Tag Archives: Liverpool Guild of Students

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

Sharing Practice in Academic Advising

A recent university Learning and Teaching forum hosted by the PVC for Education, Prof. Gavin Brown, focused on the implementation of the Academic Advisor framework across the institution.

Stimulating presentations were given by academic colleagues, one of our students, and colleagues from Professional Services. A range of issues was covered including how the Academic Advisor framework is working in practice, feedback from students (including a group of students defining what an ‘ideal’ academic advisor might look like), advice on the wide range of support services available in the university, and additional opportunities such as the Year in China/Study Abroad programme.

The Academic Advisor Framework

The University of Liverpool regards the role of the Academic Advisor as a fundamental component of the relationship between academic teaching staff and students. It is a key contributor to a positive student experience. (Academic Advisor Handbook, 2015-16)

There are a number of key principles behind the Academic Advisor framework, one of which is the fostering of a partnership relationship between staff and students to promote their development as independent and scholarly learners.

To support the implementation of this principle, the Academic Advisor Framework recommends a number of key meetings between the academic advisor and their students which correspond to key points in the student journey. An outline of the generic meeting framework is discussed by Dr Anthony Sinclair , Student Experience Lead for Histories, Languages and Cultures here, but this framework can also be adapted locally. Further details are available in the Academic Advisor’s handbook (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/eddev/supporting-students/academic-advising/).

It is also important that the ‘Academic Advisor …. develops a relationship with a student that is supportive in encouraging students to develop their skills for self-management and employment.’ . In this clip, Anthony Sinclair illustrates the range of topics that can typically be covered in meetings between academic advisors and students. The range of skills that enable students to be effective learners are in the main some of the same skills that employers will also be looking for, and so support for the development of these skills, and helping the student to recognise and articulate the development of these skills is also crucial.

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Developing graduates who can address 21st century problems

This blog is by way of an invitation for anyone interested in developing sustainability issues in programmes and modules to attend a workshop on 9th March 2016 at 12.30 run by the Education for Sustainable Development Working Group . Contact Nick Bunyan, nbunyan@liv.ac.uk in the Centre for Lifelong Learning for more details or just book on to the event.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a university responsibility.

Last year QAA published a framework for Education for Sustainable Development (2014) that is meant to guide UK universities towards the development of curricula that meet HEFCE’s vision:

“Within the next 10 years, the higher education sector in this country will be recognised as a major contributor to society’s efforts to achieve sustainability – through the skills and knowledge that its graduates learn and put into practice.”

This prompted work to develop a University of Liverpool Education for Sustainability approach led by the ESD Working Group.

An interdisciplinary approach to ESD

Some of the most exciting work for ESD has been done by a group of staff from across all three Faculties sponsored by Facilities Management Sustainability Team and enthusiastically supported by The Green Guild. Putting our university strategy into action, The Guild hosted an event at which students from three different disciplines came together to present their work from modules focusing on environment and using the campus as a city in microcosm.

The project arose out of changes needed to a second year Geography and Planning module resulting from a significant increase in numbers, mainly from XJTLU students to the programme (95 Chinese; 175 total), a desire to promote good group work and interdisciplinary and intercultural working, and a need to make the course more engaged with the real world. The assignment required students to respond to a brief from Facilities Management (the client) for proposals for Greening The Campus.

The module brings together students and staff and students from disciplines and departments from across all three faculties.

green space task group
The Green Space Task Group

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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

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.

Continue reading Green Students, Green Future

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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Digital Literacies – are we getting ‘IT’?

Harry Anderson (Guild President) & Anne Qualter (Director of Academic Development)
Harry Anderson (Guild President) & Anne Qualter (Director of Academic Development)
Last week Harry and I launched the first of a series of workshops looking at digital literacies. What are they? How are we developing ours? And what should The University do to support us? Questions like these and more kicked off the first event with about 60 people in a bright new Guild building room.

You can read all about it in the Digital Literacies working group blog:

Harry: http://digilearnblog.liv.ac.uk/?p=163
Jez: http://digilearnblog.liv.ac.uk/?p=155

What was brilliant about the event was that the participants were staff and students all equally engaged with the same knotty digital issues. And, although different people find different solutions to the same sorts of challenges, it’s not about staff versus students, it’s more about what’s best in different work contexts.

The debate was noisy and enjoyable with more questions raised and more avenues opened up than we could cope with. The next event on 18th November will focus in a lot more when ‘Have you ever Googled yourself?’ and other questions about career and digital identity management come to the fore.

Should be exciting! If you want to come along have a look at the web site and book a place: http://digilearn.liv.ac.uk/

Best wishes
Anne

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

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.

Continue reading Implementing the HEAR: Supporting Student development