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 

Curriculum Framework Review in Classics

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

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

Our focus

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

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

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

Our preparations

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

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

Our Awayday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five ideas on how to use Chromebooks in the Classroom By Daniela Standen FHEA

As part of my quest to encourage students to learn broadly as well as encouraging them to engage with Italian deeply (J. Biggs, 2003), I have experimented with using the Chromebooks, which have been recently purchased by ISLI (International Study and Language Institute), in the classroom. Chromebooks are a great tool: they are quick to set up, instinctive to use and create an immediate buzz in the class.  If you don’t have Chromebooks available, these activities can also be done by asking students to bring their own laptops.

I have been using them with my IWLP Italian stage 3 class (students transitioning from A2 to B1 Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and my stage 1 (complete beginner class).

I found that through this work students were pushed to explore language away from their comfort zone and to apply language to practical purposes. More generally though, students worked collaboratively and reflected on own and fellow students’ work.

Read on for 5 suggestions on in-class activities with Chrome books. They are specific for language learning but could be adapted easily. Most are quick to prepare as it is the students that do the work, others require more preparation:  for example the creation of a class google account.

Really good learning came out of these activities and students found them interesting and engaging. I’d be interested to hear from you if you decide to try/adapt some of these activities in your classes d.standen@reading.ac.uk


Activity 1: Working together / Peer learning

Topic:    Preparing a set of common questions for an interview

Procedure:         Students develop a common set of questions to interview native speakers individually.  Students share the results of interviews and draw conclusions. In pairs, working from the class google account, students work on a different aspect of the interview. Students then read through the questions written by the other pairs and give each other feedback on accuracy and content.  A final set of question is agreed.

Learning outcomes:        Formulating questions, proof reading, giving and receiving peer feedback.


Activity 2: Using Tutor Feedback to improve writing skills

Topic:    Replying to a question on an on-line forum

Procedure:         Decide on the question you want to ask. Students work individually. Using Chrome books and the class google account.  Students start working on their answer, the teacher also logs into the account from the main computer. The teacher can access each student’s piece of work and using the ‘suggesting tool’ can make suggestions onto the student document in real time.  Work can be flashed on the smartboard to highlight common errors or share good work.  Students continue working on their piece from home and demonstrate how they have used the feedback to improve it. Students have access to each other’s documents and can also learn from looking at each other’s work.

Learning outcomes:        Writing (replying to a forum), improving work following feedback 


Activity 3: Using software in a foreign language

Topic:    Advertising an event

Procedure:         Decide on the type of event.  Students work in groups to gather information and make decisions. Using Chrome books and the class google account, which had been set up to be in Italian students create a poster using ‘google slides’ student create a poster.  All the commands within google are in Italian and students have to navigate the software in the target language.  While working on the poster, students compile a glossary of the various commands and create a Quizlet set. As the students are creating the posters, the teacher also logs into the google account and can flash the posters on the Smart board suggesting corrections and showing good examples of work. Students present their poster to the class.

Learning outcomes:        Developing vocabulary relating to operating software, agreeing and disagreeing, expressing a point of view, IT literacy and employability 


Activity 4:  Fact finding

Topic:    Music.

Procedure:         Before working on a song give the Chrome books to the students, and ask them to work in pairs to find some specific information about the song and the singer. Suggest a couple of websites but leave them free to choose other sources so long as they are in the target language.  Students share with the class the information they have found.

Learning outcomes:        Reading to find specific information, summarise, speaking, peer learning 


Activity 5: Fact finding

Topic:    Applying for a volunteering position.

Procedure:         Find a website with volunteering opportunities. Give the Chromebooks out and ask the students to find an opportunity they would like to apply for.  Students discuss why they have chosen that opportunity; complete an application form; and role play interviewing for the role.

Learning outcomes:        Reading skimming and finding specific information, talking about interests and their own abilities, completing forms, development of pragmatic skills, employability


 Presented at the ISLI Technology Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group 14th March 2017

 

Developing practical and employability skills through an inclusive and structured placement programme by Dr Wing Man Lau and Sue Slade (MFRPS11)

Background

The UK pharmacy regulator, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), sets Standards for all UK Pharmacy Schools. The Standards stipulate that the undergraduate programme (MPharm) must provide students with practical experience in working with patients, carers and other healthcare professionals. This has led to a need to expand experiential learning within the pharmacy curriculum across the nation.

However, the GPhC does not provide specific guidance on how to achieve experiential learning so pharmacy schools are left to arrange practical experience and plan their own learning outcomes.

Placements bridge the gap between theory and practice. They allow students to learn and practise various clinical and communication skills integral to being a competent pharmacist in dealing with patients in real-world situations. Previously, the typical MPharm curriculum traditionally included off-site short placements, where the pharmacist in charge was responsible for supervising the students. The placement itself was not required to be structured in a particular way though guidance was often issued by the pharmacy schools to the placement provider as to certain learning outcomes that schools were looking to achieve.  Students were often issued with a workbook with tasks they could complete during their placements. Under the circumstances, it was difficult to ensure that the placement provider would deliver the learning outcomes as designed or to provide all students with equal learning opportunities. Some studies have indicated that students regarded such placement arrangements as more like a day out than a vocational experience. 1-4

When we revised the MPharm curriculum at University of Reading to meet the new University Curriculum Framework and the GPhC Standards, we needed to expand experiential learning in our programme. Previously, students in Year 3 had been given the option to carry out a week’s placement in a hospital. Not all students opted to take the opportunity. Those who did were given a workbook detailing expectations and tasks to carry out whilst on the placement. The learning experience was variable even among those who undertook the placement, as it relied heavily on the willingness and capability of the pharmacists as well as the students. Furthermore, the students did not always feel they could put theory into practice.

Developing the best placement programme collaboratively

We believe that real-life patient contact and workplace experience is irreplaceable. Therefore, we set out to develop an extensive programme to give every student a structured placement experience. The programme would cover the main sectors of pharmacy practice in the first 3 years of the course. The aims were:

  1. To provide students with first-hand workplace experience and field-specific knowledge and skills that increase their employability
  2. To provide a spiral structured learning experience, starting from “knowing how” to engage with patients and progressing to finally participating in all aspects of patient care.
  3. To implement an inclusive placement programme where all students achieve the same learning outcomes and are well-supported by placement staff in managing complex and difficult situations.
  4. We have set up a Pharmacy Placement Team to design and develop a new inclusive placement programme, working collaboratively with various departments and teams across the university to engage external partners. The team is led by me (Pharmacy Placement Lead), and consists of Mr Dan Grant (Pharmacy Programme Director), Mrs Sue Slade (Hospital Lead), Mrs Caroline Parkhurst (Community Lead), as well as members of the Careers & Employability team, Student Applicant Services, Legal Services Department, and the University of Reading Medical Practice. We have also enjoyed the support of a number of NHS trusts across England and various local community pharmacies as external partners.
Team member Roles and responsibilities
Dr Wing Man Lau Oversee the whole placement programme; student facing role; student support; programme design; student workbooks design; student application and allocation.
Mr Dan Grant Strategic role; student application and allocation
Mrs Sue Slade Internally supervise placement programme (ISP) Hospital Lead; supervise and run all ISP visits
Mrs Caroline Parkhurst ISP Community Lead
Careers & Employability team General administration support; external liaison; student queries; contracts
Student Applicant Services Student support with DBS and health declaration submission; student queries related to submission
University of Reading Medical Practice Occupational health support for students

 

 

The new pharmacy placement programme

We have now introduced compulsory experiential learning into all years of the MPharm programme at University of Reading. For placement learning, students experience both community and hospital pharmacies very early on in the course. The program has been designed in helping our students develop professional attitudes and competencies by exposing them to real situations that demand satisfactory clinical, professional and communication skills that are essential to effective professional practice in any general pharmacy setting.

 

Credit hours Internally supervised placement Externally supervised placement
1st year 4 (community and hospital)
2nd year 8 (hospital) 8 (community)
3rd year 8 (hospital) 37.5 (hospital or community)

Internally supervised placement programme (ISP)

Our ISP spans years 1–3 of the MPharm programme and addresses specific, achievable learning objectives that spiral throughout the 3 years. It has been designed according to Miller’s triangle of competence and Kolb’s experiential learning theory. The hospital training is based in a local NHS hospital and is run in-house by our Hospital Lead, Mrs Sue Slade, and two Placement Tutors who all have dedicated placement roles on my MPharm programme. The staff-student ratio averages 1:4. This ensures a high quality learning experience because the tutors can build rapport with the students, evidence the students’ improvement individually, and tailor the teaching to suit the students’ needs.

The 1st year community training is based in a local community pharmacy and run in-house by our Community Lead, Mrs Caroline Parthurst. Students learn about the community pharmacist’s roles and the specialist services available in this sector. They are given the opportunities to reflect and compare how the roles differ between hospital and community pharmacy settings.

As students progress through the programme, they continually practise new-found professional skills under supervision and apply them in real-world situations – on real patients. Such skills include patient counselling, taking a medication history and performing medicines optimisation. Students are required to complete a workbook and write a reflection on each visit, which are summatively assessed in Year 3 as part of their personal development portfolio. Transferable skills are formatively assessed on three of the five placements and summatively assessed through OSCE exams in Year 3 and Year 4.

Externally supervised placement programme (ESP)

Building on from their first year community pharmacy experience, year 2 students go to a different local community pharmacy, unaccompanied by university staff or peers, for a whole day. The students are given a detailed workbook and an introductory lecture to guide their learning. Students are reminded closer to the placement through email detailing expectations and tasks to be completed during the visit.

In Year 3, the ESP placement lasts for a week and students choose between a hospital placement or a community placement based on their own interest. The hospital option is usually overwhelmingly popular, so despite being able to offer a large number of these placements, we simply cannot accommodate the demand for it. Therefore, we have put in place an application process, whereby the students are required to submit an application form indicating what attracts them to the hospital placement and why they should be selected. They are also asked to support their application with a reflection on previous placements to identify exactly what further skills they aim to gain. This process is similar to job applications in the real world (for example, the application for pre-registration pharmacist positions), so the students are able to practise this aspect of job seeking and familiarise themselves with the job application process throughout the MPharm programme.

Again, a workbook detailing tasks that build on from previous placements is provided for the students. The pharmacists in charge at the respective pharmacies supervise our students on these visits. We brief the supervisors prior to the placement with details of the placement objectives, learning outcomes with a copy of the student workbook to standardise the student learning experience. The supervisors provide written feedback to the students on each visit to allow them to reflect from their learning.

 

Benefits and Outlook

To our knowledge, our structured, integrated and inclusive placement programme is unique among pharmacy schools in the UK. The placement programme has been time-consuming to set up and run, and has required careful organisation and planning for each visit to be successful and valuable. Preliminary evaluation suggests all students have found the placement experience positive and valued the structured and inclusive placement format as it helps develop their sector knowledge and skills in real-life situations.

Close collaboration with various University departments and external partners has been crucial to the running of the placement programme. We are committed to continued collaboration as a team, comprising diverse roles, in supporting our students to become competent and highly employable graduates by developing their professional, clinical and communication skills.

A full evaluation of our placement programme is under way. We will update you shortly.

 

1 Sosabowski M. (2008) Pharmacy Education in the United Kingdom. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 72(6):130.

2 Talyor K and Harding G (2007) The pharmacy degree: The student experience of professional training. Pharmacy Education. 7(1): 83–88

3 Nation L and Rutter P (2011) Short communication piece on experiences of final year pharmacy students to clinical placements. Journal of Health and Social Care Improvement. 2:1-6

4 Diack L et.al (2014) Experiences of Supervision at Practice Placement Sites. Education Research International. 2014:6

RESILIENCE: THE ROUTE TO SUCCESS By Dr Madeleine Davies

A Collaborative Initiative between Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature), Dr Ute Wolfel (Department of Modern European Languages), Dr Tony Capstick (Department of English Language and Linguistics) and Dr Alicia Pena Bizama (Counselling and Wellbeing)

PROJECT OUTLINE

In December 2016 the three Senior Tutors of the School of Language and Literature (SLL) met to discuss the growing problem of student wellbeing following a steep rise in ECF submissions for MH difficulties. We were concerned not only for the wellbeing of our students but also for their academic development and success, and for their ability to manage their professional futures. We decided that there was more that we could do to prevent student distress, build resilience, and thus support effective teaching and learning so we decided to develop and deliver two-hour, interactive Masterclass titled, ‘Resilience: The Route to Success’.

We consulted Dr Alicia Pena Bizama (Head of Counselling) to help us design a programme that would respond to the specific problems that we had noted in our SLL students. We scheduled three lengthy planning meetings, pooling our ideas and our knowledge: Dr Pena Bizama brought her extensive research into Psychology, and the three Senior Tutors brought knowledge of their individual cohorts and years of experience managing student problems. Together, we designed and produced promotional posters, disseminated the plans to all SLL colleagues, and advertised the Masterclass on Blackboard and Me@Reading. We also sent individual emails to SLL students with a link to a Doodle Poll through which students could reserve a place at the event. This would have been unmanageable for a single colleague in the middle of a busy term, but we spread the load and the materials we produced benefited greatly from the time and input of four colleagues with different research backgrounds and pedagogic expertise.

The planning group decided to intersect with associated key SLL and UofR initiatives: attendance at the Masterclass counted as credit for the Professional Track Programme (SLL) and as credit for the “Life Skills’ initiative, and it connected with the University’s emphasis on student resilience and employability.

DESIGN OF THE PROGRAMME

The Masterclass was delivered in Week 5 of the Spring Term. The 2-hour session focused on building students’ confidence in their ability to manage stress and anxiety and on equipping our students with techniques that could enhance their learning potential. The design of the session was as follows:

Dealing with Academic Pressure:

Introduction – Dr Madeleine Davies: outlining the aims of the Masterclass: managing academic pressure and facilitating success; the connection between academic and professional resilience; the roots of ‘performance anxiety’; redefining (but not denying) ‘stress’ and ‘pressure’.

Dr Pena-Bizama’s presentation (including the difference between MH problems and routine anxiety)

Feedback and How to Use it Constructively:

Introduction – Dr Tony Capstick: how feedback is often interpreted as a personal attack; what its intentions are; how it is a positive learning tool; connection with the professional workplace; how to USE feedback.

Dr Pena-Bizama’s presentation

Motivation, Perfectionism and Procrastination

Introduction – Dr Ute Wolfel: motivation – reminding students of the questions, ‘What do I want to learn? What do I enjoy about these topics?; how perfectionism produces procrastination and how both can be overcome.

Dr Pena-Bizama’s presentation

Discussion period

The students were divided into groups and asked to discuss the following:

(a) What triggers/generates their anxiety most?

(b) How can the words ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ be reframed?

(c) What tactics and habits can help to restore perspective.

(d) How can feedback be removed from the sense of personal attack and be redefined as a constructive learning tool?

Feedback period

The students fed back the ideas generated by their groups; many students mentioned that talking about their worries to others who shared precisely the same concerns was of great help. Students also very usefully identified the source of their anxiety and others suggested ways of tackling it. The discussion was lively, collaborative and fully supportive: it was a credit to our students.

Dr Madeleine Davies concluded the session, pointing the students towards material and University support structures that could help them in the development of productive habits and attitudes. The second, exams-focused, Masterclass was announced and written feedback on the session was collected.

STUDENT PARTICIPATION AND FEEDBACK

The Masterclass was delivered on Wednesday 8th February 2017 and 45 students attended. There was a high level of interaction throughout and student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The form that we designed asked for feedback in the following areas:

Did you find the content reflected your concerns?

15 x ‘5’ (extremely well matched); 27 x 4 (well matched); 3 x 3 (neutral)

Do you think you will find it easier to manage academic pressure (particularly assessments) after the Master Class?

32 x ‘Yes’; 10 x ‘Maybe’; 3 x ‘No’.

Do you feel that you are better equipped to develop a more positive attitude to feedback and study following the Masterclass?

25 x ‘Yes’; 18 x ‘Maybe’; 2 x ‘No’.

Most of the forms added a comment: examples include, ‘Thank you SO MUCH’; ‘I feel much better’; ‘It’s good to know I’m not alone – loads of people here feeling the way I do’, ‘I think I can do this now!’; ‘I liked that the teachers were really honest about feeling stressed too and told us how they cope with it’; ‘Fantastic practical help – it’s what I needed’.

MOVING FORWARDS

The success of the collaboration in delivering the Resilience Masterclass initiative will be sustained going forwards. Prior to the exams period (May 2017) the same group of colleagues will collaborate on an ‘Exams Masterclass’ and in the 2017-18 session we will run three ‘Resilience’ and ‘Exams’ Master Classes in the Autumn, Spring and Summer Terms so that we can intervene early and prevent serious cases of anxiety arising (this will benefit retention). We are committed to working together as a team comprised of diverse skills to support our students in developing mental resilience to underpin academic achievement and to help them to embed the attitudes, habits and techniques that form the route to learning and professional success.

Linked Academic Placements: solving a problem by Dr. Cindy Becker

In the Department of English Literature all of our Parts 2 and 3 modules are available as placement modules, allowing a student to identify (with our help) a suitable placement provider and work with the module convenor and me to craft a placement project or activity which links to the learning on their chosen module. The placement report then replaces one element of the assessment (usually the assessed essay) for the module. This seemed to us to be a neat way to embed placement learning within our curriculum and to ensure that students were offered the widest possible range of placement experiences.

We had, however, overlooked one factor: students vary. Whilst the system works for many, some students are hugely ambitious and so try for placements with highly prestigious providers, who can take weeks to reply to every query; others are late bloomers and only think of a placement several weeks into a module. This caused some nasty glitches in the system. We require students to confirm their placement by Week Five of the term in which the module is taught, but we found that some students were missing that deadline and so could not carry out an embedded placement as part of the module assessment (indeed, some were unable to confirm a placement until several weeks after the module had completed). We also realised that students who were keen in the first week or so of term would assume that they had ‘missed the boat’ by Week Four and so simply gave up.

We found one solution to the problem earlier this year, when we relaxed our rules to allow students to undertake placements before a module has begun: working with convenors, they could then arrange a placement in the vacation before the module was taught. This allowed students to begin thinking about a placement months before they would undertake it, solving the problem of students starting to plan a placement too late. What it did not solve was the problem of placements which, sometimes unexpectedly, take an age to arrange. Continue reading →

Developing highly employable pharmacy graduates by Dr Samantha Weston

In an effort to rise to the challenge of increasing the employability of graduates, staff from Reading School of Pharmacy worked in a cross-faculty collaboration with colleagues in Henley Business School to develop the UK’s first Post-Graduate Certificate in Business and Administration available to undergraduate MPharm students. This clearly fits with the 2013-15 teaching and learning enhancement priority relating to developing highly employable graduates.

The concept behind the development of the programme came after discussions with stakeholders from community, hospital and industrial sectors outline weaknesses in management and leadership in pharmacy graduates throughout the UK. Although all pharmacy undergraduate programmes nationwide teach management and business skills, all stakeholders felt that extra training in this area would enhance the employability of graduates, and allow them to develop and thrive more effectively in their pre-registration training year and beyond.

We believe that the introduction of this course will lead to RSOP attracting and recruiting the most competitive and ambitious UK and international students who will become the leaders of the future within the NHS and the Healthcare and Healthtech industries. The project will further differentiate our Pharmacy graduates from those from older, long-established Schools of Pharmacy.  This innovative and unique new course will run alongside the current MPharm Pharmacy programme, and be aimed at the highest achieving students who have an ambition to follow a leadership career path in industry, commerce, academia or the NHS, and who may also want to go on to complete a full MBA in the future.

Although the proposed course is innovative and unique in the UK and worldwide, it is analogous to joint MB /PhD courses for Medics wishing to become Researcher-Physicians, and would compete with well-established postgraduate dual Pharmacy/ Management courses in the US which have already been shown to increase graduate earning potential.

The course runs for its first cohort in the summer of 2014, and the course developers are currently in discussions with other Schools and Faculties to discuss how the programme can be adapted to provide a specialist focus for their own discipline. If colleagues would like further information about the initiative then please contact either Samantha Weston or Al Edwards in Pharmacy or Lynn Thurloway in HBS.

Online resources for physical and life sciences students by Helen Williams

Even more online support has been made available for students here at Reading seeking work placement and graduate employment. A new online tool dedicated to helping students find opportunities within the life sciences industry has been launched this month by the Biopharma Skills Consortium (BSC), which is led by the University of Reading and comprises seven universities from across the southeast.

Students can readily access advice on how to make stronger applications for work placements and employment. The resources, available on the BSC website at http://www.bsc-biopharma.org.uk are designed to help students further their understanding of the industrial environment and highlight how to make a rapid impact when starting a new job.

The new resource is timely as a High Fliers report released on 14 January 2013 found that a third of jobs will be filled by graduates who have already spent time at a company, through work experience or industrial placements during their degree.

Orla Kennedy, Associate Dean for the Faculty of Science here at Reading explains: ‘The recent High Fliers report shows just how important work placements are for securing graduate employment. This website allows students access to audio clips that provide insights in to working in the bioscience sector and contains guided web links to useful web sites and training materials.’

James Gazzard, Professor of Workforce Futures at the University of East Anglia added ‘in a globally competitive job market university students and recent graduates need support to help them to effectively engage with employers. It is vital that universities develop platforms to support students to articulate their skills, particularly higher level competences gained through work placements.’

Digital literacies for student employability: Spotlight on work placements by Nadja Guggi

I have been working with a placement student, Rachel Glover, a third-year undergraduate in Politics and International Relations, to carry out research into digital literacies for student employability, focusing on the University’s extra- and in-curricular work placement schemes.

This research is part of the Digitally Ready project (www.reading.ac.uk/digitallyready), a JISC-funded initiative under the Developing Digital Literacies Programme (http://www.jisc.ac.uk/developingdigitalliteracies) to help staff and students at the University to prepare for life, work and study in a digital world. More information about our research can be found at http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/digitallyready/resources/wrp/.

Rachel and I were invited to speak at the Teaching & Learning Showcase on ‘Assessing work placements’ here at Reading on 11 October. (http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/cdotl/NewsandEvents/InternalEvents/cdotl-TeachingandLearningShowcaseSeries.aspx) The showcase events are a series of informal lunchtime gatherings which provide an opportunity for colleagues to share T & L practices and ideas. The format is three speakers talking about a common topical issue for ten minutes each, with time for questions and discussion at the end.

Rachel and I were up first, followed by Cindy Becker (English Literature) and Hannah Jones (Agriculture, Policy and Development). Organiser Joy Collier had asked us to set the scene a little bit, so we thought we would share some of the insights from our research into digital aspects of work placements, and to show our colleagues the model that we use to evaluate students’ digital experiences. Our presentation slides can be found here.

The framework we use is adapted from Rhona Sharpe and Helen Beetham’s ‘Developing Effective E-Learning: The Development Pyramid’ (2008) which describes the development of digital literacies in terms of access, skills, and practices as prerequisites to becoming a critical, informed, expert user of digital technologies.

Digital literacies and work placements, adapted from Sharpe and Beetham (2008)

If we apply this to work placements, it becomes about affording students digital opportunities. Work placements can provide opportunities for students to experience and explore digital technologies (access); to develop technical proficiency in using digital technologies (skills); and, crucially, to apply these skills in a professional, ‘real world’ context (practices).

This is where the real value of work placements lies – in bridging the gap between students’ learning and how this is applied in a work environment, and in making that connection in the student’s mind, too, so that they are digitally ready and so that they have the awareness and the ability to articulate that readiness in order to make stronger applications, perform better in interviews, and, ultimately, better able to do their jobs.

Developing those higher-level attributes and attitudes – digital literacies – requires reflection. Cindy and Hannah spoke about the ways in which they encourage students to reflect on their placement experience and how this is linked to assessment, which surely then ought to be based on students’ ability to draw out and illustrate their learning and development rather than a descriptive account of, say, the company or their day-to-day tasks while on placement.

Hannah’s closing comments, which suggested that perhaps students should not actually be marked on this at all, that being able to truly reflect on their experience is enough, I found particularly thought-provoking.

My own closing comments were twofold: firstly, to encourage anyone involved in planning, assessing and evaluating placements to consider what digital opportunities might be embedded in them.

And secondly, to consider whether the development pyramid might be applied to planning, assessment and evaluation of work placements more generally, not just to look at the digital angle. After all, having the right tools for the job, learning how to use them and knowing what to do with them, are the building blocks required to develop any sort of professional competence. Thus the development pyramid might provide a useful framework for designing WRPL activities. I will say more about this in another blog post.