Take Home Exam by Dr Stuart Lakin, School of Law

This post has been uploaded to the T&L Exchange, and can now be found at:

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/t-and-l-exchange/take-home-exam/

Posted in Assessment & Feedback, Continuing Professional Development, Diversity and inclusion, Employability, Internationalisation, Learning design, Research and enquiry, Research informed teaching, Student Engagement, Student support, Teaching approaches, Technology Enhanced Learning | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Exploring value co-creation (CCV) in the Law Feedback Project at ESLTIS 2016 by Imogen Moore and Laura Bennett, School of Law

Introduction

As joint staff leaders (together with Dr Nora Honkala) on the current Law Feedback Project, we recently presented a paper exploring aspects of the project to the second annual Enhancing Student Learning Through Innovative Scholarship Conference, held at University College London on 28-29 June 2016.  This blog post explains a little about the Law Feedback Project, how (and why) value co-creation principles were incorporated within it, and what we found useful at the 2016 ESLTIS conference.

The Law Feedback Project and Value Co-Creation

The Law Feedback Project was set up in September 2015, in response to Periodic Review recommendations and student feedback in the NSS and elsewhere, which while generally positive, indicated some room for improvement. Periodic Review had recommended involving students in development of feedback (and other) strategies, and this provided us with the impetus to put students at the heart of the project, supported by our Head of School, Professor Susan Breau. Rather than simply seeking student views on assessment and feedback in a way potentially driven and limited by staff preconceptions and preferences, we set up the project drawing on principles of value co-creation, as espoused by writers such as Catherine Bovill and Alison Cook-Sather (Bovill et al, 2012 & 2014; see also McWilliam, 2008; Mihans et al, 2008;  Tabrizi & Ackfeldt, 2013) .

CCV envisages students acting as partners in learning, moving beyond a consumer-oriented role, and has been successfully used with a wide range of teaching and learning projects. For the Law Feedback Project this would mean involving students from the start and throughout the project – in scoping, designing and running the project, and ultimately creating and implementing changes to policies and practice. Students were recruited on a voluntary basis, via the SSLC, to co-lead the project working group (alongside the three staff members). Additional students participated in focus groups which explored more widely and deeply the issues identified within the working group.

Our primary aim in using CCV was to lead to more meaningful assessment and feedback practice that better met student needs, while still recognising system and staffing constraints. The project showed that students had quite clear views on what they needed and what they liked and disliked. While often their views matched staff expectations, this was not always the case. Fears of some staff that students will always demand more feedback were somewhat unfounded – quality and specificity were favoured over quantity (although quantity mattered too). Importantly the project indicated that students did not always understand and share the language of assessment and feedback, suggesting student dissatisfaction with feedback is sometimes due to miscommunication rather than deeper failings. Involving students through CCV will assist in finding a common language for our discourse with students and allow us to identify ways to improve their assessment literacy.

ESLTIS Conference 2016

The paper was well received at the ESLTIS conference, and was followed by some interesting discussion relating to our experiences and the challenges and benefits presented by CCV. It was valuable to have the input of fellow teaching-intensive colleagues from a wide variety of institutions and disciplines, in such a supportive and thoughtful atmosphere. In total the conference was attended by well over 100 teaching focused staff from institutions across the UK and further afield, with representation from all career levels.

There were two excellent keynote speeches. The first was given by from Dr Dilly Fung of UCL, who spoke around her recent HEA publication ‘Rewarding educators and education leaders in research-intensive universities’. Her vision of what education means – and its depth and breadth beyond ‘just’ teaching – was particularly interesting. Professor Carol Evans of the University of Southampton gave the keynote address on the second day: ‘Developing and implementing holistic assessment practice’. Professor Evans looked at bringing together different aspects of good assessment practice, including the importance of students understanding the assessment and feedback – something with obvious links to our own project. The rest of the two days offered a multitude of papers under themes of assessment and feedback, scholarship of teaching and learning, supporting students, and the role of teaching-focused academics – so many stimulating ideas and new approaches to old (and new) problems. We were also treated to an entertaining panel discussion which gave insights into different institutions’ attitudes to teaching-focused staff.

Conclusion

The experience of running the project, and presenting at the conference, has been very rewarding. Following a CCV approach has taken us out of our comfort zone and added another dimension to our teaching and learning, and it was interesting to explore with others how to successfully involve students further in teaching design. As far as the project is concerned, it is hoped this will continue into 2016-7 (with some change of membership due to staff changes and student graduations), to develop and implement policies and assessment criteria in partnership with students. As for ESLTIS – well, the next conference, which is organised through the Teaching Focussed Academic Network, will be held in Newcastle in the summer of 2017; hope to see you there!

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Group work: students’ solutions to the challenges by Sonia Hood

Group work is an integral part of assessment at university but students rarely arrive equipped with the skills, experience and knowledge to deal with the challenges they face when working in groups. This can be a cause of anxiety for students and also a time consuming intervention for lecturers.

Henley Business School approached Study Advice for help in supporting students with this form of assessment. It was felt that students needed help navigating the wide range of resources available to them. In addition, in order to offer effective support, we felt we first needed to understand the challenges students face, how they have/intend to overcome these and how best they would like to be supported in doing this. A project was set up and we received TLD funding to investigate this further.

The project had two main aims: the first to create a bank of resources that students working on assessed group work could be directed to. The second was to recommend some interventions to support students with the challenges they faced when working in groups.

The research

A student researcher was employed to evaluate the wealth of group work resources openly available. This resulted in a folder of group work resources being created and uploaded onto Blackboard.  In addition a pack containing key resources was compiled and handed out to part 1 REP students when commencing their first group work project. We were able to evaluate the effectiveness of this pack within this research.

A range of focus groups and in-depth interviews were conducted with Real Estate and Planning students, and HBS staff , over the past year. They explored both the perceived challenges to group work and the proposed solutions to these challenges. This qualitative data was then analysed and a number of key challenges, possible solutions and recommendations were presented to Real Estate and Planning teaching and learning staff.

What students want

The interviews and focus groups revealed the complex challenges associated with group work, supporting previous research into this area. Solutions varied between the PG and UG students, though both recognised that effective teams take time to get to know each other informally. Students suggested that informal events could be organised as part of their course to help them through this ‘forming’ stage. PG students also asked for careful consideration of how the mark for group work is allocated (with a higher proportion allocated to individual work) and for a penalty to be imposed, as a last resort.

More support was requested in dealing with conflict and difficult team members, and the need for more self-reflection from everyone within the group was identified. There are also some simple things we can do to help students with the practicalities of group work, like timetabling group work sessions and  booking rooms at set times for students to use. In terms of tutor support, it was recognised that their time was limited; when it comes to personal issues within a group, speaking to a mentor (like a part 2 student) who could offer confidential, impartial advice would be a preferable option for UGs.

Resources for your students

We now have a bank of resources to support students with group work, available on Blackboard, which can be copied into any course. The resources are clearly divided into folders and contain a mixture of: video tutorials; advice on dealing with challenging situations; self-reflection tools and group assessment questionnaires. The initial pack handed out to part 1 students proved to be useful for UGs, mainly as an aid to focus early group discussions. It contained some forms to record minutes, ground rules, contact details and roles, as well as offer advice to the common issues experienced within groups

Work continues on this project, as at present we are only just starting to disseminate the findings. Whilst the recommendations might not be relevant to all engaged in group work, a number of themes and challenges are shared across a variety of disciplines. We would welcome speaking to anyone who is interested in finding out more about this project and how they might benefit from this research.

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The Power of Collaboration: Reflections on St Andrews EAP conference by Bruce Howell & Aaron Woodcock (ISLI)

In February 2016, we presented at a one-day English for Academic Purposes (EAP) conference at St Andrews University, showcasing Reading’s ‘English Language for Chemists’ module, a collaboration between the International Study & Language Institute (ISLI) and the Department of Chemistry.  As it turned out,  collaboration between EAP and subject study departments, and its power to enhance teaching and learning (T&L), was key thread running through all the presentations we saw that day.

About the conference

The conference is an annual event for professionals working in EAP in English language departments and units across the UK and further afield, who undertake activities similar to ISLI’s Pre-Sessional English (PSE) and Academic English Programme (AEP). There are in fact a number of such conferences each year in the UK, and many attract participants from abroad. It is increasingly recognised that there is a need to support students whose first language is not English who arrive in the UK as a full time student, or (increasingly) as part of a Trans-National Education (TNE) programme. One question many leaders of T&L are asking is how to incorporate EAP into existing degree teaching – should it be extra-curricular or should it be integrated into the degree itself? The conference theme attempted to tackle this challenge: ‘Finding the balance: language and content in EAP’, and thus provided an ideal opportunity for us to share ISLI’s experience of collaborating with Chemistry.

Our presentation: ‘Designing a subject-specific EAP course for Chemists’

We outlined the content of the module, showing samples of teaching materials, and explained the story of the module’s creation. We emphasised the central role collaboration had to play in the creation and running of the module: both collaboration between the University of Reading and Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology (NUIST), and collaboration between ISLI and Chemistry. The latter in particular was central to delivering a module that teaches English that is both relevant and achievable. The collaboration ultimately won ISLI/Chemistry a University Collaborative Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning (2014-2015).

The ‘English for Chemists’ module (CH3ENG) was created for the 2014/15 session onwards as a result of forward planning:

  • Chemistry staff members visiting NUIST and meeting Applied Chemistry students as well as their lecturers
  • Chemistry staff members discussing any ‘gap’ of attainment likely when the 3+1 students arrive for Part 3 (thereby recognised that EAP support would be a necessary component)
  • Chemistry working with ISLI to create 20 credits’ worth of study designed uniquely for the NUIST  students arriving for Part 3.

Two types of essential skill were identified as areas which would normally have been covered or developed during Parts 1 and 2:

  • language functions, such as explaining chemical reaction processes, clear pronunciation, effective speaking in groups in labs
  • important Chemistry skills, such as safety regulation awareness, Chemistry-specific IT, generic study skills.

The decision was therefore made to create two 10-credit modules, the former delivered by ISLI (CH3ENG), and the latter by Chemistry (CH3NUI), requiring further joint planning to take place, ensuring the modules complemented each other but did not overlap. An example of this would be ‘avoiding plagiarism’, which could equally be considered ‘language’ (ISLI) or ‘general study skills’ (Chemistry). In order to avoid repetition and retain a balance the ‘avoiding plagiarism’ objective was placed within the CH3NUI module. Close monitoring has taken place during the first 2 years, and gradual developments are ongoing, for example a greater emphasis on writing short examination-type responses will be given in CH3ENG.

Presentations from other universities

EAP taught on its own as a subject, as in most Pre-Sessional English courses, usually results in a ‘generic’ form of English teaching, i.e. activities which require academic skills such as structuring writing, using references, presenting clearly, and contributing to seminar discussion. Topics and formats tend to be closer to social science(s) than pure sciences because of the likelihood that the topic areas are ‘common knowledge’. Generic EAP would involve studying texts and writing essays on ethical business, education approaches, employment patterns, and the like.

Contributions to the conference made it clear that ‘imbedded’ In-Sessional English is a fast-growing area of interest for many EAP professionals, and this conference gave an opportunity to share best practice in giving English language support to students learning specific subject areas. For instance, colleagues from the University of Manchester presented on two projects: a masters level ‘Principles of Scientific Writing’ for Chemistry, and the challenges of providing English language support for mathematicians. Colleagues from the University of Edinburgh posed interesting alternative views on to what extent Academic English lecturers can or should comment on the content of students’ writing, and colleagues from the University of Leeds are launching a brand new discipline-specific Pre-Sessional English programme, which has involved close collaboration between the English language centre and subject departments across the university.

Common sentiments expressed were:

  1. a) collaboration between English language and subject experts is vital
  2. b) a ‘blinkered’ subject focus is not enough (as with many professional roles these days): EAP lecturers need to have some interest in or knowledge of specific academic subjects, while subject lecturers need to have some interest in or knowledge of the language issues of international students
  3. c) teaching and learning leaders in UK universities often do recognise – though could perhaps recognise more – the importance of integrating language and study skills support into TNE programmes, rather than offering ‘extra-curricular’ opportunities
  4. d) ideally, staff in both EAP and subject departments should be involved in planning and delivery of certain modules, even at times ‘team teaching’ or ‘team marking’, though this clearly has resourcing implications (utilising PhD students as tutors can be a good solution).

Reflections and follow-up

ISLI at Reading already has an expanding range of subject collaborations as part of the AEP programme, with an increasing number becoming credit-bearing. Food and Nutritional Sciences has a long-standing 2+2 arrangement with Henan University of Technology central to which is an embedded credit-bearing EAP module, while Reading has plans to expand its 3+1 provision with NUIST in other subject areas. This seems to be in step with other UK universities, and there will be more of such possibilities growing in future.

Meanwhile, ISLI are currently looking into developing a more subject-specific PSE programme, and will therefore be closely watching developments of the new subject-specific Pre-Sessional English programme at Leeds.

Perhaps the most significant expansion of this type of activity will be seen at the Malaysia campus, where students will benefit from carefully planned English language and study skills input both before and during their degree courses, and will feature inter-campus as well as inter-departmental collaboration.

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Peer Assisted Learning: how did the PAL pilots go in 2015-16 at Reading? by Caroline Crolla

I’ve gained more knowledge regarding the module & find it easier to ask for help. (Maths PAL participant)

[PAL] is a more interactive way of working, more group work, some sharing about 4th year placement and the usefulness of this module for next year (S&L Therapy PAL participant)

It’s great to see people leave sessions feeling like they understand what they were struggling with. (PAL Leader, Creative Writing)

It’s great, [PAL] really helps with understanding work. (PAL Leader, Art)

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) was introduced at the University of Reading in 2015-16 in a few departments as pilot schemes, with the longer term aim of establishing the scheme across the university. Five departments took part in the first pilot which ran from November 2015 to May 2016.  The pilot schemes have now been evaluated and here are some of the findings.

Participating departments in 2015-16

Economics

Mathematics and Statistics

Speech and Language Therapy

Fine Art

English Literature: Creative writing

What is Peer Assisted Learning?

Peer Assisted Learning is a scheme where students in the same subject learn together with their peers. PAL sessions are run by experienced student who have been trained as facilitators, also known as PAL Leaders, who are regularly debriefed by programme academics.

HEIs with experience of PAL have found that the scheme contributes to improved retention, engagement and performance through shared learning, engendering stronger links between academics and students as well as providing an additional form of feedback.

The principles underpinning Peer Assisted Learning include:

  • the PAL scheme should target high risk modules or courses, not high risk students
  • student participation should be voluntary and it should supplement not replace core teaching
  • student PAL Leaders are facilitators and not quasi-lecturer

What are PAL positives?

Academics reported that introducing PAL was not time consuming but that they did need to endorse and promote their PAL scheme more in order to increase attendance of at PAL sessions. All academics involved in PAL described how the scheme influenced their pedagogy.  They mentioned how much the PAL leaders had developed in the process.

Nothing additional to prepare; I am developing my teaching material because I have changed aspects of the module and my prep is being helpfully informed by having the two PAL Leaders and their sessions in mind.

I have had to think about my teaching materials more closely, because I have PAL in mind. I have reviewed what I am putting in the lectures and what not; what I want the PAL Leader to have or do, or not. This has been good for me…and the students I hope.

I am very impressed with [the PAL Leaders].   I think they are doing so well and really benefiting. 

To maximise effectiveness

The pilots have flagged up three key factors that influence the effectiveness of PAL

Attendance

To maximise attendance Departments need to ensure that PAL sessions appear on students’ timetables and are roomed and timetabled at appropriate times within the module so that participants can attend. PAL is voluntary and for students to benefit from attending sessions access needs to be made possible.

PAL Leaders and participants understand the benefit of collaborative learning

Leaders, participants and academic staff need to be clear about the benefits of working collaboratively on cognitively difficult material. Peer assisted learning is a structured way of peers learning together.  It is not remedial support. One hour of PAL can equal to three hours of working alone.

Increasing engagement by academics

If peer assisted learning is part of a subject’s offer, then it needs regular endorsement by academic contacts and the PAL leaders need regular reviews with the academic contact throughout the term. Increased publicity and visibility of the PAL sessions within departments will help with attendance.

What next?

  1. In 2016-17, more modules will be supported by Peer Assisted Learning sessions in Psychology, Classics as well as in Art, Speech and Language Therapy, English Literature and Mathematics.
  2. From the 14 PAL Leaders who trained to facilitate learning of their peers in 2015-16, 34 prospective PAL leaders will be trained in 2016-17 to support a range of modules.
  3. Academics in Mathematics, who have been enthusiastic early adopters of PAL, have decided to offer PAL in Mathematics as an optional Part 3 module and 9 students have been successfully selected to become PAL Leaders to support the Part 1 core module ‘Real Analysis’.

Would you like to get involved?

PAL at Reading had a great first year because of the enthusiasm of staff and students who had a deep commitment to learning and who saw the positive and holistic benefits of PAL. However, there is a lot more scope to deploy peer assisted learning in many contexts, so if you are an academic interested in adopting PAL for one or more of your modules or you would like to find out more, please contact: Caroline Crolla, PAL Coordinator, c.s.crolla@reading.ac.uk  | pal@reading.ac.uk or phone 0118 378 6593.   I work in the Student Success Team which is located in Blandford Lodge, G17, Whiteknights campus.

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Are we doing enough for our BTEC entrants? Authored by Dr Michelle Reid (Study Advice)

Transition to university is often geared towards students from an A-level background, so are we doing enough for students with vocational qualifications starting at Reading?

Recent research from UCAS shows that one in four university entrants has done a BTEC (Havergal, 2016). Issues such as culture shock, work/life balance, different assessment methods, and the perception that A-level entrants may be better equipped to study at university are some of the concerns BTEC students can have when starting their degree (Clark, 2011). As Study Advisers, we observed similar concerns when working with former BTEC students here at Reading, particularly in relation to learning from lectures and taking exams, as these are not teaching and assessment methods used on BTEC courses. With these transition issues in mind, and also in light of the increased focus on widening participation, we conducted a short survey to gauge the views of current Reading students with BTEC qualifications on their readiness for university. We wanted to assess whether it would be beneficial to host a pre-entry event for BTEC entrants before they start here in the autumn, following the model of our well-established and successful pre-entry day for mature students.

We sent the questionnaire to all current Reading undergraduate and taught postgraduate students who had taken a BTEC (over 800 students) and received 173 replies. The results confirmed the previous research and our own observations. 45% of respondents described themselves as ‘fairly well prepared’ for university. However when this was explored further, 41.8% also felt that studying at university was ‘fairly different’ to the style of learning they were used to with the main difference being the style of assessments. Respondents pinpointed referencing, preparing for exams and academic reading as the areas they most wished they had known more about before starting university, again reflecting a concern with assessment and the style of academic learning at university. Similar to more general research findings (Clark, 2011; Reidy, 2015) our own former BTEC students identified their studying strengths as coursework, independence, subject knowledge and motivation. This suggests that BTECs give a good foundation in independent learning and indicates that students are likely to be motivated to attend a pre-entry event. However, the results also suggest there are gaps in transition guidance, especially around some assessment methods. Indeed, it is concerning that a wider HEA study has shown that students who went to university with vocational qualifications were less likely to achieve a first or 2:1 (Havergal, 2016). This indicates that we should be doing more to prepare BTEC students for the culture of HE assessment and to foster the potential of BTEC students.

Based on the survey findings, Study Advice is now investigating the possibility of hosting a pre-entry event for BTEC students this summer. We would be very interested in talking to others looking at transition and support for BTEC entrants.

 

References:

Clark, W. (2011). ‘Transitions in action? Exploring vocational learner progression into and out of higher education’. Educational Developments, 12.2, pp.9-12.

Havergal, C. (2016). ‘One in four university entrants has a BTEC, Ucas study finds’. Times Higher Education, 28 January 2016. Online at https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/one-in-four-university-entrants-has-a-btec-ucas-study-finds  Accessed 05/04/16.

Reidy, T. (2015). ‘Will taking a BTec help or hinder your university application?’ The Guardian, Education section, 21 July 2015. Online at http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jul/21/will-taking-a-btec-help-or-hinder-your-university-application  Accessed 05/04/16.

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A welcome website for the newborn National Network of Teaching-Focussed Academics by Rita Balestrini and Chiara Cirillo

The Teaching-Focussed Academic Staff Network, whose inaugural conference was hosted by the University of Durham on 16th and 17th July, now has a dedicated website.

When we read the call for papers of the conference, entitled ‘Enhancing Student Learning Through Innovative Scholarship’, we realised that besides providing an opportunity to share innovative scholarly activities across disciplines for the enhancement of student learning, the conference also intended to address the issue of the career progression of staff on teaching-focussed contracts. Quoting a study by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the call for papers drew attention to the ‘predominance of teaching-only contracts among part-time academics’ and the existing ‘gap between policy and implementation regarding promotion policies’ in UK universities. It also stressed the importance of raising the profile of teaching-focussed academics in order to enhance teaching and the scholarship of L&T across the HE sector.

In recent years, contributing to raising the profile of language L&T at the University of Reading  has been one of our objectives and, together with colleagues of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies (MLES) and of the International Study and Language Institute (ISLI), we pursued this aim in various ways. For this reason, we decided to participate in the conference and give a presentation on the place that the scholarship of language L&T can have, and should have, in British universities. We addressed some issues specific to the tradition of languages as a university subject which hinder the scholarship of language L&T, and affect the academic identity and career development of language professionals on teaching-focussed contracts. We talked about the organisation of the discipline around  binary divisions such as ‘language’ and ‘content’, ‘language skills’ and ‘cultural knowledge’;  we illustrated the multifaceted nature of language teaching and the theoretical and practical competence it requires. We ended our presentation by pointing out the lower status and casualisation of language teachers in higher education as acknowledged and lamented by several authors (Coleman, 1999; Gieve and Cunico, 2012; Klapper, 2005; Quist, 2000; Worton, 2009), but we also highlighted the beginnings of some positive changes.

In general, from the plenary talks and the sessions we attended (‘Embedding and Enhancing Scholarship’, and ‘Career Pathways for Teaching Focused Academic Staff’), it emerged that there is still a way to go to transform the current hierarchy between teaching and research into a balanced relationship, although some progress has been made. The teaching-only academic role, in fact, seems to be still characterised by a lower status, a high degree of casualisation, and a gender imbalance (with more women in teaching-focussed roles, compared to teaching and research roles and more women on the low grades of the teaching-focussed roles).  It has been stressed that fellowships and awards are not sufficient recognition in themselves, and that a better way to enhance teaching in HE is to create a credible career path based on promotion criteria which actually reward excellence in teaching.  The lack of transparent criteria for progression seemed to be a common issue, and the need for a review of teaching roles undertaken by a national body was highlighted.

In our view, one of the most thought-provoking aspects of the talks we attended was the reflection on the necessity of a reconceptualisation of teaching and research in relation to each other which goes beyond the current perceived hierarchy. The idea of a learning culture in which the student researcher and the learning teacher are both submerged was offered as a possibility, together with the notion of ‘research’ as part of a wider concept of ‘scholarship’. The need for a re-imagined academic role appeared as a running thread in many presentations. In this sense, important innovations mentioned at the conference were the introduction of a ‘Study leave’ and a ‘Personal Scholarship Plan review’ for teaching-focussed academics already embraced by some enlightened institutions.

As was noted, ‘faculty-based cultures’ differ slightly. It seems, for example, that among STEM disciplines, the role of the teaching-focussed academic is more established.  There seems to be a higher awareness of the value of the scholarship of L&T and, in some cases, career progression is more likely to occur. For example, at one Scottish university, Teaching Fellows recruited by the School of Biology are now attaining senior positions not just at School, but also at Faculty and University level. In general, across the sector, the support of PVCs and senior managers and the creation of local networks of teaching-focussed academics have proved to be enabling factors for the recognition of the scholarship of L&T and for the establishment of a successful promotion culture.

Where do we stand at the UoR? Does our research-intensive University promote and support the scholarship of L&T and parity of esteem and opportunities for the staff delivering teaching excellence?  The current University Learning and Teaching Strategy suggests a positive answer, with ‘scholarship’ and ‘staff recognition’ stressed as a key priority.

It is also encouraging to see an active and growing Community of Practice of University Teaching Fellows (UTF), ‘teaching enthusiasts who are not only committed to teaching innovation and excellence, but to continuing professional development of themselves and their colleagues’ (see ‘University Teaching Fellows – A Growing Community‘ blog)

The University clearly recognises and rewards staff for their outstanding contributions to L&T through a number of schemes. However, in our view, even more could be done. For example, the career progression of Teaching Fellows could be better supported. At the moment, in the University Framework of Academic and Research (A&R) Role Profiles, * Teaching Fellows are placed on grade 6 regardless of their academic background and level of expertise. They are included in the A&R job family for illustrative purposes, but this does not make them ‘academics’. The ‘proper’ academic role profiles start at grade 7 and include both T&R activities, while the profile for grade 6 is split into Research Fellow and Teaching Fellow roles. Rather than delving here into the implications of this approach with regard to career progression of Teaching and Research Fellows, we refer to two documents. The first is a recent report of the HEA, ‘Rebalancing promotion in the HE sector: is teaching excellence being rewarded?’, which critically analyses promotion policies in British universities; and the second is the ‘National Library of Academic Role Profiles, set up by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) – of which the UoR is a member – that outlines  five levels for the teaching-only career path**.

We wonder if, at the UoR, alongside a Community of Practice of University Teaching Fellows (UTF), there might also be the need for a similar – informal, loosely structured – yet wider and open network of colleagues with teaching-focussed roles interested in not only enhancing student learning through excellent teaching and sharing of good practice, but also in discussing and developing the concept and the practice of ‘scholarship’, including its operationalisation and recognition, and the role of teaching-focussed academics at the UoR. This local network could link up with the wider national network that has emerged from the Durham conference and would naturally be an interlocutor for those engaged with L&T at strategic and operational level. We trust that our initiative would receive support from our senior colleagues, as this would be a further demonstration of the University’s commitment to L&T.

To learn more about the Teaching-Focussed Academic Staff Network, visit:  http://community.dur.ac.uk/teachingfellow.network/

If you are interested in joining a Teaching-Focussed Academic Network at Reading, contact: r.balestrini@reading.ac.uk or c.cirillo@reading.ac.uk

 

* These role profiles were created by the UoR in 2014.

** The ‘National Library of Academic Role Profiles is part of the 2006 Framework  Agreement for the Modernisation of Pay Structures, agreed by the Association of Universities and Colleges Employers, and Associations of Universities and Colleges Unions.

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University Teaching Fellows – A Growing Community by Helen Hathaway

As the new academic year starts it seems a good time to focus on the Community of Practice of University Teaching Fellows (UTF). It is a growing community of teaching enthusiasts who are not only committed to teaching innovation and excellence, but to continuing professional development of themselves and their colleagues.  As incoming chair of the UTF Community of Practice, I am looking forward to continuing the theme of mentoring which developed under Richard Mitchell’s leadership, and especially to encourage others in support roles to consider themselves as candidates to become a UTF.  Michelle Reid, a Study Adviser, and I are currently the only UTFs working in an academic support and development directorate and we would welcome others.

One of the strengths of the community is the ability to draw on knowledge and experience across the University by networking in an informal, though structured, way. In the coming year the areas of excellence and good practice about which I would hope to encourage discussion and development are embedded academic skills. For an example of a current project where this is already happening in a tripartite partnership see http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/engage-in-teaching-and-learning/2015/06/05/mind-the-skills-gap-auditing-and-embedding-information-literacy-skills-development-across-the-curriculum-by-jackie-skinner-and-helen-hathaway/

Other ways in which the Community can contribute to the development of teaching – especially important in the context of any emerging Teaching Excellence Framework – are in offering its breadth of expertise of teaching matters on University strategies and plans, and to disseminate good practice.

If you are thinking of applying to be a UTF, my advice would be to look at the criteria now as it is likely you can plan your teaching for the Autumn and early Spring terms to strengthen any areas where you feel less confident of completing all four sections of the application. Most importantly it gives time to reflect on your teaching and achievements. No need to wait for the award to be launched in March with its strict deadline: start now to think about how to present your experience and expertise. You may also get double duty if you have already applied, or are considering applying, for Senior Fellowship of the HEA via the FLAIR CDP route: the necessary analysis of your teaching philosophy, looking at the UKPSF (UK Professional Standards Framework)and the reflection on the wider impact of your activities will also help in your UTF application. A mentor is the best possible support you can have in the process – everyone I have spoken to says so. Come and join us! Please contact CQSD or me for an informal discussion or to be put in touch with a potential mentor.

Congratulations to the new University Teaching Fellows 2015-16:

  • Dr Tabarak Ballal, School of Construction Management & Engineering
  • Dr Richard Harris, Institute of Education
  • Dr Karsten Lundqvist, School of Systems Engineering

Details of the 2016 scheme will be announced in the new year.

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Introducing inclusive design to our new typography students by Jeanne-Louise Moys

Breaking down Barriers has kicked off the academic year with a workshop in inclusive design with our new Part 1 typography students. Today we had our first session for the BA Graphic Communication Integrated Design Methods module. The students engaged with the new SEE-IT sight exclusive prototype for assessing visual inclusion/exclusion (currently being developed by the University of Cambridge as a new addition to their inclusive design toolkit). Working in pairs, they measured visual inclusion of typographic elements in business cards, leaflets and mobile apps.

The workshop was an engaging way of introducing typography students to the task-based learning approach used in this module. It also provided an effective introduction to inclusive design and the kinds of factors designers need to consider in their decision-making. The module focuses on user-centred design applied to a range of genres including: editorial design (‘design for reading’), pictograms and wayfinding, and digital design.

Typography lecturers Rob Banham and Jeanne-Louise Moys facilitated the workshop. We hope our students will continue to use inclusive design tools to support their decision-making in practical projects throughout their degree. It was also a great way to enrich the student experience with technology-enhanced learning.

Our thanks to Joy Goodman-Deane and Sam Waller who introduced us to the tool at Include2015 and gave us permission to use their prototype in our teaching.

To find out more about our Breaking down Barriers project visit the blog

 

Typography students Theo and Stephen team up to measure the ex/inclusivity of leaflet designs.

Typography students Theo and Stephen team up to measure the ex/inclusivity of leaflet designs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typography student Polina setting up to measure ex/inclusivity in cover design.
Typography student Polina setting up to measure ex/inclusivity in cover design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typography students Kash and Kundai calibrating their phones to measure visual inclusivity.
Typography students Kash and Kundai calibrating their phones to measure visual inclusivity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typography students Amber and Orla evaluating the visual ex/inclusivity of capitalised letters on business cards.
Typography students Amber and Orla evaluating the visual ex/inclusivity of capitalised letters on business cards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Deepening Reflective Inquiry in Higher Education by Dr Geoff Taggart

Consider these classroom examples. In an architecture class, students are invited to spend time examining natural materials they have found and to use their forms as the basis for a structural design. In a module on the philosophy of mind and how it interacts with the body, tables are pushed back and undergraduates engage in body awareness exercises. Mathematics students experience a peaceful workshop on origami to explore theoretical principles of geometry. Outside on campus, students in a botany class are asked to peg out a square foot of ground and do nothing for the first ten minutes but look more and more closely at it, so as to overcome engrained ‘plant blindness’. Politics students are cutting up Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’ and using extracts to make their own ‘found’ poems. Students training to be lawyers are engaged in an activity to increase awareness of their own automatic thoughts and the way these strengthen snap judgements and biased perceptions. Trainee economists discuss the relative rationality of their own desires and wants to interrogate the notion of ‘rational choice’ in the market. On an afternoon visit to an art gallery, fine art students are asked to spend time with only 3 pictures. Novice food chemists are asked to defamiliarise themselves from everyday tastes and flavours by using colours and analogies to describe them.

These pedagogical approaches were discussed during a weekend workshop I attended on the subject of deepening reflective inquiry in HE. A popular metaphor used to describe the approach was that of ‘slow food’. That is, learning which is deep and reflective is like eating a meal which has been lovingly prepared for hours using nutritious ingredients and sharing it in a convivial atmosphere.  By contrast, many students will have received a ‘fast food’ experience at school in which the culture of high-stakes testing has informed much of their learning. The idea of learning as purely instrumental and outcome-oriented has rarely been challenged. In my view, universities should (at least be free to) offer a richer and more sustaining dietary regime and teaching for deep reflection can help disrupt this engrained assumption.

PBL and ‘active learning’ of all kinds, especially where it makes use of learners’ own experience, is already known to bring about more secure and meaningful understanding than traditional didactic methods.  The ‘extra ingredient’ in the practices described above is the facilitation of deep reflection, often involving the ‘non-rational’ (but not irrational) language of imagery and feeling. The purpose of all of them is three-fold. The first intention is to make full use of the students’ learning resources. The popular idea of intelligence (endorsed by shows such as Mastermind) is based on factual knowledge combined with speed of recall. Yet, as successful innovation and entrepreneurship show us, original insight seems to involve something more. The educational psychologist Guy Claxton contrasts the ‘hare brain’ of the outcome-driven, Mastermind intelligence with the ‘tortoise mind’ involved in rumination and reflection.  Where space and time are allowed for the latter, creative responses and novel interconnections emerge. The unconscious is no longer seen as some kind of Freudian dungeon but as a useful assistant in effective learning.

The second purpose is to produce graduates who are not just knowledgeable but, having disturbed their own assumptions, are more confident in being able to justify what they know. The chemist Michael Polanyi famously argued that what we can explicitly claim to know in propositional terms is the tip of the iceberg, supported by accumulated ‘tacit knowledge’ held in our unconscious, feelings and bodies. Drawing upon and articulating this tacit knowledge in relation to new fields of study at university can help students ‘know that they know’ the material being presented to them and render their understanding more secure.

The third purpose is to deepen and focus attention in the face of mounting technological distractions. In order to solve a complex problem or devote time to honing a skill, one has to have the capacity to delay gratification, to ignore what is irrelevant or extraneous. One also has to acknowledge that what happened in the previous lab session or archaeological dig may not simply be reproduced in this one. Whether it is an engineer faced with a non-functioning machine, a lawyer with a fresh brief or an artist faced with a potential subject,  skilled and knowledgeable professionals do not begrudge the time spent simply looking at –‘beholding’ – the challenge that confronts them since they know that, whilst they are well-prepared for it, this particular challenge may have something new to teach them. Attention has a delicate quality to it therefore: we know something of our field but in order to be open to learning and/or professional development, we need to put this discursive, formal knowledge ‘on hold’ and allow time for the precise circumstances or features of the new material to reveal themselves to us.

I’m interested whether colleagues may already be experimenting with deepening reflection or may be interested themselves in doing so. In my own work at the IoE, one of my favourite activities for those who want to work in pre-schools is to give each student a basket of stones and ask them to tell me a story with them. The silent, absorbed and reflective atmosphere which follows, as they lay their stones out on the carpet, teaches them the value and meaning of play in children’s learning far more effectively than a lecture on the subject. We all had these learning experiences as children and some of our most transformative and memorable ones were characterised by these same qualities of sustained attention, beholding, rumination and openness to figurative, metaphorical forms of explanation. Even nowadays we often revert to this approach, such as when buying a new and unfamiliar mobile phone: why don’t we, as adults, instinctively start by working our way through the manual? The answer is because we know that learning flows when it attentive, embodied, playful and deeply reflective. This is not a capacity we need to lose on entering university.

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Student-led Peer-assisted Learning (PAL) starts at Reading by Caroline Crolla

Readers of this blog may recall Dr Patricia (Paddy) Woodman’s “Hot tip: Student-led peer learning: a win-win for everyone” posted on January 2015.  She wrote then that “The University of Reading is about to appoint a peer assisted learning co-ordinator and launch a number of trial schemes in 2015/16.”  Happily, I am that peer-assisted learning coordinator and I took up post on 22 June 2015. I would like to take this opportunity to describe how the implementation of peer-assisted learning is going so far at the University of Reading.

What is PAL?

As Paddy explain in her January blog: PAL is a framework that fosters cross-year support between students on the same course. Students work in regularly scheduled groups supporting each other to learn through active discussion and collaboration under the guidance of trained students, called PAL Leaders, typically from the year above.

Fact-finding visits

In June and July 2015, I visited other universities and attended national conferences on peer-led learning.  I quickly discovered that there exists a vibrant academic peer-learning community who are very welcoming and generous to a “new implementer” representing the University of Reading.

I visited three universities where PAL is very well-established across all faculties and schools and who have been running PAL – sometimes also called PASS (Peer-assisted Study Sessions) – for decades.  Colleagues at the University of Manchester, University of West England and Bournemouth University were particularly helpful in sharing their resources and experiences.

Reading’s early PAL adopters

During July and August, I met with colleagues in Mathematics, Psychology, Economics, English Literature and Systems Engineering.  I am pleased to say that five academics already would like to ‘pilot’ peer-assisted learning in specific 1st or 2nd Year modules or units that are cognitively challenging and in which students are known to struggle.

It has been a real pleasure to start collaborating with Tristan Pryer in Mathematics, Tom Loucas in Speech and Language, Pat Parslow in SSE and Simon Burke in Economics.   Each of these Academic Contacts is looking at the possibility of setting up regular, timetabled PAL sessions within these modules, as well as inviting successful and willing 2nd or 3rd Year students to agree to be trained as PAL leaders and run the PAL sessions.

As it is now September, the timing for implementation is tricky in some cases, so some academics like Rachel Pye, Jayne Freeman and Lesley Tranter in Psychology are considering implementing PAL in September 2016 in their Introduction to Neuroscience unit, which allows more time for timetabling, PAL recruitment and PAL Leader training.  Additionally, Cindy Becker and Nicole King are discussing how they might incorporate the support of two graduate interns in establishing PAL in English Literature.

How will PAL work at Reading?

PAL will be “discipline owned, student led, and centrally coordinated”.  Different Schools or departments may vary their offer where appropriate, but PAL will have recognisable features which will be consistent:

  • the School selects the module or unit which will have PAL integrated in the term it is taught
  • the School timetables and the PAL sessions
  • the PAL Coordinator will liaise with and support the Academic Contact/module convenor
  • the PAL Coordinator will train all PAL Leaders, and will assist with recruitment and monitoring student attendance at PAL sessions
  • experienced and successful students are trained in facilitation as PAL Leaders and then work in singly or pairs to:

a.  devise a structured approach to each session using their understanding of the material in conjunction with guidance from the Academic Contact

b. run the group sessions encouraging active discussion and collaboration amongst a group of between 5 and 15 students.

  • being a PAL Leader is voluntary, and the students who agree to become Leaders will be recognised and rewarded through the RED Award, inclusion of their participation on transcripts and in references and for some training activities Campus Card credit. We are also developing a credit-bearing module in coaching and mentoring to which PAL Leaders can apply.

What’s in it for…?

PAL participants

The students who attend PAL sessions regularly become part of a team who studies smarter. They share knowledge, experiences, and strategies with peers, helped by the PAL Leader.   PAL sessions offer a safe, friendly environment to revisit learning, compare notes, and ask questions. Participating in PAL sessions deepens students’ understanding of academic material by sharing problems and finding solutions.  PAL sessions can help develop confidence, independence and self-direction, communication skills and social skills further in participants.

PAL Leaders

PAL Leaders develop skills in facilitating learning and coaching other students, and their ability to tailor communication to different audiences. Leading PAL sessions helps develop time management skills, to plan and to problem solve.  These “soft skills” are valued by many employers.   PAL Leadership shows an employer that the leaders have gone above and beyond their degree and that they have been interested in contributing to the wider university community.  PAL Leaders get to know fellow students and develop a wider community of practice in their discipline. PAL Leaders have the opportunity to review and deepen their own understanding of their discipline, when they support the students who follow them in their learning.

Academics

Peer-assisted learning uses the talents many of your students already have to develop more independent learners who are self-directing their learning from where they are to where you would like them to be in terms of success. PAL has been shown to foster communities of learning where students learn more with and from each other.   PAL sessions provide students with additional structured learning time, independent of academics, although sessions are most successful when Academic Contacts provide guidance on the subject matter to the PAL Leaders.  In turn, the PAL Leaders can provide a rich source of immediate feedback to module convenors and to Schools about student learning.  PAL can only be developed in partnership with Schools and Schools identify and select content or modules deemed conceptually difficult.   Finally, offering PAL sessions on your course can develop altruistic and committed students who can help promote the course and meet with internal or external reviewers. Academics involved in PAL report that the scheme enhances a sense of School or Department community and identity.

Next steps

  1. Implement, evaluate and report on the five PAL “pilots” both from the students’ and Academic Contacts’ perspectives (watch this page)
  2. Promote PAL further with students and staff within selected Schools
  3. Extend provision of PAL across at least 5 more Schools in the light of experience of the pilots
  4. Have regular scheduled PAL Leader training sessions and in June / September / November
  5. Come to a Teaching & Learning Open programme session on “Another Student-led Scheme? How Peer-assisted Learning Raises Student Grades” on Wednesday 25 November 2015 from 14:00 – 15.00. Details are available at http://www.reading.ac.uk/cqsd/TandLEvents/cqsd-ComingSoon.aspx

If you are an academic interested in adopting PAL for one or more of your modules or you would like to find out more, please contact: Caroline Crolla, PAL Coordinator, c.s.crolla@reading.ac.uk or phone 0118 378 6593.   I work in the Student Success Team which is located in Blandford Lodge, G17, Whiteknights campus.

For examples of PAL / PASS at other institutions, please view:

https://youtu.be/95QLTaWLSuE  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UERuCYeSzcw

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Open Access to Languages (OpAL) presented at The Twenty-second International Conference on Learning in Madrid by Enza Siciliano Verrucio and María Pilar Gray Carlos

The Twenty-second International Conference on Learning was held in Madrid on 9th-11th July 2015. It attracted over 300 delegates from the academic and professional arena across the world: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK, United Arab Emirates and USA.

The theme for this year’s conference was “What counts as learning? Big data, little data, Evidence & Assessment”, a title that covered 10 different themes: Pedagogy and Curriculum; Assessment and Evaluation; Education Organization and Leadership; Early Childhood Learning; Learning in Higher Education; Adult, Community, and Professional Learning; Learner Diversity and Identities; Technologies in Learning; Literacies Learning; Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning.

Under such a variety of themes, presentations offered a multifaceted, multicultural and multidisciplinary view on the latest projects and research undertaken around the world. The University of Reading was represented at this year’s conference by a project led by Dtt. Enza Siciliano Verruccio (Department of Modern Languages and European Studies) and Ms. Maria Pilar Gray Carlos (Institution Wide Language Programme).

The theme Technologies in Learning focused on exploring the influence and impact of technology on areas such as “human values: learning through and about technology”; “access to learning in, and about, the digital world”; “new tools for learning: online digitally mediated learning”; “ubiquitous learning”. This formed the perfect platform for Enza and Pilar to present their project on “OpAL: Open Access to Learning”, a project that commenced towards the end of 2013. The project was partly funded by Routes into Languages, the Teaching and Learning Development Fund from The University of Reading, the International Study and Language Centre and Partnership in Learning and Teaching also from the University of Reading.

 

Why OpAL?

The aim of OpAL is to break down barriers to learning modern foreign languages. In order to achieve that aim we count on involving our students actively in the creation of materials. The materials created will be in turn available to the student community in the form of OERs (Open Educational Materials). The idea of the project came as a response not just to the language tutors’ experiences in language teaching in the higher education classroom, but to a clearly perceived difficulty of learning a second language by the students. These perceptions are evident in a national survey shown below which was carried out by The Guardian on 1001 students aged 14 to24 years old across the UK.

T&L Blog - Pilar

 

 

 

 

 

(http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/nov/07/-sp-do-young-people-care-about-learning-foreign-languages-data).

OpAL intends to encourage change in the UK language learner. It is inspired by two essential pillars of adult learning. The first is David Kolb’s learning theory (1984) on experiential learning or learning by doing. Our students explore areas of language on which they work to produce and test materials that at a later stage will be offered via the Web as OERs. The second is Alexander Astin’s and George Kuh’s work on Student Involvement (Astin, 1984; Kuh, 2009), that explores and explains how the involvement of students in co-curricular activities has a positive impact on student satisfaction and retention.

By engaging students in the OpAL project, they not only gain a deep learning of the subject studied, but they also become change agents in dispersing the fears and taboos related to language learning and, project an outward image that the higher education institutions are eager to portray: that of constructive change in the culture and nature of the relationship between students and the academic community within which they learn.

For further information on this year’s conference please visit http://thelearner.com/the-conference-2015/program-and-events/schedule-of-sessions.

If you are interested in attending or presenting at the Twenty-third International Conference on Learning, under the very suggestive theme of “Education in the Age of the Anthropocene” please visit http://thelearner.com/the-conference.

 

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The PLanT Project and ‘Core Issues in English Language Teaching’ by Jess Fullam, Emily King, Daria Pominova and Megumi Kuranaka

PLanT stands for Partners in Learning and Teaching. The project allows students and teachers to work together in order to improve a module using a small pot of money to fund meetings, focus groups and equipment. As a small group four of us (Jess, Emily, Daria and Meg) worked with our lecturer Clare Wright in the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics to make some improvements to the module ‘Core Issues in English Language Teaching’.

Why we decided to take part:

Jess

The PLanT project was a brilliant opportunity for me to put into practice what we had learnt in the module “Core Issues in ELT” as some aspects directly related to the thinking behind the improvements we formulated for the module. It has been a really interesting experience and I’m delighted to be able to make a lasting difference to benefit more students at the university.

Emily

I decided to take part in the PLanT project because after learning about teaching practices in the Core Issues module I was keen to put my learning into practice in a real setting and see how we could improve what was already a brilliant module.

Daria (from Germany)

I decided to take part in PLANT project after taking the course “Core Issues in ELT” and learning about different approaches to language teaching. As an exchange student from a country where a very different approach to teaching foreign languages is taken, I became interested in the modern techniques and methods of ELT and took the opportunity of putting them into practice straight away by introducing some changes to the CIELT module as part of the PLANT project. While participating in the project, I also learned a lot about the use of IT in a language classroom.

Meg (from Japan)

What made me enthusiastic about this project was that it can provide me with the precious opportunity to integrate different ideas to come up with a new curriculum. Taking one module about English language teaching before my joining the project, I was amazed by my professor and other students because they were interpreting the same subject in a totally different way. I imagined if those who had different backgrounds and opinions could cope with each other and combine their thoughts, a brilliant curriculum must be brought which would be reasonable for all students. In addition, the project can contribute to not only improving a module curriculum but also developing ourselves. During the project, I was always inspired and excited to hear other members’ voices which I really appreciated. What is more, considering what can be done to enhance students’ motivations and autonomies in the language class should make what we learnt in the module more realistic and progress my career. Through the project, I experienced what are required as a prospective English teacher and how enjoyable to engage myself in the language education.

The PLanT Process:                        

We met up on several occasions to discuss what we had enjoyed about the module and how we thought we could improve it. The course aims to provide a summary of the main teaching practices and how these are affected by different factors as well as discussing the role of the teachers and learners. The course itself ran with one lecture and a seminar where the lecture material was discussed and activities took place based on the previous learning.

To begin with we found it very difficult to think of a way to improve the module as we felt in many ways it was already excellent. We had all participated in the course and had really enjoyed the seminars and felt that the level of interaction planned in the seminar tasks could be really good, as it meant that we could really get involved and enhance our knowledge. The class itself was reasonably large and a mix of part 2s and 3s, and we could see that not everyone engaged fully with the tasks. So we wanted to find a way to check everyone’s learning progression that was engaging for everyone to enhance engagement and help students to build their skills. We concluded that by integrating more technology into the seminars, we could really improve interaction between the students and help them learn about how to include technology into presentations, vlogs or quizzes to provide them with the skills that employers are looking for.  So Clare introduced us to the TEL team, part of Reading University’s enhanced IT support initiatives, which have been working with staff to include more IT in their teaching, to see what we could do for students.

Some of our original suggestions in this area included multiple choice tests with clickers in the seminars or small presentations using platforms like Camtasia (one of several platforms suggested to us by the TEL team). We also revised the structure of the module according to the relevance and importance of the topics. New tasks and types of group work were introduced in order to ensure active participation of the students and more interaction between them. The division of tasks between Part 2 and Part 3 students taking the course was discussed and how they could be encouraged to interact more in class. We held a focus group part way through the process in order to see how students felt about the changes we might make, and they were well received by all which allowed us to steam ahead with confidence to putting our plans into action.

In March we presented our work at the RUSU awards and received a very positive response from other members of staff and students. After this presentation we continued to have a further meeting with the TEL team to discuss other ways to integrate technology whilst having a bit of fun in seminars. Some of these suggestions included platforms like ‘Kahoot’ and ‘Nearpod’. The latter allows students to interact to questions on the board using their mobile phones or other mobile devices. We found that this was a fun and innovative option as a replacement for multiple choice clickers which had the potential to be expensive as well as technically difficult with regard to matching the software with what the university already has set up.

Therefore, after this experience we all felt that we have learnt volumes about ways to enhance teaching in the classroom with technology in a fun but informative manner and we are very grateful to the TEL team for that.  We have all really enjoyed working towards this and are incredibly proud of what we have achieved and hope that at least some of our ideas about using IT in seminars will be well received by next year’s cohort of students.

Posted in Latest News, Ongoing T&L projects, Student Engagement, Teaching & Learning in the Digital Age | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

How online reading lists can help academic, information and digital literacy development. By Dr Kim Shahabudin, Kerry Webb and Helen Hathaway

Online reading list systems can be seen as an easy win for the lazy student: ‘spoon-feeding’ them with the sources they need rather than encouraging them to develop their independent research skills. However, we believe that the new online reading list system at Reading will offer opportunities for tutors to boost their students’ independent skills at a number of levels.

– There will be benefits for the less able student by making it easier to find evaluated, recommended resources, avoiding the pervasive practice of ‘just Googling it’.

– There will be benefits for the more able student by making it possible to direct them to databases and other search strategies to train them in expanding their research.

– There will be benefits for all students in the capacity for tutors to add clear annotations for suggested use of sources and further reading.

– Tutors will be able to easily set exercises to advance and enhance student research skills, demonstrating good pedagogic practice and adding to learning outcomes for modules.

The online reading lists implementation project is well underway and Library staff have already uploaded 65% of the reading lists identified for Phase 1 of the project on to the system, ready for review and publication by module convenors. Training sessions are also being offered throughout the summer, to help familiarise you with the new system. If you would like to attend one of these, just let us know. Already training sessions have seen some exciting ideas suggested by tutors to make the most of the new system.

To show how the lists can help academic, information and digital literacy development, we have created an example list, which including a skills mapping note at the end of each section. We are aware that tutors at Reading are constantly involved in developing innovative teaching practices, and hope to keep sharing good practice and new ideas. Please do send any examples, case studies, or just off-the-cuff thoughts to Kerry Webb. We will collate them for further blog posts.

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Internationalization: Assessing the Impact on Students By Dr Philippa Cranwell and Dr Elizabeth Page

In Autumn 2014, the Department of Chemistry welcomed their first cohort of final year students studying for the [3+1] BSc Applied Chemistry course from NUIST, China. By January, we could already see that there were some valuable lessons that we could learn from these students. We decided to carry out a review, asking all students involved for feedback on the year. So we could reward them for their time and input we applied for PLanT funding and were successful.

This PLanT project was in collaboration with Shuwen Ma (a student from NUIST), Kirsten Hawkins (a third year home student) and Amie Parker (a second year home student), all from the Department of Chemistry.

 

Aims and Method

Our objectives were to: (a) determine the impact of the cohort of students from NUIST on our current third-year home students; (b) find out what preconceptions our second-year students had; (c) determine the parts of the year the students from NUIST found the most challenging and what we could offer to support future students. In order to achieve this, we organised three separate working lunch sessions with each of the three peer groups (second year/third year home students and the NUIST students) led by the students named in the PLanT proposal. During these lunches there was a brain-storming session where students were asked their opinions on a variety of topics and then wrote their notes on giant post-its.

 

Results

This approach was extremely informative with regards to the home students. The students from NUIST were less forthcoming with information, so in the end in addition to the working lunch we sent them questionnaires that they returned anonymously.

Analysis of the results showed that there was one main overriding theme between all three cohorts, namely the importance of English language skills. In the case of the home students, the level of English was important from a day-to-day perspective. The second years, with whom the next cohort of NUIST students would be integrating in 2015/2016, were concerned that the NUIST students would not be able to communicate effectively therefore there would be minimal integration so classes might become segregated, something they wanted to avoid. The third year students who had experienced mixed classes with the NUIST student in 2014/2015 said that the language barrier was not an issue in lectures, but made things difficult in practical classes due to the communication required between students and staff.

The NUIST students themselves also said that language was an issue and that although they had learnt English in China and had fulfilled the University’s requirements for English, they struggled due to the big difference between day-to-day English speaking and the technical language required for completing the degree course. However, the students all agreed that the help offered by the ISLI was invaluable. The English courses in the Autumn term were extremely helpful and that their English skills and confidence had dramatically improved over the year.

Additionally the students from NUIST were very worried about their final examinations, even though part of their final year grade was based upon coursework. We attributed this to two main reasons; the first came down again to lack of confidence with the English language, and the second was the difference in the education systems between the UK and China.

Written examinations in China differ significantly from UK style exam questions. In the UK students are required to recall information and apply it in unfamiliar situations, whereas in China many exams involve simple knowledge recall. Throughout the year the Chinese students completed tutorial questions of a style similar to the examination questions at the end of the year, to prepare them for the different assessment approaches. Our international support tutor provided additional classes and made video recordings of lectures. The English language tutor analysed our exam command words and trained the NUIST students in understanding the different requirements of words such as ‘explain’, ‘describe’ and ‘analyse’. However, the students were still concerned that they would not understand the questions they were being asked and they would be slower at the exams due to the language barrier, so might run out of time. Although we had anticipated that English language would be a problem and had tried to put support mechanisms in place, such as translating key chemical vocabulary, we were not fully prepared for the impact of this.

Future work

The information we have gained from all year groups has been extremely useful and will definitely be used to help future cohorts of students settle into University life. In terms of new initiatives for next year, we will try to implement the following:

  • A “buddying system” where current third year students act as guides to the new NUIST students.
  • Additional exam-style questions for the students to use a practise once they are in the UK
  • Contribute UK style examination questions to examinations set and sat in China so students are better prepared for their examinations in Reading.
  • Organisation of laboratory classes to promote cross-cultural exchange but avoid handicapping home students.
  • A greater emphasis on the technical language required for chemistry
  • Informal drop-in sessions where students can come and ask for help if they need it
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Interactive Web Pages help make MOOC a success by Dr Richard Mitchell

On June 15th, Begin Robotics began – the second massive open online course (MOOC) from Systems Engineering running on the FutureLearn platform. One of its aims is to interest potential students in the areas of robotics, cybernetics, artificial intelligence and electronic engineering – following the success of Begin Programming, which we know has attracted students to do Computer Science at Reading.

A key novel feature of Begin Robotics is its use of interactive web pages both as exercises and to illustrate key principles – such as how a signal from a computer which can have a high or a low state only, can be used to set any integer speed from -40 to +40 using so called pulse width modulation. These pages build on work I have done and reported on the GRASS project blog:

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/grass/blog/2015/01/30/screencasts-demonstrating-web-page-programs-for-tl/

There are two exercise pages each week, and those in the first week have proved to be very popular: for instance, Ed Ashby posted : “I thought the simulations were a fantastic way for distance learning, great to see instant results from our control inputs.” and  Ann-Kristin Abel commented : “Great course so far! Loved the simulations, as they really help me understand the movement of a robot. Looking forward to next week.”

In the first exercise, the participants are shown a simulation of a two wheeled robot and have to enter the speeds of the motors driving each wheel. They then experiment with these working out how to make the robot move forward or turn at different speeds.

In the second exercise, they have to define what the speeds should be for each of four actions: going forward, turning to the left, to the right and going backwards, and they then command the robot to do each action, watching the robot move around the arena provided. Having done so, they select a race track in place of the arena, and have to steer the robot round it as quickly as possible.

 

Second Exercise with the Race Track shown
Second Exercise with the Race Track shown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To prepare for these exercises, I recorded screencasts explaining the tasks, demonstrating the web pages and for instance showing me steering the robot round the track in around 15 seconds.

There have been many enthusiastic posts responding to these web pages. These included one learner commenting that he had steered the robot round the track in about 12 seconds, but his six year old grandson had, after just three attempts, done it in only 7 seconds!

In addition, a teacher doing the course asked if these simulations could be made available outside the FutureLearn platform as he thought they would be useful for his key stage 3 and 4 students. This we are doing, so for instance the two exercises are available at

http://www.reading.ac.uk/UnivRead/vr/OpenOnlineCourses/Files/robot3.html

http://www.reading.ac.uk/UnivRead/vr/OpenOnlineCourses/Files/robot4.html

The demonstration of pulse width modulation is at

http://www.reading.ac.uk/UnivRead/vr/OpenOnlineCourses/Files/desmoPWM.html

Interactive page demonstrating pulse width modulation

Interactive page demonstrating pulse width modulation

 

 

 

 

Although it has required much effort to first produce these web pages, and then to make them compatible with the FutureLearn platform, the very positive reaction to them from learners and FutureLearn is very encouraging, so the concept could be utilised both in other MOOCs as well as in other teaching.

The two Systems Engineering MOOCs, which are both running in June 2015, and which will run again later this year associated with the BBC’s Make it Digital campaign this summer, can be found at

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/begin-robotics

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/begin-programming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Latest News, Teaching & Learning in the Digital Age | 1 Comment

Working in partnership… by Dawn Willoughby

With ever-increasing speed it seems we have reached that time of year again when teaching is finished, exam results are calculated and our thoughts start to turn from the current academic session to planning for the next one. This offers some time to reflect on successes and think about the areas of teaching where we would like to make changes. The “stand-out” feature of my module portfolio in 2014-15 has been the increased level of working in partnership with colleagues to teach and support our undergraduate students. Six of the seven modules I delivered this year were co-taught, an approach which has brought some challenges and plenty of rewards.

 

… with PhD students

In the Henley Business School, I am fortunate to work each year with a small team of PhD students who are responsible for supporting the delivery of lecture material in Statistics through weekly tutorials for undergraduates. This partnership provides an important opportunity for PhD students to strengthen their transferable skill set and become more effective facilitators; I have seen them gain a clearer understanding of pedagogy and an increased level of confidence. Similarly, there are benefits here for our undergraduates: they receive more individualised support for their taught course and they can also gain an appreciation of how their learning relates to the research undertaken in the School. And for myself, my motivation is improved by the enthusiasm of the PhD students and their “get-involved” attitude towards the programme delivery.

 

… with industry-based professionals

For my module in the School of Systems Engineering, there can be no doubt that engaging with IT professionals enhances the employability skills of our undergraduate students. In this case, the programme involves a group-based web development project for which employees of a local web design company act as the client. Developing this working relationship over the past few years has provided an extra dimension to my teaching. In recent discussions it has become clear that the company also values their involvement: “It offers an opportunity to gain skills and experience that simply would not be available to most of our staff members in their usual roles within the business. It has also afforded us an opportunity to give something back to the community by sharing our expertise – something we feel strongly about.”

 

Engaging in team-based teaching presents challenges especially in maintaining seamless delivery and providing consistent information to students. Sometimes there can also be logistical and communication problems associated with bringing together a diverse set of people with different working practices and other research-based or commercial objectives. However, all of these difficulties can be overcome when an inclusive environment is created in which open discussion is encouraged. From my experience, I have also learnt the importance of devising and sharing formal documentation to ensure consistency in assessment and provision of feedback to students.

 

When I first started working at the University, I expected teaching in higher education would be a rather solitary experience providing very little opportunity for interaction with colleagues. Ten years later, I can testify that this is certainly not the case as I work on a variety collaborative teaching and learning projects with colleagues from several Schools and Departments. It may be true that team-based teaching requires some additional commitment and effort but in my opinion this approach can bring benefits to University staff and students, and to external partners. And so, as planning gets underway for the next cohort of students, I would encourage consideration of team-based teaching as an option for module delivery.

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Education online en-masse: Lessons for teaching and learning through MOOCs by Clare Wright, Clare Furneaux and Liz Wilding

On 24 April, 2015: 40 academic educators from 19 institutions came together to discuss key issues in MOOC design and implementation. The one-day workshop, hosted and funded by the University of Reading, a leading member of the FutureLearn MOOC consortium, offered the opportunity to evaluate practical lessons in designing and delivering MOOCs, particularly in relation to academic skills development. The focus was on problem-based discussion of approaches to teaching and learning and of the extent to which MOOC learning outcomes can be defined, measured, or achieved.

Education online en-masse

There were four presentations, each of which explored a particular issue related to the central theme, followed by group discussion around questions suggested by the presenters.

 

 

  1. Dimensions of MOOCs: Shirley Williams (University of Reading) gave us an overview of some MOOC statistics and taxonomies, and highlighted some MOOC issues viewed from the ‘outside’ and from the provider’s view. As follow-up, she asked us to extend her list of MOOC dimensions, discuss how we should be measuring success, and consider whether and how we should compare courses.
  2. Pedagogy as a service: lessons and challenges from the perspective of the platform: David Major from FutureLearn led us through some key lessons – and challenges – and asked us to discuss two major questions: Are MOOCs platforms for content and courses, or platforms for learning and pedagogy? How can we coalesce individualism from the view of courses, platform, educators and learning?
  3. Repurposing MOOCs for language learning purposes: Liam Murray (University of Limerick) shared the results and recommendations of a team who evaluated a number of MOOCs to determine their potential to be repurposed for second language acquisition. Liam suggested that we consider two aspects of MOOCs in our groups: specialisation and adaptability.
  4. Designing assessed group work for MOOCs: Marion Waite, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Abigail Ball (Oxford Brookes University) shared their experience with group work on the TOOC15 MOOC. They proposed we discuss why we assess in a MOOC and how we should do it. They also had us consider the issues and practical challenges associated with grouping students and peer review.

It’s hard to summarise the lively and far-ranging discussions that took place, but the round-table at the end of the day (shown in the picture above) helped establish some key lessons learned, some useful tips, and challenges to explore further.

Some lessons learned:

  • There is a longish history of en-masse online learning behind MOOCS (starting with Usenet groups), so it’s important to avoid re-inventing the wheel.
  • Initial MOOC-hype is dying down, but interest is still growing, as seen in takeup of repeat MOOCs.
  • MOOC measurement is best avoided, especially if superficial, e.g. if they are only about numbers signing up
  • MOOCs are a good way of marketing – a shop window – so need institutional support.
  • The learners you get may not the ones you expected, so keep assessing your learning goals.

Best practice tips from the day:

  • Keep your eyes open , e.g. educators can benefit from enrolling on other MOOCs as learners.
  • Keep talking to each other. It’s important to have Communities of Practice.
  • MOOCS should draw on best practice in T&L. Let pedagogy lead!

MOOCs – where next?

  • ‘The walls of the institution are coming down to the level of the learners’ – there will be an opening up of practice in range and aims of MOOCs.
  • Types of MOOC will include:
    • Tasters for University courses
    • Retirees taking MOOCS for interest/enjoyment
    • MOOCs embedded in f2f courses (eg basic Maths)
  • A lot could be presented as REF case studies, so reliable research context is vital.
  • MOOCS will get more specific/specialised as the market place gets more crowded…
  • but there will still be value in ‘Introductions to….’ MOOCs.
  • There will be more mixed x- and c-MOOCs.
  • There will be more training/professional MOOCs, but many people will still do academic MOOCs for enjoyment.
  • MOOCS will get better at delivering pedagogic aims.
  • There will be a wider range of stakeholders (e.g. employers).
  • Do MOOCs need to be assessed? If so, assessment must be paid for.
  • How can participants demonstrate what they have learned in non-traditional forms of assessment?

Overall, the workshop allowed presenters and delegates to share questions and lessons learned, and to consider how to take forward best practice in online en-masse learning. We very much hope to keep the dialogue going in the future.

Feedback from delegates:

‘Inspiring!’  ‘Constructive.’

‘Definitely worth travelling 600 miles for.

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PLanT Project: TypoResources by Peter Loveland, Melissa Towriss, Hannah Tollett

Intro

URL: http://peterloveland.com/development/plant/

The PLanT project is a University funded programme that is designed to get students involved with the design and delivery of strategies regarding teaching and learning. If an application is successful, the group is rewarded £500 to see the project through.

We as a group, applied for one of these grants, using the idea of a web-based learning resource for the typography department, and were successful with this application.


Proposal/Application

Our application was based around the fact that we collectively do a lot of online research in relation to many aspects of our course, for example, learning software, or getting design tips. Currently our department is lacking in any such centralised bank of resources, and we felt that it would be useful for subsequent year groups to have something like this. We therefore created a questionnaire that asked other undergraduates on our course opinions on the current provision of resources and communication methods within the department. Below asked the questions we asked…

From the questionnaire, we learned that students felt like the department relies heavily on social media, because students opinions of BlackBoard is less than complimentary. The other main result of this questionnaire, was discovering that students were strongly in favour of an online resource bank. This therefore became the foundation for our proposal and the rest of the project.


Process

Discussion of ideas

With the funding in place, we met to discuss the preliminary research that we had attained, revisiting these results from the questionnaire, to work out what exactly would be useful for the department. As the research outlined, students seemed in favour of having the online resource bank. We therefore compiled a list of ideas of what we felt this system should have and be able to do. Ideas included:

  • a provision for submitting work for feedback
  • anonymous questioning to department staff
  • a bank of good previous work, curated by lecturers
  • a bank of resources
  • a collaborative online working space.

Research

After discussions with departmental staff, and our supervisor for the project, it became apparent that due to department rules, it would be better to refine the ideas into one more focussed, ‘online resource’, that performed the following tasks (condensing some of the ideas above):

  • Examples of previous student work
  • A collation of internet based design resources
  • A collation of user created resources (both by staff and students)
  • We proposed the above online resource to other students on the course to gain feedback, and further our ideas. The general idea was received very positively. During this research phase, we were given access to BlackBoard, to determine the limitations, and capabilities of the resource, so that we were able to not only make something that does things BlackBoard is unable to, but also not designing a system that simply replicates aspects of BlackBoard.

Response to research

With all the prior research and market research in mind, we began to design the system. From research, we realised that one of the main problems with the previous methods of handling information, i.e. Facebook and BlackBoard, was that the navigation and user interface was not specifically tailored to what we wanted it to do. We looked at existing methods of navigating information heavy websites, such as Pinterest, observing their filtering system. We felt that this system, which uses a collection of ‘visual cards’ would be an extremely efficient and successful method for our new system.

We began wireframing based on these ideas:

TypoResources 4

We made the system capable of browsing resources through different facets, such as course modules, but also through more specific key word searches. Once these wireframes were established, we developed the website, integrating it with WordPress so that we could easily manage and search the resources, using it to rapidly accelerate the development process. With the first prototype in place we began user testing.

Using the money from the grant of £500, we set up a focus group where we could interview undergraduates from the department. We spent £70 on food and drinks to help entice students to take part. The focus group asked students to have a look through the website which we had created, we asked them some questions after giving them a chance to explore it themselves.

The responses from the students were very positive and they also provided us with some more feedback. We also got staff to try out the system who were able to provide feedback from their perspective. Staff suggested that they would like to see the option of navigating the system via different categories rather than specifically across year groups in order to make the system more useful for the course.

Our lecturers were impressed with the work we had done to aid the teaching and learning resources for future years and are excited to see continual development and for the site to be live. It was at this point, that the name of the resource bank should be typo resources to encompass it within existing services provided by the department.

Presenting our system

After the focus group we attended a presentation where we discussed what our project was and why we wanted to do it. More importantly for us, it was a chance to present our hard work. We created a keynote that explained the research and the process that we employed during the project. The presentation took place in 3sixty, the centre of campus, in front of around 100 people, most of whom were members of University staff. This was a great opportunity and again, we received a positive response from the audience.

Next steps

Unfortunately as we are graduating this year we are unable to continue developing this system. However, because the PLanT scheme involves our supervisor, and is for our course, the department is backing the continued development. This means our next step is to recruit other students who are as passionate about this project as we are.

Reflections

Through participating in the PLanT scheme project we gained valuable experience in team work and research of user experience. We benefitted from discussion and collaboration with department staff, particularly our supervisor Jeanne-Louise Moys, which helped us to gain an understanding of the system and practices as they currently exist, as well as to gain useful insight into the considerations of staff.

Such a unique project came with its own challenges and rewards. Our work on the presentation, although very well received, did have some setbacks, in terms of coordinating the demonstration of the live system on a large-scale screen with all equipment located off-stage. We may have benefited from more practice or potentially creating a short video of the system in use that could have been used. Through this experience of presenting work to a large audience, however, we have gained useful experience of public speaking and organisation. There was also the issue of justifying the creation of a system that could have been seen as overlapping with the provision of Blackboard, so we worked hard to ensure that what we were creating offered ‘unique selling points’ that would be of value to students within the department, and more widely applicable throughout the university when developed further.

Being given the opportunity to work on something that will benefit students in further years has been a very rewarding experience for the whole group. We are proud to have worked on something that will remain after we have graduated, with the potential to improve students’ experience of communication and independent learning, especially as department staff and other students can be involved in developing and refining the idea further.

Melissa Speaking at the Showcase Event

Melissa Speaking at the Showcase Event

Hannah Speaking at the Showcase Event

Hannah Speaking at the Showcase Event

Peter Speaking at the Showcase Event

Peter Speaking at the Showcase Event

 

 

 

 

 

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Spin-Off, Remake, Pop-up: Using a Research Exhibition to Showcase Undergraduate Research on Television in FTT by Dr Simone Knox

Earlier this summer term, the Minghella Building hosted a lunchtime pop-up research exhibition under the theme of ‘Screen Relations’, which featured the research undertaken by Film, Theatre & Television students as part of their final assessment for the Part 3 module Television and Contemporary Culture. Led by myself as the convenor, the Spring term of the module explores the intertextual dimensions of television, such as spin-offs, remakes, prequels, sequels and other kinds of adaptations and textual relationships. For their final assessment, I offered my students the choice between an essay on a self-chosen topic, a production file for which they propose a new spin-off/remake/or similar (complete with intended casting, production crew, promotional campaign, etc.), or a short filmed project. With all my students this year choosing the practically-inflected assessment types that would be bound to yield innovative ideas and interesting audio-visual material, an opportunity to show this work to the wider student body and staff proved irresistible.

the ‘Screen Relations’ pop-up research exhibition

the ‘Screen Relations’ pop-up research exhibition

the ‘Screen Relations’ pop-up research exhibition

the ‘Screen Relations’ pop-up research exhibition

So, my students and I held a pop-up research exhibition, for which the students devising production files selected materials such as images of their intended cast and promotional posters to display on the walls and proposed soundtracks to play on laptops around the Minghella Green Room area, where visitors could mingle and talk to the production file students in an informal manner about their work. Those students undertaking filmed projects screened rough cuts of their programmes (or selected extracts thereof) next door in the Minghella Cinema, and the event was brought to a close with a Q&A with the directors. I want to add that what was important to me was that participating in the exhibition would not add a burden to my students’ workload at a busy time of their degree (the final term of their final year, no less) or their finances: from the very beginning, the intention was that they show materials that they are already working on, without the need for additional preparation as such, and I provided the colour printing.

Olivia Jeffery presenting her project Mum’s Army

Olivia Jeffery presenting her project Mum’s Army

With such reassurance given, the exhibition gave my students the chance to use and hone their presentation skills developed in earlier parts of their degree, and to get an experience of curating by having to carefully think through what materials to select and how to display them most effectively within the given space. They also got to share and engage in a dialogue about their imaginative work with more people than they otherwise would have (mostly myself, via tutorials), gaining valuable feedback from and being able to test out ideas (e.g. potential titles for their proposed programmes) on the exhibition’s visitors for their work-in-progress. My students’ feedback on the pop-up research exhibition was unanimously positive, and the experience was described as ‘incredibly helpful’ in our most recent Student-Staff Liaison Committee.

a promotional poster for Sarah Foster-Edwards’ British Back to the Future project

a promotional poster for Sarah Foster-Edwards’ British Back to the Future project

However, this benefit to my students had not been my only hoped-for outcome of this event: just as much as I wanted to give my students a further opportunity to develop their ideas, I also thought that it would be interesting and stimulating for the exhibition visitors, which included staff, fellow undergraduates, Masters and PhD students, to see the products of my final year students’ research skills and the diversity of projects, approaches and ideas. And who would not be interested to find out more about projects such as these (and I am going to limit myself to four, much as it pains me): Mum’s Army, a spin-off of (yes, you’ve guessed it) Dad’s Army, featuring the wives and girlfriends of the characters of the beloved BBC sitcom, imaginatively proposed by Olivia Jeffery – you can listen to the intended theme tune here. Sarah Foster-Edwards rightly decided that the time has come for a British television remake of cult blockbuster Back to the Future, proposing to replace the DeLorean time machine with a Mini Cooper. Girls: UK, a transatlantic remake of Lena Dunham’s Girls filmed by Ciara Durnford, Lottie Gilbourne, Daisy Hampton and Kat Newington, addressed the HBO show’s politics of representation. Finally, filmed by Sam Elcock and James Cross, Norman saw iconic character Norman Bates running a B&B in Sonning, with a use of style that engages meaningfully with Alfred Hitchcock. With so much on offer and a nice ‘buzz’ on the day, the exhibition served as a(n albeit ephemeral) resource for visitors to see how my talented students deploy their intellectual interests and research skills for projects that ask them to bring together industry analysis (e.g. target demographics, channel brand identity) and creative decision-making.

a promotional poster for Girls: UK and a still from Norman, two filmed projects screened as part of the exhibition

a promotional poster for Girls: UK and a still from Norman, two filmed projects screened as part of the exhibition

 

a promotional poster for Girls: UK and a still from Norman, two filmed projects screened as part of the exhibition

a promotional poster for Girls: UK and a still from Norman, two filmed projects screened as part of the exhibition

Overall, I am very pleased with how the event went and am planning to repeat it next year. I found the combination of a particular assessment type (production file/filmed project), forum (pop-up research exhibition) and space (Minghella Building) particularly effective – if you have been to the Minghella Building, you will know that it is a space designed to facilitate dialogue about creative practice. That said, using a pop-up exhibition is a flexible and effective forum that can, of course, be reproduced and adapted for any type of discipline, space, assessment type and occasion. With the scope for using as many or few resources as required or desired and much practicality – our event literally popped up and down within 90 minutes – there is great potential for further uses of research exhibitions to promote and value student research and demonstrate how this builds on and enriches the student experience.

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