Achieving impact through co-construction: Successful conclusion of CETL’s international conference 2018 – Tracy Zou
One effective way to achieve impact of teaching and learning is to invite all stakeholders to gather together, sharing, discussing and exploring pedagogical approaches and learning environments that are conducive to excellence in learning and teaching. This is what has happened in CETL’s International Conference entitled Co-constructing Excellence: Recognising, Scaffolding and Building Excellence in University Learning and Teaching.
The conference was held on 18-19 December in the Jockey Club Tower on Centennial Campus at HKU. One hundred and twenty participants representing 15 countries and regions have attended the conference. Four keynote speeches, two student and keynote panel discussions, forty-eight oral paper presentations, sixteen poster presentations, and four join-the-conversation sessions took place in these two days. Discussions were taking place among multiple stakeholders, including students, academics, curriculum leaders, educational developers and university management, on issues relating to how we define and measure ‘teaching excellence’, and how we set about building, recognising, reinforcing a culture of teaching excellence in our institutions.
A lot of intriguing questions have been raised and discussed in the conference, among which, I chose to highlight two. These two questions, in my view, spoke closely to the essence of the theme of co-constructing excellence. One question is who the co-constructors are? This question has been asked since the initial planning of the conference and was also discussed during the conference. Many participants and our committee members, including myself, have assumed that the most important co-constructing relationship is that between students and teachers. This type of co-construction is certainly crucial as it is beneficial to involve students as partners in designing their learning experiences. In this regard, presentations focusing on student-teacher co-constructed MOOC and experiential learning programmes in the conference have provided useful insights. The other important co-constructing relationship that caught the attention of many during the conference was co-construction among faculty members. Interestedly and to a certain extent ironically, the importance of collaboration among faculty members was pointed out by two students sitting on the panel discussion. One raised the issue of interdisciplinarity in teaching and learning, which in many cases had to involve co-constructing curricular among multiple faculty members from different disciplines. The two students mentioned that more of this type of co-construction is needed in higher education, which could allow students to explore, analyse, and tackle complex issues in today’s world.
The other question is what excellence in university learning and teaching means? A set of related questions includes: What criteria should we use to determine the excellence? Is excellence the same in different institutions and different cultures with different student and teacher populations? One notion people seemed to agree with was that excellence should not be directed at the performativity of teachers; rather, it should concern the learning experiences of students and the quality of education. It is worth further discussion if the various emerging teaching excellence frameworks and standards actually reflect the matters that are of the most concern. The subsequent questions for a place without an established teaching excellence framework, like Hong Kong, would probably be whether we need to adopt one and in what ways we can incorporate the local culture and context if we think teaching and learning is context specific. In this regard, the presentation that was awarded the best paper presentation in our conference by Dr. Shelen Ho provided some useful insights. Her presentation explored the role of cultural identity and heritage in the design of flipped and team-based learning with students in Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. The fact that this presentation received the greatest support from participants perhaps also implied that the cultural and contextual factors associated with excellence in learning and teaching are important and worth continuous exploration.
The fruitful conversations and intriguing ideas emerging from these conversations in the conference are meaningful while we hope that the impact can extend beyond these to result in new frameworks and even paradigms that can direct us to the core of education quality. This, I believe, needs to depend on us, the passionate co-constructors, to continue engaging in the conversations, taking actions, deepening explorations, stepping out of our comfort zone, bringing our students, colleagues, community partners on board, and contributing to our broad community of practice.
More information about the conference can be found here: https://www.cetl.hku.hk/conf2018/