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Approaches to teaching IA in Australian Universities

Clarke, B., Middle, G., Brown, L., Franks, D., Harris, E., Kellert, J. and Morrison-Saunders, A. (2013) Approaches to teaching IA in Australian Universities. In: IAIA13 Conference Proceedings. Impact Assessment the Next Generation: 33 rd Annual Meeting of the International Association for Impact Assessment, 13 - 16 May, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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In November 2012 a special symposium was held in Canberra, Australia, that bought together for the first time several Australian academics who research and teach impact assessment (IA). A number of initiatives of a similar nature but conducted in other countries is documented by Sanchez and Morrison-Saunders (2010) and Fischer et al (2010). An analysis of Australian universities approaches to teaching was last conducted in 1992 (Thompson 1992 cited in Sanchez and Morrison-Saunders 2010). This paper makes a contribution to the dearth of information about how IA is taught, building on the special Australian symposium. A key conclusion of the symposium was that the way IA is taught varied from University to University, although there were some common key core areas and concepts covered. Whilst many universities have undergraduate and post graduate units in IA, most focus on environmental impacts assessment (EIA). There is little uniformity as to the school within which these units are taught: schools running units in IA are in Environment, Humanities, the Built Environment and Mining. Further, the background of those who teach IA varies widely from primarily academic, to strongly IA practice, and those with a mixture of both. The primary discipline or interest of those who teach in the area is similarly varied, including environmental, social, health and urban and regional planning. These findings are in keeping with the international and regional studies noted above. Finally, whilst some participants had actively sought to teach IA, some had only a loose interest in the field and had inherited an IA unit on taking up an academic post. This Australian study differs slightly to the initiatives conducted in other countries in that survey participants have reflected upon how they came to teach IA. As such, this paper explores the question “Does where we teach IA, who we are and our background, impact on how we teach IA?” Several of the IA units from different Australian Universities will be examined and compared to test this question. The methodology used is both quantitate and qualitative, with academic’s who participated in the special symposium reflecting on the IA units they teach examining how the structure of the unit and the way it is delivered is influenced by the school within which the unit is held, professional background and personal academic interest, and principle areas of research and work interest. Such work has the potential to enhance the teaching practice of IA in Australia.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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