Misconceptions About Flipped Learning

Misconceptions about Flipped Learning

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, colleagues in UoR are called to adjust their courses almost overnight from face to face teaching and to fully online ones. As the immediate future is still full of uncertainty, UoR (2020) teaching and learning framework are asking us to be creative in our pedagogical teaching approaches and to come up with strategies that would make courses stimulating and engaging. Flipped learning is one of the approaches suggested in the framework. With that in mind, I have written two articles about flipped learning published here and here.

Flipped learning is a pedagogical approach which comes timely during Covid-19. The advancement of internet technology, online learning platform and social media combined with growing exposure to flipped learning pedagogical approach promote the adoption of flipped learning during this pandemic. However, despite its popularity and published literature about flipped learning, it is evident that there are many misconceptions about it as it remains a somewhat poorly-understood concept among many.

In this last article, I thought I write and share with you some of the misconceptions about flipped learning that I resonate most. At the same time, let us reflect on them and see how we can overcome them if possible. Your feedbacks are always welcome and please do send me your thoughts via w.tew@henley.ac.uk

 

Misconception 1: Flipped learning is about putting video contents online

Reflection: This can be the most popular format to do flipped learning, but it is NOT about putting videos online and having students do homework in class (or online during this pandemic time). Referring to UoR (2020) Teaching and Learning: Framework for Autumn term 2020, we are encouraged to prepare our teaching and lectures in a video format. This format works well with flipped learning instructional strategy for delivering our teaching contents but flipped learning can be about much more than that. Colleagues can opt for videos or just text (readings) materials if they flip their lessons. For example, we can make good use of BB LMS platform to include online reading materials using talis aspire, journal articles, case studies, news that are relevant for our students. In another word, flipped learning does not necessarily use videos entirely.

 

Misconception 2: You need to be in the video

Reflection: This is not necessary the case especially so many of us are just shy and ‘unnatural’ in front of the camera, just how I feel for myself. This is why voice recorded PowerPoint format can be a ‘lifesaver’ to many of us. Having said that, having you in the video adds a personal touch to the learning materials for students. For example, wearing different hats when you are filming your videos make it more interesting to ‘draw’ students’ attention to your contents and lessons. Try it, you probably earn a “Mad hatter” title from your students. Just one of my crazy ideas.

 

Misconception 3: You need to flip your entire module 

ReflectionMany of us assume that we need to flip it for our entire module for entire academic year. NOT entirely necessarily so! The whole idea about flipped learning is to foster student-centred learning and teaching can be personalised to suit the students’ needs and learning pace. Therefore, you can flip just one concept or topic, one entire term or some weeks. Remember, the focus is on the students’ learning needs – one size fits all approach definitely does not fits in a flipped learning environment.

 

Misconception 4Flipped learning is a fad and people has been doing this for years in the past

Reflection: This is what my initial thought when I first come to know about flipped learning. A fad is defined as “a style, activity, or interest that is very popular for a short period of time”, an innovation that never takes hold. Flipped learning is anything but this. The evidence that it is still actively studied and researched today proves that it is not just a fad. Talbert (2017) argued that flipped learning is not just rebranding of old techniques. Flipped learning has its pedagogical framework and values in its effects on learning. In brief, the definition of flipped learning (refer Flipped Learning Network, 2014) has differentiated it with any learning theories.

 

Misconception 5: Flipping the classroom takes too much time

Reflection: To be honest, I do think this is true. Preparing for flipped learning and flipping the lessons involve a lot of energy and time. Based on my own experience, I personally can testify that it can take a significant amount of time. This also subjects to how tech-savvy is the teacher and how much of the teaching content needs to be flipped. However, the fruit of the hard labour and time investment, once designed, it will save time. Irony, isn’t it. That’s my experience. What I am trying to show you that once you have it done, you will be able to use the same content over and over again, year after year. Then, any updating and changes to the contents will not take as much time as creating everything from scratch again.

Finally, I hope you enjoy my series of flipped learning published on this platform. I sincerely urge you to consider flipped learning pedagogical approach during this pandemic and please do not hesitate to be in touch to continue this conversation.

References

Flipped Learning Network (FLN). (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™ , Reproducible PDF can be found at www.flippedlearning.org/definition.

Talbert, R (2017) Flipped Learning: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty. Stylus Publishing, LLC

UoR (2020) Teaching and Learning: Framework for Autumn term 2020, available at: https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/leadershipgroup/autumn-teaching-proposal-v11.pdf

 

Introducing group assessment to improve constructive alignment: impact on teacher and student

Daniela Standen, School Director of Teaching and Learning, ISLI  Alison Nicholson, Honorary Fellow, UoR

Overview

In summer 2018-19 Italian and French in Institution-wide Language Programme, piloted paired Oral exams. The impact of the change is explored below. Although discussed in the context of language assessment, the drivers for change, challenges and outcomes are relevant to any discipline intending to introduce more authentic and collaborative tasks in their assessment mix. Group assessments constitute around 4% of the University Assessment types (EMA data, academic year 2019-20).

Objectives

  • improve constructive alignment between the learning outcomes, the teaching methodology and the assessment process
  • for students to be more relaxed and produce more authentic and spontaneous language
  • make the assessment process more efficient, with the aim to reduce teacher workload

Context

IWLP provides credit-bearing language learning opportunities for students across the University. Around 1,000 students learn a language with IWLP at Reading.

The learning outcomes of the modules talk about the ability to communicate in the language.  The teaching methodology employed favours student–student interaction and collaboration.  In class, students work mostly in pairs or small groups. The exam format, on the other hand, was structured so that a student would interact with the teacher.

The exam was often the first time students would have spoken one-to-one with the teacher. The change in interaction pattern could be intimidating and tended to produce stilted Q&A sessions or interrogations, not communication.

Implementation

Who was affected by the change?

221 Students

8 Teachers

7 Modules

4 Proficiency Levels

2 Languages

What changed?

  • The interlocution pattern changed from teacher-student to student-student, reflecting the normal pattern of in-class interaction
  • The marking criteria changed, so that quality of interaction was better defined and carried higher weight
  • The marking process changed, teachers as well as students were paired. Instead of the examiner re-listening to all the oral exams in order to award a mark, the exams were double staffed. One teacher concentrated on running the exam and marking using holistic marking criteria and the second teacher listened and marked using analytic rating scales

Expected outcomes

  • Students to be more relaxed and produce more authentic and spontaneous language
  • Students to student interaction creates a more relaxed atmosphere
  • Students take longer speaking turns
  • Students use more features of interaction

(Hardi Prasetyo, 2018)

  • For there to be perceived issues of validity and fairness around ‘interlocutor effects’ i.e. how does the competence of the person I am speaking to affect my outcomes. (Galaczi & French, 2011)

 Mitigation

  • Homogeneous pairings, through class observation
  • Include monologic and dialogic assessment tasks
  • Planned teacher intervention
  • Inclusion of communicative and linguistic marking criteria
  • Pairing teachers as well as students, for more robust moderation

Impact

Methods of evaluation

Questionnaires were sent to 32 students who had experienced the previous exam format to enable comparison.  Response rate was 30%, 70% from students of Italian. Responses were consistent across the two languages.

8 Teachers provided verbal or written feedback.

 Students’ Questionnaire Results

Overall students’ feedback was positive.  Students recognised closer alignment between teaching and assessment, and that talking to another student was more natural. They also reported increased opportunities to practise and felt well prepared.

However, they did not feel that the new format improved their opportunity to demonstrate their learning or speaking to a student more relaxing.  The qualitative feedback tells us that this is due to anxieties around pairings.

Teachers’ Feedback

  • Language production was more spontaneous and authentic. One teacher commented ‘it was a much more authentic situation and students really helped each other to communicate’
  • Marking changed from a focus on listening for errors towards rewarding successful communication
  • Workload decreased by up to 30%, for the average student cohort and peaks and troughs of work were better distributed

Reflections

Overall, the impact on both teachers and students was positive. Student reported that they were well briefed and had greater opportunities to practise before the exam. Teachers reported a positive impact on workloads and on the students’ ability to demonstrate they were able to communicate in the language.

However, this was not reflected in the students’ feedback. There is a clear discrepancy in the teachers and students’ perception of how the new format allows students to showcase learning.

Despite mitigating action being taken, students also reported anxiety around ‘interlocutor effect’.  Race (2014) tells us that even when universities have put all possible measures in place to make assessment fair they often fail to communicate this appropriately to students. The next steps should therefore focus on engaging students to bridge this perception gap.

Follow-up

Follow up was planned for the 2019-20 academic cycle but could not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

References

Galaczi & French, in Taylor, L. (ed.), (2011). Examining Speaking: Research and practice in assessing second language speaking. Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Dehli, Tokyo, Mexico City: CUP.

Fulcher, G. (2003). Testing Second Language Speaking. Ediburgh: Pearson.

Hardi Prasetyo, A. (2018). Paired Oral Tests: A literature review. LLT Journal: A Journal on Language and Language Teaching, 21(Suppl.), 105-110.

Race, P. (2014) Making Learning happen (3rd ed.), Los Angeles; London: Sage

Race, P. (2015) The lecturer’s toolkit : a practical guide to assessment, learning and teaching (4th ed.), London ; New York, NY : Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

 

How ISLI moved to full online teaching in four weeks

Daniela Standen, ISLI

Overview

ISLI teaches almost exclusively international students. Many of our programmes run all year round, so ISLI had to move to teach exclusively online in the Summer Term. This case study outlines the approach taken and some of the lessons learnt along the way. 

Objectives 

  • Delivering a full Pre-sessional English Programme online to 100 students.
  • Providing academic language and literacy courses for international students.
  • Teaching International Foundation students, with one cohort about to begin their second term at Reading.
  • Teaching students on the Study Abroad Programme.

Context  

In April 2020 as the country was into lockdown and most of the University had finished teaching, ISLI was about to start a ‘normal’ teaching term.  The Pre-sessional English Programme was about to welcome 100 (mostly new) students to the University. The January entry of the International Foundation Programme was less than half-way through their studies and the Academic English Programme was still providing language and academic literacy support to international students.

Implementation

Moving to online teaching was greatly facilitated by having in house TEL expertise as well as colleagues with experience of online teaching, who supported the upskilling of ISLI academic staff and were able to advise on programme, module and lesson frameworks.

We thought that collaboration would be key, so we put in place numerous channels for cross-School working to share best practice and tackle challenges.  ISLI TEL colleagues offered weekly all School Q&A sessions as well as specific TEL training. We set up a Programme Directors’ Community of Practice that meets weekly; and made full use of TEAMS as a space where resources and expertise could be shared.  Some programmes also created a ‘buddy system for teachers’.

Primarily the School adopted an asynchronous approach to teaching, synchronous delivery was made particularly difficult by having students scattered across the globe.  We used a variety of tools from videos, screencasts, narrated PowerPoints and Task & Answer documents to full Xerte lessons.  Generally using a variety of the above to build a lesson.  Interactive elements were provided initially mostly asynchronously, using discussion boards, Padlet and Flipgrid.  However, as the term progressed feedback from students highlighted a need for some synchronous delivery, which was carried out using Blackboard collaborate and TEAMS. 

Impact

It has not been easy, but there have been many positive outcomes from having had to change our working practices.  Despite the incredibly short timescales and the almost non-existent preparation timel, our PSE 3 students started and successfully finished their programme completely online, the IFP January entry students are ready to start their revision weeks before sitting their exams in July and international students writing dissertations and post graduate research were supported throughout the term.

As a School we have learnt new skills and to work in ways that we may not have thought possible had we not been forced into them.  These new ways of working have fostered cross-School collaboration and sharing of expertise and knowledge.

Reflections

We have learnt a lot in the past three months.  On average it takes a day’s work to transform one hour of face to face teaching into a task-based online lesson.

Not all TEL tools are equally effective and efficient, below are some of our favourites:

  • For delivering content: Narrated PowerPoints, Screen casts, Webinars, Task and Answer (PDF/Word Documents)
  • For building online communities: Live sessions on BB collaborate (but students are sometimes shy to take part in breakout group discussions), Flipgrip, discussion boards.
  • For student engagement: BB retention centre, Tutorials on Teams, small frequent formative assignments/tasks on Blackboard Assignments.
  • For assessment: BB assignments, Turn it in, Teams for oral assessment

If time were not a consideration Xerte would also be on the list.

Copyright issues can have a real impact on what you can do when delivering completely online.  Careful consideration also needs to be given when linking to videos, particularly if you have students that are based in China.

Follow up

ISLI is now preparing for Summer PSE, which starts at the end of June. Many of the lessons learnt this term have fed into preparation for summer and autumn teaching.  In particular, we have listened to our students, who told us clearly that face-to-face interaction even if ‘virtual’ is really important and have included more webinars and Blackboard Collaborate sessions in our programmes.

Links

https://www.reading.ac.uk/ISLI/  

Taking Academic Language and Literacy Courses Online

Dr Karin Whiteside, ISLI

Overview

Alongside its embedded discipline-specific provision, the Academic English Programme (AEP) offers a range of open sign-up academic language and literacy courses each term. This case study outlines the process of rapidly converting the summer term provision online, and reports student feedback and reflections on the experience which will help inform continued online delivery this autumn term.

Objectives

Our aim was to provide academic language and literacy support which, as far as practicably possible, was equivalent in scope and quality to our normal face-to-face offering for the same time of year. In summer term, our provision is particularly important for master’s students working on their dissertations, with high numbers applying for Dissertation & Thesis Writing, but courses such as Core Writing Skills and Academic Grammar also providing important ‘building block’ input needed for competent research writing.

Context

Prior to the COVID crisis, our face-to-face courses on different aspects of written and spoken Academic English have been offered for open application on a first-come-first served basis, with a rolling weekly waiting list. With a maximum of 20 students per class, we have been able to offer interactive, task-based learning involving analysis of target language and communicative situations in context, practice exercises and opportunity for discussion and feedback within a friendly small-group environment.

Implementation

Within an extremely tight turnaround time of four weeks to achieve this, we determined a slightly slimmed down programme of five ‘open-to-all’ online courses –  Academic Grammar, Core Academic Writing Skills, Dissertation & Thesis Writing, Essays: Criticality, Argument, Structure and Listening & Note-taking – and replaced our normal application process with self-enrolment via Blackboard, meaning uncapped numbers could sign up and have access to lessons.

Time restraints meant we had to be pragmatic in terms of where to focus our energies. Conversion of course content online needed to be done in a way that was both effective and sustainable, thinking of the potential continued need for online AEP provision going into 2020/21. We predicted (rightly!) that the process of initially converting small-group interactive learning materials to an online format in which their inductive, task-based qualities were retained would be labour-intensive and time-consuming. Therefore, for the short term (summer 2020) we adopted a primarily asynchronous approach, with a view to increasing the proportion of synchronous interactivity in future iterations once content was in place. In terms of converting face-to-face lessons to online, we found what often worked most effectively was to break down contents of a two-hour face-to-face lesson into 2-3 task-focused online parts, each introduced and concluded with short, narrated PowerPoints/MP4 videos. We determined a weekly release-date for lesson materials on each course, often accompanied by a ‘flipped’ element, labelled ‘Pre-lesson Task’, released a few days prior to the main lesson materials. We set up accompanying weekly Discussion Forums where students could ask questions or make comments, for which there was one ‘live’ hour per week. Apart from Pre-Lesson Tasks, task answers were always made available at the same time as lessons to allow students complete autonomy.

Moving rapidly to online delivery meant not necessarily having the highest specification e-learning tools immediately to hand but instead working creatively to get the best out of existing technologies, including the Blackboard platform, which prior to this term had had a mainly ‘depository’ function in AEP. To ensure ease of navigation, the various attachments involved in creating such lessons needed to be carefully curated by Folder and Item within BB Learning Materials. Key to this was clear naming and sequencing, with accompanying instructions at Folder and Item level.

Impact, Reflections and Follow-up

Positive outcomes of taking the summer AEP provision online have included noticeably higher uptake (e.g. in Academic Grammar, 92 self-enrolments compared to 30 applications in summer term 2018/19) and noticeably higher real engagement (e.g. with an average of 11 students attending the 2018/19 summer face-to-face Academic Grammar class, compared to a high of 57 and average of 38 students accessing each online lesson). Running the courses asynchronously online has meant no waiting lists, allowing access to course content to all students who register interest. It also means that students can continue to join courses and work through materials over the summer vacation period, which is particularly useful for international master’s students working on Dissertations for September submission, and for cohorts overseas such as the IoE master’s students in Guangdong.

In survey responses gathered thus far, response to course content has been largely positive: “It provided me an insight into what is expected structure and criticality. Now that I am writing my essay, I could see the difference”. Students appreciated teacher narration, noticing if it was absent: “I would prefer our teacher to talk and explain the subject in every slide.” The clarity of lesson presentation within Blackboard was also noted: “I think the most impressive part in this course is the way these lessons were arranged in BB as every lessons were explicitly highlighted, divided into parts with relevant tasks and their answers. Thus, I could effectively learn the content consciously and unconsciously.”

There were a range of reactions to our approach to online delivery and to online learning more generally.  52% of students were happy with entirely asynchronous learning, while 48% would have preferred a larger element of real-time interactivity: “Although this lessons ensured the freedom in dealing with the material whenever it was possible, the lack of a live-scheduled contact with the teacher and other students was somewhat dispersive.”; “I prefer face to face in the classroom because it encourages me more to contribute”. In normal circumstances, 34% of students said they would want entirely face-to-face AEP classes, whilst 21% would want a blended provision and 45% would prefer learning to remain entirely online, with positive feedback regarding the flexibility of the online provision: “it’s flexible for students to do it depending on their own time.”; “Don’t change the possibility to work asynchronously. It makes it possible to follow despite being a part time student.” Going forward, we plan to design in regular synchronous elements in the form of webinars which link to the asynchronous spine of each course to respond to students’ requests for more live interactivity. We also plan to revisit and refine our use of Discussion Forums in Blackboard. Whilst engagement of lesson content was high, students made limited use of Q&A Forums. It is hoped that more targeted forums directly linked to flipped tasks will encourage greater engagement with this strand of the online delivery in the future.

Links

The AEP website ‘Courses, Workshops and Webinars’ page, which gives details of this summer term’s courses and what will be on offer in autumn: http://www.reading.ac.uk/ISLI/enhancing-studies/academic-english-programme/isli-aep-courses.aspx

Developing Diversity and Inclusion teaching: The importance of D&I and Ethical Practice

Dr Allán Laville, Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, a.laville@reading.ac.uk

Overview

In the training of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs), teaching must include a focus on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) as well how this relates to ethical practice. Therefore, I created a 15-minute screencast that tied key D&I principles to clinical practice, with a particular focus on ethical practice within this area.

Objectives

  1. To support students in being aware of key D&I and ethical principles and how these principles relate to their clinical practice.
  2. To support students in writing a 500-word reflective piece on the importance of considering D&I in their ethically-sound, clinical practice.

Context

PWP programmes include D&I training within the final module of the clinical programme, but to meet the British Psychological Society (BPS) programme standards, D&I training needs to be incorporated throughout. Furthermore, this training should be tied to the BPS programme standard on Ethical Practice teaching (Module PY3EAA1/PYMEAA).

Implementation

The first step was to identify the key sources to include within the screencast. These were wide ranging from legislation (Equality Act, 2010), positive practice guides (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) and ethical practice guidelines (British Psychological Society) and reference to the University’s Fitness to Practise policy.

The second step was to think about how students could engage with the screencast in a meaningful way. Based on an earlier T&L Exchange project report of mine (https://sites.reading.ac.uk/t-and-l-exchange/2019/07/23/developing-innovative-teaching-the-importance-of-reflective-practice/), I wanted to include an element of reflective practice. Students were asked to write a 500-word reflective piece on their own take-home points from the screencast and preferably, following the Rolfe, Freshwater, and Jasper (2001) reflective model of: a) what is being considered, b)  so what, which I say to my students is the ‘why care?’ part! And c) now what i.e. from reviewing what and so what, detailing your SMART action plan for future clinical practice.

Example by Will Warley, Part 3 MSci Applied Psychology (Clinical) student.

Impact

The student feedback about the screencast and completing the reflective piece has been very positive. This has been across both the MSci in Applied Psychology (Clinical) as well as the Charlie Waller Institute (CWI), PG (Cert) in Evidence-Based Psychological Treatments (IAPT Pathway). The training materials have also been shared with members of the SPCLS Board of Studies for CWI training programmes.

In regard to national level impact, I have presented this innovative approach to D&I teaching at the BPS Programme Liaison Day, which included the BPS PWP Training Committee and Programme Directors from across the UK. The presentation was received very well including requests to disseminate the materials that we use in the teaching at UoR. Therefore, these materials have now been circulated to all PWP training providers in the UK to inform their D&I provision.

Reflections

One core reason for the success of this activity was the commitment and creativity of our students! Some students used software to create excellent mind maps, interactive presentations or a YouTube video! There was even an Instagram account used to illustrate the main take-home points from the screencast, which I thought was particularly innovative. Overall, I was absolutely delighted to see such high levels of student engagement with topics that are so important – both personally and professionally.

In regard to better implementation, it is possible that slightly more guidance could have been provided regarding how to approach the reflective task, but the brief of ‘be as creative as possible!’ worked very well indeed!

Follow up

I will be following up with the BPS PWP Training Committee in 2020 to see how this activity has developed within other PWP training providers! We will then create a summary of all innovative approaches to including D&I in PWP programmes and how these meet the programme standards.

Links

https://my.cumbria.ac.uk/media/MyCumbria/Documents/ReflectiveModelRolfe.pdf

Student YouTube video as submission on reflective task: https://youtu.be/hMU6F_dknP4

Using Flipped Learning to Meet the Challenges of Large Group Lectures

Adopting a flipped classroom approach to meet the challenges of large group lectures

Name/School/ Email address

Amanda Millmore / School of Law / a.millmore@reading.ac.uk

Overview

Faced with double-teaching a cohort of 480 students (plus an additional 30 in University of Reading Malaysia), I was concerned to ensure that students in each lecture group had a similar teaching experience. My solution was to “flip” some of the learning, by recording short video lectures covering content that I would otherwise have lectured live and to use the time freed up to slow the pace and instigate active learning within the lectures. Students provided overwhelmingly positive feedback in formal and informal module evaluations, the introduction of flipped learning has aided the welfare of students, allowing those who are absent or who have disabilities or language barriers to revisit material as and when needed. For staff, it has aided the reduction in my workload and has the ongoing benefit of reducing workload of colleagues who have taken over teaching the module.

Objectives

  • Record short video lectures to supplement live lectures.
  • Use the time freed up by the removal of content no longer delivered live to introduce active learning techniques within the lectures.
  • Support the students in their problem-solving skills (tested in the end of year examination).

Context

The module “General Introduction to Law” is a “lecture only” first year undergraduate module, which is mandatory for many non-law students, covering unfamiliar legal concepts. Whilst I have previously tried to introduce some active learning into these lectures, I have struggled with time constraints due to the sheer volume of compulsory material to be covered.

Student feedback requested more support in tackling legal problem questions, I wanted to assist students and needed to free up some space within the lectures to do this and “flipping” some of the content by creating videos seemed to offer a solution.

As many academics (Berrett, 2012; Schaffzin, 2016) have noted, there is more to flipping than merely moving lectures online, it is about a change of pedagogical approach.

Implementation

I sought initial support from the TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) team, who were very happy to give advice about technology options. I selected the free Screencast-O-Matic software, which was simple to use with minimal equipment (a headset with microphone plugged into my computer).

I recorded 8 short videos, which were screencasts of some of my lecture slides with my narration; 6 were traditional lecture content and 2 were problem solving advice and modelling an exemplar problem question and answer (which I had previously offered as straightforward read-only documents on Blackboard).

The software that I used restricted me to 15 minute videos, which worked well for maintaining student attention. My screencast videos were embedded within the Blackboard module and could also be viewed directly on the internet https://screencast-o-matic.com/u/iIMC/AmandaMillmoreGeneralIntroductiontoLaw.

I reminded students to watch the videos via email and during the lectures, and I was able to track the number of views of each video, which enabled me to prompt students if levels of viewing were lower than I expected.

By moving some of the content delivery online I was also able to incorporate more problem-solving tasks into the live lectures. I was able to slow the pace and to invite dialogue, often by using technology enhanced learning. For example, I devoted an hour to tackling an exam-style problem, with students actively working to solve the problem using the knowledge gained via the flipped learning videos and previous live lectures. I used the applications Mentimeter, Socrative and Kahoot to interact with the students, asking them multiple-choice questions, encouraging them to vote on questions and to create word clouds of their initial thoughts on tackling problem questions as we progressed.

Evaluation

I evaluated reaction to the module using the usual formal and informal module evaluations. I also tracked engagement with the videos and actively used these figures to prompt students if views were lower than expected. I monitored attendance to modules and didn’t notice any drop-off in attendance. Finally, I reviewed end of year results to assess impact on students results.

Impact

Student feedback, about the videos and problem solving, was overwhelmingly positive in both formal and informal module evaluations.

Videos can be of assistance if a student is absent, has a disability or wishes to revisit the material. Sankoff (2014) and Billings-Gagliardi and Mazor (2007) dismiss concerns about reduced student attendance due to online material, and this was borne out by my experience, with no noticeable drop-off in numbers attending lectures; I interpret this as a positive sign of student satisfaction. The videos worked to supplement the live lectures rather than replace them.

There is a clear, positive impact on my own workload and that of my colleagues. Whilst I am no longer teaching on this module, my successor has been able to use my videos again in her teaching, thereby reducing her own workload. I have also been able to re-use some of the videos in other modules.

Reflections

Whilst flipped learning is intensive to plan, create and execute, the ability to re-use the videos in multiple modules is a huge advantage; short videos are simple to re-record if, and when, updating is required.

My initial concern that students would not watch the videos was utterly misplaced. Each video has had in excess of 1200 views (and one video has exceeded 2500). Some of the material was only covered by the flipped learning videos, and still appeared within the examination; students who tackled those questions did equally well as those answering questions covering content which was given via live lecture, but those questions were less popular (2017/18 examination).

I was conscious that there may be some students who would just ignore the videos, thereby missing out on chunks of the syllabus, I tried to mitigate this by running quizzes during lectures on the recorded material, and offering banks of multiple choice questions (MCQs) on Blackboard for students to test their knowledge (aligned to the summative examination which included a multiple choice section). In addition, I clearly signposted the importance of the video recorded material by email, on the Blackboard page and orally and emphasised that it would form part of the final examination and could not be ignored.

My experience echoes that of Schaffzin’s study (2016) monitoring impact, which showed no statistical significance in law results having instituted flipped learning, although she felt that it was a more positive teaching method. Examination results for the module in the end of year summative assessment (100% examination) were broadly consistent with the results in previous academic years, but student satisfaction was higher, with positive feedback about the use of videos and active learning activities.

Follow Up

Since creating the flipped learning videos another colleague has taken over as convenor and continued to use the videos I created. Some of the videos have also been able to be used in other modules.  I have used screencast videos in another non-law module, and also used them as introductory material for a large core Part 1 Law module. Student feedback in module evaluations praised the additional material. One evolution in another module was that when I ran out of time to cover working through a past exam question within a lecture, I created a quick screencast which finished off the topic for students; I felt that it was better to go at a more sensible pace in the lecture and use the screencast rather than rush through the material.

Michelle Johnson, Module Convenor 2018-2019 commented that:

“I have continued to use and expand the flipped learning initiative as part of the module and have incorporated further screencasts into the module in relation to the contract law content delivered. This allowed for additional time on the module to conduct a peer-assessment exercise focussed on increasing the students’ direct familiarity with exam questions and also crucially the marking criteria that would be used to score their Summer exams. Students continue to be very positive about the incorporation of flipped learning material on the module and I feel strongly that it allowed the students to review the more basic introductory content prior to lectures, this allowing time for a deeper engagement with the more challenging aspects of the lectures during lecture time. This seemed to improve students understanding of the topics more broadly, allowing them to revisit material whenever they needed and in a more targeted way than a simple lecture recording.”

TEF

TQ1, LE1, SO3

Links

University of Reading TEL advice about personal capture – https://sites.reading.ac.uk/tel-support/category/learning-capture/personal-capture

Berrett, D. (2012). How “Flipping” the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture. – https://www.chronicle.com/article/how-flipping-the-classroom/130857. Chronicle of Higher Education..

Billings-Gagliardi, S and Mazor, K. (2007) Student decisions about lecture attendance: do electronic course materials matter?. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 82(10), S73-S76.

Sankoff, P. (2014) Taking the Instruction of Law outside the Lecture Hall: How the Flipped Classroom Can Make Learning More Productive and Enjoyable (for Professors and Students), 51, Alberta Law Review, pp.891-906.

Schaffzin, K. (2016) Learning Outcomes in a Flipped Classroom: A comparison of Civil Procedure II Test Scores between Students in a Traditional Class and a Flipped Class, University of Memphis Law Review, 46, pp. 661.

Connecting with the Curriculum Framework: Using focus groups to diversify assessment (Part 2)

Dr Madeleine Davies and Michael Lyons, School of Literature and Languages

Overview

The Department of English Literature (DEL) has run two student focus groups and two whole-cohort surveys as part of our Teaching and Learning Development Fund‘Diversifying Assessments’ project. This is the second of two T&L Exchange entries on this topic. Click here for the first entry which outlines how the feedback received from students indicates that their module selection is informed by the assessment models that are used by individual modules. Underpinning these decisions is an attempt to avoid the ‘stress and anxiety’ that students connect with exams. The surprise of this second round of focus groups and surveys is the extent to which this appears to dominate students’ teaching and learning choices.

Objectives

  • The focus groups and surveys are used to gain feedback from DEL students about possible alternative forms of summative assessment to our standard assessed essay + exam model. This connects with the Curriculum Framework in its emphasis on Programme Review and also with the aims of the Assessment Project.
  • These forms of conversations are designed to discover student views on the problems with existing assessment patterns and methods, as well as their reasons for preferring alternatives to them.
  • The conversations are also being used to explore the extent to which electronic methods of assessment can address identified assessment problems.

Context

Having used focus groups and surveys to provide initial qualitative data on our assessment practices, we noticed a widespread preference for alternatives to traditional exams (particularly the Learning Journal), and decided to investigate the reasons for this further. The second focus group and subsequent survey sought to identify why the Learning Journal in particular is so favoured by students, and we were keen to explore whether teaching and learning aims were perceived by students to be better achieved via this method than by the traditional exam. We also took the opportunity to ask students what they value most in feedback: the first focus group and survey had touched on this but we decided this time to give students the opportunity to select four elements of feedback which they could rank in order or priority. This produced more nuanced data.

Implementation

  • A second focus group was convened to gather more detailed views on the negative attitudes towards exams, and to debate alternatives to this traditional assessment method.
  • A series of questions was asked to generate data and dialogue.
  • A Survey Monkey was circulated to all DEL students with the same series of questions as those used for the focus group in order to determine whether the focus group’s responses were representative of the wider cohort.
  •  The Survey Monkey results are presented below. The numbers refer to student responses to a category (eg. graphic 1, 50 students selected option (b). Graphic 2 and graphic 5 allowed students to rank their responses in order or priority.

Results

  • Whilst only 17% in the focus group preferred to keep to the traditional exam + assessed essay method, the survey found the aversion to exams to be more prominent. 88% of students preferred the Learning Journal over the exam, and 88% cited the likelihood of reducing stress and anxiety as a reason for this preference.
  • Furthermore, none of the survey respondents wanted to retain the traditional exam + assessed essay method, and 52% were in favour of a three-way split between types of assessment; this reflects a desire for significant diversity in assessment methods.
  • We find it helpful to know precisely what students want in terms of feedback: ‘a clear indication of errors and potential solutions’ was the overwhelming response. ‘Feedback that intersects with the Module Rubric’ was the second highest scorer (presumably a connection between the two was identified by students).
  • The students in the focus group mentioned a desire to choose assessment methods within modules on an individual basis. This may be one issue in which student choice and pedagogy may not be entirely compatible (see below).
  • Assessed Essay method: the results seem to indicate that replacing an exam with a second assessed essay is favoured across the Programme rather than being pinned to one Part.

Reflections

The results in the ‘Feedback’ sections are valuable for DEL: they indicate that clarity, diagnosis, and solutions-focused comments are key. In addressing our feedback conventions and practices, this input will help us to reflect on what we are doing when we give students feedback on their work.

The results of the focus group and of the subsequent survey do, however, raise some concerns about the potential conflict between ‘student choice’ and pedagogical practice. Students indicate that they not only want to avoid exams because of ‘stress’, but that they would also like to be able to select assessment methods within modules. This poses problems because marks are in part produced ‘against’ the rest of the batch: if the ‘base-line’ is removed by allowing students to choose assessment models, we would lack one of the main indicators of level.

In addition, the aims of some modules are best measured using exams. Convenors need to consider whether a student’s work can be assessed in non-exam formats but, if an exam is the best test of teaching and learning, it should be retained, regardless of student choice.

If, however, students overwhelmingly choose non-exam-based modules, this would leave modules retaining an exam in a vulnerable position. The aim of this project is to find ways to diversify our assessments, but this could leave modules that retain traditional assessment patterns vulnerable to students deselecting them. This may have implications for benchmarking.

It may also be the case that the attempt to avoid ‘stress’ is not necessarily in students’ best interests. The workplace is not a stress-free zone and it is part of the university’s mission to produce resilient, employable graduates. Removing all ‘stress’ triggers may not be the best way to achieve this.

Follow up

  • DEL will convene a third focus group meeting in the Spring Term.
  • The co-leaders of the ‘Diversifying Assessments’ project will present the findings of the focus groups and surveys to DEL in a presentation. We will outline the results of our work and call on colleagues to reflect on the assessment models used on their modules with a view to volunteering to adopt different models if they think this appropriate to the teaching and learning aims of their modules
  • This should produce an overall assessment landscape that corresponds to students’ request for ‘three-way’ (at least) diversification of assessment.
  • The new landscape will be presented to the third focus group for final feedback.

Links

With thanks to Lauren McCann of TEL for sending me the first link which includes a summary of students’ responses to various types of ‘new’ assessment formats.

https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/assessment-strategies-students-prefer/

Conclusions (May 2018)

The ‘Diversifying Assessment in DEL’ TLDF Mini-Project revealed several compelling reasons for reflecting upon assessment practice within a traditional Humanities discipline (English Literature):

  1. Diversified cohort: HEIs are recruiting students from a wide variety of socio-cultural, economic and educational backgrounds and assessment practice needs to accommodate this newly diversified cohort.
  2. Employability: DEL students have always acquired advanced skills in formal essay-writing but graduates need to be flexible in terms of their writing competencies. Diversifying assessment to include formats involving blog-writing, report-writing, presentation preparation, persuasive writing, and creative writing produces agile students who are comfortable working within a variety of communication formats.
  3. Module specific attainment: the assessment conventions in DEL, particularly at Part 2, have a standardised assessment format (33% assessed essay and 67% exam). The ‘Diversifying Assessment’ project revealed the extent to which module leaders need to reflect on the intended learning outcomes of their modules and to design assessments that are best suited to the attainment of them.
  4. Feedback: the student focus groups convened for the ‘Diversifying Assessment’ project returned repeatedly to the issue of feedback. Conversations about feedback will continue in DEL, particularly in relation to discussions around the Curriculum Framework.
  5. Digitalisation: eSFG (via EMA) has increased the visibility of a variety of potential digital assessment formats (for example, Blackboard Learning Journals, Wikis and Blogs). This supports diversification of assessment and it also supports our students’ digital skills (essential for employability).
  6. Student satisfaction: while colleagues should not feel pressured by student choice (which is not always modelled on academic considerations), there is clearly a desire among our students for more varied methods of assessment. One Focus Group student argued that fees had changed the way students view exams: students’ significant financial investment in their degrees has caused exams to be considered unacceptably ‘high risk’. The project revealed the extent to which Schools need to reflect on the many differences made by the new fees landscape, most of which are invisible to us.
  7. Focus Groups: the Project demonstrated the value of convening student focus groups and of listening to students’ attitudes and responses.
  8. Impact: one Part 2 module has moved away from an exam and towards a Learning Journal as a result of the project and it is hoped that more Part 2 module convenors will similarly decide to reflect on their assessment formats. The DEL project will be rolled out School-wide in the next session to encourage further conversations about assessment, feedback and diversification. It is hoped that these actions will contribute to Curriculum Framework activity in DEL and that they will generate a more diversified assessment landscape in the School.

Rethinking assessment design, to improve the student/staff experience when dealing with video submissions

Rachel Warner, School of Arts and Communication Design

Rachel.Warner@pgr.reading.ac.uk

Jacqueline Fairbairn, Centre for Quality Support and Development

j.fairbairn@reading.ac.uk

Overview

Rachel in Typography and Graphic Communication (T&GC) worked with the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team to rethink an assignment workflow, to improve the student/staff experience when dealing with video submissions. Changes were made to address student assessment literacies, develop articulation skills, support integration between practice and reflection, and make use of OneDrive to streamline the archiving and sharing of video submissions via Blackboard.

This work resulted in students developing professional ‘work skills’ through the assessment process and the production of a toolkit to support future video assessments.

Objectives

  • Improve staff and student experiences when dealing with video assignment submissions. Specifically, streamlining workflows by improving student assessment literacy and making use of university OneDrive accounts.
  • Support students to develop professional skills for the future, through assessment design (developing digital literacies and communication skills).
  • Provide an authentic assessment experience, in which students self-select technologies (choosing software and a task to demonstrate) to answer a brief.

Context

The activity was undertaken for Part 1 students learning skills in design software (e.g. Adobe Creative apps). The assignment required students to submit a ‘screencast’ video recording that demonstrated a small task using design software.

Rachel wanted to review the process for submitting video work for e-assessment, and find ways to streamline the time intensive marking process, particularly in accessing and reviewing video files, without compromising good assessment practice. This is also acknowledged by Jeanne-Louise Moys, T&GC’s assessment and feedback champion: “Video submissions help our students directly demonstrate the application of knowledge and creative thinking to their design and technical decisions. They can be time-consuming to mark so finding ways to streamline this process is a priority given our need to maintain quality practices while adapting to larger cohorts.’”

The TEL team was initially consulted to explore processes for handling video submissions in Blackboard, and to discuss implications on staff time (in terms of supporting students, archiving material and accessing videos for marking). Designing formative support and improving the assessment literacy of students was also a key driver to reduce the number of queries and technical issues when working with video technologies.

Implementation

Rachel consulted TEL, to discuss:

  • balancing the pedagogic implications of altering the assignment
  • technical implications, such as submission to Blackboard and storage of video

To address the issue of storing video work, students were asked make use of OneDrive areas to store and submit work (via ‘share’ links). Use of OneDrive encouraged professional behaviours such as adopting a systematic approach to file naming, and it meant the videos were securely stored on university systems using a well-recognised industry standard platform.

To further encourage professional working, students were required to create a social media account to share their video. YouTube was recommended; it is used prolifically by designers to showcase work and portfolios, and across wider professional settings.

Students were provided with a digital coversheet to submit URLs for both the OneDrive and YouTube videos.

The most effective intervention was the introduction of a formative support session (1.5hr). Students practiced using their OneDrive area, set up YouTube accounts and reviewed examples of screencasts. This workshop supported students to understand the professional skills that could be developed through this medium. The session introduced the assessment requirements, toolkit, digital coversheet and allowed students to explore the technologies in a supported manner (improving students’ assessment literacy!)

The assignment instructions were strategically revised, to include information (‘hints and tips’) to support the students’ development of higher production values and other associated digital literacies for the workplace (such as file naming conventions, digital workflows, and sourcing online services).

Students were provided with the option to self-select recording/editing software to undertake the screencast video. Recommended tools were suggested, that are free to use and which students could explore. ‘Screencast-o-matic’ and ‘WeVideo’ provide basic to intermediate options.

Impact

Marking the submissions was made easier by the ability to access videos through a consistent format, using a clearly structured submission process (digital coversheet). The ability to play URL links directly through OneDrive meant Rachel was able to store copies of the videos into a central area for future reference. Students also provided a written summary of their video, highlighting key video timings that demonstrate marking criteria (so the marker does not have to watch whole video).

Rachel rationalised her approach to marking by developing a spreadsheet, which allowed her to effectively cross reference feedback against the assessment criteria (in the form of a rubric) and between assignments. This greatly speeded up the marking workflow and allowed Rachel to identify patterns in students work, where common feedback statements could be applied, as appropriate.

The assessment highlighted gaps in students existing digital literacies. The majority of students had not made a video recording before and many were apprehensive about speaking into a microphone. After the completion of the screencasts, previously unconfident students noted in their module reflections that the screencast task had developed their confidence to communicate and explore a new technology.

Reflections

The modifications to the assessment:

  • Reflected professional digital competencies required of the discipline;
  • Allowed students to explore a new technology and way of working in a supported context; and,
  • Built confidence, facilitated assessment literacy, and encouraged reflection.

Future modifications to the screencast submission:

  • Peer review could be implemented, asking students to upload videos to a shared space for formative feedback (such as Facebook or a Blackboard discussion board).
  • The digital coversheet had to be downloaded to access URL links. In future, students could paste into the submission comment field, for easier access when marking.
  • Rachel is developing a self-assessment checklist to help students reflect on the production values of their work. The summative assessment rubric is focused on video content, not production values, however, it would be useful for students to get feedback on professional work skills. For example, communication skills and use of narrative devices which translate across other graphic mediums.

Toolkit basics:

a thumbnail image of a toolkit document, full access available via links in webpage

  • Outline task expectations and software options, give recommendations
  • Source examples of screencasts from your industry, discuss with students.
  • Provide hints and tips for creating effective screencasts.
  • Provide submission text. Consider asking students to use the ‘submission comment’ field to paste links to their work, for quick marker access to URLs.
  • Plan a formative workshop session, to practice using the software and go through the submission process (time invested here is key!).
  • Create a self-assessment checklist, to enhance the production quality of videos and highlight transferrable skills that can be developed by focusing on the quality of the production.
  • Consider creating a shared online space for formative peer-feedback (e.g. Blackboard discussion forum).
  • Consider using a marking spreadsheet to cross-reference feedback and highlight good examples of screencasts that can be utilised in other teaching.

Links

Screencast example: (YouTube link) This screencast was altered and improved after submission and marking, taking onboard feedback from the assessment and module. The student noted ‘After submission, I reflected on my screencast, and I changed the original image because it was too complex to fit into the short time that I had available in the screencast. I wanted to use the screencast to show a skill that I had learned and the flower was simple enough to showcase this’. Part of the module was to be reflective and learn from ‘doing’, this screencast is an example of a student reflecting on their work and improving their skills after the module had finished.

Screencast example: (YouTube link) This screencast was a clear and comprehensive demonstration of a technique in PhotoShop that requires multiple elements to achieve results. It has a conclusion that demonstrates the student’s awareness that the technique is useful in other scenarios, other than the one demonstrated, giving the listener encouragement to continue learning. The student has used an intro slide and background music, demonstrating exploration with the screencast software alongside compiling their demonstration.

Screencast example: (YouTube link) This demonstrates a student who is competent in a tool, able to use their own work (work from another module on the course) to demonstrate a task, and additionally includes their research into how the tool can be used for other tasks.

Other screencast activity from the Typography & Graphic Communication department from the GRASS project:  (Blog post) Previous project for Part 1s that included use of screencasts to demonstrate students’ achievements of learning outcomes.

Engaging students in assessment design

Dr Maria Kambouri-Danos, Institute of Education

m.kambouridanos@reading.ac.uk

Year of activity 2016/17

Overview

This entry aims to share the experience of re-designing and evaluating assessment in collaboration with students. It explains the need for developing the new assessment design and then discusses the process of implementing and evaluating its appropriateness. It finally reflects on the impact of MCQ tests, when assessing students in higher education (HE), and the importance of engaging students as partners in the development of new assessment tools.

Objectives

  • To re-design assessment and remove a high-stakes assessment element.
  • To proactively engage ‘students as partners’ in the development and evaluation of the new assessment tool.
  • To identify the appropriateness of the new design and its impact on both students and staff.

Context

Child Development (ED3FCD) is the core module for the BA in Children’s Development and Learning (BACDL), meaning that a pass grade must be achieved on the first submission to gain a BA Honours degree classification (failing leads to an ordinary degree). The assessment needed to be redesigned as it put the total weight of students’ mark on one essay. As the programme director, I wanted to engage the students in the re-design process and evaluate the impact of the new design on both students and staff.

Implementation

After attending a session on ‘Effective Feedback: Ensuring Assessment and Feedback works for both Students and Staff Across a Programme’ I decided to explore more the idea of using Multiple Choice Tests (MCQ). To do so, I attended a session on ‘Team Based Learning (TBL)’ and another on ‘MCQ: More than just a Test of Information Recall’, to gather targeted knowledge about designing effective MCQ questions.

I realised that MCQ tests can help access students’ understanding and knowledge and also stimulate students’ active and self-managed learning. Guided by the idea of ‘assessment for learning’, I proposed the use of an MCQ test during a steering group meeting (employees and alumni) and a Board of Studies (BoS) meeting, which 2nd year Foundation Degree as well as BACDL student representatives attended. The idea was resisted initially, as MCQ tests are not traditionally used in HE education departments. However, after exploring different options and highlighting the advantages of MCQ tests, the agreement was unanimous. At the last BoS meeting (2016), students and staff finalised the proposal for the new design, proposing to use the MCQ test for 20% of the overall mark, keeping the essay for the remaining 80%.

At the beginning of 2017, I invited all BACDL students to anonymously post their thoughts and concerns about the new design (and the MCQ test) on Padlet. Based on these comments, I then worked closely with the programme’s student representatives and had regular meetings to discuss, plan and finalise the assessment design. We decided how to calculate the final mark (as the test was completed individually and then in a group) as well as the total number of questions, the duration of the test, etc.  A pilot study was then conducted during which a sample MCQ test was shared with all the students, asking them to practise and then provide feedback. This helped to decide the style of the questions used for the final test, an example of which is given below:

There are now more than one million learners in UK schools who speak English as an additional language (EAL). This represents a considerable proportion of the school population, well above 15 per cent. To help EAL children develop their English, teachers should do all the following, except…

a. use more pictures and photographs to help children make sense of new information.

b. use drama and role play to make learning memorable and encourage empathy.

c. maintain and develop the child’s first language alongside improving their English.

d. get children to work individually because getting them into groups will confuse them and make them feel bad for not understanding.

e. provide opportunities to talk before writing and use drills to help children memorise new language.

Impact

Students were highly engaged in the process of developing the new design, and the staff-student collaboration encouraged the development of bonds within the group. The students were excited with the opportunity to actively develop their own course and the experience empowered them to take ownership of their own learning. All of them agreed that they felt important and as a student representative said, “their voices were heard”.

The new design encouraged students to take the time to gauge what they already know and identify their strengths and weaknesses. Students themselves noted that the MCQ test helped them to develop their learning as it was an additional study opportunity. One of them commented that “…writing notes was a good preparation for the exam. The examination was a good learning experience.” Staff also agreed that the test enabled students to (re)evaluate their own performance and enhance their learning. One of the team members noted that the “…test was highly appropriate for the module as it offered an opportunity for students to demonstrate their proficiency against all of the learning outcomes”.

Reflections

The new assessment design was implemented successfully because listening to the students’ voice and responding to their feedback was an essential part of the designing process. Providing opportunities to both students and staff to offer their views and opinions and clearly recognising and responding to their needs were essential, as these measures empowered them and helped them to take ownership of their learning.

The BACDL experience suggests that MCQ tests can be adapted and used for different subject areas as well as to measure a great variety of educational objectives. Their flexibility means that they can be used for different levels of study or learning outcomes, from simple recall of knowledge to more complex levels, such as the student’s ability to analyse phenomena or apply principles to new situations.

However, good MCQ tests take time to develop. It is hoped that next year the process of developing the test will be less time-consuming as we already have a bank of questions that we could use. This will enable randomisation of questions which will also help to avoid misconduct. We are also investigating options that would allow for the test to be administered online, meaning that feedback could be offered immediately, reducing even further the time/effort required to mark the test.

Follow up

MCQ tests are not a panacea; just like any other type of assessment tool, MCQ tests have advantages and limitations. This project has confirmed that MCQ tests are adaptable and can be used for different subject areas as well as to measure a great variety of educational objectives. The evaluation of the assessment design will continue next year and further feedback will be collected by the cohort and next year’s student representatives.

Independent research and research dissemination in undergraduate teaching

Dr. Ute Woelfel, Literature and Languages
u.wolfel@reading.ac.uk
Year of activity: 2016/17

Overview

In order to improve students’ engagement, support their abilities as independent learners, and increase their feeling of ownership for their academic work, elements of independent research and research dissemination through the creation of research posters were included in a Part 2 module.

Objectives

  • Boost independent learning.
  • Nurture research interests.
  • Increase feeling of ownership.
  • Develop employability skills.

Context

In 2016/17 I introduced a new Part Two module on German National Cinema (GM2CG: 20 credits/ 30 contact hours). The module is intended to give students a general overview of German cinema from the end of World War I to German unification and at the same time allow sustained independent work on themes of interest. In order to increase the engagement with the themes, the independent work is research-oriented demanding from students to reflect their own expectations and aims, their goals for the module and indeed the course, and develop their own interest and approach.

Implementation

The students were asked in the beginning to pick a period or topic from a list and prepare a presentation. The presentation was not part of the summative assessment but served as a foundation for further research. After the presentation, individual discussions with each student were used to decide which aspect of the theme/topic the student would like to pursue further. After each term, essay surgeries were offered in which students were given the opportunity to discuss the research done so far and decide a concrete research question for their essay (2,500 words/ 30%). The students were then asked to turn the findings of their essays into research posters for dissemination to non-specialist audiences (10%). In order to make sure that students also gain a general understanding of German cinema, a final exam (60%) is scheduled in the summer term.

Impact

The inclusion of independent research elements was very successful in that students did engage more than they normally do when given set topics and essay titles. The majority of students found secondary sources, even additional primary sources, and often identified research topics they would like to pursue in the future. Both the essay and the exam marks were above average. The poster challenged students to re-think their academic findings and present them in a new, visually organised, format for interested general audiences; as we used the posters to showcase the students’ work at the University’s Languages Festival, the Visit Days and a Reading Scholars outreach event, a sense of the importance of their work emerged as well as pride in what they had achieved grew. The students understood the relevance of the poster for the development of professional skills.

Reflections

The module worked well and highlighted most of all the potential our students have and can develop in the right learning environment as well as their willingness to work hard when they are committed. Their engagement with independent research signalled a wish to get active and explore options beyond the set class texts rather than being spoon-fed; there is a clear need for feeling involved, responsible and in charge of work. I was particularly surprised about how much effort students were prepared to put into the presentations despite the fact that they did not count towards the module mark; as they were used as foundation for assessment, students clearly understood their benefit.

The research elements made the module learning and teaching intensive as a good number of office hours and slots during the enhancement weeks were used for individual discussions of research and essay topics; as I want the students to put their research posters to good use as well, additional feedback slots were offered in which I discussed not just marks but ways of improving the posters; students showed great willingness to work even further on their posters just to see them exhibited, despite the fact that any further input would not change the mark.