Lindy is involved in the TPP (Tertiary Preparation Programme). In the core course in this program there are nine assignments and one exam. The course has a developmental aim and structure and assessment tasks are scaffolded. Students were originally required to complete each item to a satisfactory standard, in order to be eligible for a pass or higher grade in the course. The assessments cover a wide range of tasks from journal entries and reading logs to a report and an essay. The highest weighting has been18 per cent and the lowest 5 per cent. In the future, the assessment tasks will stay the same but will be amalgamated into two assignments because of the fifty per cent pass rule. This is because once students have achieved their fifty per cent they sometimes do not attempt the rest of the assignments. Because the course's purpose is developing academic skills, it is important students do it all.
The full scheme can be seen by following the link below.
Learning goals and objectives
This programme is not discipline-based but is designed instead to prepare students for university by building their skills. It looks at two broad areas: welfare and ecologically-sustainable development. These two areas are used as ‘proxy disciplines' to embed academic skills into the content. The learning goals are for students to be able to write an acceptable academic essay and to have the skills to be able to pass an exam.
The target audience is pre-university students and this is an open entry course to any adult. There are no prerequisites. The intake is very broad and includes many mature students, people for whom English is a second language, low o.p. students, incarcerated adults and people who left school before Year 12. About 300 students enrol per semester but there is a high drop-out rate due to the open-entry nature of the course.
This course relies mostly on printed materials because many students do not have access to technological skills and hardware. However, Study Desk/Moodle is also used and the team is trying to incorporate technology in ways that would improve access. Ambiguity and cultural misunderstandings have been minimised by a process of careful ongoing review and the number of queries from students due to ambiguity has been reduced.
Assignments have a simple criteria sheet which is provided for the students. For the sake of clarity, the importance of each course criterion is graded using a dot scheme, for example, ‘understanding the material' is placed at the top with four dots, and ‘mechanical skills' is placed lower, with two dots. This gives students a clear visual representation of the relative importance of the criteria.
The part-time markers are asked to complete their marking as soon as possible and are reminded of the three-week turnaround policy. Lindy ensures that feedback is effective by giving marking rubrics to the markers. Advice and queries are written directly on the assignments in order to ensure effective and comprehensive feedback.
The teaching team in this course comprises Lindy, Tas Bedford (who is the course examiner), David Bull, Henk Huijser and Jessamyn Clarke, as well as sessional part-time teachers and markers. The team has made use of the LTSU library reference guides and has also consulted with environmental science lecturers for the sustainable development stream.
Workloads for students break down into 170 hours of directed study, 85 hours of private study and 45 hours for assessment. The workload for staff is large and involves not only marking but also telephoning any students who appear to be having difficulties, and being available for consultation, etc.
When this new course was developed Lindy did a lot of moderating, finding examples of assignments from each grade and sending them out to all markers. Some assignments were then marked blind, and discussed individually. As markers became more experienced, Lindy was able just to send a couple of assignments out to each marker with a discussion of the expected levels, along with the marking rubrics. For the last two years, moderation has included markers marking the same assignments and the results being compared and discussed.
Lindy is happy with the assessment scheme. She feels that it works in improving students' academic skills, and comments from students are often very encouraging – students have a sense of achievement on completion of this course and once they start university they find the skills they have learned to be very helpful.
Problems and advice for others
Lindy's advice is to focus on the audience, making sure that you are presenting material that relates to the students and ensuring they understand why that material is there and how it is important to them. With assessment in particular it is important that students feel it relates directly to what they have been doing in the course.
Lindy says she tries to be aware of changes and new ideas in teaching and assessment. She is constantly looking at what other people are doing, changing and adapting, and she guards against complacency.
The TPP is only part of Lindy's job; the other part involves (mainly undergraduate) students' development of academic language and learning skills in their courses and programs. This involves discussions with both staff and students on assessment. Working with students in the Learning Centre (face to face, phone and email) and in the PALS program presents the opportunity to see how lecturers present assessment tasks and how students approach them. Working with staff can create opportunities to encourage/develop scaffolding of tasks within courses. Lindy's experience in the TPP program has been invaluable in assisting with these other aspects to her job. It has been a sound model which can be adapted to undergraduate course content in many disciplines.