Category Archives: Academic Development

The Inclusive Department: international students

Following on from a previous blog on Internationalisation and Student Satisfaction, and in the wake of Welcome Week and the start of the new academic year, Anna Chen offers some of her observations and suggestions for better integration of Chinese students.

 

Timing of support

The first four to  six weeks of the semester are intense with a great deal to take in. This can lead to overload issues. For example, students whose English is not strong often have not really taken in everything they need (‘nodding’ is not the same as understanding), and personal and cultural shyness are also factors in this early stage.

So, for academic support, invitations need to be put in different ways and more than once throughout the year, e.g. for essay writing, literature review etc. If offers of support only come at the start of the year, when language skills are not so strong, the invitation may not be taken up, though the support is very much needed.

If the invitation also comes later in the semester and annual programme when language skills and cultural confidence have improved, the offer is more likely to be accepted and used.

Discipline-specific issues

There are subject-specific issues for international students e.g. need for essay writing in humanities, role of students’ opinion in social sciences etc. So, ‘opinion’ is itself a pedagogical issue, taken for granted with European students, but in need of pedagogical definition and development for some international students.

Working with the Guild

The staff view that their role is specific to the discipline, whilst the social side of the student is ‘for the Guild’ or elsewhere, does not work for many international students. These students often need or even expect their tutors to direct them in areas of student life beyond the subject. So, opportunities to become more socially and culturally integrated need to come from within the department as well as being on offer from the Guild.

Communications from the Guild about activities and social opportunities should be co-branded with, and come from within, the departments to give them ‘authority’ to international students.

Social Initiatives from within the department

90% of Chinese students do not join student societies (‘the girls go shopping; the boys play online games’). To encourage participation, attendance at co-curricular and departmental events could be attached to credits; part of the ‘life of the department/discipline’.

Could there be departmental fresher’s or society fairs – at more than one point in the year?

The city’s heritage should be used far more. After all, that is what the students do know about Liverpool before they come here (maritime, link with Shanghai (Expo), football, Beatles etc.). Tutors could perhaps take out groups of students – this is done as part of Health Sciences Welcome events, but not in most other departments.

Learning-at-scale issues

In departments where there are very large numbers of Chinese students (e.g. Liverpool School of Management), large lectures (1,000) should be followed by reinforcement seminars (as at the University of Manchester).

In-reach

Can UK undergraduate students become involved in types of integration effort within their department? Undergraduate students are already involved in out-reach to schools. Can they then become involved in ‘in-reach’ for international students?

Dr Anna Chen

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

Satisfying the 300+: The Challenge of Teaching Large Cohorts

At the Learning and Teaching Conference last month we were treated to an awesome presentation by Dr Ali Al-Ataby, the winner of the annual Sir Alastair Pilkington Prize for excellent teaching. In his presentation, entitled ‘Satisfying the 300’, Ali explained how he has turned what was considered to be a boring and difficult, yet required, module with a large failure rate into one of the most popular and successful in Electrical Engineering and Electronics (EEE).

Science and Engineering are really tackling the challenge of teaching large cohorts with lots of good practice across the Faculty. I was reminded that I attended another fantastic event last term. Run by Dr Kathy Johnson in Science and Engineering and introduced by Mark Bowen, a whole day was dedicated to large group teaching with invited speakers from within and beyond the University, giving thought provoking and entirely practical strategies for teaching modules for groups of up to 600 students.

Executive Pro Vice Chancellor for Science and Engineering Professor Ken Badcock opened, underlining the importance the Faculty gives to the quality of the student learning experience. He was followed by five speakers, from Liverpool, Manchester and The Open University.

teaching large cohorts

Key messages from the session emphasised the importance of:

  • Students having the opportunity to interact with one another, something that can be done very well online.
  • Students feeling connected to the lecturer. They will overcrowd a live lecture rather than sit in an overspill and they need to know their lecturer is concerned about their learning. This requires planning and insight that takes as much effort as all other aspects of the teaching. But, it can be done.
  • A blended approach with on-line activities and discussions which can significantly enhance the student learning experience because the very nature of the large scale course means that there are many ideas, points of view, and knowledge to bring to the debate and insights to share. Well planned online elements are valued by staff and students.
  • Module efficiency was a key consideration for staff – including excellent administrative staff and well trained teaching assistant support.
  • Selecting tools that work for students, not simply like for like replacements for those that work face-to-face, but approaches that meet the aims and intended learning outcomes of the modules.

The presenters were (click the links for short interviews):

Dr John Moriarty (Manchester) – Feeding the four hundred – case study with a large class.

Dr John Marsland (Liverpool) – 3000 students and counting! Assessing and engaging large cohorts.

Erik Clark (Liverpool student) – Strategies for large cohorts – a student perspective.

Dr Matt Murphy (Liverpool) – Using more than just lectures to teach classes of 500+.

Dr Anne -Marie Gallen (Open University) – Developing large scale undergraduate engineering modules using VLE-based approaches.

 

You can view Ali Al-Ataby’s full conference presentation here.

 

Anne Qualter, Centre for Lifelong Learning

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

‘Education is the proper employment, not only of our early years, but of our whole lives.’

CE blog 1

‘Education is the proper employment, not only of our early years, but of our whole lives.’

William Roscoe, 1817 (painting by Martin Archer Shee (1815-17)

Last term I attended a special lecture on the history of Continuing Education (CE) at Liverpool, delivered by Dr Anna Pilz. Based on archive material going back more than one hundred years, Anna’s lecture built on and extended what we knew from her booklet, Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool (commissioned to celebrate the centenary of CE’s home, 126 Mount Pleasant) which started life in The Royal Institute, opened by William Roscoe in 1817. Reading his motto inspired me to be more determined than ever to support and promote today’s CE.

I was fascinated and delighted to learn that the idea for local university lectures had been first mooted by suffragist Miss Anne J. Clough who, with others, established the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women in 1867. In the same year the Council invited James Stuart of Trinity College Cambridge to give a lecture. He was so impressed he took the idea back with him and inaugurated university extension lectures in his own institution. The idea spread to London, Oxford and back to Liverpool, becoming the ‘Society for University Extension in Liverpool and District’ in October 1899, operating under the auspices of the brand new University College Liverpool.

From reading Anna’s report we already knew about the huge number of people who attended lectures before the First World War, and had read of the often heroic efforts on the part of staff and students to continue learning and teaching during the privations of the two wars . But her lecture brought it to life, and made us realise just how precious learning is.

Continue reading ‘Education is the proper employment, not only of our early years, but of our whole lives.’

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

Being Strategic and Collaborative in Academia

For academic staff, being strategic in their career planning and being part of effective collaborative networks appears to be essential ingredients for a successful academic endeavour. At the Centre for Lifelong Learning, as part of our academic development remit we recently held two workshops exploring these broad topics with groups of academic staff from the university’s three faculties.

The workshops were led by Professor Shelda Debowski  who has extensive knowledge and experience in academic and senior management roles in higher education.

DebowskiThe workshops were delivered in a participatory manner and Liverpool academics were keen to share their experiences of making strategic decisions in their careers as well as how they manage and develop their collaborative networks in relation to their research and professional activities.

Professor Debowski provided an in-depth analysis of the higher education sector based on her experiences in both academic and senior management roles. This clarified the expectations stemming from academic and funding institutions and supported workshop participants towards reflecting on and sharing their own perceptions of higher education whilst recognising at the same time the role they play in this highly competitive and global environment.

Both workshops provided insights to good practice in planning academic careers and participating academic staff discussed disciplinary and interdisciplinary practices regarding strategic career planning and collaborative work in teaching and research.

Summaries from each workshop together with key observations by Professor Debowski are available in the videos provided below. In addition, Professor Debowski offered her top suggestions for being strategic in making choices for an academic career and for establishing and maintaining effective collaborations.

 

Resources from the workshops

Short video overview of being a Strategic Academic: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/yphvjj9y

Short video overview of establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/tqg7rnkv

Click links to open online pdf documents:

Tips to Develop your Academic Strategy

Tips for Successful Collaboration

 

Dr Christos Petichakis – c.petichakis@liv.ac.uk

Learning & Teaching Conference 2015: Recognising and Sharing Teaching Excellence

This year’s Learning and Teaching conference, held in the Foresight Centre on the 2nd July 2015, once again showed an increase in the number of presentations and attendees discussing innovative practice in learning and teaching across The University of Liverpool.

Professor Daniella Tilbury, inaugural Vice Chancellor of the University of Gibraltar, opened the conference by asking staff to discuss the meaning of ‘Learning to Change’ and ‘Sustainability’ amongst themselves before presenting a talk that asked delegates to think hard about the purpose of a university education for students and society.

2015 LT conference-34a
Professor Daniella Tilbury, inaugural Vice Chancellor of the University of Gibraltar, delivering her keynote speech

This set the tone for a lively, engaging, and enjoyable conference with a record number of delegates able to choose from 58 presentations and workshops on offer (all abstracts available here) from staff from across the university and some of our partner institutions. A number of the presentations were co-delivered with students, which always adds an additional perspective.

2015 L&T conference-62
Jimmy Fan Zai Fu from the Singapore Institute of Technology (a University of Liverpool partner institution) presents ‘Adopting the principles of Taichi in teaching: a Singapore story’
2015 L&T conference-68
Dr Luciane V Mello from the School of Life Sciences presents ‘Reflective research project assessment using PebblePad’
Drs Faye Bradshaw and Matthew James from the School of Health Sciences present 'An Adventure in Team Based Learning'
Drs Faye Bradshaw and Matthew James from the School of Health Sciences present ‘An Adventure in Team Based Learning’

Professor Gavin Brown, our new Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, gave the afternoon address. His presentation comprised an overview of the fast-changing national context for Learning and Teaching, including the ‘hot off the press’ setting up of a process to develop a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). He then spoke about the university strategic review and his early thoughts on an Education Strategy.

Two further presentations showcasing innovative learning and teaching practice were delivered by two Faculty winners of the Sir Alistair Pilkington awards for teaching excellence – Dr Georgina Turner from Media and Communications, and Dr Ali Al-Ataby from Electrical Engineering and Electronics. The conference was also the launch event for the new lecture capture software developed by the Computing Services Department.

Overall, the conference provided an opportunity for many colleagues to share their enthusiasm for learning and teaching, and to learn about other innovative learning and teaching practice that is happening across our institution.

Trish Lunt and Patrick Doherty

Administrators in African universities

Along with Dr Brian Jennings of the Ghana Christian University College, I was asked by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) to design and deliver a programme for mid-level administrators in African Universities so that they can be better able to support learning and teaching within their universities. This came about from the ACU’s recognition that the role of administrators is often undervalued and they usually have little access to training opportunities, especially accredited training.

All too often legitimate concerns such as this are addressed by ‘running workshops’, where good learning may well occur, but where there is little evidence of any subsequent impact. We decided to design this programme so participants would develop a change project to be implemented in their universities.

We ran a week-long programme in London for 13 administrators drawn from six African countries. During this time we facilitated input and discussion on key issues of learning and teaching such as Quality Assurance, Assessment & Feedback and Technology Enhanced Learning. In addition, there were sessions on professional skills such as communication and giving presentations. There were plenty of lively discussions and finding of commonalities and differences across the continent. One interesting discussion centred on the notion of ‘best practice’ and how this cultivated the idea that ‘best practice’ somehow existed and was to be found elsewhere, often in the West. In turn this can lead to a search for some ideal and so often overlooks good local practice and development suited to local contexts.

We covered project planning from a strengths-based perspective. This turned out to be the right approach as these administrators could often be categorised as having lower status roles compared to their academic colleagues, despite their skills, qualifications and contributions. Peer feedback helped to ensure that projects met the key criteria of being concisely described, manageable in a three month time frame and able to deliver evidence of impact. Projects could be team-based or faculty wide; examples include moving from a paper based to electronic reporting system and implementation of a systematic staff planning process. In order to complete the programme participants must implement their projects in the next three months and critically reflect on their learning.

To support their work and offset the risks of isolation on return they will each recruit a mentor in their own university and are encouraged to sign up to the programme’s LinkedIn group for discussing issues and sharing progress.

In addition, the programme will be accredited by the Staff and Education Development Association and formally evaluated so that we can assess the impact of the programme – what were the outcomes and evidence and from that, and shall we run it again?

The week was a great success, plenty of enthusiasm, learning and laughter, now let’s see how the projects go…

Ian Willis

Critical Pedagogy Against the Mass Market?

Last year, a small group of researchers at Liverpool set out to understand how principles of ‘critical pedagogy’ – the approach to teaching that insists students must play an active and leading role in their own learning strategies – are being implemented in the University of Liverpool.

The research focused upon a small number of modules that apply principles of critical pedagogy in that way students are assessed. It drew upon in-depth interviews with a sample of the staff members that co-ordinate eight modules in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences to explore how successfully those principles are applied in the assessment of those modules.

In our research we found a range of innovative and sometimes challenging ways that module leaders sought apply the core aims of critical pedagogy. We found a range of forms of assessment that:

  • allow the structure of learning to be defined by student learners’ lived reality, rather than a predetermined or designed structure.
  • encourage students to be ‘free learners’, able to challenge the physical and ideological structure of their pedagogical environment and relationships.
  • move students to action and involvement in the world in ways that promote and further the causes of social justice and democracy.

The module leaders we spoke to were committed to allowing students to challenge the dominant ways of reading the world, and to do so in a more open ways. The key motivation for others was to introduce to students an understanding of the social and political dimensions of their subject. There is evidence that such approaches to assessment are important for ensuring the engagement of a more diverse range of participants in education. Critical pedagogy approaches can be important to a widening participation agenda.

Continue reading Critical Pedagogy Against the Mass Market?