Professional development for quality
enhancement of learning and teaching

Case Study - Report of the participatory action learning (PAL) project undertaken by the transnational teaching team of BCM110 Introduction to Communication and Media Studies

Overview

BCM110 Introduction to Communication and Media Studies is a core first year subject in Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies degree at UOW and at INTI. The participatory action learning (PAL) project designed and implemented by the transnational teaching team had two key components: (1) encouraging students to interact across sites using blogs, inter-cultural group work, group presentations and peer feedback, and (2) increasing parity in assessment across sites through co-developing a blogging assessment rubric, a group work presentation assessment marking guide and moderating and calibrating assessment tasks.

Students began creating their online professional identity by establishing a blog. Students from both sites were allocated to tutorial groups through a Moodle site and encouraged to comment and respond to one another’s scholarly blog posts. Students also video recorded their group presentations, uploaded these via YouTube and provided peer feedback via the blogs. The case study outlines the pedagogical processes used and provides links to a sample of some of the resources and materials developed during the professional practice development project.

Keywords

Blogging; group work presentations; peer feedback; assessment parity and calibration; becoming digitally literate; transnational teaching teams; core 1st year subject in Arts discipline.

Background

The focus of this case study is the transnational teaching team of BCM110 Introduction to Communication and Media Studies. This is a core 1st year subject in the Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies. This foundation subject introduces students to ways of understanding media and communication practices, institutions and technologies. The subject takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how producers and consumers interact in a media saturated world.

The transnational teaching team consisted of the subject coordinator from UOW Australia, three UOW sessional tutors, the subject coordinator from INTI Malaysia, a project team member from INTI and two project team members from UOW. The teaching team was diverse in relation to cultural and linguistic background, years of experience teaching in transnational education programs, age and academic qualifications.

The focus of the participatory action learning (PAL) project

The team, designed, implemented and evaluated a participatory action learning project which focused on:

  • using social media technologies to enhance or enable student interaction across sites and create a sense of student belonging to an international community of learners.
  • supporting students to develop intercultural communication skills and perspectives and self and peer feedback skills for the global public sphere.
  • providing students with access to a range of perspectives on media and communications for international collaboration.
  • supporting student development of an online professional portfolio.
  • conducting the ‘bloggies’ – awards to recognise student achievement across sites.
  • developing parity in assessment across sites through co-developing assessment rubrics, moderating and calibrating assessment tasks.

What did the professional practice development consist of? How was the PAL project conducted?

The transnational teaching team met via video-conference 6 times during a 15-week period for about 2 hours each time. Project team members from UOW and INTI facilitated the video-conference workshops and worked alongside the transnational teaching team to design, implement and evaluate the PAL project. In between the video-conference workshops project team members developed scholarly guides and gathered existing resources on the issues related to the PAL project undertaken by the teaching team. Sub-groups of the teaching team met between workshops to progress the project. A shared Moodle site to enhance communication and a shared Dropbox for resources were established.

Principles underpinning practice development with transnational teaching teams

The following principles guided the design of the professional development processes used. The professional development processes and PAL projects:

  • are collaboratively designed and negotiated with all teaching team members.
  • are context sensitive and specific.
  • feature curriculum which emerges from and is anchored in the work of the teaching team.
  • involve the team members engaging, negotiating and learning together in their daily work context.
  • acknowledge that transnational teaching teams can be learning-conducive sites in which team members interact with multiple new peers who bring different perspectives to new work situations and novel issues.
  • are designed to harness the diversity of the transnational teaching team for maximum benefit.
  • aim to strengthen relations and trust among the transnational teaching team members to enhance their capacity to create collaborative learning spaces amongst students studying in diverse cultural contexts, difference places and shared cyber-spaces.

What worked well?

The regular, facilitated video-conference workshops and meetings with the whole transnational teaching team were perceived as most valuable and beneficial. All agreed that relationships were strengthened significantly and that the improved communication and connections enabled the teaching team members to enhance the delivery of the subject and the learning experience for students. The following comment, from the subject coordinator at UOW is representative of the team’s experience:

The ability to meet, to talk to each other, to plan together. To have the input from Lynne and Gerry has been amazing. To have that level of support the opportunity to discuss, people putting in ideas on a regular basis - that has really benefited the subject and the students. It is clear in the student results and in their comments ... it has been a fantastic experience.

The inclusion of sessional staff as members of the transnational teaching team was perceived by the group as being particularly beneficial. A sessional tutor explained:

Putting us all in the room, in the same space [via video-conference] has been so good. I really like our team. It has made me more conscious that this is a subject that is being run across sites. So this session I encouraged my students to read, respond, comment on the INTI students’ blogs … They are keen for more interaction with the students in Malaysia … So having the cohesion, the sense of being in a transnational teaching team means the students get the benefits, they can get more value from being in a transnational degree.

The experience of the BCM110 transnational teaching team suggests that developing a sense of belonging to a transnational teaching team and participating, as a team member in an international context is a necessary condition for maximising student learning in degrees taught transnationally.

Situated work-based action learning projects such as co-developing the blogging marking guide and rubric, enacting marking parity processes, and calibrating assessment approaches across sites was perceived by the teaching team as a valuable aspect of the project. The following comment sums up the team’s experience:

After developing the blogging rubric together, the marking parity exercise was remarkably revealing. We were so close. We knew what the expectations were, the standards expected, we were all on the same page. That is just so important.

What were the challenges?

The poor quality and unreliability of the video-conference connections created frustrations and challenges for the team. Frequently, facial features would disappear, the frame would freeze, the sound would distort or the connection would be lost and on a couple of occasions we had to abandon the workshop. The lack of video-conference facilities in the large group lecture theatre made it impossible for all the students from both sites to participate together in the ‘bloggies awards’ and to watch student groups present to the large group.

The difference in the numbers of students across the two sites and the context in which they learn created difficulties for the teaching team in encouraging interaction between the students in relation to their blogs. The overwhelming numbers of UOW students meant that it was hard for all UOW students to engage and dialogue with INTI students without the workload becoming a burden for the INTI students.

The monitoring and surveillance of the students’ blogs in Malaysia added a layer of complexity for intercultural dialogue.

Aspects critical to success

The transnational teaching team identified the following aspects as crucial to the success of the approach:

  • Regular team workshops and meetings via video-conference and the commitment of the transnational teaching team.
  • Facilitated group process.
  • Honorariums for subject coordinators and full-time staff and payment for sessional staff.
  • Support and resources provided by the facilitators.
  • The shared Moodle site and the capacity to aggregate the wordpress blogs.
  • Provision of catering (e.g. food and drink).
  • Opportunity to genuinely collaborate internationally.

Areas for improvement

The transnational teaching team identified the following ways for improving or changing the project:

  • Incorporate visits by the INTI subject coordinator to UOW.
  • Align the sessions as much as possible.
  • Video-conference facilities in large lecture theatres and improved technology to more easily facilitate cross-site student interaction.
  • This sort of professional development for international teaching to be ongoing.

Outline of workshops & links to materials developed

Introductory workshop: Before the 1st workshop participants were asked to complete 7 questions to stimulate reflection and discussion amongst members of the teaching team about internationalisation of the curriculum in BCM110 Introduction to Communication and Media Studies. The questions were adapted from Leask’s (2010) Questionnaire on Internationalisation of the Curriculum. The introductory workshop focused on outlining the broader Office for Learning and Teaching project, getting to know one another, goal setting, speculation about what might be different if the project was successful and identifying possible topics for the action learning project. Click on the following links for a sample of the documents and resources used for the 1st workshop:

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    IOC Pre-workshop questions for teaching teams [PDF 142KB]
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    TTT Workshop 1 presentation [PPT 3,593KB]
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    Transnational Teaching Teams - 1st Workshop Agenda [PDF 216KB]
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    Guide to Action Learning [PDF 185KB]

Workshop 2 focussed on student blogging across sites and intercultural, assessable group work. Links include:

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    Transnational Teaching Teams - 2nd Workshop [PDF 236KB]
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    Guide to Group Presentations [PDF 500KB]
The following link is to a website developed by one of the BCM team members to support students using social media in their subjects:
  1. http://blogs.uow.edu.au/becomingdigital/

Workshop 3 focused on the blogging rubric co-developed across sites, the resources and links to assist student create scholarly effective blog posts and the criteria the students developed for making a good blog post. Links include:

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    A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs [PDF 41KB]
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    What Makes a Good Blog? Student ideas [PDF 382KB]

Workshop 4 focused on parity in assessment and calibration of assessing and assuring learning across sites. Links include:

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    Guide to Parity in Assessment [PDF 225KB]
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    BCM110 Group Presentation Marking Sheet template [PDF 409KB]

Workshop 5 focused on students providing self and peer feedback on their uploaded group presentations. Preparation for the ‘bloggies’ awards, including deciding on the award categories and the design of the T-shirts used as prizes. The QR from the students’ blogs will be printed onto the T-shirt so that a person can hold up their mobile phone to the shirt and link straight to the students’ online professional portfolio. Links include:

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    A guide to peer and self Assessment [PDF 3,845KB]

Workshop 6 focused on discussing the preliminary analysis of the survey of students in relation to their experience in a degree that is taught transnationally. It also evaluated the key aspects of the project, its impact on the teaching team, the subject and the students. The teaching team used the transnational student survey results and feedback to plan a project to internationalise and build inclusive pedagogies into the whole degree program in the following session. This project is the subject of Case Study 4.