EI Conference 2012

EI Conference 2012, National University of Singapore.

The theme of the sixth U21 Educational Innovation Conference, held from 8 to 9 November 2012 at the National University of Singapore, was Transformative Education in the 21st Century, with a dual focus on enhancing active student engagement and broadening educational experience.


The four invited speakers for this two-day event each addressed a particular aspect of these sub-themes:


  • Gary Poole: Self-direction as a path of transformative learning
  • Michael McManus: New media literacies and personalized learning
  • Daniel Bernstein: Bringing breadth and integration to undergraduate education
  • Amy Tsui: Nurturing global citizens in undergraduate education


In the first lecture, delivered by Professor Gary Poole of the University of British Columbia, the 46 participants were invited to react on the meaning of ‘transformative learning’ and to explore the potential of self-directed learning. Drawing examples from medical education, Professor Poole urged the audience to consider the development of the learner’s self and identity in the transformational process of an engaged learning experience, where learners were led to actively ask, “Who am I?” “Who can I be?” “Do I have it in me [to attain specific goals]?” Such processes involved in the exploration of a sense of identity which could lead to the expansion of the self are, in Professor Poole’s view, what constituted the meaning of transformational growth.


Professor Michael McManus of the University of Queensland delivered the second lecture, which focused on forms of new media literacies in an age where “all education is local, but local means global”. Like Professor Poole, Professor McManus also stressed a student-centric focus on the learner. Citing Paul Barker, Professor McManus placed the emphasis on the individual learner in the following way: “The moments of the class must belong to the student – not the students, but to the very undivided student. You don’t teach a class. You teach a student.” Utilising this focus on personalised learning, enabled by online course content and appropriate learning analytics, Professor McManus shared UQ’s strategic approach to providing instructors with the necessary support to embrace elearning platforms and to re-design their courses.


Professor Daniel Bernstein of the University of Kansas led with the third lecture on the second day of the conference, with examples that drove home the point of integrating various dimensions of learning at the level of individual courses, where specific course activities actively promoted knowledge or skills integration. Professor Bernstein shared several ideas with the audience, including the use of rubrics in the assessment of student work and active reflections on teaching as documented in the individual e-portfolio that were featured in an online gallery. Both of these efforts made explicit or made public what were often left unspecified – the former provided explicit assessment criteria to aid student development and the latter encouraged teachers to make public their own development in teaching.


Finally, Professor Amy Tsui of the University of Hong Kong shared her university’s experience in cultivating international or global perspectives through experiential learning, which involved a reconceptualisation of the curriculum, from one that compartmentalised classroom learning and extra-curricular learning to a holistic amalgamation which brought about a total learning experience. Citing examples of experiential learning that focused on doing, as opposed to learning, and on the collaborative and social process of learning where problems were ill-defined rather than artificially predefined by instructors, where knowledge was co-constructed from the ground up rather than prescribed, Professor Tsui made the links between this form of active learning experience to the cultivation of global citizens who were equipped with global attributes such as intercultural awareness, team work and a collaborative spirit.


Each of these lectures was followed by a 90-minute breakout discussion session where participants were given the opportunity to deliberate over the issues raised in each lecture and to share experiences from their own institutions. Though the two-day event was packed with discussions and lectures, it was clear from the buzz and activity level that all participants were enriched by the exchanges that cut across the sixteen participating U21 institutions.


We look forward to meeting again in Dublin in late October 2013 when University College Dublin will play host to this U21 Educational Innovation flagship event. In the meantime, we trust that the ideas that were generated from the conference will have spurred individuals to reflect on how they could individually transform student learning in their own institution, to rethink existing course design and delivery, and to collectively bring about transformative learning experiences for students in U21 institutions and beyond.


Huang Hoon Chng
Associate Provost
National University of Singapore


The keynote presentations given at the 2012 EI Conference can be downloaded below. Videos of each presentation are also available to watch on the U21 Youtube channel, which can be accessed via the link below.

Conversations on Education, between keynote speakers Professor Gary Poole and Professor Michael McManus, has been published in the Journal of the NUS Teaching Academy. The article can also be downloaded below.