Tag Archives: Student experience

Green Students, Green Future

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 framework which 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.

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Guild Awards 2015

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.

Table at the Guild Awards

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

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“Student expectations and perceptions of higher education” – a QAA-funded report

New in this blog post: Dr Camille Kandiko Howson video recording (added May 2014)

This blog will offer some key points and highlights from Dr Camille Kandiko Howson’s lucid and engaging presentation on “Student expectations and perceptions of higher education in the UK” a QAA-funded report based on the voice of over 150 students across the UK. If you weren’t able to come to the session, I would urge you to read the summary report and the recommendations.

My seven highlights were:

1. A key observation is that students are looking for their experience to offer ‘value for money’, which poses the challenge (and need) for the university to communicate to students how this money is spent.

2. Students’ benchmarks of a quality student experience comprised a number of factors ranging from environmental (physical spaces and technological access), through organisational aspects of their course (course structure and timetabling) to scholarly standards. For students, it was seen as extremely important how knowledgeable and motivated academics were in the subjects they were teaching and to have a minimum level of provisions in the environmental and organisational aspects, such as good learning spaces and wi-fi access.

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The University has a new Academic Integrity Policy in operation from September 2013

On the 11th October the Centre for Lifelong Learning hosted a ‘packed and lively’ lunchtime symposium on the Academic Integrity Policy. The event was designed both to support staff who have a role in learning and assessment in implementing the Policy and to gain feedback on the Policy to inform any refinements.

Described by Warren Barr of the Liverpool Law School as “radically different”, the new Policy aims to shift the focus more on to supporting students master good academic practices and learn from their mistakes, rather than simply punish students for failure to comply with the requirements. Introducing the session, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Kelvin Everest explained why changes are necessary, highlighting, in particular, the increasing diversity of the student body and the numbers of students entering university without the experience or understanding of the norms of sound academic practice.

It was also acknowledged that making changes is not a straightforward endeavour and not without its controversies. Warren, who is Faculty Lead for Humanities and Social Sciences (Student Experience and Curriculum Quality), outlined the five categories contained within the Policy and explained the important distinction between Poor Academic Practice (categories A and B) and Unfair and Dishonest Academic Practice (categories C, D & E). Staff were then shown how to use the Policy based on the category of behaviour identified.

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The Academic Advisor

The University has recently approved an updated Academic Advisor Framework. As highlighted in the Student Charter, all students at the University of Liverpool will be assigned a named academic member of staff as their Academic Advisor.

An associated handbook for Academic Advisors has also been produced which describes the role of the Academic Advisor and outlines the additional support that will be offered within schools and departments. The handbook has been developed by colleagues from the Centre for Lifelong Learning, in consultation with academic staff, professional services staff and representatives from the Liverpool Guild of Students. It sets out the minimum engagement expected by Academic Advisors. Schools and departments will provide supplementary information on the additional support provided to students and to academic advisors within their discipline. The handbook will be updated to include this information.

A new web page on Academic Advising is available on the Educational Development website at: http://www.liv.ac.uk/eddev/supporting-students/academic-advising/

The website includes:

  • A link to a brief video introduction on the role of the Academic Advisor.
  • A copy of the Academic Advisor Handbook 2013-14. School specific versions of the handbook will be made available from this web page.
  • Information on the range of academic and additional support services that are offered to students at department, school and institutional level.

Zenobia Wins The Guild Staff Award

On 15th May  I attended the Guild Awards 2013 taking place in the absence of the Guild Building in the Cathedral Crypt. It was a glittering affair with everyone dressed in their finery, tables beautifully laid with delicious cup cakes made by students. The Guild Awards are mostly for student achievement, but they also recognize staff who go that extra mile.

Of the five academic staff voted by students as offering the highest level of student support, Dr Zenobia Lewis from the School of Life Sciences was the winner, receiving her award from Tom Bee, Guild Vice President. Click here to hear Zen talking about supporting students.

Prizes were awarded to individuals, groups, student societies large and small, to students who have contributed to Liverpool life in so many ways. What amazes me is the fantastic things Liverpool students do alongside their studies. They work hard to enjoy themselves (The English Soc, the Drama Soc, the Re-enactment Soc) and they work hard to entertain and educate their fellow students and the wider world (The Body Soc, The Green Schools Project, the Debating Society). Students work as volunteers in the community, raise money for charities (Liverpool Marrow, Barnardos), support international students, act as student representatives, join halls committees, are activists, entrepreneurs and protectors of the environment.

It was a real eye-opener.  I was so proud to be part of the same Liverpool as the student award winners. Great stuff!

Anne Qualter

Sir Alastair Pilkington Teaching Prizes

The EdDev team (Patrick, Stuart, Sarra, and Ian) have been working with colleagues from across the University to help select this years recipients of the Sir Alastair Pilkington Awards. These coveted awards are in recognition for University of Liverpool staff who have made an outstanding contribution to pedagogy and the enhancement of the student experience.

This year, the selection process was undertaken in two stages. Firstly, Teaching Awards were made to staff in who had made an important contribution to learning and teaching in their Faculty. These winners were then invited to present and answer questions about their practice to their peers and a judging panel. From this the recipients of the Alastair Pilkington prizes for each faculty were chosen. It was pleasing to see that many of the award winners had undertaken Educational Development programmes and had been supported by the e-Learning Unit with their teaching innovations, many of which are now used as examples of good practice on iTeach. The award winners for each of the Faculties were as follows:

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Implementing the HEAR: Supporting Student development

On 25th April 40+ staff enjoyed a presentation by Rob Ward of the Centre for Recording Achievement. We invited Rob as a direct result of discussion at a previous event exploring the role of the Academic Advisor. His extensive knowledge of the origins, development and current position of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) made for an entertaining and informative session.

Rob described HEAR and its purpose, but also drew on the real experiences of other universities as they work towards  implementation. Most universities are developing a HEAR (only seven so far seem to have decided against doing so), and all are at different stages. Rob’s presentation can be viewed on the following page: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/cvs2r3ar.

A key message from Rob is that an inclusive HEAR should be part of a system to support students’ development throughout their studies and provide evidence to help them to move forward into employment, training or further study with confidence. Certainly all the signs are that employers see real benefits in the HEAR. The Association of Graduate Recruiters have developed a series of pamphlets in support of HEAR.

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The Role of the Academic Advisor

On 19th March over 60 staff from across The University came together for a fascinating, and we hope, really useful, event focused on The Role of the Academic Advisor.

Since The University initiated the change from Personal Tutor to Academic Advisor there has not been a university wide opportunity to wrestle with the impact of the change, how it is working, and especially to think about issues such as; what works well? What could be better? How can we ensure equity for students? How do staff and students get the information they need to support their academic and personal development? How could we use the resources such as Liverpool Life to support staff to support students? And, sneaking in at the end, what are the implications of the Higher Education Achievement Record?

We would like to thank the following people for their presentations:

  • Leah Ridgway, Electrical Engineering and Electronics: A personal view of her role as Academic Advisor.
  • Matt Murphy, Carnatic Hall Warden: Arguing for closer ties between the halls, as a transition point for students, and academic departments.
  • Jonathan Iggo, Chemistry: Looking at the role of personal tutor within the context of a department wide approach.
  • Janet Strivens, Centre for Lifelong Learning: The role of Academic Advisers in relation to assessment and feedback.
  • Warren Barr, School of Law and Social Justice: The Academic Advisor as a major gateway to engaging students with the huge variety of services and opportunities offered by the University of Liverpool.
  • Jo Sharp, School of Health Sciences: On a structured, whole school, approach to Academic Advising and support for personal development planning.
  • Freya Jarman, Music: The role of the Academic Advisor and the delivery of ‘study skills’ sessions for first year students as a transition into academic and student life.
  • Lynn Williams, School of Medicine: The adaptation of the Academic Advisor system to the five year, non modularised programme in medicine to cope with placements in the contexts of very a large student body.
  • Liverpool Guild of Students: What does an Academic Advisor look like? Using feedback from students LGoS highlighted key aspects of the role and discussed examples of best practice and how to identify and disseminate further good examples.

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Supervising Doctoral Students – threshold moments

We have all experienced those times in our research when we simply cannot move on, we are stuck! It could be in formulating a research question, finding ways to cope with and interpret data, finding a ‘lens’ through which to look at our project, even putting pen to paper. Sometimes you feel like a rabbit in the headlights, frozen in the face of the challenges rushing towards you.  We know all about it as researchers, and we know that our research students must go through it. The question here is, are there ways to characterise these barriers to progression?  And if so, can we use this as supervisors to help students find strategies to overcome these barriers to progress?

On 6th December a small group of us attended a seminar given by Dr Terfot Ngwana from Bishop Grossteste University. Terfot is a social scientist currently teaching on the University of Liverpool on-line professional doctorate in Higher Education. We discussed the various models that describe approaches to student supervision, which Terfot characterised as bureaurocratic, didactic and collaborative. Although at times we need to adopt all three, the most productive is the last of these. The supervisor here is the designer of the intellectual learning experience, structuring the learning with and between individual research students, promoting social skills, challenging and being challenged by students and allowing the student’s role in the relationship to shift as they develop.

So what about the sticking points? Based on his own experience of supervision Terfot made links with the work of Meyer and Land (2005) and their theories on threshold concepts which he described as critical moments of irreversible conceptual transformation. We can describe these as ‘Aha! moments’, or times when  ‘the penny drops’. That is, when a real ontological shift takes place in the thinking and understanding of how a specific discipline is structured.  This is the point when our discussions took off, we began to share our own experiences of such moments, and the often painful times when the penny simply would not drop, when the way forward wasn’t clear.

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