Archive for July, 2008

Research students ‘bridge the gap’ at UNE conference

July 25th, 2008

2008conference.jpgMore than 90 students working towards postgraduate degrees through the University of New England came together at the University last week to share their research experiences. Many of the students were from overseas, and at least 15 of them travelled to Australia specifically for this event  the 3rd Annual Postgraduate Research Conference within UNE’s Faculty of The Professions. The conference, which ran from Tuesday the 15th to Friday the 18th of July, was – like its two predecessors – titled Bridging the Gap between Ideas and Doing Research.

In welcoming the postgraduate researchers, Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions, pointed out that many of them had attended at least one of the two previous Bridging the Gap conferences, and that the numbers attending had increased over the years. This demonstrates the value and support the conference is providing to students, Professor Minichiello said.

The program is truly interdisciplinary and international, he said, with students travelling to UNE from South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, the United States, and other parts of the world. It’s inspiring to see the innovative research projects being carried out by these postgraduate students and to listen to their presentations.

Research training is one of the most rewarding activities of academic life, said Professor Peter Flood, UNE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), also speaking at the opening session. Professor Flood, too, referred to the growing number of research students in the Faculty.

The conference, convened by Associate Professor Rafat Hussain and Dr Terrence Hays from the Faculty of The Professions and organised by the Faculty’s Sue Whale, provides a friendly atmosphere for students to present their research and get feedback from academics and fellow students.

Carina Bossu (pictured here), a Brazilian student, is in the final months of her PhD program at UNE. She attended the inaugural Bridging the Gap conference in 2006, but was in Brazil at the time of last year’s conference. It’s a great opportunity for postgraduate students to get to know each other and learn about each other’s research, she said.

Emilio Morales, from Chile, is nearing the end of his first year of PhD research into the feasibility of quality-related beef branding in Australian supermarkets. He said he had received useful feedback on his own research, and valuable information on the research process in general.

Andrew Close, an Australian working at the International School of Geneva in Switzerland, was in Armidale for the conference and to meet for the first time  the supervisor of his Doctor of Education project, Dr David Paterson. It’s fascinating to see the process of research in real life, he said, and to get to know other people in a similar situation.

Among the keynote speakers at the conference were two distinguished visitors to UNE: Professor Brian Paltridge from the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, and Mr Bill Lawrence AM, Deputy Chief Executive of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Professor Paltridge, the author of several books on academic writing, spoke about the factors that variably influence the style and structure of each postgraduate thesis, while the title of Mr Lawrence’s address was A Research Framework for Safety and Quality in Health Care the Challenge of Putting Policy into Practice.

Pedagogical Enhancement through Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) in Rural and Regional NSW Schools – Dr Jan Connelly and Sue Gregory

July 14th, 2008

iwb-gilgandra-high.jpgThis project uses video to capture exemplary pedagogical practice related to Interactive Whiteboard use in rural and remote classrooms. The end product will be the production of a DVD for use in PD sessions related to the use of ICT to enhance learning.

Since November 2007 the project team has visited a number of schools in the far west of NSW, recording five videos to date, each approximately 50 minutes in length. The sessions were followed up by interviews of both teachers and students, also recorded on video.

The questions asked of teachers and students centred on the impact of IWB technology on pedagogy, the teachers and students attitudes about the levels and types of support available in the school context for IWB use. For example:

What did teacher/students see as the value of using interactive whiteboards in lesson preparation, designs and delivery (how was it different from what had been experienced before)?

What beliefs do they hold about this technology and its relationship to the enhancement of learning and teaching?

What contextual factors constrain or enhance the use of the technology in teaching and learning?

What learning outcomes and Quality teaching elements are supported by the use of interactive electronic whiteboards in various Key Learning Areas?

The quality of the demonstration IWB lessons was very high, and the videos captured fine examples of teacher and student use. In addition to the video stream of the teaching sessions, the researchers also took field notes. Planning is underway to visit more schools and capture further sessions across the year levels and KLAs. In addition, the project team has captured talking head footage from researchers at the University of Technology, Sydney who have conducted research on pedagogy and IWBs in six schools over the last two years. Their commentary will be interspersed with this project’s footage of sessions gathered in rural and regional schools.

Identifying Gifted and Talented Indigenous Students – Dr Peter Merrotsy

July 14th, 2008

normal_peter-merrotsy.jpgIndigenous conceptions of giftedness and appropriate educational responses to the cognitive and affective needs of gifted Indigenous children are not well understood, particularly in isolated rural communities. This project explored conceptions of giftedness held by Indigenous parents, teachers and other community members, and the ways in which gifted and talented children might be identified within their communities. The project was also sensitive to the openness of community members to ongoing dialogue and possible collaboration in further gifted and talented education projects.


Groote Island and Bikerton Island are certainly among the most isolated educational contexts in Australia. Three of the schools are community schools for three Indigenous language groups. This project combined the delivery of professional learning with speculative research. Professional training and development in gifted education was delivered to teachers of Alyangula Area School, Angurugu Community Education Centre, Umbakumba School on Groote Eylandt, and Milyakburra School on Bikerton Island. Community workshops were also provided for parents in each of the four communities.

Research was conducted into the education of gifted and talented students and Indigenous conceptions of giftedness and appropriate educational responses. This involved observation of children involved in classroom activities, discussions with teachers, school executive teachers, and Aboriginal Education Assistants, and sighting of school documentation and teaching programmes.

Benefits to Rural and Regional Education

The project uncovered a real willingness on the part of teachers and Indigenous community members for ongoing dialogue and collaboration with SiMERR. Indeed, gaining a commitment from the Indigenous communities for continued cooperation was a very significant outcome in itself. The initial visit also revealed a number of promising avenues for further investigation, including the limiting effects of bureaucratic and network barriers to ICT use, the need for greater access to reading materials and the importance of role modelling in shaping attitudes towards academic giftedness, especially among young male students. These observations will form the basis of potential projects to be proposed during a follow up visit.

Contexts that Apply and Promote Scientific Understanding, Learning and Expression (CAPSULE): A professional development project for rural and regional schools to support the teaching and learning of science in Years 7 and 8 – Dr Greg McPhan

July 14th, 2008

capsule.jpgThis project provides professional development support for science teachers wishing to integrate components of the NSW junior science syllabus more effectively into their teaching. The recently introduced syllabus requires student learning to be facilitated through reference to relevant, real world contexts that highlight and illustrate the application of knowledge and skills. However, evidence suggests that this requirement has had little impact on the way science is taught in NSW high schools.

Knowing how teachers identify meaningful and relevant contexts to develop existing knowledge should provide valuable contributions to discussions about how to engage students in learning about science.

Five rural and regional high schools are involved in the project, with two science teachers from each school preparing and trialling units of work for students in Years 7 and 8. So far, the teachers have attended two all-day workshops at UNE, supplemented by visits by the principal researcher to their schools.

Two guiding questions have been used to inform the design of the units:

1. How do the selected learning experiences promote scientific literacy?

2. How are the learning experiences linked to specific real-world contexts and/or syllabus outcomes?

The project is enabling teachers to evaluate their units in terms of the extent to which chosen learning experiences promote scientific literacy, and how contexts are being applied to engage students. It also lays a foundation for structuring assessment for further learning.

Interviews and unit evaluations are being used to gather feedback from teachers and students throughout the project. As they reflect on their involvement in the project, teachers are being asked to consider six areas related to the use of contexts:

  • guidelines contained within the syllabus;
  • the extent of resources;
  • impact on student learning;opportunities for professional development;
  • pedagogy; and
  • the scope of applying a contexts approach to teaching and learning.

The project should be completed by July 2008.

Gifted and Talented Enrichment Days for Rural Students (2007-2008) – Dr Susen Smith

July 14th, 2008

enrichment-day.jpgThis project implements teacher professional development linked with student enrichment days for gifted students in rural and regional educational settings. In this way, both teachers and students are able to acquire new skills, build on existing ones and share their newfound skills and strategies within their own educational contexts so others can benefit from the program. The project is a collaboration between SiMERR NSW, the School of Education, UNE Gifted and Talented coordinators, TalentEd, community volunteers and teachers and students from rural NSW schools. MAC1 Armidale also sponsored the event by loaning 50 laptops, an education facilitator and support staff.

The first of the planned Enrichment Days was held late last year. It included professional learning for middle school teachers on developing skills in using ICT software to create animations. Selected Gifted and Talented students from fifth to eighth grade level came to UNE for two days to learn about animation, including stop-motion, traditional drawn animation and pixilation. The 60 students, some from as far as Walgett, formed groups and applied what they had learned during the program to create their own short animated films using computer software, digital cameras, and their own props with some outstanding results. The program allowed rural and regional students and teachers to be creative problem solvers in a collaborative context and to use a variety of computer software and other materials to support their creations in an enjoyable and authentic learning environment. ICT skills were developed and students from isolated communities had the opportunity to work with like-minded peers. Students and teachers were given copies of their finished animations, all of which were placed on UNE’s TalentEd website (

Parents were given information to help maximize their child’s opportunities in the area of creative animation and design. They also took part in a forum to discuss their children’s needs in relation to gifted and talented education. Members of the Advisory Committee were very helpful and assisted in the planning and implementation of the event and provided suggestions for future planning. The survey evaluation data are currently being analyzed and the outcomes will be used to plan the next enrichment day and to write a paper. A further goal is to investigate options for future funding so the project becomes sustainable.

The funding provided by SiMERR NSW supported schools travel costs and enabled the most creative groups to be commended for the most imaginative storylines and productive use of the technology.

Michael Eburn

July 9th, 2008


Michael Eburn is a Senior Lecturer in the School. His areas of research interest are
(1) the law relating to the emergency services; and
(2) emergency management, and criminal law.
Michael’s current research is looking at Australia’s legal preparedness to cope with a catastrophic disaster that would require Australia to receive international disaster assistance. This builds on his work on emergency management generally and will focus on the role of the Commonwealth government in emergency management. This research has taken him to Geneva to meet with representatives from the UN, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of NGOs involved in disaster response.
His research is attracting interest from around the emergency services community. He was recently invited to attend the workshop to develop National Research Priorities on Climate Change and Emergency Management and has been invited to give presentations to Emergency Management Australia, the Office of the Victorian Emergency Services Commissioner, the NSW State Emergency Service and the Bureau of Meteorology.
A key outcome of his current research will be to develop law reform proposals to facilitate a national disaster response in the event of a catastrophic disaster such as the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami or Hurricane Katrina. The proposals will ensure Australia adopts an ‘all hazards’ approach to disasters and bring the national response to natural disasters into line with the response to terrorist related incidents.

Distinguished visitors to present global nursing vision

July 8th, 2008

ivbagThe University of New England will be honoured next week by a visit from the President and the Chief Executive Officer of the world’s leading honour society of nursing.

Professor Carol Huston is the President, and Dr Patricia Thompson is the CEO of Sigma Theta Tau International, based in the United States. While at UNE, they will give a public presentation titled “Vision 2020: Sigma Theta Tau International looks to the future”.

Their presentation will be from 9 am till 11 am in the Somerville Lecture Theatre in UNE’s Pat O’Shane Building. Everyone is welcome to the presentation, which will be linked by video conference to audiences at the University of Newcastle and Southern Cross University.

Professor Huston and Dr Thompson are visiting UNE at the invitation of Associate Professor Jeanne Madison and Associate Professor Mary Cruickshank from UNE’s School of Health  both members of Sigma Theta Tau. The visit follows the 19th International Nursing Research Congress in Singapore (7 – 11 July), at which the two international leaders are officiating.

Sigma Theta Tau International, which has more than 405,000 members around the world, supports the learning, knowledge, and professional development of nurses in order to improve the health of the world’s people. It has a significant emphasis on research and evidence-based practice.

Dr Madison and Dr Cruickshank said that their distinguished guests would report on their visit to UNE in the international Journal of Nursing Scholarship, the leading, peer-reviewed scholarly journal with a global circulation of 130,000. The journal reaches health professionals, university Faculties and students in 90 countries.

While at UNE they will be introduced to the new version of the University’s Bachelor of Nursing program which  uniquely in Australia qualifies students to work as Enrolled Nurses after their first two years of study, as well as Registered Nurses at the completion of the three-year degree course. The new program began for on-campus students this year, and will be available next year for distance-education students.