Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2008

Summary of Projects

Project Title

Dual sector delivery of Construction Management Elective Courses

Project Leaders

Tricia McLaughlin

Funds Approved

$46,250

Summary of the project, outcomes, impacts and dissemination

The original LTIF 2007 pilot project drew upon sound educational research indicating the importance of hands-on knowledge and first hand experience in the learning process. Approaches were made to the TAFE School of Plumbing and Fire Protection and the School of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration. These two schools were identified as containing curriculum that had practical modules matching the theoretical knowledge offered in the degree course. The level of co-operation between the three groups was at first tentative, but over time grew to a position of mutual respect and professional collaboration. All 80 enrolled HE students in the Building Services course were given the opportunity to undertake two units in each of these TAFE schools. The curriculum was carefully selected by the teachers and HE staff to reflect learning needs and to "value-add" to the HE course.

Wherever possible, existing curriculum was utilized at Certificate 3 level. The students undertook the units over a full, intensive week of classes in TAFE, rotating between the teachers and buildings. At the completion of each TAFE unit, competency assessments were undertaken and student feedback was obtained. The results were overwhelmingly positive. Students and staff were immensely satisfied with the pilot project and rated it highly in terms of improved learning, better understandings and greater opportunities for dual sector qualifications. The staff  involved were also over-whelmingly supportive of the classes and prepared to undertake additional work to enhance the project. The professional collaboration between the three schools was much enhanced and was one of the unexpected positives in the pilot project.

Reviews of the project however revealed that the success of the 2007 pilot project, although outstanding and beyond expectations, was not sustainable in terms of project budgeting, staffing and resourcing. The 2007 pilot project was a huge success due in most part to the goodwill and energy of the TAFE Heads of School, the HE staff and in particular the TAFE teachers who had engaged in the day to day teaching. The research outcomes indicated that the students' level of satisfaction was in part due to the professionalism and energy of the TAFE teachers involved. Also the sheer numbers of students enrolled in the HE program was prohibitive: over 200 students in any year level. Clearly a better alternative was required to sustain dual sector collaboration into the future! All of the staff involved were heavily committed to the vision of cross sector education and the value of the project, so in 2008, LTIF funding was sought to create a more sustainable model of dual sector education.

In 2008, the School of PCPM and TAFE School of Plumbing and Fire Protection jointly offered skills electives in a range of areas. Students could freely enrol into an elective in the TAFE school. HE students in the School of PCPM  selected elective units from existing TAFE  modules in the School of Plumbing and Fire Services to build a program of study leading to a TAFE statement of competency and, if they wished to continue, an eventual TAFE qualification.

Due to resourcing issues, the number of students enrolling at any one time was capped at 28 students. This is an OHS and TAFE structural requirement. Over an intensive week of classes, students undertook modules drawn from the Certificate 3 programs. Students and staff also undertook a variety of site visits to the Multiplex Brookfield Convention Centre site to enhance learning and practical applications. Students were required to complete competency assessments and undertake a reflective journal. Current feedback indicates the success of the electives and again indicates the desire by students to have dual sector pathways provided in their programs.

Positive outcomes were also indicated by staff feedback. The Construction Skill electives were embedded in the HE program with course codes and curriculum and are now self-funding through HE enrolment.

The provision of cross-sector (TAFE/HE) skills electives in construction allowed flexibility of learning by enabling students to pursue areas of interest at the technical and vocational level and to develop skills in new areas that will enhance their changing work careers.

The two pilots (2007 and 2008) were different in delivery and philosophy. One embedded TAFE units in the existing HE course, value adding to the learning experience; one created stand alone elective courses built upon TAFE units of competency. In 2009, LTIF funding will be sought for a review of these articulated pathways and a proposal for a model of greater access and equity will be tested in a new pilot project combining the best practice features of both pilots.

For these projects to succeed, the goodwill and additional support of a wide-range of people from the PVC, Jim Barber, to Heads of Schools, co-ordinators and administrators was required. Most importantly they require the energetic support of the front line personnel: the teachers and lecturers. It is these people who provide the learning experience for the students and create solutions to the problems on the ground when the pilot is conducted. Geoff Burns, Warren James and Glen Woods were instrumental in making the project successful. Without the support of these staff, the project would not have succeeded.

These projects create a template for the future for other TAFE and HE schools and provide flexible, useful pathways and learning opportunities for RMIT students, ensuring our graduates are first choice for construction employers and remain industry leaders into the future. The skill electives will again be offered to HE students in 2009, with an emphasis on formalising the qualifications and skill profiles for the future.

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