Tag Archives: expectations

289 – Course ethos: it’s not the students who are strange – Neil Challis, Michael Robinson

If you talk to some lecturers, you will find no shortage of opinion about the shortcomings of our students.  They are ill-prepared for the university curriculum; don’t turn up to class; aren’t interested if it isn’t assessed; lack motivation; don’t love the subject; don’t know what they should; are only interested in how to pass the exam; lack basic skills; can’t write properly… Teaching in a university would be great, if it weren’t for the students.

Our own experiences are atypical. Contrast the caricature presented above with an equally broad-brush picture of a lecturer: we love our subject; are good at it; are motivated and hard-working; are interested in a deeper understanding; could cope with exam stress; and we’ve spent our adult lives surrounded by similar colleagues.

Drawing on work from the More Maths Grads project, which examined four diverse departments ranging from 30 to 350 students per cohort, we compare what students and staff say about their aspirations and consider how this impacts the students’ enjoyment and confidence in their subject. Whilst we found evidence of special effort being made to overcome the perceived student shortcomings, we nevertheless detect some frustration at these. If we become frustrated, is it us or them that have the problem? Is it reasonable of us to expect our students to share our outlook?

We suggest that our perceptions can lead to messages – explicit or implied – to students about their abilities can easily damage their confidence and well-being.

In particular we discuss ways to generate a more positive attitude so that more of our students might report, as one did:

“The … tutors treat the students as equals, I have never been talked down to …  I feel that the tutors and students work as a team aiming for one goal and that is the students understanding and enjoyment of the subject.”

Click to view:  289 course ethos it’s not the students who are strange

255 – Understanding and tackling the barriers to adopting Portfolio-based dissertations at level 7 – Paul Crowther, Peter Lake

The computing department at Sheffield Hallam have been successfully trialling MSc dissertation by portfolio for over a year now (Crowther and Hill, 2011). The trials have been seen by all the participatory students as a success. Nonetheless a number of issues remain, not least of which is the relatively low numbers of students who select portfolio over traditional approaches. Whilst we there are some obvious hurdles which we can do something about, such as supervisors feeling unprepared for the change of approach, some hurdles are harder to recognise or understand.  From the supervisor’s perspective, some of these issues may well be to do with long standing pedagogic beliefs about what a dissertation should be. From the students perspective there may be cultural differences in the acceptance of what a dissertation should be. The courses involved in this proposal recruit >80% of students from overseas. Another reason may be that in attempting to be scrupulously fair to all students the marking scheme used is identical to those traditionally used. There is some concern that this may be helping to confuse both students and potential supervisors in that it does not allow the portfolio to have its own identity as a valid method. We need to identify, understand and then address these hurdles since the evidence so far points to the portfolio approach being a useful addition to the assessment toolkit. The focus for this project will be the identification and understanding of these hurdles.

271 – Transnational Collaboration: Mapping and tracking course experiences of Tutors and Thai teachers of English on a jointly delivered Masters – Alice Oxholm

Last year in my role as programme leader, I was in the privileged position of working with colleagues at SHU and a university in Thailand to map, approve and teach a Masters course to a first cohort of 25 Thai English language teachers working in schools around Bangkok. The process was initially led by the need to understand and apply terms such as “risk assessment”, “credit rating” and “articulation”. This took priority over developing a sense of the individuals who would either be stepping over from a Thai delivered phase to ours or, from a SHU perspective, who would be co-supervising students working and studying in an unfamiliar context.   This session will draw on some selected principles since identified from literature on shared  transnational pedagogy:  care of the participants , communicating expectations, valuing difference of what is already known,  (Dashwood et al 2008).  These will be discussed in relation to the feedback and reflections from the people involved , staff and students, and how this will inform future planning.

Click to view presentation:  271 Working Transnationally with Colleagues final version