Parallel Session 1
1.1 Enhancing your teaching approaches through technology
The Changing the Learning Landscape Programme is an initiative from the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. It encourages universities to change their culture and to increase the use of educational technologies. Sheffield Hallam University’s engagement in this initiative focusses on increasing, and enhancing, the use of existing tools and technologies.
This workshop is an opportunity for you to begin engaging with the ‘Changing the Learning Landscape Menu’ that has been developed in consultation with academic colleagues at SHU. The ‘Menu’ is a framework that will assist academic staff in identifying different teaching strategies and the technologies that can support and facilitate these strategies, enhancing existing provision or as part of designing and developing new courses.
Activities presented, and resources available, within this session will support and encourage participants to work together:
- reflect on their current teaching approaches
- consider the use of technology to enhance teaching approaches
- explore the balance of teaching approaches and use of technology across modules
- develop an action plan of how they will enhance their teaching approaches.
Beyond the session, individual participants will be encouraged to follow up on their action plan. The session facilitators will retain copies of action plans produced to assist participants in continuing to work on their next steps. Due to the nature of the session, the outcomes will likely enhance teaching approaches at an individual module level. Participants, therefore, will be strongly encouraged to take this initiative back to their teaching teams so that they consider enhancing
1.2 Supporting transitioning students through creative practice
‘The boggart in the wardrobe’, for those who don’t recognise it, comes from JK Rowling’sHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the novel, the episode shows how the Hogwarts students overcome their worst fears through creative thinking and aversion therapy. The episode also functions, in the novel, to highlight the work of Professor Lupin in encouraging some of the less confident students to flourish.
This workshop will introduce participants to a planned induction/transitioning session that has been developed for Humanities students by Jill LeBihan (as a teacher of many Level 4 English Literature students) and Rachel Mason (as a developing curator and postgraduate student in Fine Art). The workshop that we will demonstrate is focused on breaking some learning and thinking habits as a stepping stone to supporting creativity in academic writing. The workshop relates to work on Winnicottian models around play as ‘the process of finding through pleasure what interests you’ (Phillips 1988: 144) and the work of Ken Robinson who stresses the need for promoting experimentation and play without fear of failure. We mess around with the notion of the uncanny and produce some creative and analytic responses in participants generated by discomfiting images. We also run some games and making activities that help students understand and play with assessment criteria.
The workshop has been planned and delivered to Level 4 students by Jill and Rachel as part of the Students as Researchers project and will not only demonstrate our approach to supporting the creative development of some inhibited undergraduates but will also illustrate the creative potential of interdisciplinary working. As well as delivering a sample of our workshops, we will reflect on what our student participants have made of the process.
Depending on numbers in attendance, participants will engage in one of three activities devised and tested on undergraduates. They will take away from this a sense of a creative experience; some workshop activities and materials that be used in induction or early sessions with Level 4 students. If they’re lucky, they might also get to take away a clay model!
1.4 Presentation Skills: Co-creating Rubrics
The session will showcase a simple yet innovative method for teaching presentation skills to first year undergraduate students. As part of their learning skills modules, engineering and medical science students were asked to combine individual written reports into small group oral presentations. After eliciting class discussion of key elements of a good presentation, each group of four worked to create an assessment rubric for their course-specific task, which they then presented to the whole class. Key elements from their rubrics were then combined by their teacher into one rubric that each group used as a guide to inform their own presentations.
Students and teachers subsequently used the same rubric to mark the presentations of each group, with good agreement between different graders. Key outcomes included some high-quality presentations, enhanced understanding of the elements of successful presentations, as well as insight into the processes of rubric development and peer-assessment. This work provides a further example of the learning gains made possible by enabling active student participation and staff-student collaboration in assessment design and use, and demonstrates the value of setting high expectations for student engagement.
1.5 Situating Reflective Commentary in the PHD student – Supervisor Relationship
In this talk we introduce and outline the merits of an approach to reflexivity that has been adopted within the PhD process as a means of nurturing the student/supervisor relationship. This approach manifests through the PhD students’ provision of a commentary of supervisory guidance and academic experience which, at the discretion of the student, is made accessible to the supervisor. The commentary, informally named the ‘Living Document’, has developed as an alternative to a more typical form of reflexivity traditionally witnessed in the PhD journey, whereby students are required to present some level of reflexive discourse within the final thesis as a means of demonstrating awareness of their academic growth. The ‘Living Document’ endeavours to circumvent this ‘evidential’ approach and instead seeks to embed reflexivity as a more experiential element of the PhD journey.
The aim of this approach is to create a reflexive space within the PhD journey which is managed and maintained by the student. In this sense, it offers an emancipatory potential for the student, allowing some redress for the unequal relations of power that exist in the institutional norms of the student/supervisor relationship. Moreover, the ‘Living Document’ presents an opportunity to document the development of identity throughout the PhD. A brief exemplar of the ‘Living Document’ will be presented with some points of analytical consideration offered by both the student and supervisor. Both members will also offer insights as to how this approach has thus far provided a mediating role in the student/supervisor relationship.
We will briefly conclude with some best practice considerations for the practical use of such an approach, including emphasis on the importance of deriving a mutual understanding of its aims and use, input on what might be included and subsequently discussed, and a separation between the contents of the ‘living document’ and it’s performance and positioning within the PhD course directly.
1.5 Flexibility in assessment – should students choose?
Assessment for and of learning is an integral part of higher education; appropriate assessment practices contribute to learning as well as measuring achievement (Boud, 2000). In many cases, the assessment diet of a taught course now includes assessment through a range of different methods, designed to promote development of different skills, match subject-specific requirements, and address the need for inclusivity in education.
It has been suggested that universities should develop a ‘flexible’ approach, whereby students have some choice in the method, format, or timing of their assessments. This may promote engagement by a) giving learners an element of control over their learning experience (Irwin and Hepplestone, 2012), b) contribute to developing autonomous, self-directed learners (Tusting and Barton, 2003), and c) address the need for inclusivity in line with the agenda for widening participation in higher education (Craddock and Mathias, 2009). However, it has been suggested that it may be difficult to ensure parity in setting and marking different assessment tasks (Knight, 2002). There are also issues with potentially allowing students to focus only on their strengths, and avoid developing their weaknesses (Hall, 1982). Also, offering choice may actually create anxiety for some students (O’Neill, 2012).
In this pilot study, we explore the experiences of undergraduate students enrolled in three modules in which there is some choice in the method of assessment of their learning. We consider the students’ reasons for choosing particular methods, their feelings about being given choice, and how/if these factors relate to levels of achievement in the assessment task.
1.6 Podcasts: Do students use them?
This study investigates podcast usage in a large undergraduate Business Studies Module (240 students). The main data for this study was taken from Moodle logs which capture actual usage over the course of the term. Four different types of podcasts were made available to students: full recordings of the weekly lecture, short animations that explained the assessment components, short audio podcasts for revision purposes and Livescribe Pencasts to assist in end of term revision.
Findings suggest that students make limited use of the lectures podcasts over the term (22%) although more students use these as part of their revision (41.2%). The Pencasts proved to be the most popular form of podcast in terms of both the number of students using the tools (84.1%) and the number of times they were replayed (1510). The short animations were used by a majority of students (73.1%).
This study is part of a long-term study of student use of blended tools within large undergraduate modules but this data provides an interesting insight into student behaviour that can assist academic staff seeking to enhance their teaching. Students make most use of podcast material at revision time and this study indicates that students prefer short, informal audio-visual material directly related to their final exams.
1.6 Student-centricity in the teaching and learning of business mathematics
To aid global relevance and competitiveness, the undergraduate module Financial Analysis for Business (FAB) at Sheffield Business School is now accredited by the Chartered Institute for Management Accounting (CIMA). The module delivers maths and statistics core competences in line with CIMA recommendations. However, not all students share the same levels of experience, competencies, and confidence in maths and so the provision of inclusive pedagogic ‘scaffolding’ in this context can be a challenge. The impacts of using an in-class voting system are reported here, not just as a means to provide an engaging and dynamic way for students to interact with the subject, but primarily for students to gain immediate and, most importantly, anonymous formative feedback. After voting results are displayed, summaries illustrate how the whole class voted in each case enabling students to track their own progress against that of their peers in a safe and anonymised environment. This paper presents evaluation questionnaire results (n=240) from the 2013-14 FAB cohort on student perception of using in-class voting technology for CIMA maths. Additionally, a comparison of phase test results statistics between 2012-13 and 2013-14 is reported to identify any performance impacts after the change in CIMA maths delivery using in-class voting in 2013-14.
It is hypothesised that the benefits of in-class voting for CIMA maths delivery are,
- Anonymity encouraging all to participate – not just the most confident;
- Question statistics summarise how the whole class voted providing an indicator of week by week progress to each student;
- Provides a supportive and safe environment to the less confident maths user;
Provides immediate feedback to the tutor on areas where the class may be struggling and so helps focus areas for class-specific support.
1.7 Using smart phones and tablets to support learning
If 87% of students own a smart device (Armstrong, 2012) and over 1,300 members of staff have connected their personal devices to the University’s email server, it is likely that the way staff and students engage with life, their practice and study is changing too.
In January 2014 university-wide surveys of staff and students were conducted about their usage of personal smart devices. Respondents were invited to describe how their devices are enhancing their practice.
The results are being analysed, however based upon earlier work (e.g. Nortcliffe et al., 2013; Nortcliffe & Middleton, 2012) a steady growth in the use of devices like iPhones andiPads by staff and students is expected.
Many will not use the devices directly for teaching and learning, but will use them to manage all aspects of their life or to make arrangements with peers to do course work. Some will have changed important aspects of their academic practice or study life: using email, accessing Blackboard, for example. Some will report using photographs taken on their smart phones or audio feedback recorded as they mark work on their tablets.
For others, smart technology will have changed teaching and learning significantly. Many staff report using the Socrative app to muster student feedback in presentations, for example. Other affordable apps are being used to provide augmented reality simulations. Other innovative students report using video apps to record and post reflective commentaries. Social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging is now a regular part of a student’s informal or formal engagement with university life.
Our previous research has shown that students are embracing the smart devices to support their learning by seeking out useful apps to help them be more organised, productive, collaborative and scholarly (Woodcock et al., 2012a; Woodcock, 2012b).
The 2014 survey of staff and students will create a rich picture to inspire others and to help the University meet their needs.
Hand outs will be provided to share good, emerging practice.
1.7 “Presenting Yourself Positively” – building confidence in verbal and non-verbal communication skills
It is axiomatic that the verbal and non-verbal communication of ideas, concepts and knowledge is a vital component of all our lives whether you are a member of staff or a student. It is fundamental to teaching and the engagement of students, it is an assessed skill in most courses, is highly regarded by employers and at the same time identified as a skill-set often missing in graduates. In spite of this, there is very little opportunity to develop these skills either as a student, as a tutor or as a staff member.
Rooted in skills learned as a professionally trained and working actor, this workshop will identify and deliver practical development in a range of aspects that make up the basis of effective communication. It will include exploring the importance of confidence, the use of space, body language and other non-verbal signals as well as how to breathe fully, project the voice and articulate clearly. The skills practised and the materials and resources provided can also be taken away and used in a variety of collaborative ways. It may be to support students with the development of their own skills in this area or to extend the learning to teaching and support team colleagues in Faculties, Departments and Directorates. Input and/or support from centrally based education developers can be provided through a variety of flexible options.
1.8 Student library blues. An investigation into low NSS library scores for selected courses, methodologies, actions, student behaviours and expectations.
Students’ experiences of library resources and services, both on and off-campus has a considerable impact on most students’ time at SHU. Their rating of this experience in the National Student Survey is publicly available information prominently displayed on each course’s Key Information Set data.
Although students rated library resources and services highly in the National Student Survey for 2013 (averaging 89% across the University), there were a few courses within some programme areas that had low satisfaction scores. After some initial discussions within a selected programme with course leaders no obvious reason for these scores was identified. The project aims to identify reasons for low scores, establishing a methodology for similar investigations in other courses and putting in place appropriate actions.
The paper will outline the results of our analysis of;
- NSS data for library resources and services across the university and in particular for courses in the Faculty of Development and Society including student comments
- other student surveys such as PTES
- students’ perceptions of learning resources questions (questions 16,17,18)
- Comparison of courses within the selected programme area with courses that recorded high satisfaction ratings in the NSS
- comparison with competitor institutions’ scores for equivalent courses
- focus groups for current level 4, 5 and 6 students
- student questionnaires
- library stock and expenditure analysis
- students’ behaviour in accessing library resources on and off-campus
- course structures including common modules across the programme
- possible impact of course assessments
- information literacy content, timing and delivery
- student expectations of library services
- messages and information given to students about library resources and services
We will discuss a range of actions that have been put in place and are planned for the coming year including work on setting and managing expectations of students. We will address methodological issues and practical difficulties.
Reference will be made to the literature on university libraries’ responses to student feedback and students’ understanding and interpretation of NSS survey questions.
Our conclusions will be offered including the relative importance attached to each factor in the student experience. We hope that the paper will foster further discussion and ideas from the audience and potential future collaborations.
1.8 Collaborative Learning
The presentation shares how a small project investigated the staff and student experience of a piece of group work (summatively assessed as a group presentation). The core modules (Level 4 Business Analysis and Financial Analysis for Business) were identified as being of interest due to size (600+) and that they attract mixed evaluations, indicating some dissatisfaction.
Data collection was undertaken by a mixed team of academics and a student researcher, with a survey of students and a technique known as process value mapping (PVM) as a focus group task for staff. This technique is drawn from the world of business, but applied, we believe, uniquely within HE as an exploration of a learning experience. PVM leads to mapping, categorising and evaluating a process.
Whilst collaborative learning is seen as important for the development of both learning gains and employability skills, it is often reported as causing concern for both staff and students. It was our conjecture that these issues need to be addressed early in the student journey. Consequently, the project rationale was to:
– describe activities and associated supporting interventions;
– identify and evaluate strengths and opportunities for further enhancement;
– evaluate the usefulness of PVM as an enquiry tool;
– contribute to the knowledge base on collaborative learning in HE and ways to research this.
We will share our initial findings and also explain the techniques adopted for the investigation and reflect on this as one approach to exploring the student experience.
The project was a collaborative process itself, with a student researcher, two principal investigators and a Programme Leader ‘client’. We will reflect upon the implications of this approach in terms of student engagement in the research enquiry and the learning gains of the student researcher.