Electronic Management of Assessment: Creation of an e-Portfolio for PWP training programmes

Tamara Wiehe, Charlotte Allard & Hayley Scott (PWP Clinical Educators)

Charlie Waller Institute; School of Psychology and Clinical Language

Overview

In line with the University’s transition to Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA), we set out to create an electronic Portfolio (e-Portfolio) for use on our Psychological Well-being Practitioner (PWP) training programmes to replace an existing hard-copy format. The project spanned almost 1 year (October 2018- September 2019) as we took the time to consider the implications on students, supervisors in our IAPT NHS services, University administrators and markers. Working closely with the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team led us to a viable solution that has been launched with our new cohorts from September 2019.

Image of portfolio template cover sheet

Objectives

  • Create an electronic Portfolio in line with EMA that overcomes existing issues and improves the experience for students, NHS supervisors, administrators and markers.
  • Work collaboratively with our all key stakeholders to ensure that the new format satisfies their various needs.

Context

A national requirement for PWPs is to complete a competency-based assessment in the form of a Portfolio that spans across their three modules of their training. Our students are employed by NHS services across the South of England and many live close to their service rather than the University.

The issue? The previous hard-copy format meant that students spent time and money printing their work and travelling to the University to submit/re-submit it. University administrators and markers reported issues with transporting the folders to markers and storing them, especially with the larger cohorts.

The solution… To resolve these issues by transitioning to an electronic version of the Portfolio.

Implementation

  1. October 2018: An initial meeting with TEL was held in order to discuss the practicalities of an online Portfolio submission.
  2. October 2018 – March 2019: TEL created several prototypes of options for submission via Blackboard including the use of the journal tool and a zip file. Due to practicalities, the course team decided on a single-file word document template.
  3. April – May 2019: Student focus groups were conducted with both programmes (undergraduate and postgraduate) where the same assessment sits to gain their feedback with the potential solution we had created. Using the outcomes of the focus groups and staff meetings, it was unanimously agreed that the proposed solution was a viable option for use with our future cohorts.
  4. June 2019: TEL delivered a training session for staff and admin to become familiar with the process from both student and staff perspective. TEL also created a guidance document for administrators on how to set up the assignment on Blackboard.
  5. July – August 2019: Materials including the template and rubrics were amended and formatted in order to meet requirements for online submission for both MSci and PWP courses. Resources were also created for students to access on Blackboard such as screen casts on how to access, utilise and submit the Portfolio using the electronic format; the aim of this is to improve accessibility for all students participating on the course.
  6. September 2019: Our IAPT services were notified of the changes as the supervisors there are responsible for reviewing and ‘signing off’ on the student’s performance before the Portfolio is submitted to the University for a final check.

Image of 'how to' screen cast resources on Blackboard

Impact

Thus far, the project has achieved the objectives it set out to. The template for submission is now available for students to complete throughout their training course. This will modernise the submission process and be less burdensome for the students, supervisors, administrators and markers.

Image of the new portfolio process

The students in the focus group reported that this would significantly simplify the process and relieve the barriers they often reported with completing and submitting the Portfolio. Currently, there have not been any unexpected outcomes with the development of the Portfolio. However, we aim to review the process with the first online Portfolio submission in June 2020.

Reflections

Upon reflection, the development of the online Portfolio has so far been a success. Following student feedback, we listened to what would improve their experience of completing the Portfolio. From this we developed an online Portfolio, meeting the requirements across two BPS accredited courses which will be used for future cohorts of students.

Additionally, the collaboration between staff, students and the TEL team, has led to improved communication across teams with new ideas shared; this is something we have continued to incorporate into our teaching and learning projects.

An area to develop for the future, would be to utilise a specific Portfolio software. Initially, we wanted to use a journal tool on Blackboard, however, it was not suitable to meet the needs of the course (most notably exporting the submission and mark sheet to external parties). We will continue to review these options and will continue to gain feedback from future cohorts.

 

Update on making Word and PowerPoint accessible: By Professor Richard Mitchell

Preamble

Earlier in the year, Laura Bennett and I wrote a blog on making Word and PowerPoint accessible, which reflected our experience of implementing the University’s policy on Inclusive Practice in T&L, which is available here.

Since that blog was written, the University has included Ally into Blackboard, which provides academics with a view on how accessible our documents are and step-by-step guidance on how to make them accessible. In this blog I reflect on Ally and other developments, including the part of the recent Accessibility Audit Report from JISC which covered one of my courses.

Ally in Blackboard

As is explained on the TEL Support Site, Ally is an add on to Blackboard which allows students to download your teaching material in alternative formats (such as in HTML for view on mobile phone, electronic braille, etc) and it provides an accessibility score on your material  as well as feedback and guidance to enable you to make the material more accessible. Instructors can see a colour coded dial with a percentage

 

 

 

 

If low, the file is deemed not accessible and needs immediate attention; if medium it is somewhat accessible and could use improvement; if high it is accessible but could be improved; and occasionally the file is judged perfect.

If you click on the icon, you are presented with a screen with the score, and an option to see all the issues. You can then see what you need to do, and how the score can be increased – though so far there is guidance on only some of the issues.

I then go back to the original Word or PowerPoint file, make the appropriate changes, and re upload them to Blackboard. I can then get a new assessment by Ally, though I tend to have to wait for it.

The percentages given can seem harshly low – I had a document with two images which I had not added Alt Text to (one being the University crest), and the score was about 50%. The file became perfect when I added suitable text to those images. I gather that Ally considers the lack of Alt Text as a more pressing issue, which accounts for the scoring.

It should be noted that Word and PowerPoint’s built in checker is satisfied if you enter a Title or Description to any Alt Text, but Ally is happy only if there is a description – so is there any point in adding a title?

I am told that Alt-Text is read by screen readers, which explains why Ally considers it important – whereas a Title can be what is shown when a mouse hovers over the figure.

Ally can’t assess how useful your Alt Text is, just that it is there – so you should use your judgement.

As we noted in the original blog, you don’t have to be perfect – most of my PowerPoint documents are rated as High, with a score of 99% – the concern being about contrast issues, but as of writing there is no guidance on where the issue occurs. I am occasionally judged as Perfect which is nice! However, this may be more of a judgement call, as it is usually obvious when viewed on the screen. Blackboard suggests downloading this tool to fix contrast issues.

One issue Ally flags is untagged PDF files. If, say, your source document is a Word file, and you correctly use styles such as Title, Heading 1, Heading 2, Normal, etc. and then decide to produce a PDF, I recommend that you do so by saving the document as PDF, but just before saving, press the Options button in the dialog box, and ensure the Document Tags for Accessibility option is ticked.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that it is better to upload Word or PowerPoint documents, rather than PDFs to Blackboard. Students can readily download such documents (in whatever format) and can change them as they require – such as adding notes to PowerPoint slides, for instance.

Using notes in PowerPoint

In 2017, I attended one of the public lectures I help to organise for the local IET on the Internet of Insecure Things. It was a very engaging lecture, comprising slides mainly composed of pictures, which the speaker in effect used as prompts. In contrast, if a slide comprises text which the speaker reads, albeit with some embellishments, a lecture can be dull.

However, from an accessibility point of view, such an approach does not provide much support. A solution to this is to use the notes section in PowerPoint. In fact, there is brief guidance in a few web sites which recommend that it is good practice if slides are decluttered and detail put in the notes section, though not specifically from an accessibility point of view.

I therefore experimented with one of my modules in the Spring term, where I simplified the text on slides, moving and embellishing some of the text into the notes section. The slides are less cluttered, and the students have access to the notes as they can download the PowerPoint from Blackboard, and they can add more detail if they want. That module went much better.

In 2018, JISC did an accessibility audit of some of the university pages and systems, and two courses in Blackboard, one of which being my second year Neural Networks module. It was noted that my lecture notes did not utilise the notes section, but that did not matter as sufficient information was there, and there were other resources on the module. However, I took it as affirmation that decluttering slides and using the notes section were good from an accessibility point of view.

Therefore, as I had planned, for this year I have reduced the amount of material on the slides for all my courses, and utilised the notes section. For this to be effective in the lecture room, the lecturer needs to use Presenter mode, where the students see the full slide, but the presenter on their screen sees, the slide, the next slide, and the notes section.

I asked IT for guidance on how this is achieved, as searches I did online did not help, and was told the following:

The reason presenter mode doesn’t work in the lecture theatres is that, although there are 2 physical screens, the system behaves as if there is only 1, it duplicates the first across all others.

This can be changed by holding the windows button + P. Then you can switch from ‘duplicate’ to ‘extend’ screens with the keyboard directional arrows + enter.

Once you have set the screen to extend, the PC will recognise 2 separate windows to operate with, and so presenter mode will work.

Please reset the room to the way you found it whenever you use this function, by pressing windows button + P and reselecting ‘duplicate’.

I have found that this works in some rooms – but not all, though I am lobbying.

What I can say is that I feel the lectures are going better, are more engaging, but it works best when the notes are visible (and hence provide some prompts) to the presenter.

Summary

From my experience, Ally is a useful tool for accessibility, though I do not have experience of students downloading material in alternative formats. There are some discrepancies between the assessment of accessibility between Ally and Word and PowerPoint, such as in the use of Alt Text. The score given by Ally seems disproportionate and it is a shame that you don’t get an immediate reassessment when you upload a changed version. It will be better when there is more guidance on addressing issues.

I also recommend the use of the notes section in PowerPoint, and believe it to be good practice in general and for accessibility. I hope that Presenter view will be working in all lecture theatres.

Group work in Computer Science

Richard Mitchell and Pat Parslow, Department of Computer Science                                r.j.mitchell@reading.ac.uk     p.parslow@reading.ac.uk

The Department of Computer Science held a workshop recently to consider our use of Group Work. This was facilitated by Pete Inness, School Deputy DTL, and Pete Andrews (CQSD), who gave a useful overview of some of the challenges and potential benefits of group work, and included a talk from Annabel Avery (DAS) on issues associated with students with Special Needs.

Group work is an important aspect of the Computer Science degree, as generally in industry graduates work with others on various projects, and so it is important to be part of a team.

The aim of the workshop was to discuss issues and to highlight some areas of good practice which could be used elsewhere in the Department, School and further afield. This blog discusses our experiences in the Group work we set, in the Part 1 Software Engineering module, the Part 3 social, legal and ethical aspects of computer science module and the Part 3 Virtual Reality module.

Richard’s Virtual Reality Groupwork

The coursework for the Virtual Reality module is to produce a virtual world. Initially all students produce a simple world, using the Unity game engine, and this is worth a quarter of the coursework mark. The rest of the coursework is to produce a more complicated world, in a particular theme. As this generally requires the use of various software packages, and I feel it unreasonable for every student to learn each package, this is done in groups of typically around six people. This allows a specialist in say SketchUp to use it, a specialist in Blender to use it, someone good at scripts in Unity to do that, etc. Each group submits their finished product and each member submits a report on their individual contribution.

As it is a final year assignment, I am not interested in team dynamics, rather (as per a project in industry), I am interested in the final product. Hence the virtual world is visited, assessed against criteria and a mark generated. Everyone gets the same mark, unless it is clear they have done nothing (including not submitting an individual report).

Again, as it is in the final year, I find it easier for students to organise their own groups. Whilst this may go against some advice re special needs students, I can comment that I was advised this year by their (ever helpful) DAS supporter that a student was anxious about the group work until they knew they could choose their own group.

I do however ask that each group notifies me early on as to the members of their group and the tasks that have been allocated to each individual. This has worked, though on the odd occasion when some students are not in a group, I help them set one up. Annabel noted that this was good practice worth disseminating.

Also we feel it is good practice to include both individual and group assessed work.

Students have produced a variety of excellent worlds, showing great creativity and have feedback that they appreciate the opportunity provided. In this year’s ‘impossible world’ theme, highlights include a surreal Dali-Escher-Caroll-esque world, some haunted houses and a virtual brain. Last year’s ‘educational’ themed projects included various museums, including one where each member built a separate room illustrating say computers, Ancient Egypt and (of course) dinosaurs. In this last example, the students could support each other in the use of the different packages.

Pat’s Experiences

The focus on product is common across most Computer Science group work, although it is coupled with assessment for learning.  It is actually important to distinguish between group, and team, assignments.  One of the goals I have is to help students learn the benefits of working as a team rather than as a group – having a common drive, working interdependently, and producing products collectively rather than a set of individual outputs “smooshed” together to produce the course work submission.  Typically, students are resistant to this process!

In Software Engineering, a first year module for which Pat has recently taken on full responsibility, there are a mix of group and individual course work assessments.  Two of them are group work, with more of a focus on “team” in the second one.  Unlike other group assessments, the members of the groups are assigned by the lecturer.  For the first iteration, they are randomly assigned, taking note of any special circumstances such as social anxiety or other mitigating factors.  This assessment has a very low overall weighting (5% of the module) and is designed so that it allows individual efforts, which can then be combined, but which benefit from group discussion to provide different viewpoints.

The second set of teams are determined based on the marks the students have gained in their first individual course work.  For the first time this year, I assigned the teams based on ability bands, rather than deliberately building in diversity to the groups.  This was felt to be something of a risk, but the expectation was that the groups who had scored lower in their individual work would start to realise that they could not just rely on other team members to do the work for them – an issue students frequently comment on whether they select their own teams or have them chosen for them.  This assessment is designed to rely more heavily on team discussion, with less leeway for dividing the tasks up in a “one per student” manner, and requiring inputs from a range of skills to complete properly.

This aspect worked well – the groups consisting of those who scored less well in individual work improved their marks, and there were very few students who failed to contribute.  Less expected, although with hindsight, possibly obvious, was that the teams of high scoring individuals did less well, and feedback from a sample suggests that this was because they tended to be quite individualistic, and not particularly well adapted to working in teams with others with similar traits.  This was felt to be a useful lesson for both the students, and the instructor.

The marking scheme for the first year work is weighted towards them demonstrating that they have taken the correct approaches, rather than having any arbitrary view of “right or wrong” – the subject area and choice of assessment facilitates this.   Part of our knowledge domain requires attention to detail and following specifications, and these pieces of work also contain assessments of the students’ ability to do this – correctly interpreting the specification, following style rules, and producing a high quality piece of proof-read work can go a long way.

In the third year social, legal and ethical aspects of computer science module, the groups are devised to maximise diversity.  The finalists tend to prefer the idea of forming their own teams, but when asked, they almost all say that even when they have free choice, they regret choosing the teams they did after an assessment.  Typically, it appears that forming teams of, say, 7 students is a challenge for them as well – frequently Pat has to point out that 8 is greater than 7.  The teams are balanced by gender (as far as is possible in our subject area), domestic or overseas, with or without industrial experience, and with students with declared disabilities distributed as evenly as possible.  The rationale is that the subject matter itself benefits greatly from having as much diversity as possible.

The task, in this instance, is to watch and critically analyse a “near future science fiction film or TV series”, drawing out similarities with the real world and looking at how the ideas in the show relate to our existing ethical, legal and social realities.  The strong advice given it to discuss the topics together as a team, and it is clear from the resulting product (a report) which teams use this approach.

In addition to the actual group/team work, in each instance the students have an assessed reflective piece of work to complete, in which they are invited to reflect not only on their own learning approaches and how they might improve them, but also on how well the team worked.  They are given a basic structure for this reflection, and encouraged to expand on it using sources from literature.  Those that make the best use of the scaffolding and of the existing literature also produce the deepest insights.

Reflecting on these assessments this year, I am pleased with the variety of experience they give the students.  The problems set are themselves close to real life scenarios, or are real life activities, and have the benefit of not being “Googleable”, but judicious design also leaves them relatively easy to mark, which is a consideration with the size of the cohorts.   One key feature introduced this year has been the use of “CSGitLab”, a version control platform and collaboration tool, which has the benefit of being the type of tool used in industry, but also allowing individual contributions to be identified even in those instances where the team has done a good job of producing a single integrated product.  Although variations on marks within the team are kept to a minimum, there are cases where one member clearly has not made any significant contribution, and it is important to recognise this in the assignment of marks.

Discussion

One of the benefits of Group Work Pete Andrews highlighted was the development of workplace skills including critical reflection, creativity, communication, problem-solving, organisation and teamwork (see the UoR Graduate Attributes). He also quoted Barrows, 2000: “An education process that requires learners to go through the same activities… that are valued in the real world”.

The examples discussed here are very much consistent with these benefits.

We also wish to highlight our experiences re group selection, the importance of identifying as soon as possible any issues with groups, the inclusion of both group and individual work, to note the distinctions between group and team, and assessing the product and team working. We will explore more the use of collaborative tools in future years. As ever, we believe it important to manage expectations, making it clear why group work is used and the benefits. We much appreciate the support from the Petes, Annabel and our colleagues for the workshop and the discussions.

References

Barrows, H. (2000). Problem-based Learning applied to medical education. Southern Illinois University, School of Medicine.

https://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/curriculum-framework/cf-graduate-attributes.aspx

Launching the FLAIR CPD scheme at the University of Reading Malaysia – By Dr Eileen Hyder

One of the highlights of 2017 for me was launching the FLAIR CPD scheme at the University of Reading Malaysia. A substantial part of my role involves talking to colleagues about their work to help them to develop ideas for their FLAIR CPD application. These conversations give me wonderful snapshots into the fantastic work happening across our institution. This is such a privilege and is probably what I love most about my work. I knew I would find it fascinating to talk to colleagues at UoRM and to learn more about the work they are doing in such a different context. However, the conversations I had there were not just fascinating but a real eye-opener for me.

One aspect of an application for Associate Fellowship or Fellowship is to write 600 words on designing and planning learning. Because the sessions/modules delivered in Malaysia have often been designed at Reading, this raised questions about whether colleagues at UoRM would be able to demonstrate this type of activity. However, the discussions that took place in the workshops threw out many examples that quickly showed us that any concerns we had were misplaced.

One example that sticks in mind came from a colleague in Psychology. He explained to us that some Psychology students at Reading will have studied the subject at school and he added that, even those who haven’t, will more than likely be aware of some key figures and concepts included in the university curriculum. However, because Psychology does not feature on the school curriculum in Malaysia and because awareness of figures like Freud or concepts like psychoanalysis cannot be taken for granted, he needs to reflect carefully on what has been designed at Reading UK to ensure it can be delivered effectively at UoRM.

Another colleague explained to us that modules at UoR UK are sometimes designed around the research interests of staff. In a case like this, the module might be taught by a team of as many as eight colleagues, with each person delivering a session built around their area of expertise. However, the same module will be delivered by only one tutor at UoRM. While I have had experience of delivering sessions designed by someone else, I have never been in a position like this. I knew I would be conscious of the limits of my expertise compared to the experts at Reading UK and be anxious about whether I would be able to provide an equally high quality learning experience for my students. I felt huge respect for the way colleagues at UoRM take responsibility for designing sessions that do this.

Through these conversations and others we quickly came to realise that we had been naive in thinking it might be difficult for colleagues at UoRM to write about designing/planning learning. We realised that far from being passive deliverers of material designed at Reading UK, they work very hard to translate and customise learning for the UoRM context. This means exercising professional judgement and skills to make learning relevant and accessible to their students.

One of the things I love about my role is how it enriches my own understanding of teaching and learning. Working with colleagues at UoRM certainly broadened my understanding of what counts as designing/planning learning. The Curriculum Framework is leading to exciting discussions about how our curricula are designed. My experiences at UoRM have led me to think that we should involve as wide a range of colleagues as possible in these discussions. Just because someone might not have had autonomy in the original design of a module does not mean that they have no agency. The Curriculum Framework is an important catalyst for discussions around curriculum design and around the global relevance of our programmes/modules. Involving colleagues who take something designed in one context and deliver it in another could add richness and value to these discussions.

AN ‘APPY CHRISTMAS IN AGRICULTURE: SHARING OUR TEACHING AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES By Dr Alice Mauchline & Prof Julian Park

During December 2016, we had the chance to share our teaching and learning experiences here at the University of Reading with thousands of other educators around the world by providing a case study for a seasonal online course called ‘The 12 apps of Christmas’.

The free, open, short, online Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course was run for the third time by the Dublin Institute of Technology. The programme released ‘an app a day’ for the first 12 weekdays in December and over 3,000 participants logged in to get quick outlines of different ways in which they could integrate mobile learning into their teaching and learning practices. The aim was to raise awareness of the benefits of mobile apps and technologies, to provide upskilling for educators and to help expand their personal learning networks. The course was a collaborative effort with case studies from Ireland, UK and the USA and now that it has finished, the site has been left online as an open resource for all to use. It is available here: https://the12appsofchristmas2016.wordpress.com/

The case study was produced in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Sheffield and Chester as a dissemination activity for the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning (EFL) project.  The EFL team have been working together to research and share innovations in field teaching and learning with a particular focus on the use of mobile technologies.

The app we focused on for the case study was ‘Geospike’; this app allows instant location recording using the internal GPS of a mobile device, to which photos, videos and field notes can be attached. This functionality means the app can be used as a georeferenced field notebook. The pedagogic case study we wrote described how we used the app to log field sampling sites in Iceland with Final year undergraduates from the University of Reading and the University of Akureyri, Iceland on a joint Microbiology field-based module led by Prof Rob Jackson (School of Biological Sciences).

Photos from the Iceland fieldtrip showing students using the iPads to log their sampling locations in GeoSpike (we gratefully acknowledge the Annual Fund for their support in purchasing a set of iPads to support field learning at Reading)

The experience of sharing our pedagogic innovations through the 12 apps of Christmas provided us with the opportunity to interact with educators, students, librarians and learning technologists across the globe. The cohort included people with a multitude of different subject backgrounds and experiences which led to very interesting conversations through Twitter and exchanges of comments on the website.

Frances Boylan @boylanfm A map of #12appsDIT followers (https://twitter.com/boylanfm/status/808324692109119488)

Several other apps with similar functionality to Geospike were discussed along with many suggestions of alternative, innovative uses of this kind of app in teaching and learning activities. Our favourite feedback was on Twitter from @LeithaD “#12appsDIT Really love the case study for GeoSpike. A nifty app is one thing, but a well-constructed learning activity is even better!”

Learn more:

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning https://enhancingfieldwork.org.uk/

12 Apps of Christmas https://the12appsofchristmas2016.wordpress.com/

Take part:

DIT aren’t running the 12 Apps of Christmas in 2017 but there are a couple of others to try this year:

A Language Teaching Community of Practice: Collaborative development of expertise and scholarship By Jackie Baines (Dept. of Classics), Rita Balestrini (MLES), Sarah Brewer (ISLI), Barbara King (IoE), Regine Klimpfinger (MLES), Congxia Li (IWLP), Sarah Marston (IoE)

Over the course of the last academic year, the idea of creating a Language Teaching Community of Practice (LT CoP) has taken shape and developed as part of the University strategy to support and promote language learning and expertise in foreign languages teaching. A number of colleagues involved in language teaching or teacher education from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, the International Study and Language Institute, the Institute of Education and the Department of Classics, have agreed to meet informally and contribute, from their different perspectives, to the implementation of the project.

As a core group, we began our work with a critical discussion of the idea of CoP itself, its evolution and its adoption as an organisational tool. We discussed the range of functions that, as a cross-institutional LT CoP, we would like to have (sharing practices, responding to needs, mentoring, influencing policies, bidding for funds etc.) and key issues that we consider relevant to our interests and needs as language practitioners working in different  contexts. We agreed that one of our defining aims will be to deepen knowledge, promote reflection and stimulate in-depth discussion around themes relating to our professional practice at the UoR. Therefore, we have decided to focus on one main theme in each academic year. In 2016-2017, we began to share and discuss some aspects of our assessment practices and we intend to continue exploring this theme in 2017-2018.

We would now like to widen participation and invite colleagues who have an interest in foreign language pedagogy to join us in termly meetings. The first meeting will be held on 13th November, from 1-2 pm (Carrington, Room 101) room tbc) and will focus on marking criteria, rubrics and grading scales used to assess speaking and writing in a foreign language. We invite interested colleagues to give short presentations on these topics (10-15 minutes). For organisational purposes, we would like to receive a short abstract/summary (approximately 100 words) of the presentation by Friday 27th October at the latest. This should be sent to r.balestrini@reading.ac.uk

As is the nature of a CoP, our structure and plans will remain flexible and we will respond to the needs and interests of our members. Therefore, the direction in which the discussion will continue in the spring and summer meetings will emerge from this first event in the autumn term.

If you plan to join us at our Autumn meeting on 13th November, please register your interest in participating at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/autumn-meeting-of-the-language-teaching-community-of-practice-lt-cop-tickets-38351139290

The Commercial Law LLM Programmes – Engaging PGT Law students as equal partners in the redesign of a core programme module with the support of a UoR T&L grant By Dr Despoina (Deni) Mantzari (School of Law)

Introduction: Students as Partners

In recent years, there has been an increased appetite in higher education to explore and enhance the ways in which students can become more involved in the design and delivery of their own learning experiences. A prominent way of doing so is engaging students as equal partners in a range of practices and pedagogies. Dubbed as ‘Students as Partners’ (‘SaPs) in the academic literature, this specific practice, or, perhaps, better put ‘ethos’, embraces students and staff working together on teaching and learning in higher education.

Context

The re-design of the LLM in International Commercial Law, in which I was actively involved, presented an excellent opportunity to explore in further detail the usefulness of this practice. Hence, in June 1016 I was awarded with a small UoR Teaching and Learning grant (£250) with the objective to involve a group of ten PGT students from the School of Law as equal partners in the process of redesigning the curriculum of a core PGT module. The PGT LLM module is entitled LWMTAI-Advanced International Commercial Law Issues (20 credits), and is one of the core mandatory modules of the new ‘LLM in International Commercial Law’.

Motivation

What motivated me in particular was the need to listen to the ‘student voice’ by actively and directly engaging students in the design of the curriculum. So far, ‘student voice’ is largely heard ex post; following the completion of the taught component of the module, e.g. on a Module Evaluation Form. I wanted to go beyond existing practice and listen to the ‘student voice’ ex ante; before delivery, by proactively engaging students/learners as equal partners in the redesign of the module. This does not only reflect a current, strategic Teaching and Learning Enhancement Priority of the University, but it is also vital to the success and effective delivery of the module and subsequently to the new LLM Programme. The broader aim was to promote partnership in teaching and learning, building a collective vision of the future of PGT commercial law subjects and programme.

Implementation

Both current and revised MDF forms of the module were circulated to a group of ten PGT students in the School of Law along with a questionnaire. Five of them were students that had completed the module in its pre-revised form and five were students that were not enrolled on the module. The latter group of students was valuable in offering a ‘naïve perception’ to the design of the module. Students were asked to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the module, as reflected in the MDF forms. Their answers to the different questions posed, along with other concerns/recommendations they wished to share, were discussed in a two-hour event, open to all staff involved in PGT Law teaching. Each participating student to the project was paid with vouchers that could be spent in in the Blackwell bookstore on campus.

Currently, as part of my EDMAP 3 project, I have extended the scope of this project by involving currently enrolled PGT Law students, who were the first to be taught the module in its revised form.

Beneficiaries

There are several beneficiaries of this project; direct and indirect. The project delivered considerable benefits to the students who took part in the process; they gained a better understanding of the teaching and learning process, and, furthermore, engaging students as equal partners fostered a sense of belonging and promoted inclusive learning. Secondly, future students will also benefit from a module that has been partly redesigned by students-partners. Thirdly, the insights gained through this project, and shared in the two-hour event, may potentially inform the design and delivery of other, future or existing, PGT modules. Finally, it is hoped that the project will inspire and motivate all staff involved in teaching and learning to think beyond the limiting ‘customer satisfaction’ model that tends to dominate Higher Education nowadays and towards a more challenging and rewarding relationship with our students based on genuine cooperation and trust.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Working collaboratively with students to design lectures the way they want them – By Dr Wing Man Lau

Have you ever had to deliver lecture materials so cognitively challenging and dull at the same time, that your students either become utterly befuddled or fall asleep before you finish delivering them? I have.

The conundrum

I am the Module Convenor for a pharmacy practice module that focuses on pharmacy laws and regulations relating to medical prescriptions. Materials covered to this module are absolutely fundamental to the students’ future career, since legal and ethical considerations underpin the day-to-day decisions that pharmacists make. It is therefore essential that our pharmacy students have a thorough understanding of the topic to safeguard public and patient safety. However, students have always perceived the topic to be dull and clinically irrelevant. Thus, the principal challenge in teaching pharmacy laws and regulations has always been making the learning environment interesting and engaging. Traditionally, pharmacy law education has relied heavily on lectures, yet lectures alone often fail to engage students effectively to facilitate deep learning. Teaching on the module currently runs as a 2-hour lecture followed by a 2-hour workshop where dispensing activities take place based on materials covered in the lecture. The dispensing activities provide students with opportunities to apply knowledge that they have gained in the lecture. However, since the students find it difficult to engage with the lecture materials in the first place, they are often unable to apply the knowledge in the dispensing activities.

How do you make a seemingly dull topic engaging and captivating to students, such that they are able to effectively absorb, retain and apply the knowledge?

Like most colleagues, I use module feedback, regular informal feedback, peer observation as well as self-reflection to improve my lectures accordingly. Year on year, I collate all feedback and devise creative strategies accordingly to present my lectures, e.g. by adding quizzes, practical examples, interactive exercises to make them more relevant and interactive. Even though I get better feedback each year, I still fail to capture all students’ attention throughout the entire 2-hour lecture.

What else can I do?

The collaborative approach

Our students learn in very different ways, and when it comes to teaching approach, one size clearly does not fit all. I knew from student feedback that the students were not fully engaged or were unable to grasp the content of a lecture, but I usually did not know why. In trying to improve the lectures, I presumed certain reasons based on my own interpretations and perspectives. I have come to realise recently that those presumptions may have been misguiding the ‘improvements’ that I was making to my lectures. Little surprise then that I did not find a solution to the problem. Perhaps, instead of presuming anything, could I ask the students to incorporate improvements into my lectures in a way that they would find engaging instead?

So, this year I have decided to collaborate with my students in re-designing my lecture. The project aims to bring student perspectives to designing a lecture that not only will be engaging to students, but also create an active learning environment that suits their various learning styles. This will hopefully enable the students to gain, retain and apply the knowledge. I have recruited three pharmacy students (Ohn You Kim, Jakub Zurek and Tanzeela Hussain) to re-design a 2-hour pharmacy law lecture that I gave in the autumn term. The students have led the project from the outset in planning and designing the lecture. My role has been to meet with them from time to time to support their discussions, and introducing them to the University Technology Enhanced Learning Team to see how they can incorporate technology effectively. The students have decided to use a range of different delivery platforms within the lecture. They have suggested the use of Prezi, Quizizz, scratch cards, Metimeter and prescription scenarios using the ‘think, pair, share’ approach. They are currently in the final stage of the re-design. I will be using their design to deliver the lecture again to the same cohort of students and gauge their feedback.

I am already excited about what has been happening thus far. I am eager to see and deliver the final design of the lecture. After collating the feedback on the new design, the students aim to write about their design and summarise their findings for this blog, so watch this space!