
  3. ‘The role of innovative online quizzes and videos to improve student learning’ by Squires, Williams and Lottering, where past students produced videos and peer quizzes to further engage student learning.

The students-as-partners presentations highlighted that there has been a shift from learning through reading to social and visual engagement.

Contributed by Dr Debbie Charter
Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

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