The evaluation of an offshore professional development program as part of a University's strategic plan: a case study approach.
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In response to the need for the tertiary sector to ensure the ongoing quality of teaching and learning, a Western Australian university has implemented a divisional strategic plan in order to gain quality student feedback and support staff professional development. In 2000-2002 the Business Division within the university established a systematic quality assurance mechanism called the Unit Effectiveness Project (UEP) to obtain feedback from students regarding their perceptions of their learning experiences. Based on this feedback a strategic plan to refine the units was implemented, and these planned refinements were then re-examined in the following UEP cycle. While not presenting logistical problems for onshore staff, the use of such a refinement process experienced increased problems in offshore settings and, in 2001, the Business Division proposed to initiate a professional development workshop series in order to enhance the teaching and learning skills of lecturers working in partner institutions. The professional development mirrored the service provided to the onshore campus teaching staff. This case study investigates the results of the research that was conducted with the offshore lecturers who participated in the professional development workshops. These lecturers were generally Singaporeans teaching within the Business School programme. The results of both the quantitative and qualitative data collected suggested that the participants had benefited from the workshop components that dealt with the identification of common presentation faults, planning and organisation, the establishment of optimal learning environments and appropriate teacher characteristics. The sample also agreed that there was a strong need for the on-going provision of staff development for offshore lecturers and that the experience had been of assistance in clarifying a number of issues related to teaching and learning such as the importance of interacting with students and colleagues and sharing ideas associated with good practice. The results indicated that the programme should continue; however, amendments were needed to structure and content such as an increased use of case study approaches, more opportunities to witness and discuss good practice in teaching and learning, and possible formal accreditation for achievement of programme outcomes by offshore participants.
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