T&L Exchange

Centre for Quality Support and Development

Category: Employability

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)

 

Embedding employment in the curriculum: the MSci graduate showcase!

Tamara Wiehe     School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences     t.wiehe@reading.ac.uk

Overview

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

Objectives

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

Context

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

Implementation

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

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

Impact

The event was a success and met the learning objectives!

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

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

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

Reflections

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

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

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

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

Can students and academics benefit from peer assisted learning (PAL) sessions?

Caroline Crolla, Student Success and Engagement Team, Student Services                                                                          c.s.crolla@reading.ac.uk

Overview

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is a globally recognised scheme where more experienced students who have already successfully completed a module work with students who are studying the module for the first time.   One hour, weekly PAL sessions are run by trained and experienced student PAL Leaders, who are regularly debriefed by programme academics, and supported by a PAL Coordinator.   Students who attend PAL sessions seem to do better than those who do not.

Objectives

HEIs with experience of PAL have found that the scheme contributes to improved retention, engagement and performance through shared learning, engendering stronger links between academics and students as well as providing an additional form of in-module feedback.

The principles underpinning Peer Assisted Learning include:

  • the PAL scheme should target high risk modules, not high risk students
  • student participation should be voluntary
  • student PAL Leaders are facilitators and not quasi-lecturers

Context

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) was first introduced at the University of Reading in 2015-16 in a few departments as pilot schemes. Early adopters were academics teaching modules in Art, Economics, Mathematics, Creative Writing and Speech & Language Therapy.

The provision of Peer Assisted Learning is now in its fourth year at the University of Reading.  In both the autumn and spring terms, there are PAL sessions supporting specific modules in an ever-growing number of subjects: Agriculture, Biosciences, Classics, Clinical Language Sciences, Economics, Language & Literature, Food Nutritional Sciences, Law, Mathematics and Statistics, Pharmacy and Psychology.

Implementation

Peer Assisted Learning sessions work best in modules that are recognised as cognitively challenging, where student results are low and where student module feedback is less positive.

To implement PAL sessions, module convenors or lecturers select modules in which students would benefit from the offer of PAL sessions and contacting the PAL Coordinator (pal@reading.ac.uk or c.s.crolla@reading.ac.uk). The PAL Coordinator helps with recruitment, taster sessions, promotion and providing high-quality training. The compulsory, two-day PAL Leader training takes place before the autumn modules start, and again in January before the spring term modules start.  So academics contact the PAL Coordinator to agree PAL publicity, interviews, selection and recruitment of Leaders, ideally a term before the module runs.

The role of PAL Leader is voluntary. PAL Leaders can be recruited if they have successfully completed the module that PAL sessions are supporting.  The module convenor has the final say about the selection of PAL Leaders. PAL Leadership develops students’ facilitation and coaching skills, communication and organisational skills and the role shows employers that students have gone above and beyond their degree.  PAL Leadership is included on students’ degree transcripts and counts for the RED Award. PAL Leaders help with problem solving, study skills, exam techniques and coursework. PAL Leaders know that they do not teach, re-teach nor give answers and make this clear to their PAL participants. PAL Leaders will have regular support from the module convenor / academic contact.

Impact

Quantitative data

We collect PAL session attendance data which is then matched against module results.  In 2017-18 we had a significant amount of data, which showed that there seemed to be a positive correlation between attendance at PAL sessions and higher average results.   Accepting that attendance at PAL is voluntary and students going to PAL may already have positive study habits, in Pharmacy, Economics and Maths modules results show that on average those students who attend 4 or more PAL sessions achieve higher results than those students who do not.

Qualitative data

We also collect PAL Leaders’ and PAL participants’ views about the impact of PAL on their understanding of their work.   Participants answered the following free text questions: 1) What did you gain from attending PAL sessions and 2) How could PAL be improved to meet your academic needs better?  Key benefits were perceived to be: an increase of understanding and an increase of confidence; the benefits of collaborating with peers; appreciating the “real world” connections better in terms of the value of placements or coursework and the benefits of learning and thinking collaboratively.

  • I’ve gained more knowledge regarding the module & find it easier to ask for help.
  • Good to have opportunity to interact with students in the year above.
  • A more interactive way of working, more group work, some sharing of 4th year placement and usefulness of this module for next year

PAL leaders reported that they had developed their organisational and leadership skills; they understood facilitation of learning better and were clearer about how students can be encouraged to learn better.  Team work skills were also mentioned as was the value of consolidating and reviewing one’s own learning as leader because of reviewing materials with their participants.

  • I learnt a lot about organising my time and coming up with creative ways to engage with content
  • I learnt about different ways to make group activities fun. I also learnt the value of having structured tasks i.e. snowballing, as opposed to simply asking a question and hoping that someone would answer!
  • Being a PAL leader also helped me to consolidate my learning of the module, whilst developing methods to effectively communicate this learning to students in lower years.

Reflections

As the PAL scheme has developed at the University of Reading over the past three years, all three groups involved in PAL, the PAL Leaders, the PAL participants and the PAL academics see PAL as a “win – win” scheme.  As the scheme is voluntary, there are no significant costs to the subjects implementing PAL.  The PAL Coordinator and Senior PAL Leaders, a paid role, take responsibility for the majority of the implementation of the scheme.

For more students to benefit from peer assisted learning sessions, four key issues need to be addressed: PAL sessions need to appear in students’ timetables; peer assisted learning needs to be clearly presented and understood, through PAL specific publicity and authentic Leader and participant voices explaining that the sessions are about collaborative learning and not remedial support; academics need to understand and support the principles of peer assisted learning and regularly endorse the scheme and review progress with the PAL leaders and the role of the Senior PAL Leader can be developed further.

Link

The University of Reading is a member of the UK PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) and European SI (Supplemental Instruction) peer-learning network with its centre at Lund University in Sweden https://www.si-pass.lu.se/en/about-si-pass/si-pass-around-the-world .

References

Boud ,D., Cohen, R. & Sampson, J. (1999) Peer Learning and Assessment, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 24:4, 413-426,

Capstick, S. (2004). Benefits and Shortcomings of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) in Higher Education: an appraisal by students. In Peer Assisted Learning Conference.

Congos, D. H., & Schoeps, N. (1993). Does supplemental instruction really work and what is it anyway? Studies in Higher Education18(2), 165-176.

Smith, J., May, S., & Burke, L. (2007). Peer Assisted Learning: a case study into the value to student mentors and mentees. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education2(2), 80-109.

 

Supporting diversity through targeted language skills development

Alison Fenner, International Study and Language Institute                                                                                                         j.a.fenner@reading.ac.uk

Overview

The project responded to a perceived need for additional support in the development of oral language skills among some students learning a language with the Institution-Wide Language Programme. It took place within the context of the IWLP Language Learning Advisors’ peer advisory scheme. There were clear benefits in terms of the development of coaching skills and increased employability for the Advisors, and improved oral performance and confidence for the students they supported.

Objectives

  • To provide and monitor targeted support sessions in oral work and pronunciation
  • To improve student speaking skills and confidence
  • To work with and train selected Language Learning Advisors in this area
  • To create a body of material for use in future years
  • To disseminate the practice through student presentation within a School staff forum

Context

With the increasingly international nature of IWLP classes, it has become evident that some groups of students at beginner level find oral work and pronunciation more of a challenge than others, depending on their linguistic background. (For example, some Asian students may find European pronunciation challenging and vice versa.) The Language Learning Advisor scheme, which I have run since 2012 and which usually operates on a one-to-one basis, was extended to small groups of students to provide additional support in this area.

Implementation

As IWLP German Co-ordinator, I decided to set up these sessions with German beginner classes in 2016-17. I had already trained a cohort of Language Learning Advisors for the year. Advisors (students recruited from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies and higher IWLP classes) normally offer one-to-one advice to IWLP and DMLES students on the acquisition of effective language learning strategies and independent learning.  I invited three Advisors with relevant experience, ability and pedagogic commitment to run regular small-group sessions with the emphasis on oral work and pronunciation. I successfully applied for PLanT funding to pay the students for the sessions. During the year, I held feedback meetings with the Advisors in which they shared their experience and developing expertise. I also sought feedback from the IWLP students attending the sessions, and was able to perceive a clear improvement in oral performance and confidence in students in my own beginners’ German class. In June 2017 the Advisors and I presented the project to ISLI staff at the ISLI Learning and Teaching Research Forum.

Impact

The project worked well. The beginner students reported an improvement in pronunciation and increased class participation and confidence, and spoke of enjoyable learning sessions and friendly and helpful Advisors. The Advisors acquired intensive coaching skills which will benefit their future employability as well as the opportunity to present to University of Reading staff within a tutor forum. The Advisors’ reports on their activities and experience gained this year can be passed on to future Advisors.

Reflections

The enthusiasm and commitment of the Advisors were a major factor in the success of the project. They were willing to commit time and effort and enjoyed seeing improvement in ‘their’ students. They are all interested in teaching as a future career and so were doubly motivated in developing their teaching skills. We had some very useful meetings in which students’ needs were analysed, and ideas and activities were shared and their effectiveness evaluated. The students with whom they worked appreciated the help and the benefits to their oral performance. The only challenge was to maintain regular attendance at the small-group sessions at times when students had a particularly heavy workload; at times attendance decreased, which is perhaps unavoidable since the sessions were not compulsory.

 

 

 

 

 

Curriculum Framework Review in Classics

Barbara Goff, Director of Teaching and Learning, Classics              b.e.goff@reading.ac.uk

In the Classics department we reckon we review our curriculum all the time.  We are constantly designing new modules that take cognisance of the latest research and share it with our students.  We teach with epigraphy and 3D modelling, we explore the language of ancient graffiti and the modern debates about postcolonialism.  At the same time, we provide a solid background of language teaching in Latin and Ancient Greek, and core modules in the basics of ancient Greek and Roman history and literature.  But it’s always a good idea to step back and view the curriculum as a whole, to check that it really serves our students, as well as corresponding to the overall University strategy.

Our focus

When the Curriculum Framework Review was launched, we were particularly pleased with the new Graduate Attributes, as we already think of our provision in terms of subject knowledge coupled with skills in research and enquiry.  Since everything we do is about cultures other than the one we inhabit, we were sure too that our curriculum helps our students’ global awareness.  The personal effectiveness of our students – maybe our colleagues too – can always use a little burnishing, of course.

At the time that the Curriculum Framework Review was launched, we were already discussing two specific aspects of our provision in our Teaching and Learning Committee.  We wanted to review the core modules at Part 2, with a view to possibly replacing them, discontinuing the associated examinations, and changing the structure of the degrees.  We also wanted to get a new textbook for Ancient Greek.  This latter point will not resonate with many colleagues in other parts of the University, but it’s very important for us!

Another thing that concerned us as a Department was that our employability figures are not always very good compared to those of our competitor departments.  We have an employability module that we regularly update, taking account of student feedback, but we needed to think about what else we might do.

Our preparations

We were helped in our endeavours by our School Director of Teaching and Learning, Prof. Matthew Nicholls, who is developing a range of ways to talk to students in the School of Humanities about the Graduate Attributes and how they work across the three years of our programmes.  We also had good support from our partners in CQSD (Kamilah Jooganah and Aaron Cooper) and Careers (Kevin Thompson and Claire Mack).  After a series of discussions with them, we ran an exercise in which we looked at the range of assessments we offer and the support that we give to students in preparing for them.  This has since been used as an example by CQSD in other departments.  This was part of our project to consider discontinuing exams, as in our partner Departments Philosophy and Archaeology, and also helped with reviewing students’ transferable skills.

After other discussions with colleagues, we worked in two directions.  We obtained funding for an Awayday for all those who teach in the Department, including postgraduate researchers, along with our partners in Careers and CQSD, and in the Departments with which we share joint degrees.  We also obtained funding for a series of focus groups with undergraduates in the Department. I want to put on record my thanks to the students who took part, and especially Aimee Grace Day who ran the groups and reported back to us – she has now gone on to a Masters degree, and we are sure of her success!  The reports compiled helped us to see where our students’ strengths could use further development, and to what extent our vision of the curriculum was being effectively communicated.

Our Awayday

One of the best things about our Awayday was the location in Foxhill House, which none of us knew very well.  We immediately felt that its old-fashioned charm would make it an excellent location for a Classics department!  The lunch break was enhanced by a stroll down to the lake.  On either side of lunch, we engaged in some serious discussion of assessment, the relation between cores and options, and employability.  The reports from the student focus groups were prominent in our thinking.

It may not be a surprise – since we are a Department of Classics, after all – that we concluded our discussions by not changing very much.  We decided to keep the few exams that we do still have, because of the important skills they help with – testimony from our postgraduate researchers helped our conclusions here.  We decided to keep the same core modules at Part 2, but to modify the assessment to ensure that all our students have a chance to practise presentations as well as more traditional activities.  The one major change we made was in relation to employability, where we are going to make our placement module a core instead of an option.  This involves us in rewarding collaboration with the School’s Placement Officer.  We also realised that our students have masses of transferable skills, developed through our teaching and assessments, but could use some help defining and describing them in relation to employment.  The funding for this day was really helpful in allowing us time and space to discuss the important elements of our curriculum thoroughly, and to specify actions that will take us to the next steps.

Although we did not change much, then, we all aired our views, and ended up as a Department ‘owning’ our curriculum much more firmly than before.  We have a newly keen sense of its possibilities, and a determination to help our students articulate their strengths and skills as they progress through our programmes.

And the Ancient Greek textbook?  We are going to use the one that several of us learnt our Ancient Greek from, conceivably in Ancient Greek times…

Matthew Nicolls and Amy Smith
Our School Director of Teaching and Learning, Matthew Nicholls, and the Curator of the Ure Museum, Amy Smith, look serious!
Amy Smith and Jackie Baines
Amy and our Languages Coordinator, Jackie Baines, look cheerful!

The photos were taken on Prof. Peter Kruschwitz’s classic, steam-powered, Lubitel camera.

Co-presenting with Students at Conferences and Engaging them in the Teaching and Learning Dialogue

Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature) and Bethany Barnett-Sanders (Part 3 student, Department of English Literature)

Engaging students in academic conversations outside the classroom presents challenges but recent activity in the Department of English Literature suggests that there are several ways of creating opportunities for this engagement. DEL has worked with Part 2 and Part 3 students on a range of initiatives that has involved them in conference organisation (‘Postmodern Biofictions’), event management (‘Celebrating Forgotten Women’) and editing work (The Creative Writing Anthology and Second Sight: The Margaret Atwood Learning Journals).

In April I was finalising work on the TLDF-Funded ‘Diversifying Assessment’ project in DEL which, connecting with the Curriculum Framework, had involved convening student focus groups. These groups generated productive perspectives on our assessment and feedback practices. I decided to disseminate the results of the project at the Change Agents’ Network (CAN) conference (Winchester) and I felt that it was important that one of the students involved in the focus groups should co-present in order to express the issues from a student point of view.

The CAN Conference was extremely interesting and several papers commented on a range of student engagement projects; however, students were generally absent from the sessions. Our ‘Diversifying Assessment’ presentation, however, expressed both staff and student viewpoints. Bethany Barnett-Sanders, my co-presenter, comments here about her experience of joining me at the conference:

‘Attending the CAN conference with Maddi to help deliver a presentation on diversifying assessment was a really valuable experience. The whole process, from the initial focus groups to the presentation, was so affirming. I participated initially in the focus groups run by Maddi because assessment is an issue that I feel quite strongly about: as the situation stood at the beginning of the project, the department favoured the assessed essay + exam model which, from the student perspective, is not very popular. This model seems to be the default assessment pattern and so I relished the opportunity to find out why and to share my thoughts on what assessment could look like. As a student, being asked for my thoughts on a topic that is so integral to the university experience was both pleasantly surprising and incredibly encouraging; it allowed me to feel as though I could really shape the programme for myself and others and it enabled me to engage in my degree in a way that I never had before.

When asked to present at the conference with Maddi, it was great to know that those groups had led to a place from which real change could be generated. I agreed to present not just for the valuable public speaking experience that would be useful to have on my CV but, again, to take advantage of the opportunity to share the student’s perspective on assessment, something that affects them more than anyone else. Presenting at the conference was quite a nerve-wracking experience, but one that I’m very grateful I’ve had. I think involving students in these conferences is a fantastic idea as it allows for different perspectives on issues that would otherwise be left unchallenged and encourages collaboration between students and staff.

Having a room full of people, who were all there to learn from each other, listen to our presentation, was a big boost to my own confidence. I also really enjoyed listening to Maddi’s perspective on assessment as it allowed me to consider things that I hadn’t before. It was also lovely to spend time with one of my lecturers outside of the seminar room and I think it allowed for a very natural, open dialogue to take place about a whole range of things, which is harder to come by in formal contact hours. The conference was also a great learning opportunity, as it allowed me to listen to what other universities are doing and reflect on that from the student’s perspective; judging by the majority of the attendees and by the lack of students in the rooms, this isn’t something that happens regularly at these events.

I hope that the success of our presentation encourages other universities and other members of staff within the department to invite their students to share their opinions at these events in the future.’

I was thoroughly impressed by Bethany’s professionalism in delivering her comments at the conference – she was a credit to the university. My conversations travelling to and from the event with Bethany also helped to deepen my own understanding of the assessment issue from the students’ viewpoint: for example, I had thought that risk-aversion informed our students’ antipathy towards exams – Bethany confirmed this but allowed me to see how this is a natural consequence of a fee-paying, ‘high stakes’ environment.

I will certainly involve more students in T&L conference presentations in the future: my experience of this is entirely positive and it allows our students to engage in important conversations with us about their education. Further, within a landscape where graduate employability is key, we have here an opportunity to enable our students to build their experience and to gather skills that may not be available within formal teaching environments.

Outward mobility and real world engagement

Alison Nader and Ali Nicholson, Lecturers, International Study and Language Institute                                                                                            a.m.nader@reading.ac.uk     a.v.nicholson@reading.ac.uk                                                                                                                                                    Year of activity 2017/18

Overview

For the past 2 years UoR students taking IWLP French 20 credit optional modules have had the opportunity to undertake 2 weeks of intensive language study in France at CUEF, Université Grenoble Alpes.

Students arrange their own travel and accommodation with light touch support from IWLP staff.

They now have the possibility to take a credit module based on their experience, in the academic year following their return from France.

 IWLP Students arriving at the CUEF, Université Grenoble Alpes, France

Objectives

  • To give students the opportunity to study and live independently in France for a short period of time.
  • To improve language skills, in particular speaking and listening in real world situations.
  • To offer the opportunity to use their real world experience on a credit bearing IWLP language module.

Context

  • In SSLC meetings and end of year module evaluations, students had been asking for the opportunity to spend a short period of time in France.
  • The placement needed to fit around the students’ core studies.
  • Recognition by UUki that outward mobility experiences are increasingly important for graduate attributes.
  • University of Reading’s ambitious outward mobility targets.

Implementation

Initially this experience was conceived of as a trip abroad, responding to student requests for recommendations of where they could go to take a short intensive language course.  Two members of IWLP staff researched short language courses offered by French universities.  Having identified CUEF, a part of l’Université Grenoble Alpes, as having a suitable offering, IWLP staff visited the Centre, met the French staff and observed teaching on the courses.

Before leaving for France, students are supported with briefing sessions given by IWLP French staff but have to organise travel, accommodation and where necessary visas, themselves.

The classes take place outside UoR term time and to date students have either chosen to go for two weeks during the Easter holidays or in early September.

In the first year 2016-17, 10 students took up the opportunity and this year the expectation is that numbers will increase, 10 have just returned and more will be travelling out in September.  Students have to pay the fees, travel and accommodation.  So far each cohort has received a small bursary from UoR but this is not guaranteed.

In 2017-18 students were offered the opportunity to select a credit bearing placement module on their return.  A small number of students opted to take the module and the improvement in their ability to undertake an oral presentation in French was truly remarkable.

Impact

From the student perspective, their competence in speaking and listening in French demonstrably improved.  The improvement for those who took the credit bearing module was measurable from comparative assessment results before and after the placement.

Students also acquired transferable skills and increased their independence, confidence and motivation.  In feedback one of the students commented: “going by yourself from a country to another implies responsibility and independence” and another mentioned how the experience increased her general confidence.

These gains also came from practising in a real world situation and, for those who had not visited France before, a greater cultural understanding of the country where the language is spoken.  Increased linguistic confidence and cultural awareness was cited in feedback by a student who commented on his motivation for going on the placement, to improve his French as well as to “really understand what it takes to learn French by understanding the culture”.

The mobility opportunity also contributes to the UoR Global engagement strategy and outward mobility targets.

Reflections

Quite apart from an increase in students’ linguistic competence, they gain in independence and heighten their intercultural awareness.  The cohesive group that went to France this spring are themselves from eight different countries.  This time, as a “bonus” they experienced at first hand strikes and blockades of university buildings: coping with all of this strengthened their group cohesion.

In general, on their return, students are enthusiastic ambassadors for learning a language.

Short-term mobility opportunities can attract students who would not be able to go abroad for longer periods, though Home students have said that even a small study abroad bursary or help with the travel costs would encourage more of them to take up this opportunity.

Follow up

Scaling up the offering may be challenging from the organisation and staffing point of view, however it is hoped to extend the opportunity to other languages in the near future.

As the IWLP modules are offered to students from Schools across the university, the mobility placements can contribute to the internationalisation of students university-wide.

Ensuring inclusion, finding sustainable ways of financially supporting students and resourcing staffing are top priorities for future development.

Links

https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/iu_bc_outwd_mblty_student_perception_sept_15.pdf 

http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/International/UK-Strategy-for-outward-student-mobility-2017-2020.pdf

http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/cqsd/University_of_Reading_Curriculum_Framework_for_web_with_infographic.pdf

Placement Modules

https://www.reading.ac.uk/modules/document.aspx?modP=LA1FP3&modYR=1819

https://www.reading.ac.uk/modules/document.aspx?modP=LA1FP4&modYR=1819

https://www.reading.ac.uk/modules/document.aspx?modP=LA1FP5&modYR=1819

 

Exploring different types of video cameras for use in practical classes and outreach By Dr Philippa Cranwell, Mrs Susan Mayes and Dr Jenny Eyley

A successful TLDF application in April provided us with funds to explore the use of different lapel-mounted cameras to look into student-student and student-staff interactions within a practical laboratory environment. This work is still ongoing, but we have learnt some interesting lessons about buying lapel-mounted cameras along the way, and have also used them successfully in outreach initiatives.

Cameras trialled

In total, four types of camera were trialled that cost between £49.95 and £120 (RRP; correct as of August 2017). With all the cameras we purchased additional memory cards, although some were supplied with small memory cards.

The first three were of a similar design; a camera, shaped like a USB stick, with a clip on the back to allow it to be mounted on a pocket. The cameras trialled were: the Veho VCC-003-MUVI-BLK MUVI Micro Digital Camcorder (RRP £39.95); the Conbrov® Spy Cameras DV12 720P (RRP £59.99); and the Conbrov® WF92 1080P (RRP £69.99). All arrived quickly and were very easy to set-up, although none had a screen so it was not possible to see the recording without putting the images onto a computer. We quickly realised that mounting these cameras on a lab-coat pocket was not satisfactory because they were quite weighty and fell forwards, resulting in a great deal of footage of the floor. A body harness was available for the Veho camera (RRP £39.95), which would have addressed this problem, but it was decided not to continue with this style of camera due to the lack of screen resulting in no real-time feedback of recording quality.

L to R: Veho VCC-003-MUVI-BLK MUVI Micro Digital Camcorder; Conbrov® Spy Cameras DV12 720P; Conbrov® WF92 1080P

The camera that was most suitable for our needs was the Apeman Underwater Action Camera Wi-Fi 1080P 14MP Full HD Action Cam Sports Camera 2.0 (RRP £119.90). This camera came with 2 batteries, each recording up to 90 minutes of footage. We purchased micro SD cards separately; cards over 32MB are not supported by this camera. In addition to the camera we purchased a Togetherone Essential Accessories Bundle Kit (RRP £59.99) that provided a large number of additional items to mount the camera as required. Some of the most useful items in the pack included a “selfie-stick” that was used by school children on an outreach visit, a body harness and a head-mounted harness. The camera itself arrived in a plastic container, which is waterproof and protects the camera, but when recording dialogue it is less useful as the sound is muffled. However, there are alternative holders so the camera can be mounted on the body or head in an open case allowing clear dialogue to be captured.

The Apeman Underwater Action Camera Wi-Fi 1080P 14MP Full HD Action Cam Sports Camera 2.0 and the Togetherone Essential Accessories Bundle Kit

Use in outreach

The cameras were successfully used by secondary school students who took part in a trip to Thames Water sewage treatment works. This trip was organised by the chemistry outreach team as part of the Chemistry for All project, in order to show students how chemistry is used in all parts of their daily life. The number of students able to have this experience was limited by the space on the observation platforms, therefore the students used the cameras to film their experience and produce a video diary of the day. The videos will be edited and shared with other students on return to school, widening the reach of the activity beyond the students who attended. The teacher who was in attendance with the students commented that “having the Apeman cameras during the tour meant they were more excited and enjoyed it more”

 

        

Photographs taken by the students at the Thames Water sewage treatment works

Outlook

The Apeman cameras have been a useful addition to the Department, particularly for outreach purposes. We will continue to use the cameras for outreach, and also to undertake some observations of students undertaking practical work for the TLDF-funded project and another internationalisation project in conjunction with ISLI.