Tag Archives: engagement

Ready, Steady, Learn!

Dr David Smith & Dr Graham Holden
@dave_thesmith / @GrahamJHolden

Parallel session 4, CoLab 4.1

This workshop builds on a session devised and developed by Graham, and Professor Ranald Macdonald which then ran with academic staff at the University of Manchester.

Short Abstract
Come teach with us, share your practice and add a little bit of flavour to your teaching. Participants will be asked to design or redesign a teaching session. We’ll award points to all the sessions and feedback to develop further ideas and implementation. At the end of the workshop the session with the most points wins a tasty teaching prize.

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Detailed Outline
We believe that good learning experiences are challenging, risky, unpredictable, experimental, and are, above all, fun! These experiences occur individually as well as in groups, and everyone brings different knowledge, skills and experiences to the table.
In this workshop we will explore the metaphor of cooking in teaching and learning (hence the title) as this incorporate features that make learning more engaging. Learning, like food, can become dull and bland and the addition of an extra ingredient or combining ingredients in a different way can transform the experience. These changes don’t have to mean a complete redesign of the learning experience but can be about adding an extra dimension at the right time. Like any good meal it is the combination of a well-planned menu, good quality ingredients and the skill of the cook that makes the difference.

This session will explore the key elements of active learning and quality design of the learning experience; we will share ideas and techniques that promote engagement. We will do this be drawing on principles for active learning, our own experiences and examples from the University’s Inspirational Teachers. The best experiences, though, are those of the participants, so we ask you to come prepared to explore your own practices and to share your reflections with others. By the end of the session we will have a collection of recipes for engaged student learning and the beginnings of what we hope will be an active learning cookbook.

Engaging practice-based learners

Aileen Watson, Andrew Fowler & Jacky Burrows

Parallel session 2, Short paper 2.8

Short Abstract
This session will consider the design and delivery of an academic module studied by volunteers working for Yorkshire and Humberside Circles of Support and Accountability. Our aim is to explore the use of blended learning in engaging practice-based students utilising our own experience and student feedback.

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Detailed Outline
This paper will explore the challenges of engaging practice-based learners in a blended learning experience, with specific reference to a joint project between Sheffield Hallam’s Department of Law and Criminology and Yorkshire and Humberside Circles of Support and Accountability (YHCOSA). This project involved a group of YHCOSA volunteers engaging in a standalone academic module entitled ‘Working with Sex Offenders’, which aimed to improve their volunteering through integrating theory and practice. Students completed the course by engaging in one face to face session and twelve online lectures delivered by Sheffield Hallam, and four face to face sessions delivered by YHCOSA. The project had a number of specific challenges including the wide geographic distribution of students, the range of their previous academic experience, and the challenging nature of the subject material and volunteers’ specific roles; however the paper will also address broader issues relevant to blended learning including establishing course identity, sustaining motivation, and maximising potential. It will therefore consider the specific learning needs of practice-based adult learners and maximising the effectiveness of the blended/hybrid of model of face to face teaching and technology-facilitated learning for them, as well as ways of increasing motivation and student satisfaction such as formal and informal reward and recognition and ensuring adequate support (see for example, Ausburn, 2011).

The blended learning approach can be regarded as both a practical solution to the learning needs of geographically diverse, practice-based learners and a theoretically sound mode of engaging adult learners, especially those learning for practical application. The authors take the view that the project’s blended learning approach fits well with Knowles’ model of androgogy (see for example Atherton, 2013) and in particular allows students to learn in a constructivist manner, thus facilitating deep learning (e.g. Sharpe, Benfield, Roberts, and Francis, 2006). The paper will therefore consider blended-learning through those lenses.
The paper will conclude with ideas for future directions including the role of evaluation for transformative practice and the increasing focus on blended learning as part of the wider agenda of ‘flexible learning’ (HEA, 2015)
ATHERTON, J. S. (2013). Learning and Teaching; Knowles’ andragogy: an angle on adult learning [onlline] Last updates 10 February 2013 http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/knowlesa.htm
AUSBURN, L. J. (2011). Course design elements most valued by adult learners in blended online education environments: an American perspective. Educational Media International, 41, 327-337
HEA (2015). Flexible Learning [online]. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/workstreams-research/themes/flexible-learning
SHARPE, R. BENFIELD,G,. ROBERTS, G., and FRANCIS, R.(2006). The undergraduate experience of blended e-learning: a review of UK literature and practice.

Using artefact building to engage students in reflective practice

Dr Mary Fitzpatrick

Parallel session 2,  Thunderstorm 2.2

Listen to the presentation (opens in new window)

Short Abstract
Engaging students in reflective practice can be a challenge. Encouraging active involvement and reflection through artefact building can provide a rich and meaningful experience. This short session will introduce the idea of artefact building as a means of engaging students through a short presentation and round table discussion.

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Detailed Outline
Engaging students in reflective practice can be a challenge as many do not regard this as important or relevant to their practice in ‘real life’. On our PG cert equivalent*, I work with early academics on developing their teaching philosophy and teaching portfolio. They regard this as a mammoth task and it is one that creates, for many, a mental block. The overall programme itself is very reflective and so this activity is hugely useful in engaging students in reflective practice.

In order to get the students thinking and reflecting on their teaching philosophy, I endeavor to make it as enjoyable and relevant as I can. I take students further out of their comfort zone by inviting them to develop an artefact which illustrates their reflections on their teaching philosophy. I provide students with a variety of crafting materials (colours, newspapers, magazines, ribbon, felt, glue, flipchart, etc) to work with and, to date, the artefacts developed have included 3D models, mosaics, posters and masks. All students then give a short presentation on their artifact which provides them with the opportunity to articulate their teaching philosophy through a novel lens.

This activity works very well in assisting students with the development of their teaching philosophy and their stance on teaching – how it has evolved, how it is present and how they may develop it in the future. Many students include evidence of this exercise in their draft portfolio and it really kick starts their engagement in reflective practice, both in and beyond the classroom, within their roles as academics.

‘This exercise reverberated long after the teaching session. It really allowed me to look at key micro and macro elements of my teaching philosophy and approach but from a novel and unique perspective’ (Student feedback, 2014)

In this short presentation slot, I will give an overview of the activity, the outcomes and the application of same. Participants will be asked to discuss how they might use this activity to illustrate their role in engaging their students wherever they are in a round table with other participants.

* Specialist Diploma in Teaching, Learning and Scholarship (level 9 programme) http://www3.ul.ie/ctl/academic-development-specialist-diploma

Engaging online distance students by building learning communities

Helen Donaghue & Helen Thompson

Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.3

Short Abstract
Distance students often experience isolation and lack of motivation and instructors designing and delivering online courses also face challenges such as adapting to new learning models, using technologies and supporting and engaging students. This presentation describes how learning communities built for both students and instructors helped address these issues.

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Detailed Outline

This presentation will outline challenges experienced by students and instructors involved in an online distance learning environment. The presenters will describe innovations to an online master’s course which aimed to build a sense of community for distance students. Changes included formalising an orientation package, increasing instructor presence, introducing more interactive and collaborative tasks, exploiting virtual meeting rooms and adding video lectures with embedded tasks. We will also describe how instructors were trained and supported via a community of practice model.

Session participants will have the opportunity to share their own ideas and experiences of engaging online students. The presenters will conclude with recommendations for tutors planning or developing online or blended courses.

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.

“Presenting Yourself Positively” – building confidence in verbal and non-verbal communication skills (2014)

Paddy Turner

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[1] and yet at the same time identified as a skill-set often missing in graduates[2]. 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.

This session will discuss the variety of practical teaching components and exercises built up over the last two years of successfully delivering sessions to students and staff across a wide range of courses and environments: from post-grad biomedical science to level 4 graphic design, from maths teachers to physiotherapists. This is not about effective use of PowerPoint but is about practical steps and strategies for feeling and appearing more confident, for engaging your audience and for communicating clearly. It is rooted in the skills learned as a professionally trained and working actor and as a sign language interpreter.

298 – How to engage students in Employability and Personal Development – Billy Jon Bryan

Strands: Course identity and credibility

Anticipated outcomes:

I wish to give members of faculty a sense of ‘atmosphere’ about what our current level 3 students in the sport academy perceive ‘employability’ and also how they view themselves independently in the current job market as they leave this year.

Outline: Poster format

This poster presentation will provide an insight into current and on-going research conducted by myself as a student researcher and academic colleagues/staff in the health and wellbeing department collaboratively with a special focus on using appreciative enquiry pioneered by David Cooperrider (1987). It will assess current attitudes and methods of assessing student engagement in employability and the results of our study will be the basis for re-shaping the course for the next academic year.

As a student myself who has had a lot of experience in many different areas of work I can provide an objective view considering the challenges of working and learning in the current economy and how it affects the learning needs of others in my position concerning employability skills.


Our research will define what current final year students think about the delivery/content/validity of their employability and how it will affect their post graduate employability offering. The discussion method ‘appreciative inquiry’ really ‘brings out the best’ in an individual’s experiences and allows them to be shared in a group setting to inspire and create new ideas from ‘success stories’. These workshops are ‘solution-based’ meaning that discussions will be centred on problems and barriers facing student’s ability to gain job experience/skills using positive aspects of job experience to generate effective solutions for common issues faced by students. We wish to change the identity of the course employability assessment from autocratic, outcome based learning to a more student led approach. The feedback received from students will be used in module development for a new and improved sport business/events management degree producing better equipped students into the job market.

Session activities:

The session will begin with introductions and a short brainstorming session into employability as a whole. Then I will present my poster/research and further develop how what we discussed during the brainstorm relates to my work and students. I will then offer up my own experience in employability and professional development and encourage others to do so while still using evidence from my study and others, turning the session into a focus group type setting using ‘appreciative enquiry. The session will end with Q&A.


288 – Course community: students are people too – Neil Challis, Michael Robinson

Presenter including contact details: Prof Neil Challis (n.challis@shu.ac.uk) Strand: Course identity Anticipated outcomes: A better shared understanding of lessons drawn from research as part of the More Math Grads project and experience with our own Mathematics course. Session outline:  When students arrive at university, they have often left their familiar – and familial –networks. This is self-evidently true for those who leave the home town and family to come to Sheffield, but it is just as true that a mature student who has lived all their life in Sheffield will find themselves in an unfamiliar environment, with new people and new challenges. Drawing on our work with the More Maths Grads project, working with students and staff from four institutions, and our experience with our own course, we start this presentation with the belief that perhaps the most important element of a “good course” is the development of a strong sense of community. This yields several important benefits, crucially including a happier and more motivated student body. In turn this provides students with a vital support network, both academic and pastoral, which reduces staff workload in the long run, and a sense of belonging and a sunnier disposition when it comes to the National Student Survey. A sense of community may include many different identities, but in an academic context the most critical is that within the course. Crucially, such a community needs to include the student’s peers, students from other years, and the staff. A subject group identity can be encouraged in a variety of ways and in this presentation we will give examples of different ideas which have worked at Sheffield Hallam or elsewhere. These include both curricular and extra-curricular activities, the physical environment, online tools, and the attitudes which staff have towards the students.

Click to view:  288 course community – students are people too