Parallel session three:extended abstracts

3.1 Public Participation in Student Learning: The Scholarship of Engagement

Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit‘ (NCCPE)

The rise of a public engagement movement offers possibilities for universities to function as ‘sites of citizenship’ (Winter et al 2006).  On a large scale these include contributing to local social and economic infrastructure, enhancing widening participation within HEIs and supporting democratic citizenship in education.  Equally it is recognised that the courses involved public consultation can also develop different views re the meaning and purpose of education.  Indeed health care education courses are now obliged via professional body requirements, to engage in public engagement, through patient involvement.  There are many benefits for Universities in participating in public engagement.  In addition to increased recruitment, courses that engage with the local community can also help to break down the barriers between the University and the public, facilitate applicants that are better prepared for the selected programme and enhance employability skills development, such as training in science communication (Barker 2004).  Despite the advantages on offer and even staff enthusiasm for such working, it has been shown that support for academics is weak (NCCPE website).

The co-lab would offer participants a chance to see how different areas of the university interpret the opportunities and challenges of working with the public in creating innovative and realistic teaching and learning opportunities.  A focus within the co-lab would be to compare and contrast how these activities were funded and managed, academically rationalised and institutionally supported, plus how staff were encouraged to participate in different ways across the University.  To offer opportunities for reflection relevant to a wide number of disciplines regarding the purposes that public engagement can be used for and facilitated.

The workshop is hoped to facilitate a special interest group in public engagement with a view to SHU becoming a member of the NCCPE Public Engagement Network, supporting development and scholarship across the University relating to this kind of work.

3.2 Making inclusive practice just teaching practice.

Have you ever wondered why the principle of Inclusive Practice in Learning Teaching and Assessment (LTA) is so widely supported by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), this University’s Corporate Plan and LTA Strategy and indeed, according to research carried out in 2009[1], by over 90% of Sheffield Hallam University academic staff and yet in spite of this high level support, so little extensive change occurs in practice? This Co-lab workshop will begin by outlining the process by which widespread inclusive practice changes were identified and agreed for one particular module in the Faculty of Health & Wellbeing. It will move on to examine the barriers that were raised and overcome whilst designing and implementing the changes throughout the duration of the module. Finally, based on the evidence of interviews with academic staff and students following completion of the module, we can show how fears went unrealised and how real benefits accrued. The collaborative workshop element will then attempt to model this same process using attendees own subjects and contexts to achieve practical take-away outcomes for future change innovation. Support for the process will be offered to varying levels of input, but attendees will be encouraged to act on their own initiative. Further, it will enable attendees to use the model learned to act as champions for change within their own subject areas and departments and work collaboratively or through peer support to extend the benefits further.

3.3 Supporting Writing Development

This Thunderstorm session will contextualise the use of writers’ workshop through the provision of outline information on the aims, learning outcomes and assessment strategy of the module. The role of the writers’ workshop in supporting student learning will be identified and the methodology briefly described.

The Thunderstorm presenters include two students as well as the module tutor and student perspectives on the experience of the writers’ workshop will form the main part of the presentation. The benefits and challenges of introducing peer-supported learning in relation to writing development will be offered. Student presenters will share examples of their development as writers during the module and will offer some reflections on the contribution of the module to their personal and professional development.

The session will conclude with some implications of writers’ workshop for the role of the tutor in managing student experience and promoting effective learning.

3.3 Bringing experiential learning into the lecture theatre

This session will demonstrate how to engage through the use of 3D objects can be used in learning.

A mini version of the experience outlined below will be delivered. Attendees will be asked about their knowledge of biomolecules (it is hoped and expected this will be at GCSE level). Objects (DNA models) will be handed around and attendees will be asked to identify features. Their observations will be shared in the group.

Paper Background: Core to all degree streams within Bioscience are the concepts of interactions between objects (biomolecular structures). As such teaching methods relying on traditional PowerPoint presentations can display these biomolecules as flat 2D representations. Many of the concepts require an understanding of function in 3D understanding. Although some students have the ability to picture 3D objects in their minds eye this is not true for all. 3D scale molecular models where included into the lecture format as a form of experiential learning. These activities were supplemented with standard lecture slides containing animations and movies and e-learning based resources.

Thinking: New concepts were introduced through the use of ICT. Media animations, web based content and strong links to core texts were used.
Doing: A range of activities were utilised to engage the students with the models and allow them to apply their new knowledge through self-directed small group discussions.
Feeling: In order for the students to take owner ship of the knowledge specific situations and examples were used for the students to see where their learning could be applied.
Reflecting: Finally the students are given time and encouraged to writing in their own words the key points and theories that have been discussed.

This approach resulted in high level of student engagement in the sessions and student feedback was highly positive.

3.3 Can a Tapestry be a good essay?

If what I propose were true You would be reading a drawing in this section.

The fact that I do not have the confidence to place a drawing in this space says something of the state of academic practice and its relation to other disciplines. May I challenge you to defend why I feel I cannot draw my outline (pun intended) May I challenge you to paint your response? If this seems absurd because you are not a painter nor do you think in paint, consider why someone who does must think and write in this literacy. To consider that a bundle of A4 paper is the only form that academic output can take may be founded on century’s of established practice, but may be as founded in tradition as much as in reason. For a potter a vessel may contain ideas as much as it may contain fluids, For a painter a painting can be a repository for reason. The production of an artefact created within the norms of a discipline is the result of a process of reasoning akin to that of the formal essay. If it is reasonable to believe that literacy’s other that language can carry and communicate meaning as well as academic writing, what then are the implications?

Data Representation is a growing field. In an environment where ideas are based on data of such complexity as to be ungraspable by the mind we turn to symbolic representation of the data. Traditionally words and symbols suffice to carry meaning but in the world of big data we turn to images to mediate our understanding. Language fails. If we accept that other literacy’s may be not only valid but appropriate forms for academic thinking, can we as academics employ them?  Can a tapestry be a good essay?

3.4 The richness of multi professional doctoral education

Generic professional doctorate programmes may ensure the viability and of professional doctorate programmes (Park 2007). However, we suggest that the benefits extend far beyond programme sustainability and other institutional advantages. One benefit is the opportunity afforded to students through learning in a multiprofessional cohort. This has particular resonance in the disciplines of health and wellbeing in which successive policies have identified the imperative for multidisciplinary approaches to workforce development (e.g. DH, 2012, DH 2013a, DH 2013b).

The aim of this paper is to present the findings of a study conducted to explore the personal meaning that students hold regarding the value of multiprofessional engagement in a professional doctorate programme for health and wellbeing professionals.

The purpose of the study was to explore the personal meanings that doctoral students ascribe to the value of studying within a multiprofessional context. Data were generated through four focus group discussions and two individual interviews.  23 students from four cohorts participated in the study.  This approach situates the study within a social constructionist theoretical perspective and is located therefore in a qualitative paradigm (Crotty, 1998). Data were analysed using a thematic approach (Braun and Clark, 2006).

This paper will address one major theme emerging from the data; Different but the same, and three associated subthemes namely ‘travelling alone together’‘being clear and getting clear’ and ‘finding new worlds.’ These describe the students’ experiences of finding themselves as a lone professional sharing a journey with others from completely different backgrounds and the transformative impact this has on their academic and professional development. The findings of this study that trace this transformative effect over the four year duration of the doctoral journey provides a unique insight into how multiprofessional learning can be harnessed to inform pedagogical practice at doctoral level.

3.4 Challenges and benefits of interdisciplinary teaching in Higher Education

Interdisciplinary teaching and learning occurs when practitioners from traditional disciplines join together to work on a common question or problem. Such interaction has been shown to promote constructivist learning, problem solving and innovative thinking. An interdisciplinary approach also enables the crossing of disciplinary boundaries whilst ‘filling in’ space between them; in some cases it may forge new areas of study. The practice of interdisciplinary has gained increasing attention for its ability to address complex, real world issues, such as climate change, which may not be effectively tackled using more traditional disciplinary approaches. Despite these clear advantages, the practice of interdisciplinary teaching and learning has not been embraced in Higher Education and interdisciplinary courses are not common. The established university model of traditional disciplinary specialization favours a disciplinary ‘silo’ approach and does not readily support interdisciplinary. To analyze how an interdisciplinary approach can impact teaching and learning at universities we conducted a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis, traditionally used in business planning. The SWOT analysis considered the impact of interdiscplinarity on teachers, learners and institutions, drawing on published studies from a range of disciplines and universities. Major benefits highlighted by the SWOT analysis included creation of diverse teaching and learning communities, the opportunity to develop flexible and reflexive courses and the development of complex and innovative thinking skills. Major challenges highlighted in the SWOT analysis included the lack of infrastructure and support within universities, a perception that interdisciplinary courses are valued less than traditional ones and that teachers and learners may lack the broad background required. This SWOT analysis did not address variability in challenges and benefits of interdiscplinarity for different disciplines. To start to assess this variation we are surveying academic staff from multiple disciplines at Sheffield Hallam University to assess their perceptions of interdisciplinary.

3.5 “What gets measured, gets managed” applicable to modern Higher Education?

My reading focuses very much around creative practices and innovative ways of working applied to teaching practices in this changing landscape of academia. Rosabeth Moss-Kanter (1991), discusses the practices of creative leadership and states that it isn’t about managing the process but making the result clear and trusting employees will reach it more effectively – this applied to HE means a fundamental shift in both culture, thinking, policies and practices. Taking the spot light off management of the entire ‘process of learning’, if there is such a thing but instead beginning to think with the end in mind (Covey, S) and reshape academic practice, student experience and cultural climate in HE.

Authors such as Shattock, M (2003) have pointed towards the ‘commodification of higher education’ where imparting knowledge, teaching and learning are all measurable attributes in the process that can be tightly managed. If we view knowledge as a commodity that can be replicated and transferred then in the educational realm we pitch it towards ‘mode 1′ scientific knowledge which can be transmitted to students without the entrepreneurial input of a lecturer in the same way each time…This, according to philosophers such as Michael Polanyi (1993) and Ernst Von Glaserfeld (2002) directly contradicts what knowledge is in the constructivists realm, as ‘all knowing is subjective’ Translated over to higher education this is the state we have moved to where no longer are lecturers the sole focus but the materials, no longer are seminars about discussion and debate but case study and question – all of which provide very little in the way of knowledge, challenge or critical thinking “The traditional strategy for imparting knowledge in the classroom has been lecture. Although students often prefer this teaching strategy it does little to stimulate critical thinking” (Bradshaw, MJ and Lowenstein, AJ 2011. P54). With this in mind we need to look at new approaches to learning and teaching that stimulate critical thought, creativity, and seek to teach and impart our knowledge in different ways, through greater “Challenge, Freedom, organisational support, flexibility and autonomy” (Amabile, T). Strategies needed to be formulated from the ground level up (academic level), rather than top down (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1993) with the new role of managers as facilitators not beurochratic enforcers. Hayes (1985), Mintzburg and Walters (1985) all draw scepticism of fixed ways of planning for the production of set outputs/goals or targets, stating that plans need to be evolutionary not prescriptive. My research backs this up through the ‘Car Satellite Navigation’ metaphor where all the current realist constructs in place (NSS, MEQs, Lecture format, Seminar format) are about managing the process strictly, for efficiency, effectiveness and clarity all the way through i.e.  The ‘Sat Nav’ telling you where to go to get there quickly!  But this goes against what innovative teaching is and creative ways of doing things – taking a drive out experimenting, exploring, getting lost but learning to adapt quickly –this all isn’t easily measured or managed and often doesn’t fit with the traditional HE management systems in place but often leads to greater results and will lead to greater organisational sustainability, according to authors such as Kay (1993) and Volberda (1998).

Clark’s (1998) view of the entrepreneurial university has precursors back to the original 18th Century French pioneers of entrepreneurship meaning ‘to take action’, however Clark’s more broader view in relation to universities was much more focussed around trying to “identify and sustain a distinctive institutional agenda which is institutionally determined not one effectively a product of state funding formulae” (cited in Shattock , M p.147). This leads the research on to academic characteristics of identity and how this is projected across to students. The academic and student interviews conducted as part of the research look at sets characteristics and requirements of a truly “Autonomous” academic which often creates tension with the public funded side of the institution, but Clark believes a balance can be found – which is where my mapping and research leads me to believe. My findings from interviews with academics who were voted as being ‘inspirational’ by students show that there needs to be a balance of the 3 basic components of creativity Amabile (1996) for someone to be deemed inspirational to their audience. These were predominantly an existence in different quantities of: Creative thinking skills, sufficient motivation and a high level of specialist knowledge. These individuals were often classified to be ‘Deep Smarts’ (Leonard and Swap 2005) and were able to cultivate an air of wisdom which passed over to their students. All of the interviewees highlighted the need for ‘academic space’ (Savin Baden, M 2008) in order to allow them to create opportunities for enhanced knowledge and learning experiences in a restrictive environment.

This is not saying that a distinct few academics display these traits but focuses upon the factors that prevent universities and the people that work within them becoming more entrepreneurial, despite the external pressures to do so. There are both intrinsic inhibitions and extrinsic cultural, structural and traditional pressures which prevent them from engaging in such activity. Jones (1987) points to these being mindset, readniness to change, personality type and confidence. All of which came out of the interviews as determining practice in the classroom. In terms of the organisational constraints, many of these are highlighted in Jane Henry’s work which focusses upon empowerment, flexible structures, integrated procedures. Handy (1991) and Jelinek and Schoonhoven (1991) all argue for open, high trust cultures as a necessity feature for innovative climates to flourish and new ways of working to grow. From my research this derived autonomy of a select few staff has allowed them to step outside of the strengthen academic core of policies procedures and traditional practice and in doing so create, what Ekvall (1997) and others refer to as a creative entrepreneurial climate in the institution, which is picked up on by students and members of staff, linking in to the view of Semlers (1996) ‘organisational tribes’ where identity is  based on coexistence in the university environment but is also underpinned by a sense that these ‘type of academics’ don’t belong to the institution, making them appear almost ‘maverick’ like (Labarre, P (2007). “it is absolutely essential to have unconventional thinking, to get rid of commodity thinking…” there is a need to harness these traits in all who operate in higher education now in order to move ambition on (Doyle 1998) and aspire to break the traditional frameworks in place and more on to a new state of higher education with the learner central to this. Bates, P (1984) conducted research which looked at the correlation between organisational culture and individuals to find that a negative, restrictive environment led to an inability to problem solve and innovate. The study found that those who don’t engage in entrepreneurial practice displayed high levels of unemotinality, depersonalization, subordination, conservatism, isolationism and antipathy. The next step of my research is to take this and apply it to the institution to see if the climate is creating such a culture, as many of the interviewees pointed to these being key factors.

3.5 Beyond the NSS: insights from student researchers

The engineering and mathematics department recently employed two student researchers (who will co-present this talk) who are using questionnaires, interviews and focus groups to investigate student experiences on mathematics and engineering courses. This presentation will introduce this work, discuss the findings, reflect on the experience of using student researchers, and discuss some of the ways that it will inform future practice.

Drawing on the findings of the student researchers, we will explore the interaction between individual modules, course structure, and the academic and social culture of a course, in shaping the perceptions of students. As well as highlighting features that appear to be associated with high levels of student satisfaction, we will aim to capture the diversity in students’ responses so as to reflect the different ways in which different students respond in the same settings, and go beyond the “headline figures” of the National Student Survey.

We will also reflect on the process of working with student researchers, who bring their own experiences of student life, and can elicit more candid opinions from their peers about the strengths and weaknesses of their course than the academic staff. The insights gained permit us to scrutinise our practice from a perspective not otherwise available to us. Whilst this has obvious advantages for tutors, it is clear that the researchers themselves also gained much from the experience.

Finally, we will discuss how such insights might inform and improve our future practice and our relationship with other students. Provided staff react positively – either by instituting changes, explaining why changes are not possible, or perhaps especially by engaging in a genuine dialogue with students about planned changes – the work further enhances the development of a genuine learning community in which students are – and feel like – partners in their own experience.

3.6 Students as CEOs (Course Enhancement Officers 2.0)

The Course Design Consultancy project was supported by the Higher Education Academy’s Students as Partners Programme in 2012/13.  It began as a small-scale pilot which aimed to have a positive impact on the learning experience by engaging students in the quality enhancement processes at Sheffield Hallam, in particular with regard to the re-approval of existing courses.

The activities that were initiated last year have been continued and developed, in line with the expectations stipulated in Chapter B5 (Student Engagement) of Part B of the Quality Assurance Agency’s UK Quality Code for Higher Education.  This chapter calls on institutions to seek contribution from students in curriculum design, and recommends that students are supported and trained in order to enable them to engage appropriately.

Many improvements have been implemented to what has now been renamed the Course Enhancement Officers scheme, including the introduction of a ten-hour training program for students taking part, to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to undertake quality enhancement work which is integral to university business.

In this presentation we will introduce the national context in which the scheme was developed, reflect on what we learned from the first iteration of the initiative, and explain how the conclusions drawn from our experience have informed the scheme’s progress.  We will outline how it has developed into a scalable model which can be embedded as good practice across the institution.

3.6 Embedding employability and encouraging engagement with PDP/careers

“Embedding employability… will continue to be a key priority of universities…, and employers.” But what exactly does this strategic cornerstone involve? Students need to develop skills not only to gain graduate employment but also to retain it, and to go on to further progress within their career. Whilst there is no definitive recipe for employability, skills such as team working, problem solving, communication and commercial awareness are clearly crucial for most roles.

There is debate about how best to integrate employability within an often “crowded curriculum”.Whilst the Higher Education Academy encourages institutions “to consider a more individualised approach,” whichever teaching, learning and assessment methods are adopted, their common denominator must be the encouragement of student engagement.

The Level 5 law programme is a crucial stage for students because firms often recruit 2 years in advance. This paper analyses and evaluates the development and effectiveness of 2 core modules: Careers Development Learning and Clinical Legal Education. It explores the rationale behind the range of specific skills-based activities which have been included and goes on to consider their effectiveness particularly in light of the student feedback that has been provided. Its aim is to help inform the design of other curricular interventions. In particular we will consider the extent to which the teaching and assessment materials have encouraged student engagement with both PDP and careers.

3.7 Transcending Modularity through Flexible Formative Feedback

What is the role of feedback in promoting learning across modules and how can feedback be embedded more effectively into the student journey? The HEA-funded Flexible Formative Feedback Project is led by a team of Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching (SALT)—a nationally-recognised student-staff partnership scheme in which teams of students design and lead on learning and teaching enhancement activities. Working in collaboration with students and staff in a cross-section of ten departments, the project team are constructing a feedback profile of existing practice and mapping student experiences onto the feedback environments of their disciplinary areas. Data will be used to identify case studies of best practice and to inform the development of discipline-specific tools for the provision, collation and use of feedback that is both flexible—i.e. adaptable to disciplinary and individual student needs—and formative—i.e. action-oriented and developmental.

As a longitudinal study, the project will revisit students over the course of the academic year to find out the extent to which their expectations have been met by the feedback process. Although data collection is ongoing, our initial consultation has identified a ‘feedback gap’ between student expectations and experiences, the fault lines of which appear early at level one. This paper, which will be presented by a staff-student team, will share the initial findings of the project and explore strategies to narrow this gap including the development of study skills training packages and feedback collation tools. It will consider the underdeveloped role of feedback as a synoptic learning tool with the potential to transcend the modular nature of assessment as part of a broader transition to self-regulated learning. It will conclude with a reflection on the implications of this process for the future-proofing of feedback in the context of rapid technological development and the changing university environment.

3.7 The PassPort Portal: An online resource to support transition to an International Future

This paper shares the outcomes of a project, developed in collaboration with Robert Gordon University and funded by the HEA, which seeks to develop a range of learning activities informed by data gathered from a bespoke online employer and alumni portal developed by the two universities.

The project demonstrates the benefits of institutional collaboration by bringing together an expanded, diversified, yet complementary, portfolio of courses and participants through which to identify and develop graduate attributes associated with global practice in urban regeneration, architecture, and construction management. The PassPort portal unites senior students, alumni and employers, with mutual benefits arising from this network. It offers a broad scope to investigate global practices and develop intercultural competencies and skills, through harnessing the diverse experiences and backgrounds of students, alumni, and employer contacts.

Ultimately, it is intended that the resultant learning enables students to ‘pass through’ the portal, effecting the transition from student to effective international professional and practitioner.

The project is conceived around three principal dimensions of student engagement, as follows:

• Engagement through an interactive learning process that enhances the

future competitiveness of graduates in an increasingly global industry

• Central involvement of students in the project’s development, and as co-creators

of the process and its outcomes

• Student engagement in activity that enhances the quality and richness of


The increasing importance of companies operating successfully in the international arena means that the realm of contemporary professional practice extends beyond the bounds of any single culture (Ameri, 2008). Consequently, in common with the wide variety of transferrable and non-discipline specific skills taught across the HE sector, global competencies are regarded by industry as a vital facet of 21st century graduate attributes (Yorke, 2006).

3.8 Enlightened vocationalism in a Writing, Editing, Publishing Programme: Effecting excellence

Since the year 2000, when I designed and initiated the Writing, Editing, Publishing Programme at The University of Queensland, graduates have successfully gained employment at prestigious institutions such as the British Standards Institution and the Southbank Centre in London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and in many international publishing houses. The master’s programme is full fee-paying ($25,000, though students can elect to defer their fees). Enrolments have remained very strong with an intake of around 50 students each year.

These outcomes have been achieved in an arena where excellence is expected and reciprocated. The activities that my staff and I have facilitated for students include interning in writing centres, publishing houses, and institutes,  and on academic journals; co-writing and presenting papers at conferences; co-editing of Conference  Proceedings for a university in New York; co-consulting in the corporate workplace; volunteering as stewards at the annual Oxford Literary Festival and at the Brisbane Writers Festival; tutoring of students in undergraduate Writing classes; guest-lecturing by graduates to the current cohort; articulating into doctoral programmes; working as a research assistant on a Grammar MOOC that the university has commissioned me to construct; and developing strong peer networks in Australia and overseas. Networking is a key feature of the programme.

The cohort comprises graduates from undergraduate degrees in the Arts, Journalism, Law, Business, Music, Science, Economics, Medicine, Accounting, etc.  There is a vibrant social programme and a dynamic online community. The programme has a wiki and a FaceBook page, each of which has more than 300 participants.

The paper will analyse the reasons for the ongoing momentum of the programme and the measures of its success in transforming the lives of so many students through its imaginative and intellectually rich, though vocationally oriented, teaching and learning.

3.8 Understanding Postgraduate Communities at Sheffield Hallam University through the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES)

The postgraduate offering and experience is extremely diverse at Sheffield Hallam University, but evidence from the Postgraduate Experience Survey (PTES) shows some common expectation among all postgraduate students regardless of course of study. They all expect and value challenging and stimulating environments that fosters a sense of belonging and develops a strong academic/practitioner community.

This session will begin by sharing the quantitative and qualitative findings from the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey as to why these themes are so important to postgraduate students and what the barriers to developing strong academic/practitioner communities are. While postgraduate expectations may be similar the barriers to developing belonging and strong communities are more diverse and depend on a number of variables, including motivation to study, transition, support, academic challenge, time and location of study, and the culture and design of the course. The barriers will be introduced by the presenter and will provide the basis for the rest of the session.

The remainder of the session will be used to facilitate discussion among participants, that will encourage them to:

  • Identify which barriers they can help remove
  • Share practice of overcoming specific barriers (such as keeping part-time students motivated or developing online communities for distance learners)
  • Enhance the Postgraduate Experience through developing belonging and communities.

The findings from the discussion will then be developed further into specific case studies of best practice that will be provided as a resource through Teaching Essentials which can be used by staff to enhance the Postgraduate Experience.  It is also hoped that the current findings from PTES and the work from the CoLab will help shape the postgraduate experience at Sheffield Hallam University.