Developing student skills for the next decade
On behalf of all the Western Australian universities, Edith Cowan University welcomes you to the 20th annual Teaching and Learning Forum. The theme for the 2011 Forum is Developing student skills for the next decade.
There has been much written in the press regarding the lack of employability skills of university graduates, and both DEEWR and the Business Council of Australia have identified the skills that our students should acquire as they develop specific discipline expertise. In 2007, The Australian Financial Review published an article by Steven Schwartz (19 March 2007) pointing out that our tertiary entrance scores do little to inform academics about student literacies and skills upon entry and graduation. We are beginning to see initiatives to address this issue, one such being the ALTC threshold learning outcomes . These TLOs are academic standards for assuring minimum learning outcomes for all Australian graduates.
The 2011 Teaching and Learning Forum will explore these literacies through papers, discussions and workshops. It is hoped that every participant will gain new insights into the issues and be able to apply some of these to their own practice, developing new networks to carry on the conversation.
Professor Sue Stoney
Head of the Centre for Learning and Development, Edith Cowan University
Table 1 presents our standard summary of numbers of submissions and outcomes for TL Forum 2011. Table 2 provides a seven year overview, which suggests upon initial perusal that "steady state" and "sustainable" (a phrase used in the 2010 Editorial ) remain the most apt descriptors for the series, now numbering 20 Forums (1992-2011) .
|Category (a)||Submitted (b)||Accepted||Rejected||Offered||Withdrawn(b)||Net outcome(b)|
|Ref prof prac||10||7||3(d)||10(e)||1||9|
|Year||Research||Professional practice||Abs only|
However, looking more closely at this year, it seems likely that use of the Forum Proceedings for publishing research articles is entering into a decline caused by changes in Australian Government policies concerning its recognition of "research outlets" . TL Forum's relatively long period of "steady state" and "sustainable" may be ending. That is a forward estimate with a touch of gloomy pessimism, so TL Forum presenters may well ask, "Why the pessimism?" Let's address that question, starting with a long but very pertinent excerpt from TL Forum 2011 editorial correspondence.
"Also, looking at the ERA classifications and how the professional practice papers won't count, are you expecting that not too many people will put in papers for refereeing? I can't see that it would be worth your while to do a Professional practice paper for refereeing, unless you wanted feedback, but even then, it would be considered published wouldn't it?" To paraphrase and adapt explicitly to TL Forum, we suggest that journal editors are likely to be impressed favourably by your disclosure (e.g. in an acknowledgement paragraph) that a preliminary version was presented at TL Forum 2011, with publication in 'Abstract only' or one of the refereed paper categories. Indicate that your work has been 'through a good school' (even though a diligent editor may delete the TL Forum reference, before sending out for double blind external review)!
This is a difficult question. It is considered in several editorials, including: 
"A number of perspectives may be entertained. One perspective is the view that TL Forum's core strength is the interchange of ideas that will benefit teaching and learning, and research is secondary, though of course research underlies all endeavours to improve teaching and learning...."
"We express the hope that TL Forum presentations, in all categories of publication, will encourage and help authors to continue developing their research and professional practice topics for future publication in a journal, a book chapter or a conference proceedings...."
"...writing up a report is an act of learning and in this sense, we write for ourselves so that, when we read what we have written, we find out what, in the end, we have learned. [3: Winter, R. (1996). Some principles and procedures for the conduct of action research. In O. Zuber-Skerritt (Ed), New directions for action research. London: Farmer.]" (my response to the question, "Is it 'worth your while to do a Professional practice paper for refereeing...'"!!)
The trick with writing for a conference proceedings is to publish a preliminary or brief or 'mid-project' report, thus leaving room for future submission of a final or full or 'conclusion of project' version to a journal. Explicit advice about this approach has been given in recent ascilite Conference calls for papers, e.g. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/?m=Call-for-proposals 
Whilst editorial policies vary considerably and some may be changing in response to changing times, in general publication of a 'full' or 'final' version in TL Forum Proceedings 2011 is likely to preclude publication of the same work in a journal (for definitive advice authors should consult the editors of the journal concerned). The qualifier 'changing in response to changing times' takes us into the nub of the matter. In pursuit of its research excellence agenda, the Australian Research Council's ERA process has defined "ranked outlets"  and in this framework relatively few conferences are accorded a ranking. TL Forum falls into the rather large group of conferences officially described as "Conferences that are not ranked are legitimate conferences, but may not be of consistent quality, or may be too new to be assigned a quality tier" . You don't need to be an expert tutor to spot the problem with negative feedback like that. It and other advice from the ARC very directly and bluntly countermands our editorial advice as quoted above!! It also is likely to move journal editors and the scholarly publishing industry generally towards a more sympathetic, more liberal view about republication of conference papers.
Consideration of 'other advice from the ARC' is quite a difficult exercise, because it is often a case of advice not being given, or information not being revealed (for example, see references cited in , , , ). In particular, the ARC is not revealing any reasonably detailed information about how it developed its rankings (what was the research process, if any?), or its justification for projecting research excellence as apparently focused exclusively upon international excellence (what about other perspectives and purposes underlying excellence?). To reiterate a recent comment:
...it [the ARC] should be an influential leader in reviewing the question of why do research. Is why do research to be focused narrowly upon attaining "international excellence" above all else, or is the why to be blended with other big purposes, like serving the community who fund the research, and the professional growth of researchers? To what extent is "international excellence" aligned with our community's needs and the professional growth of researchers (that is, recognising research as embedding an element of learning, illustrated most prominently in university processes concerned with awarding of research degrees, academic appointments and promotions)? Now for the pessimism perspective. TL Forum has a long tradition of according high weight to the professional growth of researchers, in particular facilitating the view that one's own teaching can be improved through researching it, and helping to enable a path for those whose highest priority activities in research have to be discipline based. The pessimism arises because phrases such as professional growth and teaching can be improved seem to be forever lost from the ARC's lexicon.
Roger Atkinson and Clare McBeath
TL Forum Proceedings Editors
|Please cite as: TL Forum (2011). Wecome and Editorial. In Developing student skills for the next decade. Proceedings of the 20th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 1-2 February 2010. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2011/editorial.html|