Category Archives: News

PGT: WHAT IS IT FOR?

Most research into the higher education student experience focuses on undergraduate (UG) education.  Government policy initiatives on postgraduate education, and subsequent research, have recently focused on access and funding (see, for instance, the blog in June 2015, Funding Postgraduate Study in the UK: issues of widening participation and sustainability).  There is, on the whole, less attention given to issues about the postgraduate taught (PGT) student experience and on how this level of education specifically bears upon opportunities and life choices.  Attending to these issues leads us to the question, which this blog post explores: what is PGT for?

The Society for Research into Higher Education Postgraduate Issues Network, which Dr Martin Gough of the Educational Development Division co-convenes, again found itself at the centre of this debate through hosting a seminar event in 2016, entitled Postgraduate Taught Student Experience, Employability and Support (presenters’ slides are available hereDr Camille Kandiko-Howson of King’s College London, and who has recently spoken at the University of Liverpool on her work on student engagement, was co-organiser, in her role as the Convenor of the Society’s Student Experience Network.  This blog post also serves to report highlights of this event [i] pertinent to our question above.

PGT is placed precariously between UG and PGR levels.  So, for instance, higher education institutions variously position their PGT provision administratively alongside UG, as taught degree rather than as research degree programmes, or they make a distinction firmly between postgraduate and undergraduate.  This phenomenon does not bode well for promoting a robust raison d’être for PGT.  The day of presentations came together well into key themes, namely knowledge, identity and the problematic status of PGT, and, at least, certainly provided pointers towards articulating purposes for PGT.

Confidence, Competence, and Knowledge

Peter Fine, Director of the Sports Dentistry Programme at University College London Eastman Dental Institute, has been undertaking a longitudinal study of part-time Master’s students’ experiences of continuing professional development (CPD).  He adopted a methodological focus on the confidence and ‘self-efficacy’ (c.f. Bandura 1977) levels of his CPD programme students, who have started careers in the dental profession.

We all want our personal dentists to be confident in what they do!  But his presentation of his research raised the further question about just what this ‘confidence’ is.  Peter has been measuring it by means of questionnaire numerical scale responses from the students at the start and at further selected points in the course of his CPD programme (by when it tends to increase but not straightforwardly), as well as by focus group discussions and personal interviews.  This must tell us something important but relying upon self-reporting of feelings of confidence is prey to factors such as corrigible memory and variation in how those feelings are understood at the time anyway: so, for instance, when is a feeling of confidence just bravado, with the danger of recklessness?

The link to the right disciplinary knowledge is going to be key to pinning the phenomenon down more objectively and allowing confidence to be an independent measure.  If enhanced competence in students can be observed by the expert then, arguably, we shall have grounds for noticing more confidence in our dental practitioners, through their ease in their working and subsequent success, and the practitioners will be entitled to feel more confident as a result.  And the increase in practitioner confidence (and competence) will be reflected in more patient satisfaction.  We can certainly say that robust CPD for practitioners who have already begun their careers is a clear purpose for the PGT level.  Continue reading PGT: WHAT IS IT FOR?

Gaining recognition for high quality teaching – in a scholarly fashion?

Higher Education in the UK is in the process of undergoing a major shift. The Teaching Excellence Framework represents a sea change in the way that universities are funded. The framework seeks to assess the quality of teaching in universities, with metrics around student satisfaction, student employability and retention rates all central to the process.

While there are plenty of challenges associated with the framework, as I have made clear in a recent posting on the Telegraph Blog, it is also the case that universities will place a much keener emphasis on the calibre of their teaching staff. We can expect much greater interest in the Higher Education Academy’s Fellowships scheme, which seeks to recognise the commitment of staff to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education.

As part of its wider strategy, the University is heavily promoting its in-house recognition and accreditation framework to enable staff to gain Fellowships with the Academy, ULTRA. In order to gain recognition under this scheme, staff need to prepare a claim against the criteria for the relevant level of Fellowship.

Clearly, one can engage in the process in different ways. For instance, one of the criteria for gaining a Senior Fellowship is as follows:

Successful co-ordination, support, supervision, management and/or mentoring of other colleagues (whether individuals and/or teams) in relation to teaching and learning.

It would be possible to compile evidence against this claim in a relatively straightforward fashion, perhaps demonstrating how someone whom you mentored went on to secure more positive course evaluations from their students; with other evidence aimed at a similar level.

What would it take, though, for someone to compile a claim for a Fellowship that considered how to re-frame or develop his or her approach to mentoring colleagues?

This is the sort of territory that a recent virtual special issue of the journal Teaching in Higher Education set out to address. The issue, which I co-edited, is entitled A scholarly basis for teaching practices in higher education.

The journal has long been committed to critically examining and interrogating the values and presuppositions that underpin teaching in higher education. The articles in the special issue were selected with a view to prompting this sort of criticality amongst those engaging with the HEA Fellowships.

Dr Peter Kahn PFHEA

Director of Studies, EdD in Higher Education

Students get together to focus on ‘real-world’ problems – ‘Re-wilding’ a strategy for the UK

As part of Liverpool University’s Guild of Students Sustainability lecture series, Dr Jenny Hodgson from the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour, in the Institute of Integrative Biology, and two PhD students, Vinnie Keenan and Jamie Alison recently hosted an innovative and engaging event on the topic of ‘re-wilding’ which was attended by thirty staff and students from across the University.

The event started with an activity to get participants to reflect on how much they individually value the natural environmental – this included a fun activity of drawing our favourite place in the UK for a holiday!

Jenny then presented a summary of current research on the historical impact of humans on the natural world, particularly since the introduction of agriculture, and specifically on the impact of the British landscape. For Britain, a very large percentage of the country is either urban or agricultural, with only small areas of nature reserves and other protected areas that tend to be very disconnected and fragmented.  Because of the significant impact that man has had on this country’s landscape, it’s problematic to define what exactly ‘natural’ means. ‘Re-wilding’ was introduced as an approach to re-establishing natural landscapes for a range of purposes that include nature conservation and sustainability of habitats, re-introduction of large mammals and other wildlife species, climate change migration, flood protection, local tourism and farm income diversification.

In groups of five or six, we then were given the scenario of developing a re-wilding strategy plan for an area of the Lake District using information from a range of stakeholders; local farmers, residents, The National Trust, and the National Farmers Union etc. Each group gave a one minute ‘elevator’ pitch for their ideas. What was notable from this activity was how engaged most students were with the process. They developed a wide range of practical, innovative and imaginative solutions to the task in a very short period of time – often utilising their different subject expertise and perspectives on the issues involved.

The Sustainability lecture series is a new initiative that provides an open and innovative forum for students to explore complex global issues outside of their own subject areas. These events also provide staff with an opportunity to promote their research to non-technical and public audiences, and for research students an opportunity to engage in learning and teaching. The series so far have covered a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues including the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), media reporting of climate change, green spaces strategy for Liverpool, food security, and post-crash economics, and forms part of the University’s objectives for promoting greater inclusion of sustainability into our learning and teaching.

Resources

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology: Rewilding and Ecosystem Services report

Guild of Students Green Guild Team

Education for sustainable development at the University of Liverpool

Reducing the ‘them and us’ of professional and academic staff – what the Times Higher didn’t say!

Like most authors, Carroll and I were delighted to have our paper on the contribution of professional staff to student outcomes published by the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management recently. We were also excited to hear that the article had attracted the attention of the THE  and we agreed to discuss our research with one of their journalists.

Serendipitously, Carroll was visiting our university at the time. Our conversation with the THE journalist, however, was a little disappointing. Despite our best efforts, the journalist chose to focus on just a few (negative) points. This has led to discussions on various forums, both in the UK and Australia, and we have felt it necessary to ‘put the record straight’ on several occasions. The main thrust of our paper was that professional staff develop pedagogical partnerships with academic staff, other professional staff and with students. Effective working is about collaboration and co-operation to achieve optimal student outcomes – and that the part professional staff play in those partnerships needs to be recognised in a systemic manner.

partners

Contrary to the view headlined in the THE, our study actually suggests there is a reduction in the ‘them and us’ tension, particularly as professional staff become more qualified. Nevertheless, some professional staff we interviewed felt under-appreciated by senior management. The sort of recognition (or lack thereof) in our study was systemic. Participants reported a perceived lack of acknowledgement as an equal partner in such things as enhancement plans, or recognition as a co-author on reports, etc. This systemic lack of recognition was evident in both our case studies.

It also needs to be understood that our methodology deliberately chose to take the perspective of professional staff – that is, we interviewed professional staff, but only professional staff. Hence the question of ‘why?’, behind some of our findings, remains to be explored. This was an ideological decision, with the aim of giving ‘voice’ to professional staff.

protest

The methodology was case study and included two cases – one from Australia and the other from the UK. As such, the findings pertain specifically to those cases, but may provide some insights into similar cases elsewhere. The recommendations from our paper include the following:

  • Professional staff role descriptors need to make clear the nature of their contribution to student outcomes, to ensure smart recruitment of people with the right set of skills and values.
  • Promotion of more overtly collaborative initiatives between professional staff and academic colleagues for retention, persistence and success, and raise awareness of pedagogical partnerships.
  • Care must be taken, by all levels of management, to recognise and value all contributors to the pedagogical partnerships that promote successful student outcomes.
  • The binary divide of pay scales and other rewards and benefits need to be reviewed, not only to take account of emerging blended HE professionals, but simply to remove a significant barrier to true partnering.
  • Length of service makes professional staff an important resource, but consideration is needed to ensure succession planning and sustainability of service.
  • Equality of opportunity for development and scholarly activity for professional staff enhances their job satisfaction and retention, which is is ultimately beneficial to student outcomes and the institution — a more engaged and motivated body of professional staff is both more willing, and able, to provide quality professional services.

We hope that this posting ‘sets the record straight’, and inspires you to read the full article.

 

Dr Julie-Anne Regan, University of Liverpool

Dr Carroll Graham UTS, Sydney Australia

Developing MOOCs in Groningen

Between 31st August and 4th September 2015 I visited the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I was fortunate to be able to do this as part of Erasmus+ training programme during which I worked at the University of Groningen looking in to how their MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are developed.

The MOOC project at the University of Groningen is handled by the Educational Support and Innovation Unit (part of the Centre for Innovation and Technology), which is similar to us here in Educational Development in the way that it is a support department and is not part of any faculty.

The Centre for Innovation and Technology has 164 full time members of staff, whilst the Educational Support and Innovation Unit has 19 full time staff, most of whom are teacher trainers and e-learning technicians. The priorities are teacher development, promoting and supporting e-learning and providing technical support.

In addition to developing MOOCs the Educational Support and Innovation Unit is involved in a number of other projects including:

  • Teacher certification
  • Assessment experts, student survey analysis
  • BlackBoard support
  • Technical support during student examinations
  • Video productions for flipped classroom projects
  • Curriculum redesigns

groningen 1

‘An introduction to Dutch’ MOOC

The University of Groningen is well known in the MOOC world for producing an extremely successful MOOC ‘Introduction to Dutch’. This offers learners basic skills in Dutch. This free online course was also used by the University of Groningen as a tool to promote paid online courses offered by the Language Centre at the University. 75 people joined the paid version of the course after the first run of the MOOC had finished.

I met the educators who developed the course – Jeroen van Engen, Birgit Lijmbach, and Margried Hidding – to discuss what made it so successful. I was particularly interested in how the course was marketed and what the secret was to recruiting 35,000 people on this course.

I learnt that in addition to the traditional course advertising done by FutureLearn, a variety of other marketing channels were used such as:

Continue reading Developing MOOCs in Groningen

You teach? Try iTeach

iTeach is the online resource portal for those who teach and support student learning at The University of Liverpool .

Resources in key areas of learning and teaching are available. Recent additions include a glossary of teaching terms, discipline specific resources and access to other UoL teaching resources such as SPARK (new technologies in learning and teaching) and ‘how to’ guides in VITAL.

As examples, programmes going through approval have needed learning outcomes revision and colleagues have asked for information so these resources have been updated.  Some discipline-specific examples can be applied generally, such as Engaging Students in Engineering through their everyday experiences, which illustrates how the course design can improve student study motivation and interest. Tackling the challenges of teaching large cohorts, the Department of Electronics & Electrical Engineering highlight the importance of involving students and using technology – their examples are here.  Digital Literacy and Learning Capabilities are key strategic developments in Higher Education, so more is now available.

Three new areas will extend iTeach:  Education for Sustainable Development, Placements and Students as Partners.

Join your colleagues today – take a look and we hope iTeach is a useful source of support for your teaching and your students’ learning.

 

Jaye McIsaac

Minister sets the scene for Higher Education: some brief comments

On the 9th September 2015 Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, delivered a speech entitled ‘Higher education: fulfilling our potential’. The speech begins to lay out the direction of travel after a period during the coalition where there was much thinking and little action.
jo johnson blog
Click image to view a larger version.

Word clouds are a crude device, but it is interesting that the big words are:

Students

“Students are the primary source of income for undergraduate study, but their interests are insufficiently represented in our structures and systems.”

It seems that now students are customers they should have more representation. Yet students do not generally see themselves in this way. Representation is not quite the same as partnership, which, although more challenging, would perhaps result in much more debate about what a university education should be all about.

Providers

“To ensure students have real choice that reflects their diverse needs, we must continue to open up the higher education market and put in place a regulatory framework that reflects today’s challenges.”

The idea of the development of new or much modified regulatory institutions that would, for example, take on the validation of degrees so that new providers do not need to partner with existing institutions would indeed open up the market. The question is, what sort of regulation, and how would it affect existing institutions? Martin Paul Eve of Birkbeck is clear in his blog that the aim is a huge financial shake-up of the whole system, using the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) as a key tool .

Participation

That is, widening participation (WP), remains firmly on the agenda with a plan to provide much better data so that work can be done to address issues around specific underrepresented groups. It is good news that WP is not being side-lined, which many thought might happen.

Teaching

There were some harsh words about the perceived variability of teaching quality in the speech;

“This patchiness in the student experience within and between institutions cannot continue. There is extraordinary teaching that deserves greater recognition. And there is lamentable teaching that must be driven out of our system. It damages the reputation of UK higher education and I am determined to address it.”

He went on to say;

“The new framework will aim to give students more information about the actual teaching they will receive, drive up student engagement with the learning process and reward universities that do most to stretch young – and also not so young – minds.”

On that last point, Johnson mentioned mature students in his speech but, as Mark Leach points out in his WonkHE blog, there is no reference to part time study. Indeed, there is nothing on postgraduate study either. The now much vaunted Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is not one of the big words in the word cloud, because as yet there is no clarity at all as to what TEF will look like or how it will be managed. There is a lot of discussion. A Green Paper is due in the autumn (that is, by the end of December), so there is very little time to move from muddle to clarity, and, if other sources are right, to get TEF1 in place for 2016 and to produce metrics that inform funding decisions. These decisions would then allow some institutions to raise fees in line with inflation, based on what can only be a very crude measure of teaching quality.

 

Anne Qualter

Internationalisation, Integration and Student Satisfaction

The University of Liverpool can be justly proud of its international outlook (reflected in a Times Higher Education score of 79.5) and in the numbers of international students we attract. These ‘structural indicators’ are, according to a new report by Spencer-Oatey and Dauby, important pre-requisites for student integration and hence the development in our graduates of the ‘global skills’ that leading employers are increasingly placing high on their agendas.

Structural indicators may be a pre-requisite, but Spencer-Oatey and Dauby (2015) argue that they are far from sufficient. A diverse mix of students “can impact substantially on the social reality of the student” and that impact may not always be positive. Most universities in the UK see the benefits of internationalisation, but capitalising on this diverse mix needs work. A stark finding from the research carried out for the report is that the greater the proportion of non-UK students, the lower that students of all backgrounds rate their satisfaction. That is not to say that students don’t want an international experience; indeed research at the University of Warwick suggests they more than want it – good students expect an international experience. The question is how to provide an enriching international experience for all.

What is clear from the research is that creating richly diverse learning and social communities is the way forward. Intercultural skills need to be nurtured. This means within the department and the classroom as much as in their wider living and social life. Home and overseas students’ sense of belonging and hence their satisfaction increases substantially where they have been able to make friends with students from other countries. International students find this harder than home students, and some groups, such as Chinese students, find it particularly difficult.

So, what are the conditions for achieving positive contact and integration? Members having;

  • equal status
  • common goals
  • institutional support
  • perceptions of similarities between groups (something that good group work can support)
groupwork
Group work between home and international students can aid integration.

In another report Spencer-Oatey et al (2014) address ways in which integration can be achieved. They suggest that “integration is a process of mutual accommodation where the students and staff from the host culture have to be as open to engaging with difference and ultimately to change as the international students at that institution”(P6). Using a number of case studies this report offers ideas drawn from a number of UK universities. These focus mainly on activities outside the academic department such as shared reading groups where students read the literature from each other’s countries and through discussion develop a deeper understanding of each other; or student halls with a mix of residents engineered to be multicultural and where students were required to make special application; a music centre that encouraged ensembles of instruments from around the world. There are also examples within curriculum activities such as where students were asked to observe and reflect on their own and other’s behaviour during small group work, and so learn how to work better as a mixed team.

The rewards for both university and students are high where explicit and concerted efforts are made to promote integration. The consequences of not putting effort into this are quite serious and probably, given current league tables, fairly quick to present themselves.

Anne Qualter

EdD residency and graduation

July has been a rewarding month for the Centre for Lifelong Learning and all involved with the EdD. We ran our second residency and celebrated two further graduates from the programme.

The residency is an opportunity for students on the programme to come to see the university, share their experiences and ideas and meet with staff. It is an optional extra as the programme is fully online. Students came from all five continents for four intensive and enjoyable days at the Foresight Centre (pictured above).

Whilst there is plenty to report I think the residency is far better summed up by Gertrude Rompre’s reflections on her experience and on the notion of ‘doctorateness’:

 

Donning the robe of doctorateness: Reflecting on the EdD Residency at the University of Liverpool

I will admit that it is a somewhat vain question: “What will our doctoral robes look like when we graduate from the Online EdD Programme from the University of Liverpool?” On the other hand, perhaps it’s not such a trivial question. As a learner who needs to begin with the end in mind, imagining myself dressed in the appropriate robes, crossing the platform, and hearing my name spoken as the degree of Doctor of Education was conferred upon me, is an important part of my learning process. I need to visualize the end while I am still very near to the beginning. These reflections on the EdD Residency revolve around the ways the residency allowed me to both envision the end but also challenged me to embrace the journey and the present moment, a multi-dimensional approach to doctoral study that, I suspect, is key to success.

Envisioning the end

Paul Ricoeur suggests that “imagination is the power to open to new possibilities, to discover another way of seeing” (Ricoeur, 1995, 281). The EdD Residency served to fuel our collective imaginations as doctoral students. One of the ways this was done was through student presentations and pecha kuchas. Pecha kucha presentations – 20 images described for 20 seconds each – were new to most of the participants. The exercise proved to be a highlight. A format which challenged us to think about our research interests in a concise and creative fashion, the pecha kucha allowed us to exercise the faculty of the imagination and envision our future doctorateness.

The term, ‘doctorateness’, is a strange one. It is a word cobbled together, however, to describe an important process. It points to the deeper reality underlying the doctorate, the fact that we are creating for ourselves a new identity, an identity where we will be addressed as “Dr.” Early on in our doctoral studies, we explored that theme of becoming a doctoral practitioner. It is only now, at the residency, that I am realizing the depth of the transformation into which I have plunged myself. For example, I commented, at dinner, to Dr. Willis how I have noticed faculty colleagues in my own institution engaging with me in a different way now that they know that I am a doctoral student. He reminded me that it was a two-way street and that I, likely, am entering into the dialogue with a new set of vocabulary and contexts as well. Doctorateness is creeping up on me!

Continue reading EdD residency and graduation

Congratulations to Dr Ian Willis!

The Centre for Lifelong learning is delighted to announce that Dr Ian Willis has been awarded Principal Fellowship of the University of Liverpool Teaching Recognition and Accreditation (ULTRA) framework. Principal Fellowship is awarded to highly experienced staff in recognition of wide-ranging positive impact on learning and teaching practice, and Ian’s success is a significant achievement.

ian-willis

An important aspect of Ian’s application was the impact his work has had on learning and teaching internationally, most recently through the establishment of a Certificate in Medical Teaching in Pakistan, and the Association Commonwealth Universities’ African Universities Administrators Training Programme.

ULTRA is accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), which means that University of Liverpool staff are able to apply for professional recognition of their learning and teaching through ULTRA, and achieve HEA Fellowship at the same time. Since the implementation of ULTRA, five Principal, twenty-six Senior and two Fellowships have been awarded.

Ian, who is the Head of the Educational Development Division, said:

“I’m delighted to have been awarded Principal Fellowship.  The process was both supportive and demanding in that it pushed me to some useful reflections and realisations. I’m grateful for the support of colleagues in the Centre for Lifelong Learning and wider in gaining the award.  I look forward to contributing to the ULTRA scheme, which I think will grow significantly in terms of opportunities for recognition for individuals and in demonstrating the university’s commitment to learning and teaching.”

As part of his commitment to enhancing the student experience through excellent learning and teaching, Ian will continue to support and encourage colleagues to apply for recognition of their skills and expertise through the ULTRA Framework.

More information on ULTRA is available here, or please contact Dr Janis McIntyre at Janis.mcintyre@liverpool.ac.uk