Students' academic freedom the focus of 2012 Symposium
The HERDSA Graduate Attributes Symposium 2012 was held on May 15, as the first in what is intended to be an annual series of events. Reaching maximum registration in a matter of weeks, the event proved to be not only well-attended, but also highly thought-provoking for attendees.
These events, hosted by the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia NZ (HERDSA) in partnership with from Ako Aotearoa, will explore our expected outcomes for students in higher education. Each year a different graduate attribute will form the core of the symposium, with this year’s subject being student academic freedom and critical thinking.
The international keynote speaker for 2012 was Associate Professor Bruce Macfarlane of the University of Hong Kong. His presentation challenged the way that graduate attributes are often constructed and discussed, and the implications of this for critical thinking amongst students. Key to this was the question of whether we place too strong an emphasis on ‘affective’ attributes (relating to such concepts as ‘good citizenship’) compared to more ‘scholarly’ attributes (such as critique, self-reflection, and open dialogue).
Also speaking at the event was Associate Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith of the University of Otago, leader of the Ako Aotearoa-funded project Graduate Attributes – Are they driving learning? And who knows about them? Rachel presented interim material from this work, giving participants the opportunity not only to preview initial findings, but also provide feedback and additional perspectives for inclusion in the final report. The findings to date illustrate the need for organisations to think carefully about the purposes of graduate attributes, and how this relates to their development, use, and links to staff and student engagement.