Will Hughes – School of Built Environment (Construction Management & Engineering)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
The Centre for Inter-Professional Postgraduate Education and Training (CIPPET) provide PGT training for healthcare professionals through a flexible Masters programme built around blended learning modules alongside workplace-based learning and assessment. This project aimed to evolve the department’s approach to delivering one of our clinical skills workshops which sits within a larger 60 credit module. The impact was shown via positive student and staff feedback, as well as interest to develop a standalone module for continuing further learning in advanced clinical skills.
The aim of this project was to use controlled condition assessment approaches to develop behavioural competence at the higher levels of Miller’s pyramid of clinical competence 1.
Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence
The objectives included:
engage students in enquiry by promoting competence at higher levels of Miller’s pyramid
develop highly employable graduates by identifying appropriate skills to teach
evolve the workshop design by using innovative methods
recruit expert clinical practitioners to support academic staff
Health Education England are promoting a national strategy to increase the clinical skills training provided to pharmacists, therefore this project aimed to evolve the department’s approach to delivering this workshop. The current module design contained a workshop on clinical skills, but it was loosely designed as a large group exercise which was delivered slightly differently for each cohort. This prevented students from fully embedding their learning through opportunities to practise skills in alongside controlled formative assessment.
Equipment purchase: As part of this project matched funding was received from the School to support the purchase of simulation equipment which meant a range a clinical skills teaching tools could be utilised in the workshops. This step was undertaking collaboratively with the physician associate programme to share learning and support meeting objective 2 across the School.
Workshop design: the workshops were redesigned by the module convenor, Sue Slade, to focus on specific aspects of clinical skills that small groups could focus on with a facilitator. The facilitators were supported to embed the clinical skills equipment within the activities therefore promoting students in active learning activities. The equipment allowed students the opportunity to simulate the skills test to identify if they could demonstrate competence at the Knows How and Shows How level of Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence. Where possible the workshop stations were facilitated by practising clinical practitioners. This step was focused on meeting objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Workbook design: a workbook was produced that students could use to identify core clinical skills they required in their scope of practice and thus needed to practise in the workshop and further in their workplace-based learning. This scaffolding supported their transition to the Does level of Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence. This step was focused on meeting objectives 1 and 3.
All four objectives were met and have since been mapped to the principles of Curriculum Framework to provide evidence of their impact.
Mastery of the discipline / discipline based / contextual: this project has supported the academic team to redesign the workshop around the evolving baseline core knowledge and skills required of students. Doing this collaboratively between programme teams ensures it is fit for purpose.
Personal effectiveness and self-awareness / diverse and inclusive: the positive staff and student feedback received reflects that the workshop provides a better environment for student learning, enabling them to reflect on their experiences and take their learning back to their workplace more easily.
Learning cycle: the student feedback has shown that they want more of this type of training and so the team have designed a new stand-alone module to facilitate extending the impact of increasingly advanced clinical skills training to a wider student cohort.
What went well? The purchase of the equipment and redesigning the workshop was a relatively simple task for an engaged team, and low effort for the potential return in improved experience. By having one lead for the workshop, whilst another wrote the workbook and purchased the equipment, this ensured that staff across the team could contribute as change champions. Recruitment for an advanced nurse practitioner to support the team more broadly was completed quickly and provided support and guidance across the year.
What did not go as well? Whilst the purchase of the equipment and workshop redesign was relatively simple, encouraging clinical practitioners to engage with the workshop proved much harder. We were unable to recruit consistent clinical support which made it harder to fully embed the project aims in a routine approach to teaching the workshop. We considered using the expertise of the physician associate programme team but, as anticipated, timetabling made it impossible to coordinate the staffing needs.
Reflections: The success of the project lay in having the School engaged in supporting the objectives and the programme team invested in improving the workshop. Focusing this project on a small part of the module meant it remained achievable to complete one cycle of change to deliver initial positive outcomes whilst planning for the following cycles of change needed to fully embed the objectives into routine practice.
In planning the next series of workshops, we plan to draw more widely on the University alumni from the physician associate programme to continue the collaborative approach and attract clinical practitioners more willing to support us who are less constrained by timetables and clinical activities.
Based on student and staff feedback there is clearly a desire for more teaching and learning of this approach and being able to launch a new standalone module in 2020 is a successful output of this project.
Links and References
Miller, G.E. (1990). The assessment of clinical skills/competence/performance. Acad Med, 65(9):S63-7.
A form of inter-active, reflective practice for students in which Playback Theatre (an improvisatory form) is used to ‘play back’ individual stories of students’ experiences regarding all aspects of their studies. This process can support emotional literacy and well-being and promote professionalism in students at all levels of study.
To develop students’ ability to both express and assert themselves in the world and to support them to be more successful within their studies. (TLDF Priority 2.2)
To support students to feel valued, gain greater awareness of their skills and articulate these to better address the challenges they face in the field of education and the workplace (TLDF Priority 2.3)
To address concerns regarding student well-being and emotional literacy as highlighted both nationally, within the University and the IOE where workload and pressures have specifically impacted upon initial teacher training (ITT) students who are transitioning into teaching professionals.
The pilot year, within the IOE, was focussed upon the training of a student performance group with a couple of performance-workshops undertaken with Secondary ITT students and IOE staff. Both sessions were evaluated and the students involved as the performance team, were also asked to evaluate the benefits to them of engagement in the project. The project enters a second year (2019-20), with further funding, to adapt the contact sessions. This will lead to two different versions of Stories of Our Studies. A full length, two-hour version will incorporate a full Playback Theatre performance of 1-1/2 hours duration in a more public setting. A second shorter version will align the performance elements with discursive and written aspects focussed upon critical incident analysis (Lister and Crisp, 2007). This will blend the elements for more captive audiences within module teaching sessions.
As a pilot project, Stories of Our Studies achieved its objectives. A student team was trained to deliver the contact sessions alongside the project leader. The project was presented to both PGCE Secondary ITT students and IOE staff, enabling feedback from different perspectives. Staff were able to appreciate the potential impact upon student well-being. The PGCE students were able to effectively reflect upon their learning, in particular focussing upon their school teaching placements. They were able to subjectively reflect upon how these experiences felt to them but also objectively appreciate what occurred, how their experiences were similar or different to others and to be able to consider themselves as professional teachers soon to embark upon their chosen profession. The TLDF priorities 2.2 and 2.3 were both met.
The enthusiasm and willingness of the UG students who trained in the form was exceptional and their empathy and artistry were commented upon following both performance-workshops. This was a major factor in the pilot’s success. The structure of the session with the main performance aspect following some Morenian sociometry facilitated a relaxed and intimate atmosphere thus enabling audience members to openly share. The use of the form – Playback Theatre – was vital to the success of the pilot.
Although participants gained a lot from their engagement in the session, there is a further need to develop the sustainability of the reflective process. To this end the project will be developed into longer and shorter iterations (as mentioned above). There remains some difficulty in encouraging students to attend extra-curricular sessions and, for many, to attend events in which drama/theatre are mentioned. This is a difficulty in attracting both student-performers and audience members. Word of mouth will help and, like a stone gathering moss, momentum will attract more interest and students to engage with it.
See above. The project has entered a second year with further TL enhancement (mini) funding. It is evolving with the incorporation of critical incident analysis and a further blending of the performance and written reflection elements.
We already have more performance-workshops booked in the diary for 2019-20 than for last year, including presentation at the University’s T&L conference in January 2020.
Contact has been made with the RUSU society, Open Minds, to investigate the potential of some performances to a larger student audience outside of timetabled teaching.
The performance-workshop, photographed last year, will be filmed to create a marketing online clip to promote the project. Recruitment of new student-performer members has already begun.
An investigative artwork that explores identity using 360 cameras developed through practical, alumni led workshops and socially engaged art with current art students, school groups and the general public. Part of ArtLab Movement’ at Tate Exchange (TEx) 2019 at the Tate Modern on March and be archived on the ArtLab website.
- Contribute to live art event/out-reach work experience led by Alumni at Tate Exchange 1-3 March 2019
- Explore identity capture with 360 cameras
- 360 cameras experimentation including designing, capturing, printing and editing.
- Create portraits with purpleSTARS, people with learning disabilities and children from Widening Participation schools in Reading.
Reframing Identity explored self-portraits in shot in 360, developed as a response to Tania Bruguera’s Turbine Hall Commission concerning institutional power, borders and migration. Can 360 self-portraits raise awareness of how interconnected we are, when no person is ever behind the 360 camera, everyone is included.
Alumni and Virtual Reality artist Kassie Headon researched ideas in response to Tania Bruguera installation at Tate Modern inspired by Bruguera’s ideas on inclusion, connecting to Kate Allen’s research with purpleSTARS a group of people with and with learning disabilities who aim to make museums more inclusive. Kassie demonstrated to students and purpleSTARS how to use the GoPro Fusion Camera and the app to edit 360 content. Activities to share the 360 self portrait concept with visitors were developed including drawing cylindrical self-portraits which they could then wear on their heads for a 360 selfie. Students facilitated the Reframing Identity 360 workshop as part of ArtLab Movement at TEx. Using 360 cameras was a new experience and concept for our students and most people visiting the TEx. The 360 self-portraits were exhibited via live video stream from the 360 cameras on an iPad displayed at the Tate and let participants explore the views, which they could manipulate and distort to create the desired effect. Participants 360 self-portraits were also printed or sent to the visitors phone.
The impact of Reframing Identity 360 created access and inclusion with new technologies for students and the public. Experiencing the live video stream frequently gave visitors an ‘Oh Wow’ moment. TEx gave an opportunity for research led teaching with Dr Allen purpleSTARS, Alumni Kassie Headon and current BA students to explore the concept of 360 self-portraits gain professional practice experience facilitating the workshops and technical skills working, with the 360 camera. The 360 cameras are now part of the digital equipment available to students with a core team of ArtLab students now familiar with their potential and how to use them.
Working with new technologies in collaboration with Alumni, ArtLab students and purpleSTARS led to new perspectives on ideas of inclusion and self -portraiture. The experimental research occurred in response to work at the Tate and in collaboration with visitors to TEx. The project built capacity and awareness of new technology being introduced into the Art Dept learning through research and practical experiences the potential to create artworks and inclusive engagements.
Kassie Headen continued to work with the 360 camera collaborating with widening participation schools during the ArtLab summer workshops 2019 exploring spaces and manipulating 2d versions of 3d space.
We are developing further research collaborations and research led teaching opportunities for ideas exploring inclusion in museums and immersive virtual reality artworks/experiences using Oculus Rift technology.
Physician Associate (PA) students are talented life-sciences postgraduates who must quickly develop critical thinking skills in relation to medicine. Our PA programme focuses on the core skill of applying bioscientific and medical theory to skills of history taking, clinical examination, investigation diagnosis and treatment in order to produce safe, competent practitioners within two years.
Our student numbers have doubled in the five years since the programme began, and so as we strive to accommodate higher numbers, we witness greater diversity in learning styles. We recognised the need to promote advanced critical thinking amongst all our students in creative ways.
Firstly, funding secured access for all our students to McGraw Hill’s ‘Connect Online’, (which included an anatomy and physiology e-book, histology slides, media files, assessment tests and a cadaver dissection) for students to work though system by system. This online package proved very popular with the students whereby the overall average grade over 18 assignments was 94.47%. Students’ engagement could be regularly monitored by the lead lecturer and areas of difficulty were successfully addressed.
Secondly, funding enabled us to develop in-house ‘PA workshop investigation packs’ – which were used by groups of PA students in our clinical skills suite, and online. The packs were themed according to body systems, and consisted of series of work stations containing instructions and various learning materials. Our PA students worked together to tackle core practical and theoretical concepts, working out solutions together in a systematic manner – hence using a ‘Sherlock’ detective approach to their learning! The funding covered the cost of all our workshop materials, in particular laminated displays/charts, questions and visual guides; these are particularly valued because they are reusable for future cohorts of PA students.
The learning processes aimed to mirror the role of the Physician Associate in practice. As such, the learning packs provided engaging, challenging and motivational learning to develop essential skills safely and effectively.
The effectiveness of the workshops became apparent early on – as evidenced by the number of students passing their formative practical examinations at first attempt (shown below).
Formative results without workshops Formative results with workshops
In the summative end-of-year objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs): 28% of our workshop students achieved > 80% in these practical exams, with 5 students achieving 90% or above – this exceeded the previous cohort’s results where only 8% of students scored over 80% and none scored 90% or above. There was an overall improvement in mean performance from 66% to 70%.
The student evaluations were very positive; all students were able to articulate what they had gained from the experience:
“Examination station was useful because I was able to practice examination skills in an -almost- clinical environment, with the help of teachers. Another station I found useful was the BNF station. It gave me an understanding of how to use the BNF in a given time frame, and find what I am looking for. The BNF station also helped me identify a lot of drugs for certain conditions, which I would not have known otherwise”
“The upper and lower neurological examinations were very useful. This is because I found the overlap and structure similar and reinforce the other. I also found the breast examination very useful because I am less likely to get patient experience with this as a male student”.
“Listening to the heart murmurs station with questions on hypertension – allowed us to work through different case examples”
The lecturers and students all recognised the value of the workshops, and this fun, interactive and relaxed teaching approach has now been formally integrated into the curriculum. We are most grateful for the support of the University’s teaching and learning enhancement scheme which funded this intervention.
In the training of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs), it is crucial to support students in the development of their reflective thinking and writing skills. Therefore, I implemented the Self-Practice/Self-Reflection (SP/SR; Bennett-Levy, 2001) approach into our PWP training programmes. Impact was measured by asking students to complete questionnaires on their experience of SP/SR and the results informed my PGCAP research project.
To improve the level of support and guidance for reflective thinking and writing within the programme.
To support students to review their current clinical practice and to create action points in order to develop their practice based on the use of SP/SR.
As part of the BPS PWP national curriculum, students are required to complete summative pieces of reflective writing based on their clinical practice. This is contained within the Evidence-based low-intensity treatment of common mental health problems module (PY3TRT1 and PYMTRT) in both PWP training programmes at the University.
The first step was to review the current literature on SP/SR to see how we could implement this approach in the training of low-intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (LICBT) for PWPs. Previous use of this approach was for Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapists who completed training over two years, whereas PWPs train over 9 months, and so there is significantly less time for implementation.
Based on the length of the training programme, we agreed on including 6 SP/SR activities. We then explored the three different components to this. The first component, which was already in the programme, is for students to receive teaching on a LICBT intervention, such as Behavioural Activation i.e. supporting patients with depression to increase their amount of routine, necessary, and pleasurable activities. The second component, which was new to the programme, was for students to practice completing the LICBT intervention on themselves to identify what went well and what could have gone better. The third component, which was also new to the programme, was for students to then blog about their experience via the discussion board feature on Blackboard.
The student feedback, elicited in the questionnaires, were very positive with comments such as ‘practicing the intervention and then blogging about it really made me see the difficulties that patients might face’ and ‘completing SP/SR really made me review my current practice and see what I can do to improve. Our experience of including the SP/SR training was presented at the National British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies Conference at the University of Birmingham. Overall, I think that the activity did meet the objectives however, an unexpected outcome was the need to reduce the number of activities due to student feedback.
In relation to the success of the activity, the consultation with other Clinical Educators and Programme Directors (both at Reading and other Universities) enabled us to implement the activity with very little difficulty. Furthermore, within our teaching, we provide an ‘Introduction to SP/SR’ session so students are informed of the evidence-base for this approach, what the requirements are for SP/SR on our programmes, as well as when they will need to complete the activity, and how to post their experiences on Blackboard. This has been commented on as very useful within student feedback.
In relation to better implementation, the earlier versions of the activity included 6 SP/SR tasks however, students commented that whilst SP/SR is very useful, they found completing 6 tasks too much when considering the rest of their workload. Therefore, we reduced the number to 4 SP/SR tasks, which has been working well.
In the previous two years, we have developed our practice by providing students with the opportunity to receive written staff feedback on one of their SP/SR blogs. The student feedback in regard to this has been very positive and we have seen an improvement in the reflective writing skills of our students in their summative reflective assignments.
Between 2016 and 2018, I led a project aiming to enhance the process of assessing foreign language skills in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies (MLES). The project was supported by the Teaching and Learning Development Fund. Its scope involved two levels of intervention: a pilot within one Part I language module (Beginners Italian Language) and other activities involving colleagues in all language sections and students from each year of study. The project enabled the start of a bank of exemplars for the assessment of a Part I language module; promoted discussion on marking and marking schemes within the department; and made possible a teacher-learner collaborative appraisal of rubrics.
To enhance Beginners Italian Language students’ understanding of rubrics and their assessment literacy
To increase their engagement with the assessment process and their uptake of feedback
To engage MLES students as agents of change in the assessment culture of the department
To stimulate innovation in the design of rubrics within the MLES Language Team and contribute to develop a shared discourse on assessment criteria and standards informed by the scholarship of assessment
In recent years, there has been an increasing demand to articulate explicitly the standards of assessment and to make them transparent in marking schemes in the form of rubrics, especially in Foreign Languages. It is widely held that the use of rubrics increases the reliability of assessment and fosters autonomy and self-regulation in students. However, it is not uncommon that students do not engage with the feedback that rubrics are supposed to provide. In 2016, the language team of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies started to work at the standardisation and enhancement of marking schemes used to assess language skills. The aim of this multi-layered project was to make a positive contribution to this process and to pilot a series of activities for the enhancement of foreign language assessment.
Review of research literature and scholarly articles on the use of standard-based assessment, assessment rubrics, and students-derived marking criteria.
Presentation on some of the issues emerged from the review at a School T&L Away Day on assessment attended by the MLES language team (April 2017) and at a meeting of the Language Teaching Community of Practice (November 2017).
Organisation of a ‘professional conversation’ on language assessment, evaluation and marking schemes as a peer review activity in the School of Literature and Languages (SLL). The meeting was attended by colleagues from MLES and CQSD (February 2018).
2016-17 – Two groups of students on the Beginners Italian Language module were asked for permission to use exemplars of their written and oral work for pedagogic practice and research. Ten students gave their informed consent.
Collection of written and oral work, double-marked by a colleague teaching one of the groups.
2017-2018 – Organization of two two-hour workshops on assessment for a new cohort of students. Aim: To clarify the link between marking criteria, learning outcomes and definitions of standards of achievement of the module. An anonymised selection of the exemplars collected the previous year was used a) ‘to show’ the quality of the standards described in the marking schemes and b) for marking exercises.
2017 – Organisation of three focus groups with students – one for each year of study – to gain insights into their perspectives on the assessment process and understanding of marking criteria. The discussions were recorded and fully transcribed.
The transcriptions were analysed by using a discourse analysis framework.
Developed, in collaboration with three students from the focus groups, a questionnaire on the use of rubrics. The questionnaire was intended to gather future students’ views on marking schemes and their use.
This multi-layered project contributed to enhance the process of assessing foreign language skills in MLES in different ways.
The collection of exemplars for the Beginners Italian Language module proved to be a useful resource that can also be used with future cohorts. The workshops were not attended by all students, but those who did attend engaged in the activities proposed and asked several interesting questions about the standards of achievement described in the marking schemes (e.g. grade definitions; use of terms and phrases).
The systematic analysis of the focus groups provided valuable insights into students’ disengagement with marking schemes. It also brought to light some issues that would need to be addressed before designing new rubrics.
The literature review provided research and critical perspectives on marking schemes as a tool of evaluation and a tool for learning. It suggested new ways of thinking about marking and rubrics and provided a scholarly basis for potential wider projects. The discussion it stimulated, however different the opinions, was an important starting point for the development of a shared discourse on assessment.
The fuzziness of marking students’ complex performance cannot be overcome by simply linking numerical marks to qualitative standard descriptors. As mentioned in a HEA document, even the most detailed rubrics cannot catch all the aspects of ‘quality’ (HEA, 2012) and standards can be better communicated by discussing exemplars. There is also an issue with fixing the boundaries between grades on a linear scale (Sadler, 2013) and the fact that, as Race warns, the dialogue between learners and assessors (Race, HEA) can easily be broken down by the evaluative terms typically used to pin down different standards of achievement. Despite all these pitfalls, in the current HE context, rubrics, if constructed thoughtfully and involving all stakeholders, can benefit learning and teaching.
By offering opportunities to discuss criteria and standards with students, rubrics can help to build a common understanding of how marks are assigned and so foster students’ literacy, especially if their use is supported by relevant exemplars.
The belief that rubrics need to be standardised across modules, levels and years of study makes designing rubrics particularly difficult for ‘foreign languages’. Cultural changes require time and the involvement of all stakeholders, especially where the changes concern key issues that are difficult to address without a shared view on language, language learning and assessment. A thorough discussion of rubrics can provide chances to share ideas on marking, assessment and language development not only between students and staff but also within a team of assessors.
I have tried to engage students in the appraisal of rubrics and to avoid a market research approach to focus groups. It is clear that, if we are committed to make any assessment experience a learning experience and to avoid the potential uneasiness that rubrics can cause students, we need to explore new ways of defining the standards of achievement in foreign languages. Establishing pedagogical partnerships with students seems a good way to start.
I will encourage a differentiation of rubrics based on level of language proficiency and a collection of exemplars for other language modules. The natural follow up to this project would be to continue enhancing the rubrics used for evaluation and feedback in languages in the light of the analysis of the focus group discussions and the review of the literature on assessment, ideally with the collaboration of students. Possible connections between the marking schemes used to assess language modules and cultural modules will be explored.
HEA, 2012. A Marked Improvement. Transforming assessment in HE. York: Higher Education Academy.
Between 2016 and 2018 we have run a Tandem language scheme, whereby students studying a language with the Institution-wide Language Programme (IWLP) are paired up with a native speaker student, usually (though not always) a Visiting student. Once introduced, the students spend one hour a week at a mutually convenient time and place for independent language practice, speaking 30 minutes in English, and 30 minutes in the IWLP target language.
In 2016-17, a pilot scheme was run, involving only IWLP students of French and French native speakers, and this was supported by an International Study and Language Institute (ISLI) project fund. 40 students, or 20 paired ‘buddies’ enrolled. In 2017-18, the scheme was rolled out to a further 6 languages offered by the IWLP (German, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Arabic and Japanese) and around 100 students participated. This phase was supported by a Teaching and Learning Development fund. The scheme for this academic year has just been launched, this time to include Spanish, so 8 Tandem languages will be offered. Erasmus students were already enquiring about it in Welcome week.
To increase the ‘resources’ offered by the IWLP to its students, at low cost to the University, thus improving the student experience of Home students
To improve the language learning of both Tandem ‘buddies’
To improve the student experience of international students by increasing their sense of belonging through linking them directly to ‘Home’ students
To increase intercultural awareness and competence of both parties
The University of Reading has historically not been a particularly welcoming place for International students, falling in the bottom half of UK Universities for international students feeling at home, making friends with UK students and engaging with the host community, according to i-graduate International Student barometer research quoted by Vincenzo Raimo in his presentation on Global Engagement back in 2015.
Erasmus students are regularly dismayed at the low number of contact hours offered by UK universities; French students, for example, are used to classes from 9am to 5pm or even longer, so are actively looking for extra activities to keep them occupied during the day.
In student evaluations from IWLP students, extra contact hours are often perceived as a way of improving performance, and in the current climate, additional contact hours by staff are simply not an available resource for clear financial reasons.
Finally, in the UoR Curriculum Framework, global engagement and multi-cultural awareness are key attributes for UoR graduates to gain, and the Tandem scheme will help our students start to attain these desirable skills to enable them to become ‘global citizens’.
Students enrol on to the Tandem scheme through a simple online form. The scheme is advertised to international students (for native speakers) through the Erasmus and Study Abroad Office in their Welcome Pack, through the Red Award magazine, and again through a short presentation in Welcome week. International students are also sent emails by IWLP tutors, informing them of the scheme and inviting them to enrol. Students studying languages through the Institution-Wide Language Programme (to form the other ‘half’ of the Tandem pair) are also invited by their tutors to enrol. The Tandem scheme is available only to IWLP students from Stage 2 (Post beginners) upwards, as it is felt that absolute beginners would find the idea of a one-to-one with a native speaker somewhat daunting.
Once enrolled, both the International students and the ‘home’ IWLP language students are invited to a short information session. Here they learn about the process of Tandem learning and about some resources made available to them (a Blackboard Organisation which includes some optional ‘tasks’, plus a website they can use for inspiration of what to talk about). Finally, with the atmosphere somewhat akin to Blind Date (for those who can remember that) or possibly Tinder, they are assigned their Tandem ‘buddy’. They are asked immediately to exchange mobile numbers and to fix the first Tandem meeting. It is recommended that this should take place within a week, and in a public place such as the Self Access Centre for Language Learning (EM230).
For the most part, Tandem buddies meet regularly and with no problems. Sometimes it is the start of a true friendship; occasionally, due to lack of time or (once) conflict of personalities, the pair only met on one occasion, never to be repeated…
My contact email is available to every Tandem student, regardless of language, and we offer to find a replacement partner if there is a problem.
Students are invited to occasional social events and once a term, to a meeting to discuss the scheme in order to discuss possible improvements. At the end of last year, a celebratory party was held where certificates were presented to students.
We sent out a survey to the students at the end of the Autumn and Spring term, so they could evaluate the scheme. In December 2017, the overall rating for the Tandem scheme was 8.14 out of 10, where a rating of 0 was ‘terrible’ and 10 was excellent. 86% would recommend the scheme to others. In April 2018, the number recommending the scheme stayed constant at 86%, and the overall rating improved very slightly to 8.18. 78% stated that their motivation had increased in December, which increased again to 90% in April! Speaking and vocabulary were the two aspects which were felt to have increased the most, closely followed by cultural awareness in December; in the April survey, speaking and pronunciation were felt to have increased the most, followed by listening, vocabulary and cultural awareness.
Most students completing the survey made positive comments. Here are two examples:
“Thank you for creating such valuable opportunities. Please do continue to operate this wonderful scheme in the next academic year so that more students could benefit from it.”
“I guess the scheme itself is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn different languages and cultures.”
The Tandem scheme is limited by the number of native speakers available. However, as awareness of the scheme builds, hopefully more Home students who are in fact native speakers of languages other than English will also participate, rather than just Visiting students, so the scheme can expand.
There are of course other Tandem platforms available outside the University, such as online, but it seems that one of the main reasons for the success of this locally based Tandem scheme is the face to face relationships formed. According to Doug Parkin (2017: 208) in his chapter on leading engagement: “there are four foundations or dimensions that help to optimise the student learning experience… (these are) motivation, relationships, environment and resources”.
Students want relationships with fellow students. These fellow students (Tandem partners) are themselves a rich and accessible resource. They are flexible and available on campus; and they provide both extrinsic motivation (exam results might improve/English language might improve) and intrinsic motivation (naturally satisfying to form a good friendship just because it is enjoyable). Thus, in the four dimensions proposed by Parkin, Tandem can contribute in a small but significant way to the student experience.
This year Tandem has moved on from being simply a language learning exchange. Due to the imbalance between supply and demand, on occasion tandem pairs have been formed between for example Japanese-French; French-Chinese; and French-German. Some Erasmus students requested more than one ‘buddy’. In the first example, both students spoke good English, so they decided that instead of the typical French/English exchange, the Japanese student would teach beginner Japanese to the French student, and the French student would ask a lot of questions in French about Japanese culture. This became a perfectly satisfactory exchange but was not the initial objective. A flexible approach led to a successful mutual gain, certainly in terms of intercultural awareness.
In 2018-19, the Tandem scheme should be sustainable in terms of staffing resource, as most of the systems have been set up already. More work will be done on raising intercultural awareness amongst participants, by producing an explanatory screencast and some optional tasks which tandem ‘buddies’ could complete in their pairs. Last year’s students requested a little more input from staff, so two sessions will be offered this term, one to discuss how to handle error corrections and to recommend suitable discussion topics; a second session would be purely social. Some students thought that changing Tandem buddies for the second term might improve the scheme. It is important though that this scheme is publicised, for its success. Please direct any interested native speaker students to me at email@example.com.
Parkin, D. (2017), Leading Learning and teaching in Higher Education (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge)
Alison Nader and Ali Nicholson, Lecturers, International Study and Language Institute firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Year of activity 2017/18
For the past 2 years UoR students taking IWLP French 20 credit optional modules have had the opportunity to undertake 2 weeks of intensive language study in France at CUEF, Université Grenoble Alpes.
Students arrange their own travel and accommodation with light touch support from IWLP staff.
They now have the possibility to take a credit module based on their experience, in the academic year following their return from France.
IWLP Students arriving at the CUEF, Université Grenoble Alpes, France
To give students the opportunity to study and live independently in France for a short period of time.
To improve language skills, in particular speaking and listening in real world situations.
To offer the opportunity to use their real world experience on a credit bearing IWLP language module.
In SSLC meetings and end of year module evaluations, students had been asking for the opportunity to spend a short period of time in France.
The placement needed to fit around the students’ core studies.
Recognition by UUki that outward mobility experiences are increasingly important for graduate attributes.
University of Reading’s ambitious outward mobility targets.
Initially this experience was conceived of as a trip abroad, responding to student requests for recommendations of where they could go to take a short intensive language course. Two members of IWLP staff researched short language courses offered by French universities. Having identified CUEF, a part of l’Université Grenoble Alpes, as having a suitable offering, IWLP staff visited the Centre, met the French staff and observed teaching on the courses.
Before leaving for France, students are supported with briefing sessions given by IWLP French staff but have to organise travel, accommodation and where necessary visas, themselves.
The classes take place outside UoR term time and to date students have either chosen to go for two weeks during the Easter holidays or in early September.
In the first year 2016-17, 10 students took up the opportunity and this year the expectation is that numbers will increase, 10 have just returned and more will be travelling out in September. Students have to pay the fees, travel and accommodation. So far each cohort has received a small bursary from UoR but this is not guaranteed.
In 2017-18 students were offered the opportunity to select a credit bearing placement module on their return. A small number of students opted to take the module and the improvement in their ability to undertake an oral presentation in French was truly remarkable.
From the student perspective, their competence in speaking and listening in French demonstrably improved. The improvement for those who took the credit bearing module was measurable from comparative assessment results before and after the placement.
Students also acquired transferable skills and increased their independence, confidence and motivation. In feedback one of the students commented: “going by yourself from a country to another implies responsibility and independence” and another mentioned how the experience increased her general confidence.
These gains also came from practising in a real world situation and, for those who had not visited France before, a greater cultural understanding of the country where the language is spoken. Increased linguistic confidence and cultural awareness was cited in feedback by a student who commented on his motivation for going on the placement, to improve his French as well as to “really understand what it takes to learn French by understanding the culture”.
The mobility opportunity also contributes to the UoR Global engagement strategy and outward mobility targets.
Quite apart from an increase in students’ linguistic competence, they gain in independence and heighten their intercultural awareness. The cohesive group that went to France this spring are themselves from eight different countries. This time, as a “bonus” they experienced at first hand strikes and blockades of university buildings: coping with all of this strengthened their group cohesion.
In general, on their return, students are enthusiastic ambassadors for learning a language.
Short-term mobility opportunities can attract students who would not be able to go abroad for longer periods, though Home students have said that even a small study abroad bursary or help with the travel costs would encourage more of them to take up this opportunity.
Scaling up the offering may be challenging from the organisation and staffing point of view, however it is hoped to extend the opportunity to other languages in the near future.
As the IWLP modules are offered to students from Schools across the university, the mobility placements can contribute to the internationalisation of students university-wide.
Ensuring inclusion, finding sustainable ways of financially supporting students and resourcing staffing are top priorities for future development.