In April 2014 I was asked to revise a compulsory Part 1 module, ‘Research and Criticism’ studied by our entire cohort of around 180 part 1 students. This module has an ambitious tripartite aim: to teach key skills and theoretical concepts needed to study literature, while engaging with a selection of literary texts. Recognising that the skills training could be delivered more actively than through a traditional lecture format, I set about constructing a suite of screencasts: a short (3-5 minute) animation giving the key content, and signposting further information, which students could watch at their own pace and return to at leisure ( examples below).
The screencasts are accompanied by a series of short formative tasks that require students to learn by doing. Although I admit I did not have a particular student demographic in mind when making this change, I realise on reflection that this staged development of writing skills offers specific support to international students and EAL learners, who may be unfamiliar with UK academic conventions and benefit from an atomised approach to writing with regular formative feedback.
The combination of screencasts and formative tasks harnesses the power of constructive alignment where teaching process and assessment method are calculated to maximise students’ engagement with the subject and/or skills being taught.
Qualitative student feedback affirms the usefulness of the independent guided study and regular submission of work:
“The first [formative] tasks such as the bibliography were very useful to bridge the gap into HE”,
“All the feedback I received was very helpful and helped me improve my work” and “The screencasts were also a fantastic idea”.
And a couple of examples:
Citations and referencing (by me) http://www.screencast.com/t/aT8PolyDuH
Interpreting your essay questions (content by Martin Symington, RLF Fellow) http://www.screencast.com/t/anEmCSRQxHBi
Introductions (by David Brauner) http://www.screencast.com/t/zhyQClRxexN
Proof-reading (by me) http://www.screencast.com/t/EXn2au7r8Wj7