Archive | November 2014

Peer-Instruction Unveiled: Measuring Self-Assessment Skills and Learning Gains in a Large Flipped Learning Environment

This is new research that I will present at the SRHE New Researcher Conference 2014.
The students in the pictures are from my 1st Year Introductory Economics class. Thanks to all of them for helping making this poster so nice. The merit is all theirs.

HEA Enhancement Event – York Nov 2014

I attended this HEA event while being in full teaching mode. I had to run from a late afternoon lecture to the station, jump on a train, get a wee sleepover in York, and a late return journey home. Well well worth the effort! HEA might be a little more money constrained, but it can still count of enthusiastic promoters and discipline leads!

Besides, they have adopted me as part of their enlarged family you know? After being awarded my Teaching Development Grant last year I started to get more and more involved with their events. I presented at 3 of their conferences in one year, tweeted, spammed everybody with my fliers, learned, promoted, disseminated, developed…and made some great connections and friends!

Well, well, without further rambling, let’s talk about this great event.

  • First of all we had a fantastic keynote talk by Mike Neary (@mikeneary) on the Lincoln “Student as Producer” model, as well as on many others great Cooperative Education initiatives. The Students as Partners theme as at the centre of the agenda, but many other issues were raised in the Q&A session, including how can we align the UKPSF framework with the principles of good student and partners practice.
  • The first workshop I attended was led by Alex Buckley (@ajbtwit) and Camille Kandiko. (@cbkandiko). They presented the first results of the UKES 2014 (UK Engagement Survey) and discussed with us about issues connected with cognitive testing and development of the UKES questionnaire. I will definitely have to read the full report, and there is an interesting blog post as well. We also had some interesting conversations about how the data process flows within each individual institution, and it was fascinating to hear about different experiences across the sector. I need to think much more about what discussed in this workshop. More posts will follow.
  • The second workshop was led by the mighty Kathy Wright (@HEAEducation). Kathy tackled issues related to student feedback and NSS from a refreshing perspective, leading us to reflect on what can be done at an individual level (as module convenors, or leaders of specific units) to prevent bad surprises from occurring. She encouraged us to think about our teaching journey, sailing off with our crew, chasing for a treasure island full of great learning objectives. We explored what could hamper our journey, how we could avoid shipwrecks, and what could help us sailing safe and sound to destination. Again, more posts will follow, as I am planning to illustrate my own journey as I thought of it during the workshop.

This was a great event, which I would recommend to everybody who is passionate and committed to good practice in learning and teaching in HE. I tweeted away for the whole duration of the day and I posted a Storify report of tweets (#HEAenhancement).

Photo 12-11-2014 15 48 06 Photo 12-11-2014 15 47 53

If They Don’t Talk, Post-it!

This year I am in charge of delivering Support Sessions for the module I teach and convey (Introductory Economics). Support Sessions are non-compulsory ‘open’ office hours targeting students who feel that they are falling behind with the material. The sessions are timetabled and scheduled to take place in teaching venues. Everybody is welcome to attend and ask for clarifications on either the theory taught in Lectures, or the problems assigned in Seminars and Workshops. The set-up is clear, attendance to these sessions is quite good, but…

But, as usual, students are very reluctant to ask questions. At the beginning of every session I would switch the projector on, bring with me notes about everything covered in recent theoretical or applied teaching moments, and ask the fatidic question: “What would you like me to cover today?” Punctually, I would be met by silence and perplexity, if not embarrassment.

Argh, argh, Argh! What to do? Should I start picking on material that I think is difficult? Deliver a mini-lecture that covers core points? Dismiss the class in a huff telling students to come back next week with questions?

Nah, none of the above. I just have to accept the fact that my students do not feel comfortable enough to speak up in public and admit, in front of everybody, that they are experiencing difficulties with any part of the material taught. After all, would I be prepared to do the same? Would I walk in a class and tell the teacher, with all my peers listening to me, “I did not understand this”?

Well, I found the solutions to all my problems and I am a very happy lecturer now. I attended a very powerful workshop by Prof Phil Race at the Anglia Ruskin Assessment Fiesta a few weeks ago, and I got an excellent idea: Post-it!

Yes, that is right, Post-it is the way!
At the beginning of each session I distribute a sticky yellow Post-It slip to each student in the venue, and I ask them to write down what they would like me to cover in the Support Session, then I circulate 1 or 2 A4 sized blank sheets. Students stick all the Post-It slips on the A4 sheets. I like that they can see what other students have written: very often the same questions repeat over and over. Once the sheets are back with me, I quickly sort them on my desk. This allows me to address student queries in order, and build the session in a clear and organised way. Once the plan of action is in front of me, I start covering the issues raised, one by one, until completion. The additional benefit of this approach is that, once students see that I am addressing their specific concern, they gain confidence to raise their hands and ask for further clarifications on the points they are interested in.

At the beginning of each session I am flooded with Post-It notes now. At the end of the session students have gathered the information they needed, and we all live happy thereafter. Well…until the next Support Session!