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Active Learning under the Spotlight at ICMS Faculty Day

Active Learning under the Spotlight at ICMS Faculty Day

September 6, 2022

Active learning philosophies were explored and workshopped by International College of Management, Sydney (ICMS) academics at the most recent Faculty Day, held on 25 August at the ICMS main campus.

At the same event, held three times a year and attended by up to 75 members of the ICMS academic faculty, the Scholarship of Learning and Teaching (SoLT) committee awarded a Teaching Excellence Award (TEA), a Scholarship Activity Grant (SAG) as well as acknowledging the list of lecturers who excelled in Student Evaluation of the Teacher and Unit (SETU).

Active Learning

Active learning can take many forms and is known by educators as a more learner-centred approach which engages students ‘doing’ things and reflecting on what they are doing.  Faculty Day Guest Speaker, Dr Prashan Karunaratne from Macquarie University Business School, ran a workshop on Active Learning which encouraged lecturers to rethink the way they engage their students.

“The focus on active learning philosophies is in support of the ICMS value of providing a connected and engaged curriculum for our students,” Dr Heidi Le Sueur, DVC (Learning and Teaching) said. This is supported in the literature, where Wallace et. Al (2021) claim, “research has shown that students who are engaging in active-learning teaching strategies outperform their peers taught in a traditional style lecture”.

“On Faculty Day, new insights, tools and practices are debated and explored so that our lecturers can implement them … literally the next day in class. This ensures we stay current and instil innovation into how and what we teach,” explained Le Sueur.

Dr Karunaratne shared a framework called ‘A connected Learning community’, based on three pillars:

* Connected experiences (providing connected, creative and innovative learning experiences)

* Connected curriculum (ensuring deep, broad graduate capabilities through a connected curriculum)

* Connected people (fostering a culture that supports excellence)

True to the topic of ‘active learning’, faculty was asked to engage in workshop-style group activities. Threshold Concepts and Blooms Taxonomy were topics explored as a way of active learning at a Macro and Micro level respectively.

Threshold concepts, in an educational context, reflect the “lightbulb moment” that students experience when a new concept becomes part of their understanding of a discipline or subject, if not their perception of the world in general (Meyer and Land, 2003).

How ICMS lecturers can assist students in gaining an understanding of threshold concepts was workshopped in the session, with Dr Chengeto Chaderopa noting that within the discipline of Tourism and Hospitality, ‘sustainability’ is a threshold concept.

Blooms Taxonomy, with its origins in the 1950s, is a hierarchical classification system used to measure a student’s progression from lower to higher level cognitive skills experienced by students engaged in meaningful learning activities in tertiary education. The taxonomy is used as a tool for developing educational objectives, learning activities and assessments. It plays a vital role in an educators’ tool kit for active learning approaches. Underpinned by Blooms Taxonomy, Dr Karunaratne suggested an approach using a R.E.A.L framework that could help learners discover the knowledge of how to learn.

  • R (re-cap and remind – for example, What did we do last week?)
  • E (engaging examples every day. – generating real world examples we can discuss in class.)
  • A (application and awareness – for example, relating the concepts to life beyond the classroom and discipline)
  • L (learning a life lesson)

Commenting on the ICMS approach to learning and teaching, Dr Karunaratne said he was impressed by the hybrid technology arrangement in the classrooms and enjoyed learning about how pedagogy was underpinned and community fostered.

Jonathan Hvaal, ICMS Head of Learning, Teaching and Innovation, said the active learning session with Prashan had been a great success.

“It was great to have Dr Prashan Karunaratne come and speak at our hybrid session. Our Faculty really enjoyed being actively engaged. The ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of a learning activity is actually one of the most important threshold concepts in our discipline of education.”

As ICMS Business and Entrepreneurship Program Manager, Luisa Arango, noted, the workshop gave her some great ideas for creative engagement within her classes.

“The impact for our students from these Faculty Days is immense. In addition to advancing our own practices, we reflect on feedback we have received from our students so that we can keep doing what we do well and, importantly, we can plan improvement strategies.”

“Given that we have small classes at ICMS, we can respond swiftly and tailor our delivery to students’ needs,” Le Sueur added.

“The active learning workshop encouraged our Faculty to think about the way they engage their class and gave them tools to be more effective in this pedagogy.”

For more information on the Learning and Teaching Principles at ICMS, click here.

For a list of Scholarship of Learning and Teaching (SoLT) winners, click here.


Blooms Taxonomy

Threshold Concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): Epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning. Jan HF Meyer & Ray Land.

Wallace, C. S., Prather, E. E., Milsom, J. A., Johns, K., & Manne, S. (2020). Students taught by a first-time instructor using active learning teaching strategies outperform students taught by a highly-regarded traditional instructor. arXiv preprint arXiv:2004.09684.




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