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.
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.
Stuart Hepplestone & Ian Glover
• Teaching approaches menu
• Reflection and action planning worksheet
• Top trump cards
• Case studies
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
Giving students a voice is imperative and is one of the Key Performance Indicators of the National Student Survey particularly regarding the questions, ‘I have had adequate opportunities to provide feedback on all elements of my course?’, ‘My feedback on the course is listened to and valued?’ and ‘It is clear to me how students’ comments on the course have been acted upon?’ Whilst module leaders get students to complete module evaluation forms, all courses within the Academy of Sport and Physical Activity have a different process for gaining feedback from students to improve course delivery through the staff-student consultation committee process so the decision has been made to make this consistent. The session will highlight how the ‘Science’ suite of courses gleans feedback from students which has been suggested as a model of good practice from the former Academic Delivery Lead and student support officers. There will be discussion on what has worked well and what hasn’t and it is hoped colleagues will offer suggestions for improvement drawing on their own experiences of getting feedback from students.
Click to view presentation: 276 David Broom SHU LTA conference 2013