Silo-Breaking in the Bachelor of Education Early Years with Francesca Bussey
JUN, 2019

Teaching & Learning
Good Practice

My name is Francesca Bussey. I’m a lecturer with the ArtsEd Pod, Deakin Learning Futures. My role comprises curriculum leadership, academic development and learning design.

This project is undertaken in support of the Bachelor of Education, Early Years (BedEY). We like to call it a Transition and Transformation project, as it speaks to the needs of our students and the impact of the project on both students and the course.

I am leading the project in as much as I serve as the communication hub and oversee strategy and curriculum integrity. However, this project is best defined in terms of distributed leadership – each participant leads from their area of expertise within a community of practice. Critically, we do this in the service of our students and within a culture of collaboration, compassion and mutual respect.

Membership of this project spans 6 university divisions: School of Education; Institute of Koorie Education (IKE); ArtsEd Pod (DLF); Library; Study Support; ArtsEd Digital Learning.

Transitioning into university can be challenging because success is predicated on the capacity to adapt – to a new culture, to new people, to new ways of doing things and to critical new skills needed for academic success. Like many of Deakin’s students, the BedEY cohort is diverse and juggles competing priorities. Many have significant family and work commitments, and their experiences of education can be varied. Adapting to the new culture of academic life then, can prove highly challenging – particularly when learning is in the Cloud.

To support students better meet the challenge of transitioning into university study, the Transition and Transformation project team is piloting the integration of a series of scaffolded digital interventions and corresponding pedagogies into the core curriculum. Drawing on longitudinal studies at the local and international level (Baik, 2015; McKay & Devlin, 2014; Brooke, 2017) our interventions have focused on three distinct areas:

Digital and academic literacies: Embedding practical skills to support assessment

Threshold concepts: Unpacking difficult but crucial discipline-specific concepts

Belonging: Building cohort cohesion and teacher presence through Cloud Practice and Cloud Conferences.

Each unit has an attendant team who use Deakin’s Principles for Premium Learning and Teaching to embed good practice in the Cloud. See examples below:

Six divisions now work together in the service of the project, and each of us leads from our area of expertise. We are thus at heart a community of practice (Wegner, 1998) working within a distributed leadership model to achieve our aims.

This is what makes this project unique – it engages in silo-breaking, with students firmly positioned as our ‘true north’ (thanks to Jane den Hollander, our outgoing VC, for this notion of the student compass).

Early evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive, and results from student work indicates the skill modules have been successful. We look forward to further evaluations into T2.

Core to the success of this project is distributed leadership at a service level. This has allowed for some highly creative work and for some significant resourcing to take place across multiple divisions – all of which benefits both the students and the budgets of multiple divisions.

Kat Cain offers this advice for fostering collaboration:

Cross-divisional conversations are core to finding connections – so whether it be in a coffee queue or at Deakin Teaching and Learning events, make time to connect with people outside of your area. Finding those connections means that we can more easily identify projects where we all should be working together. There is true joy in working with different perspectives and backgrounds in order to create something better for our students. (Kat Cain)

Right: The BEDEY Team

Key members of this program include:

Natalie Robertson, Course Director of Bachelor of Education (Early Years), School of Education

Naomi Nirupa David, Lecturer in Education (Early Years) Institute of Koorie Education

Kat Cain, Manager, Digital Literacy Programs (Learning & Teaching, Library)

Craig Patterson, Manager, Faculty of Arts and Education Library Services, Learning and Teaching (Library)

Francesca Bussey, Lecturer, ArtsEdPod, Deakin Learning Futures

Christian Bass, Coordinator, Digital Resources, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin Learning Futures

Lisa Hanlon, Interactive Developer, Animations, ArtsEd Pod, Deakin Learning Futures

Karine Cosgrove, Digital Learning Education Designer (Digital Learning, ArtsEd)

Joe Grasso, Digital Learning Manager (Digital Learning, ArtsEd)

Anthony Neylan, Interactive Media Designer, Arts & Education, Deakin Learning Futures

Wes Howard, Language and Learning Adviser (Study Support)

Laura Dickinson, Language and Learning Adviser (Study Support)

Dominique Coorey, Liaison Librarian, Faculty of Education, Library

Robert Swain, Digital Literacy Learning Designer, Library

Amy Sellers, Liaison Librarian, Faculty of Education, Library

Michael Horn, Developer, Application and Integration, Library

Useful References:

Baik, C., Naylor, R., & Arkoudis, S. (2015). The first year experience in Australian universities: Findings from 1994 to 2014. Centre for the Study of Higher Education University of Melbourne.

Brook, H., Fergie, D., Maeorg, M. & Michell, D. (2015). Universities in Transition: Foregrounding Social Contexts of Knowledge in the First Year Experience. Coastal Management. Retrieved from, July, 2019.

Hallinger P., & Heck, R. (2009). Distributed Leadership in Schools: Does System Policy Make a Difference? in Harris, A. Distributed Leadership: Different Perspectives. Netherlands Springer Press

Leithwood, K., & Mascall, B. (2008) Collective Leadership Effects on Student Achievement. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(4), pp. 529-561

McKay, J., & Devlin, M. (2014). ‘Uni has a different language… to the real world’: Demystifying academic culture and discourse for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(5), 949–961.

Wenger., E. (1998). Communities of Practice: learning, meaning, and identity, Cambridge University Press

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