A Partnership in SLL to Enhance Blended Learning Practices: an Analysis of the Process and Findings

Michael Lyons- School of Literature and Languages

m.lyons@reading.ac.uk 

Link back to case studies on the T and L Exchange website

Overview

PEBLSS (a Partnership to Enhance Blended Learning – between Staff and Students) was a project seeking to strengthen teaching and learning in SLL. It particularly focuses on enhancing methods of teaching and learning amidst the extraordinary conditions faced by staff and students which has resulted in the transition into blended and online learning.

Context

A survey was designed and sent to students within the School of Literature and Languages, to identify members of staff who have excelled at blended learning during the Covid-19 pandemic 2020-2021. This was done by identifying three key areas of learning (pre-recorded lectures, live sessions, and assessment) and asking students to name the members of staff whom they believe stood out based on each of these core areas and their reasons behind this. Interviews were conducted to complete case studies based on these responses. Overall, 76 students responded to the survey.

We aimed to reduce “survey fatigue” due to the substantial number of surveys that students have received throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, by keeping the questions to short answers and multiple-choice, students were more likely to respond and contribute their ideas within the survey.

Once the surveys were collected, the results were analysed to identify the members of staff that proved to have stood out among the students in each of the core areas. From this, interviews were arranged and conducted to allow for the chosen members of staff to expand on their experience of teaching during the blended learning approach.

Objectives

The questions were designed to obtain specific examples of good teaching practices, and for the members of staff to

  1. elaborate on their successful methods.
  2. discover what teaching practices were successfully put into place and the ways they could be adapted into future teaching.
  3. retrieving information from nominated staff regarding how they continued to carry out assessments and ensure students felt supported in their assessments in the transition to the blended learning environment.

Implementation

Thirty minutes was designated per interview; however, many of the interviews extended beyond the time frame due the detail of the answers. Interviews were recorded and saved onto Microsoft Stream, for the researchers to conduct further analysis.

Impact

Summary of findings for the pre-recorded lectures

  • Pre-recorded lectures offered the opportunity to bring in new, innovative audio-visual materials to support and enhance sessions. It was noted that different modes of delivery are important.
  • Pre-recorded lectures were received well when language and style of speech was concise but exaggerated. More emphasis is needed on the speech style rather than gestures (and other paralinguistic features), as these are lost online. Additionally, potentially politically sensitive topics need extra consideration for online sessions.
  • Guides about timeframes (like a week-by-week schedule) are useful for the organisation of pre-recorded lectures. Students know what they are learning when; examples of these practices were demonstrated in the interviews by a word document calendar, or a weekly bitesize email.
  • It was advised that longer segments for the pre-recorded lectures should be avoided. 20-minute segments were recommended, as this makes the sessions concise but the content for the segment is still detailed,thus maintaining student engagement online.
  • It is also advisable to have weekly folders, clearly labelled, with the pre-recorded lectures (with an embedded link), PowerPoint presentation, and any other specific resources or worksheets relevant to the screencast.
  • It was noted that it was advantageous to have short videos of around 2-3 minutes in length to go over the concepts of the lecture; this makes it easier for students to revise. It also ensures that staff have covered important materials more than once e.g., prioritisation of information.
  • Useful to have several check-ins with students near the beginning and middle of the module so that feedback about the pre-recorded lectures can be acted on whilst students are learning.
  • Discussion boards were useful for the screencast exercises and promoted more student engagement. It was another useful tool for students to feedback about the screencasts, or if they had any questions.
  • Timestamping information was beneficial. Outlining to students when certain parts or concepts are going to show in the pre-recorded lecture was advantageous because students can use the timestamps to revise specific information.
    • It was noted that pre-recorded lectures were challenging because of the constraints of timing, editing and personalisation of content. Additionally, use of the pre-recorded lectures for the future was a topic under discussion in the interviews. Staff recognised the benefits of having the pre-existing screencasts; however, ensuring the information was up-to-date and engaging for current students was a concern. It was also noted that if the pre-recorded lectures were personalised this year for current students, the session would need to be updated or reproduced for the next year group.

 

Summary of findings for the live sessions

  • The advantages of live sessions:
  • Attendance is strong – reflected in the marking
  • Online sessions easier than socially distanced face-to-face sessions for discussions and facilitating dialogue
  • Sharing of files – OneNote/Blackboard/Collaborate
  • The number of methods identified to help increase student participation

The disadvantages of live sessions:

  • Technology – Learning new technology – reliance of technology, difficult if not working

Reflection

This project has been widely beneficial, not only in identifying current good teaching practices, but also finding methods to help for future pre-recorded lectures, live sessions, and assessments. The project was also beneficial for us as students. In identifying good practices during the pandemic, we were able to feed this information back to staff (and students) at the Teach Share event on the 29th of June 2021.

Overall, it is evident from this project that there are many teaching practices used by staff both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic that are beneficial to other members of staff (as well as the students) and therefore this project highlighted how important it is to share teaching practices, not only within individual departments, but school and university-wide.

Learning to Interpret and Assess Complex and Incomplete Environmental Data

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

Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences

Overview

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

Context

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

Objectives

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

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

 

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

Implementation

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

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

Impact

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

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

Student quotes included:

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

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

Reflections

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

Follow up

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

Links and References

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

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

Improving student assessment literacy & engaging students with rubrics

Dr. Allan Laville

School of Psychology & Clinical Languages Sciences

In this 14 minute video, early rubrics adopter Dr. Allan Laville shares how he and colleagues in Psychology have sought to improve student assessment literacy, and have successfully engaged students with their assessment rubrics by embedding analysis of them into their in-class teaching and by using screencasts, discussion boards and student partnership. Lots of useful ideas and advice – well worth a watch.

Supporting Transition: Investigating students’ experiences of transferring from University of Reading Malaysia campus (UoRM) to the University of Reading UK campus (UoR)

Daniel Grant, Associate Professor in Clinical Pharmacy & Pharmacy Education, Pharmacy Director of Teaching & Learning & Dr Taniya Sharmeen Research Fellow

 

Click here to read the full report.

 

This slide summarises the project:

 

 

 

The DEL Feedback Action Plan

Madeleine Davies, Cindy Becker and Michael Lyons- SLL

Overview

A feedback audit and consultation with the Student Impact Network revealed a set of practices DEL needs to amend. The research produced new student-facing physical and online posters, designed by a ‘Real Jobs’ student, to instruct students on finding their feedback online, and generated ‘marking checklists’ for staff to indicate what needs to be included in feedback and what needs to be avoided.

Objectives

  • To assess why students scored DEL poorly on feedback in NSS returns
  • To consult with students on types of feedback they considered useful
  • To brief colleagues on good practice feedback
  • To produce consistency (but not conformity) in terms of, for example, the amount of feedback provided, feedforward, full feedback for First Class work, etc.
  • To assess whether marking rubrics would help or hinder DEL feedback practice

Context

The ‘DEL Feedback Action Project’ addresses the persistent issue of depressed NSS responses to Department of English Literature assessment and feedback practices. The responses to questions in ‘teaching quality’ sections are favourable but the 2018 NSS revealed that, for English Studies, Reading is in the third quartile for the ’Assessment and Feedback’ section and the bottom quartile for question 8 (scoring 64% vs the 74% median score) and question 9 (scoring 70% vs the 77% median score).

In October 2018, DEL adopted eSFG. An EMA student survey undertaken in January 2019 polled 100 DEL students and found that, though students overwhelmingly supported the move to eSFG, complaints about the quality of DEL feedback persisted.

Implementation

Michael Lyons began the project with an audit of DEL feedback and identified a number of areas where the tone or content of feedback may need improving. This material was taken to the Student Impact Network which was shown anonymised samples of feedback. Students commented on it. This produced a set of indicators which became the basis of the ‘marking checklist’ for DEL staff. Simultaneously, DEL staff were asked to discuss feedback practice in ‘professional conversations’ for the annual Peer Review exercise. This ensured that the combined minds of the whole department were reflecting on this issue

Student consultation also revealed that many students struggle to find their feedback online. With this in mind, we collaborated with TEL to produce ‘maps to finding feedback’ for students. A ‘Real Jobs’ student designer converted this information into clear, readable posters which can be displayed online or anywhere in the University (the information is not DEL-specific). The posters will be of particular use for incoming students but our research also suggested that Part 3 students are often unaware of how to access feedback.

The results of the initial audit and consultation with students indicated where our feedback had been falling short. We wrote a summary of these finding for DEL HoD and DDTL.

Research into marking rubrics revealed that DEL marking would not be suited to using this feedback practice. This is because they can be inflexible and because DEL students resist ‘generic’ feedback.

Impact

The student-facing posters and staff-facing ‘marking checklist’ speak to two of the main issues with DEL feedback that were indicated by students. The latter will deter overly-brief, curt feedback and will prompt more feedforward and comment about specific areas of the essay (for example, the Introductory passage, the essay structure, referencing, grammar, use of secondary resources, etc).

With DEL staff now focused on the feedback issue, and with students equipped to access their feedback successfully, we are hoping to see a marked improvement in NSS scores in this area in 2020-21.

For ‘surprises’, see ‘Reflections’.

Reflections

The pressure on academic staff to mark significant amounts of work within tight deadlines can lead to potential unevenness in feedback. We are hoping that our research prompts DEL to streamline its assessment practice to enhance the quality and consistency of feedback and feedforward.

Students’ responses in the Student Impact Network also suggested that additional work is required on teaching students how to receive feedback. Over-sensitivity in some areas can produce negative scores. With this in mind, the project will terminate with an equivalent to the ‘marking checklist’ designed for students. This will remind students that feedback is anonymous, objective, and intended to pave the way to success.

Follow up

Monitoring NSS DEL feedback scores in the 2020-21 round, and polling students in the next session to ensure that they are now able to access their feedback.

Continuing to reflect on colleagues’ marking workload and the link between this and unconstructive feedback.

 

 

How ISLI moved to full online teaching in four weeks

Daniela Standen, ISLI

Overview

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

Objectives 

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

Context  

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

Implementation

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

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

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

Impact

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

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

Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

Follow up

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

Links

https://www.reading.ac.uk/ISLI/  

Using Psychological Techniques to get the most out of your Feedback

Zainab Abdulsattar (student – Research Assistant), Tamara Wiehe (staff – PWP Clinical Educator) and Dr Allán Laville, a.laville@reading.ac.uk, (Dean for D&I and Lecturer in Clinical Psychology). School of Psychology and CLS.

Overview

To help Part 3 MSci Applied Psychology students address the emotional aspect of engaging with and interpreting assessment feedback, we have created a Blackboard feedback tool, which draws on self-help strategies used in NHS Mental Health services. This was a TLDF funded project by CQSD and we reflect upon the usefulness of the tool in terms of helping students manage their assessment feedback in a more positive and productive way for both now and the future.

Objectives

  • To explore the barriers to interpreting and implementing feedback through the creation of a feedback-focused tool for Blackboard
  • To transfer aspects of NHS self-help strategies to the tool
  • To acknowledge the emotional aspect of addressing assessment feedback in Higher Education
  • To support students to engage effectively with feedback

Context

Assessment and feedback are continually rated as the lowest item on student surveys despite efforts from staff to address this. Whilst staff can certainly continue to improve on their practices surrounding providing feedback, our efforts turned to how we could improve student engagement in this area. Upon investigation of existing feedback-focused tools, it has become apparent that many do not acknowledge the emotional aspect of addressing assessment feedback. For example, the ‘Development Engagement with Feedback Toolkit (DEFT)’ has useful components like a glossary helping students with academic jargon, but it does not provide resources to help with feedback related stress. The aim was to address the emotional aspect of interpreting feedback in the form of a self-help tool.

Implementation

 Zainab Abdulsattar’s experience:

Firstly, we carried out a literature review on feedback in higher education and the use of self-help resources like cognitive restructuring within the NHS used to treat anxiety and depression. These ideas were taken to the student focus group: to gather students’ thoughts and opinions on what type of resource they would like to help them understand and use their feedback.

Considering ideas from the literature review and the focus group, we established the various components of the tool: purpose of feedback video, problem solving and cognitive restructuring techniques, reflective log and where to go for further support page. Then, we started the creation of our prototype Blackboard tool. At tool creation stage, we worked collaboratively with the TEL team (Maria, Matt and Jacqueline) to help format and launch the tool. Upon launch, students were given access to the tool via Blackboard and a survey to complete once they had explored and used the tool.

Impact

Our prototype Blackboard tool met the main objective of the project, to address the emotional aspect of the interpreting assessment feedback. The cognitive restructuring resource aimed to identify, challenge and re-balance students negative or stressful thoughts related to receiving feedback. Some students reported in the tool survey that they found this technique useful.

As well as this, the examples seemed to help students link their past experiences of not getting a good grade. Students also appreciated the interactive features like the video of the lecturer [addressing the fact that feedback is not a personal attack] and were looking forward to the tool being fully implemented during their next academic year. Overall, the student survey was positive with the addition of some suggestions such as making the tool smart phone friendly and altering the structure of the main page for ease of use.

Reflections

Zainab Abdulsattar’s reflections:

The success of the tool lied in the focus group and literature review contributions because the students’ focus group tool ideas helped to further contribute to the evidence-based self-help ideas gathered from the latter. Importantly, the hope is that the tool can act as an academic aid promoting and improving students’ independence in self-managing feedback in a more positive and productive way. Hopefully this will alleviate feedback-related stress for both now and the future in academic and work settings.

Follow up

In the future, we hope to expand the prototype tool into a more established feedback-focused tool. To make the tool even more use-friendly, we could consider improving the initial main contents page. For example, presenting the options like ‘I want to work on improving x’ then lead on to the appropriate self-help resource instead of simply starting with the resource options [e.g. problem solving, reflective log].

Seeds of Diversity: 90 years and growing

Melanie Jay and Suzy Tutchell, Institute of Education

The Project

Seeds of Diversity was an ambitious, enriching and highly creative project drawing together the University of Reading’s community of teachers and learners to produce a collaborative and evolving sculptural installation. This innovative project celebrated the University’s roots and growth over the past 90 years as well as reflecting future aspirations. Sculptural ceramic seeds were created over 10 months and planted within the campus grounds’ as an installation and a final cross-disciplinary celebration at the end of the academic year.

Seeds of Diversity is now a sculptural installation made up of hundreds of ceramic seed pods created by partnership schools, staff, students, pupils and visitors. The creation of the pods was overseen by art-based tutors commensurate with existing and experimental customs and inspired by contemporary ceramic practice. Participants were invited to sculpt a seed in clay or to decorate a readymade form with a design which reflected their connection to the University.

Importantly, the workshop involved our ceramicist-in-resident, Sue Mundy. Sue, who is a prestigious artist in the world of ceramics and is an integral part of our ongoing vibrant artist-in-residency programme at the IoE, enriched the process further with her professional expertise and knowledge-base. The project naturally evolved over the duration of the year in response to a widening community interest stemming from our initial workshops. This development included working with Grant Pratt, a local raku expert, owner of Blue Matchbox Gallery in Tilehurst. Two raku firings provided participants with the opportunity to experiment with glazing and firing their pods in an outside kiln – this was a truly magical experience for all involved, even on the coldest of days.

“It was like a multi-sensory experience, the smell of the wood and burning materials was evocative of a smoke-house in Whitby!” (Andrew Happle, Lecturer in Science Education).

We worked with a varied and wide range of participants including:

  • 5 x local primary schools
  • Reading Boys school
  • Wokingham secondary art teachers
  • Primary Art Network teachers
  • Secondary PGCE art students and D&T students
  • PGCE primary students (whole cohort)
  • BA Ed Y2 (whole cohort)
  • BA Ed Art specialists (Years 1, 2 & 3)
  • IoE Staff: Teaching and Research, Technical, Administrative
  • Marvellous Mums project
  • PGEYT students

Impact

The impact of the project was multitudinous as highlighted by the following participants’ responses:

  1. To inform, extend and enrich staff and student learning, working in conjunction with existing teaching and resource-based facilities

“I feel the success of the project was heavily due to the incredible facilities that are available. Facilities that state schools cannot fund themselves and therefore providing the children with opportunities like this has been amazing.” (Katie Purdy, alumni and head teacher)

  1. To create a collaborative art installation on the University campus grounds:

“Every time I arrive in the mornings, no matter the weather, it’s such a treat to see the pods dotted around the campus and remember their creative beginnings” (Dr. Yota Dimitriadi, Lecturer in Computer Studies and National Teaching Fellow)

  1. To showcase the diversity and collaborative spirit of the University of Reading:

“The range of adults and children involved in the project was incredible, and was reflected in the final ‘look’ of the installation – a whole field of sizes, shapes, colours and individual characteristics” (Charlie Atkins, Y3 BA Ed Art specialist student)

  1. To symbolise UoR as a global and growing institution that works with individuals and communities to building knowledge and understanding for the future

“The Seed Project was a truly collaborative venture exemplifying the University of Reading as a sharing institution working with communities building and sharing knowledge for the benefit of all. This venture worked across departments in the making and the firing. During the raku even passers-by dropped in.

Each Raku firing is a fresh and exhilarating process every time I come to it and I am sure others felt the same. There are always new things to learn and new processes to try.  Only one person can have the exciting task of loading the kiln and plucking the red hot pieces from the furnace but everyone is caught up in the thrill and joy of creating.  The energetic beauty of the firing, the random, the accidental the unintended is captivating. Raku is all about community and as the clay transformed and the bisque reached a new stage the bond of the people in the group grew closer.  It was an equalising activity as all ages and abilities learnt together. Earth, fire, and water were combined and it felt like Vulcan was awoken in everyone one of us” (Brian Murphy, former Assistant Head teacher and Head of the Faculty of Art and Design at The Piggott School, Wokingham)

  • To provide a visual resource for staff, sightseers and repeat visitors

“I have been researching the University of Reading, London Road campus, but I went to the Raku firing out of an interest in the art rather than for my research. It did strike me that Art Education is still located in the same place that it was allocated when the University College moved onto the campus in 1905. And that the closest art building overlooks the lawns of the Palmer family home, where college staff played bowls during their leisure time” (Brian Richards, Emeritus Professor of Education)

Reflections

The project was highly successful as:

  • We had a clear focus of what it wanted to achieve
  • We had an academic year to carry out its work towards the final installation
  • We represented a strong leadership of the arts, acknowledging specific contributions to the project from participants and collaborative partners
  • The process of involving students encouraged a co-exploration between tutor and student in creative thinking and making. This was intrinsic to our teaching and learning sessions with a focus on skills and process development.
  • IoE staff involvement in the making and enthusiastic ownership of the project and its final outcome raised the profile of art across the school and hidden individual creative skills were realised and ignited!

Challenge

  • The only challenge (which could be seen as a successful outcome due to numbers) was making time for all participants to complete their work in time for the installation event.

Follow up

Owing to the collaborative and visual success of this project, we bid for and were successful in securing money from the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Funds and T&L Dean Funds in order to launch and roll out a new creative project for this academic year 2019-20 called Stitches in Time: Inclusive Threads of Learning. ‘Stitches in Time’ brings together Institute of Education students, staff and partnership schools to explore and discover sensory creative skills and contemporary imaginative thinking relating to textile materials and the environment. The project is taking place across a number of student-led workshops over the course of this academic year and will culminate in an evolving and diverse textile installation made up of participants’ individual work.

Using personal capture to supplement lectures and address FAQs

Will Hughes – School of Built Environment (Construction Management & Engineering)

Link back to case studies on the T and L Exchange website

Overview

The personal capture pilot project helped me to develop and test ideas to advance what I had been previously trying using YouTube. One important lesson for me was that shorter duration videos better engage students. I also learned how to record videos featuring more than simply a talking head. Using this technology for augmenting the usual pedagogic techniques was very useful. I would like to replace some of my lecturing using screen-cast videos, but I have learned that there is more to this than simply recording pre-prepared lectures for my students.

Objectives

My aim was to produce detailed explanations of points too elementary or too complex to address in lectures and to replace some one-to-one meetings. I aspired to produce a series of 5-10 minute videos that responded to specific student questions generated from lectures and emails. One specific idea was to support reflective portfolio writing.

Context

My motivation to join the personal capture project was to acquire screen-casting skills and to better understand the technology.

There were two key groups I chose to produce recordings for:

  • 40 MSc students, of whom some were flexible-modular and off-campus except when there were formal classes. The main module was CEM102: Business of Construction.
  • 142 BSc students on a Part 2 module: CE2CPT Construction Procurement.

Implementation

I tried using the webcam and laptop provided in the pilot. With these, I made some videos using the Mediasite tool, but the video and audio quality were not as high as I would have liked and the editing offered by Mediasite was very primitive, with no opportunity to fix issues like colour grading, for example. I preferred using my own professional-grade camera, microphone and lighting. I realised that I needed much better software than Mediasite and bought a license for Camtasia, which opened up a lot of interesting possibilities and made it possible to achieve what I had in mind.

Dialogue with students was around presenting them with a video and asking them to let me know what they thought, whether it helped and what kind of things they would like me to cover in future.

Impact

The most well-received videos were those that summarised assignment guidance in 10-11 minutes. My video on research conceptualization proved popular. The assignment summaries in CEM102 Business of Construction, for a Reflective Portfolio and a Case Study, were very impactful and prompted a lot of student approval.

One unanticipated experience was in using the technology for replacing a lecture cancelled due to bad weather; 66% of the students accessed this 55-minute lecture but for an average view time of only 18 minutes which I found to be a depressing statistic.

Reflections

Things improved as I progressed. Planned use of personal capture was much better than using it to overcome lecture cancellations. The pedagogical challenge is to figure out how to produce short videos that are useful to students. It was useful to work out how to provide simple overviews of things that would be helpful in the students’ learning and produce short videos based on this. I found filming at home better than filming in the office. I have learned the importance of issuing reminders about Blackboard-posted videos as students can miss the initial announcement and then never see the video produced for them.

I found the Mediasite tool itself clunky and challenging in terms of its permissions, lack of utility and quality.

Follow up

I still believe personal capture is useful but I am thinking about changing my strategies for how to use it. The changes are not technical put pedagogical. As I move to part-time working and ahve less contact time with students, personal capture may become indispensable for me.

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

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

Overview

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

Objectives

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

Context

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

Implementation

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

Impact

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

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

Qualitative feedback included many positive comments including:

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

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

‘enjoyed meeting and working with law students’

‘enjoyed learning the challenges of questioning vulnerable people’

‘absolutely wonderful!’ ‘positive atmosphere’,

‘loved the detail of criminal practice’

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

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

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

Reflections

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

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

Mentimeter feedback from the end of the day:

Follow up

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

Links and References

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

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