AN ‘APPY CHRISTMAS IN AGRICULTURE: SHARING OUR TEACHING AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES By Dr Alice Mauchline & Prof Julian Park

During December 2016, we had the chance to share our teaching and learning experiences here at the University of Reading with thousands of other educators around the world by providing a case study for a seasonal online course called ‘The 12 apps of Christmas’.

The free, open, short, online Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course was run for the third time by the Dublin Institute of Technology. The programme released ‘an app a day’ for the first 12 weekdays in December and over 3,000 participants logged in to get quick outlines of different ways in which they could integrate mobile learning into their teaching and learning practices. The aim was to raise awareness of the benefits of mobile apps and technologies, to provide upskilling for educators and to help expand their personal learning networks. The course was a collaborative effort with case studies from Ireland, UK and the USA and now that it has finished, the site has been left online as an open resource for all to use. It is available here: https://the12appsofchristmas2016.wordpress.com/

The case study was produced in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Sheffield and Chester as a dissemination activity for the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning (EFL) project.  The EFL team have been working together to research and share innovations in field teaching and learning with a particular focus on the use of mobile technologies.

The app we focused on for the case study was ‘Geospike’; this app allows instant location recording using the internal GPS of a mobile device, to which photos, videos and field notes can be attached. This functionality means the app can be used as a georeferenced field notebook. The pedagogic case study we wrote described how we used the app to log field sampling sites in Iceland with Final year undergraduates from the University of Reading and the University of Akureyri, Iceland on a joint Microbiology field-based module led by Prof Rob Jackson (School of Biological Sciences).

Photos from the Iceland fieldtrip showing students using the iPads to log their sampling locations in GeoSpike (we gratefully acknowledge the Annual Fund for their support in purchasing a set of iPads to support field learning at Reading)

The experience of sharing our pedagogic innovations through the 12 apps of Christmas provided us with the opportunity to interact with educators, students, librarians and learning technologists across the globe. The cohort included people with a multitude of different subject backgrounds and experiences which led to very interesting conversations through Twitter and exchanges of comments on the website.

Frances Boylan @boylanfm A map of #12appsDIT followers (https://twitter.com/boylanfm/status/808324692109119488)

Several other apps with similar functionality to Geospike were discussed along with many suggestions of alternative, innovative uses of this kind of app in teaching and learning activities. Our favourite feedback was on Twitter from @LeithaD “#12appsDIT Really love the case study for GeoSpike. A nifty app is one thing, but a well-constructed learning activity is even better!”

Learn more:

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning https://enhancingfieldwork.org.uk/

12 Apps of Christmas https://the12appsofchristmas2016.wordpress.com/

Take part:

DIT aren’t running the 12 Apps of Christmas in 2017 but there are a couple of others to try this year:

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Reflections on university transition from a new staff member By Dr Alana James

I started university this year, or at least it feels like I have upon starting my new job as a Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences (PCLS). Every face around me is unfamiliar, the campus seems an unnerving maze, and simple processes have become logic puzzles. Oh the joy I felt at using a printer successfully (let’s not mention the attempts at scanning a document). There are many enjoyable aspects – meeting lovely new colleagues and joining in the School’s coffee mornings for example – but the transition is more disorientating than I expected. At the end of my first week I was grateful for some downtime at home, and found myself reflecting upon how my experience compares with the transition to university for new students.

New students face the same challenges I am but may also be living independently, away from their support network, for the first time. Many go home each day to a new place and have to figure out new washing machines and cookers never mind printers, as well as try to get along with housemates. For those commuting there are other challenges, including being at the mercy of traffic or public transport, and trying to forge friendships between classes. I have worked in universities before, and am able to draw upon previous experience; many new students arrive without having spent much, if any, time in a higher education environment. We know that factors such as being the first in your family to go to university or having a disability can make the transition even harder.

My own disorientation in these first days at the University of Reading has reminded me how all-encompassing the transition to university can be. As an academic my focus is often upon ensuring my new students have the academic skills needed to be an independent learner, but it’s important to be mindful that this is just one aspect of the overall transition experience. It’s easy to forget that the initial onset of new faces, places, and challenges can be mentally and physically wearing as well as exciting. When I meet my new students at the start of the next academic year I will try to recall how I felt when I joined the UoR.

One of the influencing factors in my decision to join the UoR was its commitment to student support, particularly mentoring. Harnessing our students’ potential to support each other through mentoring can ease mentees’ transition into university, whilst developing the mentors’ own skills and experience. I have previously run a scheme where psychology students mentored A-level pupils, giving them an insight into what university life is really like, and found that the mentors also benefited in terms of developing transferable skills and ideas about careers. Some recent research with my collaborator found that specialist mentoring, between qualified staff and mentees, is an effective form of support for students with mental health conditions and autism. I will certainly be encouraging my future students at the UoR to make the most of the STaR mentoring scheme and the mentoring connected to the Study Smart online course, first as mentees and later as mentors.

As for me, I am very much looking forward to the meetings with my staff mentor.

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A letter to my pre-UoRM self about teaching international students By Dr Dan Jones

Dear pre-UoRM Dan (circa 2015),

So, you’re looking forward to going to the University of Reading Malaysia (UoRM) soon, right? Slightly daunting I’m sure, but you’ll be telling yourself that the UK campus already has a large international cohort and that teaching in Malaysia won’t be that different to what you have already been doing, right? Well, not quite. Therefore, I thought I’d take a moment to write you this letter to give you a few snippets of advice…

It wasn’t until I started at UoRM that I came to realise what diverse teaching needs were; a classroom on the other side of the world, a different continent, with a highly international cohort, a diverse educational background, and almost all with English as a second language. Immersed in this setting I was suddenly rather outnumbered by the local knowledge and experience of the classroom. I learned quickly that to engage these students I had to reflect on my current teaching practices. To quote from the curriculum framework, I had to “adapt to students’ needs rather than expecting students to adapt to me.”; some of my rigid expectations did not fit with this context, some assumptions were unfair. Over two years I picked up many tips for teaching international students, however, for ease of digestion, I thought I’d focus on five key points. I think an awareness will help with your transition, and could even be used at UoR before you go!

  1. Assumptions and expectations of roles: the role of a student and a staff member at university needs to be set out and understood, by both parties, early in the course. I found that international students start university with a range of educational, and cultural, backgrounds. If students and staff are not on the same page when it comes to what is expected from them in their degree, confusion and uncertainty arises. Acknowledging this difference, and laying out expectations clearly, was the most important lesson I took from UoRM, enabling me to maximise the effectiveness of my teaching.
  2. Adapting to students’ requirements: new skills may need breaking down, defined, and the basics taught before building upon foundations. The student must play their part by working hard to learn a new skill, we do not want to end up spoon-feeding students. However, an educator can also facilitate such a transition, learn to acknowledge differences in backgrounds, and help students adapt to different environments.
  3. Instilling confidence: many challenges I first had were related to confidence in the classroom: the culture I was in implicitly discouraged students to answer, or ask, questions. Schools often utilised embarrassment or peer pressure in the classroom, leading to an underconfident and passive cohort. I introduced ways to make the environment more accepting and friendly: electronically answering questions, using post-it notes to discuss, encouragement, light-heartedness – small things that added up to make a difference; by second year the difference in confidence was discernible.
  4. Providing a new/different context: particularly in psychology, many examples and theories are Western-centric, something I did not acknowledge before. It was a case of contextualising, to make the content more accessible for students, which led to a greater inclusiveness, and subsequently better engagement.
  5. Using simpler language: a practical issue that one must be aware of. The language I used was occasionally too advanced for the audience, and could benefit from additional explanation or simpler language. I was aware not to ‘dumb-down’ lectures (this is higher education after all), however, it is likely to be beneficial for all (including those with English as a first language) for the teacher to acknowledge the type, and level, of language that they are using.

Of course, a stipulation to this is that these points have arisen from my own experiences, and I can hear you now, “…well Dan, this is all very well, but where is the evidence? You are just relying on anecdote, can we really generalise from this?”. Yes, you’re right in your thinking, but, the changes in students’ approach to my classes was striking; confidence grew, participation improved and students were engaged. Nevertheless, as the scientist is exclaiming in you, that same scientist is exclaiming in me. Consequently, I, in collaboration with colleagues in the UK, Japan and Malaysia, am currently investigating whether cultural factors could explain the use of critical thinking in higher education. Data has been collected and analysis is underway…

Although realised and formed at UoRM, they are as applicable to the UK. UoR has almost 4,000 international students across all programmes and although we want to give international students the British education experience, I think it’s important to acknowledge differences and be aware of cultural challenges. Feel free to share this letter with colleagues at UoR and UoRM; these may not be the ‘best’ techniques, but, at the very least, may increase the discussion around multicultural learning, which can only benefit staff and students alike.

Finally, do make the most of your Malaysian adventure, it’ll be great. You’ll learn lots and be regularly challenged, but come back more culturally aware and open-minded than ever! Oh, and don’t forget to send a postcard…

Posted in Student Engagement, Student support, UoR Malaysia | Tagged | 1 Comment

Facilitating student reflection on learning in the Great Hall by Rev Dr Geoff Taggart

The Great Hall is the jewel in the crown of the London Rd campus and its cavernous interior gives it a unique atmosphere, ideal for reflective kinds of learning. I was fortunate enough to teach a session there in October and its dramatic, imposing space was a key pedagogical tool. The session lasted two hours and involved 50 2nd year students training to become primary teachers through the BA Primary Education (QTS) programme. Although the focus of the session was the teaching of religious education in school, it did not involve any teaching about specific religions at all. This is because a key aspect of RE in school is ‘learning from religions’, not about them. In other words, the focus is upon the pupils’ own developing sense of purpose, sense of identity, meaning and belonging.

I am writing this since such a session would seem useful to undergraduates on all programmes since the development of self-awareness, goal-setting and clarification of values are skills needed by all students. There is also a growing need to find new ways to sustain student wellbeing.

Once the students were seated, I told them a little about the space they were seated in, about when the hall was built and what it is used for. Talking about all the graduation ceremonies which are held here, I expressed the view that, for about 100 years, the hall has been the ‘symbolic heart’ of the university since it is probably the one room in the whole institution which most students, on all UK campuses, have passed through at least once. I told them what happens at graduation and role-played walking in at the back and up to the stage to shake the VC’s hand. I asked them to do a piece of writing for themselves, in silence, stressing the fact that this was not an assessment and would not be handed in. On a handout, the prompts for writing were:

  • List all the important events which will happen for you between now and graduation day (e.g. birthdays, holidays etc).
  • What are the important things you will need to do between now and graduation day?
  • Are there things which have happened which you already know will become permanent memories of your time at university?
  • Which aspects of yourself need to be nurtured and cultivated before graduation?
  • Are there any aspects of yourself to which you need to say goodbye before graduation?
  • Who will you invite to your graduation?
  • What is the link (if any) between these people and the memory you wrote about at the start of the day?
  • What would you like to say to these people/person?
  • Is there anything particular you want to do today as a result of this writing?

I stressed the fact that students could spend as long or as short a time on the activity as they liked but, if they wished to stop, they should leave the hall and meet up with friends later, rather than disturbing them. There were other activities they could go onto. Over the previous few weeks, Mark Laynesmith and I had been fortunate enough to borrow a canvas labyrinth to use with students. This was set out in the hall. I explained that the centre represented graduation day and they could ‘take a stone for a walk’, reflecting on the actions and changes that need to happen as they get closer and closer to it. I also had large carpet tiles and baskets of different shaped stones. I explained that, if they wanted, they could extend their reflection by creating a picture out of stones which represented their life at the current time.

I asked students to complete an evaluation form before they left. One of the things I wanted to know was whether students felt that this kind of exercise was legitimate and worthwhile on a degree-level programme. All fifty students agreed unanimously that it is ‘a good thing for universities to have space on their courses for students to reflect on their aims and values in life’. One student acknowledged that ‘there are courses/societies where you can reflect but it is hard to allow/give yourself time to go to them. This is why it is very good to incorporate it into lectures.’ One student commented that ‘we need this time to just be calm and think without things like technology getting in the way.’ Another said that ‘being a student is daunting because you are working for your future while trying to fit in. Reflection helps with mental state [sic] and could prevent students from getting bogged down.’

I was also curious whether students would have preferred to clarify values and shares their goals in group discussion, rather than in solitary writing. Although seven students would have preferred this, the vast majority agreed that the silent reflection exercise was better in this regard. One student commented:

 ‘I think the quality/depth of my reflection has been much better by writing it as (1) it is harder to come up with words on the spot in conversation to describe things and (2) I feel I can express more when I know only I am going to be reading it.’

Six students felt that both solitary and group work could complement each other and this remark was typical:

 ‘I feel if reflecting with others they may help to remind you of events you may have put to the back of your mind but on the other hand silence was very nice to just sit and reflect.’

Overall, the comments from the students were overwhelmingly positive. These are some examples:

  • ‘It has allowed me to stop and think about where I am in my life and where I want to go.’
  • ‘I very much enjoyed the reflective session. It has benefitted me in many ways by putting my personal and university practices into perspective.’
  • ‘It made it clear to me how important family are in your life.’
  • ‘I was able to let all my feelings out on paper that I wouldn’t normally feel comfortable doing’.
  • ‘I have become more aware of my personal goals and who/where I want to be at the time of my graduation.’
  • ‘I found it really useful to think about what aspects of myself I want to change/develop before graduation day.’
  • ‘The Great Hall reflective writing experience was one of the most beneficial activities I’ve ever done in a lecture.’
  • ‘Today has made me think about my life in lots of ways – emotional but helpful.’
  • ‘I almost feel uplifted after reflecting upon myself and others.’
  • ‘I hadn’t realised how many good memories I had from only one year of uni.’
  • ‘Slowing down today has had a huge positive affect’
  • ‘The first thing I’m going to do when I leave is call my family and thank them for supporting me on my journey through university.’
  • ‘Very helpful in understanding where my head is at mentally and grounding as I was able to list the most important things that matter to me.’

 

This exercise brought home to me how valuable the scale and atmosphere of the Great Hall can be as a resource in promoting a deep level of reflection and how it could contribute to all kinds of ‘contemplative pedagogy’.

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What are the benefits of Study Smart? A student perspective By Tom Wise (Part 3, Psychological Theory and Practice)

Being a student mentor for the Study Smart online course for Part 1 undergraduates has offered me an opportunity for personal development, through examining the perspectives of upcoming students to the University. It has allowed me to reflect on my university experiences, and develop further skills in communication. These are areas particularly important to me, as through reflecting on my experiences it has enabled me to understand my personal best practises, and supporting others to find their own. In addition, I have learnt to engage and effectively communicate with new individuals, about topics which are both basic and complex. Although with hindsight a topic (such as referencing) may now seem like second nature, for those initially transitioning to university, it can be extremely complex and daunting. Through developing this understanding, and through personal reflection and guiding others, it has really shown me how important a positive and supported university transition can be.

This course clearly can reduce student anxiety about coming to a different academic environment, made clear by comments during the course. However, there are other subtler benefits of this program, as this course can normalise and provide the understanding that “you are not alone”. When combined with other university wide programs, such as STaR Mentoring, it can provide a fully supportive, but not condescending transition; ensuring students enjoy the university experience for what it is.

Although there can be seen to be these higher-level benefits, Study Smart allows students to really utilize the university resources from day one. The course breaks down these resources, which can be worked through at the student’s own pace, before or during the first weeks at university, rather than being dumped onto them during Welcome Week, which can often leave students feeling very overwhelmed. This can mean that every student is able to receive uniform support into university.

Finally, I have enjoyed being a mentor on this program, as it has allowed me to give back to the University community. This has led me to some further questions which would be interesting to peruse further critically around how this course may impact on a student’s first term at the University, specifically their first formative assessment mark (in areas covered within this course) as well as their levels of anxiety. It would be interesting to evaluate whether students who have completed the course do feel less anxious than those who have not; this could demonstrate even further the benefits of Study Smart.

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A Language Teaching Community of Practice: Collaborative development of expertise and scholarship By Jackie Baines (Dept. of Classics), Rita Balestrini (MLES), Sarah Brewer (ISLI), Barbara King (IoE), Regine Klimpfinger (MLES), Congxia Li (IWLP), Sarah Marston (IoE)

Over the course of the last academic year, the idea of creating a Language Teaching Community of Practice (LT CoP) has taken shape and developed as part of the University strategy to support and promote language learning and expertise in foreign languages teaching. A number of colleagues involved in language teaching or teacher education from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, the International Study and Language Institute, the Institute of Education and the Department of Classics, have agreed to meet informally and contribute, from their different perspectives, to the implementation of the project.

As a core group, we began our work with a critical discussion of the idea of CoP itself, its evolution and its adoption as an organisational tool. We discussed the range of functions that, as a cross-institutional LT CoP, we would like to have (sharing practices, responding to needs, mentoring, influencing policies, bidding for funds etc.) and key issues that we consider relevant to our interests and needs as language practitioners working in different  contexts. We agreed that one of our defining aims will be to deepen knowledge, promote reflection and stimulate in-depth discussion around themes relating to our professional practice at the UoR. Therefore, we have decided to focus on one main theme in each academic year. In 2016-2017, we began to share and discuss some aspects of our assessment practices and we intend to continue exploring this theme in 2017-2018.

We would now like to widen participation and invite colleagues who have an interest in foreign language pedagogy to join us in termly meetings. The first meeting will be held on 13th November, from 1-2 pm (Carrington, Room 101) room tbc) and will focus on marking criteria, rubrics and grading scales used to assess speaking and writing in a foreign language. We invite interested colleagues to give short presentations on these topics (10-15 minutes). For organisational purposes, we would like to receive a short abstract/summary (approximately 100 words) of the presentation by Friday 27th October at the latest. This should be sent to r.balestrini@reading.ac.uk

As is the nature of a CoP, our structure and plans will remain flexible and we will respond to the needs and interests of our members. Therefore, the direction in which the discussion will continue in the spring and summer meetings will emerge from this first event in the autumn term.

If you plan to join us at our Autumn meeting on 13th November, please register your interest in participating at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/autumn-meeting-of-the-language-teaching-community-of-practice-lt-cop-tickets-38351139290

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Launch of the Large Class Education Toolkit By Dr Katja Strohfeldt

With the start of the new term most of us will focus once again on one thing: How can we offer the best teaching to all of our students? Many of us will also face a very similar challenge: Class sizes are getting bigger and the student cohort is becoming increasingly diverse.

Some of you might recall the University kindly funded our research into large class size teaching with the special aspect of diversity through the TLDF. One of the main objectives of this project was to develop a toolkit, which provides easy access to tools and tricks to help with large class size teaching.

I am delighted to let you know – the toolkit is finished – thanks to the support of so many colleagues around the University!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just to add – what a large class size is really depends on your individual experience. For some of you a class of 40 students feels large because all your previous teaching was designed for 20 students. Some other colleagues are faced with 300+ students. However, you will find you face some common issues independent of the actual class size. And the toolkit hopefully provides ideas suitable for most class sizes.

The idea….

The aim of this toolkit is to provide real-life ideas around teaching large classes at HE level in an easily accessible manner. There are several books and publications out there, which describe large class size teaching, However not everyone has the time to find these publications, read them and then apply them to the environment, which we have available at Reading.

Therefore it was important to us to collect real-life examples. Many colleagues (all from within the University) have contributed ideas and case studies to this toolkit. They have kindly agreed to act as champions for the various ideas – it might be a good idea to get advice of our champions if you plan to introduce something new. It was important for us that there is an evidence-based approach to the case studies, where possible.

We also wanted to make it visually attractive. I am delighted that two Typography students took on the project to create a great design for the toolkit (I hope you will agree) as part of the “Real Job Scheme”, which the department runs. They created a printed version in form of a folder and it brief stipulated that we wanted a colorful, visually attractive folder, which can just sit on your desk or shelf and reminds you of some of the wonderful ideas colleagues use. Each idea is summarized on one card.

However, we are aware that some of you will prefer a digital version. The typography students have kindly agreed to also produce an interactive pdf, which can be found on the CQSD webpage under funding opportunities – internal funding – current funding holders. Or simply here…

V4_Interactive_Education_Toolkit

The Toolkit…

The toolkit consist of approximately 40 case studies from colleagues at the University. We have divided the toolkit into three sections – illustrating how much time you need to approximately spend to include these ideas into your next teaching session.

The first section (5-10 minutes) gives you quick ideas about how to reduce anonymity, to make a good start and finish, encourage engagement and improve accessibility amongst many other aspects.

The second section (30-60minutes) illustrates real-life examples, which actively help to engage students. The very practical guide includes ideas such as the use of poling software, quizzes, social media, screencasts and other case studies. As previously mentioned each case study has a “UoR Champion”, which is actively using the described approach.

The third section (60+ minutes) describes approaches, where you apply more significant change your teaching style and pedagogic. Again, we have focused on ideas practiced at Reading, e.g. problem-based learning, team-based learning, enquiry-based learning, blended learning, flipped classroom and many others.

Each case study contains an introduction to the case study or pedagogic used. This is followed by a case study, where our “UoR champions” describe how they have adapted their approaches so it is suitable for our teaching environment. And last but not least, there is a list of “Top tips” as a really useful resource.

Quo vadis?

This is a good question. First of all I would to encourage everyone to have a look at the toolkit. Have a look at the toolkit online, come to the CQSD session in October or email me if you want to get your hands on one of the folders.

If there are ideas within the folder you find especially useful for your work – why not take them out of the folder and leave them clearly visible on your desk to remind you?

I hope I will see many of you at the CQSD session in October. If you have any questions in the meantime, please email us (k.strohfeldt@reading.ac.uk) or follow us on Twitter @largeclassHE.

 

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Building Student Resilience: THE POSTIVE MINDS PROGRAMME By Dr Paddy Woodman

In Spring 2017 the Student Success & Engagement Team partnered with Positive (and the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT)) to develop and deliver the Positive Minds pilot programme to 150 university students. The programme provided students with evidence-based cognitive and behavioural tools and techniques to manage pressure and build psychological resilience. The programme’s aim was to support students’ transition from school to university, help them to manage the pressures of university life, and develop the skills required to thrive in today’s workplace.

Benefits for students:

  • They learnt a range of adaptive psychological techniques and coping strategies that can help them to fulfil their potential, manage periods of pressure and decrease the likelihood of psychological ill health.
  • They acquired their adaptive life skills that can be used to better manage transitions and uncertainty.
  • They developed their emotional literacy to reduce stigma and shame associated with psychological ill health 
Introduction – This session introduced the importance of psychological wellbeing for sustaining high performance, presenting tools and techniques that could help students manage periods of stress, pressure and change. 500 students attended an introductory talk supported by the Positive App in October 2016. Following this, 150 students volunteered to attend a four-module programme from January to April 2017. 
Focus Deeper – Improving attentional focus is a crucial factor in achieving academic and career success; this session focused on being mindful and separating ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ worries. 
Connect Better – This session introduced the knowledge and tools designed to increase positive emotional contagion and communication, enhancing trust, compassion and understanding. 
Read the detailed outcomes and how students felt before and afterwards here [link to PDF], but some key highlights are:89% of students surveyed said that, as a result of the Positive Minds programme, they had better levels of controlling unnecessary worries. 70% of students surveyed said that their ability to deal with pressure and setbacks at university has improved as a result of the programme.
  • The Student Success & Engagement team are currently exploring how to extend the Positive Programme further, so watch this space
  • 63% of students surveyed said that their ability to focus on their academic work has improved with Positive Minds.
  • Think Brighter – This session demonstrated how adopting a flexible cognitive style can enable more optimistic, positive patterns of thinking and behaviour.
  • See More – This session looked at ‘emotional literacy’ – understanding why and how we react to situations, particularly stressful ones.
  • The Programme Outline:
  • Introduction – This session introduced the importance of psychological wellbeing for sustaining high performance, presenting tools and techniques that could help students manage periods of stress, pressure and change. 500 students attended an introductory talk supported by the Positive App in October 2016. Following this, 150 students volunteered to attend a four-module programme from January to April 2017.See More – This session looked at ‘emotional literacy’ – understanding why and how we react to situations, particularly stressful ones.

    Focus Deeper – Improving attentional focus is a crucial factor in achieving academic and career success; this session focused on being mindful and separating ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ worries.

    Think Brighter – This session demonstrated how adopting a flexible cognitive style can enable more optimistic, positive patterns of thinking and behaviour.

    Connect Better – This session introduced the knowledge and tools designed to increase positive emotional contagion and communication, enhancing trust, compassion and understanding.

    Read the detailed outcomes and how students felt before and afterwards Reading_Evaluation_Report_June2017, but some key highlights are:

    89% of students surveyed said that, as a result of the Positive Minds programme, they had better levels of controlling unnecessary worries.

    63% of students surveyed said that their ability to focus on their academic work has improved with Positive Minds.

  • 70% of students surveyed said that their ability to deal with pressure and setbacks at university has improved as a result of the programme.The Student Success & Engagement team are currently exploring how to extend the Positive Programme further, so watch this space

     

     

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Leaner, Cleaner, Greener: How Reading’s assessment data is changing for the better:

Leaner, Cleaner, Greener: How Reading’s assessment data is changing for the better.

Dr Emma Mayhew (EMA Academic Director), Dr Madeleine Davies (EMA Academic Partner), Kat Lee (Project Manager, External)

The Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) Programme has been created to deliver the University’s long-term vision for online assessment while improving the underlying processes and supporting systems. The reduction in manual assessment recording is at the heart of changes being delivered this autumn by one of the Programme’s workstreams, Core Systems, which is making headway towards the ultimate aim of being able to integrate Blackboard and RISIS assessment information and marks.

The challenge for Reading is that sub modular marks calculation in RISIS needs to have full information about all assessments contributing towards an overall mark, and this is currently stored in Excel. LOTS of Excel. The biggest problem with spreadsheets is often the isolation from the rest of an organisation, making collaboration tricky: data cannot be automatically or easily incorporated into other processes or systems. UoR is not exempt from this challenge that causes multiple requests for the same/similar information on modules and assessment information throughout the academic year. This can give rise to frustration from all colleagues involved in the process and it leads to difficulties in accessing information quickly.

Over the last three months, programme administration colleagues across the University have been supporting the transition to sub modular marks by creating the starting point for detailed assessment information for UG modules running in the 2017/18 academic year. It has been a significant task, focused on the aim to create lean, green and more streamlined approaches for managing assessment and marks data.

We are now able to announce the following improvements that we are delivering for the Autumn Term:

1)      Module Convenors From the beginning of term, all module convenors for UG modules will be able to view sub modular assessment information held in RISIS for their modules. This will allow them to track their modules and to identify any problems at an earlier stage of the academic year. It will also be a one-stop resource for all module information so that queries can be answered quickly and easily simply by accessing this screen.

2)     Mark Entry Programme Administrators will be able to enter sub modular marks into RISIS for UG assessment from November onwards (where already submitted/marked). Corresponding grades will be able to show where penalties such as late deductions have been made. This allows Programme Administrators, Exams Officers and Senior Tutors to drill down into the details of students’ grades, to check the history of marks more easily, and to diagnose problems quickly.

3)     Personal Tutors

Building on the existing Tutor Card area of RISIS, additional information will be available to show the breakdown of individual, sub modular assessment marks for tutees during the course of the academic year. Previously, many colleagues had to wait until the end of the academic session to access this information and even then they may only have been able to access overall module marks. The new screen will provide current information and greatly enhanced detail (see image).

 

 

 

4)     Reporting

As well as being able to download information where required, a number of pre-defined reports will also be available to schools, providing assessment information such as submission dates and assessment types. SDTLs will, for example, be able to identify where assessment bunching occurs.

The goal is to produce a ‘cleaner’ system that is intuitive and responsive to staff and student needs. The team is working with a gradate student representative and with RUSU to obtain student perspectives on the upcoming changes and to work towards enabling a consistently good student assessment experience.

To help you find out more about the immediate benefits going live this term, the EMA Programme is running a webinar to highlight some of the changes and new RISIS screens on Monday 11th September. If you would like to sign up for the webinar, please contact the EMA team at ema@reading.ac.uk

More broadly, the team working on the EMA Programme would like all our colleagues to feel that they can share any good ideas with us and discuss any thoughts they have about the programme. If you would like to contact us, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please do e-mail EMA Academic Director Emma Mayhew (e.a.mayhew@reading.ac.uk) or Academic Partner Madeleine Davies (m.k.davies@reading.ac.uk).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Applying Flipped Learning to an IWLP Italian Stage 3 module: creating a deep learning environment By Daniela Standen FHEA

For the past four year I have incorporated Flipped Learning into my teaching. Flipped Learning started in the United States in secondary education (Bergmann & Sams, 2012) and it has been expanding into higher education. The principal premise is that instruction moves outside of the classroom and class time is freed up for practice and application.

To start with it, adoption of Flipped Learning, was a response to a perceived lack of time in class both from my point of view and the students’, and Flipped Learning seemed to provide the answer to stretching time. However, after a while I realised that the potential for this pedagogy could be much greater and that it could create a learning environment that could lead students to learn deeply: i.e. going beyond recalling facts, using instead their underlying knowledge and applying it to problems and situations, to understand the bigger picture (Biggs and Tang, 2011:26-31; Brinks Lockwood, 2014).

In the last year I had the opportunity of reviewing IWLP Italian stage 3, a module that had not been taught for a few years. I chose Flipped Learning as a pedagogy and used Exploratory Practice (Allwright, 2003) as a research framework to understand if Flipped Learning could indeed deliver an environment that encourages deep learning and a teacher focused on making students independent learners, but most importantly if the students perceived these changes.

If you are interested in knowing more about how I got on and what I found out, here is a short video:

References and useful websites:

Allwright, D. 2003, Exploratory Practice: rethinking practitioner research in language teaching, Language Teaching Research vol. 7, no.2, pp.113-141

Bergman and Sams 2012. Flip your classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Biggs, J. & Tang, C. 2011. Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 4th Ed. Maidenhead: Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.

Brinks Lockwood, R. 2014, Flip It! Strategies for the EFL Classroom. /uSA: The University of Mitchigan Press.

www.flippedlearning.org

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Supporting Inclusivity and Diversity in Language Teaching and Learning at the University of Reading Authored by Laura Brown, Regine Klimpfinger, Daniela Standen and Enza Siciliano Verruccio

Language learning and disability: how to avoid the ‘avoidance’?

When the university disability office was approached in 2003 by a new member of staff for guidance on the assessment of a dyslexic student enrolled on a language module, the reply was that students with dyslexia are better advised to avoid foreign language courses. Fast-forward to 2017, and issues of ‘course substitution’, or ‘avoidance’,[i] when it comes to the study of foreign languages and learning difficulties, are still emerging today, as anecdotally reported by prospective secondary school applicants to this university.

When the principles of inclusivity and diversity, fresh from the new University of Reading Curriculum Framework, were chosen as the focus of this year’s university Teaching and Learning conference (January 2017), the discussion and thinking it provoked pointed clearly towards the need – within our institution and within our discipline in this institution – for a thorough reflection on how our current language teaching practices, our language curricula, and the general university procedures can best support students with disabilities who do not wish to avoid learning a foreign language.

Reflecting on disabilities and language teaching and learning practices: a workhop

This is when the idea of the Disability and Language Teaching & Learning Workshop was born. On 18 May, 22 language teaching practitioners from the Institution-Wide Language Programme (IWLP), the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies (DMLES), the Department of Classics and the Institute of Education gathered to explore and discuss experiences and practices of, as well as aspirations to, inclusivity and diversity in language teaching and learning here at Reading. They were guided by Laura Brown from the university Disability Office, with the support of Regine Klimpfinger (DMLES Disability Officer), Daniela Standen (International Study and Language Institute Disability Officer), and Enza Siciliano Verruccio (DMLES Language Coordinator).

The workshop consisted of a blend of theory and practice, with a strong focus on group discussion and activity, given the collaborative approach we wanted to engender. We set the scene with Enza recounting the experiences described above. To further examine the kinds of assumptions we may make about certain disabilities, the group then engaged in a ‘Fact or Fiction’ exercise to indicate whether statements were true or false, unearthing potential stereotypes and preconceptions, such as ‘Students with Asperger’s Syndrome can’t do group work’.

In smaller groups, participants then prioritised skills and attributes needed to learn languages, such as phonological processing skills, memory, curiosity and motivation, using a pyramid shape to indicate the most important at the top ranging to least important at the bottom (Picture 1). Skills and attributes were discussed in terms of how disabilities can affect those skills and attributes, for example the advantage of extroversion in acquiring spoken fluency and how this can be impeded by severe social anxiety. This led to a broader presentation on the experiences that disabled students may have in relation to the four key aspects of language learning – speaking, writing, reading and listening – looking both at barriers and strengths that disabled students may experience in relation to various elements of a languages course, such as oral examinations, classroom conversation exercises, timed translation examination papers, etc.


 

 

 

 

 

  1. Groupwork: prioritised language learners’ attributes and skills

The group were then subjected to an impossible memory test and a note-taking exercise using their non-writing hand. These gave them a feel for what it can be like for disabled students to try to fit in with traditional assessment and teaching methods which are unsuited to their learning style.

The group reflected, via Mentimeter, on their experiences of students on their modules who, despite adequate intelligence and effort, struggled with aspects of language learning due to disability (Picture 2). This led to consideration of techniques that can be applied to enhance accessibility and inclusivity in language teaching, across the three core areas of curriculum design, delivery and assessment (Picture 3). The challenges and limitations in applying these techniques were acknowledged as well as the benefits.

 

 

 

 

2. Workshop attendees report own experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Laura Brown from the university Disability Office leads the discussion on embedding inclusivity and diversity in the language curriculum

Case study examples of disabled students successfully studying languages were presented, highlighting particular aspects that helped them to achieve – this led to one of the key messages from the day in the plenary discussion, that small changes can make a huge difference. We also emphasised how people are not on their own in supporting disabled students and that the day’s collaborative approach provided a platform for further building support networks.

Moving forward

The workshop left the participants with solid advice on how to support students as individuals, but more importantly with ideas and possibilities to explore to make the curriculum more inclusive.  From the feedback received there is a clear need and willingness to push these conversations forward. Many expressed the need for more specific information and a forum to share practical ideas and good practice about language teaching and disability, and felt it was paramount to do so collaboratively across departments in order to implement and embed changes. So, keep a look out for the Special Interest Group on disability coming to ISLI and DMLES soon!!

[i] DiFino, S. M. & Lombardino, L. (2004), Language Learning Disabilities: The Ultimate Foreign Language Challenge. Foreign Language Annals, 37, 3, pp. 390-400

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Commercial Law LLM Programmes – Engaging PGT Law students as equal partners in the redesign of a core programme module with the support of a UoR T&L grant By Dr Despoina (Deni) Mantzari (School of Law)

Introduction: Students as Partners

In recent years, there has been an increased appetite in higher education to explore and enhance the ways in which students can become more involved in the design and delivery of their own learning experiences. A prominent way of doing so is engaging students as equal partners in a range of practices and pedagogies. Dubbed as ‘Students as Partners’ (‘SaPs) in the academic literature, this specific practice, or, perhaps, better put ‘ethos’, embraces students and staff working together on teaching and learning in higher education.

Context

The re-design of the LLM in International Commercial Law, in which I was actively involved, presented an excellent opportunity to explore in further detail the usefulness of this practice. Hence, in June 1016 I was awarded with a small UoR Teaching and Learning grant (£250) with the objective to involve a group of ten PGT students from the School of Law as equal partners in the process of redesigning the curriculum of a core PGT module. The PGT LLM module is entitled LWMTAI-Advanced International Commercial Law Issues (20 credits), and is one of the core mandatory modules of the new ‘LLM in International Commercial Law’.

Motivation

What motivated me in particular was the need to listen to the ‘student voice’ by actively and directly engaging students in the design of the curriculum. So far, ‘student voice’ is largely heard ex post; following the completion of the taught component of the module, e.g. on a Module Evaluation Form. I wanted to go beyond existing practice and listen to the ‘student voice’ ex ante; before delivery, by proactively engaging students/learners as equal partners in the redesign of the module. This does not only reflect a current, strategic Teaching and Learning Enhancement Priority of the University, but it is also vital to the success and effective delivery of the module and subsequently to the new LLM Programme. The broader aim was to promote partnership in teaching and learning, building a collective vision of the future of PGT commercial law subjects and programme.

Implementation

Both current and revised MDF forms of the module were circulated to a group of ten PGT students in the School of Law along with a questionnaire. Five of them were students that had completed the module in its pre-revised form and five were students that were not enrolled on the module. The latter group of students was valuable in offering a ‘naïve perception’ to the design of the module. Students were asked to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the module, as reflected in the MDF forms. Their answers to the different questions posed, along with other concerns/recommendations they wished to share, were discussed in a two-hour event, open to all staff involved in PGT Law teaching. Each participating student to the project was paid with vouchers that could be spent in in the Blackwell bookstore on campus.

Currently, as part of my EDMAP 3 project, I have extended the scope of this project by involving currently enrolled PGT Law students, who were the first to be taught the module in its revised form.

Beneficiaries

There are several beneficiaries of this project; direct and indirect. The project delivered considerable benefits to the students who took part in the process; they gained a better understanding of the teaching and learning process, and, furthermore, engaging students as equal partners fostered a sense of belonging and promoted inclusive learning. Secondly, future students will also benefit from a module that has been partly redesigned by students-partners. Thirdly, the insights gained through this project, and shared in the two-hour event, may potentially inform the design and delivery of other, future or existing, PGT modules. Finally, it is hoped that the project will inspire and motivate all staff involved in teaching and learning to think beyond the limiting ‘customer satisfaction’ model that tends to dominate Higher Education nowadays and towards a more challenging and rewarding relationship with our students based on genuine cooperation and trust.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our new undergraduates will be Studying Smarter! By Dr Paddy Woodman & Dr Michelle Reid

Anticipation and nervousness, with a hint of bewilderment and panic – we’ve all seen these looks on our new Part 1 undergraduates. As established members of Reading’s academic community, we often forget what it feels like to step into an unfamiliar learning environment. Our increasingly diverse undergraduate intake means that we must recognise the diverse educational cultures experienced by different students prior to taking up their studies at Reading. We are also becoming more aware of the widening gap between expected approaches to learning at school/college and at University. All of this means that we need to be more pro-active in supporting our students’ transition to learning in HE.

To ease this transition, all our Part 1 students need a shared understanding of the principles and expectations of studying at university, and a welcome into our learning community at Reading. Study Smart: Your Essential Guide for University is a new online, pre-arrival course uniquely available to Reading students, which aims to fill this gap.

The Study Smart course will be launched in August 2017 for all new Part 1 undergraduates, with a three ‘week’ structure covering essential aspects of university study:

1) Academic Integrity

2) Communicating at University

3) Independent Learning.

Students will complete a series of steps including activities such as videos, articles, discussion boards, or quizzes. Course content is being developed by the Study Advice team (drawing on their experience advising new students across the University), in partnership with the Reading MOOC team, and the Student Development and Access team, overseen by Paddy Woodman.

The course will combine academic content with student-preferred delivery to encourage engagement. For instance, focus groups have shown that students like a mixture of film overlaid with animation to make key principles more memorable and ‘friendly’. We are working with Final year Typography students to create short animated films and a visual overlay style to make the lecturers that we film literally more ‘animated’. Students and student experiences will also feature in the videos, and student mentors will help facilitate course discussion boards.

Study Smart will be hosted on the FutureLearn platform which has already proven successful for the University’s popular external MOOCs. It will be suggested that students complete the course before they arrive, capitalising on anticipation and excitement at starting here at Reading. Each ‘week’ of the course will take roughly three hours, but content will be made available in one go so students can pace themselves or complete it in a single burst. They will be able to continue to complete the course during Welcome Week and up to Week 6.

We hope that Study Smart will also prove useful to academic staff by providing a shared start point for conversations with their Part 1 students about taking responsibility for their own learning. Completion of the course could provide a useful indicator of student engagement with self-development and independent study, enabling early light-touch intervention to avoid the need for more time-consuming support later. There is no final assessment, but students are encouraged to think about areas where they might need to find out more.

As we continue to develop course content over the next few months, we will keep you updated with our progress. Watch out for:

– a course teaser trailer

– staff information sessions

– a guide for Personal Tutors (http://libguides.reading.ac.uk/studysmart)

In the meantime if you have questions, or would like further information, please contact Paddy Woodman (p.e.woodman@reading.ac.uk) or Michelle Reid (michelle.reid@reading.ac.uk)

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launch of new research network on politics in the Americas at Reading By Dr Mark Shanahan

On May 2, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading, Sir David Bell, will formally launch ‘The Monroe Group’ a new interdisciplinary research group at the university focused around the politics and political history of North America and the Caribbean. I’m proud, alongside my colleague Dr. Maddi Davies from our English Literature Department, to be part of the triumvirate spearheading this new initiative, but all credit for this first event has to go to History’s Dr. Mara Oliva who first came up with the idea of the research group and has driven it from its genesis to near-launch with passion and determination few can match.

Our launch event is a one-day research conference – Trump’s First 100 Days – which will look at a unique 100 days in the life of America from both political and historical perspectives. The conference is free to University of Reading staff and students, with a small charge for visitors from elsewhere.

Here’s how the day shapes up:

TRUMP’S FIRST 100 DAYS
May 2, 2017, University of Reading

9.30-9.45 University of Reading Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, launches new research
centre for the study of politics in the Americas and introduces keynote address

9.45-11.00 Keynote Address: Professor Andrew Rudalevige – Bowdoin College

11.00-11.30 coffee

11.30-13.00 Panel 1: The first 100 days in historical perspective

Mark Shanahan (Reading): Dwight D. Eisenhower & Trump
Mark White (Queen Mary, University of London): JFK & Trump
Iwan Morgan (UCL): Reagan & Trump

13.00-14.00 lunch

14.00-15.15 Panel 2: Political thinking and Minorities
Eddie Ashbee (Copenhagen Business School): The Trump administration and the contemporary
populist surge
Kevern Verney (Edge Hill University): ‘Bad Hombres’: The Trump Administration, Mexican
Immigration, and the Border Wall
Richard Johnson (University of Oxford): White Flight from the Democratic Party: Explaining
Trump’s Victory in the Midwest

15.15-15.45 coffee

15.45-17.00 Panel 3: 100 Days of Donald Trump: Devil, Detail and Domestic Policy
Lee Marsden (East Anglia University): Pushing Back the Obama Legacy: Trump’s First 100
Days and the Alt Right – Evangelical – Catholic coalition
Clodagh Harrington (DeMonfort University): Pushing Forward, Rolling Back: The Fate of
Reproductive Rights in the Trump Era
Alex Waddan (Leicester University): President Trump and Social Policy

17.00-18.00 Foreign Policy Roundtable
Jacob Parakilas (Chatham House), Maria Ryan (Nottingham), Darius Wainwright (Reading), (Mara Oliva (Reading)
18.00 – 18.10 Closing Remarks

The event is free but booking is essential, please follow the link:http://www.store.reading.ac.uk/conferences-and-events/faculty-of-arts-humanities-social-science/department-of-history/reading-interdisciplinary-research-network-for-the-study-of-political-history-politics-in-america

Dr Mark Shanahan , Department of Politics and IR (m.j.shanahan@reading.ac.uk)

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The ‘Gender, Sexuality and Identities’ Student Forum: Including UofR students in extra-curricular platforms By Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature)

The inaugural ‘Gender, Sexuality and Identities Student Forum’ met on the first day of the summer term, launching a new initiative aiming to create extra-curricular platforms for student debate.

I organised this new Forum to respond to our students’ expressed desire to extend conversations about the persistence of binary thinking and inequality beyond the immediate speaking spaces of International Women’s Day debates and Programme modules. The well-attended and lively IWD debate in March persuaded me that our students have a genuine desire to discuss with us and with their peers the issues of inequality and discrimination that disturb them.

In terms of UofR initiatives, this Forum connects with the Curriculum Framework in its emphasis on inclusion, engagement and experience. In my interpretation, the Framework need not refer only to Programme design and implementation – its principles can be extended more widely.

The new Forum is a student ‘safe space’ for discussion of gender inequality, LGBT+ rights, racial discrimination, and other topics associated with contemporary socio-cultural and political impulses and current affairs. Students can present papers or simply contribute their responses to news stories dominating in the Press and then discuss them with their peers.

At the first meeting, I outlined some guidelines about what ‘freedom of speech’ means (and what it does not mean), and I stressed the importance of generating courteous, inclusive conversation. Following this introduction, I made it clear that students will lead these sessions though I will continue to arrange them and attend as many as I can. The Forum will meet twice termly and it is available to all UofR students and colleagues.

The first meeting produced informed, nuanced debate about the ‘language’ of discrimination and there was a particularly interesting conversation about the use of the word ‘tolerance’. Members of the Forum pointed out that the implications of the word tend towards ‘noble and grudging accommodation’ rather than towards uninflected inclusion. There was also a fascinating discussion about the ‘tragic trajectory’ of narratives involving gay protagonists, and plenty of examples of this trajectory were supplied and then analysed in terms of their implications.

Teaching may be assessment driven, but we all agree that learning should not be confined to this structure. Students seem to recognise this and their involvement in new platforms such as this Forum challenges lazy narratives about student disengagement. It also connects with T&L values of developing criticality and encouraging reflective practice, and it embeds non-credit-bearing opportunities for dialogue, inclusion and collaborative exchange.

 

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Five ideas on how to use Chromebooks in the Classroom By Daniela Standen FHEA

As part of my quest to encourage students to learn broadly as well as encouraging them to engage with Italian deeply (J. Biggs, 2003), I have experimented with using the Chromebooks, which have been recently purchased by ISLI (International Study and Language Institute), in the classroom. Chromebooks are a great tool: they are quick to set up, instinctive to use and create an immediate buzz in the class.  If you don’t have Chromebooks available, these activities can also be done by asking students to bring their own laptops.

I have been using them with my IWLP Italian stage 3 class (students transitioning from A2 to B1 Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and my stage 1 (complete beginner class).

I found that through this work students were pushed to explore language away from their comfort zone and to apply language to practical purposes. More generally though, students worked collaboratively and reflected on own and fellow students’ work.

Read on for 5 suggestions on in-class activities with Chrome books. They are specific for language learning but could be adapted easily. Most are quick to prepare as it is the students that do the work, others require more preparation:  for example the creation of a class google account.

Really good learning came out of these activities and students found them interesting and engaging. I’d be interested to hear from you if you decide to try/adapt some of these activities in your classes d.standen@reading.ac.uk


Activity 1: Working together / Peer learning

Topic:    Preparing a set of common questions for an interview

Procedure:         Students develop a common set of questions to interview native speakers individually.  Students share the results of interviews and draw conclusions. In pairs, working from the class google account, students work on a different aspect of the interview. Students then read through the questions written by the other pairs and give each other feedback on accuracy and content.  A final set of question is agreed.

Learning outcomes:        Formulating questions, proof reading, giving and receiving peer feedback.


Activity 2: Using Tutor Feedback to improve writing skills

Topic:    Replying to a question on an on-line forum

Procedure:         Decide on the question you want to ask. Students work individually. Using Chrome books and the class google account.  Students start working on their answer, the teacher also logs into the account from the main computer. The teacher can access each student’s piece of work and using the ‘suggesting tool’ can make suggestions onto the student document in real time.  Work can be flashed on the smartboard to highlight common errors or share good work.  Students continue working on their piece from home and demonstrate how they have used the feedback to improve it. Students have access to each other’s documents and can also learn from looking at each other’s work.

Learning outcomes:        Writing (replying to a forum), improving work following feedback 


Activity 3: Using software in a foreign language

Topic:    Advertising an event

Procedure:         Decide on the type of event.  Students work in groups to gather information and make decisions. Using Chrome books and the class google account, which had been set up to be in Italian students create a poster using ‘google slides’ student create a poster.  All the commands within google are in Italian and students have to navigate the software in the target language.  While working on the poster, students compile a glossary of the various commands and create a Quizlet set. As the students are creating the posters, the teacher also logs into the google account and can flash the posters on the Smart board suggesting corrections and showing good examples of work. Students present their poster to the class.

Learning outcomes:        Developing vocabulary relating to operating software, agreeing and disagreeing, expressing a point of view, IT literacy and employability 


Activity 4:  Fact finding

Topic:    Music.

Procedure:         Before working on a song give the Chrome books to the students, and ask them to work in pairs to find some specific information about the song and the singer. Suggest a couple of websites but leave them free to choose other sources so long as they are in the target language.  Students share with the class the information they have found.

Learning outcomes:        Reading to find specific information, summarise, speaking, peer learning 


Activity 5: Fact finding

Topic:    Applying for a volunteering position.

Procedure:         Find a website with volunteering opportunities. Give the Chromebooks out and ask the students to find an opportunity they would like to apply for.  Students discuss why they have chosen that opportunity; complete an application form; and role play interviewing for the role.

Learning outcomes:        Reading skimming and finding specific information, talking about interests and their own abilities, completing forms, development of pragmatic skills, employability


 Presented at the ISLI Technology Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group 14th March 2017

 

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Integrating Research-Led Teaching into Law: From Visit Days to Finals – Dr Beatrice Krebs and Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, School of Law

The benefits of research-led teaching for both staff and students are well known. From the perspective of students, it encourages and facilitates deeper learning and engagement with complex intellectual issues in the course materials. In so doing, it gives the students the opportunity to develop critical and creative thinking. For staff, it offers the opportunity to use the classroom as a laboratory for testing out ideas in their research area, and discussing them with a student audience often helps to clarify our own thinking.

In Law, we have successfully integrated research-led teaching not only throughout the undergraduate degree but also from the outset when students visit the University on open and visit days. In this blog post, we want to share some of our practices with integrating research into teaching through the undergraduate degree course.

Open and visit days

Part of research-led teaching requires making students aware from the outset of their degree of the research we do. Open and visit days offers a perfect opportunity for this and indeed allows us to advertise our expertise in cutting-edge research. To this end, we have made showcasing our research expertise and research-led teaching a key part of our open and visit day experience. Thus, we begin with a talk by the admissions tutor (one of the present authors) that, in part, offers an overview of the different research strengths of the Law School and emphasises the value in being taught by leading researchers in the field. As part of this, he also presents examples of staff that not only teach and research in their specialist fields but are involved in the practice of law (for example, many of our staff act as academic advisors to counsel in court cases and participants in key policy initiatives around the world – see our research impact pages). We then move on to a taster lecture from a member of staff on a topical subject that is accessible and interesting to school pupils and is representative of what they will study during their degree. Crucially, this lecture is given by a member of staff on their specialist research area and incorporates aspects of their research. For example, one of the present authors gave a taster lecture at the most recent visit days in February 2017 on the Jogee case of the UK Supreme Court that changed the law on accessorial liability in criminal law, drawing on her research in this area and first-hand knowledge of the case.

Overall, this approach to open and visit days has been very successful. Feedback has consistently been very good, with notable mention of the interesting and engaging topics of the taster lectures. We have noticed especially in the taster lectures that visiting students are generally keen to get involved by asking questions, offering answers and debating topics. For this reason, we have made the taster lectures more interactive, for example, by asking visitors to give their views on a particular issue by a show of hands and then asking one or two people to explain the reasons for their views.

First year

Throughout the degree, students are taught by members of staff in their specialist research areas, which exposes students to the latest scholarship and key debates in the field that they are studying. However, research-led teaching in Law is not limited to substantive research topics but also underlying research methodologies. For example, in tutorials in Criminal Law, when explaining how the law works in particular areas, comparisons are often drawn to other jurisdictions so as both to highlight the particularities of the English and Welsh approach and to expose students to alternative ways of addressing the same social problems. This direct comparison pushes students to think critically about the legal rules that they learn and to ask themselves what are the advantages and disadvantages of how our jurisdiction deals with certain issues in the Law. Exposing students in their first year to this also prepares them well for the various research-based modules (e.g. Research Placement Project and Dissertation) in their second and third years.

Second Year

In the second year, we have a bespoke research-informed module, Research Placement Project (RPP). RPP offers students the opportunity to work directly with a member of staff on a particular research project. The student develops their own research question with the guidance and supervision of one of the academics that has signed up to the module. The students are given lectures on the nature of scholarly research and research skills, as well as seminars that function as workshops with students discussing the progress they have made on their research. This module offers students an early opportunity at developing their own, discrete research project with guidance from the academic and to engage in a deeper form of learning and critical analysis. Moreover, as the topics of the research projects are not restricted to what they have studied thus far, they are able to extend their existing knowledge into topical and exciting cutting-edge areas of research.

Final Year

The final year offers a range of opportunities to further students’ engagement with research. One example is the Dissertation module, for which students develop independently a research question and then find a supervisor that works in that field to support them as they write a 12,500 word dissertation. In addition, in specific taught modules, we also integrate research into seminars and tutorials. For example, in International Law tutorials, two students are sent a scholarly article in advance to read and to summarise to the other students in the tutorial. The articles tend to be of a general nature, exploring different understandings and ways of thinking about international law. Other students then have an opportunity to ask questions about the article and engage with it themselves. This has generally been very successful and has made students engage with very complex intellectual controversies that they otherwise would not have encountered.

Concluding remarks

In this blog post we have sought to outline a few ways in which we incorporate our research interests as academics into the teaching of Law throughout the undergraduate degree. Feedback from students has been positive about these different approaches. Importantly, research-led teaching not only benefits students, by encouraging deeper and more critical approaches to reading and writing, but also benefits academics, as we are able to discuss our research interests with students who may be able to offer a fresh perspective.

As noted, we have sought to incorporate research engagement at the earliest stage, making it a crucial part of the open and visit days to give potential students a clearer idea of academia and university life. As the degree progresses, we can often see a clear improvement in how students express themselves and handle different ideas and arguments with nuance and maturity. Research-led teaching thus benefits the quality of their written work and is key to establishing students as independent thinkers both within and outside the classroom.

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Success Breeds Success: In Praise of FLAIR By Dr Madeleine Davies, Department of English Literature (SLL)

Reluctance

My application to the HEA through the FLAIR Scheme was a task I deferred for as long as possible. I did not have time; it looked too difficult; I had so many other things to do, including research, marking, teaching and administration.

To indicate that I would get down to applying eventually, I attended a briefing event given by Dr Eileen Hyder who heads the FLAIR HEA accreditation scheme at the University. Eileen (who should be sainted) was an inspiring speaker and she made the whole application process seem achievable and also positive in terms of our own career management and self-development. A clear structure for the FLAIR programme was outlined and Eileen explained the number of writing retreats we could attend and the support that was available to us. A time frame was provided, and also an expert summary of what kind of material we should consider including in the various sections of the application.

Reconsideration

My procrastination stopped here. As soon as I returned to my office after the briefing event, I sketched out potential case studies and began to penetrate the mysteries of the UKPSF (UK Professional Standards Framework) that turned out not to be  ‘mysterious’ at all. Over the weekend that followed, I put flesh on the bones of the draft, began to complete the forms and to gather my evidence and references for my application for ‘Fellow’ of the HEA.

Reflection

The drafting task proved surprisingly compelling, not least because the body of work I had accumulated surprised me; I had lost sight of the range of activities I had undertaken and of their significance in terms of T & L effectiveness. I realised that all the work that I had been doing over several years was not merely ‘routine’ but was full of T & L innovation, and I began to develop a new sense of the value of my work as I wrote. My self-confidence had taken a battering over the years (such is the lot of a female academic managing the work/children juggle) but completing the forms made me realise that this state of depressed self-esteem had potentially been generated by never having the time or the space to reflect fully on the quality of the contribution that I had been making. Applying to the HEA creates that time and space for reflective self-evaluation.

Retreat

Because I am used to writing independently, I decided to reserve my writing retreat allocation for the discussion of my draft application (other colleagues prefer to use the retreats to produce their case studies). Armed with my first complete draft, I attended the retreat in early June 2016, the time of year when such mornings ‘out’ look impossible (particularly for Exams Officers). However, I was determined to create the time and, whilst there, I had a long and fascinating conversation with Eileen who read my draft and told me approvingly that it looked like the profile of a Senior Fellow rather than that of a Fellow. My self-confidence leapt another notch.

To all those tempted to skip the ‘Writing Retreat’ part of the application process, think again: advice and guidance at this stage is vital and the three hours I spent at the retreat were enjoyable, relaxed, and crucial in terms of the development of my application. The advice I received prevented many mistakes that I could have made, and corrected others that I had already made.

Following the retreat, I again returned to my office and began typing new sections to draw out areas of activity that I had under-played (not having recognised their significance), and amending others that were not UKPSF-friendly. Once again, inspired by Eileen’s positivity and encouragement, the work was swift and actually rather enjoyable: it had been a long time since I had worked on something exclusively for my own professional development.

Reward

I submitted my application shortly afterwards and was soon rewarded with a certificate, a silver pin, Senior Fellowship of the HEA, and a thoroughly enjoyable celebratory Christmas party attended by the Vice Chancellor. Since then I have become a fully trained member of the FLAIR ‘College of Assessors’, working with Eileen and several colleagues across the University who I never had the opportunity to meet before. This work has been a great pleasure and it is an unanticipated bonus of my HEA application experience.

Rejuvenation

It is not an exaggeration to say that my application to the HEA marked a turning point for me. It gave me a new appreciation of the work I had done and that I continued to do and I began to realise that I could be successful in other applications too. Since then, I have submitted bids for funding, placements, fellowships and promotion. All of this had seemed beyond my reach before I applied to the HEA, and there never seemed to be enough time for it anyway.

Following my experience on FLAIR, I now make time for these bids and applications because I have a renewed sense of the worth of what I have to share within and beyond the University. I have generated new initiatives (including a ‘Gender and Identities’ Student Forum and the SLL Resilience Masterclasses), applied for a Collaborative Award, co-organised a conference, and engaged Jess Phillips MP to come and speak at the University in June. I am doubly active in attending research events, outreach events, CQSD training sessions, and in participating in research networks.

Success breeds success. Looking back, I had fallen into a pattern of under-valuing my work and of not feeling that achievement and recognition were possible for me outside of the seminar room. Eileen’s support, and the FLAIR Scheme as a whole, lifted me out of this and helped me to develop a new perspective on my work and career. I am particularly grateful to Eileen for urging me to apply for Senior Fellowship because I would not have had the confidence to do this without her.

Recommendation

For any colleague who needs help in appreciating the value of what they do, and who needs a shot of confidence, I urge you to embrace the FLAIR Scheme. Apply for Senior Fellowship if Eileen sees the potential. Yes, it takes some work, but it is work that repays you ten-fold.

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Developing practical and employability skills through an inclusive and structured placement programme by Dr Wing Man Lau and Sue Slade (MFRPS11)

Background

The UK pharmacy regulator, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), sets Standards for all UK Pharmacy Schools. The Standards stipulate that the undergraduate programme (MPharm) must provide students with practical experience in working with patients, carers and other healthcare professionals. This has led to a need to expand experiential learning within the pharmacy curriculum across the nation.

However, the GPhC does not provide specific guidance on how to achieve experiential learning so pharmacy schools are left to arrange practical experience and plan their own learning outcomes.

Placements bridge the gap between theory and practice. They allow students to learn and practise various clinical and communication skills integral to being a competent pharmacist in dealing with patients in real-world situations. Previously, the typical MPharm curriculum traditionally included off-site short placements, where the pharmacist in charge was responsible for supervising the students. The placement itself was not required to be structured in a particular way though guidance was often issued by the pharmacy schools to the placement provider as to certain learning outcomes that schools were looking to achieve.  Students were often issued with a workbook with tasks they could complete during their placements. Under the circumstances, it was difficult to ensure that the placement provider would deliver the learning outcomes as designed or to provide all students with equal learning opportunities. Some studies have indicated that students regarded such placement arrangements as more like a day out than a vocational experience. 1-4

When we revised the MPharm curriculum at University of Reading to meet the new University Curriculum Framework and the GPhC Standards, we needed to expand experiential learning in our programme. Previously, students in Year 3 had been given the option to carry out a week’s placement in a hospital. Not all students opted to take the opportunity. Those who did were given a workbook detailing expectations and tasks to carry out whilst on the placement. The learning experience was variable even among those who undertook the placement, as it relied heavily on the willingness and capability of the pharmacists as well as the students. Furthermore, the students did not always feel they could put theory into practice.

Developing the best placement programme collaboratively

We believe that real-life patient contact and workplace experience is irreplaceable. Therefore, we set out to develop an extensive programme to give every student a structured placement experience. The programme would cover the main sectors of pharmacy practice in the first 3 years of the course. The aims were:

  1. To provide students with first-hand workplace experience and field-specific knowledge and skills that increase their employability
  2. To provide a spiral structured learning experience, starting from “knowing how” to engage with patients and progressing to finally participating in all aspects of patient care.
  3. To implement an inclusive placement programme where all students achieve the same learning outcomes and are well-supported by placement staff in managing complex and difficult situations.
  4. We have set up a Pharmacy Placement Team to design and develop a new inclusive placement programme, working collaboratively with various departments and teams across the university to engage external partners. The team is led by me (Pharmacy Placement Lead), and consists of Mr Dan Grant (Pharmacy Programme Director), Mrs Sue Slade (Hospital Lead), Mrs Caroline Parkhurst (Community Lead), as well as members of the Careers & Employability team, Student Applicant Services, Legal Services Department, and the University of Reading Medical Practice. We have also enjoyed the support of a number of NHS trusts across England and various local community pharmacies as external partners.
Team member Roles and responsibilities
Dr Wing Man Lau Oversee the whole placement programme; student facing role; student support; programme design; student workbooks design; student application and allocation.
Mr Dan Grant Strategic role; student application and allocation
Mrs Sue Slade Internally supervise placement programme (ISP) Hospital Lead; supervise and run all ISP visits
Mrs Caroline Parkhurst ISP Community Lead
Careers & Employability team General administration support; external liaison; student queries; contracts
Student Applicant Services Student support with DBS and health declaration submission; student queries related to submission
University of Reading Medical Practice Occupational health support for students

 

 

The new pharmacy placement programme

We have now introduced compulsory experiential learning into all years of the MPharm programme at University of Reading. For placement learning, students experience both community and hospital pharmacies very early on in the course. The program has been designed in helping our students develop professional attitudes and competencies by exposing them to real situations that demand satisfactory clinical, professional and communication skills that are essential to effective professional practice in any general pharmacy setting.

 

Credit hours Internally supervised placement Externally supervised placement
1st year 4 (community and hospital)
2nd year 8 (hospital) 8 (community)
3rd year 8 (hospital) 37.5 (hospital or community)

Internally supervised placement programme (ISP)

Our ISP spans years 1–3 of the MPharm programme and addresses specific, achievable learning objectives that spiral throughout the 3 years. It has been designed according to Miller’s triangle of competence and Kolb’s experiential learning theory. The hospital training is based in a local NHS hospital and is run in-house by our Hospital Lead, Mrs Sue Slade, and two Placement Tutors who all have dedicated placement roles on my MPharm programme. The staff-student ratio averages 1:4. This ensures a high quality learning experience because the tutors can build rapport with the students, evidence the students’ improvement individually, and tailor the teaching to suit the students’ needs.

The 1st year community training is based in a local community pharmacy and run in-house by our Community Lead, Mrs Caroline Parthurst. Students learn about the community pharmacist’s roles and the specialist services available in this sector. They are given the opportunities to reflect and compare how the roles differ between hospital and community pharmacy settings.

As students progress through the programme, they continually practise new-found professional skills under supervision and apply them in real-world situations – on real patients. Such skills include patient counselling, taking a medication history and performing medicines optimisation. Students are required to complete a workbook and write a reflection on each visit, which are summatively assessed in Year 3 as part of their personal development portfolio. Transferable skills are formatively assessed on three of the five placements and summatively assessed through OSCE exams in Year 3 and Year 4.

Externally supervised placement programme (ESP)

Building on from their first year community pharmacy experience, year 2 students go to a different local community pharmacy, unaccompanied by university staff or peers, for a whole day. The students are given a detailed workbook and an introductory lecture to guide their learning. Students are reminded closer to the placement through email detailing expectations and tasks to be completed during the visit.

In Year 3, the ESP placement lasts for a week and students choose between a hospital placement or a community placement based on their own interest. The hospital option is usually overwhelmingly popular, so despite being able to offer a large number of these placements, we simply cannot accommodate the demand for it. Therefore, we have put in place an application process, whereby the students are required to submit an application form indicating what attracts them to the hospital placement and why they should be selected. They are also asked to support their application with a reflection on previous placements to identify exactly what further skills they aim to gain. This process is similar to job applications in the real world (for example, the application for pre-registration pharmacist positions), so the students are able to practise this aspect of job seeking and familiarise themselves with the job application process throughout the MPharm programme.

Again, a workbook detailing tasks that build on from previous placements is provided for the students. The pharmacists in charge at the respective pharmacies supervise our students on these visits. We brief the supervisors prior to the placement with details of the placement objectives, learning outcomes with a copy of the student workbook to standardise the student learning experience. The supervisors provide written feedback to the students on each visit to allow them to reflect from their learning.

 

Benefits and Outlook

To our knowledge, our structured, integrated and inclusive placement programme is unique among pharmacy schools in the UK. The placement programme has been time-consuming to set up and run, and has required careful organisation and planning for each visit to be successful and valuable. Preliminary evaluation suggests all students have found the placement experience positive and valued the structured and inclusive placement format as it helps develop their sector knowledge and skills in real-life situations.

Close collaboration with various University departments and external partners has been crucial to the running of the placement programme. We are committed to continued collaboration as a team, comprising diverse roles, in supporting our students to become competent and highly employable graduates by developing their professional, clinical and communication skills.

A full evaluation of our placement programme is under way. We will update you shortly.

 

1 Sosabowski M. (2008) Pharmacy Education in the United Kingdom. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 72(6):130.

2 Talyor K and Harding G (2007) The pharmacy degree: The student experience of professional training. Pharmacy Education. 7(1): 83–88

3 Nation L and Rutter P (2011) Short communication piece on experiences of final year pharmacy students to clinical placements. Journal of Health and Social Care Improvement. 2:1-6

4 Diack L et.al (2014) Experiences of Supervision at Practice Placement Sites. Education Research International. 2014:6

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RESILIENCE: THE ROUTE TO SUCCESS By Dr Madeleine Davies

A Collaborative Initiative between Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature), Dr Ute Wolfel (Department of Modern European Languages), Dr Tony Capstick (Department of English Language and Linguistics) and Dr Alicia Pena Bizama (Counselling and Wellbeing)

PROJECT OUTLINE

In December 2016 the three Senior Tutors of the School of Language and Literature (SLL) met to discuss the growing problem of student wellbeing following a steep rise in ECF submissions for MH difficulties. We were concerned not only for the wellbeing of our students but also for their academic development and success, and for their ability to manage their professional futures. We decided that there was more that we could do to prevent student distress, build resilience, and thus support effective teaching and learning so we decided to develop and deliver two-hour, interactive Masterclass titled, ‘Resilience: The Route to Success’.

We consulted Dr Alicia Pena Bizama (Head of Counselling) to help us design a programme that would respond to the specific problems that we had noted in our SLL students. We scheduled three lengthy planning meetings, pooling our ideas and our knowledge: Dr Pena Bizama brought her extensive research into Psychology, and the three Senior Tutors brought knowledge of their individual cohorts and years of experience managing student problems. Together, we designed and produced promotional posters, disseminated the plans to all SLL colleagues, and advertised the Masterclass on Blackboard and Me@Reading. We also sent individual emails to SLL students with a link to a Doodle Poll through which students could reserve a place at the event. This would have been unmanageable for a single colleague in the middle of a busy term, but we spread the load and the materials we produced benefited greatly from the time and input of four colleagues with different research backgrounds and pedagogic expertise.

The planning group decided to intersect with associated key SLL and UofR initiatives: attendance at the Masterclass counted as credit for the Professional Track Programme (SLL) and as credit for the “Life Skills’ initiative, and it connected with the University’s emphasis on student resilience and employability.

DESIGN OF THE PROGRAMME

The Masterclass was delivered in Week 5 of the Spring Term. The 2-hour session focused on building students’ confidence in their ability to manage stress and anxiety and on equipping our students with techniques that could enhance their learning potential. The design of the session was as follows:

Dealing with Academic Pressure:

Introduction – Dr Madeleine Davies: outlining the aims of the Masterclass: managing academic pressure and facilitating success; the connection between academic and professional resilience; the roots of ‘performance anxiety’; redefining (but not denying) ‘stress’ and ‘pressure’.

Dr Pena-Bizama’s presentation (including the difference between MH problems and routine anxiety)

Feedback and How to Use it Constructively:

Introduction – Dr Tony Capstick: how feedback is often interpreted as a personal attack; what its intentions are; how it is a positive learning tool; connection with the professional workplace; how to USE feedback.

Dr Pena-Bizama’s presentation

Motivation, Perfectionism and Procrastination

Introduction – Dr Ute Wolfel: motivation – reminding students of the questions, ‘What do I want to learn? What do I enjoy about these topics?; how perfectionism produces procrastination and how both can be overcome.

Dr Pena-Bizama’s presentation

Discussion period

The students were divided into groups and asked to discuss the following:

(a) What triggers/generates their anxiety most?

(b) How can the words ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ be reframed?

(c) What tactics and habits can help to restore perspective.

(d) How can feedback be removed from the sense of personal attack and be redefined as a constructive learning tool?

Feedback period

The students fed back the ideas generated by their groups; many students mentioned that talking about their worries to others who shared precisely the same concerns was of great help. Students also very usefully identified the source of their anxiety and others suggested ways of tackling it. The discussion was lively, collaborative and fully supportive: it was a credit to our students.

Dr Madeleine Davies concluded the session, pointing the students towards material and University support structures that could help them in the development of productive habits and attitudes. The second, exams-focused, Masterclass was announced and written feedback on the session was collected.

STUDENT PARTICIPATION AND FEEDBACK

The Masterclass was delivered on Wednesday 8th February 2017 and 45 students attended. There was a high level of interaction throughout and student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The form that we designed asked for feedback in the following areas:

Did you find the content reflected your concerns?

15 x ‘5’ (extremely well matched); 27 x 4 (well matched); 3 x 3 (neutral)

Do you think you will find it easier to manage academic pressure (particularly assessments) after the Master Class?

32 x ‘Yes’; 10 x ‘Maybe’; 3 x ‘No’.

Do you feel that you are better equipped to develop a more positive attitude to feedback and study following the Masterclass?

25 x ‘Yes’; 18 x ‘Maybe’; 2 x ‘No’.

Most of the forms added a comment: examples include, ‘Thank you SO MUCH’; ‘I feel much better’; ‘It’s good to know I’m not alone – loads of people here feeling the way I do’, ‘I think I can do this now!’; ‘I liked that the teachers were really honest about feeling stressed too and told us how they cope with it’; ‘Fantastic practical help – it’s what I needed’.

MOVING FORWARDS

The success of the collaboration in delivering the Resilience Masterclass initiative will be sustained going forwards. Prior to the exams period (May 2017) the same group of colleagues will collaborate on an ‘Exams Masterclass’ and in the 2017-18 session we will run three ‘Resilience’ and ‘Exams’ Master Classes in the Autumn, Spring and Summer Terms so that we can intervene early and prevent serious cases of anxiety arising (this will benefit retention). We are committed to working together as a team comprised of diverse skills to support our students in developing mental resilience to underpin academic achievement and to help them to embed the attitudes, habits and techniques that form the route to learning and professional success.

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