Student co-creation of course material in Contract Law

Dr Rachel Horton, School of Law

Overview

The PLaNT project involved the co-creation, with students, of a series and podcasts and other materials for Contract Law (LW1CON). Student leaders consulted with their peers to decide what materials students felt would most enhance learning on the module and then created these together with the Module Convenor.

Objectives

This project aimed to engage current law students as co-creators of course learning material.

Context

Contract Law is a large compulsory first year module – in an average year between 250 and 300 students take the module –  taught using a traditional combination of lectures and small group teaching. Module staff were keen to develop additional resources for students to access, in their own time, through Blackboard and wanted to engage students in developing these.

Implementation

Staff met with selected students to introduce a student curated Blackboard space, in which the students had authoring permissions to generate podcast feeds, which would be accessible to all students enrolled on the module.  These students were then asked to consult with their peers to generate ideas for use of the space/topics for the podcasts.

The student leaders then created a series of podcasts, largely focusing on revision materials and assessment and exam technique by interviewing lecturers on the module. The students also devised and created a series of written materials, in a variety of formats, and lecturers provided feedback on these (chiefly to ensure accuracy) before they were uploaded onto Blackboard.

Impact

The student leaders were highly engaged and enthusiastic and went well beyond their original remit in devising course content. They fed back, informally, that they had found the experience immensely beneficial to their own learning, as well as giving them the opportunity to develop a range of leadership, technical and communication skills.

Statistics on Blackboard showed that the materials were well used by the rest of the cohort, particularly in the immediate run up to the exams. While it proved difficult to recruit students for a focus group after the project had finished, in order to gain more structured feedback, student representatives commented at the Staff Student Liaison Committee that they had received very positive feedback from students about the additional materials created through the project.

Reflections

The success of the activity was largely a result of the enthusiasm, imagination and commitment of the students involved. We were lucky to recruit students who were able to work very well together, and with their peers, to create resources to genuinely enhance learning, and to fill gaps in course materials that may otherwise have gone unnoticed by staff.

The project also offered an opportunity for the teaching staff on the module to reflect on the content and format of materials students want. Even after the funded project has finished this proved very helpful in enabling us to continue to produce similar materials, particularly once teaching had to move online in the wake of COVID-19.

The project and funding began in the Spring term and with hindsight it would have been beneficial to start the project earlier in the course. In particular this would have provided opportunity for gathering more structured feedback from the whole cohort (it was difficult to secure a meaningful student response to feedback once the summer exams were over.)

Follow up

The materials produced by the students remain relevant for future cohorts and will continue to be made available. New materials will be developed along similar lines, with student input wherever possible, particularly next year as lectures move wholly online.

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.

Universally Speaking: crossing cultural & generational boundaries – a seminar series

Dan Jones, School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences, d.jones6@reading.ac.uk

 

Overview

The ‘Universally Speaking’ series provides a platform for students, staff and community members to exchange ideas on culture, heritage, customs, values and traditions, via a seminar presentation. Each seminar is followed by an informal drinks reception to facilitate further discussion and interactions between the different communities.

Objectives

  • To offer an outstanding holistic student learning experience by promoting extra-curricular activities in the School.
  • To celebrate and promote the diverse School: lends on the diverse experiences of our staff, students and local communities to help students become global citizens and directly experience the benefits of a diverse and multinational learning environment.
  • To equip students with the aspirations, confidence and skills: opportunity to present and talk to a range of different people.

Context

The School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences is a wonderfully diverse School – this series was launched to promote and celebrate this diversity. The series provides an opportunity for members of the School to reflect upon different experiences and perspectives of the world, and to take a moment to discuss these with others. Ultimately, it is a tool to promote and explore difference, leading to greater tolerance and acceptance of it.

Implementation

Once funding was gained, along with the student partner, we formed a student committee to help support the different aspects of the series: promotion, advertisement, organisation, and invitations to community members. The committee was made up of five students, and two members of staff (myself included). The seminars were run on a monthly basis, starting in February 2019 and running until June 2019. Talks were delivered by a range of volunteers: UG students, PGR students, PCLS staff and other University members (including the University Chaplain, who is hopefully going to repeat their highly interesting session).

Overall, the series was a success, with positive feedback received and a consistent attendance, including up to eight members of the public attending the final session of the academic year. Due to the positive reception, we are hoping to make this a permanent fixture on the PCLS calendar.

Impact

The feedback on the series has been overwhelmingly positive. Quotes from attendees nicely summarise the benefits that have been gained from the series so far:

“The ability to increase my knowledge on other countries education and research style/system. Learn about peoples’ experience – first-hand experience. Love it!”

“Hearing about the differences from personal perspectives. Helping people embracing the differences.”

“Really interesting to hear about cultures and customs in other countries and how one should consider them when assessing actions and situations.”

Many of the quotes reflect on learning about and understanding difference; skills that lead to more tolerance and acceptance of difference – ultimately, this is what the series contributes to the PCLS community.

Reflections

The only negative of the series was attendance: considering the size of PCLS, we only averaged around 40 attendees across the series. There were several reasons why this may have been the case, including the timing, exam periods and advertising. We are aiming to address these issues if the series is to continue. One step that we have taken is to utilise the skills of the School marketing officer to help with promotion and advertising.

Follow up

The launch of the seminar series was made possible with PLANT funding – this funding ended in July 2019. To maintain the series over the course of the next academic year, and to enable collaboration with other groups across the University, additional funding has been sought from the School of PCLS. We already have the next seminar planned for January 2020, in collaboration with the UoR Islamic Society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev Dr Mark Laynesmith, Anglican Chaplain at the University, reports on a project set up with the University’s Institute of Education to explore increasing knowledge diversity among school children.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging students in the design of assessment criteria

Dr Maria Kambouri-Danos, Institute of Education                                                                                                                m.kambouridanos@reading.ac.uk                                                                                                                                                                                            Year of activity 2017/18

Overview

I recently led a group of colleagues while working in partnership with students to develop a new module in BA in Children’s Development and Learning (BACDL) delivered at the Institute of Education (IoE). This approach to working in partnership with students is a core part of the project’s aim and the work described here has been part of a Partnerships in Learning & Teaching (PLanT) project.

Objective

The team’s aim was to develop and finalise a new module for BACDL in close partnership with the students. The new module will replace two existing modules (starting from 2018-19), aiming to reduce overall assessment (programme level), a need identified during a Curriculum Review Exercise. The objective was to adopt an inclusive approach to student engagement when finalising the new module, aiming to:

  • Go beyond feedback and engage students by listening to the ‘student voice’
  • Co-develop effective and student-friendly assessable outcomes
  • Identify opportunities for ‘assessment for learning’
  • Think about constructive alignment within the module
  • Encourage the development of student-staff partnerships

Context

To accomplish the above, I brought together five academics and six students (BACDL as well as Foundation Degree (FDCDL) students). Most of the students on this programme are mature students (i.e. with dependants) who are working full time while attending University (1 day/week). To encourage students from this ‘hard to reach group’ to engage with the activity, we secured funding through the Partnerships in Learning & Teaching scheme, which enabled the engagement of a more diverse group (Trowler, 2010).

Implementation

The team participated in four partnership workshops, during which staff and students engaged in activities and discussions that helped to develop and finalise the new module. During the first workshop, we discussed the aims of the collaborative work and went through the module’s summary, aims and assessable outcomes. We looked at the two pre-existing modules and explored merging them into a new module, maintaining key content and elements of quality. During the second workshop, we explored chapter two from the book ‘Developing Effective Assessment in Higher Education: a practical guide’ (Bloxham & Boyd, 2007), which guided the discussions around developing the assessment design for the new module.

During the third workshop, we discussed aspects of summative and formative tasks and finalised the assessment design (Knight, 2012). We then shared the new module description with the whole BACDL cohort and requested feedback, which enabled us to get other students’ views, ensuring a diverse contribution of views and ideas (Kuh, 2007). During the last workshop, with support from the Centre of Quality Support and Development (CQSD) team, we implemented a game format workshop and created a visual ‘storyboard’, outlining the type and sequence of learning activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes (ABC-workshop http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/abc-ld/home/abc-workshop-resources/). This helped to identify and evaluate how the new module links with the rest of the modules, while it also helped to think about practical aspects of delivering the module and ways to better support the students (e.g. through a virtual learning environment).

Photos from staff-student partnership workshops

Impact

The close collaboration within the team ensured that the student voice was heard and taken into account while developing the new module. The partnership workshops provided the time to think collaboratively about constructive alignment and ensure that the new module’s assessment enables students to learn. It also ensured that the module’s assessable outcomes are clearly defined using student-friendly language.

A pre- and post-workshop survey was used to evaluate the impact of this work. The survey measured the degree to which students appreciate the importance of providing feedback, participate in activities related to curriculum review/design, feel part of a staff-student community and feel included in developing their programme. The survey results indicate an increase in relation to all of the above, demonstrating the positive impact of activities like this on student experience. All students agreed that it has been beneficial to take part in this collaborative work, mentioning that being engaged in the process, either directly (attending the workshops) or indirectly (providing feedback) helped them to develop a sense of belonging and feel part of the community of staff and students working together (Trowle, 2010; Kuh, 2005;2007).

Reflections

This project supported the successful development of the new module, from which future students will benefit (Kuh, 2005). The work that the team produced has also informed the work of other groups within the IoE. At the institutional level, this work has supported the development of the CQSD ‘Student Engagement’ projects. All the above were achieved because of close collaboration, and could not have been done by a group of individuals working on their own (Wheatley, 2010). Because of that, our team was awarded the University Collaborative Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning.

References

Bloxham, S. & Boyd, P. (2007). Developing effective assessment in higher education: a practical guide. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Knight, P. (Ed.). (2012). Assessment for learning in higher education. Routledge.

Kuh, G.D. (2005). Putting Student Engagement Results to Use: Lessons from the Field, Assessment Update. 17(1), 12–1.

Kuh, G.D. (2007). How to Help Students Achieve, Chronicle of Higher Education. 53(41), 12–13.

Trowler, V. (2010). Student engagement literature review. The Higher Education Academy.

Wheatley, M. (2010). Finding our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler

Henley students’ social media engagement

Alina Maroukian, Henley Business School                                        a.maroukian@henley.ac.uk                                                                                                              Year of activity: 2016/17

Overview

A group of Henley Business School students supported the digital marketing team by creating content for social media use and providing social media support at key events. By creating social media content the students helped improve engagement on Henley Business School’s social channels and helped provide a student voice. At the same time, they gained work experience and developed their skills.

Objectives

  • To build their understanding of social media marketing through practice
  • To enhance their collaboration and prioritisation skills
  • To improve engagement on all social media channels, especially at key events
  • To provide our social media channels with more of a student voice.

Context

The activity was undertaken to assist the Henley Business School Digital team and simultaneously to provide students with valuable work experience and the opportunity to gain a reference as a result of their efforts.

Implementation

The Henley Business school digital team provided students with training on the digital Sprout Social platform and provided guidance for posting content. Students were provided with support at every stage of the process and they were provided with additional equipment, when necessary (such as tripod, portable battery pack, ipod, etc) at Henley Business school events. We asked students to keep a simple record of the activities they did on a spreadsheet (template provided to them) and requested they do 3 pieces/ week– where a publishing a post, or acquiring a testimonial from a fellow student or taking part in live-tweeting would constitute 1 activity. We gave them the tools to do this in the time that suited them best and always ensured their studies came first. The 3 pieces/ week was a rough guide of average to do and we kept it flexible so that exam times / holidays were given as exceptions.

Impact

The main objective was to improve our social media performance and to promote our student voice more. On Twitter the student helpers reached 4.2k and had 31 engagements. On Instagram they had a 12.3k reach and 748 engagements. This drastically helped show a more relatable social media student presence on Instagram and Twitter.

Reflections

Having students help with social media did prove to be very successful as it helped increase engagement on our channels but also gave them opportunity to develop their skills. The key was that, after initial digital training, the students were provided with a level of flexibility with their content and working hours. The activity could be taken further and if students were provided with hourly pay this might provide more motivation and lead to an increase in the amount of social media student posts, as well as a higher quality within their work. By an increased amount of posts they would help increase our social media presence even further and improve our engagement levels. Also, we could enhance their input by training them further on content production.

Follow up

We are looking into the possibility of using Campus Jobs to hire students for ad hoc work similar to what was done in 2016-17, as it proved to be successful. We will be adding content production to the type of work they can take part in as their input last year revealed that there is an interest. This is for on-the-go videos and photos on a mobile device but with training for optimum results.

Links

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSLlchAj8ii/?taken-by=henleybschool
The above video was taken by Henley Business School students and it received 2,190 views on social media. Other examples include:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/HenleyBusinessSchool/videos/?ref=page_internal
https://twitter.com/HenleyBSchool/status/837038728753397760
https://www.instagram.com/p/BTWNRlxjP7d/?taken-by=henleybschool
https://www.instagram.com/p/BRnuXXxD9ph/?taken-by=henleybschool
https://www.instagram.com/p/BQlhsD3jecs/?taken-by=henleybschool
https://www.instagram.com/p/BQDNMOzh4Ju/?taken-by=henleybschool
However this is only a sample, the work was spread out throughout the academic year 2016-17.

 

 

Syllabusless: Students and staff engaging through research

Nathalie Folkerts, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science nathaliefolkerts@gmail.com                                                                                                          Year of activity: 2016/17

Overview

In this project, a group of students collaborated with academic staff in SAGES and the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (SAPD), the two Schools that share the MSc Environmental Management programme, in order to create a database of interviews that would help inform future students’ choices for dissertation topics, supervisors, and module selection. Students discussed research interests and opportunities for engagement while also engaging on a more personal level, learning about topics such as research horror stories and favourite pastimes. This project was completed with the hope that future students would be able to learn more about their professors, whom they may not meet or have much opportunity to interact with, but whom they may want to have supervise their dissertation or discuss potential research projects with. These interviews were curated into 5-10 minute videos that will enable future students to learn more about academic staff, their classes, and the potential for research opportunities. Seven interviews were completed and compiled into a website that will continue to be expanded in coming years.

Objectives

  • Increase student-staff collaboration on and understanding of research projects and opportunities outside of the classroom
  • Allow students to learn about potential opportunities for research and dissertation topics
  • Allow students to learn about and better match with potential supervisors

Context

The MSc Environmental Management program is split between SAGES and SAPD; while this offers students an ability to interact with and pursue classes in a wide range of specialties, it also makes it difficult to understand all of the opportunities available and to connect to professors you may want to research with or have supervise your dissertation. Therefore, this project aims to help MSc Environmental Management students and others begin getting to learn more about their professors.

Implementation

I coordinated a group of 5-6 students who were interested in performing the interviews. We developed the questions and a plan for how to progress moving forward. Some of our questions included:

  • Could you give us an elevator pitch for why students should care about your field and research?
  • Who is your academic hero?
  • What is a recent finding in your research?
  • Do you have any research horror stories?
  • If you were stranded on a desert island, what are three items you would bring with you?

We assigned different professors to each individual to contact and interview. Because of scheduling conflicts, this process took most of the spring term. I then compiled and edited the videos, uploaded them to a new website, which will be made available and discussed with future students.

Screenshot from Exploring Research Opportunities website
Screenshot from Exploring Research Opportunities website

Impact

We successfully completed 7 interviews with faculty members in SAPD and SAGES with several student volunteers. We also developed a website to house the videos and to provide future students with more information on academic staff and research opportunities. Now that the interview structure and website interface is developed, future students will be able to benefit and contribute to this project, allowing its impact to continue growing.

Reflections

Overall, this project was successful in creating a space and platform for students and staff to connect on a more personal level outside of the classroom. One of the main difficulties in executing this project was finding students and staff who felt comfortable participating and who had sufficient time in their schedule. Because of this, we completed fewer interviews than originally planned. However, the professors we interviewed spanned a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds, and we also established a simple and easily replicated format for future interviews. We created a sample script and now have several example videos that will allow future interviews to proceed smoothly and quickly. Additionally, continuing to add to this project year-round would allow more time to coordinate with student and staff busy schedules. This groundwork will therefore allow the project to continue to expand in future years.

Follow up

This project had multiple iterations and changed significantly over time. Working with other students who were interested in performing the interviews, we developed the final set of questions and format we would want to use. We opted for short interviews that we recorded and uploaded to a website. We decided, given the availability of professors, that it would be better to develop this into a resource for future students rather than a shorter project aimed at current students. Students will be able to use this interview collection as a resource, and as other professors see the purpose and format of the project, they may also be interested in completing interviews remotely to be uploaded onto the platform, thus expanding the project’s use. Due to the change in audience and a conflict with another departmental event, we had to cancel the original idea for an end-of-year event mixer where students could meet and mingle with professors, lecturers and fellows. However, as the project continues to expand, this may be something to consider in future years.

Links

https://exploreuorenvironment.wordpress.com/

Supporting diversity through targeted language skills development

Alison Fenner, Lecturer, International Study and Language Institute  j.a.fenner@reading.ac.uk                                                                                                               Year of activity: 2016/17

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 (IWLP). 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 UoR 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 major factors 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.

 

Engaging students as partners in the redesign of an existing course curriculum

Dr Despoina Mantzari, School of Law
d.mantzari@reading.ac.uk

Overview

In June 2016 I was awarded a small University of Reading Teaching and Learning grant with the objective to involve a group of ten postgraduate taught students from the School of Law as partners in the process of redesigning the curriculum of a core postgraduate taught module. This entry reflects on the process of engaging students as partners in the redesign of an existing course curriculum. It discusses how insights from the burgeoning literature on students as partners in higher education informed the process and assesses the outcomes of the latter for improving and supporting teaching and learning.

Objectives

  • To listen to the ‘student voice’ before course delivery, by proactively engaging students as partners in the redesign of the module.
  • To co-create learning experiences in collaboration with students that goes beyond the student satisfaction surveys and other ex-post forms of evaluation.
  • To redesign a module so that it is both engaging and empowering.

Context

The module Advanced International Commercial Law Issues (LWMTAI), being a core compulsory module of the new LLM, had to be redesigned so as to fit into the new programme requirements. In doing so, I wanted to listen to the ‘student voice’ before course delivery, by proactively engaging students as partners in the redesign of the module. This exercise departs from current practice in higher education, where ‘student voice’ is largely heard following the completion of the taught component of the module on a Module Evaluation Form.

Implementation

Guided by the values of inclusion and partnership, I first emailed all students enrolled on the module in its pre-revised form (2015-16) and introduced the project and its aims, and invited expressions of interest. In order to further test the modules’ renewed approach to the theoretical framework and other relevant components, I also invited a group of five students who had never been enrolled on the module to participate in the project. In selecting this latter group of five students, I was guided by considerations of diversity, both in terms of ethnic and cultural background as well as prior exposure to commercial law. Inviting all LLM students who had never enrolled on the project would have been inappropriate for the aims of the project and would render it difficult to manage. Both previously used (prior to 2015-16) and revised module description forms (to be introduced in 2016-17) of the module were circulated to both groups along with a questionnaire. All students involved were asked to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the module, as reflected in the module description forms, along with other concerns or recommendations they wished to share. These were discussed during a two-hour event, open to all students participating in the project and School of Law staff involved in postgraduate taught and undergraduate Law teaching.

Impact

The project enhanced student motivation and engagement, and fostered the development of a learning community within the School of Law. Students enjoyed their participation in the project and in particular their contribution to the event that followed. They were fascinated by their collaboration with staff and by their active role in critically reviewing the course curriculum.

The project also helped students to review their own learning process and allowed them to develop an increased sense of leadership and motivation. It also increased their confidence to express their views in academic settings. Student involvement facilitated the design of the module in ways that significantly improved it.

The project had a transformative effect on the way I perceive my role as an educator and the boundaries thereof.

Reflections

Three key factors contributed to the project’s success:

First, the fact that I ‘institutionalised’ the project by applying for a University of Reading Teaching and Learning Small Research Grant not only allowed me to fund the activities, but also raised the profile of the project in the eyes of both students and staff.

Second, the careful selection of those elements of the curriculum redesign that would be part of the student-staff partnership. I opted for a model of interaction where students are given limited choice and influence. The reason for this related to the nature of the project, which concerned the redesign of an existing module in its entirety. When engaging students as partners, reciprocity cannot always be fulfilled, as high-stake issues of module redesigns, such as the theoretical framework or methods of assessment cannot be entirely handed over to students. Students may find themselves confused if a tutor hands over total control of such an important element without preparation or guidance. Such practice may jeopardise the gatekeeper function of the educator.

The third element went to the heart of student as partner practice: how many students to involve in the project, and by which means. The literature suggests that students as partners can involve work with individuals, small groups, and situations where students are invited to become partners, or even elected or selected. While the literature has drawn attention to the potential benefits of whole cohort approaches, it may be difficult, impossible, or even undesirable in some contexts to involve all students at all times. In this case, a whole-cohort approach could not be adopted, as some students enrolled in the module in its pre-revised form had already left the University. Furthermore, selecting students could potentially undermine the values of inclusion, respect and responsibility that underpin the students as partners approach. Meaningful partnership requires a high level of equality and contribution from partners, and that would be jeopardised by implementing an approach that would invite to the project only student that the module convenor deemed suitable to participate.

Development of the BARS blog

Dr Francoise Mazet, Biological Sciences
f.m.mazet@reading.ac.uk
Year of activity: 2015/16

Overview

We developed BARS (Bioscience ARticles for Reading Students), a blog showcasing the written work of Part Three students from the School of Biological Sciences. The blog is managed by students working closely with academic staff. This project will increase students’ awareness and skills that are applicable to all areas of scientific writing.

Objectives

  • To establish a student-led scientific blog.
  • To increase the public profile and dissemination of student coursework.
  • To provide the opportunity for students to apply their academic skills in a professional context.
  • To develop an alternative resource for teaching and outreach.

Context

BARS is the extension of the module Seminars in Biology (BI3S78) which aims to introduce students to research seminars and scientific writing. The aim was to introduce an extra-curricular aspect that would give a ‘real world’ aspect to the coursework.

Implementation

The BARS blog was launched on the University of Reading server in April 2016 after initial discussions with the lead student. A small committee made up of students and staff was established to shortlist written work from the Seminars in Biology module using a set of guidelines (scientific accuracy, relevance, interest and style of writing. The blog was advertised through the Seminars in Biology module, social media (Twitter and Facebook) and the Reading University Biological Sciences Society (RUBSS).

Impact

Although the publication of the work only started in late April, the students were aware of the possibility for their work to be selected and published since early January. We noticed many students were more engaged and communicating more with the staff regarding the assignments.

The blog is being advertised to this year’s students as having examples of high quality scientific writing from their peers and we hope to see a continuing interest from the students to write with a wider audience in mind.

Reflections

Departing from a purely academic exercise for the assignments seems to have enhanced the students’ engagement with the research seminars, however we think the blog would have been more successful had the project been available at the beginning of the academic year. As it was, it did not begin before the middle of the Spring term and thus limited the opportunity for students to engage. With this in mind, any future modifications to or advertising of the blog will be started in the first week of the Autumn term. We also plan on advertising the blog more widely to staff who in turn could consider integrating the blog with their modules.

Follow up

Changes to the learning outcomes of the Seminars in Biology module will be integrated this year, and should increase the scope and diversity of the written material. We also aim to widen student participation to include other year groups, modules and programmes, and eventually students and staff from other Life Science schools.

Links

BARS blog