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Editorial: Enhancing the Undergraduate Learning Experience

Justine Vincin, Monash University

 

In 1987 the American Association of Higher Education Bulletin published an article entitled 'Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education' (Chickering and Gamson, 1986). The authors' work built on 50 years of research into the policies and practices of various tertiary institutions and defined consistent factors conducive to an exceptional undergraduate learning experience. Within a decade, 'Principles' had been adapted to respond to the increased use of technology in education, demonstrating how rapidly developments outside of the immediate classroom setting impact on pedagogy (Chickering and Ehrmann: 1996). Fortunately for undergraduates today, the principles - which include collaboration between faculty and students, working with students' individual capabilities and promoting realistic, goal-orientated outcomes - are so comprehensively implemented that they could be said to be both common sense and standard practice. Undergraduate education today is inclusive and interactive, and is increasingly focussed on professional expectations. Technological advances have brought unprecedented opportunities for autonomous learning without limiting channels of communication between students and educators. Yet the question of how best to enhance the undergraduate learning experience is still at the forefront of present educational developments, as faculty and students alike face the opportunities and challenges of the present educational and technological climate.

This issue of Reinvention marks the first anniversary of the journal's joint hosting by two tertiary institutions. The Monash-Warwick Alliance, which brings together staff and students from both universities in the pursuit of a truly internationalised education, is equally concerned with the question of enriching the undergraduate learning experience. By extension, the cross-institutional management of Reinvention embodies this endeavour. The Reinvention team believes that a significant contribution can be made in undergraduate education by involving students in the world of academic publishing. The decision to partner Monash University with the University of Warwick, and accordingly its Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL), represents the ongoing commitment of both institutions to implementing innovative practices in undergraduate education. Having been involved with Reinvention throughout this year, I am fortunate to be in a position to reflect on how the ambitions of the Alliance's administrators have been realised from an undergraduate perspective, amongst the Reinvention team and our undergraduate contributors alike.

The collaboration between Warwick and Monash Universities has presented unique challenges for the management of Reinvention's future. The most obvious amongst these are the logistical considerations of co-ordinating an editorial team across two continents, with two time zones and opposing academic cycles. These issues are compounded by the nature of undergraduate study and the willingness of the editorial team members to embrace all the opportunities that an undergraduate education has to offer. The administration of the journal has therefore accommodated professional placements, overseas study opportunities, the demands of dissertation writing, and additional curricular endeavours such as research conferences and field trips. Fortunately the technology we have at our disposal in undergraduate education today has allowed us to form good working relationships despite the distance.

At a fundamental level, the cross-campus team has also managed differing understandings of what constitutes a high-calibre research article. The promotion of undergraduate research is still in its infancy in Australia, and consequently the Monash team initially grappled with distinguishing an original research paper from an excellent essay. Conversely, our Warwick counterparts demonstrated an acute awareness in this regard. In the process of working with editors and authors previously untrained in academic research and writing, our Warwick team members have been encouraged to look past a dismissible essay structure in order to uncover original research.

Approaching the same issue from different positions has resulted in positive outcomes for the journal. Increasingly, our initial screening of new submissions is resulting in fewer clear-cut outcomes of whether to accept or reject a paper. Instead, the editorial team finds itself more receptive to identifying the strengths in submissions and is willing to work closely with contributors to help them present their research in an appropriate manner. Not only is this consistent with Reinvention's ethos of promoting undergraduate research while providing a realistic academic publishing experience, but it also reveals how the initiative to manage jointly what was already an exceptional journal has enhanced the undergraduate experience for the editors as much as the contributors. Our initial processes were guided by the challenges of bringing together students from not only two institutions, but also two educational cultures, into one editorial team. As we move into the second year of the Monash-Warwick partnership, our practices are less guided by problems than they are defined by the search for solutions.

The year ahead holds further exciting developments in the way the Monash-Warwick Alliance fosters the presentation and publication of undergraduate research. After the success of the first International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR), another conference will take place in 2014 and Reinvention will again showcase the best research papers. The ICUR will also see the realisation of the Global Connections venture, which will provide an opportunity for undergraduates from Monash and Warwick Universities to develop a research project that reflects global developments in their disciplines. Successful candidates will benefit from the mentorship of academics from both institutions through a series of workshops guiding authors through the processes of presenting and writing their research.

Several papers in this issue are concerned with educational practices and student experiences. Shateara Hall (College of Charleston, USA) analyses the importance of teacher-student classroom relationships in 'Attachment in a Jewish Day School: The Role of the Teacher'. Francis Varian (University of Warwick, UK) focuses on educational practices in university education: collaborating with academic supervisors, the author examines how professional scenarios can be adapted to improve medical training in 'Overcoming barriers to interprofessional communication for medical students: can situational judgement tests help?'. Alice Rose Whitmore (Monash University, Australia) reflects on the processes of translating an innovative multimedia poetry project, in 'The Cosmogony of Translation: Translating Yaxkin Melchy's 'Los Planetas''. From Translation Studies we turn to languages: In 'Shared Foreignness: Student experiences of social inclusion and exclusion during study abroad', Timothy Penn, Agata Podvorska and Marta Anna Segit (University of Warwick, UK) consider how the undergraduate ERASMUS experience can be enhanced by effective social integration.

The topic of cultural identity continues in an Economics paper written by Mantas Vanagas (University of Warwick, UK). In 'Border effects among EU countries: do national identity and cultural differences matter?' the author argues that nationalism and cultural identity negatively impact upon trade patterns within the European Union. Varvara-Vera Pratikaki (University of Warwick, UK) presents a comparative study of material cultures in her History paper 'A comparative view of European and Japanese cultures through a study of their mechanical automata in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries'. Finally, Elena Stevens (University of Southampton, UK), analyses the late-nineteenth-century music hall genre of the tableaux vivant. In 'Making a Spectacle of Themselves: Art and female agency in 1890s music hall', the author relates the controversial performance art with the female emancipation movement of the twentieth century. In this issue we also include reviews of two recent publications, each of which has been reviewed by both an undergraduate and academic contributor. Professor Donald Singer (University of Warwick, UK) and Michelle Li (Monash University, Australia) offer their perspectives on Ben Goldacre's 2012 book, Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients. Tom Lawton (Monash University, Australia) and Jonathon Heron (University of Warwick, UK) each offer an appraisal of the Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Directing (Christopher Innes and Maria Shevtsova), which was published in June of this year.

In this edition of Reinvention we are pleased to present a higher number of quality research papers than usual, reflecting the efforts of our undergraduate editorial team from Warwick and Monash Universities. The Reinvention editors are excited to have the opportunity to help cultivate an undergraduate publishing culture in Australia and we look forward to bringing you further contributions from the Asia-Pacific in the future.

 


 

References

Chickering, Arthur W. and Zelda F. Gamson (1987), 'Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education', AAHE Bulletin, March, pp. 3-7.

Chickering, Arthur W. and Stephen C. Ehrmann (1996), 'Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever', AAHE Bulletin, October, pp. 3-6.

 

 

To cite this paper please use the following details: Vincin, J. (2013), 'Editorial: Enhancing the Undergraduate Learning Experience,' Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 6, Issue 2, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/reinventionjournal/archive/volume6issue2/editorial/ Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal at warwick dot ac dot uk.