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Professor Philip Martin, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience, Learning and Teaching), Sheffield Hallam University Learning and Teaching Conference, 11th July 2012
First a note of welcome and thanks. So welcome to all colleagues, and welcome to our external speakers, Usman Ali and Annette Cashmore; to our colleagues from Chesterfield College, and to our employer representatives who have given of their time to come here today. We’re grateful to all of you. And thank you to Andrew Middleton and all his colleagues in QESS and in the Faculties who have pulled this conference together through a real team effort.
And I hope – above all – that it will be an enjoyable and stimulating day for all of you.
Teaching and Learning at Sheffield Hallam
The future of this university depends, above all else, on the quality of its teaching. This is no exaggeration. If we had to concentrate on one thing, and one thing only, to assure our future – then it is this. And the teaching in the university – in the final analysis – cannot be greatly influenced by me, or by other leaders and managers and support departments: we can only put broad frameworks in place to encourage good teaching, to allow it to flourish and to stress its importance. No, the quality of teaching depends on the thriving development of ‘teaching cultures’ – not one, but several: teaching cultures led by groups and individuals who practice teaching in the many different subject areas and disciplines of this large and diverse university. And more, those groups and individuals need to be broadly representative, not a special group of zealots, not a cult, not a group of technical specialists. Good teaching needs to be in the life-blood of the university: it needs to be lived and breathed, and part of everyone’s aspiration. Further still, we need to learn to optimise the different teaching strengths we have in the university, to make room for and acknowledge the different attributes that people bring with them into the classroom: from mavericks and charismatics on the one hand, to those with excellent organisation, subtlety of approach, pedogogic sophistication and expertise, sensitivity to their students, intuitive understanding of their needs and high levels of scholarly understanding in the subject. There is no single good teaching model; no teaching clone; no machine to do it for you; no dominating dogma; no mechanical adoption of a teaching rule. Which means, above all, that we must learn to teach well in teams, to accommodate different approaches, and above all to evaluate and learn from each other. That is how you build teaching strengths. And you will see that the university draft definition of good teaching – around which we will have a university debate and discussion – is a definition with this kind of latitude.
So the future of the university depends -well, depends on you – you people here today.
And you will immediately have noticed that I have started my brief introduction with a politically incorrect emphasis. For it is the convention to talk of learning and teaching (not teaching and learning) in order to give precedence to learning. Now there is a basic logic in this of course, in that you can teach all you like but if your students are not learning – if the classroom is (figuratively speaking) empty – then nothing will happen. But it seems to me that this precedence given to learning above teaching is sometimes patronising and problematic. Of course the point of teaching is so that students can learn: we don’t need the syntax to be continually adjusted to remind us of this – we don’t need that kind of propaganda, and we are not idiots. But more significantly, the subtle devaluation of teaching in this syntax is also de-professionalising: teaching is a great and wonderful profession, and it requires dedication, skill, great and profound understanding, unfathomable patience and massive vocational energy and drive, and if we forget all these things by giving undue deference to the culture of learning then we simply fail to understand the symbiosis, and we detract credit from ourselves as professionals. And we might forget, and sometimes we do forget, that although we want students to become ‘autonomous learners’ as the hideous jargon has it, that doesn’t mean that we want them to stop talking to us, that doesn’t mean that the dialogue stops, or reduces. I’ve never really understood that mechanical calculation that assumes you measure your success in teaching undergraduates by reducing their final year contact hours. I’d have thought that the more they know, the more sophisticated their approach to knowledge, the more potential there is for dialogue, the more there is to discuss……
Why does the future of the university depend upon teaching?
Our institutional mission is strongly underpinned by access and widening participation. This does not, necessarily, define our student market, but we understand our regional and national role in these terms. Most importantly, our track-record (retention, progression and achievement) is very good in terms of the value added in the student awards to their qualifications on admission, even while those grades continue to improve year on year. So it is important for us to be able to demonstrate clearly what value we are providing for our students – what inputs we provide to their experience that enable their academic success. Now we know that we are very successful in many areas of our support, and in areas of learning opportunity (library, e-learning, support for students and building confidence) – in fact, we owe our colleagues in these areas a lot for this provision – they are buoying us up tremendously in the national indicators – but we also need to be able to say that our teaching is excellent, that our teaching is a vital part of creating student success. And at the moment, we cannot point to metrics that permit us to say that for the university as a whole. We can say it on behalf of some of our areas, but not of others. So being able to demonstrate that we have great teachers and great teaching across the university is vital for our future, given our mission, and given how much we are charging our students.
That’s my piece of polemic for today. I hope everyone enjoys the day, and that it is fulfilling, rewarding and hopefully, fun. Thank you all for coming, and for your valued contributions to the discussions and debates through which our teaching at the university will thrive.
Understanding pre-applicant student behaviours and expectations through research and outreach engagement activity
This session, will share and discuss research findings on changing pre-applicant student behaviours and expectations in light of recent changes in the HE sector. As well as market research findings, the session will also explore feedback from Open Days, UCAS conventions and School and College engagement activity.
Market Intelligence Team and Pre-enrolment Services, SLS: Barbara Bradshaw, Rick Brand & Louise Ward (MI), James Barraclough & Tom Hyde (PeS).
B1 – 11.50
“ok, I’m here now but I still don’t understand…” a panel discussion to support Associate Lecturers and new staff in their transition into teaching at SHU and explore, amongst other thngs, opportunities for professional recognition.
A3 – 11.00
A panel of SHU colleagues has been invited to share perspectives and experiences of supporting the development of critical thinking skills in our learners. Each panel member will offer a brief outline of their interest in developing student critical thinking and how they are engaging students as critical thinkers at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Colleagues are invited to submit questions for the Panel before the session or questions can be asked from the floor.
Panel members include:
- Mike Bramhall, ACES
- Stewart Hilland, SBS
- Stella Jones-Devitt, HWB
Presentation: C7 Critical Thinking
C7 – 14.20
A panel of employers has been asked to share experiences and observations on how they work with Sheffield Hallam University. Panel members will detail innovative approaches and relationships) and highlight what they are looking for in Hallam graduates. They will discuss the changing business environment in our region and explore key characteristics of successful graduates and how these might be developed in collaboration with teaching staff. Guests include:
- Sara Clarkson, Senior Course Director, Common Purpose www.commonpurpose.org.uk
- Louisa Harrison Walker, Director, Benchmark Recruit http://www.benchmarkrecruit.co.uk/about-us/meet-the-team/
- Morgan Killick, Managing Director of ESP Projects; Commissioner, Sheffield Fairness Commission Board Member http://www.espprojects.co.uk/
- An employer from Forgemasters has also been invited http://www.sheffieldforgemasters.com/
Colleagues are invited to submit questions for the Panel before the session or questions can be asked from the floor. Jeff Waldock, ACES, will chair the session.
D2 – 15.30
There is evidence in student experience research that students value the feeling of being treated and seen (by teaching staff) as an individual, not just a number. This desire/ expectation is confounded by the fact that as consumers we are moving from an era of mass communication to a time of (expecting) targeted, data selective and social media driven communication.
This feeling of the personal can be difficult to achieve on a programme with large and expanding student numbers.
- What sytems are in place, which hinder or help in providing this experience?
- What is the pedagogic value in striving for it and do we understand the potential impact it can have on fulfilling the students learning potential and distance they can travel.
The poster will be a three colour portrait graphic design on plain stock, using typography pictorially in order to communicate the intended meaning. There will be body copy set in a smaller area of the main print in order to further explain the issue depicted.
Presentation: EN55 Virtual meeting and tutorial Spaces
Design is traditionally a studio-based subject and thus design education has also always centred around the physical creative space. This space has not just been important for the physical production of things, but as a joint thinking space. Modern Universities room utilisation systems and hourly based timetabling have made the time and space available for traditional studio teaching very sparse and the issue affects subjects far beyond the studio culture of art & design.
This problem is not unique to the design discipline, because many subjects have at their core creative processes, which need mental space to flourish and make joint physical space desirable.
To the uninitiated any creative process can seem quite unproductive and unfocused at times, and it is sometimes difficult to argue for the need to have space for students to just be in and for teachers to drop in on.
So teaching and contact has had to become very focused and compartmentalised and all other activities such as production and ‘creative idling’ have to be taken elsewhere.
This creates a physical and mental distance between the teachers, the students and their peers, and severely limits the times and spaces in which feedback or exchange can occur.
Is it possible to use the digital realm to create spaces where this contact can take place in a more responsive, organic way, more sympathetic to the creative process? Will students participate and take advantage of the space and the extra contact offered and will it have an impact on their achievement and learning experience? With Case study example to discuss
D7 – (EN56, EN11, EN22, EN28) 15.30
Kent Roach and Ruth Holland
SHU is committed to making PPDP integral to the learning experience of all it’s students, and is developing a framework and toolkit for staff & students to bring this commitment to life. Being both reflective & forward looking, the PPDP process has a clear relationship with the development of career management and employability skills in students.
Any general provision for career development in students should include the opportunity to join a dynamic and empowering career mentoring scheme, giving access to committed & highly competent professionals in a range of vocational disciplines.
It’s benefits to students include: access to specialist skills; advice; insider’s knowledge; and greater confidence.
The mentoring process itself involves: identifying learning needs; discussing them; setting goals; taking action; and reviewing & reflecting upon the experience.
All of which resonate with the core elements of PPDP.
This session further explores the links between PPDP and career mentoring, considers it’s place a part of the employability toolkit for SHU students and looks at how staff can be effective ‘enablers’.
D3 – (FU53) 15.30
Sheffield Hallam University has a longstanding and deserved national reputation for the excellence of its work on the development of its students’ employability. Following on from work undertaken through a successful 5 year Centre for Excellence in Employability a coherent University wide strategy has now been adopted which is to be implemented from September 2012 through a series of enabling frameworks. The Career Management Skills Framework is central to these as it is applicable to every student in the University irrespective of their course or level of study. It comprises a set of core competencies related to an individual’s career planning needs to be delivered through a range of indicative activities integrated in modules across all levels of each course of study. It is designed to enable students to make the most of the graduate skills and attributes they will have developed through their course and co-curricula activities and experiences in a way that should ensure they are able to compete effectively for employment, further study and other life opportunities or develop their own business plans. It provides students with a toolkit with which they can develop individualised plans through discussions with Faculty academic and support staff and members of the Careers and Employment Service as appropriate.
Much excellent practice already exists in many courses but there are still inconsistencies in the experience of many students. How can we meet the challenges presented by a full roll out of integrated career management activities in remaining courses, to be delivered largely by non specialist staff in a manner that is inclusive of all students, in an already overcrowded curriculum? How do we ensure that robust connections are made with other related curriculum activities such as work based / related learning, individual tutorials with staff, and additional awards.
A5 – (FU54) 11.00