Learning to Interpret and Assess Complex and Incomplete Environmental Data

Andrew Wade a.j.wade@reading.ac.uk

Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences

Overview

Field work is well known to improve student confidence and enhance skills and knowledge, yet there is evidence for a decline in field work in Secondary Education, especially amongst A-level Geography students. This is problematic as students are entering Geography and Environmental Science degree programmes with reduced skills and confidence around field-based data collection and interpretation, and this appears to be leading to an apprehension around data collection for dissertations. A simple field-based practical where 47 Part 2 Geography and Environmental Science students tested their own hypotheses about factors that control water infiltration into soils was developed. Improved confidence and appreciation of critical thinking around environmental data was reported in a survey of the student experience. Student coursework demonstrated that attainment was very good, and that skills and critical thinking can be recovered and enhanced with relatively simple, low-cost field-based practical classes that can be readily embedded to scaffold subsequent modules, including the dissertation.

Context

The importance of field work is well established in Geography and Environmental Science as a means of active and peer-to-peer learning. However, students appear to have little confidence in designing their own field work for hypotheses testing when they arrive for Part 1, probably due to a decline in field work in Secondary Education (Kinder 2016, Lambert and Reiss 2014). Within the Geography and Environmental Science programmes, there is a part two, 20 credit ‘Research Training’ module that develops the same skills. However, this research training module and the dissertation are seen by the students as being of high risk in that they perceive a low mark will have a significant negative impact on the overall degree classification. Consequently, students are seemingly risk adverse around field-based projects. The idea here is to make field-based training more commonplace throughout multiple modules through inclusion of relatively simple practical training, so that hypotheses testing, critical thinking and confidence with ‘messy’ environmental data become intuitive and students are at ease with these concepts. In parallel, GES module cohorts have increased in recent years and this is an additional reason to develop simple, low-cost practical classes.

Objectives

The aim of the project was to determine if a simple, field-based practical would help boost student confidence around field data collection and interpretation, and hypotheses testing. The objective was to give the students a safe and supportive environment in which to develop their own hypotheses and method for field data collection, and to learn to interpret often ‘messy’ and ‘complex’ environmental data.

Figure 1: The practical class took place on the hill-slope on campus between the Atmospheric Observatory and Whiteknights Lake on the 28 October 2019 over 4 hours in total.

 

Figure 2: Students used a Decagon Devices Mini-Disc Infiltrometer to measure unsaturated hydraulic conductivity to test their own hypotheses about the factors controlling infiltration

Implementation

A practical was designed where 47 Part 2 students, working in groups of four or five, developed their own hypotheses around the factors controlling rainfall infiltration on a hill-slope in the class room following an in-class briefing, and then tested these hypotheses in the field using Mini Disc infiltrometers (Figs. 1, 2 and 3). There was a further follow-up session where each student spent two hours processing the data collected and was briefed on the coursework write-up.

Figure 3: The students tested hypotheses around distance from the lake, vegetation and soil type, soil moisture and soil compaction. Each student group spent two hours in the field.

Impact

Of 40 students who responded to an on-line survey:

  • 37 agreed the practical helped develop their critical thinking skills around complex and incomplete environmental data;
  • 36 agreed they were now better able to deal with uncertainty in field-based measurements;
    and 38 feel more confident working in the field.

Student quotes included:

  • “The practical was very useful in helping to understand the processes happening as well as being more confident in using the equipment.”
  • “I thought the practical was good as it was another way to process information which tends to work better for me, doing and seeing how it works allows me to gain a higher understanding in the processes”

The majority of students gained first class and upper second-class marks for the project write-up and the reports submitted demonstrated good critical thinking skills in the interpretation of the infiltration measurements. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of students opting for hydrology-based dissertations.

Reflections

Confidence and critical thinking skills can be enhanced with relatively simple, low-cost field-based practicals that scaffold subsequent modules including Research Training for Geographers and Environmental Science, and the dissertation, and focus on hypotheses testing in addition to knowledge acquisition. Each student spent 2 hours in the field on campus and 2 hours processing their data, with further time on the coursework write-up. This seems a reasonable investment in time given the benefits in confidence, skills and knowledge. Embedding such practicals should not replace the larger skills-based modules, such as Research Training, nor should such practical classes replace entirely those that focus more on knowledge acquisition, but these practical classes, where students explore their own ideas, appear to be a useful means to boost student confidence and critical thinking skills at an early stage. The practical was also an excellent means of encouraging peer to peer interaction and learning, and this and similar practical classes have good potential for the integration of home and NUIST students.

Follow up

Embed similar practical classes in part one modules to build confidence at the outset of the degree programme and, at part three, to further enable integration of home and NUIST students.

Links and References

Kinder A. 2016. Geography: The future of fieldwork in schools. Online: http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/geography-the-future-of-fieldwork-in-schools/ (Last accessed: 03 Jan 2020).

Lambert D and Reiss MJ. 2014, The place of fieldwork in geography and science qualifications, Institute of Education, University of London. ISBN: 978-1-78277-095-4. pp. 20

Can Online Learning Facilitate Meaningful Interpersonal Connection?

Shelley Harris

shelley.harris@reading.ac.uk

Overview

As part of my role as a Creative Writing lecturer, I link undergraduates with professionals from the publishing industry, offering – among other things – extracurricular events for students in the School of Literature and Languages. In the past, these have broadened students’ understanding of the roles involved in publishing and given them hands-on, CV-friendly experience of the skills required in those roles. The goal is to improve students’ knowledge, confidence and employability rather than secure them a job, though sometimes they are given an unexpected leg-up: after a course in 2018, the visiting editor was so impressed by one of our students that he introduced her to a contact at Hachette.

Whatever the specifics of the event, I always seek to bring those professionals into the room – in part to demystify this competitive sector, and in part because, as a ‘high context’ industry (Hall 1977), it has a historically offered jobs to the privileged: those with cultural capital. My aim is to give all our students the chance to accrue such capital.

 

 

Objectives

My ambition for the online event remained the same as its original iteration: to facilitate meaningful connections between our students and the industry guests.

Context

In Spring 2020 I organised an event for Professional Track which – after a panel discussion – would put students into informal breakout groups with early-career publishing professionals. This sort of personal contact is rare, and hugely beneficial for students with an ambition to work in publishing.

The event was scheduled for April, the tea and cake were ordered – and then lockdown occurred. With some trepidation, I redesigned it as an online experience using Blackboard Collaborate. But could an online event really enable the sorts of human connection offered by a face-to-face meeting?

Implementation

TEL’s one-to-one help sessions were a gamechanger for this project, with TEL advisor Chris Johnson offering expert guidance, including the sorts of troubleshooting tips that make all the difference to an online project. There isn’t enough space here to detail them all, but I would hugely recommend making the most of TEL’s expertise.

On the day, the event began with a conventional panel discussion in which I interviewed the guests (an editor, a publicist, a books marketer and a literary agent’s assistant) about their routes into publishing and their experience of work. Students turned off their mics and video, watched the panel and put questions into the text chat, which I then moderated. Next, I put students into small groups using Collaborate’s ‘Breakout Groups’ feature. Each included one publishing professional. I invited all participants to turn on their cameras and mics so that discussion could be more personal and informal. As facilitator, I moved between groups – not participating, but making sure things were running smoothly.

Impact

To what extent was meaningful interpersonal connection facilitated by this online event? Qualitative feedback from students suggests that the ensuing discussions were fruitful. One respondent said: ‘Engaging with the industry professionals in the smaller groups was something that I found to be particularly helpful’, while another said they appreciated ‘talking to individuals with real experience in the sector I am curious about working in.

As with the previous course, one student benefitted in an immediate way; with a guest speaker offering to show her artwork to a children’s publisher. It was encouraging evidence that remote events can bring people together.

Indeed, there were aspects of the online event that seemed to offer advantages over face-to-face meeting; online, there’s a hierarchy of depersonalisation, from a simulacrum of face-to-face (cameras and mics on) through audio only, to text chat which identifies students by name and finally the anonymity of Collaborate’s whiteboard function. This is hard to reproduce in a bricks-and-mortar seminar room – and it liberates participants.

An example of that liberation came in two of the small group discussions, when talk was slow to start and the guest speakers asked students to put questions into text chat instead. Conversation picked up, and once it was under way, students were invited to activate their cameras and microphones. On reflection, I’d start all small group discussion like this next time. The feedback below (in answer to a question about the ways in which the online event was better than an in-person one) suggests how much safer this can make students feel, and how it can lower inhibitions about joining in.

Reflections

We all accept that in-person encounters offer us ways of connecting to each other that are hard to reproduce online, but the reverse is also true. It’s something our neurodivergent students already know (Satterfield, Lepage and Ladjahasan 2015), but my experience on this project has made me sharply aware of the ways in which all participants stand to benefit.

The ‘Get into Publishing’ event has left me cautiously optimistic about facilitating meaningful social connections in the online environment, and keen to further explore its unique social opportunities. And, as Gilly Salmon (2011) makes clear, those connections are not just ‘extras’ – they are absolutely central to successful remote learning.

Links and References

Hall E T (1977), Beyond Culture. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books

Satterfield D, Lepage C & Ladjahasan N (2015) ‘Preferences for online course delivery methods in higher education for students with autism spectrum disorders’, Procedia Manufacturing, 3, pp. 3651-3656

Salmon G (2011), E-Moderating : The Key to Online Teaching and Learning. New York: Routledge, p36

Inter-Professional Practical Workshop: Registered Intermediaries & Advocates in a Mock Criminal Court

Amanda Millmore, Law, a.millmore@reading.ac.uk  Alison Cox, PCLS, a.cox@reading.ac.uk

Overview

This was a collaboration between 2 schools (Law & PCLS) to introduce students to the work of Registered Intermediaries in Court in a practical way by offering co-curricular training. Registered Intermediaries are communication specialists who work in criminal cases to assist vulnerable people with significant communication difficulties to communicate their answers more effectively during a criminal trial. 30 students from across the 2 schools attended.

Objectives

  • Finalist Speech and Language Therapy students gained a practical understanding of criminal Court practice and procedure and experienced hands-on how Registered Intermediaries work with witnesses.
  • LLB Law students learned about the work of intermediaries and gained practical advocacy experience, learning how to question witnesses successfully, and work effectively with intermediaries in a mock courtroom setting.

Context

This was a co-curricular week 6 activity designed to provide students with real-life experiences of their potential careers. It was an interactive workshop to enable the students from the 2 schools to come together to learn more about the work of each other in the context of a mock criminal case. They gained practical understanding  of the practice and procedure of the criminal courts and of the work of intermediaries. This is so important as the Courts are becoming increasingly aware of the communication difficulties experienced by witnesses and Defendants and the importance of mitigating those issues.

Implementation

We planned a day of workshop activities, starting with interactive lectures from Amanda about the practice and procedure in the criminal Courts, and how to question a witness, then hearing from Alison about the work of intermediaries and how they assist vulnerable witnesses. The students were given a mock trial brief, and worked collaboratively as advocates and intermediaries to prepare for a robbery trial. Amanda created the legal briefs, whilst Alison prepared intermediary reports about the various witnesses for the intermediaries to use. We then ran 2 mock trials simultaneously, giving every student an opportunity to participate as a lawyer, intermediary or witness. Intermediaries were encouraged to speak up to intervene in the trial proceedings to require the advocates to improve their questioning techniques.

Impact

Students worked collaboratively all day and acquired a range of key employability skills and an insight into real life practice. Law students have highlighted this work within their LinkedIn profiles and when applying for work experience and placements.

Feedback from questionnaires completed at the beginning and end of the day showed that all students felt the day contributed to understanding of the roles of advocates and intermediaries:

Qualitative feedback included many positive comments including:

‘the trial was a unique experience putting theory into practice’

‘would be great to see more joint sessions with different courses’

‘enjoyed meeting and working with law students’

‘enjoyed learning the challenges of questioning vulnerable people’

‘absolutely wonderful!’ ‘positive atmosphere’,

‘loved the detail of criminal practice’

Final year law student, Oyin Arikawe said, "We were able to put what we learned into action towards the end of the day when we had a mock trial in which I got to practice my advocacy skills. The workshop was very useful and insightful as it gave me the opportunity to see and experience how intermediaries and barristers work together in court. I enjoyed every part of it!"

Whilst Part 1 student Kiiti Opesanwo said, "It was truly a great learning experience and provided great clarity towards how court cases are run in the UK. I am now encouraged to sit in at one of the Crown court trials in Reading to witness a real one.”

We were commended on Twitter by The Secret Barrister who is an award winning author on the subject of the criminal justice system.

Reflections

The planning process was extensive, but led to a really interactive, practical workshop. We now have a set of materials which can be reused for further workshops.

The real success of the activity was the positive impact of mixing students from 2 very different schools, and giving them the opportunity to work together. This added a deeper dimension to their learning and raised awareness of the work of other aspiring professionals and how their paths may cross in future.

Mentimeter feedback from the end of the day:

Follow up

We are now looking to see if we can secure sufficient funding to run the workshop again. We could have filled the places at the workshop twice over, and have had significant interest from other students who did not sign up initially.

Links and References

http://www.reading.ac.uk/Psychology/News/word-is-law.aspx 

http://www.reading.ac.uk/law/News/law-news-and-events.aspx 

Piloting General Practice (GP) experiential learning for MPharm Year 3 students

Catherine Langran, Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy

Daniel Mercer & Selen Morelle, MPharm Part 4 students, School of Pharmacy

Background

Throughout the Masters of Pharmacy degree (MPharm) students undertake experiential learning in hospital and community pharmacies. Experiential learning through placements is an important approach to teaching and learning; providing a safe learning environment for students, bridging the gap between theory and practice, and encouraging independent learning and reflective practice.

In 2016, the National Health Service (NHS) launched a programme “Building the General Practice Workforce” creating a new career pathway for pharmacists performing clinical tasks in a primary care setting. Over the past 3 years a steadily increasing number of pharmacists are pursuing this career option, and this is now a graduate opportunity for our MPharm students.  It is therefore crucial that Reading School of Pharmacy provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to experience this new role to give students more insight into their career options, encourage professional and personal development, and boost employability.

This collaborative partnership project piloted placements within GP practices for Part 3 pharmacy students to assess the students’ perceptions and evaluate the benefits and practicality of the placements.

Method

59 Part 3 students (46% of the cohort) attended a voluntary session in November 2018, prior to submitting the PLanT application. This session demonstrated a high level of student interest in this placement opportunity and also involved discussion of the practicalities (e.g. placement length, positioning within timetable, location) and perceived advantages of offering GP placements.

Following a successful bid to the PLanT fund, a second voluntary session was attended by 22 students who collaboratively worked with the project lead to determine the process of student recruitment and allocation to placements, define the placement learning outcomes, placement activities, evaluation methods and how to collect feedback. Subsequently, the two project lead students worked with the lead academic to construct an online application process, review student applications, finalise the student handbook and evaluate the student feedback.

The main objectives of this project were:

  • To evaluate the benefits of undertaking the GP placements for MPharm students.
  • To evaluate the placement provider’s feedback on the acceptability, practicality and scalability of providing placements for students.

Five GP practices were recruited to take part in the pilot, located in Reading and London. From April-June 2019, a total of 37 part 3 MPharm students completed a half to one day placement in one of five GP practices. Students predominately shadowed the GP Pharmacist within a clinic environment, and others had the opportunity to shadow GPs, nurses, physician associates and reception teams to provide a greater understanding on how General Practices function as a business.

Data was collected via student completion of online questionnaires pre and post GP placements to compare their:

  • Understanding of the role of GP pharmacists and how GP surgeries work (with 0=no knowledge to 10=complete knowledge)
  • Confidence building rapport and being empathetic when talking to patients (0=no confidence to 10=fully confident)

Students also decided that they would like to prepare and deliver a short 5-minute verbal presentation to their peers and the project group to share experiences and insights from their GP placement.

We also collected feedback from placement providers after completion of the placements.

Results

37 students completed the pre-placement questionnaire, and 30 students completed the post-placement questionnaire. Analysis of the data shows that the students who undertook the placement displayed a significant improvement in their understanding of the GP pharmacist role and the structure and running of a GP practice. A moderate increase in empathy and building rapport was also seen.

Students’ evaluation of the GP placements were overwhelmingly positive, highlighting improved knowledge of the role of GP pharmacists and having gained insight into their potential career choices:

 

In their peer presentations, students described key learning points:

–  An understanding of how different health care professionals skills can work together to offer best care to patients

– The value of observing pharmacist consultations with patients, and reflecting on how treatment decisions are made

– An increased understanding of the options available to them after graduation, enabling them to make a more informed career choice.

Feedback from placement providers showed they found hosting the placement enjoyable/rewarding, they felt the students were enthusiastic, and the organisation/communication from the university was excellent.

Limitations

Whilst the cohort of students who attended the placement days appear to have improved their understanding of GP pharmacy, we are aware that the students undertook the placements voluntarily. These students had a desire to explore the role of GP pharmacists and this implies that they had an interest in the area prior to undertaking the placement. Therefore, opinions may be favoured towards the role.

Impact

The student co-design element ensured this pilot delivered an authentic and valuable experience, with high levels of student engagement.

As a result of this pilot, funding has been secured from our Head of Department to implement GP placements for all part 3 students (cohort size 106) from December 2019. Working partnerships have been established with the 5 GP practices and this has now been expanded to 16 GP practices for 2019/2020. Embedding GP placements for our students will have a positive impact on the MPharm re-accreditation by our regulators the General Pharmaceutical council in March 2020.

There is the potential for this project to have a long term impact on NSS and employability which will be explore in June 2020. Offering these placement sets us apart from other Schools of Pharmacies, and is a key selling point in our new UCAS brochure.

Clinical skills development: using controlled condition assessment to develop behavioural competence aligned to Miller’s pyramid

Kat Hall,  School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, k.a.hall@reading.ac.uk

Overview

The Centre for Inter-Professional Postgraduate Education and Training (CIPPET) provide PGT training for healthcare professionals through a flexible Masters programme built around blended learning modules alongside workplace-based learning and assessment.  This project aimed to evolve the department’s approach to delivering one of our clinical skills workshops which sits within a larger 60 credit module.  The impact was shown via positive student and staff feedback, as well as interest to develop a standalone module for continuing further learning in advanced clinical skills.

Objectives

The aim of this project was to use controlled condition assessment approaches to develop behavioural competence at the higher levels of Miller’s pyramid of clinical competence 1.

Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence

The objectives included:

  1. engage students in enquiry by promoting competence at higher levels of Miller’s pyramid
  2. develop highly employable graduates by identifying appropriate skills to teach
  3. evolve the workshop design by using innovative methods
  4. recruit expert clinical practitioners to support academic staff

Context

Health Education England are promoting a national strategy to increase the clinical skills training provided to pharmacists, therefore this project aimed to evolve the department’s approach to delivering this workshop.  The current module design contained a workshop on clinical skills, but it was loosely designed as a large group exercise which was delivered slightly differently for each cohort.  This prevented students from fully embedding their learning through opportunities to practise skills in alongside controlled formative assessment.

Implementation

Equipment purchase: As part of this project matched funding was received from the School to support the purchase of simulation equipment which meant a range a clinical skills teaching tools could be utilised in the workshops.  This step was undertaking collaboratively with the physician associate programme to share learning and support meeting objective 2 across the School.

Workshop design: the workshops were redesigned by the module convenor, Sue Slade, to focus on specific aspects of clinical skills that small groups could focus on with a facilitator.  The facilitators were supported to embed the clinical skills equipment within the activities therefore promoting students in active learning activities.  The equipment allowed students the opportunity to simulate the skills test to identify if they could demonstrate competence at the Knows How and Shows How level of Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence.  Where possible the workshop stations were facilitated by practising clinical practitioners.  This step was focused on meeting objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Workbook design: a workbook was produced that students could use to identify core clinical skills they required in their scope of practice and thus needed to practise in the workshop and further in their workplace-based learning.  This scaffolding supported their transition to the Does level of Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence.  This step was focused on meeting objectives 1 and 3.

Impact

All four objectives were met and have since been mapped to the principles of Curriculum Framework to provide evidence of their impact.

Mastery of the discipline / discipline based / contextual: this project has supported the academic team to redesign the workshop around the evolving baseline core knowledge and skills required of students.  Doing this collaboratively between programme teams ensures it is fit for purpose.

Personal effectiveness and self-awareness / diverse and inclusive: the positive staff and student feedback received reflects that the workshop provides a better environment for student learning, enabling them to reflect on their experiences and take their learning back to their workplace more easily.

Learning cycle: the student feedback has shown that they want more of this type of training and so the team have designed a new stand-alone module to facilitate extending the impact of increasingly advanced clinical skills training to a wider student cohort.

Reflections

What went well? The purchase of the equipment and redesigning the workshop was a relatively simple task for an engaged team, and low effort for the potential return in improved experience.  By having one lead for the workshop, whilst another wrote the workbook and purchased the equipment, this ensured that staff across the team could contribute as change champions.  Recruitment for an advanced nurse practitioner to support the team more broadly was completed quickly and provided support and guidance across the year.

What did not go as well?  Whilst the purchase of the equipment and workshop redesign was relatively simple, encouraging clinical practitioners to engage with the workshop proved much harder.  We were unable to recruit consistent clinical support which made it harder to fully embed the project aims in a routine approach to teaching the workshop.  We considered using the expertise of the physician associate programme team but, as anticipated, timetabling made it impossible to coordinate the staffing needs.

Reflections: The success of the project lay in having the School engaged in supporting the objectives and the programme team invested in improving the workshop.  Focusing this project on a small part of the module meant it remained achievable to complete one cycle of change to deliver initial positive outcomes whilst planning for the following cycles of change needed to fully embed the objectives into routine practice.

Follow up

In planning the next series of workshops, we plan to draw more widely on the University alumni from the physician associate programme to continue the collaborative approach and attract clinical practitioners more willing to support us who are less constrained by timetables and clinical activities.

Based on student and staff feedback there is clearly a desire for more teaching and learning of this approach and being able to launch a new standalone module in 2020 is a successful output of this project.

Links and References

Miller, G.E. (1990). The assessment of clinical skills/competence/performance. Acad Med, 65(9):S63-7.

Developing the use of the interactive whiteboard for initial teacher trainees (2011-12)

Catherine Foley, Institute of Education
c.m.foley@reading.ac.uk

Overview

With interactive whiteboards becoming a well-established feature of English primary schools classrooms over the last decade, it is vital that the primary Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) programme taught at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education prepares it graduates to be confident and competent in using interactive whiteboard technology in the classroom, including making pedagogically sound, informed decisions about when, when not, and how the interactive whiteboard can enhance learning.

Objectives

    • Explore how trainees can be supported to use the interactive whiteboard in their teaching of mathematics.
    • Gain an informed view of the entry- and exit-level interactive whiteboard skills and understanding of trainees to inform future programme planning.
    • Ensure that the trainee voice is incorporated into developmental planning.
    • Make recommendations regarding embedding the use of interactive whiteboard technology into our wider initial teacher training provision.

Implementation

Initial data collection was conducted through a questionnaire, which was administered towards the end of the trainees’ first week on the programme. This questionnaire was used to gather data on skills and competencies with regards interactive whiteboard technology.

The results of the initial questionnaire revealed that trainees on the programme generally had little or no experience of using interactive whiteboard technology, and that confidence levels for using the interactive whiteboard for general teaching and learning, and specifically within mathematics lessons, were low. The questionnaire had also asked trainees to rank statements in order to indicate the most important to meet their needs. The most preferred statement was that trainees would like support for the skills of how to use an interactive whiteboard. Second was that the use of the interactive whiteboard for teaching and learning be modelled within sessions.

On the basis of the questionnaire results, the following action plan was discussed and agreed with the programme director:

  1. Modelling of interactive whiteboard use throughout taught mathematics sessions. Where interactive whiteboard use was modelled, the ‘stepping out’ technique, as described in Lunenberg et al., was used explicitly to focus trainee’ attention on how the interactive whiteboard has been used, and more importantly, why and to what effect.
  2. Optional workshops during free-time within Autumn and Spring Terms.  These were aimed to ensure a basic level of skills, tied in with the interactive functions most likely to have an impact.  These workshops were limited to 10 trainees, to allow greater access to the interactive whiteboard and less pressure on ‘getting it right’.  The skills addressed during these workshops were based on a combination of student requests, the experience of the project leader, and those outlined in Beauchamp and Parkinson.
  3. Provision for peer sharing of resources created on school experience later in the programme.  In workshops, trainees who had developed interactive whiteboard skills while on placement were invited to share their expertise with other trainees.
  4. Opportunities for peer modelling within starter activities.  Trainees were encouraged to use the interactive whiteboard where appropriate in the presentation of starter activities to their peers, which occurs on a rolling programme throughout the module.

At the end of the module a follow-up questionnaire was administered. This contained a mixture of identical questions to the initial questionnaire, to allow comparison with the results that were gained at the beginning of the programme, and items designed to evaluate the different forms of support that had been provided.

Reflections

Trainees had, by the conclusion of the module, improved their experience with the use of interactive whiteboards, their confidence in doing so, their preparedness to use interactive whiteboard technology for the teaching of mathematics, and increased the level of skill they possessed in writing, manipulating shapes or images, and inserting children’s work or photographs.

It was possible as a result of the project to make the following recommendations for the Institute of Education, which may be useful for related subjects across the University of Reading:

  1. If staff are expected to integrate modelling of appropriate use of interactive whiteboards into their practice, they will need both technical and peer support in order to develop their own confidence. This could be tackled through teaching and learning seminars, practical workshops, software provision and technician time, in much the same way as the project itself supported trainees.
  2. Some of the technical skills could be integrated into ICT modules, allowing subject modules to focus on the most effective pedagogy within their subject.
  3. Primary programmes could consider some kind of formative collaborative tasks to develop and review interactive whiteboard-based activities within subject areas.
  4. The interactive whiteboard provisions in schools could be audited in order to ensure that the Institute of Education’s software and hardware provision is appropriately matched to what trainees will encounter, and incorporated a request for supervising students to comment on their tutees’ interactive whiteboard use as a quality assurance check.
  5. Time support so that trainees reach a basic level of confidence with the use of interactive whiteboard technology before their first school placement.

Links and Resources

Mieke Lunenberg, Fred Korthagen, and Anja Swennen (2007): The teacher educator as role model.  Teaching and Teacher Education, 23 (5)
Gary Beauchamp and John Parkinson (2005): Beyond the ‘wow’ factor: developing interactivity with the interactive whiteboard.  School Science Review, 86 (316)

Embedding Employability Through Collaborative Curriculum Design

Embedding Employability Through Collaborative Curriculum Design

Name/School/ Email address

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

Overview

This is a practical case study focusing upon the process of carrying out a collaborative partnership project with students to embed employability attributes into a trailblazing new module option for 2019/20 LW3CFS: Children, Families and the State.  This module is unique in that it is the first to embed employability attributes and skills within the module design. This project built upon previous work within the School of Law, which identified (by working with multiple stakeholders - students, staff and employers) 11 key employability attributes of a Reading Law graduate.

Not only do we now have a module with employability attributes built-in, but the student partners have gained a range of employability skills themselves by virtue of their involvement in the process. The student partners co-designed the module assessments, ran the student focus groups and presented the project at a number of national teaching and learning conferences this year. PLanT project funding was awarded and used to provide refreshments for focus groups and to enable students to travel to conferences to disseminate the project.

Objectives

I identified 3 key challenges that the project aimed to address:

  • Employability - how to equip students with the skills and attributes to succeed in employment.
  • Curriculum Design - how to embed those graduate employability attributes into a module.
  • Student Engagement and Collaboration - how to work effectively with students in partnership.

Context

In Law the professional pathways to careers are changing, with new routes opening up for vocational post-graduate and non-graduate training. These changes are raising questions for university law schools as to how much they should be focusing upon more practical and vocational skills.

My colleague Dr. Annika Newnham and I wanted to develop a new final year module, covering a discrete area of family law, closely allied to the kind of work that students may encounter in their early years of legal practice, with assessments mapped to legal employability skills. The brief was to design assessments for this new module which were mapped to legal employability skills and I looked to see how I could incorporate the student voice within the design process, deciding to engage them in the project as collaborative partners.

Implementation

Evaluation

Student views of their involvement in focus groups and as part of the core partnership group were sought throughout the project. All felt that this was a positive experience and welcomed the partnership and mapping of employability attributes.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of embedding employability into the module will be considered during the course of the running of the module. In addition to explicitly highlighting the attributes within the course materials and teaching, I intend to get the students to self-evaluate their awareness of and confidence in displaying the attributes at the start and again at the end of the module. I am also considering ways to utilise the assessed evaluative report to encourage reflection upon employability attributes. If the students will permit, I would also be interested to maintain contact with the students post-graduation to follow-up whether these skills have assisted them in their further study and careers.

Impact

Employability: The student partners have all developed employability skills from their involvement, in particular improved confidence, communication skills and leadership skills. These skills have been highlighted most through the opportunities that they have had to disseminate the project at national conferences.The wider student body has increased awareness of employability attributes.

Curriculum Design: The new module LW3CFS Children, Families and the State has student-designed assessments with employability attributes clearly mapped to them. Students involved have gained a greater understanding of the process of module design. The students acknowledged that this was a way for their opinions to be listened to, and for them to influence their own university experience, “University can be a very impersonal experience - it is always good to feel that your voice is being heard and that you can make an active impact on uni life and module development” (focus group participant). The module is oversubscribed in 2019/20 and is operating a waiting list. The high level of student interest (approximately 20% of the cohort have selected the module, which is significant given the rather niche subject area) is indicative of the support by students for the nature and timing of the assessments and an implicit endorsement of the staff-student partnership process.

Student Engagement & Collaboration: Students feel that they have been listened to, and been treated as true equitable partners in the process which embodies the University of Reading’s “Principles of Partnership” (2019). This has created greater feelings of community and power-sharing within the School of Law. The equitable nature of the power-sharing between staff and students was fundamental to the success of the project. This experience has been transformative for me as an academic, seeing how positively these students relished the challenge of collaboration, and became true partners in co-designing assessments. It has inspired me to look to other areas of my teaching practice to consider how I can partner with students to improve the student experience and student support in addition to classic teaching and learning activities.Students are interested in extending this trailblazing process to other modules, and colleagues and I are looking at expanding it to programme level.

Student Feedback: The following quotes are reflections from the student partners on the project:

"With all the discussions, I gained knowledge about the employability skills (communication, team work, problem solving, planning and organising, self-management, learning, research and analysis and the list goes on) and will take active actions to try to improve those skills in the future. I think I gained a lot of experience in involving in this project that I can put into practice into future projects or career as well."

"I am really looking forward and excited to learn about this module that I helped create. I think the School should definitely use this approach more often on other modules as a lot of the time when students are not satisfied/happy about how a module (or lecturer) we do not have much chance to voice out our opinions and make changes, so it is a good way to avoid that situation fundamentally. As students are likely to go into law practice after graduating, it is important to not only have essay or written examinations (that do not reflect real life law practice) as assessments. It’s really different to be good in examinations and to be good in practice."

Reflections

When I presented this project at the Advance HE conference in July 2019 I emphasised my 4 step plan for successful staff-student partnerships:

The partnership can relate to a discrete area of a project (in our case this was in relation to assessment design), and this fits well with Bovill’s (2017) ladder of participation. Once the boundaries of the project are clear, then it is vital to take a step back and relinquish control.

By keeping the student-staff partnership limited to a discrete area of module design (assessments) the boundaries were clear, and students could be given greater control. The key message is that equality of arms is vital, all viewpoints need to be welcomed and considered with no obvious staff-student hierarchy.

The limitations of the project were that it was focusing upon the modular level, rather than anything broader, so its impact is limited to that module, although the goodwill that it has generated amongst our students extends far beyond this single module.

A staff-student partnership needs to be approached with an equality of arms, so that all viewpoints are welcomed and considered, with no obvious hierarchy. As my student partner when presenting at the Advance HE conference said “For me personally as a student, you’re very much stuck in this kind of limbo where you’re not quite respected as an adult, but you’re not a child either...I’m an adult but not as respected as I would like to be in a professional environment. I wasn’t treated like that, I was treated as a complete equal and had the chance to run with my ideas, which was really important to me.

Follow up

The module is due to run for the first time in 2019/20 for Final Year students in the School of Law.

My current plans for follow-up relate to the following areas:

  1. Further evaluation of the effectiveness of embedding employability attributes into a module (see evaluation section above).
  2. Consideration of better ways to highlight the employability attributes, for example by badging them (opening up possibilities for inter-disciplinary collaborations with creative colleagues and students.
  3. The success of this staff-student partnership has highlighted how this process could be scaled up to programme level within the School of Law. This is particularly in the light of reviews of the LLB programme within the context of the University of Reading’s Curriculum Framework review process and with an eye to the forthcoming changes to the professional vocational training at postgraduate level for lawyers. One of the challenges will be how we can widen and diversify the range of students in future curriculum design partnerships.

TEF

TQ1-5, SO1-3.

Links and references

ADVANCE HE 2016. Framework for embedding employability in higher education. Available from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/framework-embedding-employability-higher-education.

ADVANCE HE 2016. Framework for student engagement through partnership. Available from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/student-enagagement-through-partnership-new.pdf.

BOVILL, C. 2017. A Framework to Explore Roles Within Student-Staff Partnerships in Higher Education: Which Students Are Partners, When, and in What Ways?  International Journal for Students As Partners,  1 (1). https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i1.3062, 1.

HEALEY, M., FLINT, A & HARRINGTON, K. 2014. Students as Partners in Learning & Teaching in Higher Education [Online]. York: Higher Education Academy. [Viewed on 1 July 2019] Available from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher.

ArtLab

Artlab

Name/School/ Email address

Tina O’Connell / Art / t.oconnell@reading.ac.uk

Overview

ArtLab is a dedicated art and technology facility that supports Outreach and Widening Participation, by bringing a wide range of children from across different social backgrounds into contact with cutting edge art and technology projects that are co-delivered with Undergraduate Art students (as student co-researchers). Underlying this idea are a set of core educational values concerning the deeper understanding of computing, digital media and new technologies that will form part of a vibrant cultural and economically viable society both today and in the future. The impact on our students derives from the experiences they gain in the delivery of numerous workshops with Primary and Secondary schools as well as a range of other public institutions over the last 4 years (see below). Further to this, the intention is to share knowledge and experience in order to provide a focus for other University of Reading department’s initiatives in this area.

Objectives 

  • To work with undergraduate co-researchers, who learn about a wide range of cutting-edge art and technology projects and co-deliver art-based pedagogic workshops to children from across different social backgrounds.
  • To enable our student co-researchers to understand their potential role as educators, and the value that art brings when combined with developing skills in technology, including offering potential careers within the fastest growing sector in the UK, the creative economy.
  • To encourage these co-researcher students to share their positive experiences with WP schools, helping a shift in mind set from STEM to STEAM (including Arts) and opening up this area to help pupils develop academic and practical skills that are not currently taught in mainstream schools.
  • To introduce pupils from State schools to University contexts through direct experiences with our co-researchers who are frequently students of similar backgrounds.

Context

Within the current educational context (and despite the global acclaim and economic success of the UK Creative Economy) Art and associated disciplines are increasingly de-prioritised or excluded from school curricula; and Art and Science/technology are presented as separate (or mutually exclusive) spheres of study. As such Art and our art students whilst being some of the most sought-after graduates are increasingly positioned as studying a non-essential subject and Arts subjects are increasingly inaccessible to children from State schools.

Implementation

Artlab was set up in 2013 to address these issues and has subsequently organised over 100  workshops, school visits, open days and other events at Primary and Secondary schools and Public institutions such as the Tate and MERL with our student co-researchers.

For instance, in this last academic year (2017-18) Artlab delivered workshops to 29 primary schools involving co-researchers, around 870 children by working closely with 52 teachers and teaching assistants. If we include Reading Scholar, Stellar Projects MERL, Reading International, Tate Exchange and other WP workshops ArtLab co-researchers engaged with over 4,800 potential beneficiaries in the process. One part of a range of the planned activities being coordinated at this time is Tate Exchange, a dynamic public engagement programme that will be central to the public facing activity of Artlab and for educating our students to the nature and reach of social practice. Spearheaded by Artlab, this represents the opportunity for our co-researchers; Reading students, as well as the Stellar Project team (children from Maiden Erleigh School) and our Reading Scholar Students (external A level students) who work with us at Tate on new projects that engage with the idea of ‘production’ – in particular drawing on the ideas and approaches that we have successfully pursued to date – art and technology.

 Impact 

  • ArtLab was nominated and shortlisted for Reading Cultural Award.
    Artlab is a partner of Reading International, which has received financial support from Arts Council of England.
  • ArtLab has helped MERL and READING MUSEUM in its application to ACE to become an NPO, securing £8,000 per year for 3 years delivering Arts MARK for ArtLab.
  • Providing teaching experience/mentoring for our Reading students – or co-researchers, as well as iReading Scholars, by inducting them into use of new technologies.
  • Co-researchers are supported in how to conceive, deliver and part take in workshops, and this has an impact on their future carer choices and their skills base within the creative economy.
  • The ArtLab  Placement is a 20-credit module (as part of ArtMark NPO successful, bid see above) this year there are 3 students on the module delivered by ArtLab. In association with Christ the King Primary School (CKP) Maiden Erlegh East (MEE) Secondary School, MERL and Reading Museum.
  • Summer Workshops over 24 days in June and July each year, ArtLab works with 10 local WP Primary Schools in Berkshire, UK. Including undergraduates, postgraduates, lecturers, teachers and school students working as co-researchers.
  • ArtLab’s PhD Student Outreach the University funds a fees only PhD student

Reflections

There continues to be strong evidence in our evaluation to indicate that the activity has led to deeper forms of engagement by our students, as well as an increase in applications to the University. The evidence can be seen as effective in respect of students across a range of skills, and interests. The success has exceeded our aims in terms of its effects, with much of our success evident in shifts to the success of progression of our students and their impact on cultures and values being developed in primary schools, that that then help shift attitudes in Secondary School pupils. This was an effective approach as pupils resist pressure to drop Art. In this respect this shift in attitudes increases both our students and associated pupils confidence in undertaking degrees in which they can see clear career prospects relating to creative and analytical skills as outlined. For the University, this has explained in part the uptake of some pupils in studying for joint honours degrees, providing further evidence of their value to admissions.

Follow Up 

We will continue our approach which has proven to be successful and attracted very considerable support and recognition including further funding from across the University and from independent organisations such as the Arts Council of England.

TEF

TQ1 LE1 SO1 LE2 S02 LE3 SO3 TQ5

Links
https://readingartlab.com/

Communicating Ancient Sport

Barbara Goff     School of Humanities     b.e.goff@reading.ac.uk

Overview

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.

Objectives

  • 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.

Context

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.

Implementation

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.

Impact

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.

Reflections

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.

 

Refreshing Professional Practice

Refreshing our professional practice module

Name/School/ Email address

James Lloyd / ACD (Typography) /  j.c.lloyd@reading.ac.uk

Overview 

In 2017/18 we reviewed and revamped our flagship professional practice scheme known as ‘real jobs’. The impacts include: a significant increase in the number of students regularly attending feedback sessions and engaging with the process; a large number of highly presentable concluding reflective reports from students; a reduced impact on staff resource due to better management of information and processes; and greater level of clarity among the student body about the existence and benefits of the scheme.

Objectives

  • Boost student engagement
  • Embed contemporary workflows
  • Streamline assessment and feedback
  • Centralise information and information management
  • Initiate a briefing session for all students, for the first time
  • Generate more competent (and compelling) outcomes. Our new blog at typography.network/real-jobs collects students reflective reports on these projects
  • Increase student exposure to industry professionals
  • Give feedback as jobs are completed, rather than right at the end of the course
  • Provide students with personal, engaging stories to tell on job applications and at interviews

Context

This work is part of TY3PRP on our BA Graphic Communication course. The genesis of these changes came from a sense that the current system was stretched due to increasing student numbers and lack of staff time. We needed to centralise and standardise more procedures in order to free up most staff to function better in their primary role (as design supervisors) and leave issues relating to project management, industry practice and print production to new staff members with a more dedicated set of roles (specifically in professional print production and professional design management). We also sought to address the fact that Real Jobs had never been fully integrated into the modular system on which the University now runs, making it an outlier in many areas (including assessment, timetabling and briefing) and thus causing confusion to students.

Implementation

Surfacing the issues

The project was initiated following detailed discussion with Rob Banham, our DDTL, based on his experience of running the Real Jobs scheme for around a decade. We also took advantage of the training and techniques offered on the University’s Academic Practice Programme (which Geoff Wyeth and I participated in for 18 months) to assess, flesh out and test Rob’s analysis of the issues. It became clear the scheme was characterised by lack of clarity (with no real assessment criteria or workflow) and lack of student engagement (with the keenest students always doing well, but the majority shying away from the scheme). It also felt excessively manual in its admin – reliant on the generosity of staff time, rather than robust processes.

Planning for professionalisation

Over Summer 2017 I planned a new process, taking in feedback and concerns from a wide range of staff and students, trying to address a wide variety of issues and encode solutions into:

  • A Filemaker database of jobs, clients and students (for staff admin use only)
  • A Trello online project management board (used by supervisors and students). The board acts as a contract, a step-by-step process and a live project management tool, mirroring many aspects of life as a professional designer
  • A blackboard organisation – so the scheme has a VLE for the first time
  • A new annual briefing session for all Part 1 students, late in the year
  • A revised format for weekly Real Job meetings
  • A new rubric, mapped to new assessment criteria

Launch

We launched formally in Autumn term 2017, with most of the tools in-place.

In order to get all students up to speed, we ran the induction briefing session for all three year groups. The induction was crucial to the success of these changes. By bringing in staff, graduates and potential clients, we carry all students through a model for the new process over a two-hour session. They experience a dry run of the whole thing, and hear reflections from students and clients who’ve already been through it. The goal is to bring active awareness to the scheme and its process, so that when they attack projects for real, the barriers feel reduced.

Impact

The outcome is an entirely new process, much more tightly focused on student understanding, user needs and a more engaging and defined set of tasks – while still allowing students to explore projects in their own way.

Attendance at Real job meetings has gone from an average of around 9 students per week to something more like 30 or 40. A increased calibre of discussion has also been noted by staff.

Final reports have been transformed into more professional, thoughtful, meaningful and marketable blog posts.

Assessment is simpler. More time consuming, but more thorough, and clearer.

Higher throughput of jobs.

Students who DON’T wish to pursue a career as a professional designer now have a parallel route, through Experiential Learning Assignments that let them write about design rather than practice it.

Reflections

The changes work because there has been a top-to-tail review with solutions carefully targeted across a range of goals. Most of these solutions are working as expected, though there is room for improvement

As a Department we still lack the resources to truly ensure that all students and all jobs stay on track. We have more visibility and better insights, but process steps can be skipped without immediate remedy.

The assessment process is more involved than planned, and is not yet happening as jobs are completed, but still at the end of each year.

It’s hard to measure the impact on employability.

Only a few students take advantage of the offer of a thorough pre-press check on their work.

Follow Up 

We have continued to refine assessment criteria and rubric style, in an effort to simplify things for staff and students.

ELAs (which let students get credit for non-design aspects of their studies) are being rolled out slowly.

A module review is needed to assess whether students are entirely satisfied with the way the scheme runs. Anecdotal evidence suggest some students still find the prospect of these projects daunting, and they find ways to avoid engagement.

TEF

LE2, SO1, LE3

Links

http://typography.network/real-jobs-scheme/

http://typography.network/about-real-jobs/

https://www.bb.reading.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/execute/announcement?method=search&context=course&course_id=_130257_1&handle=cp_announcements&mode=cpview (login required)