Enhancing student engagement through T&L seminars by Dr Karen Ayres

Many of us enjoy attending the University’s T&L Showcase Series of seminars, as not only do these events give an insight into the exciting things going on across the University, but they also give us food for thought with regards potential teaching enhancements we may wish to try out ourselves. It was somewhat with this second aim in mind that last year I set up something similar in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics – a Teaching & Learning Seminar Series. On the one hand this was an attempt to create a seminar series of interest to those in the department who were more interested in T&L projects than research. However, with my student engagement hat on, I was keen that this seminar series would be fairly unique as it would be open equally to students and staff, both in terms of being audience members and also being presenters.

The seminars consist of a 20 minute presentation on a T&L theme determined by the speaker, followed by an audience discussion of some of the key points arising. Here both students and staff discuss the topic on equal terms, since both have an interest in it. We had six seminars this year, three of which were presented by undergraduate students (on topics they proposed themselves, such as the usefulness of tutorials and lecturing styles vs learning styles, and also on diversity of assessment, which had been the focus of a Departmental T&L summer project for one student).

In terms of how successful this series has been, I think it is fair to say that, although the audience has been small for most of the seminars this year, those who have taken part have enjoyed it. I’ve certainly found the discussions to be very useful, and there is never enough time to discuss everything we want to! But some ideas have arisen which I’ve already been able to take forward when considering programme enhancements, and these ideas have generally come from the students. We definitely aim to continue with this seminar series, and hope that our students (and staff!) will continue to propose topics for discussion. I would encourage other departments to try out something similar, as this is a straightforward and enjoyable way to engage students as partners in the learning process.

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