Developing innovative teaching: The importance of reflective practice

Dr Allán Laville, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences


In the training of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs), it is crucial to support students in the development of their reflective thinking and writing skills. Therefore, I implemented the Self-Practice/Self-Reflection (SP/SR; Bennett-Levy, 2001) approach into our PWP training programmes. Impact was measured by asking students to complete questionnaires on their experience of SP/SR and the results informed my PGCAP research project.


  • To improve the level of support and guidance for reflective thinking and writing within the programme.
  • To support students to review their current clinical practice and to create action points in order to develop their practice based on the use of SP/SR.


As part of the BPS PWP national curriculum, students are required to complete summative pieces of reflective writing based on their clinical practice. This is contained within the Evidence-based low-intensity treatment of common mental health problems module (PY3TRT1 and PYMTRT) in both PWP training programmes at the University.


The first step was to review the current literature on SP/SR to see how we could implement this approach in the training of low-intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (LICBT) for PWPs. Previous use of this approach was for Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapists who completed training over two years, whereas PWPs train over 9 months, and so there is significantly less time for implementation.

Based on the length of the training programme, we agreed on including 6 SP/SR activities. We then explored the three different components to this. The first component, which was already in the programme, is for students to receive teaching on a LICBT intervention, such as Behavioural Activation i.e. supporting patients with depression to increase their amount of routine, necessary, and pleasurable activities. The second component, which was new to the programme, was for students to practice completing the LICBT intervention on themselves to identify what went well and what could have gone better.  The third component, which was also new to the programme, was for students to then blog about their experience via the discussion board feature on Blackboard.


The student feedback, elicited in the questionnaires, were very positive with comments such as ‘practicing the intervention and then blogging about it really made me see the difficulties that patients might face’ and ‘completing SP/SR really made me review my current practice and see what I can do to improve.  Our experience of including the SP/SR training was presented at the National British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies Conference at the University of Birmingham. Overall, I think that the activity did meet the objectives however, an unexpected outcome was the need to reduce the number of activities due to student feedback.


In relation to the success of the activity, the consultation with other Clinical Educators and Programme Directors (both at Reading and other Universities) enabled us to implement the activity with very little difficulty. Furthermore, within our teaching, we provide an ‘Introduction to SP/SR’ session so students are informed of the evidence-base for this approach, what the requirements are for SP/SR on our programmes, as well as when they will need to complete the activity, and how to post their experiences on Blackboard. This has been commented on as very useful within student feedback.

In relation to better implementation, the earlier versions of the activity included 6 SP/SR tasks however, students commented that whilst SP/SR is very useful, they found completing 6 tasks too much when considering the rest of their workload. Therefore, we reduced the number to 4 SP/SR tasks, which has been working well.

Follow up

In the previous two years, we have developed our practice by providing students with the opportunity to receive written staff feedback on one of their SP/SR blogs. The student feedback in regard to this has been very positive and we have seen an improvement in the reflective writing skills of our students in their summative reflective assignments.


Developing diversity and inclusion teaching: Sexuality

Dr Allán Laville     School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences


In line with the Equality Act (2010) and Department of Health (2011), sexual orientation needs to be considered in the training of the psychological workforce. Since 2011, I have been developing clinical teaching on sexual orientation with student satisfaction rates of 95-100%. This blog details my journey in the continual development of this training.


  • To deliver clinical training on sexual orientation that meets the requirements of the British Psychological Society Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (BPS PWP) national curriculum. PWPs work with individuals with anxiety and depression who are aged 16+.
  • To support students to be critical of the current psychological literature on sexual orientation and what action plans need to be completed as part of their own clinical development.


As part of the BPS PWP national curriculum, we need to have excellent standards of Diversity and Inclusion teaching. This is contained within the Values, Employment and Context module (PY3VEC1 and PYMVEC) in both PWP training programmes at the University.  I was tasked, by the Director of Training in the Charlie Waller Institute (CWI), to create teaching on sexual orientation as this was previously not included in the module overview.


The first step was to review the current literature on sexual orientation and tie it to mental health. Overwhelmingly, the literature suggests that individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) are at a significantly higher risk of developing a common mental health problem than individuals who identify as heterosexual.

The second step was to explore national policies and approaches, i.e. Department of Health (2011), to supporting individuals who identify as LGB.  It was interesting to see that data collection for sexual orientation is disproportionally under-collected compared to other protected characteristics e.g. race, age, within the Equality Act (2010). This was concerning as data by sexual orientation is not well understood, yet LGB individuals are at a higher risk of developing a mental health problem as well as risk taking behaviours.

The final step was to create a training session that incorporated current literature, tied to national policy, which clearly highlighted how we can work with sexual orientation within clinical practice, such as considering risk as well as appropriate signposting.


The student satisfaction scores were overwhelming positive with comments such as ‘this training is awesome’ and ‘this training really made me think about sexual orientation, and I hadn’t thought about it before’.  The training has now also been delivered to High Intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapists in CWI as well as at the National British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies Conference at Imperial College, London. Overall, I think that the activity did meet the objectives however, an unexpected outcome was the need to publish the key factors of this training session to better inform the wider workforce.


The continual review and updating of this session made sure that it is still relevant for each cohort and meets the requirements of the national curriculum. One large factor that led to the success of this activity was the engagement and contribution of the students. Each time I deliver this session, there are different viewpoints, which challenge my thinking, and this is so valuable for me to develop as a clinician and as an academic.

In relation to better implementation, the earlier versions of the session did not include very much on multi-discrimination and so, it now includes discussion points on considering intersectionality within our clinical practice. This has been received well by students and further promotes critical thinking. It also ties more closely with the intersectionality inclusion aims of Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBT+ charity.

Follow up

I have now been approached by the Director of Children and Young Persons (CYP) programmes in CWI to consider how sexual orientation training can be delivered to CYP clinicians. This will be an interesting task as I will need to consider generational differences as well as how my work can be applied to a different group of clinicians.

Links and references

Laville, A. (2017). The importance of data collection, signposting and ‘appropriate’ awareness in working with sexual orientation. CBT Today, 45 (4), 14-15.

Department of Health and Social Care. (2011). NO HEALTH WITHOUT MENTAL HEALTH: A cross- Government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages. Analysis of the Impact on Equality (AIE). London: Department of Health and Social Care.

Communicating Ancient Sport

Barbara Goff     School of Humanities


In my Part 2 module ‘Ancient Sport’ I offer students a choice between a traditional essay and an ‘outreach project’, which requires them to communicate an aspect of ancient sport to a non-academic audience, perhaps for schools or for the general public.


  • To develop students’ communication skills in an attractive way
  • To diversify assessment in a relevant way (I first taught the module in an Olympics year)
  • To foster students’ sense of their own employability by developing a range of skills.
  • To engage students more fully in an assessment that draws on creativity and imagination.
  • I also hoped that students would have fun with the assessment, which they definitely have done.


The module ‘Ancient Sport’ investigates Ancient Greek and Roman sporting activities with a focus on relating these to concepts of gender, desire, citizen identity, political power, and empire.  The histories of art, architecture and engineering are also important.  Amy Smith, the Curator of the Ure Museum, suggested the outreach project when I started planning the new module.  I consulted with other colleagues in Study Advice, and the then Teaching and Learning Dean, in order to design the assessment effectively.   I monitored the success of the outreach project via evaluations and discussion with students as well as via assessing the work itself, and recursively amended rubric and feedback sheet in order to communicate what students needed to do, and to guide their practice by clarifying criteria.


Each outreach project has to be accompanied by a commentary on a relevant ancient text, a bibliography of secondary literature, and a reflective essay.   I start talking to the students about the assessment choices at the beginning of term.  Towards the end of term, students discuss their chosen project with me and get some feedback on how it is developing.   The module includes a workshop on outreach communications, run by Kim Shahabudin, a colleague from Study Advice, and we share with the students the specific rubric and feedback form which I have developed to address the various elements of the assessment.  We also situate the assessment in the context of employability, pointing towards the importance of being able to reflect on one’s own work, as well as stressing research and communication skills.


The outreach project assessment has been very successful, with many evaluations picking it out as a strength of the module.  In informal conversations, it has become clear that students understand the link with employability, e.g. with their ambitions towards teaching, journalism or museum work. Over the years students have produced work such as videos both educational and entertaining, board games, museum trails, short stories, comics and magazines.  I have been impressed by the effort, imagination, humour and creativity that students have put into their work, and also by their ability to reflect on their achievements, any limitations of their projects, and the decisions that they had to make along the way.  I have been particularly gratified when students who have struggled with the traditional essay, for a variety of reasons, have found an assessment activity in which they can really shine.  We have used several projects on Open Days and in workshops for local schools.


What has mainly contributed to the success of this activity is simply the effort and commitment of the students, and I am very glad to have elicited such good work.  This activity has also been very well supported by colleagues in Study Advice and in the Ure Museum, for which I am grateful.  The activity has required me to rethink things like assessment criteria and rubrics, which I have found useful overall in my teaching.

Follow up

I find it very productive to approach assessment as a way of fostering employability and a variety of skills.  As Departmental Director of Teaching and Learning I am keen for the Department to continue to extend such opportunities for students to engage with a variety of assessment.  I have given extra publicity to our Independent Project module, which offers an alternative to the dissertation.  Although I shall rest ‘Ancient Sport’ for a while, I shall develop a creative writing assessment in a Part 3 module.  We are going to investigate the transformations of the figure of Helen of Troy, across different literary genres and periods, and students will have the opportunity to produce their own version of Helen, in poetry, short story, script, or other text.  Reflection as well as research will be a significant part of this assessment.


Embedding employment in the curriculum: the MSci graduate showcase!

Tamara Wiehe     School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences


Students on our programme – MSci Applied Psychology (Clinical) – are training to become qualified Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs) so employment is naturally embedded in the curriculum. However, the existing career development session was originally designed for students on the postgraduate course so it required some adaptation for undergraduates. This is where the MSci Graduate Showcase event came in! I organised and facilitated a 45-minute ‘speed dating’ type event where our previous students who are employed in a range of roles in clinical psychology came to share their experiences and support our current students with their career development.


  • To learn about a wide range of career options within clinical psychology from MSci graduates.
  • To consider the steps to put in place during Part 4 that will help students work towards their chosen career path.
  • Encourage networking between graduates and current students.


Aspects of the original career development session were used to create the new session. It was appropriate to keep the event on the final teaching day of the year as this is when students are close to qualifying and are starting to think about the next steps in their career. However, the original session was created for postgraduate students who are employed by an NHS service so the career options reflected this. Educators used their experience as practitioners to make the session as engaging as possible but we all felt as though it needed a new lease of life. The new event aimed to address these two issues by discussing a wider range of career options in clinical psychology for our undergraduate students and by inviting some of our MSci graduates who are employed in the field back to the University to share their first hand experiences.


After delivering the same session about 5 times over the past few years, I knew it was time to make some changes when it came to planning the event for the current cohort. The following steps took place over the past 4 months:

  1. Identifying the issues with original session and sharing these with the programme director to see if there was scope to make changes.
  2. Planning the event with the programme director to ensure it met the learning objectives and remained in line with the national PWP curriculum and BPS standards.
  3. Contacting some of our MSci graduates to invite them to the event.
  4. Sharing the plans for the event with our current students so that they had time to prepare.
  5. Confirming the MSci graduates attendance and sharing ideas on how to engage students during the event.
  6. Organising the layout of the room so that students were sat in small groups and formatting the activity using the ‘speed dating’ approach to maximise engagement.
  7. Facilitating the event on the teaching day.
  8. Evaluating the outcomes to then amend the event for future cohorts.


The event was a success and met the learning objectives!

Our students said that they enjoyed speaking to people who are currently doing the role and a wide range of roles were represented. They learned about how the graduates got to where they are now as they were sat in the same position not too long ago and also where they are heading. It gave them time to think about the next steps in their career.

Our MSci graduates said that the students were engaged as they were asking lots of relevant questions and it also gave them a chance to reflect on how far they have come and where they are heading.

Whilst looking around the room, I felt a sense of pride for how far both my current and previous students have come since I’ve known them. They are all extremely dedicated and passionate about their chosen career path and will go on to make a real difference in the world, what a testament to themselves and the University.


I believe that the event was successful due to three main reasons:

  1. I created a session that reflected the needs of the students and made sure that the atmosphere was relaxed to encourage engagement.
  2. The students who took part were engaged and willing to learn from others who were in their position not too long ago.
  3. The MSci graduates were willing to volunteer their time and expertise for the event.

In terms of improving this event, our students suggested that we could find someone who is currently training to become a clinical psychologist; this is something we will explore when preparing for the event next year. I reflected that we needed to number the tables (simple really!) to aid the transitions when moving the graduates around the room.

Based on the success of this event, we definitely want to continue it with future cohorts. As well as the above suggestions, we will review any further comments that arise from more formal student evaluation and amend the event for future cohorts.

From boning a duck to reflecting on utopia in English Literature: Using blogs in teaching, learning and assessment

Lauren McCann, Centre for Quality Support and Development

Chloe Houston, School of Literature and Languages

In the 2009 hit film ‘Julie et Julia’, real life American office worker Julie Powell (Amy Adams) spends a year cooking her way through culinary legend Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and ‘blogs’ about it. Powell picks up a following and generates a dialogue with her readers who comment on her posts and offer her advice, from how to prepare a lobster to how to bone a duck. Blogs are, of course, more than just about French cooking. There are blogs about all sorts of things. They have never been bigger and have become an increasingly useful tool in education too. In this article, we’ll explore this tool and find out how it’s been used for summative assessment on the BA in English Literature.

What is a blog?

A blog – short for web log – is a personal online journal that can include various media and is intended for sharing with others, like an open web-based diary. Most blogs have some kind of commenting system so that people can share their thoughts on entries. Blogs encourage students to clearly express their ideas and engage in social learning.

In Blackboard Learn, instructors can create and manage blogs from within a course. Enrolled users can then view and create entries and comments in them. They can be used for various purposes and as a tool for both formative and summative assessment, providing an alternative to more traditional methods.

Case study: Using blogs in English Literature at the University of Reading

Dr Chloe Houston has used the blog tool this year in a new third year module, ‘Utopia: The Ideal Society in English and American Literature’. Chloe was interested in diversifying the assessment methods experienced by her students and in moving away from the conventional essay. Aware that after graduation, students could be expected to write in a variety of media for a range of audiences, she was keen to give them the opportunity to write in a different format and share their ideas with their peers.

In getting ready to use the tool, Chloe did a good deal of preparation which was key to her ultimate success, contacting TEL CQSD for advice and researching academic blogs. She set up a Blackboard blog to be used as 50% of the module’s assessment in which students were expected to post entries during the term. An inexperienced blogger, she made use of a post-graduate student with relevant experience to help prepare the students and provided support materials. Mid-term evaluation suggested students were enjoying working in this way and end of module evaluations confirmed this, with the additional benefit that Chloe found the assessments more varied and interesting to mark! When asked if she had any advice for other staff thinking about trying out blogging, she exclaimed, “Immerse yourself in the blogging culture and just do it!”

Student Josie Palmer was one of a number who reported positively on her experiences of using the blog tool: “With students having grown up around technology… I feel a blog is a positive step forward in the way work is assessed. It’s easy to access and manage, it’s interactive, as you can read other student’s work and comment on what they have written… This differs greatly from essays… [The blog] gives students the opportunity to upload work and receive feedback more frequently… We are given more of an opportunity to explore ideas in different ways, with a simple format, as opposed to putting all the work collected over a term into one final essay. I think that as a format of assessment the blog works brilliantly!”

In this short video, Chloe discusses her use of the blog in her module:

What next?

If this article has inspired you to find out more about using the blog tool in your own teaching, please see Blackboard’s Support for Staff tab and/or contact the TEL CQSD team for advice. You can also subscribe to the TEL team’s very own blog at


Salmon, G, 2013. E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning . 2nd ed. Abingdon: Routledge.

Downes, S, 2004. Educational Blogging . EDUCAUSE Review , [Online]. 39 (Number 5), 14-26. Available at: [Accessed 01 March 2016].

Hammond , M , (2006). Blogging within Formal and Informal Learning Contexts: Where are the Opportunities and Constraints?’  In Networked Learning. University of Warwick , 2006.

Julie et Julia , 2009. [DVD] Nora Ephron, USA: Sony Pictures.