Author: Ruth Mewis
Graham Hallet, Senior Lecturer, SEN/D and Inclusion, and Shelby Mercer, second year student, give their reflections on a student led conference undertaken as part of a 2nd year Inclusion module
An essential part of being a teacher is to reflect on practice, and to use that reflection as the basis for innovation and creativity in our teaching and learning activities. In the summer of 2010, the opportunity arose to implement a different approach in an Education Studies module in the 2nd year of our 4-year BA (Hons) with QTS. The module is on Inclusion, and this is seen to encompass the needs of all marginalized pupils, rather than only on those with special educational needs. Such a huge subject area seemed to require an approach that differed from our usual teaching pattern, to ensure a continued focus throughout the academic year on Inclusion. Accordingly, a number of changes were made to the usual pattern of seminars and occasional lectures.
Two further beliefs shaped the approach of the module. The first was a conviction that far too much emphasis is placed on summative assignments in the University, and far too little is placed on a continued rehearsal of the skills and attributes needed in producing those assignments. Accordingly, a system akin to the idea of Oxford tutorials was introduced; following a lead lecture, on, for example, gender inclusion, students were expected to prepare and submit a short essay of perhaps 750 words to their tutor. A week or so later, in groups of six plus a tutor, these essays were dissected and discussed in a tutorial lasting an hour. This cycle was repeated 5 or 6 times during the module, ensuring the continued development of writing and research skills.
The second belief was that students respond positively and productively to being given responsibility, even at such an early stage of their academic journey. It was decided to give the students the responsibility of organizing an inclusion conference. A model was provided through the provision of a tutor led conference at the end of Semester 1 but it was made clear that the organization of the student led conference rested entirely with the student body. Time had to be allocated within the structure of the day for the students to present a group paper that formed their summative assignment for the module, but otherwise the programme was entirely within their remit.
The first Conference took place in June 2011 and has been followed by further events in each subsequent year. Each has been very different, perhaps reflecting the personalities of the students in that year, but each has been completely successful, with invited speakers of national importance in the field, exhibitions of relevant materials, refreshments provided, webcasts organized and T-shirts produced. Perhaps the best way to show the value of these events is to listen to the student voice; in this case, Shelby Mercer, one of our current second year organisers, gives her views of the conference that was held on the 28th March 2017.
The morning had gone well. My colleagues and I, looking around at one another, felt quietly confident. Our third speaker, half way through her talk, was passionately sharing her experiences with the audience. Eyes were fixed to the front until, suddenly, our speaker’s PowerPoint disappeared and the emergency lighting flickered on. There had been a power cut.
The student-led conference is one of the opportunities that makes our degree unique. I have attended them before and know others that have previously organised them, yet, the degree of autonomy involved was still surprising. Early during the module Graham explained the conference was ours; this meant we were responsible for everything from fundraising to flyers, speakers to spoons. The extent we were involved personally was also up to us; everyone wanted to participate in the planning, driven by the strong motivation of the experience rather than a grade.
I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of the lessons learnt from creating and implementing a conference, with 20 peers, at this stage in our learning journey. Here are some:
A group of people can succeed in their goals without a leader. Early on we split into small self-organising teams, each with our own aims such as publicity and fundraising. I am not going to say that it all happened smoothly; some were more active in the planning than others and communication was sometimes lacking. However, this approach allowed us to make decisions by consensus, agreeing together therefore meant everyone was committed to turning our decisions into reality.
Some people will simply ignore your emails. Both the teams responsible for speakers and exhibitors had to quickly learn to deal with rejection or simply being ignored. However, this feeling was overshadowed by the fear that we wouldn’t have enough speakers; a needless worry as we secured four fantastic guest speakers.
Not everything will run smoothly. There is likely to be a moment, or two, or many, of stress. For us this ranged from technical difficulties, to losing an exhibitor in the carpark, and finally the power cut. Conferences are intrinsically social gatherings. It might be a cliché to say so, but, as I watched our final speaker do an impression of a Scouse lion under emergency lighting, I realised we should, after all our hard work, be enjoying ourselves. As Graham said, it’s our day.
These are just some of lessons I have learnt from planning a conference, I’m sure for my peers they may be different. However, the importance, I believe, is that we were given the opportunity to learn them – in our own way.
20 June 2017 saw this years L&T Fest held at the Fusehill Street Campus. Over 130 staff from across the university involved in teaching and learning support attended the conference, to explore the theme of Student Success: Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell opened the conference, during which she celebrated the success of the University during the past year, inviting Heads of Departments to contribute their departmental achievements. The success of students was also celebrated, with three giving an insight into their personal learning journey. Many thanks to PhD student Rob Ewin, award winning nursing student Zoe Butler and Graphic design student Chloe for giving their time to attend the conference and share their success. They really are an inspiration and got the conference off to a great start. You can view the student success stories on the UoC Facebook page.
Ruth Pilkington (NTF, 2014; PFHEA; SFSEDA) gave the first keynote exploring developing as an academic in HE 2020. Ruth outlined the shifting landscape of academic careers and challenged participants to feel empowered as they engage in professional learning and look to develop in this changing career.
The afternoon keynote session was led by Grace Hurford (Lecturer of the Year) and Nicola Kitchen (Creative Lecturer of the Year) and it certainly was creative, involving lowering sticks, recreating Starship Troopers/Alien mission (with a cat) and even a singalong to a version of My Favorite Things exploring what they love about HE!
The conference showcased the wide range of work of colleagues in teaching and supporting learning from across the university, with 20 presentations given, within five parallel sessions. Blog posts from some of the presenters will be available over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
Pedagogy in Practice (PIP) workshop, 14.2.17
This session was led by Alan Marsh, the Programme Lead and Senior Lecturer for Radiation Protection in the Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies.
This session looked at the NSS questions on feedback and it was clear students on the Radiation Protection programme felt the feedback they received was insufficient, and lacking detailed comments. The programme team couldn’t understand this as they devote a lot of time to providing feedback so it appeared students were not recognising it as feedback. These students tend to be mature students, returning to learning after some time so the idea of feedback and how to use it to feed-forward can require a change in approach.
The participants discussed this and their own experiences of students mis-understanding the purpose of feedback, along with what feedback is.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines feedback as (one of three, others to do with process and electrical signals):
Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.
It was agreed the main point for feedback is to provide a basis for improvement. Other suggestions for what feedback is included: to indicate to students if they are on target to pass; formative; timely; formal and informal.
Participants shared the various ways they provide feedback, including written and recorded. Alan discussed his experiences of using these different approaches and the importance of preparing students to be able to use the feedback provided.
Strategies for how to ensure students understand feedback should be used to feed-forward were explored, with a suggestion of including an area for improvement each time to focus the student to this area of development.
Alan also discussed some recent literature on this topic, which is summarised along with notes from the session.
Kolb, 1982; Brockbank, 1998; Ramsden, 2003; Irons, 2007; Norton, 2007 (to name but a few) recognize that feedback on assignments can contribute to improving the quality of the student learning experience. Ramsden, 2003, in particular for example (page 187) highlights that “It is impossible to overstate the role of effective comments on students’ progress in any discussion of effective teaching and assessment”.
Carless, 2015 talks about the three interrelated processes of :-
- Learning oriented assessment tasks for students;
- Students development of self-evaluative capacities;
- Student engagement with feedback.
Hattie, 2009 claims that learning becomes visible when teachers are also learners and helping students to become their own teachers. Providing adequate feedback is an important aspect.
Boud & Molloy (2013b) developed and analysed two models of feedback:-
- The first positions teachers as the drivers of feedback (derived from the original concept of feedback from the applied sciences – unilateral approach);
- The second draws on the idea of sustainable assessment, in which learners have a key role in driving learning and so generating their own feedback – bilateral or multilateral approach which positions students as active learners.
Parker & Winstone (2016) presented students with 10 possible feedback interventions, which seemed to indicate that students believe (or they perceive) they lack the skills required to engage with interventions; they make some recommendations as to how to frame such interventions to promote stronger student engagement.
If you have some examples of how you are helping students understand feedback and how you are linking feedback to feed-forward, do get in touch to share your practice, AQD@cumbria.ac.uk.
References / further reading
Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013a) Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well. London: Routledge
Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013b) ‘Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design’ J. of Assessment & Evaluation in HE, 38(6), pp. 689-71
Carless, D (2015) ‘Exploring learning-oriented assessment process’, Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education Research, 69(6), pp. 963-976
Parker, M. & Winstone, N.E. (2016) ‘Students perceptions of interventions for supporting their engagement with feedback’, Practictioner Research in Higher Education, 10(1) pp. 53-64
Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. 2nd edn. London: Routledge Falmer
Student Success: Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’
This year’s Learning and Teaching Fest will be held on Tuesday 20th June 2017 on our Fusehill Street campus. The theme of this year’s Fest is “Student Success” Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’ a topic which covers a broad spectrum of practice and will allow us to showcase some of the best and most original practice at UoC and our partner institutions.
Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’ is becoming an increasing focus as a way of measuring success in higher education and is one of the aspects the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) assessment framework considers as teaching excellence (Jan 2017, TEF, Higher Education Funding Council For England).
Learning Gain can be defined and understood in a number of ways. Broadly it is an attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education (Feb 2016, Learning gain, Higher Education Funding Council for England).
The conference is looking to share learning and teaching practice from across the UoC and our partner institutions which adds value through learning gain to enhance student success. We are looking for contributions in the following key areas identified in the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy review:
- The learner
- The learning environment
- Curriculum design
- The Academic role
- Partnership working
Presenters will be scheduled within 30 minutes’ slots (maximum 20 minutes presenting, with time for Q&A/discussion).
Presenters are asked to explore the evidence of the impact and or effectiveness of their practice on adding value to the student experience. They will also be encouraged to frame the work within the new Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy.
Presentations may be single or joint with colleagues or students. We highly encourage co-presentations with students.
Abstracts should address the following:
- What were you trying to enhance?
- How did you enhance your practice to address this?
- What is the evidence of the value added to the student experience?
- How is this underpinned by current thinking in the literature?
Successful participants will be notified by email by Thursday 27th April 2017.
Following the success of earlier PIPs, a new series of PIP seminars for staff to meet and share practice on teaching and learning themes face-to-face will commence in January 2017. They will take the form of a short presentation by the lead, followed by an opportunity for discussion. All staff are welcome whether you teach or support student learning, and you are encouraged to share examples of successful practice as well as challenges to which you have found solutions, or that are yet to be solved! Bring your lunch. These will be drop in sessions with no pre-booking required.
The idea is that they will run on the same week of each month at the main northern campuses. It is hoped that the London India Docks campus will be facilitated in the future. Do you want to be a PIP leader? We are still looking for leaders from 21 February 2017 for the following dates 21 & 28 Feb, 7,21,28 Mar & 2,23 May 2017 if you are interested please contact Heather Prince or AQD.
The seminars for 2017 will commence with:
|Raye Ng (BLPSS)||Internationalisation of Curriculum||Lancaster||Tuesday 10 Jan 2017
12:10pm – 1pm
|TB11 (Temp Building) Capacity 35|
|Grace Hurford (BLPSS)||Working with International Students||Ambleside||Tuesday 17 Jan 2017
12.10pm – 1pm
|LD0.04 (Langdale) Capacity 15|
|Roddy Hunter (IoA)||Assessment for Learning||Brampton Road||Tuesday 24 Jan 2017
12:10pm – 1pm
|HO10 (Homeacres) Capacity 18|
|Grace Hurford (BLPSS)||Working with International Students||Fusehill St||Tuesday 7 Feb 2017
12:10pm – 1pm
|SKG37 (Skiddaw) Capacity 20|
|Alan Marsh (SNROS)||NSS Q9 issue re Student’s perception of Feedback||Lancaster||Tuesday 14 Feb 2017
12:10pm – 1pm
|HB011 (HB2) (Humanities) Capacity 20|
To download a copy of the above Timetable, please click here.
This event, held on Tuesday 25 October, hosted by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell, was an opportunity to celebrate colleagues involved in teaching and learning support who have been recognised as Fellows of the HEA.
HEA Fellowship is recognition of a commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher education and demonstrates that your practice is aligned with the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). To date over 75,000 individuals have become Fellows of the HEA. The HEA website provides more details.
Here at the University of Cumbria we have almost 65% of our eligible staff recognised as Fellow, Senior Fellow or Principal Fellow of the HEA. This is a great achievement when compared to the national average of around 40%. Of course we want all staff involved in learning and teaching to be recognised to show our commitment to a high quality student learning experience.
If you are interested in gaining recognition for your commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching we encourage you to engage with the CPD route to UKPSF recognition, which is open to all staff who teach or support student learning.
Professor Stephanie Marshall, CEO of the HEA, attended as a guest speaker and outlined the work of the HEA and how the University of Cumbria are able to access various streams of support.
Esther Jubb gives us the lowdown on the recent Blackboard World conference
In early 2016, without actually expecting to be accepted to the conference, I put in a presentation proposal to the Blackboard World 2016 Conference in Las Vegas. The presentation planned to talk about the changes and developments that we have been working on in relation to our use of Blackboard during the last 18 months. In the background, many of the changes that we have been working on is an Exemplary Course Programme and the presentation proposal was to discuss how we were using the rubric that supports this programme to identify and drive much of our work. Having been accepted to the conference and being briefed on how the panel session would run I packed my suitcase and flew 10 hours to Las Vegas.
Blackboard World is a very large conference 3000 plus delegates, large expo hall with lots of learning technology vendors keen to talk to you about your learning technology needs (and to give you free gifts; caps, charging cables, t-shirts, bottle openers…) parallel sessions that start at 8:15am and finish at 6:00pm, additional workshops and keynote sessions and lots of opportunities to indulge the geeky side of your personality.
Despite some wicked jetlag I attended a whole variety of sessions. My first session was an interesting presentation from Charles Darwin University on Developing an Integrated Student Learning Universe; putting students at the centre of all technology developments and taking a 3 layer approach:
- Learner engagement needs
- Learner facing systems
- Underlying technology architecture
I also attended a session from Johns Hopkins University on their approach to supporting staff new to teaching fully online distance learning programmes. My favourite session, in terms of making me think about my role at the university and how we better make use of learning technology, was run by staff from IBM on design thinking. Not only was this an introduction to something new….it was an interactive session where we started to engage with the approach of design thinking.
Youtube video quick overview Design Thinking:
Youtube video Tim Brown (creator of design thinking) talking about Design Thinking:
Part of the problem with such a large conference is that it is difficult to choose between 10 different sessions in any one parallel slot and not every session lives up to the description so you then feel that you’ve wasted a valuable session! My overall reflections on the conference were, that although we do have plenty of work to do in our use of learning technology, we are heading in the right direction; ensuring that the student experience is consistent and what we promise them, using the affordances of the technology to support the learning that our students need to prepare them for their future aspirations, and getting the most out of our learning technologies. Finally, how did my presentation go? There were about 60 people the room, the feedback was excellent with all those who provided feedback saying that they thought the session was useful to them, which is what you want to achieve from talking about the interesting and exciting things that you’re doing.
Dr Esther Jubb, AQD
For staff new to teaching in higher education we provide a ‘taught route’ to professional recognition through the PGCert.
This flexible programme provides you the opportunity for you to develop you knowledge and understanding of the practice of teaching and the support of student learning in HE, and advance your professional; skills within your own working context.
Details on how to apply can be found on the website.
This year’s Learning and Teaching Fest will be held on Thursday 30th June 2016 on our Fusehill Street campus. The theme of this year’s Fest is “Engaging Students in Learning” a topic which covers a broad spectrum of practice and will allow us to showcase some the best and most original practice at UoC and our partner Institutions.
Online registration is now open.