On Thursday last I attended the final meeting of the Liverpool Green Guild project steering group where we cheered the recent Guild award for waste prevention and reflected on all the fantastic work done by students over the last two years.
The funding for the project, which was part of five million pounds of HEFCE funding for student-led environmental sustainability projects, runs through students’ unions in partnership with their parent institutions. The four key themes of the Students’ Green Fund are student participation, partnership, impact, and legacy.
Legacy and continuation was the focus of a Green Fund Final Support day that I attended on the 16th of April in Bristol with Green Guild Project Officer Dave Wheatley and Guild Vice President Alex Ferguson. Now is the time to look to continuing the work of the Green Fund and the 24 other NUS-led projects across the country, especially with the recently published HEFCE sustainable development frameworkwhich was mentioned in the annual funding letter to Universities.
Steve Egan, a champion of the project from HEFCE, talked about sustainability and said that Universities have come to realise that:
“There is a generation gap between university managers and students who are much more aware and enthusiastic than their elders”
He went on to comment on enthusiasm for social justice and equality, and said the pride with which students have tackled their task has been amazing. The collaborations between students, academic and professional services staff and through outreach beyond the university are a model for future collaborations.
On Wednesday night I attended the annual Guild Awards. A glittering affair well attended by senior university staff, but most importantly by students representing societies that had been nominated by a record number of students for an award.
This event always leaves me in awe of the fantastic things our students do to represent their fellow students to the university, to participate and lead in volunteering, in the arts, in the university community and the wider Liverpool community.* The sheer number and variety of societies and activities students engage in shows the Guild going from strength to strength now that its back in Mountford Hall.
I want to pick out the Guild’s Student Led Teaching Awards. This is new for 2015. Apparently lots of staff were nominated for the ‘highest standard of teaching support’ which shows how much students appreciate the extra mile that so many of their tutors go.
The three nominees from each faculty were:
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Nikolas Gjogkas; Dr Amel Alghrani; Dr Mike Rowe
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences Dr Laura Soulsby; Prof. Stuart Carter; Alison Reid
Faculty of Science and Engineering Dr Jonathan Green; Dr Gita Sedghi; Dr Paul Williamson
Drs Janet Strivens and Ian Willis from the Centre for Lifelong Learning have recently returned from Lahore, Pakistan where they were continuing the work of ‘Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Medical Education in Punjab’, Pakistan.
This was originally a British Council funded project and is now funded through Pakistan’s ‘Visiting International Scholars’ scheme. The project is based in the University of Health Sciences Lahore (UHS), which controls the assessment of most of the medical and dental colleges in Punjab. This gives them significant influence over the teaching practices of 40 affiliated institutions and so developments at UHS can spread throughout the province.
The project is becoming genuinely locally owned and sustainable. The focus this time was the Certificate in Medical Teaching – our development programme for teachers in medical and dental education. It concentrates on student-centred learning and on developing local skills in mentoring and facilitation.
We were there for a week, and in that time UHS had organised three classes running concurrently over four days and a further three concurrent classes in the following three days, with a total of 146 students. At one stage we needed 11 rooms for mini-presentations; so an organisational marvel. Plus we had Dr Shazia Iqbal, who has just completed her MSc in Medical Education at UoL, recounting her experiences – both academic and cultural – whilst in Liverpool and Dr Masood Jawaid’s workshops on Technology Integrated Learning in resource-poor countries. This was a treat in terms of how to use technology when institutions don’t have the learning technologists or strategies for using technology. We heard case studies from resourceful staff and a plethora of open source software in use in different parts of Pakistan in order to meet the same learning aims we have in the UK with all our facilities and skilled support.
The Educational Development Division is delighted to announce our third Doctorate in Higher Education (EdD). Dr Alicia Salaz had a successful viva in April. She works in the library of Carnegie Mellon University – Qatar. Her thesis is titled: International Branch Campus Faculty Member Experiences of the Academic Library.
She used phenomenography to investigate the perceptions and experiences of academic libraries by faculty members across a variety of disciplines working in international branch campuses. The main research question asked how faculty members experience the academic library, with the objective of identifying qualitative variations in experience within this group. The findings of her research addressed established practical problems related to library value and identity, and have implications for practice in both the development and evaluation of library services for faculty members, as well as communication about those services with faculty members.
Alicia acknowledges that:
“Four years ago I was, intellectually, a fundamentally different person” and that the work has represented a “personal transformation”.
One of the recommendations from a recent Internal Periodic Review of Educational Developments was that we should blow our trumpet more, letting University colleagues know how well we can support them in learning and teaching (L&T). So, I am taking this thinly disguised and uncharacteristic opportunity to do just that.
Ray Land and George Gordon have recently published a report on an HEA funded small scale international study on Teaching Excellence Initiatives. In it they debate teaching excellence and how it has broken out of the confines of individual HEIs to be linked to discussions of individual performance.
Land and Georges’ study looked at practice in promoting excellence in L&T. They acknowledge that excellence itself is contested and the quality of teaching, especially the difference between satisfactory and excellent, is hard to judge. HEI initiatives can, they argue, be described as moving from novice to expert, something like the way the UK Professional Standards Framework is described in four levels, and how our own ULTRA Framework is articulated.
The study points out that most UK, Australian and NZ Universities (at least) encourage or require academics to take a course in teaching as part of probation, thus aiming to ensure competence in teaching. Many HEI’s offer rewards for excellence in the form of prizes or funding to develop practice or even pay increments (proficiency level). Going beyond, advanced proficiency including teaching and expert status is rewarded with prizes, citations such as Vice Chancellor awards, National teaching Fellowships (we have five at Liverpool) or Principal Fellows (four at Liverpool) are classed as high recognition.