Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, L&T Update

Last Hurrah

As I finish up in the role of DPVC tomorrow this will be the final (and 604th) post to the DPVC Update blog.

It has been a great pleasure to serve in the role of Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, L&T for DSC over the last six years. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work across our schools and with our staff and to see the many examples of L&T passion, commitment and excellent practice.  It’s been great to work with teams seeking change and improvement.

From 2019 I look forward to focusing my work in the School of Education. I wish Prof Tania Broadley all the very best as she takes over the DPVC role early in the new year. In the meantime Dr Helen McLean will be Acting DPVC.

I wish you all a good end to 2018 and a happy and healthy start to 2019.

Divine 9 and Fabulous 15

Throughout 2018 the DSC Divine 9 programs (listed below) worked to create positive change for students across the Focus Areas of Belonging and Every Graduate Ready.

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.41.32 am.pngThe programs delivered more than 80 innovations and events, including the implementation of 18 micro credentials, events for recent graduates and current students, VR and AR experiments, curriculum and assessment redesign and program retreats. The work was led by Program Managers and supported by program teams, Associate Deans Discipline, Belonging Leads, SALTs, the Digital Learning Team and our Innovation Leads, Rachel, Steph and Yannick, as well as others across the University.

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The D9 programs will continue this work into 2019 as part of the Student Area of Focus. Joining them will be the new group of programs – the Fab 15.

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The Fab 15 programs will focus their attention on strengthening five of the Program Design Principles:

  • The student experience is transformative
  • Programs are coherent experiences
  • Assessments are authentic and driven by learning objectives
  • Technology tools enable best-in-class blended learning experiences
  • Industry relevance and contemporary practice are central

For more information, see the Student Area of Focus Information Pack and/or talk to your SALT. You can also email the Student Area of Focus information hotline:


What does a mGTS score really mean?

The University is increasingly using mean CES scores rather than the % agreement that we have used in the past. The mean GTS and mean OSI are located at the bottom of p.1 of your CES. Scores on both scales can range from 1 to 5.

The following explanation of the mean CES has been provided by RMIT Studios.

Percent agree is a coarse representation of the OSI or GTS that can degrade or inflate a teacher’s scores. The table below shows three teachers all receiving an OSI of 40% Percent Agree. But with the mOSI it’s possible to see more than 1.5 points of variation between them. Teacher C is receiving an OSI of 40% Percent Agree despite no negative feedback from students and a lowest score of 3 (Neither Agree nor Disagree). The Percent Agreement calculation is weighted towards a negative result. A score of 3 (neither agree nor disagree) counts as a negative in a % agree calculation.

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New Creds for staff

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Last week I completed Preparing for Bundyi Girri and Building Belonging. 

I recommend both to you. The Bundyi Girri cred was engaging and well structured and encouraged me to think deeply about my own reconciliation journey. The assessment was meaningful. This cred is an introduction for RMIT staff to Bundyi Girri, providing an overview of the different ways that colonial dynamics have shaped, and continue to shape, Aboriginal and non-Indigenous relations, the importance of recognising Aboriginal sovereignty, and the role of thinking critically about how this knowledge relates to self. Teams might like to consider working through the credential together. The cred is designed to take about 2 hours to complete, but can take longer if you follow the links.

You can see the full suite of 60+ Creds now available to our students here. While students can complete Creds any time as an enrolled student, Creds can also be embedded into courses (either for credit or as a recommended reading). We can use the creds to cover off core aspects in our programs such as the Indigenous Welcome, Academic Integrity, Giving and Receiving Feedback, Information Literacy, etc.

I am now the proud owner of both the Bundyi Girri and Belonging badges. When I work out how to 3-D print them I will add them to my Girl Guide uniform.

Course Enhancement – does it work?

Course Enhancement involves focused attention on core aspects of courses to improve the student experience. In many ways it is just good reflective practice, already part of the work of most course coordinators. It involves attending to data from a range of sources about what is working and what isn’t in order to continually improve our courses.

With semester 2 CES data now in we have compelling evidence that Course Enhancement improves both the GTS and OSI. In Semester 1 106 DSC courses were selected for course enhancement. In semester 2 there were 59 DSC courses.

Courses in the Course Enhancement initiative (orange) demonstrated marked uplift compared to the modest uplift observed across other DSC courses (in grey).

                                                                 Semester 1                                                  

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                                                                   Semester 2 

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On the strength of these positive results Course Enhancement will scale up in 2019, with 2000 HE and VE courses selected across the University.

A conversation with Jane den Hollander

You might be interested in this brief conversation with outgoing Deakin VC, Jane den Hollander. Topics include Deakin’s Cloud campus, the game changing nature of MOOCs and ongoing challenges for women.

L&T awards

I am pleased to congratulate the following staff on their success this year in the RMIT Awards for Excellence. These staff have won important awards acknowledging their outstanding commitment to L&T excellence and innovation.

VC’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and VC’s Award for Innovative Approaches to Curriculum and Modalities of Teaching that Inspire Futures-Orientated Graduate
Douglas Wilson & Michael McMaster, School of Design

In their redevelopment of the Game Design Studio course Douglas and Michael introduced a strategy for students to develop a game a week to enjoy the process of development and recognise themselves as peers and artists out in the world. Their inspired industry aligned approach introduced innovative pedagogical structures such as creative prompts and constraints that force students to dream up new ideas and implement them in novel ways.

DVCE’s Award for Teaching Innovation – commendation
Ehsan Gharaie, School of Property, Construction & Project Management

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 4.42.35 amEhsan engages large student cohorts through Interactive teaching methods, actively supporting students who are dealing with mental health issues and responding to the educational and personal needs of international students. Ehsan’s innovative approaches include thoughtful and systematic use of course analytics and empowering students with predictive analytics.

DVCE’s Award for Teaching Innovation and the Ralph McIntosh Medal
Peter West & Yoko Akama, School of Design

In their development of the studio course Designing with Indigenous Nations, Peter and Yoko have facilitated Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships, and inter-cultural sensitivity and mutual learning by embedding respect, listening, empathy, sensitivity and civic responsibility within pedagogy. The teaching approach enables students to re-think and develop the confidence to be in a relationship with Indigenous people and become more engaged design practitioners, capable of questioning their practice with a sense of agency and empowerment.

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Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Program Manager of the Year
Khoa Nguyen, School of Communication & Design, Vietnam

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 4.34.15 am.pngKhoa has led the Bachelor of Design (Digital Media) program for the last three years. In addition, Khoa has also been the main influence on the program’s Film and Video components and over the last five years has been responsible for the very high levels of outcomes and recognition of that discipline.  



In other good news for L&T a number of DSC staff have been accepted as Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellows:

  • Alex Wake, School of Media & Communication – Fellow
  • Ehsan Gharaie, School of Property, Construction & Project Management – Fellow
  • Angela Clarke, College of Design & Social Context, ADG – Senior Fellow
  • Andrea Chester, College of Design & Social Context and School of Education – Principal Fellow

The UK-based HEA fellowships provide professional recognition for university teachers and access to a global community of staff committed to learning and teaching excellence.

For more information on the HEA fellowships click here.  If you are interested in applying for a fellowship please contact Kym Fraser in the Education Portfolio.

Digital Work Practices – resources now available

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 10.28.09 pm.pngResources have just been launched for the recently completed Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) Learning and Teaching Excellence funded project: 

Digital work practices: where are the jobs, what are they, and how prepared are graduates?  

The project involved industry roundtables in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane; educator surveys and workshops in five states; literature reviews; employment/labour insights data; and teacher reflections on pilots with students.

  • According to the research findings, adaptive digital capabilities are in high demand in industry but in short supply.

The Digital Affordance Developmental Learning Model developed by the project team as a rapid prototype embeds functional, perceptual and adaptive digital capabilities in new and existing curriculum for Creative Arts, Communication, Business, Engineering and potentially other disciplines.

Six reports on different aspects of the project data are available in the Findings Section of the project website, which also includes detail on the Model and Resources translated for sample disciplines:

The final project report is also available on the ATN website at:

Project partners were RMIT, QUT and UTS with a team of 15. The Project Leader and Principal Investigator was A/Prof Fiona Peterson, School of Media & Communication, RMIT (

Re-thinking student evaluations

This post by Colleen Flaherty published earlier this year in Inside Higher Ed speaks to issues long debated amongst L&T leadership in the College.

Teaching Eval Shake-Up

Research is reviewed in a rigorous manner, by expert peers. Yet teaching is often reviewed only or mostly by pedagogical non-experts: students. There’s also mounting evidence of bias in student evaluations of teaching, or SETs — against female and minority instructors in particular. And teacher ratings aren’t necessarily correlated with learning outcomes.

All that was enough for the University of Southern California to do away with SETs in tenure and promotion decisions this spring. Students will still evaluate their professors, with some adjustments — including a new focus on students’ own engagement in a course. But those ratings will not be used in high-stakes personnel decisions.

The changes took place earlier than the university expected. But study after recent study suggesting that SETs advantage faculty members of certain genders and backgrounds (namely white men) and disadvantage others was enough for Michael Quick, provost, to call it quits, effective immediately.

‘I’m Done’

“He just said, ‘I’m done. I can’t continue to allow a substantial portion of the faculty to be subject to this kind of bias,” said Ginger Clark, assistant vice provost for academic and faculty affairs and director of USC’s Center for Excellence in Teaching. “We’d already been in the process of developing a peer-review model of evaluation, but we hadn’t expected to pull the Band-Aid off this fast.”

While Quick was praised on campus for his decision, the next, obvious question is how teaching will be assessed going forward. The long answer is through a renewed emphasis on teaching excellence in terms of training, evaluation and incentives.

“It’s big move. Everybody’s nervous,” Clark said. “But what we’ve found is that people are actually hungry for this kind of help with their teaching.”

SETs — one piece of the puzzle — will continue to provide “important feedback to help faculty adjust their teaching practices, but will not be used directly as a measure in their performance review,” Clark said. The university’s evaluation instrument also was recently revised, with input from the faculty, to eliminate bias-prone questions and include more prompts about the learning experience.

Umbrella questions such as, “How would you rate your professor?” and “How would you rate this course?” — which Clark called “popularity contest” questions — are now out. In are questions on course design, course impact and instructional, inclusive and assessment practices. Did the assignments make sense? Do students feel they learned something?

Students also are now asked about what they brought to a course. How many hours did they spend on coursework outside of class? How many times did they contact the professor? What study strategies did they use?

While such questions help professors gauge how their students learn, Clark said, they also signal to students that “your learning in this class depends as much as your input as your professor’s work.” There is also new guidance about keeping narrative comments — which are frequently subjective and off-topic — focused on course design and instructional practices.

Still, SETs remain important at USC. Faculty members are expected to explain how they used student feedback to improve instruction in their teaching reflection statements, which continue to be part of the tenure and promotion process, for example. But evaluation data will no longer be used in those personnel decisions.

Schools and colleges may also use evaluations to gather aggregate data on student engagement and perceptions about the curriculum, or USC’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, Clark said. They may also use them to identify faculty members who do “an outstanding job at engaging students, faculty who may need some support in that area of their teaching, or problematic behaviors in the classroom that require further inquiry.”

Again, however, SETs themselves will not be used as a direct measure in performance evaluations.

More Than a Number

While some institutions have acknowledged the biases inherent in SETs, many cling to them as a primary teaching evaluation tool because they’re easy — almost irresistibly so. That is, it takes a few minutes to look at professors’ student ratings on, say, a 1-5 scale, and label them strong or weak teachers. It takes hours to visit their classrooms and read over their syllabi to get a more nuanced, and ultimately more accurate, picture.

Yet that more time-consuming, comprehensive approach is what professors and pedagogical experts have been asking for, across academe, for years. A 2015 survey of 9,000 faculty members by the American Association of University Professors, for instance, found that 90 percent of respondents wanted their institutions to evaluate teaching with the same seriousness as research and scholarship.

The survey gave additional insight into the questionable validity of SETs: two-thirds of respondents said these evaluations create pressure to be easy graders, a quality students reward, and many reported low rates of feedback.

Echoing other studies and faculty accounts, responses to the AAUP survey suggested that SETs have an outsize impact on professors teaching off the tenure track, in that high student ratings can mean a renewed contract — or not.

The AAUP committee leading the 2015 study argued that faculty members within departments and colleges — not administrators — should develop their own, holistic teaching evaluations. It also urged “chairs, deans, provosts and institutions to end the practice of allowing numerical rankings from student evaluations to serve as the only or the primary indicator of teaching quality, or to be interpreted as expressing the quality of the faculty member’s job performance.”

Faculty committees at USC also have worked to address teaching excellence for the past five years, recommending that the university invest more in teaching, adopt incentives for strong instruction, and move toward a peer model of review.

USC’s teaching evaluation plan reflects some of those recommendations — as well as a new emphasis on teaching excellence.

“We must renew our focus on the importance of teaching and mentorship, putting into place the systems necessary to train, assess, and reward exceptional teaching,” Quick, the provost, and Elizabeth Graddy, vice provost, said in a March memo to the faculty. “In short, let’s make USC the great research university that expects, supports, and truly values teaching and mentoring.”

Clark, at the campus Center for Excellence in Teaching, is helping USC put its money where its mouth is. She said its new model of peer evaluation involves defining teaching excellence and developing training for the faculty, from graduate students who will become professors to full professors.

Peer Review Instead

Peer review will be based on classroom observation and review of course materials, design and assignments. Peer evaluators also will consider professors’ teaching reflection statements and their inclusive practices.

Rewards for high quality teaching will include grants and leaves for teaching development and emphasizing teaching performance in merit, promotion and tenure reviews, Clark said. Most significantly, thus far, the university has introduced continuing appointments for qualifying teaching-intensive professors off the tenure track.

Trisha Tucker, an assistant professor of writing and president of the USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Faculty Council, said different professors have had different reactions to the “culture shift.” But she said she applauded the institution’s ability to resist the “easy shorthand” of teacher ratings in favor of something more meaningful — albeit more difficult. (USC also has made clear that research and service expectations will not change.)

“It does take work to do this peer review,” she said, “but teaching is important, and it takes a lot of time and resources to make that more than just empty words.”

As writing is a feedback-driven process, Tucker said her program already emphasizes pedagogy and peer review. But professors in some other programs will have to adjust, she said.

“For the many faculty who haven’t been trained in this way or hired based on these expectations, it can produce some anxiety,” she said. So an important measure of this new approach’s success is how USC supports people who “initially fall short.”

Clark said the teaching center offers a model for peer review that individual programs will adjust to their own needs over the next year. That kind of faculty involvement in shaping peer review should make for a process that is less “threatening” than representative of an “investment in each other’s success,” she said.

In the interim, professors’ teaching will be assessed primarily on their own teaching reflections. And while the center avoids using words such as “mandatory” with regarding to training, it is offering a New Faculty Institute, open to all instructors, for 90 minutes monthly over lunch for eight months. Sample topics include active learning, maximizing student motivation and effective, efficient grading practices.

Not Just USC

Philip B. Stark, associate dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and a professor of statistics at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied SETs and argued that evaluations are biased against female instructors in so many ways that adjusting them for that bias is impossible, called the USC news “terrific.”

“Treating student satisfaction and engagement as what they are — and I do think they matter — rather than pretending that student evaluations can measure teaching effectiveness is a huge step forward,” he said. “I also think that using student feedback to inform teaching but not to assess teaching is important progress.”

Stark pointed out that the University of Oregon also is on the verge of killing traditional SETs and adopting a Continuous Improvement and Evaluation of Teaching System based on non-numerical feedback. Under the system, student evaluations would still be part of promotion decisions, but they wouldn’t reduce instructors to numbers.

Elements of the program already have been piloted. Oregon’s Faculty Senate is due to vote on the program as a whole this week, to be adopted in the fall. The proposed system includes a midterm student experience survey, an anonymous web-based survey to collect non-numerical course feedback to be provided only to the instructor, along with an end-of-term student experience survey. An end-of-term instructor reflection survey also would be used for course improvement and teaching evaluation. Peer review and teaching evaluation frameworks,  customizable to academic units, are proposed, too.

“As of Fall 2018, faculty personnel committees, heads, and administrators will stop using numerical ratings from student course evaluations in tenure and promotion reviews, merit reviews, and other personnel matters,” reads the Oregon’s Faculty Senate’s proposal. “If units or committees persist in using these numerical ratings, a statement regarding the problematic nature of those ratings and an explanation for why they are being used despite those problems will be included with the evaluative materials.”

The motion already has administrative support, with Jayanth R. Banavar, provost, soliciting pilot participants on his website, saying, “While student feedback can be an important tool for continual improvement of teaching and learning, there is substantial peer-reviewed evidence that student course evaluations can be biased, particularly against women and faculty of color, and that numerical ratings poorly correlate with teaching effectiveness and learning outcomes.”

More than simply revising problematic evaluation instruments, the page says, Oregon “seeks to develop a holistic new teaching evaluation system that helps the campus community describe, develop, recognize and reward teaching excellence.” The goal is to “increase equity and transparency in teaching evaluation for merit, contract renewal, promotion and tenure while simultaneously providing tools for continual course improvement.”

Craig Vasey, chair of classics, philosophy and religion at the University of Mary Washington and chair of AAUP’s Committee on Teaching, Research and Publications, said the “most pernicious element” of quantitative student evaluations is that the results “get translated into rankings, which then take on a life of their own and don’t really improve the quality of education.”

Review of syllabi and classroom observation by peers are both more “useful means of evaluating,” he said. “And I think asking students how engaged they were in the class — and especially if they also ask why — gets “better input from them than the standard questionnaire.”

Ken Ryalls, president of The IDEA Center for learning analytics and a publisher of SETs, told Inside Higher Ed earlier this year that not all evaluations are created equal.

“Our advice: Find a good SET that is well designed and low in bias; use the data carefully, watching for patterns over time, adjusting for any proven bias, and ignoring irrelevant data; and use multiple sources of data, such as peer evaluations, administrative evaluations, course artifacts and self-evaluations, along with the student perspective from SETs,” he said via email.

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