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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Working collaboratively with students to design lectures the way they want them – By Dr Wing Man Lau

Have you ever had to deliver lecture materials so cognitively challenging and dull at the same time, that your students either become utterly befuddled or fall asleep before you finish delivering them? I have.

The conundrum

I am the Module Convenor for a pharmacy practice module that focuses on pharmacy laws and regulations relating to medical prescriptions. Materials covered to this module are absolutely fundamental to the students’ future career, since legal and ethical considerations underpin the day-to-day decisions that pharmacists make. It is therefore essential that our pharmacy students have a thorough understanding of the topic to safeguard public and patient safety. However, students have always perceived the topic to be dull and clinically irrelevant. Thus, the principal challenge in teaching pharmacy laws and regulations has always been making the learning environment interesting and engaging. Traditionally, pharmacy law education has relied heavily on lectures, yet lectures alone often fail to engage students effectively to facilitate deep learning. Teaching on the module currently runs as a 2-hour lecture followed by a 2-hour workshop where dispensing activities take place based on materials covered in the lecture. The dispensing activities provide students with opportunities to apply knowledge that they have gained in the lecture. However, since the students find it difficult to engage with the lecture materials in the first place, they are often unable to apply the knowledge in the dispensing activities.

How do you make a seemingly dull topic engaging and captivating to students, such that they are able to effectively absorb, retain and apply the knowledge?

Like most colleagues, I use module feedback, regular informal feedback, peer observation as well as self-reflection to improve my lectures accordingly. Year on year, I collate all feedback and devise creative strategies accordingly to present my lectures, e.g. by adding quizzes, practical examples, interactive exercises to make them more relevant and interactive. Even though I get better feedback each year, I still fail to capture all students’ attention throughout the entire 2-hour lecture.

What else can I do?

The collaborative approach

Our students learn in very different ways, and when it comes to teaching approach, one size clearly does not fit all. I knew from student feedback that the students were not fully engaged or were unable to grasp the content of a lecture, but I usually did not know why. In trying to improve the lectures, I presumed certain reasons based on my own interpretations and perspectives. I have come to realise recently that those presumptions may have been misguiding the ‘improvements’ that I was making to my lectures. Little surprise then that I did not find a solution to the problem. Perhaps, instead of presuming anything, could I ask the students to incorporate improvements into my lectures in a way that they would find engaging instead?

So, this year I have decided to collaborate with my students in re-designing my lecture. The project aims to bring student perspectives to designing a lecture that not only will be engaging to students, but also create an active learning environment that suits their various learning styles. This will hopefully enable the students to gain, retain and apply the knowledge. I have recruited three pharmacy students (Ohn You Kim, Jakub Zurek and Tanzeela Hussain) to re-design a 2-hour pharmacy law lecture that I gave in the autumn term. The students have led the project from the outset in planning and designing the lecture. My role has been to meet with them from time to time to support their discussions, and introducing them to the University Technology Enhanced Learning Team to see how they can incorporate technology effectively. The students have decided to use a range of different delivery platforms within the lecture. They have suggested the use of Prezi, Quizizz, scratch cards, Metimeter and prescription scenarios using the ‘think, pair, share’ approach. They are currently in the final stage of the re-design. I will be using their design to deliver the lecture again to the same cohort of students and gauge their feedback.

I am already excited about what has been happening thus far. I am eager to see and deliver the final design of the lecture. After collating the feedback on the new design, the students aim to write about their design and summarise their findings for this blog, so watch this space!

 

 

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How would you describe our students? By Ellie Highwood

At the Curriculum framework conference on 25th January 2017, it was a delight to present with Sed Joshi, Diversity and Inclusion Sabbatical officer from RUSU on the topic of “How well do we know our students?” We gave staff a quiz, presented facts and figures about our students from the Annual Diversity and Inclusion Report, and discussed what we are doing to try to make our staff body look more like our student body. Video testimonies from students told us why this was important and also what made them feel included.

But it’s always good to try new technology, and we decided to adopt something I learnt from the Association of Science Educations conference – an evolving word cloud. So, we asked 73 participants for 3 words they would use to describe our students, and via Mentimeter, got this (Size of words indicates how many times that response was made):

 

Perhaps given that we were primed by being in a session about diversity it is not a surprise that the largest word is diverse! What would you add?

 

 

This was originally posted on the University’s Diversity and Inclusion blog created by the Deans for Diversity and Inclusion, Ellie Highwood and Simon Chandler-Wilde.

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Engaging Everyone – reflections on Wednesday’s D&I-themed T&L Conference – By Simon Chandler-Wilde

I was blown away by Wednesday’s teaching & learning conference “Engaging everyone: addressing the diversity and inclusion expectations of the Curriculum Framework“. This was lead-organised by my CQSD colleagues, especially Nina Brooke, but as a collaborative effort across the T&L patch, working with the T&L Dean Elizabeth McCrum  and others, and with the RUSU Education and Diversity Officers, Niall Hamilton and Sed Joshi. The venue – the large Meadow Suite in Park House – was excellent – and full to the brim with staff and students from across the University, including regular academics, many from the “Leadership Group”, and very many of the School Directors of Teaching and Learning who have to lead – and cajole –to make change on the ground.


 

 

 

 

 

My jobshare Ellie Highwood will blog separately with her take,

Including local data on attainment gaps, and gaps in BAME representation between the student body and the staff side, that she presented with Sed in their highly interactive presentation in the morning.

I’ll focus myself on the sessions run by the conference Keynote speaker, Professor Gurnam Singh, Principal Lecturer in Social Work at Coventry University and Visiting Professor of Social Work at Chester University.

In his afternoon workshop on “Transformative Pedagogy in Action” Gurnam revealed more of his background: this something he advocated, for connecting to the learner, humanising relationships, and sharing vulnerabilities. He described his (extraordinary) academic journey from UFD (his O-level grades) to PhD (Social Studies at Warwick) and beyond, starting with his early rebellious school career in Bradford, truanting in Bradford Central Library (where much of his education happened), the one bright (and memorable) spark at school the lunchtime lectures in Sophocles and classical architecture from “Mr Mitchell” whose passion for teaching and his subject has had a lasting impact.

Talking about research vision on his website Prof Singh describes himself “as an academic activist in that what inspires me both in my teaching and research is the desire to transform individuals and society”. This perspective and motivation came through strongly in his morning Keynote on “Understanding and Eliminating Disparities in Degree Awarding: Challenges and Perspectives“,

 

 

 

 

 

 

drawing on his extensive research (and research funding) in this area, including his substantial 2011 Higher Education Academy Report “Black and minority ethnic (BME) students’ participation in higher education: improving retention and success“.

This keynote was a wide-ranging and comprehensive account of the problem and possible solutions. In part it was a (welcome) call to arms and polemic, asking which side of history are we on, urging us to work for a different history, that we can be part of the change. He was scathing about a certain sort of (white upper class) elitism, a “particular kind of superiority, not excellence, something else”, the sort we associate with the Bullingdon Club, and about the impact of Trump in legitimising racism and misogyny (while noting that to many Trump had been the social change candidate), and (very much correctly) observed that “we need more in the academy of my sort”.

In this initial part of the presentation he urged work to diversify the academy – with a BME focus but also commenting more broadly – from a variety of perspectives, reminding us that  from an international legal perspective education is a fundamental human right, of our legal obligations under the equality act, of the moral imperative to act in response to inequality, and of the (neo-liberal?) commercial imperative, reminding us of the business benefits of diversity and the widely-cited McKinsey report, and memorably remarking that his own institution “would not exist as a White university, except as a senior management team”. (Of course, this applies equally at Reading.) These are all potential levers for change. Gurnam cited also the TEF (with its promise of  ‘incentives that reward institutions who do best at retention and progression of disadvantaged students through their college years’) as another key lever. (In this space Prof Singh was part of the Academic Reference Group feeding into the October 2016 report “Working in Partnership: enabling Social Mobility in Higher Education” from UUK.) In summary he noted that, through these various drivers disparity in attainment was moving to the top of the agenda – this was certainly true in Wednesday’s conference and in the associated work that has led to our new Curriculum Framework.

 

 

 

 

 

Prof Singh then talked quantitatively about the BME attainment gap, particularly % difference in attainment of a “good degree” (2.1 or 1st) between BME ethnicities and white students. He emphasised that significant attainment gaps remain once differences in prior qualifications are factored out, using graphs (see latest available figures above: 2013-14 graduates) published by HEFCE: see Annex G of the September 2015 report. In terms of causes and solutions, he was wide-ranging. I’ll edit this blog and add more once I have Gurnam’s slides in my hand (I have my eye on his “jigsaw” picture summarising all suggested possible actions from his research). But in terms of causes he touched on:

  • lack of role models and “people like me” for BME students across the academic staff, particularly the scandalous position at the most senior levels;
  • white-centric curriculum design and content;
  • drip-drip effects of micro-agressions;
  • issues with assessment, ranging from lack of clarity favouring those with larger social and cultural capital, with the resources and networks to find out what the assignment really means, to suggestions that we abandon degree classifications altogether (as we have at PhD level);
  • structural disadvantages: socio-economic, living a precarious existence, impacts of large commuting distance.

He finished his keynote with a call to arms that was really the theme of the whole day; that inclusion and social justice are not just desirable but an absolute moral and economic necessity, and this means we have to mainstream our efforts in attacking attainment gaps  – precisely the point and spirit of our new Curriculum Framework.

This was originally posted on the University’s Diversity and Inclusion blog created by the Deans for Diversity and Inclusion, Ellie Highwood and Simon Chandler-Wilde.

 

 

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Reading Academy at NUIST: busy colleagues undertake staff development By Angela Buckingham (Academic Developer)

On a chilly week mid-November, Clare McCullagh and Angela Buckingham headed out of Heathrow to fly fifteen hours east to reach the ancient city of Nanjing in China. Colleagues at Nanjing University of Information, Science and Technology (NUIST) were waiting for us to deliver the Teaching and Learning Development Course, contributing to the University of Reading Recognised Teacher Status for staff within the NUIST-Reading Academy. The cohort consisted of teaching staff from China, Russia, Egypt and Britain.

Globalisation, the internationalisation of the curriculum and cross-cultural development are key themes in the Higher Education sector currently and so, after three days of collaboration, sharing ideas around pedagogy and implementation of effective classroom practices, we thought it would be interesting here to share our underlying Five Principles (after Chickering and Gamson’s Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education1) for implementing effective training in an overseas context, with an illustration of what this looked like in practice.

Our hope is that some of these principles may be a helpful for you in your teaching and learning context.

Five principles for successful training

1 Develop rapport and know your learners (this may be even more important with a mixed nationality group)

We used a variety of ice breakers, warm up activities and numerous opportunities for personalisation to ease our teaching colleagues into a comfortable ‘stretch’ zone where they were happy to reflect upon current practice and discuss ways to implement change effectively.

Example: Icebreaker, Day 1 Suitcase Activity– what are you bringing to the course? What are your areas of expertise? What are you good at? What are you hoping to take away?:- otherwise known as a rough and ready Needs Analysis

day 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Change the classroom layout (and focus on creating a Positive Learning environment)

This was essential, in order to model ways in which different interaction patterns could easily be encouraged, moving the focus away from a teacher-led transmission model to a facilitation one, (away from the ‘Sage on the Stage’ to a ‘Guide on the Side’), acknowledging that the participants’ own experiences and views were not only valid but welcome. This was an area that was much commented on in the initial evaluations following the course.

Example: Day 3 Team building: table group work to create physical models of a teaching theory – using whatever resources they could find in the room (this included paper cups, chairs, post-its and even an umbrella)

day 3

 

 

 

 

 

3 Model the method, encourage Active Learning

One of our guiding principles when working with educators is to provide training with a practical focus, which will save busy lecturers time when they come to prepare future sessions. In this way, there is a good deal of linking theoretical models to actual classroom practice.

Example: Reflective logs, daily: at the end of each day, we invited lecturers to spend 15 minutes in quiet reflective time, to identify what their key learning outcomes were for each session from the workshops and how they could be applied in their own teaching and learning context.

4 Use the Three Ts – topic, task and time

Following on from the previous principle – educating teachers and aiding their development is complex and involves discussion, examination and time in order for teachers to construct meaning for themselves. We provided a wide range of learning tasks and activities, with plenty of support given to enable the participants to make the links between methodology and practice for themselves.

Example: Peer learning: comparison of teaching policies at the University of Reading and NUIST.

5 Training is a two-way process (in other words, be prepared for two-way learning – be ready to learn from the participants)

We travelled to NUIST knowing that the starting point for all discussions around teaching and learning do not take place in a vacuum, but are highly personal and situated in a particular context and that the person who knows the most about what happens in your own classroom is you. Teacher development provides the opportunity and space for educators to step back and examine their own teaching stories and by sharing these, continue the cycle of reflection and development.

Example: Teacher Hat, Student Hat: lecturers shared ways that they could apply activities in their context by discussing in pairs questions such as – Could you use this in your classroom? What adaptations would you need to make?

Clare

 

 

 

 

 

After three days of intensive training, it was time to fly back home. We left behind the lecturers at the NUIST-Reading Academy motivated and energised, ready to face their classes on Monday with new perspectives and ideas developed from their collaboration with colleagues – and also with the beginnings of a new community of practitioners to draw upon for development and support. We brought back with us a deeper understanding of the challenges our counterparts at NUIST face, and new shared perspectives on ways to continue our own learning journeys.

Clare McCullagh and Angela Buckingham are Academic Developers in the Centre for Quality support and Development (CQSD). They visited the Reading Academy at NUIST from 15th-21st November 2016.

1 Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson (1987) “Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education” American Association of Higher Education Bulletin vol.39 no.7 pp.3-7

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University Teaching Fellows aim to raise internal profile of T&L with PVC support, By Dr Katja Strohfeldt-Venables

On the 10th November the University Teaching Fellows (UTFs) came together for their termly Community of Practice meeting. As chair of the Community for 2016/17, I welcomed all UTFs and outlined my focus for this academic year: “Raising the profile of UTFs”.

It was our great pleasure to welcome Prof Gavin Brooks to this meeting. Gavin gave an overview of current T&L projects within the University and acknowledged that it is important to utilise the UTF community for the wealth and diversity of experience it represents. He highlighted in particular, the upcoming review of the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy in the spring and summer terms, to be ready for launch in 2018; an area where the views of the UTF Community would be extremely welcome. All members enjoyed a really positive discussion about the status of the UTFs and how the University values this community.

Additionally we discussed how the University could potentially support this community. It was very interesting and encouraging to hear that dissemination of T&L projects and sharing of good practice were on top of the list and important to all UTFs present. This includes dissemination within the University and outside. However, we also recognised that effective sharing of good practice seems to become more and more challenging as we face a myriad of commitments. If you have any ideas for how we can share good practice in T&L within the University more effectively and/or how the University can support us – I would love to hear from you. Just drop me an email: k.strohfeldt@reading.ac.uk

 

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Collaborating across the country (and beyond) with Collaborate by Dr Mark Shanahan

10 Days before the US election, almost 40 students and four academics from across England came together to debate the Trump v Clinton fight for the White House, using Blackboard’s Collaborate platform, writes Politics & IR Director of Teaching & Learning, Mark Shanahan. I’d first come across collaborate at a TEL Showcase event, and had discussed its potential use with colleagues from other universities at the British International Studies Association’s Teaching and Learning conference at Newcastle University in September. When the university was looking for innovative Week 6 events, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to land on the political theme of the day and get students and lecturers from a range of universities talking – all without the need for anyone to book a room or a coach…or even (in theory) get out of bed.  

The benefit of using Blackboard’s Collaborate tool was the relative ease with which we could bring academics from Reading, Manchester, De Montfort and Huddersfield Universities together both with their students and a US-based journalist for 90 minutes’ discussion of the US elections. The sound and picture quality wasn’t always perfect – but that was probably more down to user equipment than the tool itself.

Allied to the video content, we had a live chat stream which was incredibly popular. There was a constant flow of questions from students for the academic participants and comments and responses between the students themselves. There was actually so much chat going on that it wasn’t always able to quite keep up with the flow and bring it into our video/audio. We started early with a pre-chat, and ended up running well past our planned hour. We learned a lot. Between myself and Senior TEL advisor, Adam Bailey, we agreed it would have been great to capture both all the chat for future use (we got some), and more so to use screen capture technology to keep a record of the event. We also realised early on that we needed a chair/moderator to keep the event in shape – and I fell into that role.

The response from both students and academic participants after the event was very positive. All the students who responded to a brief Surveymonkey questionnaire after the event want to do more of these link-ups via Collaborate – and want them to be longer. Equally, my colleagues Pete Woodcock, Head of Politics at Huddersfield, Alison Statham a Senior Lecturer in Politics from de Montfort and Howell Williams who’s at Manchester are all keen to get in front of a webcam again – perhaps to pick over the bones of the US election, and definitely to look at other politics subjects where we can share our views and expose our students to opinions beyond their own institutions.

 

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Actively using the Student Charter with your tutees By Helen Bilton and Michelle Reid

Student Charter ActivitiesStudent Charter ActivitiesHave you heard of the University of Reading Student Charter? Have you used the Student Charter with your students? Although many colleagues can recall it being launched a few years ago, fewer staff and, crucially, even fewer of our students are really aware of what the Charter is, or how it can be used to encourage engagement in Reading’s learning community. This is why we have developed some short activities to help explore the meaning of the Student Charter. These activities focus on different aspects of the Charter such as independent learning. They can be adapted to suit, and they only take a few minutes to run. We designed them particularly for use in personal tutor meetings, but they can also be used effectively in staff training.

Student Charter Activities

The need for the activities came from work we have been doing as a follow-up from the Student Charter Working Group. Helen Bilton chaired the group to respond to a 2014 RUSU survey of student and staff views of the Charter, and to re-examine the Charter’s content for changes or updates. The Working Group carefully examined the wording of the Charter and found that (with some debates about content) it was fit for purpose. Student responses to the Charter were high and very positive, but the main concern was the lack of awareness and publicity. Therefore, we felt one avenue for promoting the Charter to students was through the Personal Tutor system. Likewise there was a good response to the questionnaire from staff with lots of positives but again a concern that it was not visible enough.

We trialled the activities at Personal Tutor briefing sessions in the Institute of Education and in Food and Nutritional Sciences in September. The tutors had a chance to try out some of the activities themselves which produced interesting responses and sparked discussion on how they might use them with their tutees. The feedback from tutors was very positive. Comments included how useful the activities were at starting conversations about what it means to be at University. Tutors also felt the Charter was an effective external and non-personal way of broaching potentially difficult issues of engagement and expectations with students. It has led to one programme embedding the activities within one particular year long module, so that student engagement can be revisited regularly. In another instance some of the Student Charter activities were used alongside the taught component of the module and interwoven, whilst still ensuring each aspect was transparent. With full time Masters students, the activities enabled students from all over the world to discuss and understand the important elements of being a student at Reading.

With Week 6 approaching and many Personal Tutors arranging time to meet with their tutees, we hope the activities will give you some ideas of how you might open discussions about participating in our learning community here at Reading.

If you want to talk to us about the Charter, have any comments to make or feedback about how you are using the Charter please contact Helen Bilton h.o.bilton@reading.ac.uk or Michelle Reid michelle.reid@reading.ac.uk

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InFormal Reflections by Amanda Fava-Verde, Mark Peace, Aaron Woodcock and Mariama Sheriff (ISLI)

Introduction

In July this year, four members of teaching staff from the International Study and Language Institute (ISLI) headed up north to this year’s InForm Conference.  InForm is a journal published by ISLI and widely read by international foundation programme professionals across the UK.  Its annual conference this year was held at Durham University and its theme was Working with Words: Supporting understanding of disciplinespecific vocabulary in IFPs (International Foundation Programmes).  Delegates were a mixture of subject-specialists (e.g. Chemistry), English for Academic Purposes (EAP) specialists and Applied Linguists, their common factor being that they are all involved in some way (directly or indirectly) with the teaching and learning of international students on foundation degree programmes.  Amanda, Mark, Aaron and Mariama each share their own reflections on the day’s events.

Does teaching discipline specific vocabulary work?

Two thought provoking presentations had me questioning whether teaching discipline specific vocabulary at Foundation level was something of an impossible ideal – both proposing that foundation level students should rather be guided to develop the skills and strategies needed to empower them to go out there and cultivate their own lexicons and mastery of their own subject specific styles. Both these presentations favoured teaching the broader concepts of academic discourse rather than the specific disciplinary nuances, taking the longer term view that our role is to open these students’ minds to global citizenship rather than close them in to specific academic communities.

Mike Groves of Birmingham University, playing devil’s advocate, questioned whether a focus on subject specific vocabulary teaching in the foundation EAP classroom might even be damaging, suggesting we run the risk of placing our students into ‘linguistic silos’  by doing so.  While not criticising subject specificity in general, he argued that it might be more helpful to exploit the fact that foundation year students spend half their academic lives being taught the very subjects that we are preparing them for, and that they already have access to rich, subject specific discourse through their content modules.   Far better therefore, to encourage them to explore the myriad of online tools available to them (such as Lextutor, word clouds etc.) and use them in informed and disciplined ways.

Elwyn Edwards and Dr Lucy Watson of the University of Southampton had also come to the conclusion that a subject-specific approach doesn’t work; foundation year students are studying too many different subjects to group them usefully in discipline-specific groups.

They have found a novel way around the problem through a new content-based ‘Global Society’ module which aims to teach students to become academically literate and critical thinkers by engaging them in discussions they find interesting and relevant to their lives as global citizens. The module focusses not on teaching specific lexis but rather on teaching key conceptual vocabularies – cross disciplinary concepts such as sustainability, globalisation, capitalism, human rights and development, drawing attention to the ideologies which underpin them.  The approach will allow students to function across a broad range of academic discourses (and undergraduate courses) and later in the global marketplace.

By Amanda Fava-Verde, Programme Director, International Foundation Programme, ISLI

Teaching discipline-specific vocabulary can work

What caught my attention most was how crucial discipline-specific vocabulary is to academic success and how expertise in both language teaching and the subject specialism are needed to teach this vocabulary effectively. Many of the talks were by subject-specialists involved in language teaching or language teachers involved in teaching subject-specific English (sometimes referred to as ESAP). One such talk was by Dr Simon Rees of Durham University. Rees is a chemist who has been collaborating with English language teachers to produce an online chemical language test that has produced very encouraging washback effects on chemistry-specific vocabulary acquisition and academic success in Chemistry.  Students take this test at the beginning and end of their Foundation course, and poor language test scores were found to be a predictor of poor academic achievement in Chemistry.  The test provided a framework for teaching and learning chemistry-specific vocabulary, and it was found that explicit teaching of this vocabulary could enhance both their language test scores and their academic achievement in Chemistry.

Our own experience here at Reading within ISLI and other departments supports these findings. On our English Language for Chemists and English for Science modules, we’ve found that the explicit teaching of discipline-specific lexis has had a positive impact on academic achievement in Chemistry and Food Science.  And undergraduate HBS students on our Academic Skills & Language for Finance course (part of the Academic English Programme embedded provision) have responded extremely positively to a strong focus on discipline-specific vocabulary development.  Perhaps these findings are not very surprising, but they confirm that teaching discipline-specific vocabulary has enormous potential in helping students access their subject and achieve their full academic potential.  They also demonstrate the importance of utilising joint expertise in both language and the target subject.  Let’s hope for more such cross-disciplinary collaborations in the future!

By Aaron Woodcock, Teaching Fellow in English for Science and EAP, ISLI

Let the data do the talking

The InForm conference has always been an active forum for sharing ideas and opinions, but I was particularly delighted this year with the number of talks that openly shared data, results and feedback. In some cases this showed clear trends, in others interpretation was open to discussion and in all cases sharing of data provided additional insight.

In his opening keynote, Associate Professor of Linguistics Michael McCarthy presented analysis of the high frequency keywords ‘point’, ‘terms’ and ‘sense’ in discipline-specific sub-corpora. This showed differences in academic language used by lecturers in different disciplines and clearly illustrated the potential for using spoken academic corpora analysis for tailoring English teaching material for specific disciplines.

Hannah Gurr from the University of Bristol shared student feedback on her foundation English Link class for Mathematics. After hearing of her innovative approach to teaching the course, which involves plenty of interaction including online quizzes and videos, we might expect a rave response from the students to all aspects of the course. Hannah presented the responses in their raw form, and while largely positive, some students still would rather more academic teaching and seem not to value the additional English teaching as much as we might expect. This is something many of us find when teaching our International English or Academic Skills modules despite trying to make it relevant to the student’s subjects, and Hannah’s open sharing of feedback was very welcome in enabling discussion on this.

Sandra Strigel from Newcastle University gave an interesting presentation on raising linguistic awareness of teachers through Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). The intended outcome is often to make sessions more interactive; moving away from extended periods of one-way presentation of information from tutors to students. The feedback that Sandra presented certainly showed that teachers adopting this approach became more aware of language issues and the student experience, as well as being more reflective. What was equally interesting was the information that was missing, and Sandra openly highlighted that the long term impact of this approach on student attainment has not yet been looked at in the studies she’s aware of. So, while it may be relatively straightforward to evaluate different teaching methods in terms of student experience, perhaps the real challenge is evaluating in terms of attainment.

It’s exciting to hear of the research that’s happening. The frank and open presentation and discussion of findings is of great value to the IFP community, particularly as it enables individuals to draw their own conclusions.

By Dr Mark Peace, Senior Academic Tutor IFP, ISLI, Chair of InForm Editorial Board

Using learning technologies can boost academic success

A number of presenters at the conference showed how using learning technologies effectively can enable students to learn discipline-specific vocabulary in order to overcome language barriers that can prevent them from understanding taught content. Moreover, learning technologies also prime students to employ study skills and criticality (transferable skills which facilitate learner autonomy and ultimately foster wider academic success).

Teaching discipline-specific vocabulary characteristically involves helping students notice the meaning, use and form of language then record and memorise it effectively; here, I felt the conference presenters provided a broadening outlook on how learning technologies can facilitate the learning of vocabulary and encourage proactive, reflective and motivated students. Hannah Gurr from the University of Bristol showed how the online tool Quizlet was notable for the way in which it helps her and, more importantly, how it can enable students themselves to tailor the learning of vocabulary to individual needs. Moreover, it gives students the scaffolding they need to prioritise what to learn and to break learning down into manageable chunks.

Corpus websites are not often designed with lower level language learners in mind, and so it was good to hear about more student-centred online platforms that can help students analyse language patterns specific to their chosen discipline. Dawn Knight (Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at the University of Cardiff) has co-created WordWanderer, which promises to be a user-friendly way for students to examine different aspects of discipline-specific vocabulary. Visual learners in particular are likely to find it helpful. Megan Bruce of Durham University demonstrated how centres that build a corpus based on academic texts written within their own institutions can then create tailored corpusbased teaching and learning activities, which can help students focus on the key features of subject-specific academic writing. This also lends well to giving students a sense of belonging to their academic community. Both sessions, like many others, helped to frame stimulating discussions on how to give students more meaningful practice as well as a sense of ownership over their learning both in and outside the classroom.

By Mariama Sheriff, EAP Pre-sessional Tutor (ISLI, summer 2016) and Foundation Tutor at the University of Oxford Brookes.

Conclusions

It may seem, on the surface at least, that there’s little consensus on how best to support the learning of discipline-specific vocabulary. However, lack of consensus tends to lead to diversity of opinion, experimentation and debate, as illustrated by this blog post. As long as this is open, evidence-based and T&L-driven (which it was at InForm 2016), IFP students here at Reading and around the UK can only benefit.

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It’s time! Viva Day – By Heike Bruton, Research Assistant and PhD Researcher

There can’t be many more nerve-wracking oral exams than the PhD viva. A several-year build-up –and then… what? To give research students an impression of what’s it actually like on the day, Dr Carol Fuller from the Institute of Education has produced a short, entertaining and informative video. Using some Teaching and Learning Development Fund (TLDF) money, Carol, who is Director of the Institute’s EdD Programme, has teamed up with film maker Henry Steddman – a UoR alumni — to provide reassurance to potentially anxious candidates. Starring some IoE colleagues as well as professional actors, the video thankfully stays clear of vague and meaningless advice often found in self-help type viva-survivor tips, such as ‘just be yourself’ (which is fine if your self is a confident academic on top of your game, not so much if it’s a nervous wreck. As Father Ted says to Dougal: never be yourself! That’s just something people say!)

So how should you be, then? First, let’s remember the cornerstones of the situation you’re in here:

  • You’re the expert on your thesis
  • The examiners have read your work thoroughly…
  • ….and they’re keen to discuss it with you.

On viva day:

  • dress smartly
  • refer to your thesis
  • keep eye contact
  • if unsure, ask questions
  • stay hydrated
  • ….try to relax!
  • at the end, if you’re asked whether you’d like to add anything, take the opportunity.

Then, you’ve done all you can for now, and there’s no more to than just wait, until… it’s time!

Hopefully, you’ll get the desired result, and will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy! Congratulations!

If UoR PhD’ers and EdD’ers find the video useful, Carol is keen to hear their feedback – via any means possible, be it the YouTube comment box, on Facebook or twitter, or via email.” It’s a good way to give students access to an easy-to-use resource”, says Carol. “If students tell us they like this video clip, we can make the case for funding to make more such short films, for example on epistemology or methodology.”

What do you and your students think of Carol’s video? Have a watch here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3hnu2aq8P4

post authored by:

Heike Bruton | Research Assistant and PhD Researcher | University of Reading, Institute of Education, London Road Campus, building L33 room 115, 4 Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX | + 44(0) 118 378 2645 | h.bruton@reading.ac.ukhttp://germanintheuk.com/about/  | https://twitter.com/HeikeBruton

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