Reflections on Learning and Teaching Fest 2017 – John Pearson – Lecturer in Technical Theatre, Performing Arts
This is the second time I’ve presented at the event; in 2015 I presented jointly with colleagues from LiSS and the BIC on an enterprise day we ran for my Technical Theatre students. This time, my presentation was rooted in research undertaken for the PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in HE, which I completed last year.
I find the Festival to be a good place to pick up (mostly practical) techniques which colleagues are using with their students, or methods by which colleagues are using the systems and tools at our disposal in interesting ways; Tina Harvey’s presentation on Peer Feedback at level four was interesting to me for this reason, as I seek to find more effective and efficient ways to help students develop and become reflective and self-critical.
One of the highlights of most years I have attended are the Lecturer of the Year/ Most Creative Teaching Keynotes, and Grace Hurford & Nicola Kitchen’s was no different; however, I suspect it might take quite a lot for me to contemplate dressing up as someone in a scene from Alien in order to engage my students.
My presentation this year focussed on the delivery of feedback to students as audio recording; and the possible benefits that can bring. The presentation was focussed primarily as a guide to the benefits, practicalities and pitfalls of pursuing such methods for other staff, and I hope some attendees found it helpful in that way. I certainly was grateful to have some interesting follow-up questions and observations from attendees; albeit slightly tangential in places! You can read more about the basic premise of my talk in my previously published iLEAD post here [link to post].
Regrettably, the modules upon which I had primarily implemented audio feedback have been discontinued. As my teaching subsequently alters focus towards students on other modules, I am in a position to reflect upon how those modules could be delivered and supported, and I intend to implement lessons learnt from this work and the sessions I attend at LTFest within their delivery.
Reflections on Learning and Teaching Fest 2017
The UoC Learning and Teaching Fest is an annual celebration of some of the most innovative and effective practices taking place across the institution. As a relative newcomer to the University, taking up a Lectureship in Zoology in August 2016, this year’s L&T Fest was my first. I was keen to discover more about new learning technologies and creative ways to engage students, which are particular interests I’ve been exploring as part of the PgCert in Learning and Teaching for Higher Education. As part of my studies, I carried out an action research project on how the free interactive software programme, Mentimeter, can be used to improve student engagement, and was fortunate to have the opportunity to present this work at the event.
The L&T Fest opened with introductions from Esther Jubb, Principal Lecturer in Academic Development, and our Vice Chancellor, Julie Mennell. To celebrate the theme of the conference, Student Success, Julie asked the Heads of Department to pick out a few student success stories. The proud Heads offered far more stories than Julie perhaps bargained for. For me the highlight of the introductions was listening to the reflections of three students, Rob, Chloe and Zoe, on their undergraduate or postgraduate journeys. They explained how the tuition and opportunities they had experienced during their time at UoC helped them to develop the confidence, abilities and perspectives to achieve things they had not considered possible and to become their ‘best possible selves’.
This was a moving reminder of why many of us chose to work in Higher Education. It must have been a tough act to follow for even our Keynote Speaker, Ruth Pilkington, Professorial Fellow in Learning and Teaching at Liverpool Hope University. In a thought-provoking talk on Developing as an Academic in HE 2020, Ruth considered what is required for us as individuals to achieve teaching excellence in a changing sector.
After coffee, the conference split into five parallel sessions. In the first of these, I gained practical tips from Lisa Smith and Sarah Ruston on using Blackboard blogs to manage student learning, which I am keen to try for myself in the coming year. Liz Bates gave an interesting talk on improving the postgraduate experience, concluding that the learning community, work-life balance and support from staff, family and friends were key.
Feeling refreshed from a delicious buffet lunch, we reunited for a very engaging, funny and humble keynote by Grace Hurford and Nicola Kitchen, Lecturer of the Year and recipient of Most Creative Teaching Award of the Year, respectively. They showed that problems can be turned into opportunities, challenged the audience to use teamwork to lower a stick to the ground balanced on a finger, and described how transforming the classroom into the backdrop of a science fiction film can inspire scientific problem-solving skills. Most of all, they encouraged us to be original and to take risks. Leaving us in no doubt that they practice what they preach, they finished by singing about their ‘Favourite Things’ in academia to the tune of the song from the Sound of Music.
Grace and Nicola’s interactive keynote set the scene perfectly for my talk that followed on how the interactive presentation software, Mentimeter, can be used to promote student engagement. This was a joint presentation with Kelly Fielden, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy. With the help of our audience we demonstrated how two different functions of the software (multiple choice quizzes and asking the lecturer anonymous questions) can be used within a lecture setting. We showed how our students, across different disciplines, levels and Mentimeter contexts, agreed that the software adds value to lectures and all recommended that it be used again.
Next up were Julie Taylor, David Wright and Andrea Charters, who provided a really useful talk on how marking rubrics can be used to provide a wealth of focussed feedback, improve consistency between and within marker, save marking time and enhance the student experience. I have been using simple spreadsheet rubrics for marking some of my own assignments and now feel equipped to try this through Blackboard. Finally, Charlotte Hardacre gave an excellent and very enthusiastic talk on her experiences of student-led teaching. She (bravely, I would say) alternated the delivery of a module between herself and different groups of students. This encouraged students to prepare for class more effectively because student ‘teachers’ were more actively involved in learning and were well placed to pester their peers to do the reading to ensure their session worked well. I was particularly interested in the idea that the intervention fostered critical thinking because students were less accepting of material delivered to them by their peers.
The L&T Fest was a really positive experience because it offered plenty of ideas and practical guidance to try out in the next academic year. It provided opportunities to speak with colleagues from different disciplines that I wouldn’t otherwise have met. Most of all, I was struck by how many enthusiastic, talented and creative people we have in our institution that are striving to provide the best student experience through teaching and support.
Developing digital capabilities of students and staff – Kelly Fielden -Health, Psychology & Social Studies
I attended the Learning and Teaching Fest 2017 for a variety of reasons. One – I went last year and found it very informative for my teaching development. Two – I love finding out what others are doing and like the opportunity for time to “think”. Three – (and probably the biggest reason!) I was one of the presenters. This was my first time presenting at a conference, so it was a great learning experience! One of the biggest highlights of the day was the morning talk from three successful students. The students kindly provided us with an overview of their various educational journeys and most importantly, laid down the gauntlet for academics to “keep it real” and keep learning accessible. They were all truly inspirational and provided such a positive outlook on their journeys through the University of Cumbria. Next, Ruth Pilkington provided some very valuable food for thought on learning and teaching within a changing landscape. In addition, she encouraged academics to be entrepreneurs and to see problems as opportunities. Thank you to both the student and Ruth for their thoughtful and motivating talks. Following this event, I will aim to ensure that I keep my teaching accessible and maintain a “real world” focus for all learners to ensure students employability and entrepreneurship when they graduate. For a start, I am going to begin a journal club for students who will be undertaking their first research module in the new academic year – an activity which often happens in occupational therapy practice. I will also continue to use some of my scholarly leave to revisit clinical practice and maintain essential skills and networks.
The session I conducted jointly with Dr Davina Hill (Lecturer in Zoology) reported on our respective PGCert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education action research studies. My particular study investigated student’s perceptions on the use of Mentimeter (a technology enhanced learning tool) to ask anonymous questions in class. We had a great session demonstrating the use of Mentimeter and reporting on our studies which concluded that students do value the use of Mentimeter in class. Thank you to all those who attended!
Thank you to the AQD Team for the great day – I cannot wait to attend next year!
Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
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!