At the Curriculum framework conference on 25th January 2017, it was a delight to present with Sed Joshi, Diversity and Inclusion Sabbatical officer from RUSU on the topic of “How well do we know our students?” We gave staff a quiz, presented facts and figures about our students from the Annual Diversity and Inclusion Report, and discussed what we are doing to try to make our staff body look more like our student body. Video testimonies from students told us why this was important and also what made them feel included.
But it’s always good to try new technology, and we decided to adopt something I learnt from the Association of Science Educations conference – an evolving word cloud. So, we asked 73 participants for 3 words they would use to describe our students, and via Mentimeter, got this (Size of words indicates how many times that response was made):
Perhaps given that we were primed by being in a session about diversity it is not a surprise that the largest word is diverse! What would you add?
This was originally posted on the University’s Diversity and Inclusion blog created by the Deans for Diversity and Inclusion, Ellie Highwood and Simon Chandler-Wilde.
On a chilly week mid-November, Clare McCullagh and Angela Buckingham headed out of Heathrow to fly fifteen hours east to reach the ancient city of Nanjing in China. Colleagues at Nanjing University of Information, Science and Technology (NUIST) were waiting for us to deliver the Teaching and Learning Development Course, contributing to the University of Reading Recognised Teacher Status for staff within the NUIST-Reading Academy. The cohort consisted of teaching staff from China, Russia, Egypt and Britain.
Globalisation, the internationalisation of the curriculum and cross-cultural development are key themes in the Higher Education sector currently and so, after three days of collaboration, sharing ideas around pedagogy and implementation of effective classroom practices, we thought it would be interesting here to share our underlying Five Principles (after Chickering and Gamson’s Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education1) for implementing effective training in an overseas context, with an illustration of what this looked like in practice.
Our hope is that some of these principles may be a helpful for you in your teaching and learning context.
Five principles for successful training
1 Develop rapport and know your learners (this may be even more important with a mixed nationality group)
We used a variety of ice breakers, warm up activities and numerous opportunities for personalisation to ease our teaching colleagues into a comfortable ‘stretch’ zone where they were happy to reflect upon current practice and discuss ways to implement change effectively.
Example: Icebreaker, Day 1 Suitcase Activity– what are you bringing to the course? What are your areas of expertise? What are you good at? What are you hoping to take away?:- otherwise known as a rough and ready Needs Analysis
2 Change the classroom layout (and focus on creating a Positive Learning environment)
This was essential, in order to model ways in which different interaction patterns could easily be encouraged, moving the focus away from a teacher-led transmission model to a facilitation one, (away from the ‘Sage on the Stage’ to a ‘Guide on the Side’), acknowledging that the participants’ own experiences and views were not only valid but welcome. This was an area that was much commented on in the initial evaluations following the course.
Example: Day 3 Team building: table group work to create physical models of a teaching theory – using whatever resources they could find in the room (this included paper cups, chairs, post-its and even an umbrella)
3 Model the method, encourage Active Learning
One of our guiding principles when working with educators is to provide training with a practical focus, which will save busy lecturers time when they come to prepare future sessions. In this way, there is a good deal of linking theoretical models to actual classroom practice.
Example:Reflective logs, daily: at the end of each day, we invited lecturers to spend 15 minutes in quiet reflective time, to identify what their key learning outcomes were for each session from the workshops and how they could be applied in their own teaching and learning context.
4 Use the Three Ts – topic, task and time
Following on from the previous principle – educating teachers and aiding their development is complex and involves discussion, examination and time in order for teachers to construct meaning for themselves. We provided a wide range of learning tasks and activities, with plenty of support given to enable the participants to make the links between methodology and practice for themselves.
Example:Peer learning: comparison of teaching policies at the University of Reading and NUIST.
5 Training is a two-way process (in other words, be prepared for two-way learning – be ready to learn from the participants)
We travelled to NUIST knowing that the starting point for all discussions around teaching and learning do not take place in a vacuum, but are highly personal and situated in a particular context and that the person who knows the most about what happens in your own classroom is you. Teacher development provides the opportunity and space for educators to step back and examine their own teaching stories and by sharing these, continue the cycle of reflection and development.
Example:Teacher Hat, Student Hat: lecturers shared ways that they could apply activities in their context by discussing in pairs questions such as – Could you use this in your classroom? What adaptations would you need to make?
After three days of intensive training, it was time to fly back home. We left behind the lecturers at the NUIST-Reading Academy motivated and energised, ready to face their classes on Monday with new perspectives and ideas developed from their collaboration with colleagues – and also with the beginnings of a new community of practitioners to draw upon for development and support. We brought back with us a deeper understanding of the challenges our counterparts at NUIST face, and new shared perspectives on ways to continue our own learning journeys.
Clare McCullagh and Angela Buckingham are Academic Developers in the Centre for Quality support and Development (CQSD). They visited the Reading Academy at NUIST from 15th-21st November 2016.
1 Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson (1987) “Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education” American Association of Higher Education Bulletin vol.39 no.7 pp.3-7
The conference is an annual event for professionals working in EAP in English language departments and units across the UK and further afield, who undertake activities similar to ISLI’s Pre-Sessional English (PSE) and Academic English Programme (AEP). There are in fact a number of such conferences each year in the UK, and many attract participants from abroad. It is increasingly recognised that there is a need to support students whose first language is not English who arrive in the UK as a full time student, or (increasingly) as part of a Trans-National Education (TNE) programme. One question many leaders of T&L are asking is how to incorporate EAP into existing degree teaching – should it be extra-curricular or should it be integrated into the degree itself? The conference theme attempted to tackle this challenge: ‘Finding the balance: language and content in EAP’, and thus provided an ideal opportunity for us to share ISLI’s experience of collaborating with Chemistry.
Our presentation: ‘Designing a subject-specific EAP course for Chemists’
The ‘English for Chemists’ module (CH3ENG) was created for the 2014/15 session onwards as a result of forward planning:
Chemistry staff members visiting NUIST and meeting Applied Chemistry students as well as their lecturers
Chemistry staff members discussing any ‘gap’ of attainment likely when the 3+1 students arrive for Part 3 (thereby recognised that EAP support would be a necessary component)
Chemistry working with ISLI to create 20 credits’ worth of study designed uniquely for the NUIST students arriving for Part 3.
Two types of essential skill were identified as areas which would normally have been covered or developed during Parts 1 and 2:
language functions, such as explaining chemical reaction processes, clear pronunciation, effective speaking in groups in labs
important Chemistry skills, such as safety regulation awareness, Chemistry-specific IT, generic study skills.
The decision was therefore made to create two 10-credit modules, the former delivered by ISLI (CH3ENG), and the latter by Chemistry (CH3NUI), requiring further joint planning to take place, ensuring the modules complemented each other but did not overlap. An example of this would be ‘avoiding plagiarism’, which could equally be considered ‘language’ (ISLI) or ‘general study skills’ (Chemistry). In order to avoid repetition and retain a balance the ‘avoiding plagiarism’ objective was placed within the CH3NUI module. Close monitoring has taken place during the first 2 years, and gradual developments are ongoing, for example a greater emphasis on writing short examination-type responses will be given in CH3ENG.
Presentations from other universities
EAP taught on its own as a subject, as in most Pre-Sessional English courses, usually results in a ‘generic’ form of English teaching, i.e. activities which require academic skills such as structuring writing, using references, presenting clearly, and contributing to seminar discussion. Topics and formats tend to be closer to social science(s) than pure sciences because of the likelihood that the topic areas are ‘common knowledge’. Generic EAP would involve studying texts and writing essays on ethical business, education approaches, employment patterns, and the like.
Contributions to the conference made it clear that ‘imbedded’ In-Sessional English is a fast-growing area of interest for many EAP professionals, and this conference gave an opportunity to share best practice in giving English language support to students learning specific subject areas. For instance, colleagues from the University of Manchester presented on two projects: a masters level ‘Principles of Scientific Writing’ for Chemistry, and the challenges of providing English language support for mathematicians. Colleagues from the University of Edinburgh posed interesting alternative views on to what extent Academic English lecturers can or should comment on the content of students’ writing, and colleagues from the University of Leeds are launching a brand new discipline-specific Pre-Sessional English programme, which has involved close collaboration between the English language centre and subject departments across the university.
Common sentiments expressed were:
a) collaboration between English language and subject experts is vital
b) a ‘blinkered’ subject focus is not enough (as with many professional roles these days): EAP lecturers need to have some interest in or knowledge of specific academic subjects, while subject lecturers need to have some interest in or knowledge of the language issues of international students
c) teaching and learning leaders in UK universities often do recognise – though could perhaps recognise more – the importance of integrating language and study skills support into TNE programmes, rather than offering ‘extra-curricular’ opportunities
d) ideally, staff in both EAP and subject departments should be involved in planning and delivery of certain modules, even at times ‘team teaching’ or ‘team marking’, though this clearly has resourcing implications (utilising PhD students as tutors can be a good solution).
Reflections and follow-up
ISLI at Reading already has an expanding range of subject collaborations as part of the AEP programme, with an increasing number becoming credit-bearing. Food and Nutritional Sciences has a long-standing 2+2 arrangement with Henan University of Technology central to which is an embedded credit-bearing EAP module, while Reading has plans to expand its 3+1 provision with NUIST in other subject areas. This seems to be in step with other UK universities, and there will be more of such possibilities growing in future.
Meanwhile, ISLI are currently looking into developing a more subject-specific PSE programme, and will therefore be closely watching developments of the new subject-specific Pre-Sessional English programme at Leeds.
Perhaps the most significant expansion of this type of activity will be seen at the Malaysia campus, where students will benefit from carefully planned English language and study skills input both before and during their degree courses, and will feature inter-campus as well as inter-departmental collaboration.
On 24 April, 2015: 40 academic educators from 19 institutions came together to discuss key issues in MOOC design and implementation. The one-day workshop, hosted and funded by the University of Reading, a leading member of the FutureLearn MOOC consortium, offered the opportunity to evaluate practical lessons in designing and delivering MOOCs, particularly in relation to academic skills development. The focus was on problem-based discussion of approaches to teaching and learning and of the extent to which MOOC learning outcomes can be defined, measured, or achieved.
There were four presentations, each of which explored a particular issue related to the central theme, followed by group discussion around questions suggested by the presenters.
Dimensions of MOOCs: Shirley Williams (University of Reading) gave us an overview of some MOOC statistics and taxonomies, and highlighted some MOOC issues viewed from the ‘outside’ and from the provider’s view. As follow-up, she asked us to extend her list of MOOC dimensions, discuss how we should be measuring success, and consider whether and how we should compare courses.
Pedagogy as a service: lessons and challenges from the perspective of the platform: David Major from FutureLearn led us through some key lessons – and challenges – and asked us to discuss two major questions: Are MOOCs platforms for content and courses, or platforms for learning and pedagogy? How can we coalesce individualism from the view of courses, platform, educators and learning?
Repurposing MOOCs for language learning purposes: Liam Murray (University of Limerick) shared the results and recommendations of a team who evaluated a number of MOOCs to determine their potential to be repurposed for second language acquisition. Liam suggested that we consider two aspects of MOOCs in our groups: specialisation and adaptability.
Designing assessed group work for MOOCs: Marion Waite, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Abigail Ball (Oxford Brookes University) shared their experience with group work on the TOOC15 MOOC. They proposed we discuss why we assess in a MOOC and how we should do it. They also had us consider the issues and practical challenges associated with grouping students and peer review.
It’s hard to summarise the lively and far-ranging discussions that took place, but the round-table at the end of the day (shown in the picture above) helped establish some key lessons learned, some useful tips, and challenges to explore further.
Some lessons learned:
There is a longish history of en-masse online learning behind MOOCS (starting with Usenet groups), so it’s important to avoid re-inventing the wheel.
Initial MOOC-hype is dying down, but interest is still growing, as seen in takeup of repeat MOOCs.
MOOC measurement is best avoided, especially if superficial, e.g. if they are only about numbers signing up
MOOCs are a good way of marketing – a shop window – so need institutional support.
The learners you get may not the ones you expected, so keep assessing your learning goals.
Best practice tips from the day:
Keep your eyes open , e.g. educators can benefit from enrolling on other MOOCs as learners.
Keep talking to each other. It’s important to have Communities of Practice.
MOOCS should draw on best practice in T&L. Let pedagogy lead!
MOOCs – where next?
‘The walls of the institution are coming down to the level of the learners’ – there will be an opening up of practice in range and aims of MOOCs.
Types of MOOC will include:
Tasters for University courses
Retirees taking MOOCS for interest/enjoyment
MOOCs embedded in f2f courses (eg basic Maths)
A lot could be presented as REF case studies, so reliable research context is vital.
MOOCS will get more specific/specialised as the market place gets more crowded…
but there will still be value in ‘Introductions to….’ MOOCs.
There will be more mixed x- and c-MOOCs.
There will be more training/professional MOOCs, but many people will still do academic MOOCs for enjoyment.
MOOCS will get better at delivering pedagogic aims.
There will be a wider range of stakeholders (e.g. employers).
Do MOOCs need to be assessed? If so, assessment must be paid for.
How can participants demonstrate what they have learned in non-traditional forms of assessment?
Overall, the workshop allowed presenters and delegates to share questions and lessons learned, and to consider how to take forward best practice in online en-masse learning. We very much hope to keep the dialogue going in the future.
Engaging with literary representations of ‘race’, racism and ethnicity This workshop offers university teachers of literature a forum to reflect on texts that enquire into the construction of ‘race’, the practices of racism, and the representation of ethnic difference. Delegates will articulate the ethical value of such teaching and evaluate relevant practical approaches, working together towards a ‘postcolonial pedagogy’. This workshop is free to attend but booking is essential as numbers are limited. To register, visit: www.heacademy.ac.uk/events For further information, contact Dr Nicola Abram: firstname.lastname@example.org Workshop venue: Room G01, Building L033, London Road Campus, University of Reading, RG1 5AQ Tuesday 29 April 2014 10am – 4pm
Many of us enjoy attending the University’s T&L Showcase Series of seminars, as not only do these events give an insight into the exciting things going on across the University, but they also give us food for thought with regards potential teaching enhancements we may wish to try out ourselves. It was somewhat with this second aim in mind that last year I set up something similar in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics – a Teaching & Learning Seminar Series. On the one hand this was an attempt to create a seminar series of interest to those in the department who were more interested in T&L projects than research. However, with my student engagement hat on, I was keen that this seminar series would be fairly unique as it would be open equally to students and staff, both in terms of being audience members and also being presenters.
The seminars consist of a 20 minute presentation on a T&L theme determined by the speaker, followed by an audience discussion of some of the key points arising. Here both students and staff discuss the topic on equal terms, since both have an interest in it. We had six seminars this year, three of which were presented by undergraduate students (on topics they proposed themselves, such as the usefulness of tutorials and lecturing styles vs learning styles, and also on diversity of assessment, which had been the focus of a Departmental T&L summer project for one student).
In terms of how successful this series has been, I think it is fair to say that, although the audience has been small for most of the seminars this year, those who have taken part have enjoyed it. I’ve certainly found the discussions to be very useful, and there is never enough time to discuss everything we want to! But some ideas have arisen which I’ve already been able to take forward when considering programme enhancements, and these ideas have generally come from the students. We definitely aim to continue with this seminar series, and hope that our students (and staff!) will continue to propose topics for discussion. I would encourage other departments to try out something similar, as this is a straightforward and enjoyable way to engage students as partners in the learning process.
I recently attended this QAA event on MOOCS in London for the University. Speakers included David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, and Sir Timothy O’Shea, Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh University which has been running 6 MOOCs for the last year (including very popular courses on philosophy and on equine health).
The guiding topic for the day was the incorporation of quality assurance into the products and ‘ecosystem’ around MOOCs, especially as they begin to move from being free-to-all offerings to involving elements of cost and/or accreditation, which seems a likely next step.
The room, naturally, was full of people who believe in MOOCs – but the level of enthusiasm and belief that this really does mark a significant departure point in HE was impressive. This suggests that Reading has done well to get in among the early adopters of this in the UK, because the impression was that the pace of change and accumulation of market-place prestige is likely to be rapid, and that early providers are being promoted by FutureLearn as an elite – there are plenty of institutions outside this initial group who are getting interested in providing MOOCs, so our early engagement brings both opportunity and some pressure to deliver.
Here are some of the observations that seemed to me key messages from the day’s discussions and presentations:
MOOCs seem to be accepted as useful as a good shop window for recruitment – that’s a major quid pro quo at this stage.
Completion of courses is not the main or only goal – tasters etc count as success, rather than the percentage of people finishing a course.
Entering the MOOC market properly requires serious engagement and up-front investment: it’s a prominent platform on which to fail.
It has developed a momentum that is finally realizing long-anticipated radical change in the sector, as technologies converge into something workable – it does seem to justify the hype.
Education analytics that come out of MOOCs have the power to be transformative.
The future, regarding accreditation and paid-for enhancements, is fairly close but not yet clearly defined.
At the same time, there is a distinction between informal, for-free, MOOC learning and fee-paying, formal, accredited learning, which the OU sees as important to maintain.
The pace of change is such that institutions are having to make commitments, with no extra resource and with no clear picture of where this might be heading. But it is better at this stage to be part of the process than to be left behind.
The undergraduate campus experience is not seriously threatened by this (yet), but for enrichment, and esp. part-time, postgraduate, and specialist vocational material, the MOOC has the potential to be seriously disruptive.
Student panelists seemed enthusiastic – they showed no resistance at all to the idea of MOOCs being used within their own courses as a supplement (though nor did they acknowledge that without separate funding MOOC creation and administration are likely to be competing for resources of e.g staff time with campus teaching).
There was also no student resistance to universities giving away course content for free that other students are paying £9k for – students see the wider University experience as what they are paying for.
Finally, I asked Sir Timothy and others what success in a MOOC would look like and how it could be measured. There was no very clear answer as we are at such an early stage – which is interesting in itself – but it was suggested that for the entry cost to the MOOC marketplace it would be hard to buy an equivalent amount of positive press coverage, interaction with potential applicants, and teaching innovation.
On Wed 5 June, rather too many people crammed into rather too warm a room to hear about where we are going wrong when teaching students about referencing practices – and a suite of teaching materials that will hopefully help us avoid such pitfalls.
Our speaker was Diane Schmitt, Senior Lecturer in EFL/TESOL at Nottingham Trent University, whose topic was Adding ‘purpose’ to instruction on the use of sources, referencing and ‘avoiding plagiarism’. Diane argued that we need to refocus on the fact that the absence of plagiarism is not equivalent to good writing. We should instead move towards a ‘pedagogy for using sources’, teaching students how, why and when to use sources in their discipline. An especially useful ‘takeaway’ message proposed encouraging students to take a staged approach to reading, starting with a short introductory text that outlined the main issues and topics before moving on to in-depth research in second-level sources which could be used to support their academic writing. Bringing reading into the classroom can help to support ‘reading to learn’ as well as building knowledge and the comprehension of arguments.
The session also saw the launch of the Academic Integrity Toolkit, a suite of teaching materials on the practices students need to get right to avoid plagiarism. These were developed as part of a TLDF-funded project, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism, which brought together investigators from Study Advice, the Library and the ISLC. With brief handouts and exercise sheets, PowerPoint slides and links to screencasts, the Toolkit aims to facilitate guidance on effective study within subject teaching and in feedback to individual students. Topics include taking useful notes, citing unusual sources and writing paraphrases. The full toolkit is on Blackboard (search the Organisation Catalog for ‘Academic Integrity Toolkit’ – you can self-enrol) where slides and handout from Diane’s talk can also be found. Contact any member of the team directly for more information.
On Thursday 18th April, the HEA hosted a conference in Bristol, showcasing some innovative uses of old technologies as well as demonstrating the cutting edge of new tech used in the delivery of teaching materials to undergraduates in medicine and dentistry. We attended in the hope that some of these ideas might be adaptable for teaching the increasingly tech-savvy undergraduates of UoR’s School of Biological Sciences and School of Pharmacy. The focus of this workshop was the use of mobile devices, social media and open practice in medicine and dentistry but was applicable to many disciplines. This was an intense day, packed full of interesting sessions including:
Twitter for forming networks
Blogs to support reflection
Apps for mobile devices e.g. Reflection app, Learning Suite app (MCQs), Clinical assessment app (tutor feedback sent straight to your eportfolio), Dr Companion app (5-6 searchable textbooks).
The University of Reading recently hosted the Classical Association Conference, the UK’s largest annual meeting for Classicists. As well as research papers, the CA traditionally hosts panels exploring the teaching of the subject at both school and University levels and covering new developments. Classics, despite its ancient subject matter, has always been at the forefront of modern digital techniques of teaching and research, as recent work here at Reading shows.
This year’s CA featured a series of panels dedicated to e-learning, and as ever school and university teaching staff enjoyed the chance to learn what new developments each others’ professions had found to be useful (or not). In The first panel, teachers discussed their use of online learning environments, and pupils’ use of and response to using digital classroom tools for collaborative learning in a session which led into a general and wide-ranging audience discussion on the merits and demerits of VLEs. A second panel considered the application of IT resources to language teaching via heavily interactive digital resources of various sorts. New classroom IT offers the scope for social collaboration via wiki-like pages, and for the development of learning resources that are project- and problem-based. On the other hand, VLE’s can lag behind commercial or social software in the ‘real world’, which shapes student expectations. The incorporation of social media in teaching contexts can blur the boundaries between social and paedagogic interactions in ways that can be both productive and challenging – the appropriate etiquette around appropriate Facebook use, for example, continues to develop for both pupils and teachers. The panels considered the need to make IT resources engaging enough to capture student engagement when the online environment can create an expectation of game-like experiences, while still delivering robust content and structure.
These panels reflected a growing interest in tools and techniques for digital learning, a topic of much current interest in our own University. The overall impression from the panel I chaired was that there is much excitement about what has already been developed, and what is about to come (MOOCs were mentioned more than once). At the same time, there was a sense that the pace of change can make it hard to back the right horse – that time, effort, or money directed at a current device or platform might be worth very little in a couple of years, and that solid, ‘committee-designed’ platforms within institutions can lag behind nimbler commercial offerings. Students are now such practiced digital consumers that any frustrations or shortcomings in (for instance) a VLE are likely to disrupt their use of it quite substantially, and make it hard for us to direct them to the digital resources that we want them to use. The same seems to be true in the school classroom. When done well, however, results seem to show a promising uplift in performance and student engagement; the consensus was that digital methods of teaching definitely deserve their growing place in the teaching toolkit.
The conference panels also helped to address what seemed to be a shared sense of frustration that successful initiatives can develop in isolation, with practitioners in different sectors or institutions working on similar projects but unknown to each other. Conferences like this help to bring such people together, and as ever the chance to talk to and learn from people across one’s own field and beyond was very rewarding for all concerned.