Using wikis for assessed group work in new history modules

Shirin Irvine – TEL Adviser, CQSD

Image of Shirin Irvine

Overview

For the academic year 2015/16, the Department of History offered a brand-new Part 1 programme as part of the History Project. This resulted in the development of three new core modules.

Dr Mara Oliva transformed common practice by using technology to carry out full electronic assessment for her module. This project included multiple aspects of digital pedagogy, using Blackboard to perform engaging assessment.  This was achieved through innovative and effective use of Blackboard Groups in combination with Blackboard Wikis and Turnitin Assignments, in addition to the Grade Centre for administering students’ marks.

What is a wiki?

A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows students to work as a group on one project and write shared content in the form of a website. They can create a series of web pages that can include images, web links and videos, collectively responding to a theme.

Dr Mara Oliva – Lecturer in Modern American History (20th century)

Image of Mara Olive

Mara explains how she used the wiki tool within Blackboard as a new tool for summative assessment.

The Culture Wiki

Journeys through History 2 aims to introduce students to major historical ideas, concepts, beliefs and knowledge systems, and to show how these are exemplified in material culture, with reference to artefacts, buildings, paintings and other works of art, literature and media.

We wanted the assessment tools we chose to reflect the cultural and visual elements of the module. Therefore we decided to use a group wiki of 2,000 words (50% of the module mark), which we called the Culture Wiki, and an individual 2,000-word essay on one of the historical concepts.

The Culture Wiki allowed students to create and contribute to several web pages of course-related material. They were expected to display their research, analytical and communication skills by building a website meant for public consumption. In small groups, students created their wikis based on a theme discussed during lectures. Lecturers provided themes in the module handbook and on Blackboard.

Our aims for using this form of assessment were to teach students the importance of teamwork and how to write in a concise and accessible way in order to develop an understanding of public history, which offers many employability opportunities to history graduates.

Impact – great results! 

Overall, the exercise was very successful! According to the feedback, both students and staff enjoyed working on the Culture Wiki. Students said it gave them a chance to look at history from a different angle and realise how many flexible and transferable skills they can gain through studying history.

We then decided to take this a step further and extend full electronic assessment to the individual assay, using Turnitin Assignments. This was received very enthusiastically by the students, who appreciated the immediacy and flexible, 24/7 access technology can offer.

The project, however, would have never taken off without the invaluable support of the TEL team, in particular Shirin Irvine, Lauren McCann and Maria Papaefthimiou. With their help we arranged training and guidance for the department staff on creating and assessing wikis, using Turnitin for e-assessment, and using the Grade Centre.

To support students, we provided a separate handbook with “how to build a wiki” guidelines, which was uploaded on Blackboard. I then dedicated part of the first lecture to introducing the exercise and answering the questions. Overall, students did not need much support and were very quick at learning – their questions were mainly content related.

We are very pleased with the outcome of the project, so we have decided to continue for the foreseeable future!

Adopting a flipped classroom approach to meet the challenges of large group lectures

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

Overview

Faced with double-teaching a cohort of 480 students (plus an additional 30 in University of Reading Malaysia), I was concerned to ensure that students in each lecture group had a similar teaching experience. My solution was to “flip” some of the learning, by recording short video lectures covering content that I would otherwise have lectured live and to use the time freed up to slow the pace and instigate active learning within the lectures.

Objectives

  • Record short video lectures to supplement live lectures.
  • Use the time freed up by the removal of content no longer delivered live to introduce active learning techniques within the lectures.
  • Support the students in their problem-solving skills (tested in the end of year examination).

Context

The module “General Introduction to Law” is a “lecture only” first year undergraduate module, which is mandatory for many non-law students, covering unfamiliar legal concepts. Whilst I have previously tried to introduce some active learning into these lectures, I have struggled with time constraints due to the sheer volume of compulsory material to be covered.

Student feedback requested more support in tackling legal problem questions, I wanted to assist students and needed to free up some space within the lectures to do this and “flipping” some of the content by creating videos seemed to offer a solution.

As many academics (Berrett, 2012; Schaffzin, 2016) have noted, there is more to flipping than merely moving lectures online, it is about a change of pedagogical approach.

Implementation

I sought initial support from the TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) team, who were very happy to give advice about technology options. I selected the free Screencastomatic software, which was simple to use with minimal equipment (a headset with microphone plugged into my computer).

I recorded 8 short videos, which were screencasts of some of my lecture slides with my narration; 6 were traditional lecture content and 2 were problem solving advice and modelling an exemplar problem question and answer (which I’d previously offered as straightforward read-only documents on Blackboard).

The software that I used restricted me to 15 minute videos, which worked well for maintaining student attention. My screencast videos were embedded within the Blackboard module and could also be viewed directly on the internet https://screencast-o-matic.com/u/iIMC/AmandaMillmoreGeneralIntroductiontoLaw.

I reminded students to watch the videos via email and during the lectures, and I was able to track the number of views of each video, which enabled me to prompt students if levels of viewing were lower than I expected.

By moving some of the content delivery online I was also able to incorporate more problem- solving tasks into the live lectures. I was able to slow the pace and to invite dialogue, often by using technology enhanced learning. For example, I devoted an hour to tackling an exam-style problem, with students actively working to solve the problem using the knowledge gained via the flipped learning videos and previous live lectures. I used the applications Mentimeter, Socrative and Kahoot to interact with the students, asking them multiple-choice questions, encouraging them to vote on questions and to create word clouds of their initial thoughts on tackling problem questions as we progressed.

Impact

Student feedback, about the videos and problem solving, was overwhelmingly positive in both formal and informal module evaluations.

Videos can be of assistance if a student is absent, has a disability or wishes to revisit the material. Sankoff (2014) and Billings-Gagliardi and Mazor (2007) dismiss concerns about reduced student attendance due to online material, and this was borne out by my experience, with no noticeable drop-off in numbers attending lectures; I interpret this as a positive sign of student satisfaction. The videos worked to supplement the live lectures rather than replace them.

There is a clear, positive impact on my own workload and that of my colleagues. Whilst I am no longer teaching on this module in the current academic year, my successor has been able to use my videos again in her teaching, thereby reducing her own workload. I have also been able to re-use some of the videos in other modules.

Reflections

Whilst flipped learning is intensive to plan, create and execute, the ability to re-use the videos in multiple modules is a huge advantage; short videos are simple to re-record if, and when, updating is required.

My initial concern that students would not watch the videos was utterly misplaced. Each video has had in excess of 1000 views (and one video has exceeded 2000), which accounts for less than 2 academic years’ worth of student usage.

I was conscious that there may be some students who would just ignore the videos, thereby missing out on chunks of the syllabus, I tried to mitigate this by running quizzes during lectures on the recorded material, and offering banks of multiple choice questions (MCQs) on Blackboard for students to test their knowledge (aligned to the formative examination which included a multiple choice section). In addition, I clearly signposted the importance of the video recorded material by email, on the Blackboard page and orally and emphasised that it would form part of the final examination and could not be ignored.

My experience echoes that of Schaffzin’s study (2016) monitoring impact, which showed no statistical significance in law results having instituted flipped learning, although she felt that it was a more positive teaching method. Examination results for the module in the end of year formative assessment (100% examination) were broadly consistent with the results in previous academic years, but student satisfaction was higher, with positive feedback about the use of videos and active learning activities.

Links

University of Reading TEL advice about personal capture – https://sites.reading.ac.uk/tel-support/category/learning-capture/personal-capture

Berrett, D. (2012). How “Flipping” the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture. https://www.chronicle.com/article/how-flipping-the-classroom/130857. Chronicle of Higher Education..

Billings-Gagliardi, S and Mazor, K. (2007) Student decisions about lecture attendance: do electronic course materials matter?. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 82(10), S73-S76.

Sankoff, P. (2014) Taking the Instruction of Law outside the Lecture Hall: How the Flipped Classroom Can Make Learning More Productive and Enjoyable (for Professors and Students), 51, Alberta Law Review, pp.891-906.

Schaffzin, K. (2016) Learning Outcomes in a Flipped Classroom: A comparison of Civil Procedure II Test Scores between Students in a Traditional Class and a Flipped Class, University of Memphis Law Review, 46, pp. 661.

Henley students’ social media engagement

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

Overview

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

Objectives

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

Context

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

Implementation

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

Impact

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

Reflections

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

Follow up

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

Links

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

 

 

Applying Flipped Learning to an IWLP Italian Stage 3 module: creating a deep learning environment By Daniela Standen FHEA

For the past four year I have incorporated Flipped Learning into my teaching. Flipped Learning started in the United States in secondary education (Bergmann & Sams, 2012) and it has been expanding into higher education. The principal premise is that instruction moves outside of the classroom and class time is freed up for practice and application.

To start with it, adoption of Flipped Learning, was a response to a perceived lack of time in class both from my point of view and the students’, and Flipped Learning seemed to provide the answer to stretching time. However, after a while I realised that the potential for this pedagogy could be much greater and that it could create a learning environment that could lead students to learn deeply: i.e. going beyond recalling facts, using instead their underlying knowledge and applying it to problems and situations, to understand the bigger picture (Biggs and Tang, 2011:26-31; Brinks Lockwood, 2014).

In the last year I had the opportunity of reviewing IWLP Italian stage 3, a module that had not been taught for a few years. I chose Flipped Learning as a pedagogy and used Exploratory Practice (Allwright, 2003) as a research framework to understand if Flipped Learning could indeed deliver an environment that encourages deep learning and a teacher focused on making students independent learners, but most importantly if the students perceived these changes.

If you are interested in knowing more about how I got on and what I found out, here is a short video:

References and useful websites:

Allwright, D. 2003, Exploratory Practice: rethinking practitioner research in language teaching, Language Teaching Research vol. 7, no.2, pp.113-141

Bergman and Sams 2012. Flip your classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Biggs, J. & Tang, C. 2011. Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 4th Ed. Maidenhead: Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.

Brinks Lockwood, R. 2014, Flip It! Strategies for the EFL Classroom. /uSA: The University of Mitchigan Press.

www.flippedlearning.org

International Law Mooting

Professor James Green, Law
j.a.green@reading.ac.uk
Year of activity: 2007-08

Overview

Since 2007, the Law School has run a Part Three module entitled ‘International Law Mooting’. This is a highly innovative module, where a team of four students participate in the prestigious Telders International Law Moot Court Competition. The competition involves the team presenting written – and then, crucially, oral – arguments on a fictional dispute in international law.

Objectives

  • Memorials are jointly written and a single mark is given to all students: this builds teamwork, and prepares students for the submission of written memorials in real cases.
  • The oral performance is assessed, meaning that advocacy and presentation skills are developed.
  • Students are also assessed on individual reflective portfolios, which reward reflective learning and emphasize skill development.

Context

The team competes externally, for the University of Reading, against other universities. This gives the University of Reading a profile nationally and internationally, and provides students with a wonderful experience. The work required to compete in the competition is significant, and so – after entering for the first time in 2006 as an extra-curricular activity – it was decided that student effort here had to be rewarded with appropriate degree credit, hence the creation of the module. It develops a wide range of practical legal skills that are simply not part of other, traditional, law modules.

Implementation

Of the various issues that arose with regard to implementing the mooting module, the most pertinent for possible implementation elsewhere is the manner in which this module was to be assessed to give best effect to its learning objectives. A key learning objective was to develop communication and advocacy skills – but there is a danger of placing emphasis entirely on the student’s performance in the single external moot. Pressure is high, and ‘stage fright’ very possible. It is also difficult to ensure quality review of the marking of oral presentations/mooting. It was therefore decided that this issue could be addressed by complementing the marks awarded for the oral performance by also awarding a percentage of the marks for a reflective assessment. This ensured that students gained the credit that they were due for their skill development across the module as a whole, and not just based on the moot final alone.

Impact

The module has been hugely successful over the years. Students consistently give extremely positive feedback on the unique module design, and team-orientated nature of the module. It is also almost always the case that students gain extremely high marks in the module, with a significant number of firsts having been awarded. Indeed, no student has achieved an overall module mark below the 2:1 classification in 9 years of running the module.

Reflections

We have, of course, reflected on the module over the years. One change we made was to increase the percentage of the overall grade for the oral performance, and to slightly reduce the amount for the portfolio. This was in response to student feedback – we had the balance a little too heavily on rewarding the reflection, and students felt they should get rather more credit for the moot itself. We feel, after reflection and a few tweaks to the module design, that the assessment methods now best suit the learning outcomes. By and large, though, the module is a resounding success and continues to run in a form that is not too dissimilar from what was originally envisaged in 2007.

Follow up

Nothing beyond what is stated in the ‘Reflections’ box, above.

Links

The Module Description Form for International Law Mooting: http://www.reading.ac.uk/modules/document.aspx?modP=LW3ILM&modYR=1617

The website for the external Telders competition: http://teldersmoot.com/

Deepening Reflective Inquiry in Higher Education by Dr Geoff Taggart

Consider these classroom examples. In an architecture class, students are invited to spend time examining natural materials they have found and to use their forms as the basis for a structural design. In a module on the philosophy of mind and how it interacts with the body, tables are pushed back and undergraduates engage in body awareness exercises. Mathematics students experience a peaceful workshop on origami to explore theoretical principles of geometry. Outside on campus, students in a botany class are asked to peg out a square foot of ground and do nothing for the first ten minutes but look more and more closely at it, so as to overcome engrained ‘plant blindness’. Politics students are cutting up Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’ and using extracts to make their own ‘found’ poems. Students training to be lawyers are engaged in an activity to increase awareness of their own automatic thoughts and the way these strengthen snap judgements and biased perceptions. Trainee economists discuss the relative rationality of their own desires and wants to interrogate the notion of ‘rational choice’ in the market. On an afternoon visit to an art gallery, fine art students are asked to spend time with only 3 pictures. Novice food chemists are asked to defamiliarise themselves from everyday tastes and flavours by using colours and analogies to describe them.

These pedagogical approaches were discussed during a weekend workshop I attended on the subject of deepening reflective inquiry in HE. A popular metaphor used to describe the approach was that of ‘slow food’. That is, learning which is deep and reflective is like eating a meal which has been lovingly prepared for hours using nutritious ingredients and sharing it in a convivial atmosphere.  By contrast, many students will have received a ‘fast food’ experience at school in which the culture of high-stakes testing has informed much of their learning. The idea of learning as purely instrumental and outcome-oriented has rarely been challenged. In my view, universities should (at least be free to) offer a richer and more sustaining dietary regime and teaching for deep reflection can help disrupt this engrained assumption.

PBL and ‘active learning’ of all kinds, especially where it makes use of learners’ own experience, is already known to bring about more secure and meaningful understanding than traditional didactic methods.  The ‘extra ingredient’ in the practices described above is the facilitation of deep reflection, often involving the ‘non-rational’ (but not irrational) language of imagery and feeling. The purpose of all of them is three-fold. The first intention is to make full use of the students’ learning resources. The popular idea of intelligence (endorsed by shows such as Mastermind) is based on factual knowledge combined with speed of recall. Yet, as successful innovation and entrepreneurship show us, original insight seems to involve something more. The educational psychologist Guy Claxton contrasts the ‘hare brain’ of the outcome-driven, Mastermind intelligence with the ‘tortoise mind’ involved in rumination and reflection.  Where space and time are allowed for the latter, creative responses and novel interconnections emerge. The unconscious is no longer seen as some kind of Freudian dungeon but as a useful assistant in effective learning.

The second purpose is to produce graduates who are not just knowledgeable but, having disturbed their own assumptions, are more confident in being able to justify what they know. The chemist Michael Polanyi famously argued that what we can explicitly claim to know in propositional terms is the tip of the iceberg, supported by accumulated ‘tacit knowledge’ held in our unconscious, feelings and bodies. Drawing upon and articulating this tacit knowledge in relation to new fields of study at university can help students ‘know that they know’ the material being presented to them and render their understanding more secure.

The third purpose is to deepen and focus attention in the face of mounting technological distractions. In order to solve a complex problem or devote time to honing a skill, one has to have the capacity to delay gratification, to ignore what is irrelevant or extraneous. One also has to acknowledge that what happened in the previous lab session or archaeological dig may not simply be reproduced in this one. Whether it is an engineer faced with a non-functioning machine, a lawyer with a fresh brief or an artist faced with a potential subject,  skilled and knowledgeable professionals do not begrudge the time spent simply looking at –‘beholding’ – the challenge that confronts them since they know that, whilst they are well-prepared for it, this particular challenge may have something new to teach them. Attention has a delicate quality to it therefore: we know something of our field but in order to be open to learning and/or professional development, we need to put this discursive, formal knowledge ‘on hold’ and allow time for the precise circumstances or features of the new material to reveal themselves to us.

I’m interested whether colleagues may already be experimenting with deepening reflection or may be interested themselves in doing so. In my own work at the IoE, one of my favourite activities for those who want to work in pre-schools is to give each student a basket of stones and ask them to tell me a story with them. The silent, absorbed and reflective atmosphere which follows, as they lay their stones out on the carpet, teaches them the value and meaning of play in children’s learning far more effectively than a lecture on the subject. We all had these learning experiences as children and some of our most transformative and memorable ones were characterised by these same qualities of sustained attention, beholding, rumination and openness to figurative, metaphorical forms of explanation. Even nowadays we often revert to this approach, such as when buying a new and unfamiliar mobile phone: why don’t we, as adults, instinctively start by working our way through the manual? The answer is because we know that learning flows when it attentive, embodied, playful and deeply reflective. This is not a capacity we need to lose on entering university.

Active learning methods for week intensive MSc modules

Dr Stefán Thór Smith, School of the Built Environment
s.t.smith@reading.ac.uk
Year(s) of case study activity: 2014-15

Overview

8977Active learning methods were explored, and the Environmental Quality and Well-being module (CEM236EQW), a week intensive module offered by the School of the Built Environment, was amended to incorporate suitable active learning methods, improving student satisfaction and engagement.
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