Symposiums at Unitec – a great learning and sharing experience

Recently we have had two great symposiums at Unitec that highlighted some of the innovations happening right here, as well as opening us to new strategies from local experts.
Teaching and Learning Symposium

The Teaching and Learning Symposium on 1 October started with keynotes from Mike Walker of University of Auckland and Brian Evans of Kelston Boys High School. Mike shared his early explorations into teaching, tackling the low participation of Maori and Pacific Island students in sciences. He found taking the emotion out of the conversation and presenting the facts helped him increase student involvement in studies of New Zealand history.
Brian Evans presented many strategies for teaching Pacific Island boys, based on his Masters research and his experience as Prinicipal of Kelston Boys High and previously at De La Salle College. The message around developing relationships with trust and respect was loud and clear. He tells a story of achievement, not failures, as teachers need to STOP believing students will not achieve but create a culture promoting success and belief in achievement for all students. Brian says Change the Language, and remove the teacher as the barrier. One strategy was publishing student credits to create competition amongst students. Students responded to well prepared classes and activities with clear achievement goals; they want to know success criteria and believe feedback is important. They have a strong attendance push, there are homework groups and holiday programmes that are well attended. Create pathways and curriculum options, ensure every student leaves knowing they contribute to society. Challenge and confront students, celebrate success publicly.

One session I attended was with Sue Wake and Lucia Cha, with the title “Empowering learners through a case study with children: an undergraduate research report”. Not only was the research they conducted interesting, but Sue shared her journey as a research supervisor and the challenges to be found in supporting a research student studying in her own field of research interest.

Another great session was offered by Chris Lynch and Nikki Timu titled “The evolving learner and teacher identity with a portfolio as assessment”. They reflected on two different approaches to portfolio use with sports students; one class used portfolios for assessment and the other class used portfolios as a reflection tool. They found the assessment class challenged in the understanding of why they were required to create a portfolio, and the other class were challenged by the reflection task and the level of depth required in reflection and analysis. Chris and Nikki identified that teachers tend to transpose their own identity onto the student. They are looking to change their use of portfolios to offer more blended assessment, wider programme cohesion with less silos, and greater external involvement from industry.


Research Symposium

On the 3 October there was a Research Symposium presenting currently completed and progressing Unitec research. Nominees for the Research with Impact Award gave the audience a brief overview of their entries. After this, I attended the yellow stream session, with Bettina’s action research participants starting the session with ‘I learn through my research: Teaching and learning enquiry as the nexus between teaching, learning and research’. Giles Dodson gave a very fast but exciting and action packed talk on ‘A conservation partnership for development? Marine conservation and indigenous empowerment at Mimiwhangata’. One of the best topics I listened to was Annemarie Meijnen, Bettina Schwneger, Hua Dai, and Ksenija Napan: ‘Teachers in the sandpit: Playing with academic co-creative inquiry’, which definitely peaked my interest to read some more and look at what I might do differently in my own teaching practice. Mark Farnworth shared his findings on his research into the ‘Incidence of dog bites and public attitudes towards dog care and management in Samoa’, with many points being identified with, by those of us who have walked the streets of Samoa after dark. Gillian Whalley closed this session with a talk on  ‘Collaboration in research – an impenetrable barrier or essential for knowledge advancement?’, a topic dear to my heart, as an open source contributor and advocate for open data research.

There were many other talks throughout the day, so I am going to recommend people review the abstracts here and find time to talk to their colleagues about their work.


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