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& King’s Learning Institute

Excellence in Teaching Conference 2008 Annual Proceedings Edited by Lesley Gourlay & Sue Saxby-Smith

King’s Learning Institute Excellence in Teaching Conference 2008 Annual Proceedings Edited by Lesley Gourlay & Sue Saxby-Smith

©Individual contributors, 2008 Published by King’s Learning Institute King’s College London James Clerk Maxwell Building 57, Waterloo Road London SE1 8WA Layout by Naheeda Niazi

ISBN 978-0-9558633-1-8

Contents Preface Paul Blackmore, conference chair


A future for teaching & learning Paul Blackmore, conference chair


Introduction Lesley Gourlay


Student perspectives of assessment empowerment: contrasts and similarities between 1st & 3rd year Geography undergraduates Robert A. Francis


Students’ first impressions of a new, more integrated curriculum with increased self-directed study time Vicki H.M. Dale, Stan D. Head & Stephen A. May


Breaking down barriers to veterinary medicine: Selection, support and retention of widening participation students Rachel C. Payne-Davies, Charlotte Lawson, Jon Parry & Stephen A. May


E-technologies to improve the quality of learning Cécile A. Dreiss


Developing innovative methods for assessing clinical competency on mental health training courses Harvey Wells


Clinical teaching as a template for the development of university pedagogy Lyndon Cabot & Ian Kinchin


Use of animation techniques to facilitate the visualisation of systolic architectures Richard Overill, Alexei Emam & Darren Hyatt


The conflicts between science research and teaching in higher education: an academic’s perspective Sophia N. Karagiannis


Peer-to-peer information exchange Jane Henderson


Peer tutoring schemes: enchancing teaching while improving clinical ability Sally Richardson


Enchancing undergradutes’ active participation in the academic environment to avoid classroom silence Anna Battaglia


Dental students’ perceptions of four-handed primary care dentistry in an extended clinical environment Albert Leung


MUVEs and second lives: exploring education in virtual worlds Steven Warburton


Preface Paul Blackmore Conference Chair, King’s Learning Institute, King’s College London I am delighted to have the opportunity of introducing the proceedings of our 2008 conference. It comes at a very important time for teaching and learning at King’s, when the College is embarking on a fundamental review of its teaching. We need to be able to make an accurate assessment of the teaching that we are doing now and to plan for our future. The conference, and the growing community it represents, are vital parts of that review and of the future. It has been said that universities will research anything sooner than research themselves. We are remarkably good at thinking rigorously within our own disciplines, but perhaps we do not always transfer our rigour to thinking about teaching. One of the most cheering aspects of recent years has been the growth of interest in higher education research. Our 2008 conference, and these proceedings, show that this major change is happening. Colleagues from across the College are researching practice and sharing it within the University. There are practical benefits as good ideas are shared. Valuable connections are made, as colleagues talk across disciplinary boundaries. My thanks to all those who organised, contributed to and attended the conference. It was a valuable, varied and interesting day. I hope that you will find these 2008 conference proceedings to be equally useful and stimulating.



A future for teaching & learning An introduction to the Excellence in Teaching Conference 2008 Paul Blackmore, King’s Learning Institute, King’s College London I should like to introduce the conference by saying a few things about teaching and learning here at King’s – how it is and how it might be changing. I am doing this because we are on the point of a major curriculum review, the King’s Graduate Project, which will lead to the preparation of a new Learning and Teaching Strategy, including an e-learning strategy, for the next five years. I am as sceptical as anyone about the value of formal strategies, which more often than not adorn dusty shelves and do not intersect much with reality, but what is really important is that here at King’s we are going to be giving some serious thought to how teaching is and how it might be, helped by working groups drawn from across the College. The pace of technological and social change is increasing worldwide, accompanied by a rapid growth in knowledge and its application. Industry, commerce and the arts are increasingly international at their higher levels. The generation and sharing of knowledge is at the heart of the university, so the future for universities should look very bright. Higher education is also being seen, certainly in the UK, as a force for social cohesion. If this is so, then potentially the university has a critical and growing social and economic role. Governments think so. Most governments are paying much more attention to higher education than hitherto and are investing in it, in the belief that a highly skilled population is necessary for economic success. So governments think we matter. This is significant because they do much of the paying. This can be uncomfortable too of course, since governments tend to want something in return. However, the traditional heartlands of university activity, research and teaching, are challenged by the increasing generation of knowledge outside universities and by the likelihood of a liberalisation of higher education markets and greater competition internationally. King’s sits, potentially, in an excellent position. The College is a major, internationally excellent, researchintensive institution in the centre of a globally connected capital city. It is already living in this world and dealing with many of these challenges in its areas of work. However, it is faced with an interesting question. How is it going to support its students who will live and work beyond the middle of the 21st century? Note that our current 1st year undergraduates will, if trends in retirement continue, be working till 70 and will thus retire in about 2060. If you go back 50 years, you come to 1958 – before space travel, well before computers, when fewer than one in twenty went to university. It really is an interesting challenge to think about what we need to teach today that will have the greatest relevance for, and the greatest purchase on, that unknown fifty years ahead of us. How can universities assist their graduates who will make their lives in this more complex, fast-moving and international environment? Can King’s carry on doing the same things? Does it need to change? If we consider the nature and growth of knowledge and kinds of learning, we can offer some suggestions. In order to prosper, both in teaching and in research, the best and most outward-looking universities need to: be international – perhaps global - in their approach; be able to work across traditional disciplinary and professional boundaries; have a concern for ethical issues; be able to engage with learning that takes place beyond the university; and possess expertise in learning at all levels, from individual through organisational to national and international learning. We are starting to emerge from a rather bleak period, when universities were treated as if they were all the same. We are not out of the woods yet and we continue to be bedevilled by an experience of quality assurance that has largely been about assessors checking whether we are following national rules. It has left us chronically riskaverse in teaching. But we may be moving into an era where universities are allowed to be different from one another. That is not a crude call for elitism or privatisation, just an appeal for distinctiveness, diversity of approach and intellectual space where ideas can flourish.


In research-led institutions we have been very poor indeed at articulating what we believe we do – and sometimes we may have been poor at doing it too. In the US, the Boyer report made the same point in the 1990s, about US higher education. It suggested that if universities were second hand car salesmen they would be in court for promising one thing and delivering another, for offering undergraduates the promise of lectures by the best people in the field but then not supplying them. In the UK, Ron Barnett, among others, has been arguing for a re-articulation of a liberal view of higher education curricula. I think he is right. If we don’t say clearly what we think universities can do for individuals and for society, we risk other voices being the only ones that are heard. So how are we to set about being distinctive? The current orthodoxy in universities is to focus on “the student learning experience”. Clearly there is much to be said for this since that is what students are here for and much of what the College does is a means to enhance that end. However, it raises the question of what an excellent student learning experience at King’s should be. Institutions such as King’s have long claimed that the presence of high quality research makes for excellent teaching. Research evidence internationally does not clearly support such a claim. But there seems little doubt that research can beneficially inform teaching, especially if colleagues take care to ensure that it does. It isn’t really about the results of academic research feeding quickly into undergraduate curricula – that is often not really possible. A central component of this – and a really critical point - is to recognise that the capabilities that excellent researchers have are the ones that graduates and postgraduates need if they are to engage effectively with a complex future. It’s not so much the content of the research, it’s the process. An indicative, but not exhaustive, list might include capabilities for: • • • • • •

inquiry criticality interdisciplinarity / professionality an international outlook ethical awareness advanced academic literacy

We already have a discourse in universities; we don’t need to drop into the bloodless language of key, core, transferable or generic skills, to produce job-ready graduates. We have academic capabilities that really are central to being intelligent, a world citizen and employable. This suggests that support for teaching will pay particular attention, among other things, to: • • • • • •

teaching-research links postgraduate and doctoral teaching and supervision global understanding interdisciplinarity ethics writing and reading in an academic context

This is an agenda for King’s – that it should support forms of teaching and learning that are appropriate to an international, research-intensive institution and that will develop the capabilities outlined above. Of course these capabilities are already woven into College life and teaching. However, paying explicit attention to them will ensure that the College makes the most of its intellectual resources, for the benefit of its students. Our focus should not be solely on the practice of teaching, for this would fail to recognise the inter-relatedness of academic work. The outlined issues generate a need for: more effective leadership of teaching, especially at departmental level, if such major curriculum changes are to occur across the College; more effective support for staff careers and work patterns to enable staff to become more effective and productive; and more effective support services to enable academic staff to concentrate on academic matters and make the most of that very definitely finite resource – time. 4

These suggest to that we should have a concern for the ‘staff academic experience’ to sit alongside the current national emphasis on the ‘student learning experience’. After all, if teaching is an enjoyable experience, people might want to do it; if it’s a miserable one they won’t. This is a key point – we don’t simply need increased efficiency and effectiveness. Wellbeing for individuals and the College is also an aim. Paying attention to the whole academic role and its interconnections can be a major means of making a contribution to wellbeing. This leads to the notion of community. Supporting excellent teaching and learning requires more than the development of technical skills. It also requires the existence of a community that cares very much about teaching, talks about it, shares good ideas and celebrates excellence. We can foster such a sense of community in a number of ways, through this conference and other similar events, through valuing teaching in many other ways, including teaching excellence awards, college teaching fellowships, through seizing every opportunity to discuss and to celebrate concern for teaching. We need to promote a few more people for teaching excellence too. But not in opposition to research – many of the dominant communities in a university are based around research. It may seem insanely cheerful to say that this is the best time to be working in a university and concerned with teaching. Let me readily acknowledge the pressing practical problems that hold universities back. It’s not easy to inspire a group when teaching in wildly unsuitable or sub-standard accommodation, for example. Rising staffstudent ratios can certainly threaten the quality of what we do. However, the intellectual opportunities that are available to us and to our students are greater than ever before. The world is more fluid than it ever has been. Boundaries between universities and other parts of society are much more permeable. Boundaries between disciplines are much more open. We are moving into a genuinely global world, which will broaden and enrich all our experiences. There are more opportunities available for those who learn in universities – whether faculty or for students than ever before. So let’s not yearn for the tweed jackets and the arm patches of the fifties - and incidentally the almost exclusively male faculty and minute proportion of the population at university. Today may actually be better than yesterday. But we do need to give it all some careful thought, because new purposes and possibilities for teaching are opening up to us, which brings me right back to the College discussions I mentioned earlier, and why they matter and have to be much more than a committee exercise.



Introduction Lesley Gourlay King’s Learning Institute, King’s College London In the increasing complexity and fragmentation of 21st century academic life it is ever more imperative to create and maintain meaningful ‘dialogic spaces’ (Savin-Baden, 2007) in which academics can not only discuss innovations, but also deepen knowledge and practice through critical debate. Building on the success of the previous year, the second ‘Excellence in Teaching’ conference at King’s College London provided such a space; a cross-disciplinary gathering representing the diversity of the College itself. The contributors, many of whom are graduates of the King’s Learning Institute Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, spoke from the perspective of a broad range of subject areas, and reported on an equally broad range of studies and innovations surrounding teaching and learning. Although these developments had arisen from local contexts and issues situated in the disciplines, sharing the results in this type of forum provided an invaluable opportunity to discuss approaches and ideas with colleagues who may take them up or adapt them in another area. In this respect, this type of event is of vital importance, if the College is to foster a genuine and sustainable culture of development and innovation around teaching and learning to equal its reputation for pushing the boundaries of research. These proceedings aim to capture the quality and diversity of the discussions held at the conference, and to provide readers with an opportunity to consider and reflect on the concerns of the authors, and the wider relevance of their findings. In broad terms, several interrelated themes seemed to emerge almost organically from the conference, perhaps reflecting some of the current preoccupations of the academy and those who struggle to understand and redefine pedagogic process in a shifting, demanding context. The first four papers in the collection consider in different ways facets of the student experience, particularly in terms of empowerment, independence and access. Robert Francis reports on a study of first and third year Geography undergraduates’ attitudes to assessment empowerment, investigating how students felt about having input into the assessment process. His study reveals a complex picture regarding students’ attitudes towards choice, interpretations of assessment criteria and views regarding their preferred degree of involvement in assessment design. He concludes with proposals for a staged introduction of assessment empowerment over the course of a degree. The notion of empowerment and enabling of student independence is continued in Vicki Dale, Stan Head and Stephen May’s paper on a new integrated curriculum in Veterinary Medicine, focusing on student responses to increased self-directed study time. The study revealed both the potential but also the challenges involved in introducing this type of curriculum – including the need for structure and clarity in terms of rationale and objectives, and the role of staff development. The theme of confidence surrounding studying and familiarity with the requirements of higher education is then picked up in Rachel Payne’s account of an initiative focused on widening participation in Veterinary Medicine. The importance of enabling students to participate fully in order to deepen learning is also at the centre of Cecile Dreiss’s creative work on developing academic literacies for Pharmacy via elearning. The next paper reports on a creative response to the particular demands of clinical pedagogy. Harvey Wells, reporting from the context of Mental Health Nursing, describes and evaluates an assessment strategy designed to address the complex challenges of assessing clinical competencies via a roleplay involving mental health service users, serving as a challenge to the (often default) use of written assessment in this area of learning. Also drawing on pedagogic practice in the clinical setting, Lyndon Cabot and Ian Kinchin argue that an expertise-based pedagogy of clinical teaching could provide a template for developing teaching across university contexts in general, with ‘practices’ as the guiding principle underlying the approach to teaching and learning, basing their analysis on investigations of elearning using concept mapping. Also working with visual techniques, Richard Overill, Alexei Emam and Darren Hyatt describe using graphic animations to illustrate systolic architectures, a challenging aspect of learning in Computer Science. Looking at research and its relationship to other aspects of academic practice, Sophie Karagiannis examines some of the conflicts and tensions surrounding the relationship between researching and teaching in Science and beyond. 7

The following four papers deal in different ways with aspects of partnership, peer-working and collaboration. Jane Henderson describes an ingenious peer-to-peer information exchange between students of Russian Law and Russian learner of English. Sally Richardson also reports on the uses of peer work, in this case investigating the use of peer-tutoring in Medicine in the development of not only clinical capacity, but also teaching practice. Anna Battaglia’s paper looks at interaction in the Neuroscience classroom, in particular focusing on ways to avoid silence, and to promote active student participation. Albert Leung reports on a form of collaborative working from a very different educational setting, in his paper describing the uses of four-handed Dentistry in the clinical teaching environment. Finally, Steve Warburton rounds this collection off by looking to the future, in his overview of the educational uses of multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) such as Second Life. ‘Excellence’ is a highly contested (and contestable) term in higher education, arguably diluted with unreflective overuse in today’s reputational ‘marketplace’. However, it seems appropriate to use it to describe the work documented here, in that every contributor has ‘excelled’– each of them going beyond the demands of the role and deepening their practice though enquiry and innovation. This has been achieved by a variety of means: individually and in teams, drawing on a range of ‘knowledges’, ranging from personal reflection to systematic empirical research. In each case, academics have addressed challenges in their contexts, and have asked difficult and fundamental questions surrounding how to provide the best and most effective experience for their students. This sustained commitment of time, energy and effort in the face of diverse research and administrative demands, is perhaps one of the most precious resources that an institution such as King’s can possess. This conference series, coupled with the diverse activities of King’s Learning Institute, seeks to recognise, disseminate and extend not only these valuable projects, but the many more examples across the College of educators who do not only teach, but also ‘excel’.

References Savin-Baden, M. 2007. Learning Spaces: Creating Opportunities for Knowledge Creation in Academic Life. Maidenhead: Open University.


Student perspectives of assessment empowerment: contrasts and similarities between 1st & 3rd year Geography undergraduates Robert A. Francis School of Social Science & Public Policy, King’s College London Abstract Assessment empowerment is a potential mechanism for improving student performance and satisfaction within their degree programmes, as well as providing them with useful transferable skills. Such empowerment requires an investment of both staff and student time and effort before it is likely to be effective. As a first step towards considering the possibilities and implications of assessment empowerment, this study investigates the undergraduate student perceptions of areas relating to assessment empowerment in the Department of Geography at King’s College London. Analysis of questionnaires distributed to 1st and 3rd year students from the 2005/6 and 2007/8 cohorts determined that general perceptions of empowerment were negative, although 3rd years were somewhat more responsive to the possibilities of empowerment than 1st years. There was little variation between cohorts, suggesting that the trends observed here reflect general patterns. The advantages and disadvantages of assessment empowerment are also discussed in the context of this study.

Introduction Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are experiencing increasing governmental, institutional and market pressure to achieve high standards of performance in teaching and student training, and to be seen to do so, while at the same time facing greater service demands from students who are aware of the debts they are incurring during their higher education and want what they perceive as value for money (e.g. Singh, 2002; Johnson & Deem, 2003). Consequently, students are increasingly being viewed as ‘customers’ rather than beneficiaries of the higher education system, and there exists some conflict between what the students expect or desire from their degree programme and experience, and the skills or training that academics, employers and society feel the students need (Browne et al., 1998; Johnson & Deem, 2003). Student empowerment is one mechanism that may help to enhance student skills and performance, as well as their satisfaction with their degree experience and their chosen HEI (see Leach et al., 2001). Empowerment is a complex issue and its definition depends on the educational context in which it is used (Leach et al., 2001). Used here in the context of assessment, it is defined as ‘the ability to make decisions relating to assessment method or content’. It is considered for this study at two levels, both personal (students making individual choices about assessment) and community (a student cohort making democratic choices about assessment). The concept of student empowerment is a relatively recent addition to the academic environment, which is traditionally a relatively authoritarian hierarchy wherein academic staff make all the decisions regarding assessment methods and content, based on the assumption that staff know what is required within a specific discipline and by future employers (Rowland, 2003). This situation is arguably more important for vocational subjects (which focus on operational knowledge) rather than academic subjects (which focus on academic knowledge), as vocational qualifications require a specific level of training or knowledge base to meet industrial or professional demands (Leach et al., 2001).


The concept of empowerment acknowledges that there is flexibility within the hierarchy to allow students more influence and responsibility over their learning and the way in which their knowledge and training are assessed. The desirability of this by students and staff is a complex issue however, and it is first necessary to assess the potential for empowerment were it to be considered. Student perceptions of assessment empowerment can be considered to relate to four broad aspects of their educational experience: 1) the confidence that the students have in the academic hierarchy and its ability to assess them; 2) their understanding of the assessment criteria and procedure; 3) their understanding of the benefits that may result from empowerment alongside the extra effort involved; and 4) their confidence in the student cohort and the democratic possibilities of group choice (see Francis, 2008). It may be anticipated that students’ perceptions will change and they will become more receptive to assessment empowerment as they progress through their studies and become 1) less confident in the assessment abilities of their lecturers, e.g. due to poor feedback or a perception of unfair marking, alongside an increased confidence in their own academic abilities; 2) more confident that they understand the marking criteria and procedure; 3) more familiar with learning and assessment techniques and methodologies, as well as more responsible and independent in their attitude to learning and assessment; and 4) more comfortable with the student cohort to which they belong, gaining greater group identity and trust. This paper presents the results of an investigation into how undergraduate student perceptions of issues relating to assessment empowerment change from 1st to 3rd year of study, and builds on initial findings published in Francis (2008). 1st and 3rd year undergraduate students from the Department of Geography at King’s College London were surveyed from the 2005/6 and 2007/8 cohorts. It was hypothesised that the progressive differences in perception outlined above would be found for 1st and 3rd year students in both cohorts.

Methods A questionnaire was designed to gauge student opinions of the four broad areas outlined above that may influence student perceptions of assessment empowerment. Twenty-seven questions were constructed following consultation with researchers at the King’s Learning Institute at King’s College London, and general discussions with 1st year undergraduate students during tutorials in 2005 (see Appendix A for questionnaire and summarised results). Questionnaires were distributed to students in the author’s classes, with 28 1st year students and 14 3rd years responding for the 2005/6 cohort, and 28 1st years and 22 3rd years for the 2007/8 cohort.

Student confidence in assessors In the first year of their studies, most students are likely to have a high confidence in their institution and their assessors, having been exposed to relatively one-way flows of information from teachers during school or further education, with distinct concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers and limited scope for independent learning and critical analysis (Ramsden, 1992; Maguire et al., 2001). This is likely to decline from the first to third year of their studies, not necessarily due to teaching staff failing to justify confidence in their assessment abilities, but from 1) occasional bad experiences in terms of feedback quantify or quality, 2) a perception of being marked harshly, unfairly, or inconsistently by different staff members 3) increased recognition of academics as fallible and preoccupied educators, dispelling the illusion of teachers as the keepers of prescribed knowledge which is common in compulsory and further education, and 4) increased confidence in their abilities to make critical assessments of their own work and that of others. In the questionnaire distributed to the students, 4 questions (Q1-4) were aimed at evaluating student confidence in their academic assessors, and their understanding of the academic role (see Appendix A). For both cohorts, a similar amount of 1st year students regarded the primary role of the lecturer as ‘facilitating ways for the students to obtain knowledge’, as they did ‘imparting knowledge previously learnt by the lecturer to the students’ (Q1). This is expected, as there is inevitably some confusion amongst 1st years between the independent learning required during higher education (facilitated by lecturers in the first instance), and the simple repetition of lecture materials they are used to from further education (imparted by lecturers) (e.g. Ramsden, 1992). For both cohorts, there was an increase from 1st to 3rd year in those students who thought that the lecturer’s main role was facilitation of learning (36% to 57% for 2005/6 and 43% to 48% for 2007/8), although these 3rd year percentages are still rather low. For the 2007/8 cohort, the percentage of students who thought the main role of the lecturer was to impart knowledge also increased, from 32% to 43%. Very few students saw research as being important in the lecturer’s role (especially in the 3rd year). This suggests that even in the 3rd year of their studies, most of the students remain confused regarding the roles of teaching staff and may therefore lack confidence in them as a body. 10

This suggested lack of confidence is confirmed by the responses to Q2, which required the students to give a score between 1-10, representing their confidence in teaching staff being able to fairly assess their work. MannWhitney U tests conducted in SPSS v13 found significantly (p<0.05) lower confidence in teaching staff amongst 3rd years of both cohorts compared to 1st years, with a decline from a mean of 7.8 to 6.8 in 2005/6 and 7.7 to 6.3 in 2007/8. Question 3 (see Appendix A) was designed to assess the students’ perceptions of the amount of time staff spent on assessment for an essay of standard length (1500 words). Although marking times vary depending on the nature and quality of the material, as well as individual staff marking methods, most staff would complete marking a 1500 word essay within 10 minutes and certainly within 20 minutes. For the 2005/6 cohort, most (57%) 1st year students thought that 20 minutes was the average amount of time spent marking, though by the 3rd year this had changed to 10 minutes (50%); for the 2007/8 cohort, most (50%) 1st years thought that 40 minutes was average, while the 3rd years again felt that 10 minutes was more realistic (50%). This again supports the hypothesis that students become less confident (or more realistic) in their assessors over time, as by the 3rd year they feel that teaching staff spend little time marking their work (which may indeed be true). The final question (Q4) in this section was aimed at evaluating whether students desired to have an input into the assessment process, or whether they were content to allow the teaching staff to deal with assessment separate from the students. This question also raised the possibilities of students co-marking the work, or justifying why they deserve a specific mark, following Leach et al. (2001). No further details were given to the students, as the intention was to gauge initial reactions to these possibilities. For both cohorts there was a decline in the numbers of students who thought that marking in isolation was appropriate from 1st to 3rd year, although not to the same extent (39% to 7% for 2005/6 and 39% to 22% for 2007/8). Likewise there was an increase in students from 1st to 3rd year who desired the opportunity to argue their case if they received what they felt was an unfair mark (54% to 79% for 2005/6 and 50% to 70% for 2007/8). Again, this may reflect dissatisfaction to some extent in the marks they have received, or perhaps increased confidence in their self-assessment abilities. Few students expressed a desire to co-mark the work or justify their marks beforehand.

Student understanding of assessment criteria and procedure Students entering higher education for the first time are presented with a range of assessment challenges that differ from their previous experiences, and which they are likely to find confusing at first (Rust et al., 2003). This may be due to the use of terminology in the marking criteria that is difficult for students to fully appreciate (e.g. ‘critical analysis,’ ‘sound understanding’), a lack of tutoring in the meaning and application of the marking criteria and associated assessment procedures, and/or a general lack of interest in engaging with the marking criteria on the students’ part. As students progress through their degree this confusion should decrease due to students becoming more familiar with the assessment criteria and procedure, but also due to a realisation that such understanding is essential for obtaining good grades. This increased understanding of assessment should in theory be accompanied by a desire for increased choice or input into assessment criteria and processes, as students are able to determine how best to apply their particular skill base to a range of possible assessments and therefore maximise their performance. Seven questions (Q5,6,7,8,9, 11 and 27) within the survey were aimed at determining student perceptions of their understanding of assessment criteria and procedure, and whether students desired increased choice or input into their assessment. Questions 10 and 12 were for students to comment on their choice of answer for questions 9 and 11, respectively (see Appendix A). For both cohorts, 1st year confidence in understanding of assessment procedure (Q5) was relatively high but was notably lower for the 3rd year (64% to 29% for 2005/6 and 57% to 36% for 2007/8). Regarding understanding of assessment criteria (Q6), the 2005/6 cohort showed little change from 1st to 3rd year (61% to 64%), and decreasing confidence in 2007/8 (57% to 41%). This suggests that in fact students begin reasonably confident that they understand the assessment criteria and procedure in the 1st year, but this does not increase and in fact may actually decrease as they move towards the 3rd year, presumably due to uncertainty over the way their work has been marked over the previous two years.


Considering the students’ desire for choice, most students desired a choice over their method of assessment (Q7), though this did not change between 1st and 3rd year students (79% to 79% for the 2005/6 cohort and 75% to 77% for the 2007/8 cohort respectively). A contradictory trend was observed for the two cohorts with regard to choice over topics within a given assessment (Q8), with 3rd years desiring more choice than 1st years in the 2005/6 cohort (57% and 71% respectively) but 3rd years desiring less choice than 1st years in the 2007/8 cohort (79% and 68% respectively). This demonstrates that desire for choice was relatively high regardless of student progression within the degree. The same trend was found for student desire for open-ended questions in assessment (Q9), which arguably allow students to make the most use of material they have revised in exam assessments, or focus on a topic that particularly interests them in an essay assessment. For the 2005/6 cohort, 36% of 1st years and 43% of 3rd years preferred an open-ended question, while 54% of 1st years and 36% of 3rd years preferred this in the 2007/8 cohort. Comments in favour of open-ended questions (Q10) included “Allows greater knowledge to be portrayed” and “Means the student can discuss their strongest topic”. Those against included “The marker can pick out more mistakes if the question doesn’t focus the student in one area” and “open ended questions are not challenging”. This essentially suggests a contrast between those students who are most concerned with fairness of the assessment and maximising their performance, and those who desire to have the assessment challenge them and require them to learn a range of materials. Students were less keen on having input into the assessment criteria (Q11) than they were for increased choice, with only 29% of 1st years desiring input and 32% remaining unsure from the 2005/6 cohort. There was an increased desire for input from 1st to 3rd year for the 2005/6 29% to 43%, but the majority of 3rd years were still not particularly motivated to participate in determining criteria. A similar trend was observed for the 2007/8 cohort, with 14% of 1st years desiring input and 36% remaining unsure – in the 3rd year, 41% of students desired input. Comments in favour of input into criteria (Q12) included: “More student input would lead to fairer assessment” and “I think there is too much emphasis on marking down or up for certain marking criteria”. Those against included ‘Will make no difference’ and ‘It is not our job to do so’. It is clear that many students feel they do not really understand the criteria well enough to have any input, or that they feel it is not their job to do so. This would clearly be an obstacle to empowerment that would need to be addressed should empowerment methods be adopted. Student understanding of why marks were awarded in an essay was assessed by Question 27 (see Appendix A). Marks are technically awarded based on how close the essay is to the marking objectives given to the students in the undergraduate handbook (answer c) – this is the purpose of the guidelines and allows for relative consistency between markers, subjects and modules. Although the other factors listed are important, they are incorporated into the marking criteria and are not the basis for marks in isolation. Worryingly, only 21% of 1st years and 29% of 3rd years in the 2005/6 cohort and 36% of 1st years and 18% of 3rd years in the 2007/8 cohort thought that marks were awarded based primarily on the marking criteria. Clearly there is a flaw with the way in which the marking criteria is applied in the department, how the students are encouraged to engage with the criteria, or student consideration of the criteria when they are writing their essays.

Student perception of empowerment methods Empowerment of students requires an investment of time and effort from both staff and students. Potential methods of student empowerment include unofficial self-assessment, peer assessment, and co-marking work with an assessor (Leach et al., 2001). Ten questions from the survey were aimed at determining student perceptions of assessment empowerment methods (Q17-26). The idea of students officially marking their own work (Q19 and Q22) is unlikely to be applied practically within a degree programme, but was included here to assess student reactions to this potentially extreme form of empowerment. As anticipated the majority of students did not feel this would be a worthwhile exercise (Q19), and there was little variation between 1st and 3rd years, and between cohorts (82% of 1st years and 79% of 3rd years for the 2005/6 cohort and 75% of 1st years and 73% of 3rd years for the 2007/8 cohort). Likewise, few students felt that officially marking their own work would give them more control and input into the assessment process, although there was a slight increase from 1st to 3rd year (11% compared to 14% for both cohorts). The suggestion of students marking their work in tandem with the lecturer (Q17) was very unpopular, with most students feeling that they would not benefit from this, although this decreased from the 1st to 3rd year for the 2005/6 cohort (89% compared to 64% for the 2005/6 cohort and 71% compared to 77% for the 2007/8 cohort). 12

Positive comments on tandem marking (Q18) included “Provides better understanding of marking criteria” and “You know how much effort has been put into work”, while negative comments included “If I know all the criteria and was able to assess then I would obviously always get good grades” and “I would be biased and don’t need to be involved”. Overall the responses suggested that students thought that the student body in general would be dishonest and the system would be open to bias, leading to unfair assessment. For unofficial selfmarking, the majority of students from both cohorts thought this would be a worthwhile exercise, though there was a slight decrease from 1st to 3rd year (75% to 64% for the 2005/6 cohort and 68% to 64% for the 2007/8 cohort). This suggests that students may be open to self-assessment as a form of empowerment, as long as the marks did not count towards an official score. Most students thought that they would be more generous with their marks when assessing themselves (Q21; 54% of 1st years and 64% of 3rd years for the 2005/6 cohort and 43% of 1st years and 77% of 3rd years for the 2007/8 cohort) indicating that students felt it would be very difficult to remain objective when marking their own work. Most students had an understanding of the nature of peer assessment (Q23; 79% of 1st years and 79% of 3rd years for the 2005/6 cohort and 79% of 1st years and 86% of 3rd years for the 2007/8 cohort). The majority indicated that they would be unhappy if other students were to officially mark their work (Q24; 82% of 1st years and 86% of 3rd years for the 2005/6 cohort and 75% of 1st years and 82% of 3rd years for the 2007/8 cohort); and were not confident that they could mark another student’s work (Q26), even with time to prepare for marking, although there was some difference in trends from 1st to 3rd year for the different cohorts (96% compared to 79% for the 2005/6 cohort and 64% compared to 86% for the 2007/8 cohort). This suggests that self-assessment may be a useful empowerment tool and that peer assessment may be relatively unpopular; but in both cases, students would need a substantial amount of guidance and support to enable them to mark the work based on current assessment criteria.

Student perception of community empowerment In practice, democratic choices on assessment methods and criteria are the main ways in which students can be empowered, as providing options to individuals (other than greater choice of assessment questions, for example) are problematic and time consuming for assessors. Community empowerment involves a cohort (e.g. the students taking a particular module) taking decisions together regarding the nature of their assessment, which then applies to the entire cohort. This would potentially be done in a brief class at the very beginning of a module and allows the assessor to prepare more fully for the future assessment. This is therefore more efficient than individual methods of assessment empowerment. Two questions in the survey were aimed at evaluating student perceptions of community empowerment (Q13 and Q14). Democratic voting on assessment method was quite unpopular, with few students feeling that this would be a good idea; this increased from 1st to 3rd year for the 2005/6 cohort but not for the 2007/8 cohort (32% compared to 57% for the 2005/6 cohort and 39% compared to 27% for the 2007/8 cohort). Likewise, voting on assessment criteria was also unpopular, with relatively few students thinking this was a good idea, although there was an increase from 1st to 3rd year in both cohorts (29% compared to 50% for the 2005/6 cohort and 14% compared to 27% for the 2007/8 cohort). Positive comments for these questions included “Gives the students a voice” and “Increased student interest = better work and grades”, while negative comments included “People would always feel hard done by” and “Lecturers are more independent and know more than students”. These results suggest that community empowerment is not popular because the students have a certain level of mistrust for their colleagues and feel that they would not be well served by the decisions of their community; so that personal empowerment is probably the only empowerment they would truly desire.

Changes in empowerment perception from 1st to 3rd year As anticipated, there was some variation between the 1st and 3rd years in their perception of empowerment. Generally 3rd years perceived empowerment more positively than 1st years, and desired more input into the assessments they were given. Consequently, 3rd year students are more likely to be receptive to empowerment efforts and embrace empowerment opportunities than 1st years. Despite this, 3rd year students still seemed to have a more negative perception of empowerment overall than would have been expected, given that they have spent over two years at an academic institution and are about to embark on their future careers as independent and educated graduates. It seems they may lack ‘intellectual courage’ (see Leach et al., 2001), either because


they are so anxious about achieving the best possible grades they can that they are resistant to change to the system in general, especially when they or given responsibility for it; or because they are not encouraged to consider this kind of possibility in their educational experience and so are ill-prepared to make such decisions. In particular the lack of students who felt that they understood the marking criteria was very worrying and needs to be urgently addressed in general, not just in relation to empowerment. Likewise, it is a cause for concern that students are completing their degree without really understanding the role of the lecturer. Certainly if assessment empowerment is to be implemented it needs to be introduced early on in the programme so that 3rd year students will be confident in the process and their role in it by the time their studies enter the final, crucial stages.

Variation between cohorts Overall the trends in perception found between 1st and 3rd years were very similar, although there were some exceptions, including Q8 (desire for more question choice in assessments), Q9 (desire for open ended questions), Q13 (democratic voting on assessment methods) and Q26 (did students feel capable of peer assessment). These results reflect different assessment experiences and community cohesion, which will vary between cohorts to some extent, but suggest that the overall trends found are genuine, despite the sample sizes being quite small. There is always likely to be some level of variation between cohorts, and further work needs to be performed to explore this variability. There should also be more awareness of assessment empowerment in the 2007/8 cohort, because this topic is covered to some extent during tutorials in the first year (so the 1st year students from the 2007/8 cohort will have some familiarity with this), and several of the 2007/8 3rd year students were my 1st year tutees in 2005/6, and so will remember the idea of empowerment from then. It is unclear how this may have affected the results found here and further data acquisition is needed to explore this fully.

Advantages and disadvantages of empowerment The findings discussed here for a (relatively limited) sample from two cohorts in the Department of Geography at King's College London have suggested that the overall perception of assessment empowerment is negative amongst both 1st and 3rd year students, other than for increased choice of questions to answer in a given assessment. Student confidence in their assessors decreases as expected, but this is not reflected in an increased desire for input into the assessment system. There is a more positive perception amongst 3rd years compared to 1st years, but the results still suggest that some resistance or apathy towards assessment empowerment would be experienced were it to be introduced. It is likely that this negative perception largely results from 1) students being anxious about any form of change to their assessment procedure and the associated academic hierarchy and how this might affect their performance; 2) concerns regarding the level of effort that may be involved on their part to make the kind of informed decisions necessary for empowerment; and 3) students having insufficient information regarding the nature and possibilities of empowerment during their studies. Increased awareness of empowerment is essential at all stages of students’ higher education experience if it is to be implemented. Teaching staff within the Department of Geography at King’s College London are making progress with bringing such progressive forms of education to the student body and helping them to engage with the options provided, but it is a long and time-consuming process. The fundamental question therefore is, given that perceptions of assessment empowerment are generally negative (apart from increased question choice in a given assessment), are the advantages of empowerment sufficient for substantial amounts of time, money and energy to be invested in empowering students? And what are the other disadvantages of empowerment, besides the negative initial perception suggested in this study? The advantages of assessment empowerment are that 1) students are likely to feel like they are better integrated into their academic institution, as they are being consulted about their educational experience and feel that they have some ability to influence the way the institution works – this is the classic interpretation of empowerment in giving some level of power to members of a hierarchy that usually have little influence, and is likely to increase overall student satisfaction (Rowland, 2003); 2) students can maximise their performance by selecting assessments that they are more comfortable with, depending on their particular learning style or strategy; 3) students can direct the progression of their degree more to some extent, and so feel like they have more ‘ownership’ of their degree experience and the qualification they ultimately receive; 4) staff have a safeguard against student criticism if they fail the assessment, in that students have less reason to complain against unfair or badly designed assessment methods if they have had a role in the selection of that assessment; and 5) students need to demonstrate decisionmaking skills, responsibility and independence, as well as an understanding of the assessment criteria and procedure, which are transferable skills that can be applied to their future careers as well as enhancing their degree experience. 14

The main disadvantages of assessment empowerment (other than the effort required in overcoming initial student scepticism or apathy) are 1) the investment of staff time required to set up a broader range of assessments and complete the extra (or greater range of) marking that comes with increased choice; 2) the investment of staff time required to educate students about empowerment and provide support with the empowerment processes and the decisions involved; and 3) students may regard empowerment as the simple transference of some of the academic workload and responsibility onto them, which may potentially decrease student satisfaction. Based on the trends found in this study, if assessment empowerment is to be implemented it should be conducted incrementally, with empowerment education covered in the first year of the programme, initially supported by relatively popular methodologies such as formative (but informed) self-assessment (e.g. Taras, 2001). Once students have demonstrated familiarity with the concepts and methods of assessment empowerment, further choices may be introduced, for example students democratically choosing methods of assessment for optional modules. Further options (e.g. influence on marking criteria), may be introduced in the final year of study if initial results are promising and students and staff are sufficiently motivated (see Francis, 2008). Empowerment will also have to overcome some institutional barriers, such as the requirement in the Department of Geography for all modules to have the assessment method approved at School level before a module can be run. Clearly a barrier such as this restricts the choices that can be made by students, other than staff providing a greater range of questions or topics within a given assessment. Assessment empowerment is still a new and interesting element of the teaching and learning environment and there are many issues to consider before it may be implemented successfully. There is a need now for robust and extensive sampling of student perceptions and receptivity to assessment empowerment at all levels, as well as some experimental trialling of empowerment methods to gauge their effectiveness and student responses. Hopefully a range of HEIs with different degree programmes, student backgrounds and subject areas will begin to consider the possibilities of assessment empowerment in the near future, in order to determine how effective various methodologies may be.

References Browne, B., Kaldenberg, D., Browne, W. & Brown D. (1998) Student as customer: factors affecting satisfaction and assessments of institutional quality, Journal of Marketing for Higher Education 8(3), 1–14. Francis, R. (2008) An investigation into the receptivity of undergraduate students to assessment empowerment, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. Johnson, R. & Deem, R. (2003) Talking of students: Tensions and contradictions for the manager-academic and the university in contemporary higher education, Higher Education 46, 289-314. Leach, L., Neutze, G. & Zepke, N. (2001) Assessment and empowerment: some critical questions, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 26(4), 293–305. Maguire, S., Evans, S.E. & Dyas, L. (2001) Approaches to learning: a study of first-year geography undergraduates, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 25(1), 95–107. Ramsden, P. (1992) Learning to Teach in Higher Education (Routledge, London). Rowland, S. (2003) Teaching for democracy in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education 8(11), 89–101. Rust, C., Price, M. & O’Donovan, B. (2003) Improving students’ learning by developing their understanding of assessment criteria and processes, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 28(2), 147–164. Singh, G. (2002) Educational consumers or educational partners: a critical theory analysis, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 13, 681-700. Taras, M. (2001) The use of tutor feedback and student self-assessment in summative assessment tasks: towards transparency for students and for tutors, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 26(6), 605–614.

Address for Correspondence Robert Francis, School of Social Science & Public Policy King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS

Notes on Contributor Rob Francis is Lecturer in Ecology and Deputy Chair of the Undergraduate Teaching Committee, in the Department of Geography at King’s College London.


Appendix A: Student assessment survey and results. Responses to several questions do not equal exactly 100% due to the percentage value being rounded to the nearest whole number, or in some cases where a respondent did not answer a specific question or answered in an unclear fashion that response was excluded.

Student assessment survey: Q1. Rank the following in order of importance (1 most important, 4 least important): The role of the lecturer is to: a) impart knowledge previously learnt by the lecturer to the students b) facilitate ways for the students to obtain knowledge c) conduct research and impart the latest developments to the students d) ensure the students obtain a degree Q2. On a scale from 1-10, how would you label your confidence in teaching staff fairly assessing your work in general (1 being no confidence, 10 being very confident)? Q3. How long would you estimate that a lecturer would spend marking a 1500 word essay, on average? a) 10 mins b) 20 mins c) 40 mins d) one hour or more Q4. Currently, lecturers mark all assessed work with no student input. Do you feel that this is appropriate, or would you prefer to have more input in the marking process? a) This is appropriate b) I would like to be able to argue my case if I am unhappy with my result c) I would like to co-mark the work d) I would like to suggest a mark first and let the lecturer mark the work with that in mind Q5. Do you feel confident that you understand the assessment procedure? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q6. Do you feel that you understand the criteria against which your work is assessed? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q7. Would you like to be given a choice over whether you were assessed by exams, coursework, oral presentations or a combination of all assessment methods? a) yes b) no c) don’t know


Q8. Do you think there should be more choice over which subject you may answer questions on in a given assessment (exam, coursework)? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q9. Do you feel that an open-ended question is better than a specific question? For example, the question ‘evaluate the functioning of a single environmental process covered in the Natural Environment course’ rather than a question on a specific process? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q10. Please explain your answer Q11. Would you prefer some input into the assessment criteria that is currently given in the marking page of the student’s handbook? For example, the ability to negotiate the amount of critical analysis, originality, evidence of independent learning or writing quality that is required? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q12. Please explain your answer Q13. Individual discussion of assessment options is not always possible. Do you feel that a democratic process whereby all students taking a course vote on the method of assessment (exams, coursework etc.) would be a good idea? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q14. Please explain your answer Q15. In the same way, do you feel that a democratic process whereby all students taking a course vote on the assessment criteria for that course would be a good idea? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q16. Please explain your answer Q17. Do you feel you would benefit from marking your own work based on the assessment criteria and this then counting for half of the marks, with the lecturer providing the other half based on his/her assessment? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q18. Please explain your answer


Q19. Do you feel that officially marking your own work would be a worthwhile exercise? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q20. Do you feel that unofficially marking your own work would be a worthwhile exercise? a) yes b) no c) don’t know Q21. If you had to mark your own work, do you think you would: a) be more generous with your marks b) be less generous with your marks c) be completely objective Q22. Would you feel that you had more control over the assessment process if you could officially mark your own work? a) I would feel that I had more control and input into the assessment process b) I don’t feel that it would provide any benefit c) I don’t feel that I could mark my own work without guidance from the lecturer Q23. Peer assessment as a student means: a) being assessed by authority figures b) being assessed by oneself c) being assessed by other students d) being assessed unofficially Q24. If other undergraduate students from your year were to officially (and anonymously) mark your work, would you be: a) happy b) unhappy c) indifferent Q25. In a simple statement explain your choice of answer in question 24: Q26. If you were to mark a general geography essay anonymously by another student, would you feel: a) confident that you knew how to mark : b) that you could mark the work accurately with ample time to prepare c) not confident that you could mark the work 27. Rank the following in order of importance (1 most important, 4 least important). Marks given to an essay are awarded based on: a) how much work has been performed b) how much knowledge or learning the author shows c) how close the essay is to the marking objectives as given in the student handbooks d) correct use of referencing


Qu. No Q1a Q1b Q1c Q1d Q2 Q3a Q3b Q3c Q3d Q4a Q4b Q4c Q4d Q5a Q5b Q5c Q6a Q6b Q6c Q7a Q7b Q7c Q8a Q8b Q8c Q9a Q9b Q9c Q10 Q11a Q11b Q11c Q12 Q13a Q13b Q13c Q14 Q15a Q15b Q15c Q16 Q17a Q17b Q17c Q18 Q19a Q19b Q19c Q20a Q20b Q20c Q21a Q21b Q21c

Response 2005/6 Cohort Response 2007/8 Cohort (1st year/3rd year) (1st year/3rd year) 39% [11/28] ranked 1st/36% [5/14] ranked 1st 32% [9/28] ranked 1st/43% [10/22] ranked 1st 36% [10/28] ranked 1st/57% [8/14] ranked 1st 43% [12/28] ranked 1st/48% [11/22] ranked 1st 11% [3/28] ranked 1st/0% [0/14] ranked 1st 11% [3/28] ranked 1st/4% [1/22] ranked 1st 11% [3/28] ranked 1st/7% [0/14] ranked 1st 14% [4/28] ranked 1st/4% [1/22] ranked 1st Means: 7.8/6.8 Means: 7.7/6.3 4% [1/28]/50% [7/14] 25%[7/28]/50% [11/22] 57% [16/28]/29% [4/14] 21%[6/28]/45% [10/22] 32% [9/28]/21% [3/14] 50%[14/28]/5% [1/22] 7% [2/28] / 0% [0/14] 4%[1/28] / 0% [0/22] 39% [11/28] / 7% [1/14] 39%[11/28] / 22% [5/22] 54% [15/28] / 79% [11/14] 50%[14/28] / 70% [16/22] 7% [2/28] / 7% [1/14] 4%[1/28] / 9% [2/22] 0% [0/28] / 7% [1/14] 7%[2/28] / 0% [0/22] 64% [18/28] / 29% [4/14] 57%[16/28] / 36% [8/22] 21% [6/28] / 43% [6/14] 11%[3/28] / 45% [10/22] 14% [4/28] / 29% [4/14] 32%[9/28] / 18% [4/22] 61% [17/28] / 64% [9/14] 57%[15/28] / 41% [9/22] 21% [6/28] / 36% [5/14] 29%[8/28] / 36% [8/22] 18% [5/28] / 0% [0/14] 18%[5/28] / 23% [5/22] 79% [22/28] / 79% [11/14] 75%[21/28] / 77% [17/22] 7% [2/28] / 14% [2/14] 14%[4/28] / 9% [2/22] 14% [4/28] / 7% [1/14] 11%[3/28] / 14% [3/22] 57% [16/28] / 71% [10/14] 79%[22/28] / 68% [15/22] 36% [10/28] / 29% [4/14] 18%[5/28] / 27% [6/22] 7% [2/28] / 0% [0/14] 4%[1/28] / 5% [1/22] 36% [10/28] / 43% [6/14] 54%[15/28] / 36% [8/22] 43% [12/28] / 43% [6/14] 43%[12/28] / 36% [8/22] 21% [6/28] / 14% [2/14] 4%[1/28] / 27% [6/22] Comments only Comments only 29% [8/28] / 43% [6/14] 14%[4/28] / 41% [9/22] 39% [11/28] / 36% [5/14] 50%[14/28] / 36% [8/22] 32% [9/28] / 21% [3/14] 36%[10/28] / 23% [5/22] Comments only Comments only 32% [9/28] / 57% [8/14] 39%[11/28] / 27% [6/22] 46% [13/28] / 36% [5/14] 46%[13/28] / 64% [14/22] 21% [6/28] / 7% [1/14] 14%[4/28] / 9% [2/22] Comments only Comments only 29% [8/28] / 50% [7/14] 14%[4/28] / 27% [6/22] 46% [13/28] / 43% [6/14] 71%[20/28] / 55% [12/22] 25% [7/28] / 7% [1/14] 14%[4/28] / 18% [4/22] Comments only Comments only 7% [2/28] / 21% [3/14] 11%[3/28] / 5% [1/22] 89% [25/28] / 64% [9/14] 71%[20/28] / 77% [17/22] 4% [1/28] / 14% [2/14] 18%[5/28] / 18% [4/22] Comments only Comments only 11% [3/28] / 14% [2/14] 11%[3/28] / 14% [3/22] 82% [23/28] / 79% [11/14] 75%[21/28] / 73% [16/22] 7% [2/28] / 7% [1/14] 14%[4/28] / 14% [3/22] 75% [21/28] / 64% [9/14] 68%[19/28] / 64% [14/22] 14% [4/28] / 29% [4/14] 21%[6/28] / 14% [3/22] 11% [3/28] / 7% [1/14] 11%[3/28] / 23% [5/22] 54% [15/28] / 64% [9/14] 43%[12/28] / 77% [17/22] 43% [12/28] / 21% [3/14] 29%[8/28] / 14% [3/22] 4% [1/28] / 7% [1/14] 21%[6/28] / 9% [2/22] 19

Q22a Q22b Q22c Q23a Q23b Q23c Q23d Q24a Q24b Q24c Q25 Q26a Q26b Q26c Q27a Q27b Q27c Q27d

11% [3/28]/21% [3/14] 36% [10/28]/21% [3/14] 54% [15/28]/57% [8/14] 14% [4/28]/14% [2/14] 0% [0/28]/0% [0/14] 79% [22/28]/79% [11/14] 7% [2/28]/7% [1/14] 4% [1/28]/0% [0/14] 82% [23/28]/86% [12/14] 14% [4/28]/14% [2/14] Comments only 0% [0/28]/0% [0/14] 4% [1/28]/21% [3/14] 96% [27/28]/79% [11/14] 4% [1/28] ranked 1st / 7% [1/14] ranked 1st 75% [21/28] ranked 1st / 57% [8/14] ranked 1st 21% [6/28] ranked 1st / 29% [4/14] ranked 1st 0% [0/28] ranked 1st / 0% [0/14] ranked 1st

11%[3/28]/18% [4/22] 57%[16/28]/18% [4/22] 32%[9/28]/64% [14/22] 11%[3/28]/14% [3/22] 0%[0/28]/0% [0/22] 79%[22/28]/86% [19/22] 7%[2/28] 0% [0/22] 14%[4/28]/0% [0/22] 75%[21/28/82% [18/22] 11%[3/28]/14% [3/22] Comments only 0%[0/28]/0% [0/22] 29%[8/28]/9% [2/22] 64%[18/28]/86% [19/22] 4% [0/28] ranked 1st / 9% [2/22] ranked 1st 61% [17/28] ranked 1st / 73% [16/22] ranked 1st 36% [10/28] ranked 1st / 18% [4/22] ranked 1st 0% [0/28] ranked 1st / 0% [0/22] ranked 1st

Table: Summary of results of questionnaire survey for 2005/6 and 2007/8 cohorts.


Students’ first impressions of a new, more integrated curriculum with increased self-directed study time Vicki H.M. Dale, Stan D. Head & Stephen A. May Royal Veterinary College, University of London Abstract Introduction: The Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVetMed) curriculum at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has recently undergone transformation. This is in response to growing evidence in veterinary education that self-directed learning approaches result in more meaningful learning than traditional approaches characterised by rote memorisation. A new, more integrated curriculum, with a greater professional skills component, was introduced in October 2007. Using a modified version of the Delphi technique, an inventory of 92 statements with Likert scale ratings and 20 open text boxes was designed and distributed to students at the end of their sixth week, as part of the formative evaluation process. Responses were received from 181/210 students (86.2%). Students were most satisfied with lectures and practical classes, but felt that they needed clearer learning objectives, particularly in relation to personal study sessions, as well as better feedback from tutors in tutorials and directed learning sessions. Professional skills (including learning support) classes were viewed as of secondary importance to ‘content’ classes on body systems. There was strong evidence of students wanting to be given the information they felt they should know in order to pass examinations. Despite a diverse student population, students (particularly graduates) generally come into veterinary school favouring a traditional, surface approach to learning, with an emphasis on content rather than process. Even with a new course designed on a more integrated basis, these initial findings continue to highlight the need for well designed and extensive ‘scaffolding’, in terms of providing support for students as independent learners, and staff training to enable teachers to move students away from dependency acquired during previous secondary and HE experiences.

Introduction The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) was formally established in 1791, and like the other veterinary schools in the UK and worldwide, its Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVetMed) curriculum has continually evolved subsequently to cater for changing professional and societal demands. Until recently, the curriculum has had a recognisable Flexnerian structure (despite horizontal integration of disciplines), with laboratory-based basic sciences distinct from clinical medicine in the hospital (Flexner, 1910). However, this has restricted the amount of vertical integration possible, so that students have generally failed to perceive the clinical relevance of preclinical subjects such as anatomy, and likewise have not been able to make use of their preclinical knowledge in a clinical setting. Horizontal integration has also been limited to scientific disciplines, with compartmentalisation of subjects into systems and separate teaching of subjects such as professional skills. An additional problem, common to many other veterinary schools, has been the fact that the curriculum has become overgrown, with more detailed knowledge added, and little taken out. This has encouraged students to adopt a surface approach to learning, focusing more on rote memorisation of facts for the purpose of passing examinations, rather than meaningful understanding with a view to becoming effective practitioners (Blumberg, 2005).


In addition, the course has been largely teacher-centred and authoritarian in style, hindering students taking responsibility for their own learning and developing functional knowledge. Increasing student numbers and the need to prepare students for a lifetime of education and greater accountability have been additional factors acting as catalysts for change. In 2007, a new curriculum was introduced, with a greater emphasis on self-directed learning (SDL). First publicised by Knowles (1975), SDL is an approach which embraces the principles of adult learning, and encourages students to be independent learners. While not fully problem-based in the classical sense, it does encourage autonomous learning, with science placed in the context of clinical problems. A considerable reduction in lectures created more opportunities for personal study (SDL), tutorials and directed learning classes (DLs). The new curriculum has placed a heavy emphasis on the development of professional skills (such as teamwork and effective communication) as well as increased clinical relevance from the first year. Although still subject experts, the roles of teachers have subtly changed, with a shift in emphasis – particularly in DLs – towards facilitation as opposed to didactic instruction. Effort has been expended to create a constructively aligned, outcome-based curriculum, with transparent learning objectives for each week that students can use as a study guide. The DLs encourage a problem-based learning (PBL) approach, designed to foster subject integration. Students are encouraged to use the timetabled personal study time to read relevant literature, and feedback on their groupwork is provided in tutorials. A scheduled computer-based self-assessment session at the end of each week also allows students to monitor their own progress. For quality assurance purposes, a programme of evaluation was drawn up to assess the success of the new programme, and to identify potential weaknesses in order to remedy them. This included at least one student questionnaire and focus group per term. This paper reports the development, results and implications of the first student questionnaire.

Materials and Methods The major sections of the initial draft of the questionnaire were based on: • • • • • • • •

Course content Course organisation Lectures Practicals Directed Learning sessions (DLs) and tutorials Private study time (SDL) TurningPoint voting system (interactive lecturing) Lecturers’ knowledge, teaching skills and professionalism (informed by Berk (2006))

Each section had several related statements. It was proposed that students would rate each statement on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Using a modified version of the Delphi technique (Jones & Hunter, 1995), a panel of expert stakeholders (including senior management officials, academic development staff, an educational researcher, a student support officer and former and current student representatives) reviewed the draft questionnaire. Experts rated the statements on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree that items should be included) to 5 (strongly agree that item should be included). The panel suggested additional items for inclusion, and thematic analysis of a student focus group transcript resulted in further items being added to the questionnaire. The rankings were summarised and included in a second version of the questionnaire, which experts ranked in their own time, with the opportunity to change their score in view of the group’s average response to previously rated items. There was overall consensus that items on lecturers’ abilities and professionalism should be excluded, because of the anticipated range of responses for different teachers. For this reason, individual staff questionnaires were retained as a separate evaluation tool. Excluding statements with a mean value less than 4 resulted in an inventory of 92 statements, distributed to first year students towards the end of the first term in a timetabled session.


The inclusion of demographic data (gender, age and educational experience) allowed for direct comparisons to be made. We were particularly interested to see if there were differences between the feedback from traditional undergraduates (mostly 19 year old, female school-leavers), widening participation (‘Gateway’) students and graduate students. The questionnaire also included 20 text boxes to allow students to comment on the different teaching methods within the course, their experience of different weeks – each focused on a specific topic, as well as their views on professional skills teaching. Students were also asked to comment on the aspects of the course with which they were most satisfied, and those with which they were least satisfied. Quantitative data were analysed in SPSS using the Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA to compare the three cohorts, followed by pairwise Mann-Whitney U tests to investigate differences between each cohort. A standard alpha level of 0.05 was used to assess significance; however, due to small sample sizes of Gateway and graduate students (n=15), the data were also evaluated at a relaxed alpha level of 0.1 to reduce the possibility of a type II error (i.e. accepting the null hypothesis when in fact it is false). In addition, the alpha levels for pairwise comparisons were adjusted using a Bonferroni correction (0.05/3 = 0.017; 0.1/3 = 0.033). Ratings were reversed for negatively worded statements, and factor (principal components) analysis was performed on the data. Extracting Eigenvalues over 1 resulted in the identification of 29 factors; a comparison with the values obtained using the Monte-Carlo PCA simulation for parallel analysis suggested that nine factors were responsible for the variance in the data. Varimax rotation was subsequently used to extract nine factors, excluding coefficients less than 0.5. Qualitative responses were grouped thematically in NVivo.

Results The response rate for the questionnaire study was 86.2% (181/210 students). A breakdown of respondents’ demographics is shown in Table 1. One respondent did not provide demographic information. Table 1. Demographics of questionnaire respondents Male Female Total

School-leaver 35 115 150

Gateway 3 12 15

Graduate 5 10 15

Total 43 137 180

Factor analysis on the resultant ordinal data revealed nine major factors. Factor 8 was discarded because the two statements linked with it related to private study (factor 2). Factor 9 included two very specific statements about working in self-selected groups, which were perceived to be peripheral to the central focus of the evaluation. Therefore the seven main factors were identified as: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

DL classes Private study Practical classes Tutors and tutorials Learning objectives and assessment Timetabling Interactive self-assessment tools

The results of the evaluation are presented here in relation to these seven aspects of the new curriculum and also professional skills training, a key element of the course. Students’ feedback about lectures is also described.


DL classes Table 2 indicates the quartiles and medians for two representative statements about the DLs, comparing the responses from different student cohorts. Table 3 indicates no significant differences at the standard alpha level of 0.05 between the cohorts in relation to the teamworking aspects of DLs. However, there was a trend for graduates to be less impressed with teamworking than the other two groups, and with a relaxed significance level and the Bonferroni correction applied, graduate responses were on average significantly lower than Gateway (widening participation) students. Table 2. Responses to statements about DLs Statement Cohort DLs help me to attain School-leaver my learning objectives Gateway Graduate DLs encourage me to School-leaver contribute as part of Gateway a team Graduate

1st quartile Median 2 3 2 3 2 3 3 4 4 4 2 3

3rd quartile Significant difference 4 P=0.553NS 4 3 4 P=0.043* 4 4

Table 3. “DLs encourage me to contribute as part of a team”, results of Mann-Whitney U test on two independent samples. Cohort School-leaver vs. Gateway Gateway vs. Graduate Graduate vs. School-leaver

Significant difference? P=0.197NS P=0.029NS(*) P=0.046NS

Eighteen students (9.9%) included DLs within their description of aspects of the course that they were most satisfied with, particularly where DLs were linked with clinical cases, and where they were used to consolidate that week’s teaching: “DL sessions are very useful and really consolidate ideas covered in that week.” “DL's a brilliant way of linking in clinical cases so learning all about the ions in muscle contraction and why that is important.” However, 45 students (24.9%) listed DLs within their least satisfactory experiences, attributing this to a lack of feedback and direction from DL tutors. “Lack of direction in DLs - it's good to find out info ourselves but it's very hard to find help when you need it.” “Need better feedback and better direction from staff.”


Private study Table 4 indicates the quartiles and medians for two representative statements about private study, comparing the responses from different student cohorts. Table 5 reveals two significant differences between the cohorts, with the Gateway (widening participation) students in particular finding it harder to manage their private study time than the other two groups. Table 4. Responses to statements about private study sessions Statement I am able to manage my personal study time effectively By the end of the week I have done enough personal study to meet the week’s learning objectives

Cohort 1st quartile Median 3rd quartile Significant difference School-leaver 4 3 4 P=0.007** Gateway 2 2 3 Graduate 3 4 4 School-leaver 2 3 4 P=0.242NS Gateway 2 3 4 Graduate 3 4 4

Twenty-four students (13.3%) mentioned private study in relation to their most satisfactory experiences, providing the opportunity to clarify their understanding of the lecture content: “Private study is very useful in going over aspects of the lecture which confused me with the aid of a textbook.” “Lots of time for private study so I can learn the lecture contents as we go along.” Table 5. “I am able to manage my personal study time effectively”, results of Mann-Whitney U test on two independent samples. Cohort

Significant difference?

School-leaver vs. Gateway Gateway vs. Graduate

P=0.011* P=0.005*

Graduate vs. School-leaver


Forty-five students (24.9%) mentioned private study within their least satisfactory experiences, attributing this to a lack of guidance from tutors and a preference for lectures: “It would be good to know exactly what to do. I know in Uni[versity] you are supposed to take charge of your own learning but it is hard as it is such a sudden jump from A level where they tell you every thing you need to do.” “Too much reading given, more lectures required instead.”


Practical classes Table 6 indicates the quartiles and medians for two representative statements about practical classes, comparing the responses from different student cohorts. Table 6. Responses to statements about practical classes Statement Cohort I am statisfied with the School-leaver practicals Gateway Graduate At practical sessions, School-leaver there are adequate staff Gateway numbers to assist me Graduate

1st quartile Median 3 4 3 4 2 3 2 4 2.74 3.5 1 3

3rd quartile Significant difference 4 P=0.325NS 4 4 4 P=0.726* 4 4

One hundred and seven students (59.1%) mentioned practicals (including dissections and husbandry practicals) in relation to their most satisfactory experiences, attributing this to the opportunity to contextualise theory: “Dissection practicals and lab practicals are well placed in the lecture week and help put what we have learnt into context.” Paradoxically, thirty-five students (19.3%) mentioned practicals in relation to their least satisfactory experiences, because they would like more hands-on experience as well as additional contact with tutors: “Would like more practical work with live animals, handling lessons etc.”

Tutors and tutorials Table 7 indicates the quartiles and medians for two representative statements about tutors and tutorials, comparing the responses from different student cohorts. Table 7. Responses to statements about tutors and tutorials Statement Tutor’s feedback improves my understanding of the subject Tutorials fail to fulfil my own learning requirements

Cohort 1st quartile Median School-leaver 2 3 Gateway 2 3 Graduate 1 3 School-leaver 2 3 Gateway 2 3 Graduate 3 4

3rd quartile Significant difference 4 P=0.182NS 4 3 4 P=0.222NS 4 4

Six students (3.3%) mentioned tutorials in relation to their most satisfactory experiences, due to their appreciation for their tutor: “Tutorials are great as you have a great tutor.” Thirty-one students (17.1%) mentioned tutorials in relation to their least satisfactory experiences, noting their confusion about the purpose of tutorials and lack of clarity among tutors:


“I don’t understand what they are for and how to get the best out of them.” “Tutorials are a waste of my time, we do not learn anything because our tutor never seems to have any idea what is going on.” Students who expressed satisfaction with the tutorials commented specifically on their tutor, their peer group, and opportunity for effective discussion and feedback, whilst dissatisfied students were discontent with their tutor, peer group and/or perceived lack of relevance and structure to the tutorials.

Learning objectives and assessment Table 8 indicates the quartiles and medians for two representative statements about learning objectives and assessment, comparing the responses from different student cohorts. Table 8. Responses to statements about learning objectives and assessment Statement Cohort 1st quartile Median Learning objectives are School-leaver 2 3 clearly stated at the Gateway 2 2 beginning of each week Graduate 1 2 Assessment methods School-leaver 2 3 were clearly described Gateway 2 3 in the introductory lectures Graduate 2 2

3rd quartile Significant difference 4 P=0.162NS 4 4 4 P=0.425NS 4 3

Three students (1.7%) included clear learning objectives and assessment guidelines within the most rewarding aspects of the course: “Structured lectures with clear learning objectives” Thirty-nine students (21.5%) included a lack of clear learning objectives and assessment guidelines within their least satisfactory experiences: “The learning objectives are unclear, need to be stated at the beginning clearly of each week.” “Have not been told style of our assessments at Xmas e.g. MCQ, essay?”

Timetabling Table 9 indicates the quartiles and medians for two representative statements about timetabling, comparing the responses from different student cohorts.


Table 9. Responses to statements about timetabling Statement Cohort I know when all my School-leaver classes are scheduled to Gateway to take place Graduate I know where all my School-leaver classes are schedule to Gateway numbers to assist me Graduate

1st quartile Median 4 4 2 4 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4

3rd quartile Significant difference 4 P=0.357NS 4 5 4 P=0.977NS 4 3

No students specifically mentioned timetabling within their most satisfactory experiences. Twelve students (6.6%) mentioned timetabling in relation to least satisfying experiences. However, only two students commented specifically about timetabling inaccuracies; the other 10 students expressed discontent about the long gaps between lectures designated as private study time: “Too much time between lectures and practical, which leads to a lot of time wasting. Would be better to have consecutive lectures and then go home early.”

Interactive self-assessment tools Table 10 indicates the quartiles and medians for two representative statements about interactive self-assessment tools, comparing the responses from different student cohorts. Table 10. Responses to statements about interactive self-assessment tools Statement The timetabled weekly MCQ sessions did my learning The lecturers use TurningPoint in a meaningful way

Cohort School-leaver Gateway Graduate School-leaver Gateway Graduate

1st quartile Median 4 4 4 4 4 4 2 3 2 3 2 3

3rd quartile Significant difference 5 P=0.308NS 5 4 4 P=0.247NS 3.25 3

The weekly MCQs were referred to in relation to most satisfying experiences by 16 students (8.8%), for example: “LOVE MCQs – help learning, revising etc.” In relation to least satisfying experiences, these were referenced by two students (1.1%), including: “MCQ – poor feedback and limited questions by some lecturers.” Although TurningPoint voting software had not been used successfully in all classes, students were aware of its potential as a learning tool: “(TurningPoint) not used very often but is useful to test knowledge at start/end of lecture. Would be beneficial to use it more. Encourages you to think about the topic and question lecture content.”


Two students (1.1%) were most satisfied with the use of TurningPoint, while four students (2.2%) were least satisfied.

Professional skills One aspect of the course that was commented on through qualitative responses was professional skills training (including study skills and learning support). A minority of students appreciated the relevance of some professional skills: “Some of it doesn't seem relevant. However communication skills is useful.” “Thought time could have been better spent on other aspects of the course, although I understand the importance and need for team work skills.” However, the overwhelming response to these classes was negative; 29 students (16.0%) made reference to them within their least satisfactory experiences and when asked to comment specifically on professional skills training, 148 students (81.8%) made some negative comment. Students could not see the relevance of professional skills training, evidenced in the following quotes: “Pointless, we are here to become well acclimated with principles of medicine, anatomy, physiology.” “Majority not helpful – would rather spend the time learning information appropriate for the course.” This would suggest that students view learning more from a content-oriented perspective, rather than a processoriented perspective which can support deep learning.

Lectures This is further backed up with evidence of the majority of students’ appreciation for lectures. Eighty-seven students (48.1%) included lectures within their most satisfying experiences, whilst 18 students (9.9%) included them among their least satisfying experiences. Lectures were appreciated for providing students with a structure: “Lectures are informative, generally well structured and provide a clear outline of how to extend knowledge of the subject through private study.” Dissatisfaction was expressed over the small number of lectures and the restricted nature of the content (the new curriculum is aimed at introducing concepts more than large amounts of detail): “Number of lectures and the amount of content covered in them is not adequate.”

Discussion Student diversity The demographic breakdown of respondents is typical of the modern clinical veterinary student population, with female students predominating. Most students are traditional undergraduates who entered the course directly from secondary school. Widening participation (Gateway) students and graduates are in the minority. In comparing the ratings from different cohorts, there were only two significant differences found between the three cohorts.


Traditional undergraduates, Gateway students and graduates enter the course with different levels of knowledge, attitudes and skills. This also begs the question of whether more use can be made of collaborative learning as a way of students providing peer support for other students with less advanced knowledge and skills. In relation to the other statements, there was no significant difference between the cohorts.

General findings The feedback from students can be summarised as follows: • Students’ experience of the DLs was mixed. Whilst students appreciated the clinical relevance of these sessions that served to consolidate their knowledge and understanding of a particular week, they also cited the need for better feedback and direction from staff. • Students were largely satisfied with practical classes, providing a practical context in which to apply theoretical information, however the main complaint was that there were too few of them. • Participants were divided about the value of tutorials. Some students expressed appreciation for their tutors in structuring their learning, whilst others commented that their tutor did not understand their role, and therefore there was confusion as to the purpose of tutorials. It is clear that the tutor’s skills as a teacher and facilitator are the major factors determining a successful student experience in this context. • It was perceived that learning objectives were not stated clearly enough, and that assessment practices were not transparent. • Students were generally satisfied with timetabling and organisation, with a few exceptions. • The weekly MCQ sessions were appreciated by students in helping them assess their knowledge, however there were some complaints that there were too few questions available on each topic, and variability in the quality of programmed feedback. • TurningPoint as an interactive handset device in lectures had not been used successfully in all classes due to technical problems; however some students stated that they could see its potential. • Professional skills training was not valued by the majority of students, who would have preferred to have been given additional veterinary content that they perceived to be more relevant. • Students’ generally had a high regard for lectures, the majority of students listing these within their most satisfying experiences. Despite some of the positive feedback obtained about the course, it seems that the first term of the new curriculum has been a difficult transition for some students and teachers used to a teacher-centred model of education. This might suggest that the learning process needs to be better structured for students, with appropriate staff development measures in place to enable teachers to adapt to their new roles, and clearer staging of expectations for first year to final year teaching encounters. Grow’s (1991) Staged Self-Directed Learning Model provides a conceptual framework for correctly matching student and teacher expectations, and highlights the barriers to effective learning caused by ‘mismatches’, particularly when self-directed learners are mismatched with authoritarian teachers, and when dependent learners are mismatched with teachers who delegate responsibilities that students are not equipped to handle.


Structuring the learning experience for students Feedback is critical to the process of adult learning, as it is argued that this promotes improvement and achievement of goals more effectively than tests and evaluations (Steinert & Mann, 2006). However, participants in this study commented specifically on a lack of sufficient teacher feedback. Students also expressed concern about a lack of explicit learning objectives. Similar findings have been reported in relation to new outcome-based medical school curricula (Till, 2004; Miles & Leinster, 2007). Students’ statements were also indicative of their anxiety about a seemingly unstructured course, for example: “Not sure where we stand. There is NOT enough direction. The course generally applies more to people who like to teach themselves - not to people who like to be taught. There needs to be more guidance towards what knowledge is important to the exams and to be vets. I wish the learning objectives were more clearly defined so I could be sure to concentrate on them during private study.” In outlining the challenges presented to educators implementing an SDL curriculum, Knowles (1975) also noted a problem with students’ anxiety about a seemingly unstructured learning process and their insecurity that examinable content will be not be thoroughly covered. He presents solutions to these challenges, including a process of climate setting, where students are encouraged to reflect on the how’s and why’s of self-directed learning. Mezirow (1981, pg 19) commented on this in relation to his work on perspective transformation: “… learners used to traditional, teacher-student relationships can be helped to examine implicit assumptions by being placed in a learning situation in which the educator refuses to play the traditional authority role of information giver or activities director but rather limits his or her response to that of a resource person. This typically generates strong negative feelings in learners who are unable to cope with the unexpected lack of structure. By subsequently helping learners see the reasons for their feelings rooted in the assumptions of institutionalized ideology, real progress can be made toward perspective transformation.” Nuy (1991), in a study of law students undertaking PBL, noted that some students adapted better to a problembased course than others, depending on their learning orientation, those with meaning or internalizing orientation coping best. For the others, who typically demand more rigorous programming of content, explicit presentation of learning objectives, and more specific feedback from the teacher, he suggested that instead of meeting these students demands, it would serve them better to have group discussions to encourage students to reflect on their attitude to PBL with their specific motivation and conceptions of learning, helping them to develop a more mature study orientation. The works of Knowles, Mezirow and Nuy highlight the need to encourage learners to challenge their existing assumptions about higher education, having gone through a traditional didactic system as children and adolescents in which they were expected to be passive recipients of expert knowledge as opposed to active, adult learners in search of their own truths. Traditionally, learners have been confined by autocratic models of education, conditioned by the reward of high grades for performance in examinations demanding rote memorisation over problem-solving. Graduate students, who have gone through a similar higher education experience, appear to be even more entrenched in these assumptions. In enabling the transition from directed to self-directed learner, the concept of scaffolding may be relevant: “Scaffolds are forms of support provided by the teacher (or another student) to help students bridge the gap between their current abilities and the intended goal … Scaffolding gradually decreases as the learning process unfolds and students become more proficient.” (Rosenshine & Meister 1992, pg 26)


In other words, as students become more comfortable with SDL concepts and processes, teachers may find themselves being able to slowly remove the familiar scaffolding of (in Nuy’s words) content structure, instead providing organisational structure and social structure.

Supporting a role change for teachers As noted by Knowles (1975), this process requires teachers to adapt to a new role, from content transmitter to facilitator of learning. He acknowledged that this would be a difficult process, requiring the teacher to re-evaluate their sense of self-identity as well as developing new skills. Seeler and Brace (1992) also argued that to support the shift in emphasis from teaching to learning, a programme of faculty development is essential to facilitate the development of lifelong learning, critical thinking, information management and problem-solving abilities in students. Although the SDL curriculum is not fully problem-based, the literature on staff development for PBL tutors provides a useful guide. In her study of student and staff perceptions of a new PBL medical curriculum, McLean (2003) stressed the importance of faculty development, particularly during the early years of a new curriculum, when all staff can be considered to be novices at facilitating. She also documented the need for students to be aware of the precise role and responsibilities of their facilitator. In citing other literature, McLean and Van Wyk (2006) subsequently advocated the need for facilitators to be trained in the principles of self-directed learning. Tutors also need to be informed about the institution’s education strategy, and trained in the management of group dynamics (Wood, 2003). They need to realize that they are not redundant in self-directed learning, but exercise their authority in a more subtle way; this role change can feel uncomfortable for tutors who confuse authoritarianism with authority (Maudsley, 1999). Even in a ‘mixed economy’ curriculum, where effective traditional teaching methods are combined with innovative approaches, there are significant implications for staff development (Spencer & Jordan, 1999).

Conclusions This preliminary study illustrated student perceptions about a new, more integrated curriculum with increased self-directed study time. Some differences have been revealed in the experiences of traditional school-leavers, widening participation (Gateway) students and graduates, which may be addressed through increased collaborative learning opportunities and/or greater student support at the start of the course. In any case, the outcomes of this study would also suggest that staff and students require greater support in making the transition to new roles within an educational framework that is novel to them. For students and staff, this includes activities designed to stimulate a re-appraisal of their assumptions about learning. As students progress through their first year of study, their performance and perceptions are being monitored through an ongoing evaluation programme, so that adjustments can be made where possible and appropriate, and to assess whether students’ views of the SDL curriculum change over time as they become accustomed to new ways of thinking about learning. This study has also highlighted the need to monitor staff perceptions about their new roles.

Acknowledgements Prof. John T.E. Richardson of the Open University, and Dr. Sean McAleer of the Dundee Centre for Medical Education, advised on factor analysis of the questionnaire data. Dr. Stephanie Pierce advised on alpha levels of significance and the possibility of Type II errors in relation to the pairwise comparisons on data from small samples. The expert panel who helped develop the evaluation inventory included Adrian Boswood, Vicki Collingwood, Nigel Goode, Cheryl Lawrence, Paul Probyn, Helen Shore, Kim Whittlestone and Georgina Harris.


References Berk, R. (2006) Thirteen Strategies to Measure College Teaching (Sterling, Virginia, Stylus). Blumberg, P. (2005) Why self-directed learning is not learned and practiced in veterinary education, Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 32(3), 290-295. Flexner, A. (1910) Medical Education in the United States and Canada. Available online at: (Accessed on 18 April, 2008). Grow, G. (1991) Teaching learners to be self-directed, Adult Education Quarterly 41(3), 125-149. Jones, J. & Hunter, D. (1995) Qualitative Research: Consensus Methods for Medical and Health Services Research, British Medical Journal 311(7001), 376-380. Knowles, M. (1975) Self Directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers (Chicago, Follet). Maudsley, G. (1999) Roles and responsibilities of the problem based learning tutor in the undergraduate medical curriculum, British Medical Journal 318(7184), 657-661. McLean, M. (2003) What can we learn from facilitator and student perceptions of facilitation skills and roles in the first year of a problem-based learning curriculum? BMC Medical Education 3(1). McLean, M. & Vanwyk, J. (2006) Twelve tips for recruiting and retaining facilitators in a problem-based learning programme, Medical Teacher 28(8), 675-679. Mezirow, J. (1981) A critical theory of adult learning and education, Adult Education 32(1), 3-24. Miles, S. & Leinster, S. (2007) Medical students' perceptions of their educational environment: expected versus actual perceptions, Medical Education 41(3), 265-272. Nuy, H. (1991) Interactions of study orientation and students' appreciation of structure in their educational environment, Higher Education 22(3), 267-274. Rosenshine, B. & Meister, C. (1992) The use of scaffolds for teaching higher-level cognitive strategies, Educational Leadership 49(7), 26-33. Seeler, D. & Brace, J. (1992) Faculty Development: program for change, Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 19(2), 34-36. Spencer, J. & Jordan, R. (1999) Learner centred approaches in medical education, British Medical Journal 318(7193), 1280-1283. Steinert, Y. & Mann, K.V. (2006) Faculty development: principles and practices, Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 33(3), 317-324. Till, H. (2004) Identifying the perceived weaknesses of a new curriculum by means of the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure (DREEM) Inventory, Medical Teacher 26(1), 39-45. Wood, D. (2003) ABC of learning and teaching in medicine - problem based learning, British Medical Journal 326(7384), 328-330. Yorke, M. & Thomas, L. (2003) Improving the retention of students from lower socio-economic groups, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 25(1), 63 - 74.

Address for Correspondence Vicki Dale, The LIVE Centre, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hertfordshire, AL9 7TA.

Notes on Contributors Vicki Dale is a Lecturer in Veterinary Education at the Lifelong Independent Veterinary Education (LIVE) Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London. Dr. Stan Head is the Project Manager of OCTAVE (Optimising Computer-Assisted and Traditional Assessment in Veterinary Education) at the RVC, and is the Curriculum Development Officer for the new BVetMed course. Prof. Stephen May is Deputy Principal and Vice-Principal for Teaching at the RVC, and Academic Director of the LIVE Centre for Excellence.



Breaking down barriers to veterinary medicine: selection, support and retention of widening participation students Rachel C. Payne-Davis, Charlotte Lawson, Jon Parry & Stephen A. May Royal Veterinary College, University of London Abstract The majority of veterinary students are white, female and have attended selective schools. In 2005, The RVC admitted a cohort of ‘low income’ students, with C grades at A level, to study on a year long pre-vet programme. The Gateway programme was designed to develop deeper learning skills such as critical thinking, reflective practice and problem solving, immersing students in a culture of scientific discovery. Preliminary data suggest that Gateway students are more than capable of meeting the academic challenges of a veterinary medicine degree programme. Twenty of the original 23 students are in their second year of study (Gateway is year zero) four gaining merits in their 2006/7 examinations. Many different factors have contributed to the success of the programme. Specifically, module content was not strongly dictated and thus staff (often KLI graduates) had greater scope to experiment with teaching methods e.g. using practical classes and problem solving sessions to introduce key concepts rather than lectures. Capped numbers (maximum 35) permit the provision of detailed individual feedback on formative and summative work and weekly academic and pastoral tutorial support ensures speedy identification of weaker students.

Background Educated and highly-skilled workers have a better chance of securing employment; increasing their earning potential, position in society and hence, sense of self-worth. With this in mind, the government has increased HE participation targets to >50% by 2010 (DfES, 2003). Increasing student numbers is in fact relatively easy – but is most often achieved by recruiting more of the same. Students from under-represented groups are much harder to reach; their recruitment and retention requires a more strategic, considered and longer-term approach (HEFCE, 2007/12; Offa, 2008/01), particularly within the professions (Langlands, 2005; Allen & Storan, 2005; McLean, 2004). Barriers to progression include socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, age, disability and geographical location (Thomas, 2001). Professions such as Law, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary have a particularly poor track record in terms of breadth of participation (Allen & Storan, 2005), primarily due to high entrance grades but also very likely due to long-standing elitist reputations. HEFCE access agreements have helped by specifying numerical targets for the “types” of students to be recruited within institutions and disciplines (Offa, 2005/03). These targets are directly linked to funding which provides an essential financial motivation. Additional funding has also been made available for the development of outreach activities (via e.g. Aimhigher, and “bridging” programmes of study.


Veterinary Student Demographics and Selection The veterinary school student demographic has changed over the last 30-40 years from being predominantly male to predominantly female (15: 85 respectively at the RVC, UCAS database 2008, posing new and perhaps unexpected challenges in terms of gender bias. Representation of minority groups within the veterinary profession has, however, always been poor: student cohorts are predominantly white (85%), upper middle class and privately educated. Within the context of student selection and retention, these figures are perhaps unsurprising. At the RVC, applicants are expected to have obtained AAA/AAB at A level in Chemistry and Biology and any other subject, together with 5 A grades at GCSE (the rest Bs), undertaken a minimum of 2 weeks of varied work experience and to have sat the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT, Interviews are offered to those with well constructed personal statements, who match the above selection criteria. Interviews in themselves, however, often present a further barrier to progression in that the applicant is required to talk to a panel of 2-3 academics for twenty minutes on various topics including their A level subjects, veterinary science in the media, ethical issues, work experience and their extracurricular activities. This process requires a level of intellectual discourse that is foreign to many students, particularly those coming from non traditional backgrounds (McMillan, 2007). The Gateway Programme specifically targets applicants from low income families via a series of socio-economic selection criteria: applicants must qualify for an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA, i.e. household income <£30,810), have attended state schools/colleges and their parents must not have been in higher education (excepting as a mature student). Academic selection criteria are similar those of the traditional veterinary medicine programme. However, A level (CCC) and GCSE (Bs and Cs) requirements are substantially lower. There is also no specific requirement in terms of work experience, nor do applicants need to have sat the BMAT examination. In addition, in September 2007, applicants were accepted with distinctions (DDD) in National Diploma Qualifications (specifically in Animal Management). In spite of our efforts to account for student background in selection for the programme, many of the applicants perform poorly in both their written applications and interviews. Unfortunately, in our quest to identify the strongest applicants, we may well be putting up further (and perhaps insurmountable) barriers to the most underprivileged and deserving. Care is always taken in selecting and appraising staff in undertaking interviews for Gateway applicants. In addition, funds have recently been sought and obtained from the regional branch of the Veterinary Life Long Learning Network ( to develop an online resource for Gateway students, providing support and guidance on application to, and selection for, veterinary medicine.

Programme Design The Gateway programme was set up to open up the field of veterinary medicine to students from low income families. Full details of the programme, its inception, design and first year of delivery can be found in Payne (2007). In summary, it is a year long, modular, pre-vet course designed around key themes in animal science. In contrast to the existing veterinary medicine curriculum (BVetMed), particular emphasis was placed on the underlying teaching and learning processes e.g. encouraging independent learning, problem solving and critical review (as recommended by Marton & Saljo 1976 and Dearing 1997). Factual content, in this case, took second place.

Importance of staff selection Allocation of new teaching responsibilities amongst academic staff can be fraught with difficulty. Even if other workload is removed to account for this, the design and delivery of new material takes a huge amount of creative time and energy that inevitably takes staff away from their main focus, most commonly research or clinical practice. On existing programmes, the temptation is often to adapt existing material to fit the new requirements and in some cases this is unarguably the most effective use of an academic’s time. The major disadvantage to this approach is that teaching materials and methods become stagnant and little thought is given to the over-arching teaching and learning goals. In direct contrast, when setting up a new programme of study, there is a unique opportunity to reflect on past experiences and design new and imaginative curricula that are firmly grounded in current teaching and learning theory.


Almost all of the module leaders recruited for the Gateway programme were relatively young, research active and had recently attended or were enrolled on the King’s Learning Institute (KLI) PGCAP programme. In direct contrast to the BVetMed curriculum (which is tightly governed by the need to meet professional standards), there was relative freedom in the design and delivery of module content. In this way, teaching staff were able to create material based around their specific areas of interest, experimenting with novel teaching and learning methods. The majority of academics (in particular scientists) will have been taught didactically and thus it is perhaps not surprising that they (subconsciously?) focus on content “transmission” when they themselves become the teachers. This style of teaching is presumably less problematic when faced with a small number of intrinsicallymotivated, academically able students, as has traditionally characterised the UK HE student demographic, particularly in the professions. However, didactic teaching can lend itself to a facts-based “surface” approach to learning (Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983; Biggs, 1999), actively discouraging relational, reflective and critical thinking in even the brightest of students (Marton & Saljo, 1976). With the current (and presumably continuing) drive to educate a greater and greater proportion of the population at HE level (see above), and the accompanying changes in student demographics that this will inevitably bring, a heavy reliance on didactic teaching will surely no longer suffice (Gibbs & Habeshaw, 1996; McCarthy, 1987). As mentioned above, many of the Gateway module leaders were enrolled on the Institute’s PGCAP programme and were able to design and develop the content of their modules as part of their assessed work, allowing them to prioritise teaching over scientific research, perhaps for the first time. In the animal movement module, key concepts (e.g. understanding the physics behind blood pressure) were first introduced in practical classes which encouraged students to problem solve and identify gaps in their knowledge. These classes were immediately followed by directed learning sessions where students worked in small groups and spent time researching the concepts further in the library. In the final session, the class came back together to report on progress, work through any remaining problem areas and fill in gaps in factual knowledge. In the first instance, the students were apprehensive about the module content and the rather hands-off (i.e. student-centred) teaching methods. However, end of module feedback was consistently positive, particularly with regard to their surprise at enjoying and succeeding in such a physics-heavy topic.

Academic and pastoral support Student support was deemed to be particularly important for widening participation (WP) students and thus weekly academic and monthly pastoral tutorials were timetabled. Sessions designed around supporting students in their in-course assessments (ICA) and in planning revision at exam time were particularly well received, less so those designed around developing generic skills in scientific reading, writing and arithmetic. The immediate benefits of this system were that students had a regular, safe, small group environment in which to discuss arising issues. Problems were identified early, and addressed before they could escalate. Academic tutors were young Postdoctoral workers and PhD students, which worked well in that they were seen as being more neutral and thus approachable. However, this could be problematic when faced with negative attitudes (so often encountered in tutoring) or disciplinary issues. The role of the course director cannot be underestimated in the support, guidance and, hence, presumably, retention of widening access students. In this particular case, regular contact was maintained via teaching sessions, group emails, one to one tutorials and exam and course work feedback. Each term, all students failing one or more components of the ICA or examinations were encouraged to meet individually with either the course director or learning support officer. Generic group feedback sessions were also timetabled at the end of each term. This extensive support network worked well in catching problems as soon as they arose, reducing the number of referrals to the more formal RVC academic support board (APRICOT). Many of the problems encountered by Gateway students were academic in nature and could be addressed with the appropriate support and guidance from teaching staff and academic tutors. However, other issues of a more personal or pastoral nature also arose that had perhaps not been anticipated, nor encountered before at the RVC. For example, despite a large bursary of £5,700 several students had financial problems that seriously threatened their continuation on the programme (see Bowers-Brown, 2006 for a summary of the financial concerns of students from low income households). Others had to be disciplined for behavioural issues and still others felt unable to continue due to feelings of social alienation and isolation (Yorke & Thomas, 2003).


Student retention has not traditionally been a problem faced by vet schools and other professions such as medicine, dentistry and law. In veterinary medicine, healthy competition for places and strong, long-standing vocational aspirations ensure excellent recruitment and retention rates, almost irrespective of the quality of the student experience. The student experience does however relate directly to our ability to attract the best students and must be addressed in an increasingly competitive market. Indeed, if we succeed in our mission to widen access across all our courses, then there is potentially much to be learnt about student support and retention from this small cohort of students (Thomas, 2002).

Vocational learners In September 2007, the Gateway programme was opened up to students with vocational qualifications, specifically those with three distinctions at National Diploma Level (NND) in Animal Management. Unfortunately, very few of the applicants made it through the selection process, primarily due to an inability to demonstrate a basic (i.e. GCSE) level of understanding in the biological sciences (prohibitive because the Gateway programme is not intended to fill this need). In other cases, poor performance was directly related to poor interview technique, something that thankfully is much easier to solve (see above). All three vocational students currently enrolled on the Gateway programme have excellent animal handling skills but are without doubt weaker in the conceptual underpinnings of the biochemical sciences. This is hardly surprising if one considers the variability in biochemical science provision across further education (FE) colleges (as yet unpublished data from a recent curriculum-mapping exercise commissioned by VetNet LLN). In fact, there is no guarantee that students with an NND in Animal Management will have undertaken any modules in the core sciences – often due to such modules not being on offer rather than due to student preferences. Exam technique is also poor as much of the assessment at NND level is project-based. With this in mind, the RVC is collaborating with Liverpool and Bristol Universities and VetNet LLN to design a pre-Vet Summer School specifically for students from vocational backgrounds, bridging gaps in core science knowledge and preparing them for different styles of teaching and learning.

Performance and evaluation At the inception of the programme, it was far from clear whether we would succeed in our ultimate goal of preparing Gateway students for entry into the academically challenging field of veterinary medicine. However, year on year, the students have continued to surpass any expectation that we might have had of their academic abilities. Of the 2005 cohort, 21 of the original 23 are enrolled in the second year of our BVetMed programme (Gateway is considered to be year zero in a six year programme) and only two have withdrawn due to consistently poor grades. This extremely positive picture continues with the 2006 (19 of original 20 currently enrolled in BVetMed year one) and 2007 (33 students currently enrolled on the Gateway programme) cohorts. We also have one 2005 student studying at Liverpool University (about to enter year three of a five year programme) and two 2007 entry students transferring to study at Bristol University in September of this year. It is important to note that not only are we seeing a healthy number of pass marks (18 students with grades of >50%), merits (5 at >60%) and distinctions (7 at >70%) at the end of Gateway year (2007 cohort) but also a good number of passes and merits in years one (2006 cohort) and two (2005 cohort) of the BVetMed Programme (3 and 4 students respectively achieved marks >60%). In the interest of obtaining some form of external evaluation of our academic programme, we have asked Gateway students, after admission, to sit the Cambridge Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) which is part of our conventional entry admission process and has been shown to be positively linked with HE performance. The few data that we have been able to collect suggest that there is very little difference between the groups in either scientific writing or aptitude and skills. In fact, the only section on which Gateway students underperform is that testing scientific knowledge, reportedly at GCSE level. Normal entry students will have sat the test one year post GCSEs whereas gateway students sit it nearly 3 years post-GCSEs which could account for this difference. However, it does highlight the importance of determining the exact nature of the difference between students with CCC at A level, or DDD at NND, and students with AAA/AAB at A level. Once we have done this, we can more effectively tailor our courses to address their specific educational needs.


Future of widening participation in veterinary medicine Applications for the Gateway programme are up and more places are being awarded each year as a greater proportion of the applicants are actually eligible to apply (after an intensive UK marketing campaign). The question still remains as to whether such an academic top up programme is in fact necessary? Our feeling is that a significant proportion of the students could manage satisfactorily without it. However, a recent focus group revealed that the majority of students (6/7) would, against our expectations, still opt for the Gateway route if offered the choice again. They attributed this to both the stimulating module content, and enthusiastic and imaginative teaching. Small group size (max 33 versus 240) is also likely to play an important role in student perception of the programme, giving them direct and frequent access to academic staff (Trigwell & Prosser, 2004) and allowing them to develop an identity amongst their peers (see Yorke and Thomas, 2003). In fact, many have reported a collegiate feeling amongst their Gateway peers which continues beyond the taught year. For example, when faced with problems of an academic nature, Gateway students will seek out fellow Gateway graduates as a first point of help as they have found that conventional entry students view their peers as competitors rather than colleagues. The programme is also popular among staff, many citing it as their most rewarding teaching role. This is highly likely due to the relatively small (capped) class size, personal control over content and delivery, and certain favourable student characteristics e.g. students are aware of the unique opportunity afforded to them by the Gateway programme and as such are highly motivated but perhaps in a slightly different way to the traditional entry students (Trigwell & Prosser, 2004). Gateway students have not only risen to the academic challenges of veterinary medicine, but have also become fully integrated into the very foundations of the institution. Highly regarded among staff and students alike, they have been elected to the posts of Vice President of the Student Union, Welfare Officer and BVetMed year 1 representative.

Conclusion With the aim of widening access in veterinary medicine, the RVC designed a pre-vet programme specifically for students with low socioeconomic status. Gateway students have surpassed any preconceptions we might have had of their academic abilities and continue to perform on a par with (and in some cases out-perform) students with AAA/AAB at A level. It is still early days, as no students have yet graduated, but much more can and will be learnt from this particular cohort about student selection and retention, and about improving the student (and staff) educational experience. Thus, lessons from this group could ultimately benefit the whole “community of scholars” which is the RVC.

References Allen, L. & Storan, J. (2005) Widening Participation. A Rough Guide for Higher Education Providers (Action on Access, Bradford). Biggs, J. (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University (SRHE & Open University Press, Buckingham). Bowers-Brown, T. (2006) Widening participation in higher education amongst students from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups, Tertiary Education & Management, 12, 59-74. Dearing, (1997) Available as a pdf from (Accessed on 27. November 08). Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2003) The Future of Higher Education, (London: The Stationery Office). Entwistle, N. & Ramsden, P. (1983) Understanding Student Learning (Croom Helm, London). Gibbs, G. & Habeshaw, T. (1996) Learning to Teach: Powerful Ideas in Teaching and Learning (Oxonian Rewley Press Ltd, Oxford). HEFCE (2007/12) Higher Education Outreach: Targeting Disadvantaged Learners (HEFCE, Bristol). Langlands, A. (2005) The Gateways to the Professions Report (DfES Publications, Nottingham). McCarthy, B. (1987) The 4MAT system: Teaching to Learning Styles with Right/Left Techniques (Excel Inc, Barrington IL). Marton, F. & Saljo, R. (1976) On qualitative differences in learning — 1: Outcome and process, British Journal of Educational Psychology. 46, 4-11.


McLean, M. (2004) Is culture important in the choice of role models? Experiences from a culturally diverse medical school, Race Ethnicity and Education, 7, 115-134. McMillan, W. (2007) Understanding diversity as a framework for improving student throughput. Education for Health 7. Available online at: (accessed 16 January 2008). Offa (2005/03) Strategic Plan 2005-10, (Office for Fair Access, Bristol). Offa (2008/01) Access Agreement Monitoring: Outcomes for 2006-7, (Office for Fair Access, Bristol). Payne, R.C. (2007) Encouraging student diversity: a new gateway to veterinary medicine, In Practice, 29, 356359. Thomas, L. (2001) Power, assumptions and prescriptions: a critique of widening participation policy-making, Higher Education Policy, 14(4), 361-376. Thomas, L. (2002) Student retention in higher education: the role of educational habitus, Journal of Education Policy, 17(4), 423-442. Trigwell, K. & Prosser, M. (2004) Development and use of the approaches to teaching inventory, Educational Psychology Review, 16(4), 409-424. Yorke, M. & Thomas, L. (2003) Improving the retention of students from lower socio-economic groups, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 25(1), 63-74.

Address for Correspondence Rachel C. Payne-Davis, The LIVE Centre, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hertfordshire, AL9 7TA.

Notes on Contributors Rachel C. Payne-Davis is manager of the Lifelong Independent Veterinary Education (LIVE) Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), University of London. She was formerly Director of the Gateway Programme (2005-2008).


E-technologies to improve the quality of learning Cécile A. Dreiss Pharmaceutical Science Division, King’s College London Abstract This paper discusses the introduction of computer-based tools in the Pharmacy course, which aim at achieving the following objectives: to give students access to a wider selection of materials, exercises and examples; to provide self-assessment opportunities with direct feedback; to foster learning ‘by doing and experiencing’ rather than ‘being told what to do’; and to facilitate peer-assessment. The e-learning tools were implemented as part of the Pharmacy department’s regular ‘skills weeks’, which are offered to help students to acquire academic and professional abilities. The skills week on ‘Communicating Science’ aims to help students to identify, understand and write in the different styles needed for academic study and professional practice in pharmacy. The tools discussed in this contribution are a Scientific Writing Online Tool (SWOT) implemented in Web-CT and TurnItIn , a plagiarism detection software package. The evaluation of the online materials showed that the underlying teaching and learning principles were successful in enabling students to appreciate the relevance of the topic for their own development, and to understand better and practice the writing conventions in their discipline. From a teacher’s viewpoint, the implementation of the online tools required a substantial amount of time and effort, but once in place, they can easily be modified and expanded, and substantially decrease staff workload in terms of marking, giving feedback and paperwork, while providing a valuable teaching and learning experience. c

Introduction The university landscape has been evolving rapidly over the past few decades. The number of students entering pharmacy undergraduate programmes has risen by 60.7 % between 1994 and 2005, and the proportion of applicants being offered a place has also increased significantly (Hassell et al., 2007). Growing numbers of students and greater diversity of backgrounds means that it is increasingly difficult to provide the personalized feedback and one-to-one interaction that quality teaching would require, and lecture time is simply insufficient to go through all the material that one would wish to cover. Ironically, this is matched by an increasingly customer-minded student population who requests more attention and time (Lomas, 2007; Higgins, 2002). Writing, in particular, is a major challenge for most students entering university, and students with A levels in science often have not had any writing training at secondary school. It is now the task of universities to provide learning support in this critical area, considered as the ‘key assessment tool’ in most programmes (Lillis, 2001), and therefore a frequent cause of failure. I propose that the development of e-learning technologies can offer an answer to escalating student/staff ratios and teachers workload by providing an interactive learning environment which fosters students’ independent learning. In this paper, I discuss the implementation of two e-tools to teach ‘Communicating Science’ to Pharmacy students: a Scientific Writing Online Tool (SWOT) implemented in Web-CT (the main focus of this paper) and the peer-assessment exercise using the platform of TurnItInc, a plagiarism detection device available on the web. The e-learning format was created in response to student and staff dissatisfaction with the previous teaching methods in this module.


In the following, the context of the skills week on ‘Communicating Science’ in the Pharmacy Department is discussed, as well as the previous format of the course. The reasons for introducing new e-tools are then presented. Next, the design principles of SWOT and its various components are described, followed by the peerassessment exercise based on the existing software TurnItInc. Finally, the evaluation of the two online tools through students’ feedback questionnaires is presented.

Context of the Skills week on ‘Communicating Science’ ‘Skills weeks’ were introduced a few years ago in pharmacy as independent study weeks based on specific ‘topics’, such as exam techniques, calculations, literacy, etc. Being outside the strict pharmacy curriculum, they give some flexibility in terms of the content and teaching techniques. However, they are often perceived by students as useless because they are not examined and often not relevant to exam topics. Three years ago, when I started as a new lecturer in Pharmacy, I took over the design and running of a skills week on ‘Communicating Science’, taking place during the second semester of the second year of the Pharmacy degree. The subject of ‘Communicating Science’ encompasses reading and writing for university study and continuing professional development and understanding the need to use different styles and vocabulary to address different audiences. The topic is of significant importance as it is often found that students, especially at the beginning but also until the final year of their studies, have difficulties structuring and writing essays and reports (as seen in essay-type exam questions, final year project reports, lab reports etc), and often fail to understand where they go wrong. They struggle to understand and synthesize information from scientific texts (final project reports, scientific article critique in the final year) and to use the correct scientific terms for addressing different audiences, etc. (Ironically, some feedback forms from students who complain about the uselessness of this skills week are full of English mistakes, clearly highlighting the difficulty of students to evaluate their own weak points…) But the course is particularly relevant to Pharmacy students, as in their profession they will need to communicate with different types of audiences (general public, patients and diverse health professionals such as doctors and nurses) and keep up with progress and knowledge in their field by reading specialised literature. The learning outcomes of the course are the following: • • • •

Understand and recognize the need of different styles used in scientific literature Interpret and critically assess scientific information Communicate science to the non-specialist by means of written articles Provide an understanding of the requirement for Pharmacists to communicate science effectively, both to other scientists and to the general public.

The original view was that assessment in skills weeks should only be formative, since the topics are not part of the Pharmacy curriculum. As a result, the week on ‘Communicating Science’ was not taken seriously by students and extremely low attendance levels were recorded, demonstrating again that most students do not study if ‘it does not count’ (Gibbs & Simpson, 2004). Although viewed as necessary to a good learning environment (Cooper, 2000; Black & William, 1998; Bransford, 2000), formative assessment does not seem to be valued by students and effective strategies need to be found to address this issue. I suggest that one fundamental strength of the e-tools presented in this paper is that they help make formative assessment more appealing and valuable to students. As a result of low attendance levels, when I took over the course three years ago, summative assessment was introduced through a number of tasks that students had to hand in, and which counted towards the final degree. However, the marks have a very low weighing in the final overall coursework mark, and therefore do not seem to motivate students ‘enough’. The feedback questionnaires in the first and second years reflect the overwhelming focus on exams and marks and highlight the difficulties linked to running this module (Table 1).


Table 1. Example of negative feedback on the skills week from the first two years.

Skills week is a ‘waste of time’…

... for not being part of the curriculum and/or not counting enough

Quotes from feedback questionnaires • ‘Give more relevant work to do, e.g. re: the course, e.g. FAD, etc’ • ‘Make it worth in terms of marks. Attach some importance to it’ • ‘So much time was taken completing all the tasks but they did not count for that much, therefore they were a waste of time’ • ‘There was a lot of work that contributes to one piece of the course work grades’

• ‘Have tutorials instead – as we already need to pass A level/GCSE’s to get on Pharm course so we should have the required skills already’ • ‘We have exams coming in a couple of weeks and the time could have been saved to study for them’ … for taking time off revisions, tutorials • ‘Scrap the skills week and give us more time or extra-lectures instead to concentrate on what we have to learn for exams’ • ‘Get rid of skills week and replace with reading week, tutorials or extra lectures. We are paying for this course!’ • ‘Convert Skills week to reading week. If you would like to see us in the third year, this would be the most useful thing you guys can do’

Previous format and the need for change The previous format (first two years) included the following elements: two lectures (a general introduction and a lecture on science journalism) and three pieces of coursework. The students had to: (i) Devise 20 MCQ questions based on a Pharmacy magazine article (typically used by Pharmacists for Continuing Professional Development, CPD) (ii) Write a newspaper article (in journalistic style) based on a full-length scientific paper; (iii) Spot mistakes and suggest corrections to a student lab report. Some improvements were made from the first to the second year, for instance helping students to extract key points from the scientific article by setting questions, but no drastic changes were made. The modifications were helpful (as gathered from students feedback forms: ‘answering the questions made it a lot clearer to me’) and the quality of the newspaper articles was overall superior to the previous year. However, I felt that there were a number of limitations to the existing format: (i) Devising the MCQ questions did not really help achieve the learning objectives, which were to make students reflect on the CPD article in terms of the style used, the target audience etc. In addition, students needed to spend a substantial amount of time on the task, which could have been used more efficiently; (ii) Translating a scientific paper into a newspaper article is a valuable exercise, but many students still did not understand what they were doing wrong; they needed to be exposed to more examples, and perhaps be put a position where they could evaluate their peers’ work, to appreciate their own mistakes; (iii) The lab report, which was converted to a group work, partly to reduce the marking, still generated a considerable amount of marking, and the issue that not all students in a team may get the same opportunity to participate was not resolved. Overall, the whole module involved quite a lot of time spent on paperwork (photocopying, splitting the tasks between groups) and marking, which was disproportionate to the outcomes.


Although some students had acknowledged the improvements made to the course, there was still a need for more substantial changes. In particular, there was a need to (i) make the course more efficient in terms of time spent on marking/paperwork, and time spent by students on each of the tasks; (ii) make the course more attractive and interactive in order to motivate students, as the ‘fear of exams’ factor did not come into play; (iii) convince students of the relevance of the subject by exposing them to a wider range of materials and helping them to see ‘the bigger picture’; (iv) promote self-assessment and peer-assessment, because receiving direct feedback from the lecturer on a whole range of points is impractical; (v) overall, make formative assessment work!

The advantages of e-learning for developing academic literacy E-learning technologies can be used both as a way to supply basic skills, knowledge and information that students can access. They can facilitate deeper learning (Fox & MacKeogh, 2003), and offer more flexible learning opportunities for students (Conole & Fill, 2005). They provide an interactive opportunity for selfassessment, which becomes a learning experience in itself (James et al., 2002). They also offer other advantages such as monitoring students learning (controlling access to web-based exercises), decreasing staff workload (marking, contact hours, etc) and providing instant feedback, a fundamental requirement of a good learning environment (Chickering & Gamson, 1987) and a recurrent criticism of students (Gibbs & Simpson, 2004). Elearning tools may help provide a response to the escalating students-to-staff ratio by offering the opportunity of formative assessment, no longer possible in the overcrowded lecture theatre (Nicholls, 2002, p.94) and in decline in UK universities (Gibbs & Simpson, 2004), but central to learning, both by motivating the students and directing their learning (Bransford et al., 2000). Several studies have reported a positive outcome from the application of formative assessment to e-learning environments (Wang, 2007; Sly, 1999). With the current format, I do not have time to go through many examples and the lecture environment is not adapted to do so (students remain passive), but a web-based tool can bring together efficiently a wide selection of materials, exercises and examples (Nicholls 2002). E-learning can offer a framework for constructivist learning by providing “the resources necessary for students to engage in rich and effective construction of knowledge” (Doolittle, 1999, p. 1). These include non-linear presentation of links to essential information, access to texts and other students’ written work through PDF files, and pop-up windows, with integrated feedback and further information. The constructivist approach is an important principle in the design of SWOT, which is described in more detail below.

Materials and Methods Design principles of SWOT SWOT was adapted from an online pre-induction course (OPIC) that was first developed for different subjects in the Social Sciences and Humanities (Wingate 2008,). The programme was created with a generic structure on the platform of WebCT Vista. SWOT was directly adapted from one of the five modules available in the original tool on ‘Academic Writing’. The general layout of the OPIC was kept almost the same, but a wider variety of scientific literature was introduced to meet the learning outcomes of the skills week: published literature from Pharmacy magazines, scientific journals and general audience newspapers, and authentic coursework written by Pharmacy students all carefully selected for their relevance to the Pharmacy course, and where possible, authored by lecturers in the Pharmacy Department, in order to make them more meaningful to students. The design was based on constructivist, experiential and situated learning theories (Wingate 2008). Constructivism considers that the direct transmission of knowledge (the traditional teacher-centred lecture format) cannot lead to learning. Instead, students need to ‘construct knowledge’, and this can only be done when they are given the opportunity to find answers independently by engaging in meaningful learning activities (Biggs, 2003). Experiential learning refers to the need of learners to experience problems, reflect on them and find out solutions (Kolb, 1984). The OPIC tool was designed in order to avoid long lists of instructions, which do not help students to learn; instead, activities were designed in a way that students could find out principles and understand concepts by themselves. The activities include “authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used in real life”, and “authentic activities” (Herrington & Oliver, 2000).


This principle is in line with situated learning theories, which propose that knowledge and skills are learned from situations that resemble real life (Brown, 1997). Examples of these in SWOT are case studies, Pharmacy journal and practice articles, tutors comments on student essays, and practical tasks that use written work taken from Pharmacy essays and reports.

Components of SWOT The different sections included in the tool are presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Structure of SWOT



2. Possible problems with essay writing 2.1. Case study 1 2.2. Case study 2 3. 3.1 3.2 3.3

Identifying features of Scientific Writing Journal article Pharmacy practice article Newspaper article

4. 4.1. 4.2. 4.3. 4.4.

Writing for the Pharmacy Course: what do tutors expect? What tutors say List of comments on an essay Tutor feedback on an essay Student lab report

5. Practising some skills 5.1. Paragraph 5.2. Shortening sentences 6.


The case studies present first-year students experiencing difficulties with their first writing assignments (time management; selecting and reporting literature; developing an argument, being critical/analytical). The task for students is to identify these problems and think of ways of avoiding them. In the next section (Tables 2 to 5), the students are presented with journal articles, pharmacy practice magazine articles, newspaper articles, which they need to read and find out for themselves typical features of scientific writing in these different types of texts (structure, vocabulary, etc). Table 3. Two tasks from the section ‘Identifying features of Scientific Writing’ based on the scientific articles. Task 1 Please skim through the two articles (Article 1 & Article 2) and note down features that you think are typical of an academic article. Pay attention to presentation and style. Write down a list of the features you’ve discovered and give an example of each feature. Please compare your list of typical features with that in the Model answer Task 2 Find more examples of signposting in Article 1 & Article 2. Find more examples of the use of passive style. Please click here to see the Model answer for task 2. After you have completed Task 1 & Task 2, move onto the next section and find out about the typical features of Pharmacy Practice type of journals. 45

Table 4. Task from the section on ‘Identifying features of Scientific Writing’ based on the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) articles Questions_on_CPD_articles Question 1: What is CPD and continuing education (CE)? Question 2: Why is CPD important? Question 3. Comment on the structure common to all the CPD articles (write down the different sections they contain). What does that tell you about their objectives? Question 4: Who is the target audience of this type of publications? Question 5: What are the main differences between this type of articles (CPD and CE) and research articles such as the ones presented in the previous section? After you have finished answering these questions for yourself, look at the model answer and then move onto the next section, where you will learn about yet another type of scientific writing: the newspaper article. Table 5. Task from the section on ‘Identifying features of Scientific Writing’ based on the newspaper articles Questions_Newspapers_Articles Questions of the newspaper articles 1.

What are the common features of this type of writing?


Can you spot differences in style between the different newspapers? After you have spent some time to find answers to these questions and written down a few notes, have a look at the model answer.

This is the last type of ‘scientific’ writing that you will learn about in this tutorial. In the next section you will now learn about improving your writing! In section 4 (Table 2), students need to find for themselves criteria for writing good essays, with tutors comments on marks and criteria for ‘good/bad’ essays and an example of a good Pharmacy student essay (from a final year student). A tutor’s Powerpoint presentation with feedback on a specific essay is also given and the students are asked to derive their own list of guidelines for essay writing from the tutors’ comments and feedback under the headings ‘content’ and ‘structure’. In the final section, students are given an opportunity to internalise these guidelines by applying them. They are asked to correct mistakes in a student lab report, insert paragraphs in an unstructured student essay (reproduced from a Pharmacy final year project report) and divide overlong sentences into shorter ones (reproduced and adapted from a Pharmacy MSc project report). The second task and the accompanying model answer are shown in Appendices 1 and 2 as screenshots.

Design principles of the peer-assessment exercise (TurnItInc) TurnItIn was used to facilitate a peer-review exercise. It was implemented, as explained in the introduction, as a result of the failure of the existing format to teach students how to write a newspaper article and understand their own mistakes. The objectives of the tool were to give a more active role to students, put them in the position of an assessor, and give them the opportunity to read a wider range of articles, which would help them see for themselves what they were doing wrong in their own written work, as well as find ideas to improve it. Set-up of the task Students were asked to produce a newspaper article from a scientific paper (a selection of 8 different articles were given to the whole cohort), and submit it to TurnItInc. Students were then randomly and anonymously assigned 2 articles from their peers, which they had to review during a 1-hour timetabled session. The articles assigned to each student originated from the same scientific paper. For their critique, students were given a list of criteria to consider and questions to answer and then asked to assign marks from 1 to 5 on different criterias. The questions given to the students for their peer-assessment were the following: 46

Open questions 1. Please comment on the title. Is it appropriate and why? How could it be improved? 2. Content. Is the essential information of the article correctly reproduced? Is there too much information, or some important bits missing? Is the information organized correctly? 3. Format. Is the format and structure appropriate for a newspaper article (use of the lead paragraph, structuring of the following paragraphs, etc)? Grading questions How would you rate the title from 1(very bad) to 5 (very good)? How would you rate the content from 1(very bad) to 5 (very good)? How would you rate the format from 1(very bad) to 5 (very good)? Overall, do you think the student has succeeded in writing a good newspaper-style article? (1: not at all â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 5: absolutely) Evaluation of the two e-tools The e-tools were evaluated by online questionnaires that the cohort of 87 Pharmacy students had to submit at the end of the session.


Results 1. SWOT 1.1. Implementation of SWOT SWOT was implemented in February 2008, for the second-year cohort of 87 students. Despite the amount of material covered by the online tool and the length of time needed to go through all of it, a 2-hour class session was set-up in order to get the students started on the tool; they would then be given further access to it during the week to go further and complete the tasks they could not finish. The students were split into two groups (ca. 50 students/group) and 2 tutors assigned to each group. My main concern was to avoid students simply browsing through the model answers, without making genuine attempts at the exercises. The class session was mainly setup for this reason, but in addition, students were asked to write down some elements of response as they went along and hand in their draft at the end of the session. The tutors in each group were asked to circulate amongst students to check that they were doing the work seriously, but also to engage in a dialogue with them, test their understanding and hear their spontaneous views about the tool. The students were then asked to fill in an online feedback form to give their opinion about the tool. Before evaluating the results from the structured feedback, some points came across clearly during and after the session, and from discussions with the tutors. The timing of the session was delicate. While some students left the room after 1 hour and a half (obviously not having worked seriously through the tool), most did not finish and students found the amount of material quite daunting. On the other hand, some students complained that they found it difficult to concentrate for two hours, and the concentration was visibly going down after 1 hour and a half. Other difficulties were linked to the computer-based nature of the task and the set-up of the room: students were easily distracted, browsing the internet, checking emails, or chatting with students who were leaving the room. In order to improve this and reassure students who were stressed by the lack of time and the amount of material, we will need to emphasize that the session in class is an ‘introductory session’ and that they are not expected to go through everything in detail, but should take the time to do so at home. Quite a few positive points also came across very clearly from the session. Although the groups were quite large, the session gave an opportunity to tutors to talk to students at length, and get a good feel of students’ impressions. This showed that most of them were doing the work seriously. Some expressed their wish to have access to the material over the whole year and expressed regrets that this type of information had not been given to them before. These are very valid points, and as a result, the skills week will be shifted to the beginning of the academic year (and may be moved to first year in the future). 1.2. Results from the student evaluation of SWOT. The online questionnaire consisted of the following, mainly open-ended questions: 1. What do you think was the most useful section/feature of this tutorial and why? 2. What was the least useful section/feature and why? 3. What question did you enjoy the most? 4. Did you find it difficult to navigate through the tasks or perform some of the tasks? Why? 5. Rate the programme’s sections from 1 (‘not useful at all’) to 5 (‘very useful’). Please write comments wherever possible to justify your answer. 6. What could you suggest to improve this tool (content and format)? 84 out of 87 students answered the questionnaire. From the answers, an overall very positive response came across. The students enjoyed the format (web-based tool) and the practical tasks; the way it ‘made them think’ and ‘learn’; the availability of model answers; the possibility to keep it as a reference for the future (Table 6). From the students’ answers, it also appears quite clearly that they learnt by ‘doing’ and that they found the range of examples and material particularly useful (for instance examples of ‘what not to do’ and tips on what tutors expect). There was clearly an element of ‘fun’, which I think is a major asset of computer-based tools, and the students seem to have engaged fully with the material, obviously with varying degree of interest for the different tasks. Students who picked up the ‘essay writing’ as their preferred section highlighted the ‘relevance’ of it, in terms of their course and exam requirements,


compared to other topics covered in the tool, again showing that they are very much focused on the curriculum and exams. Some complained about the excess of material (they had to ‘rush’) and the fact that all the tasks were not directly relevant to their course and lectures (Table 7). Table 6. Selected answers to the feedback questionnaire on SWOT, question 1 and 3: ‘What do you think was the most useful section/feature of this tutorial and why?’/ ‘What section did you enjoy doing the most?’ • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

The tasks were good as it gave us some practice into how to write good articles That it was computer based There were model answers so helps us see where we went wrong General comments form tutors because it made me aware of points where one could easily lose marks Everything was fairly useful, since we were able to compare similarities and differences that exist between them in terms of style and content the helpful hints, and the way it made you think about the way things are done what tutors say. it was interesting to actually get some useful information and tips into how to answer essay questions. it was useful for the future and also was easy to relate to. detailed explanations + examples the model answers were very useful because although I did answer the questions independently, it was useful to be able to check my answer and learn from it. also the section with the tutors comments was very useful as well for future references when writing essays. Checking mistakes of other people and finding out what a model answer should include. Seeing how the structure of an article is set out. looking at the articles was the most useful bit and then answering the questions as it made you think about the articles structure. General comments from tutors because it made me aware of points where one could easily lose marks Analysing the bad student lab report. It is easier to see what not to do than what we should be doing. It was interactive and allowed students to contribute their own information I thought it was good to see what the common problems are for finding out what markers tend to find as a problem, when marking our work I enjoyed the parts where we had to spot and correct the errors as it allows you to use the things that you have learnt and apply them to produce a good piece of work. the journal written by our professor, Dr.Nathan's article on acne (acne vulgaris) was quite interesting and was appealing and kept me engaged. Section 2, looking at the problems with essay writing as I feel I can relate to it and it helped me think about how I can go about writing essay or dealing with problems I may have in the future. enjoyed looking at the case studies at the beginning because it gave a greater insight and helped more Evaluating Kiran and Andrew's problems, as I feel like sometimes I experience those same problems. It was fun to problem solve.

Table 7. Selected answers to the feedback questionnaire on SWOT, question 2: What was the least useful and why?’ • • • • • • • • •

There were too many articles; less would have been more effective. more time needed tutorial was extremely tedious and work could have been covered more usefully in a 30 min lecture web based learning not very effective newspaper analysis. Interesting but I don’t think that it is relevant to anything I will do in the future other than one piece of coursework the overload of features that are offered. It should be narrowed down to more specific info exclude activities that I really learn from the differences in style between newspapers, as it is not really related to our degree. Having to read through so many different publications. It’s too time consuming.


Overall, the likes and dislikes between all the tasks were equally shared; all appeared a number of times as ‘least useful’ (question 2), ‘most useful’ (question 1) and ‘enjoyable’ (question 3), showing that they appealed to a broad population of students. The overall rating (question 5, Figure 1) shows that most tasks achieved an average score above 3.5 (out of 5), which demonstrate that all the tasks were perceived as relevant and useful. There were no specific difficulties linked to the format of the exercise, and the vast majority of students found navigating through the tasks very straightforward (question 4): ‘was well highlighted and plenty of links to help navigate through the course along with the help bar on the left’; ‘the instructions were clear and all of the links were working’; ‘the site was set out well’ In terms of suggestions of improvement for the tool (question 6), some students suggested to ‘shorten it’, ‘otherwise loosing focus/ tiring to look at a computer screen for 2 hours’ or ‘ focus more on activities relevant to the course’ and ‘move it to the beginning of the year’. Over 10% of the students found it ‘perfect’.

2. Student evaluation of the newspaper peer-assessment. Overall, the 1-hour session went quite smoothly and overall students seemed to have enjoyed the task and enjoyed experiencing ‘what it feels like to mark someone’s work’. 80 students completed the online questionnaire, which contained the following questions: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Did you find the scientific article difficult to understand? Did you find it difficult to write the newspaper article? Did you find writing the newspaper article enjoyable? Did you encounter any difficulties with the TurnItIn software (submission of your article/submission of your critique)? 5. Did you find it difficult to evaluate one of your peers’ article? 6. Did you find it useful to read and evaluate one of peers’ article? 7. Please use this space to add any general comments on this task. The results of the feedback questionnaire showed that students would have preferred to have the task scheduled earlier in the year because it taught them useful skills. This was a general criticism of this skills week, which has been taken into account for next year. Some answers still reflected the focus on marks, or the need of tasks more directly relevant to the coursework or exams; however, the proportion of such comments was far lower than in the first two years: ‘Yes it was enjoyable but it would have been more beneficial if we had to write a mock essay rather than a newspaper article’; ‘Nice to have something different, but felt reading week would have been better spent covering work (…) rather [than] the "pharmacist in the street" idea’; ‘It was not enjoyable because it took time out of my revision schedule’. Instead, it was quite refreshing to see that many students enjoyed the task because it was quite different from their regular curriculum and giving them a new experience (Table 8). In addition, many perceived that the skills that they had acquired could be transferred to other types of activities during their studies (Table 9). On the specific task of reviewing peers’ article, a very positive response was received. Students comments reflect how by ‘doing and experiencing’, rather than ‘being told’, they were able to learn something about their own mistakes, and about how their own work is evaluated by teachers (Table 9): ‘gave ideas on where I went wrong and also other approaches that I never thought about’; ‘helped me to find out how to improve my skills’; ‘helps you get into the mind of the reader’.


Table 8. Selected answers to the feedback questionnaire on article peer-review, showing that the task was perceived a useful and different. • • • • • • • • •

‘I thought it was a different and enjoyable task’ ‘it was a different concept and the scientific article was interesting to read also It was a nice change from the regular curriculum. ‘to a certain degree it was refreshing to write something different from the normal coursework. ‘it was a good experience and taught a different style of writing’ ‘Yes it was a bit difficult at first but I enjoyed it because it was different from doing lab reports’ ‘I felt like the journalist. It was a good opportunity to do something different besides lectures.’ was something new and interesting which I enjoyed doing.. At first I felt it was time wasting but later on as I continued I found it really useful to be able to read and understand scientific articles as it has been an area of my course that I try to shy away from. Indeed this task has greatly alleviated my fears

Table 9. Selected answers to the feedback questionnaire on article peer-review, showing that the task was useful to students in teaching them transferable skills. • ‘It was fun writing the newspaper article because it was like writing revision notes as I had to summarise the scientific article.’ • interesting and could help in future for writing exercises. • I thought this was a useful task and skill to gain for the future • It will help improve our analytical skills. On the specific task of reviewing peers article, a very positive response was received. Students comments reflect how by ‘doing and experiencing’, rather than ‘being told’, they were able to learn something about their own mistakes, and about how their own work is evaluated by teachers (Table 9): ‘gave ideas on where I went wrong and also other approaches that I never thought about’; ‘helped me to find out how to improve my skills’; ‘helps you get into the mind of the reader’.

Conclusions From a teacher’s perspective, e-tools (and here SWOT in particular) require quite a substantial amount of preparation work. SWOT required significant data gathering and structuring (instead, the newspaper peer-assessment tool was almost pain-free, since the articles were simply reused from previous years, and the programme was available online). However, the tasks were quite fun to setup. In addition, once prepared, there was very little work during the week, no paperwork and far less marking. The format enabled substantial staff-student interaction, which was very positive. The tools are now ready for next year, with minimal preparation work, and they can obviously be easily modified and complemented. This preliminary experimentation has demonstrated the possibility of extending those tools to other activities. Once further evaluations have confirmed the initial findings, SWOT could be adapted to other contexts, as a learning support for students in higher education. From the students viewpoint (as gathered from the evaluation questionnaire and direct feedback during and after the sessions), the two online tools were perceived as quite an enjoyable way of learning. SWOT can be kept as a valuable resource for future reference, with easy-access. Students were able to receive direct feedback on their mistakes, which would not have been possible in a traditional format. They learnt by experiencing and doing, and were able to internalise better what they were doing wrong, in essay writing for instance, by being exposed to other students written work. They were able to understand better the relevance of the topic by being exposed to a wider range of material and therefore see a broader picture than what would have been possible with a lecture format. Although further evaluation will be necessary, the present results suggest that online tools could be effective not only in the context of scientific writing, but also for the development of other skills that students need for academic study, for instance numeracy, and for continuous professional development.


Acknowledgements I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Matthew Taylor, Learning Technology Officer in the Pharmacy Department, whose help was crucial in the implementation of the project. I would also like to thank Ursula Wingate, for having introduced me to OPIC and giving me access to it, and former MPharm students, Khilna Shah and Nazia Ahmad, for agreeing to have some of their written work reproduced in SWOT.

References Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for quality learning at university (2nd Ed.) (Open University Press, Buckingham). Black, P. & William, D. (1998) Assessment and classroom learning, Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7-75. Bransford, J. Brown, A. & Cocking, R. (2000) How People Learn: Mind, Brain, Experience and School, Expanded Edition. (National Academy Press, Washington, DC). Brown, A. (1997) Transforming schools into communities of thinking and learning about serious matters, American Psychologist, 52(4), 399-413. Chickering, A. & Gamson, Z. (1987) Seven principles to good practice in undergraduate education, The Wingspread Journal, 9(2). Conole, G. & Fill, K. (2005) A learning design toolkit to create pedagogically effective learning activities, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 8, 1 – 16. Cooper, N. (2000) Facilitating learning from formative feedback in level 3 assessment, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 25(3), 279-291. Doolittle, P. (1999) Constructivism and Online Education. Available online at: (Accessed on 16 April, 2008). Fox, S. & MacKeogh, K. (2003) Can e-learning promote higher-order learning without tutor overload? Open Learning, 18(2), 121 – 134. Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004) Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3-31. Hassell, K., Seston, E., Eden, M. & Willis, S. (2007) The UK pharmacy degree: attrition rates and demographics of non-completers, Pharmacy Education, 7(3), 249 – 256. Herrington, J. & Oliver, R. (2000) An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 23-48. Higgins, R., Hartley, P. & Skelton, A. (2002) The conscientious consumer: reconsidering the role of assessment feedback in student learning, Studies in Higher Education, 27(1), 53-64. James, R., McInnis, C. & Devlin, M. (2002) Assessing Learning in Australian Universities, Ideas, Strategies and Resources for Quality in Student Assessment, Published by the Centre for the Study of Higher education & the Australian Universities Teaching Committee, or: (Accessed on 27 November 2008). Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning. (Prentice Hall, New Jersey). Lillis, T. (2001) Student Writing: Access, Regulation, Desire (Routledge, London, New York). Lomas, L. (2007) Are students consumers? Quality in Higher Education, 13(1), 31-44. Nicholls, G. (2002) Developing Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, (Routledge, London). Sly, L. (1999) Practice tests as formative assessment improve students performance on computer managed learning assessments, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 24(3), 339-344 Wang, T. (2007) What strategies are effective for formative assessment in an e-learning environment?, Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning, 23, 171-186 Wingate, U. (2008a) Enhancing students’ transition to university through online pre-induction courses, in: Donnelly, R. & F. McSweeney (Eds.) Applied e-Learning and e-Teaching in Higher Education (IGI Group, in press).

Address for Correspondence Cécile Dreiss, cé Pharmaceutical Science Division, King’s College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, London SE1 9NH

Notes on Contributor Cécile Dreiss was appointed as a Lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy, King’s College London, in September 2005, where she teaches Pharmaceutics. She is particularly interested in issues linked to students’ transition to university and the use of web-based tools to improve teaching and learning. 52

Appendix 1: Screenshot of the paragraph exercise


Appendix 2: Screenshot of part of the model answer for the paragraph exercise


Developing innovative methods for assessing clinical competency on mental health training courses Harvey Wells Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London Abstract Traditional methods of assessing academic achievement are inadequate in clinical skills training as they fail to demonstrate that the student has achieved the desired skills identified in the course learning outcomes. The Section of Mental Health Nursing has developed a model of good practice for assessing students’ clinical skills on mental health training courses. Students are required to complete a twenty-minute clinical roleplay with an actor playing the role of a client with severe mental illness. The roleplay session is assessed using a validated clinical skills scale by two tutors and either a service user with severe mental illness or a carer of someone with a severe mental illness. The tutors have found that this examination more accurately assesses the students against the course learning outcomes, as the examination demonstrates to what extent the students have been able to learn the skills from the training course. The adoption of a new method of assessment has changed the focus of the courses. The students are now much more engaged with the skills aspects of the course as they know from the beginning that their skills will be assessed. Feedback comments from students, assessors and the external moderator have all been extremely positive about the new assessment strategy. The benefits and issues raised by changing assessment methods will be discussed.

Introduction The Section of Mental Health Nursing (the ‘Section’) at the Institute of Psychiatry offers a range of short courses for qualified mental health professionals. These courses are designed as to equip the mental health professional with the knowledge and skills to work effectively with patients with severe mental illness. The courses are ten weeks in length and are comprised of two main parts: 1) a review of the existing evidence base and an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of the treatment approaches; and 2) a package of psychosocial interventions based on the theories and evidence. The teaching team met for an away day to discuss the implications of the National Health Service Knowledge and Skills Framework (Department of Health (DoH), 2004) and the King’s College London (KCL) Credit Framework (2007). This gave the team the opportunity to address some longstanding concerns with the existing courses. This paper will focus on the assessment strategy of the courses and discuss the process of changing this strategy. It will begin by highlighting the concerns raised by the team regarding the existing assessment strategy. An outline of the new assessment strategy will then be discussed. A summary of the outcomes that emerged as a result of changing the assessments will conclude the paper.


The Existing Assessment Strategy “Assessment systems dominate what students are oriented towards in their learning” (Gibbs, 1992: 10) The students on the courses were assessed using a 3000-word case study, designed to demonstrate their use of psychosocial interventions with patients with severe mental illness in their own practice settings. This essay also required the students to write a critical review the relevant literature, link their use of interventions with the evidence and reflect on their practice. The essays were submitted six weeks after the end of the course. This was to give the students the opportunity to practice the skills they had learned on the course and the time to write this up. The first issue raised regarding the case study assignments was that there was a significant delay in the turnaround of student grades. Due to the volume of essays to double-mark, the external moderation process and difficulties convening an exam board, students submitting on time could not expect to get a grade for several months after submitting their work. This caused problems for students wanting to go on to further study. The time delay was compounded for those students who submitted late, had mitigating circumstances, or were required to resubmit their assignment. The more cynical members of the team also wondered whether the students were making use of the six weeks to practice their skills and write up their essay, or were simply procrastinating as some evidence suggests (Rust, 2002). The second problem has already been hinted at above, that of the enormous use of staff resources to mark these essays. Each essay needed to be double marked, with any grading discrepancies resolved between the assessors. A selection was then sent to the external examiner for moderation. This all resulted in a huge amount of time spent marking assignments. It was calculated that the Section spent an equivalent of one tutor marking for an entire three months of the year. The next issue raised was regarding the academic writing skills of some of the students. The students on the courses in Mental Health Nursing are typically more ethnically diverse and from a wider age range than other degree level courses. Many of the students have been in clinical practice and out of education for many years. Academic writing is a complex skill, when not used will go rusty (Elander, et al., 2006). Some students appeared to be unable to demonstrate an ability to write in a clear and concise way. Regardless of how good a student was at demonstrating good quality clinical skills, if they were unable to adequately report this in the essay they would be unlikely to pass. So were the essays setting some students up to fail? It was very hard for tutors to detect which students needed study skills support as the case study was submitted six weeks after the end of the course. By the time the case study was submitted and graded it was too late to go back and help the student. Some students were resourceful and found alternative solutions to tackle the problem of poor academic writing skills. A small number of students utilised strategies that are in breach of academic regulations. One student used a ‘ghost-writing service’, while other students copied other people’s work. For some students this may have been due to naivety, but this would still result in an academic fail. For other students, copying or passing off work as their own was more malicious. Past cases in the Section have resulted in academic failure, withdrawal from the course and disciplinary action from the student’s employer. Other students completely falsified client work in their essay to make it appear that they had achieved the learning outcomes. There is some evidence to show that when the assessment task is of little or no relevance to the student beyond passing then they are more likely to justify cheating (Carroll & Appleton, 2001). Plagiarism and falsification are difficult to detect and there is no incentive for tutors to search for it. As a minimum, plagiarism creates additional work for the teaching team and worst case scenarios have resulted in tutors being asked to give evidence in disciplinary hearings. The final complaint about the existing assessment structure, but by no means the least, was whether the case study was assessing the learning objectives of the courses (shown in figure 1). The main aim of the course was to equip the professional with the skills to be able to work effectively with patients with mental health problems.


This was clearly the key objective from the employer’s point of view, as NHS Trusts were paying for the student to attend the course in order to see measurable improvements in services for people with mental health problems. Yet it seems that the case study was assessing the student’s ability to clearly and coherently capture their skills in writing. At best, written case studies only infer clinical competency and at worst, it is likely that there is no clear link between a student’s ability to work clinically with patients and their ability to write coherently (Hager, et al, 1994).

Figure 1: Learning Outcomes for a course in Mental Health Nursing Generic Learning Outcomes for a course in Mental Health Nursing 1. Critically evaluate research literature relating to nature of severe mental illness 2. Successfully engage a client with severe mental illness in a concordant therapeutic alliance 3. Perform an integrated assessment of need 4. Complete an assessment of risk and demonstrate safe practice 5. Formulate a client-oriented problem and goal statement 6. Utilise key interventions at the appropriate stage in the treatment 7. Apply the transtheoretical model of change. 8. Apply key techniques for promoting health behaviour change 9. Apply key cognitive-behavioural techniques 10. Develop a relapse prevention strategy with a client. 11. Address the significant issues relating to severe mental illness, such as social exclusion and physical health concerns 12. Integrate the student’s learning into practice in their service environment, identifying barriers and ways of overcoming obstacles to effective service delivery 13. Demonstrate increased awareness of the service user and carer perspectives

Further to the problems outlined above, the course tutors expected the students to practice the skills and interventions taught in class when they were being assessed by a case study. Ramsden (1992) reported that, ‘from our students’ point of view, assessment always defines the actual curriculum’ (p.187). Although some students worked hard at improving their clinical skills, for the majority there seemed little point in wasting time on the skills as they were being assessed in writing. This suggests that students were, at best, engaged in surface learning of the skills component (Marton & Säljö, 1976). Given all these problems with the case study and the imminent introduction of the Credit Framework, the teaching staff in the Section decided this was a timely opportunity to change the assessment strategy. The next section of this paper outlines the new assessment strategy.

The New Assessment Strategy

Assessment defines what students regard as important [and] how they spend their time… If you want to change student learning then change the methods of assessment (Brown, et al, 1997: 7)

According to Biggs’ model of Constructive Alignment (1996, 1999) the teaching team needed to clarify what they wanted the students in Mental Health Nursing to learn (learning objectives) and then develop a coherent pedagogic strategy that is likely to achieve those objectives. Finally, assessments are aligned to the learning outcomes by placing the students in a situation that is likely to elicit the required learning outcomes. It was impossible to use one single assessment format given the complex array of knowledge and skills contained in the learning outcomes (Val Wass, et al, 2001). Therefore a multi-method assessment strategy was agreed upon, comprising of a 1.5 hour unseen examination, a clinical skills examination and weekly homework assignments. The next part of this paper will detail each of these assessments in turn. 57

The 1.5 hour unseen examination was developed on the newly adopted virtual learning environment, WebCT. Twenty-five multiple choice questions, each worth one point, were designed to assess the knowledge aspect of the student’s learning. Five short answer questions, each worth ten points, were designed to assess the student’s ability to apply their knowledge in various problem-based scenarios. This examination contributes to 50% of the overall grade for the course. There are numerous criticisms aimed at multiple choice exams (i.e. Biggs, 1996), as they only tend to assess the lowest level of the cognitive domain in Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956: see figure 2) (Marso & Pigge, 1991). However, the teaching team felt that by developing complex questions that assessed comprehension the use of multiple choice questions were appropriate for the courses. In addition, the multiple choice questions were given a relatively low weighting in the overall grade (one-third of the WebCT exam and one-sixth of the overall grade). The majority of the grade for this exam (two-thirds) is awarded by correctly answering the short answer questions. These questions are written to assess the students’ application of information from the course by creating problems for the students to solve. The short answer questions are scenarios where the student is expected to apply what they have learned by formulating a care strategy for a client having been given certain pieces of information. However, the student must demonstrate that they understand their care strategy by providing a rationale. In summary, the short answers assess what the student plans to do in a given clinical situation and why. Figure 2: Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Adapted from: Bloom (1956)

The clinical skills exam comprises of a role play session with an actor playing the role of a ‘patient’ with severe mental illness. The student is expected to demonstrate the skills they have learned in class by successfully engaging the patient and delivering psychosocial interventions in collaboration with the patient. The student is assessed on their use of skills on a standardised therapy scale, The Cognitive Therapy Scale (Young & Beck, 1980), by two tutors and a service user or a carer. Upon completion of the session with the patient, the student is expected to reflect on their experience and highlight what they did well and what they would do differently next time. The student’s role play is video recorded so that marking discrepancies can be resolved and the grading can be externally moderated. If the student is unsuccessful on their first attempt, the recording provides an excellent focus for a tutorial to improve their skills. The student also receives a copy with written feedback from the assessors so they can continue to learn from the course and their experience of completing the exam. This examination makes up the remaining 50% of their overall grade.


The third assessment strategy utilised is weekly homework assignments, comprising of practicing the interventions in the workplace and writing these up as a brief one-page summary. These are designed to help the student integrate what they have learned from the classroom into practice and encourage reflection on their use of the psychosocial interventions. The homework tasks are returned to the student the following week with qualitative feedback written by the tutor, but they are not graded, nor do they contribute to the student’s overall grade. The feedback is designed to encourage further reflection and improve practice. This type of feedback has been shown to produce the most significant learning outcomes (Butler 1988).

Outcomes The new assessment strategy has produced a number of positive outcomes in the areas of: marking and elimination of plagiarism; increased opportunities to provide students with feedback; involvement of service users and carers; and students learning more meaningfully. Firstly, the examinations are very quick to mark which has significantly reduced the marking burden. This has resulted in a much faster turn-around of student grades than with academic essays and has released staff to focus on other duties. The issues of plagiarism and falsification of essays has been eliminated as the new exam structure provides no opportunities for the misrepresentation of students’ work. The new assessment strategy has created more opportunities to provide students with feedback as the course progresses and afterwards. The homework tasks allow the tutor to ascertain the student’s progress and grasp of the subject prior to the examinations. If a student has misunderstood an aspect of the course the tutor can arrange some time with the student to address this concern before it impacts on their grade. The standardised therapy scale allows the practitioner to calibrate their use of skills against others’ performance (Vallis, et al., 1986) highlighting strengths and areas for improvement. Video recording the clinical skills assessment gives the practitioners the rare opportunity to see their own skills from the point of view of an observer (Gibbons, 1990). Having a video copy of the examination to watch alongside the assessors’ comments helps the practitioner to improve their practice by observing their skills and reflecting on their own ability (Schön, 1991). Service user and carer involvement has been emphasised as a need for the training of mental health professionals (Department of Health, 1999) and has shown to have a positive impact on the attitudes and beliefs on those being trained (Simpson & House, 2002). Service users and carers now have a more active role on the courses than previously. Their contributions to the training programme go further than simple tokenistic ‘service user and carer perspectives’. In the new assessment strategy, the role of the service user/carer is fundamental to the marking of the clinical examination. They offer valuable insights into their experiences of services and whether they would be happy to have this student working with them professionally. Students now actively engage and practice the skills during the course, which they did not regularly do with the essay assignment. The clinical skills examination has changed the focus of the course as it tells the students that the skills are assessed and are therefore important (Brown et al., 1997). This suggests that the students are involved in meaningful learning of the clinical skills (Marton & Säljö, 1976) and observations from the teaching team support this. Despite all these positive outcomes, an ethical dilemma has emerged for the teaching staff: what is our duty when a student’s use of interpersonal skills is so poor that it may be damaging to clients? As mental health professionals, we have a responsibility to report unsafe practice (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 2004a) and lack of competence (NMC, 2004b). However, we are also bound by the College’s Data Protection Policy (KCL, 2005) that prevents the Section releasing confidential information, i.e. student’s grades, to others, i.e. their employer. This is an issue we have yet to resolve.


Figure 3: Miller’s Pyramid of Competence Adapted from Miller, (1990) SP = simulated patients; OSCE = objective structured clinical examination; MCQ = multiple choice questions.


Performance assessment in vivo Undercover SPs, Video, logs

Shows how

Performance assessment in Vitro OSCE, SP-based test

Knows how

Clinical context based tests MCQ, essay, oral


Factual tests MCQ, essay, oral

Finally and most importantly, the new assessment strategy is constructively aligned to the course learning outcomes as it appropriately assesses the students against these. Miller’s Pyramid of Competence (1990; figure 3) serves as a useful model when considering the overall interplay between knowledge and skills in clinical competency training. The new assessment strategy demonstrates whether the student: ‘knows’ the information to work effectively with people with severe mental illness; ‘knows how’ to work with effectively people with severe mental illness; and ‘shows how’ this is done. It is hoped that the students goes out and ‘does’ this in their own clinical practice.

Conclusion This paper has provided a case study of the process of developing a new assessment strategy. It has highlighted some of the limitations of traditional written assignments on skills training courses, specifically that essays do not assess the student against the learning outcomes pertaining to clinical skills. Additional issues, such as heavy marking burden, delays in releasing grades, poor academic writing skills, plagiarism and falsification, all added to the concerns with using case study essays. The paper has outlined an assessment strategy that overcomes these limitations. The new assessments are constructively aligned to the learning outcomes. They have vastly reduced the marking burden and eliminated issues of plagiarism and falsification. The courses provide more opportunities to give students feedback on their skills and highlights problems in plenty of time to solve them. The increased involvement of service users and carers has been a significant improvement to the courses and is in line with government guidelines for training mental health practitioners. Finally, the new strategy has resulted in students taking the time and effort to learn the skills more meaningfully. However, despite the positive outcomes of the assessments, issues of clinical competency and fitness to practice have become an ethical dilemma for the Section. In conclusion, changing the assessment strategy of a programme of training can have a profound impact on the way students learn and the extent to which they engage with the programme. It is unclear whether the new assessment strategy results in a better mental health practitioner, but the experience of the teaching staff suggest that this is far more likely than with an essay assignment.


References Biggs, J. (1999) What the student does: teaching for enhanced learning, Higher Education Research & Development, 18(1), 57 – 75. Biggs, J. (1996) Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment, Higher Education, 32, 347 – 364. Bloom B. (Ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, The Classification of Educational Goals – Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. (New York, McKay). Brown, G., Bull, J. & Pendlebury, M. (1997) Assessing student learning in higher education (London, Routledge). Butler, R. (1988) Enhancing and undermining intrinsic motivation: the effects of task-involving evaluation on interest and performance, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 58 (4), 438-481. Carroll, J. & Appleton, J. (2001) Dealing with Plagiarism: A Good Practice Guide. Available online at: (Accessed on 27 November 2008) Department of Health (1999) National Service Framework for Mental Health: Modern Standards and Service Models. London: Department of Health. Available online at: DH_4096400 (Accessed on 27 November 2008) Department of Health. (2004) National Health Service Knowledge and Skills Framework. London: Department of Health. Available online at: 3 (Accessed on 1 December 2008). Elander, J., Harrington, K., Norton, L., Robinson, H. & Reddy, P. (2006) Complex skills and academic writing: a review of evidence about the types of learning required to meet core assessment criteria, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(1), 71 – 90. Gibbons, F. (1990) Self-attention and behavior: a review and theoretical update. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 23, 249–303). Gibbs, G. (1992) Improving the Quality of Student Learning. (Bristol, TES). Hager, P., Gonczi, A. & Athanasou, J. (1994) General issues about assessment of competence. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 19(1), 3 – 16. King’s College London, Credit Framework (2007). Information available online at: (Accessed on 27 November 2008) King’s College London, Data Protection Policy (2005). Information available online at: (Accessed on 27 November 2008) Marso, R. & Pigge, E. (1991) An analysis of teacher-made tests: item-types, cognitive demands, and item construction errors, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 16, 279-286. Marton, F. & Säljö, R. (1976) On qualitative differences in learning: I-Outcome and process, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 4-11. Miller, G. (1990) The assessment of clinical skills/competence/performance, Academic Medicine, 65, 563-67. Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2004a) Lack of competence: A guide for employers and managers. Available online at: (accessed on 27 November 2008) Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2004b) Reporting Unfitness to Practise: a Guide for Employers and Managers. Available online at: (Accessed on 27 November 2008) Ramsden, P. (1992) Learning to Teach in Higher Education (New York, Routledge). Rust, C. (2002) The impact of assessment on student learning: How can the research literature practically help to inform the development of departmental assessment strategies and learner-centred assessment practices? Active Learning in Higher Education, 3 (2), 145-158. Schön, D. (1991) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (London, Avebury). Simpson, E. & House, A. (2002) Involving users in the delivery and evaluation of mental health services: systematic review, British Medical Journal, 325, 1265-1267. Vallis, T., Shaw, B. & Dobson, K. (1986) The cognitive therapy scale: psychometric properties, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(3), 381-385. Val Wass, C., Van der Vleuten, J. & Shatzer, R.J. (2001) Assessment of clinical competence. Lancet; 357, 945949. Young, J. & Beck, A. (1980) Cognitive Therapy Scale. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Pennsylvania, 61

Philadelphia, PA, cited in Blackburn, I., James, I., Milne, D., Baker, C., Standart, S., Garland, A. & Reichelt, F. (2001) The revised cognitive therapy scale (CTS-R): psychometric properties, Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 29, 431–446

Address for Correspondence Harvey Wells, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AE

Notes on Contributor Harvey Wells is tutor in Mental Health Nursing and Programme Leader for the Dual Diagnosis training programme in the Health Services and Populations Research Department at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.


Clinical teaching as a template for the development of university pedagogy Lyndon B. Cabot Dental Institute, King’s College London

Ian M. Kinchin King’s Learning Institute, King’s College London Abstract As a context for this paper, the evolutionary development of clinical teaching is described as a progression in three broad steps: 1. The transmission of content from teacher to student. This is seen as a remnant of the medieval teaching model. 2. Student-centred models that respond to issues of student diversity. Such approaches dominate the contemporary literature on teaching and learning, but are seen by novice lecturers as impossible to implement. 3. An expertise-based model that resolves many of the tensions that are current in clinical education in particular, and university teaching more generally. Clinical teaching is viewed as an ‘extreme case’ in which the key features of an expertise-based model are most clearly identifiable, and the separation of chains of practice from networks of understanding is most pronounced. Once the observer is sensitised to the issues through analysis of the model, it is suggested that key features of the model are observable in other academic disciplines. The findings reported are based on interviews with students and teachers and direct observations of teaching in clinical and non-clinical situations. Development of the expertise-based model has been a consequence of the visualisation of the learning process, made possible through development of concept mapping techniques. This has resulted in a re-evaluation of commonly held myths (concerned with the nature of expertise and the relationship between the expert and the novice) that we would like to consign to the folklore of higher education.

Introduction Novak (1977: 200) has described how: “the teacher dispensing information from a lectern, facing his class, is a carryover model from the medieval monastery where only the teacher was in possession of the hand-transcribed text. The students were required to record lessons on slates and then to commit this information to memory”. Whilst many contemporary university lecturers would agree that such a situation is outmoded, the reality of university teaching is that the medieval monks described by Novak would feel quite at home in many 21st Century lecture theatres. Although the modern rhetoric of higher education refers to a learner-centred environment (e.g. Weimer, 2002), observers still refer to situations in which:


“The students dutifully sat scribbling notes onto their pads: no one disrupted the presentation, no one raised a hand, and no one questioned their role in the learning process”. (Lord, 1999: 59) The problem lies not in the lecture per se, but in academics’ interpretation of the lecture format. Lectures can still provide a good learning environment where they enhance student learning through engagement and interaction (Jones, 2007). Those engaged in professional development in the context of teaching and learning in higher education will be familiar with the notions of student-centred teaching that feature in current texts (e.g. Ramsden, 2003; Biggs, 2003; Weimer, 2002). Whilst many novice lecturers will have affinity for the studentcentred teaching that is widely advocated in the literature, the practical realities of academia make the satisfactory application of this teaching model difficult for many to achieve within the constraints imposed upon them. Many lecturers will teach large numbers of students (e.g. 400 in one lecture theatre) and may only meet a particular group of students on one or two occasions. The potential to develop a rapport with students under such circumstances is therefore limited.

Progression of teaching in three broad steps The development of teaching in three broad evolutionary steps is a simplification of reality. However, through simplification, the key characteristics can be highlighted sufficiently to resonate with the experiences of university teachers. The three steps suggest classroom approaches with pros and cons to each: 1. The ‘ content-transmission’ model Based around the transmission of information rather than the transmission of understanding. One problem is deciding which content should be transmitted: much of the information that will be given to students in their first years of study will be obsolete before they qualify. Predicting which content will have a longer shelf-life and continue to be of use to the students is a difficult problem. When assessing students’ acquisition of content within this model, it is impossible to separate what has been gained from formal and informal sources. In other words, how can you tell how effective the teaching has been, unless students are routinely tested before instruction to determine the level of their prior knowledge? 2. The ‘responding-to-student-learning-needs’ model Responding to the diverse and changing needs of large number of students seems to be setting an impossible goal for most university teachers. Even if students’ learning styles could be reliably determined, it is not clear how teaching should be targeted at matching or complementing these styles. Attempts to classify student learning using learning styles inventories has been shown to reduce the acknowledged range of student learning styles to a small number that in turn, have been used to label students and promote commonality rather than diversity (Ritter, 2007). 3. The ‘expertise-based’ model. The adoption of an expertise-based pedagogy requires teachers to have the courage to share their knowledge, and the gaps in their knowledge. ‘An effective clinical teacher needs to be able to articulate knowledge that would normally be tacit for a practitioner not normally engaged in instruction’ (Patel, et al., 1999: 89). The knowledge structures approach facilitated by concept mapping tools provides a mechanism to go beyond making learning visible, towards making it tangible (i.e not only can it been seen, but it can also be manipulated to support development).

Chains of practice and networks of understanding The ability to visualise the clinical reasoning process is considered by Hill and Talluto (2006) to represent one of the first steps in the formation of the cognitive skills that are necessary for professional practice. Visualisation of knowledge structures through concept mapping (Novak, 1998) has enabled us to separate the chains of practice that are manifest in teachers’ actions from the underlying networks of understanding.


Figure 1 Comparing a chain and a network. The links within the chain only facilitate the movement from one node to another, and add little to the understanding of the topic as a whole. The links within the network are more detailed and more numerous. These chains and networks will be embedded in a wider network of understanding.

Chains are indicative of procedural sequences that characterise observable clinical practice and are indicators of ‘goal-orientation’. This seems entirely appropriate in the clinical setting in that the goal of clinical competence is the effective treatment of patients. The chain illustrated in Figure one shows the typical sequence that is learned by dental undergraduates when learning how to design a removable partial denture (RPD). It concentrates on the how to the exclusion of the why. However, such chains have to be embedded in networks of understanding so there may be appreciation of why the patient has (or has not) been treated successfully and what alternative treatments may be available. If there are no links with an underlying understanding, the chain may be seen as blindly following a recipe. Networks are indicators of understanding which may be integrated and holistic. The network in figure one shows how the elements of removable partial denture design are linked to each other and starts to create the why that would complement the chain of practice. However, understanding does not necessarily equate to clinical decision-making ability. Knowing there are several alternative treatments with varying consequences is not the same as being able to select the most appropriate one within a clinical context. If this was the case, academic study would not need to be backed by clinical training.

Implications of an expertise-based pedagogy A curriculum in which students are assessed by the way in which they oscillate from networks of understanding to chains of practice must acknowledge students as creators of personal knowledge (Gamache, 2002). The content-driven curriculum is based on the implicit assumption that there is a correct answer that should be conveyed to students for later reproduction. However, it is clear that, in many cases, a single ‘correct answer’ does not exist. It is evident that senior academics can have a difference of opinion without either of them necessarily being wrong (Figure 2). The notion that experts do not agree sits uncomfortably within an objectivist pedagogy, but lies at the heart of an expertise-based pedagogy.


Figure 2. Experts often do not agree. Here, three experts share a common network of understanding, from which each selects a different chain of practice. The movement from network to chain can be so quick as to appear intuitive to the observer

Relating expertise-based pedagogy to other disciplines. Within the expertise-based pedagogy for clinical teaching we have discussed the relationship between linear chains of practice and the underlying networks of understanding. The term, ‘practice’ resonates with the daily activities of clinicians, in ‘clinical practice’. At first such terminology might seem confined to the clinical disciplines and so allow non-clinical disciplines to claim that ‘it’s not the same for us’. We would like to broaden the use of the term ‘practice’ to include the activities of other disciplines. This is based on the direct observation of teaching across the nine Schools within King’s College London, relating these to the expertise-based pedagogy described by Kinchin, Cabot and Hay (2008).


Figure 3. Chains of practice and networks of understanding can be observed to interact within a range of non-clinical disciplines.

Teaching within other disciplines often involves activities that occur as linear sequences (some examples are summarised in Figure 3). These would include the sequential analysis of text that can be observed within humanities teaching. Observations of seminars where text is analysed exhibit the continual relationship of the linear text with a holistic consideration of a much wider historical and social context for the writing (who wrote it for which audience and under what circumstances). For the student to be able to demonstrate a real grasp of the significance of the text, s/he has to be able to oscillate purposefully between text and social background. Whilst McCormick (1994) acknowledges a ‘commonsensical’ definition of reading as a simple taking of information from the printed page that supplies the whole source of meaning (an objectivist view of reading), she continues to describe a social-cultural view of reading, in which students:


‘…must be given access to discourses that can allow them to explore the ways in which their own reading acts … are embedded in complex social and historical relations.’ McCormick (1994: 49) The expertise-based model would focus on the act of making connections between the two. In Geography, fieldwork is often employed to provide students with opportunities to develop particular skills (eg. Gold et al., 1991). For example, the first-hand collection of environmental data may involve the use of procedures and apparatus in a linear manner. The effectiveness of the field course in helping students to think like geographers depends on adequate links to be made between what is learnt in the field with what is developed through classroom and private study (Gold et al., 1991: 29). In the sciences, the function of laboratory work includes making clear the basic methods of science; adding meaning to abstractions; making information memorable; illustrating connections between topic areas and motivating students to learn. White (1996) has called for theories of how laboratories promote achievement of any of these aims. The application of laboratory protocols is typically arranged as a linear activity, moving towards the collection of data that can be interpreted and related to an understanding of the wider context. Laboratory protocols are typically arranged as a stepped sequence of procedures that may be referred to (in a rather derogatory manner) as a ‘recipe to follow’, when it is felt that students may be obeying instructions without really understanding the significance of each step. A science student may display competence in following laboratory procedures without necessarily displaying a similar level of understanding.

Conclusion The pedagogical model proposed here addresses a number of the issues that currently inhibit the development of university teaching beyond the cycles of non-learning that have been highlighted by Kinchin, Lygo-Baker and Hay (2008) and challenges the ‘safe systems’ that dominate within university teaching (Canning, 2007): 1. It addresses the theory-practice gap. The content-focused teaching model can result in the separation of that which is learnt in theory from that which is learnt in a practical context (including clinical environments, laboratory practicals and fieldwork exercises). The expertise-based model requires that teaching should actively focus on the links between theory and practice so that, by default, the problem of a gap is overcome. 2. It provides the epistemological access, called for by Wingate (2007). The objectivist epistemology that typifies the transmission mode of teaching has given way in the educational literature to a more constructivist epistemology – paralleling the shift from a focus on teaching content to a focus on students’ learning. This can cause lecturers difficulties where the epistemology of their discipline is felt to be in conflict with the epistemology of educational development. This is often only considered in broad theoretical terms within the literature that is inaccessible to those teaching within the disciplines as it appears in the specialist literature on academic development, and using jargon that excludes the specialist. In a rare personal account, Taylor (1993) describes in accessible terms how she came to grips with her own internal epistemological conflict by challenging objectivity. Such personal change is seldom acknowledged in public, and the sanitised nature of academic writing never suggests that such conflict may be widespread. However, reflection upon this conflict may be a prerequisite to developing towards a more sophisticated philosophical stance. The paucity of such personal accounts in the literature provides a lack of exemplars against which ‘change-ready’ teachers may compare themselves. 3. It places the responsibility for learning on the shoulders of the student. This does not mean that the teacher has no part to play. The university teacher has an obligation to be prepared for his/her teaching. Such preparation includes an awareness of the prior knowledge that students typically bring with them and how this will support interaction with the information that is provided through teaching (ie. pedagogical content knowledge). In addition, the teacher has to be able to manipulate knowledge (from chains to nets and back again) in an explicit manner that is visible to the student. This will model the process that needs to be developed by students as they develop their own emergent expertise.


The evolution of university pedagogy will only be successful if all involved are committed to the enhancement of student learning, and the discussion of pedagogy is seen as part of the general discourse of higher education rather than the preserve of specialists in teaching and learning (Green & Lee, 1995). A tentative, partial implementation of an expertise-based pedagogy will fail. For success, the model needs to be accompanied by development of an appropriate assessment regime and an explicit acknowledgement of the expectations that are placed on teachers and students. Teachers need to consider the application of the model to their own discipline and be granted time and resources to ensure that cycles of non-learning (sensu Kinchin, Lygo-Baker & Hay, 2008) can be avoided.

Glossary: Epistemology: refers to the nature of knowledge. In simple terms, knowledge can be seen on the one hand as something that is transferable as discrete packages of information that are agreed and fixed (objectivist/positivist), or can be viewed as something that is personally constructed from available information (constructivist). The constructivist perspective (that dominates the literature in student-centred teaching) explains some of the observed idiosyncrasies in student learning, but creates a tension with the dominant objectivist epistemology of the sciences. Pedagogy: A term used to describe what it is that teachers do to make learning happen. Critics of the use of the term in higher education have pointed to the origins of the word and its focus on children’s learning (Greek: paidagogos, meaning the slave who led children to school) (e.g. Knowles, 1990). More recently, the appropriateness of the term for university teaching has been re-established, as even adult learners need guidance to learn (e.g. Beetham & Sharpe, 2007). Its use in this paper is, therefore, a deliberate act. ‘Pedagogy’ often appears in the literature in place of the word ‘teaching’, as pedagogy also encompasses the idea that there is a deeper philosophical rationale for the observable activities of teaching. Pedagogy therefore considers more than the actions of a teacher. It is often related to an underlying epistemology so that an appropriate objectivist pedagogy may consist of telling the students using clear explanations for students to memorise, whereas an appropriate constructivist pedagogy will provide an environment in which students are supported and guided in the development of a personal understanding that overlaps with the accepted view.

References Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (2007) An introduction to rethinking pedagogy for a digital age. In Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (Eds.) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering E-learning. London, Routledge. pp. 1-10. Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. (2nd Ed.) Buckingham, SRHE. Canning, J. (2007) Pedagogy as a discipline: emergence, sustainability and professionalisation. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(3), 393-403. Gamache, P. (2002) University students as creators of personal knowledge: an alternative epistemological view. Teaching in Higher Education, 7, 277-293. Gold, J., Jenkins, A., Lee, R., Monk, J., Riley, J., Shepherd, I. & Unwin, D. (1991) Teaching Geography in Higher Education: A Manual of Good Practice. Oxford, Blackwell. Green, B. & Lee, A. (1995) Theorising postgraduate pedagogy. Australian Universities’ Values, 2, 40-45. Hill, L. & Talluto, B. (2006) Visualizing the clinical thinking process to prepare students for effective patient counselling. Journal of Pharmacy Teaching, 12, 69-81. Jones, S. (2007) Reflections on the lecture: outmoded medium or instrument of inspiration? Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31, 397 – 406. Kinchin, I., Cabot, L. & Hay, D. (2008) Visualising expertise: towards an authentic pedagogy for higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 13, 315-326. Kinchin, I., Lygo-Baker, S. & Hay, D. (2008) Universities as centres of non-learning. Studies in Higher Education, 33, 89-103. Knowles, M. (1990) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. (4th Ed.) (Houston, Gulf Publishing). Lord, T. (1999) Are we cultivating ‘couch potatoes’ in our college science lectures? Journal of College Science Teaching, 28, 59-62. McCormick, K. (1994) The Culture of Reading and the Teaching of English. (Manchester, Manchester University Press).


Novak, J. (1977) A Theory of Education. (Ithaca, Cornell University Press). Novak, J. (1998) Learning, Creating and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations. (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates). Patel, V., Arocha, J. & Kaufman, D. (1999) Expertise and tacit knowledge in medicine. In R, Sternberg and J, Horvath, (Eds.) Tacit Knowledge in Professional Practice: Researcher and Practitioner Perspectives. (Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 75-99). Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. (2nd Ed.) (London, RoutledgeFalmer). Ritter, L. (2007) Unfulfilled promises: how inventories, instruments and institutions subvert discourses of diversity and promote commonality. Teaching in Higher Education, 12, 569-579. Taylor, J. (1993) Resolving epistemological pluralism: a personal account of the research process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 18, 1073-1076. Weimer, M. (2002) Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. (San Francisco, Jossey-Bass). White, R. (1996) The link between the laboratory and learning. International Journal of Science Education, 18(7), 761-774. Wingate, U. (2007) A framework for transition: supporting ‘learning to learn’ in higher education. Higher Education Quarterly, 61, 391-405.

Address for Correspondence Lyndon B. Cabot,, Dental Institute, Guy’s Tower King’s College London Ian M. Kinchin,, King’s Learning Institute, King’s College London

Notes on Contributors Lyndon B. Cabot is a clinical senior lecturer at King's College London Dental Institute, where he is also Director of Admissions and Head of Undergraduate Programmes. Ian M. Kinchin is a senior lecturer in higher education, working in King’s Learning Institute, King’s College London. The two authors have been collaborating on research into dental education for the past four years.


Use of animation techniques to facilitate the visualisation of systolic architectures Richard E. Overill, Alexei Emam & Darren Hyatt Department of Computer Science, King’s College London Abstract Computer architecture is a core topic within any Computer Science undergraduate curriculum. Systolic architectures occupy a conceptually important and intellectually interesting niche within the computer architecture domain, not least because they combine the fundamental concepts of processor replication and data flow into a single hybrid architecture. Pre-organised streams of data are pulsed across an array of identical processors as a result of which a desired sequence of computations is efficiently performed. This process relies strongly on the ‘just-in-time’ principle, in that each item of each data stream must be in just the right places in the array at just the right times in order to play its role in the computation. For pedagogic purposes it is beneficial to illustrate the principles of operation of systolic architectures by taking an already familiar exemplar computation and demonstrating how this could be implemented on a systolic architecture. At this juncture it is necessary to understand how each item of each data stream interacts with each of its many ‘target’ data items in order to perform the computation. This task involves the sub-goal of visualising the position in time and space of each data item during the entire computational process. It has been found empirically that this is a non-trivial intellectual task, even for upper quartile finalist undergraduates, and we have consequently developed graphical animations of an exemplar computation that can be run either continuously or in single-step mode (both forwards and backwards). The animations were demonstrated in our presentation and are available on the CD-ROM accompanying the proceedings.

Introduction and Background Systolic architectures were first described in (Kung & Leiserson, 1980). Their name derives from an (inexact) physiological analogy with the circulation of the blood (Harvey, 1628). Just as blood is pumped through the organs of the body by the heart and as a result is altered by giving up oxygen and nutrients and by taking up carbon dioxide and waste products, so can data be pulsed through a regular array of identical computational cells linked together in a network with a specific topology and be transformed step-wise into the desired results. Unlike the circulatory system, however, systolic arrays are not generic: a systolic architecture is highly specific as the type and the size of the computation that it can perform. This apparent disadvantage is offset in three ways. Firstly, their high specificity means that they can be extremely high-performance devices that can be implemented directly in silicon without the need for embedded software. Secondly, the precise size of problem is often pre-determined and fixed so that only one size of systolic array has to be built. Thirdly it transpires that there are only a few (of order ten) distinct kernel problems that occur so commonly that they need to be computed with extreme efficiency. Examples include transforms, matrix operations, sorting, signal processing operations, and the like. These considerations offer an indication of why systolic architectures are of particular interest to the defence and military intelligence gathering communities: they can be conveniently laid out on micro-chips and efficiently packed as payload on low earth orbit (LEO) satellites.


Detailed descriptions and analyses of systolic array architectures and algorithms are available in textbooks such as (Megson, 1992). All of them require that data items must rendezvous with one another at particular points in two-dimensional space in a pre-specified temporal sequence and then interact computationally. In order to understand the operation of a systolic architecture it is necessary to visualise the trajectories of all the data items across the network of cells in two spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension simultaneously. This proves to be a non-trivial conceptual task for most people (including the present lead author) and hence communicating a systolic operational process convincingly in a pedagogic environment is not straightforward. Animation technology is one promising way to facilitate the understanding of the evolution of these processes by means of visualisation, as it offers the potential for both single-shot (forwards or backwards step-wise) and continuous runthrough (at a user-selected speed) modes of operation.

The Exemplar Computation It is important to separate as far as possible the understanding of the problem or task per se and the understanding of the process of solving or performing it. To facilitate this conceptual de-coupling a familiar and well-understood problem was selected for the exemplar systolic computation, namely that of matrix multiplication. By definition, the product of two square (n×n) matrices A and B is another (n×n) matrix C where the element in row i and column j of matrix C is obtained by summing the pair-wise products of the corresponding elements of row i of matrix A and column j of matrix B: cij =


A simple systolic architecture to perform this computation uses an array of identical cells each of which contains a multiplier, an adder and an accumulator c (Fig. 1). Each cell also possesses four links that enable it to be connected to neighbouring cells located to its north, south, west and east. The cells are arranged in a regular twodimensional (n×n) mesh with each cell connected to up to four nearest neighbours (Fig. 2). The instructions that each cell obeys are as follows: If empty(a) and empty(b) then no-operation otherwise input a,b c ← c + a×b output a,b End-if Figure 1: Cell for systolic matrix multiplication


Figure 2: Cell for systolic matrix multiplication

In other words, each cell inputs a data item a from its west link and a data item b from its north link (if the data is present), multiplies them together, adds their product to the contents of its accumulator c, and finally outputs a on its east link and b on its south link. The cells repeat this operation in successive time-steps, which has the effect of pulsing the data across the array. The elements of the rows of the matrix A comprise the data items a; the rows of matrix A are fed into the array left-to-right reversed with each successive row delayed (or staggered) by one time-step from its predecessor. Similarly, the elements of the columns of the matrix B comprise the data items b; the columns of matrix B are fed into the array top-to-bottom reversed with each successive column delayed (or staggered) by one time-step from its predecessor. Fig. 2 illustrates the case n = 6 at time-step 6. To initialise the computation the contents of the accumulator c in every cell is set equal to zero. Once the computation is complete the accumulator c of cell (i,j) contains the value of cij . Further details may be found in (Overill, 2007a,b).

The Graphical Animations The first animation (produced by AE) focuses on illustrating the pattern of activity that occurs within the array of cells. It is observed that a wave-front of cell activity passes diagonally across the array from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. In more detail, this wave-front can be seen to consist of a leading edge followed n time-steps later by a trailing edge. This in turn implies that at no point in time are all the cells active simultaneously, so 100% utilisation efficiency is never attained. The maximum cell utilisation is reached when the centre of the wave-front of activity lies along the reverse diagonal of the array, that is, precisely midway through the computation, after which the overall cell activity begins to decline again. Thus the activity profile of this systolic array is symmetrical about the midpoint of the computation, falling monotonically towards zero at both the start and the end. The second animation (produced by DH) focuses on the explicit computational interactions between the data items as they move across the systolic array. It shows how each element of matrix A is involved in precisely n computational interactions with n different elements of matrix B in n different cells on its trajectory through the array, and similarly for matrix B, mutatis mutandis.


This animation also illustrates the ‘just in time’ nature of the computation and demonstrates why the successive rows of matrix A and the successive columns of matrix B must be staggered. A trace of the activity profile graph for the array is also displayed to demonstrate its symmetry and bitonicity properties.

Summary and Conclusions Although two graphical animations of an exemplar computation have been produced, this remains a Work in Progress for at least two reasons. Firstly, it has not yet been possible to perform qualitative or quantitative assessments on a class of students – this is planned for AY 2008/9 using before / after questionnaires and MCQ tests. Secondly, it is methodologically unsound to accept the outcome of graphically animating a single exemplar computation (matrix multiplication) as being generally applicable. Consequently, we are currently working towards graphically animating at least two further exemplar computations (involving list sorting and banded matrices respectively) which are based on different cell designs, network topologies and numbers of data streams. It is intended to include these additional exemplar computations in our AY 2008/9 evaluation, the outcome of which we hope to be able to report at the KLI Excellence in Teaching Conference 3.

References Harvey, W. (1628) Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus (An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and of the Blood in Animals) (Frankfurt). Kung, H. & Leiserson, C. (1980) Algorithms for VLSI processor arrays in: C. Mead & L. Conway (Eds.) Introduction to VLSI Systems (Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA), 271-292. Megson, G. (1992) An Introduction to Systolic Algorithm Design (Oxford Science Publications, Oxford). Overill, R. (2007a) CS3CAR Computer Architecture lecture notes, chapter 10: Systolic Arrays. Available online at: (accessed 14 February, 2008). Overill, R. (2007b) Architectural algorithmetrics: some recent results, in: J. Daykin, K. Steinhoefel & M. Mohammed (Eds.) London Algorithmics and Stringology 2006 (College Publications, London), 43-63.

Acknowledgement The lead author (REO) would like to acknowledge the constructive comments, suggestions and advice of Dr David Hay (KLI) on this topic during the discussions and lecture observations in the Lent term 2007, which led to the award of the KLI Statement of Teaching Proficiency.

Address for Correspondence Richard Overill, Computer Science Department, Strand Campus, King’s College London

Notes on Contributor Richard E Overill is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at King’s College London and is currently responsible for teaching third year undergraduate modules in Computer Architecture and Computer Graphics. Alexei Eman and Darren Hyatt are currently final year undergraduate students in Computer Science at King’s College London who both took the Computer Architecture module and who each responded to the systolic architecture component by producing pedagogic graphical animation software.


The conflicts between science research and teaching in higher education: an academic’s perspective Sophia N. Karagiannis Cutaneous Medicine and Immunotherapy Unit, King’s College London Abstract Academics are now expected to manage increasingly demanding research, administrative and teaching obligations. These demands in practice mean that the pressures to balance teaching and research duties renders cultivating links between the two activities a less-than-intuitive process. The author describes the difficulties faced by academics, students’ learning experiences and perceptions of quality higher education and how these issues relate to modern society’s expectations of what higher education should achieve. The author also considers how these issues are currently received and managed by higher education Institutions. To succeed in their promise to provide good quality higher education to the next generation, government and higher education institutions should work together to address disparities and fill gaps in the research-teaching nexus. The evidence points to an urgent need to confront issues in a way that will benefit students, academics, Universities and society. The author puts forward a non-exhaustive list of proposals to reverse the current trends that pull research and teaching apart. Such policies and guidelines should be implemented, either on a national basis, or by individual higher education institutions and should reflect the educational philosophy and cultural outlook of each institution. The author proposes that a positive ‘nexus’ between teaching and research may not be intuitive in today’s market-driven climate, but could be promoted with the implementation of bold and appropriate higher education institution and government policies and can benefit both research and teaching in the UK.

Introduction The term ‘research-teaching nexus’ was first defined by Neumann (1994, p.23) and is termed to mean the relationships and links between discipline-specific research and student teaching and learning. This area encompasses a number of issues that involve benefits as well as conflicts between research and teaching. One issue is time management: balancing quality research and teaching duties by busy academics. Of noted importance are the various influences of staff research on the undergraduate teaching delivered. The term also incorporates the impact of government, institutional and academic department policies on the form as well as the quality of the relationship between research and teaching. ‘Nexus’ is also meant to include the importance of institutional or departmental curriculum design to student experiences and learning in higher education. Finally, this nexus includes the relationships between academics, higher education Institutions and students, how these are shaped by and, in return, influence modern market forces and the ever-increasing pressures for measurable output and achievements. In this study, I concentrate on describing the tensions that are felt by science academics in their quest to deliver quality in all aspects of their roles and I suggest how in the current political and cultural academic climate, research and teaching links can be cultivated.


From the points of view of all concerned Education experts have argued that the relationship between research and teaching should be a positive one. Ramsden (2001, p.4) has said: “I believe that the main hope for realising a genuinely student-centred undergraduate education lies in re-engineering the teaching-research nexus”. However, one size does not fit all and there are evident disparities amongst how this can be achieved in different disciplines. Research work suggests that natural sciences harbour a more specialised research culture, which may be more difficult to translate and relate to teaching (Rowland, 1996), and therefore making the research-teaching relationship a positive experience for teachers and students may be a challenging endeavour by nature. The last 60 years have seen social, political and cultural changes that have impacted on the way higher education is conducted today. Below, I describe the experiences for all who feel the impact of these changes and can benefit from a fruitful relationship between teaching and research.

Influences by modern society and government policies A number of studies clearly point at the demands modern market forces have placed on Universities to train research-minded and research-contributing professionals (Wieman 2004; Garrick & Rhodes, 2000; Zetter, 2002). Indeed, modern society and the new global market-driven economy have much to benefit from higher education: from the production of a skilled workforce, to the discovery of new products and medicines to enhance quality of life and to raised expectations in health and patient care. A number of forces have contributed to the pressures currently felt in academic life. The emerging emphasis on world health issues has prompted widespread government-sponsored programmes and driven the expansion of a large international pharmaceutical industry, with the creation of new jobs demanding a wide range of scientific skills. These forces together with the post-war social and economic prosperity have contributed to a vast expansion of scientific research and demand for better healthcare and treatments for many ailments (Scott, 1998). The demand for skilled professionals has also increased the number of students seeking to gain science-related higher education qualifications. Responding to the changing economic market forces, consecutive UK governments have outlined policies to expand the student population in all disciplines. This has enhanced social integration and promoted diversity in the student population, changing the culture in student life and experiences in higher education, promoting a more market-driven educational system (Johnston, 2004). As this expansion is taking place, great pressures are placed upon Universities to excel in both research and teaching to attract the best talent and to produce graduates with market-relevant knowledge and skills. These pressures are then transferred to academic staff that must produce value for money in both research and teaching for their organisation. The introduction of the research assessment exercise (RAE) ratings ( has intensified the pressure for higher education institutions to enhance research output. This has also increased the trend for “translational” research: work that can have direct benefits for society or that can be made into a product that improves health or patient care, although many researchers and clinicians feel that RAE has had deleterious effects on the quality of research conducted (Williams, 1998; Banatvala et al., 2005). This has sparked major changes in the philosophy and culture of University life and has opened fresh debate on what higher education institutions are expected to offer to society (Barnett, 2003). However, one concept everyone agrees on is that these government policies that directly encourage and promote research, inevitably drive research and teaching apart and make the links between the two more difficult to shape.

Changes in Higher Education culture and policies Higher education institutions have quickly responded to these forces by adopting a business-like ethic and expanding to meet demands placed by society and government policies (Morley, 2003). As a result, the university environment is one of constant change and one that struggles to balance traditional values of what academic institutions should stand for with new demands for target-driven performance assessments and the merits and perils of financial independence (Lomas, 2006). There have been considerations and calls at policy level to separate research and teaching activities in order to achieve high status in RAE and to enhance revenues. The rise of a number of research centres, where staff are completely free of teaching obligations and able to concentrate on research is a reaction to these policies, another way in which research and teaching are now driven further apart (McNay, 1999).


Even for departments committed to teaching, the ways teaching activities are managed do not naturally foster links and references to academic staff research. To achieve career progression, science academics are assessed mainly on the quality of research they conduct relating to RAE and on the revenue they bring in for the division/organisation. Teaching duties are therefore regarded as a “necessary evil”, a drain in terms of time, resources and effort, without major returns in terms of benefits for the academic. Without a doubt, academics and students are the primary recipients of the consequences of these policies.

From the academics’ point of view: demands on time and commitments Questioned directly, most academics agree that student learning should be enhanced through research and in research-rich environments and identify acquisition of research skills as an important aspect to student learning experiences (Zamorski, 2000, 2002). However, some studies demonstrate that under the present changes in University policies, teaching and research are independent of each other and a need to create circumstances where research and teaching may meet is necessary (Hattie & Marsh, 1996; Marsh & Hattie, 2002). Others argue that those academics that view teaching as an integral part of the wider debate in their discipline and as a natural extension of their scholarship tend to make stronger connections between research and teaching in the way they instruct students to understand and experience research (Prosser et al, 2004, 2005). But how would this be a conceivable possibility, given the increasing demands on academics’ time and effort? As mentioned above, academics’ career prospects are now largely dependant on the quality of their research activities as a source of funding/income for higher education institutions. With the introduction of the RAE ratings system, it has become the main task of academic staff to conduct research that leads to strong publication output in reputable journals, leading to generation of external funding in the form of grants as well as intellectual property as an additional source of revenue. The RAE has also introduced a more business-like approach to conducting research in academic environments and has burdened academics with management, organisational and administrative responsibilities, but has also introduced a stronger political culture within the scientific community. These pressures leave little time for the university lecturer to devote in planning and implementing links between research activities to enhance students’ deep knowledge and produce highly trained, research-led graduates. Anecdotal evidence to the pressures felt by UK academics was communicated to me at a recent discussion with three King’s College London professors. For some time now, United States-based scientific journals have difficulties convincing UK-based academics to review research manuscripts submitted for publication; a sign of how overwhelmed academics are by their commitments and the pressures to achieve for the next RAE rating round. Thus, under the intense scrutiny of government-driven, higher education institution and departmental targets, academics are abandoning any activities they consider less vital for their career progression. Having spoken to a number of science and medicine academics, everyone considers teaching as an important aspect of their academic role and experience, but inevitably, they feel forced to allocate teaching a second priority to their research as they struggle to meet increasing demands.

Research and teaching links: students perceptions and academic culture Students consider excellence in research an important factor in their decision to choose a higher education institution for undergraduate studies. Many perceive that studying in research-rich environments adds value to teaching and greatly benefits the quality of their learning (Neumann, 1994; Zamorski, 2002; Jenkins 2004; Hunter et al., 2007). Despite student perceptions, a concrete link between research quality and student learning experience has not been established to-date (Seymour et al., 2004; Trigwell, in press, quoted in Jenkins & Healey, 2007). Students see themselves as recipients of research-acquired knowledge rather than participants in university research (Zamorski, 2002; Brew, 2006). One therefore wonders how the student experiences of learning can benefit from academic research and how students can become active participants rather than recipients. This link is particularly poor in undergraduate education.


Another parameter is the introduction of university fees, turning students into consumers or customers with the power to drive policy and change, which in turn may mean a more plastid curriculum to meet demands and needs of the changing future workforce (Sharrock, 2000; Johnston, 2004). Tuition fees also bring demands on students’ time. Many now need to continue working while studying to ease the financial impact on their families and this has inevitable repercussions on the way they choose to learn and engage with their courses: students inevitably make strategic selection of what they need to learn to attain their degrees. Under these conditions, deep learning and research-based knowledge acquisition becomes a commodity. However, now more than ever, our University students are expected to acquire research-led knowledge and develop the ability to analyse and conduct research (Garrick & Rhodes, 2000; Scott, 2002; Zetter, 2002). The challenge therefore, certainly in science education, is to seek to develop research-based teaching as described by Wieman (2004, pp. 8-9): “A meaningful science education involved transforming the way in which students think by promoting a progression from ‘novice’ to ‘expert’ in both their attitudes and their approaches to the discipline and problem solving in that discipline. Today’s educator should aim not simply to produce more scientists, but rather to get all students to learn to think about science like a scientist. Similarly, the goal of education in general is to get students to think like experts more broadly”. In today’s knowledge-driven society, these can only be truly accomplished if teachers can introduce research-led, research-oriented, research-based and research-tutored teaching in undergraduate science curricula (Scott, 2002; Griffiths, 2004; Healey, 2005). But could this be realistically accomplished by overworked academics facing their own pressures on time, knowledge acquisition, achievements and expectations?

Drawing links between academic research and teaching: a personal perspective My experience in higher education has highlighted the great tensions and disparities in the messages of policymakers and institutions to academic staff. In response to the implementation of the RAE rating system, academic divisions regard research output as their main aim. Coate et al., (2001) report that departmental managers considered research and teaching to be synergistic in theory, but found it easier to manage these as separate activities. This separation and also the inability to foster links between teaching and research are true in my experience. Furthermore, it has been shown that staff engaged in teaching are undervalued and in some cases marginalized, compared with those concentrating on research (Lucas, 2006). In my experience, I have also found this to be the case. Despite the emphasis on research output, and in contrast to the general perceptions of teaching being inferior to research as a scholarly activity, lecturers with heavy research loads, demanding management responsibilities and punishing schedules writing grant and research papers are obliged to undertake teaching duties as part of their roles. Asked directly, most consider teaching to be a rewarding experience they wish to conduct effectively. Unlike many of my fellow academics, my main duties are in academic research and thus my contribution to teaching in higher education is not compulsory. To this effect, I have been in the privileged position to a) select subjects that I have a keen interest in, b) choose topics of biology and immunology where I have conducted research and c) define areas to incorporate in my teaching which I wish to explore in my own research. In all these choices, I link what I teach with my interest, knowledge and experience in research. Therefore, I find that my research interests, experiences and knowledge largely inform the content and style of my teaching. As a researcher, I implement a variety of tools to promote enquiry-based student learning, and I believe that this is an important aspect of bridging research with teaching. Despite the obvious challenges I face as a researcher, lab supervisor and working mother to allocate time to the limited teaching duties I have agreed to undertake, I appreciate that I, more than my colleagues, am able to dedicate reasonable time and thought to preparing my teaching duties. I am also more likely to agree to conduct teaching-related activities, such as meeting students for questions and help and conducting small group tutorials prior to exams and assignments. Thus, I have the flexibility and opportunity to draw links between what I do in the lab and what I teach my students both in and out of the classroom.


I also reflect on another observation drawn from my personal experience of fostering research and teaching links to enhance student learning. This stems from teaching undergraduate students in a negotiated teaching format, so they can develop research skills and research-led thinking, by undertaking lab research projects based on my own and my close colleagues’ research work. This experience has been much more challenging than I had originally anticipated. I think major factors here are a) the complexity of scientific disciplines b) the requirement for specialised training in experimental skills and equipment handling, but also c) the cognitive processes required to develop experimental and research-led thinking. These issues point to the concrete need for the design of appropriate and rather simple projects with clear achievable aims that inevitably have little benefit for the teacher. Also due consideration should be given to the impact lengthy training has on time management for the lab supervisor/teacher, making this aspect of student learning a time-consuming endeavour for the research-led teacher. Despite my belief that research and teaching can be entwined and my resolve to promote the researchteaching nexus in my own practice, working in academic environments strongly highlights the tensions arising from the co-existence of teaching and research. I thus believe that to achieve a positive teaching-research nexus in higher ducation, it should be promoted in a form that benefits all stakeholders, including academic staff.

What can be done to make things easier? Despite academics’ best intentions, they feel that opportunities to link their research and their teaching exist. However, almost all researchers are incredibly committed to improve teaching and would welcome opportunities to better integrate the two disciplines. Thus, the foundations as well as the enthusiasm and willingness are in place to make the research-teaching nexus a reality. Here, I suggest some key changes in departmental, institutional and/or government policies (Jenkins & Zetter, 2003), which can potentially increase the opportunities where academics can implement these links. The outcomes may be beneficial for both teacher and student experiences and will go a long way to redefine the roles higher education institutions play in society in educating the new generation of science professionals.

Suggestion 1: Aligning staff research interests with teaching activities The least painful policy change would be implementation of changes in teaching management at departmental, divisional or institutional level, depending on the size of the organisation. Changes would comprise allocation of teaching duty according to staff area of research interest and would require simple good management skills. Minimal investment in resources would be necessary to achieve this. Prior to organisation of the curriculum, consultation with academic staff would assist managers or course organisers to allocate teaching duties according to individual research and teaching interests. As an example, I use here my interest in Cancer Immunity and Immunotherapy, a rapidly expanding area of science research in which I have been involved for almost 10 years. I would welcome to teach any topic in this field at any level. This would have benefits for my students’ learning experiences as well as for my own professional development as a researcher: a) it would serve as an incentive to constantly update my knowledge on current developments, b) my teaching would be informed directly from my laboratory research, c) drawing from my own research experiences, I can implement research-led, researchoriented and research-tutored learning and d) the experience would help direct my research strategies (Elliot, 1991). Despite my enquiries, at present I have not encountered opportunities to teach in this area, neither am I aware of a manager or organiser to whom I would address enquiries. I believe students would benefit from academics’ specialist research knowledge, experience, interest and passion for their chosen area of research and that this could be facilitated by a more formalised recognition of the “research-teaching nexus” within the curriculum.


Suggestion 2: Teaching Assessment Exercise ratings The second policy change I suggest is implementation and enforcement of Teaching Assessment Exercise ratings at national and institutional levels. This should be used as an incentive and a tool to motivate academics to excel in their teaching, but also importantly, to reward and celebrate quality of teaching as a vital contribution to academic experience and life and one that benefits students, academics, universities and society. Academics would be more willing and certainly motivated to link their research interests and activities to their teaching, knowing that this effort would be rewarded and would benefit their academic career progression. There have been some incentives for individual academics and Higher Education Institutions that are aimed to reward teaching excellence. On a national scale, the Higher Education Academy’s National Teaching Fellowship Scheme, is a programme designed to enhance awareness of the importance of teaching quality both at academic and national levels, please see: ( Individual Higher Education Institutions have also launched similar schemes. King’s College London has set up the Awards for Excellence in Teaching, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which calls on undergraduate and postgraduate students to nominate a member of teaching staff for an annual award, please see: ( One of the criteria for nomination is that the candidate academic is active in research, as research-led teaching is named as one of the strategic goals of King’s College London and therefore the College looks for opportunities to encourage and reward a positive nexus between teaching and research. In the 2006/07 Academic Year, there were 15 award recipients at King’s College London. Such policies, together with a nationally implemented Teaching Assessment Exercise ratings system for academic departments and higher education institutions may gradually bridge the present divide between research-based academics and teaching academics. Finally, these strategies may help to reinstate the importance of teaching as a fundamental activity integral to higher education.

Suggestion 3: Flexible allocation of research and teaching responsibilities The separation of teaching only and research only staff is generally regarded as another policy that pulls apart research and teaching activities. A more flexible approach to the allocation of teaching and research responsibilities would entail agreement of percent time that each academic spends on each activity for an arranged time interval. This system, already in effect in some European Higher Education Institutions (Belgium, the Netherlands, Scandinavia), should highlight the interests and aptitudes of individual staff (de Weert, 2004). Competencies and performance in each area should also be reflected in the appraisal and career advancement process, which should award equal importance to achievements in teaching and research within an organisation.

Suggestion 4: Freedom to shape academic curricula Another suggestion addresses the core difficulties faced by academics in bringing their research interests into their teaching. Researchers, who are familiar with the most up-to-date developments in their fields should be allowed to suggest and shape university curricula: a process should be implemented by which all staff have an input on what are the best topics to include in undergraduate and postgraduate subjects. This is already happening to an extent at departmental level, but to be truly effective, it should be higher education institutional policy to identify the links between research and the teaching activities provided to students. Such a centralised policy should truly reflect the quality and diversity of research within an organisation and translate it to student teaching and learning. This would be another way students stand to benefit from a research-rich academic environment.

Suggestion 5: Allocation of teaching duties to junior research staff This suggestion comes from a tested model used in US universities for a number of years. This involves junior members of staff, such as PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, taking over some teaching duties as part of their work contracts. This would free lecturers’ time from the more basic subjects and provide valuable knowledge and experience for aspiring young academics. It would also provide an opportunity for the young teachers to interact with students and use this interaction to link their teaching to their research experiences, use their teaching experiences to inform their own research and help appreciate the research-teaching nexus early in their careers. As Elsen et al. (2007) propose, the policies should aim to deliver ‘research intensive education’. Furthermore, these can also encourage and nurture a nexus-favourable culture in higher education.


Conclusions To succeed in their promise to provide good quality higher education to the next generation, government and higher education institutions should work together to address disparities and fill gaps in research-teaching nexus. The evidence points to an urgent need to confront issues in a way that will benefit students, academics, Universities and society. I put forward a non-exhaustive list of proposals to reverse the current trends that pull research and teaching apart. I believe that policies and guidelines should be applied, possibly on a national basis, or by individual higher education institutions in accordance with institutional missions and culture. Such policies and set guidelines should reflect the educational philosophy and cultural outlook of each institution, and ultimately have potential benefits for both research and teaching in the UK.

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Lucas, L. (2006) The Research Game in Academic Life. (SRHE/Open University Press, Maidenhead). Marsh, H. & Hattie, J. (2002) The relation between research productivity and teaching effectiveness, Journal of Higher Education 73(5), 603–641. Morley, L. (2003) Quality and Power in Higher Education. (SRHE/Open University Press. Maidenhead). McNay, I. (1999) The paradoxes of research assessment and funding, in: M. Henkel, & B. Little, (Eds.) Changing Relationships Between Higher Education and the State (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London), 191–203. Neumann, R. (1994) The teaching-research nexus: applying a framework to university students’ learning experiences, European Journal of Education 29(3), 323–339. Prosser, M. Martin, E. Trigwell, K. Ramsden, P. & Middleton, H. (2004) Research active academic staff experiences of teaching, understanding subject matter and research. Paper presented for the International Colloquium: Research and Teaching: Closing the Divide? Held on 18–19 March 2004, Marwell Conference Centre, Winchester, UK. Available online at: (accessed on 10 December, 2007). Prosser, M. Martin, E. Trigwell, K. Ramsden, P. & Lueckenhausen, G. (2005) Academics’ experiences of understanding of their subject matter and the relationship of this to their experience of teaching and learning, Instructional Science 33, 137–157. Ramsden, P. (2001) Strategic management of teaching and learning, in: Rust, C. (Ed.) Improving Student Learning Strategically (Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Brookes University Oxford), 1–10. Rowland, S. (1996) Relationships between teaching and research, Teaching in Higher Education, 1(1), 7–20. Scott, P. (1998) Massification, internationalisation and globalisation, in P, Scott. (2000) Globalisation and Higher Education: Challenges for the 21st Century. Journal of Studies in International Education, 4(1), 3-10. Scott, P. (2002) A lot to learn. We are all researchers now. And we can no longer separate research from teaching, Education Guardian, 8 January, 13. Available online at:,5500,628918,00.html. (Accessed on 10 December, 2007). Seymour, E. Hunter, A. Laursen, S. & Deantoni, T. (2004) Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates in the sciences: first findings from a three year study, Science Education, 88 (4), 493–534. Sharrock, G. (2000) Why students are not customers, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 22 (2), 149-164. Trigwell, K. (in press) Relations Between Research Active Teachers and Student Learning. Report to Higher Education Academy. To be available online at: (Accessed on 10 December, 2007). Wieman, C. (2004) Professors who are scholars: bringing the act of discovery to the classroom, presentation at The Reinvention Center, Conference, November 2004: “Integrating Research into Undergraduate Education: the Value Added”. Available online at: (accessed on 10 December, 2007). Williams, G. (1998) Misleading, unscientific, and unjust: the United Kingdom’s research assessment exercise. British Medical Journal, 316(7137), 1079-1082. Zamorski, B. (2000) Research-Led Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. (Centre for Applied Research in Education, University of East Anglia Norwich). Zamorski, B. (2002) Research-led teaching and learning in higher education: a case, Teaching in Higher Education, 7(4), 411-427. Zetter, R. (2002). Developing the link: enhancing the relationship between teaching and research in the Built Environment. Housing Studies Association Autumn Conference, Oxford. Available online at: (accessed on 10 December, 2007).

Address for Correspondence Sophia N. Karagiannis, Cutaneous Medicine and Immunotherapy Unit, King’s College London, Guy’s Tower, Guy’s Campus, London SE1 9RT

Notes on Contributor Sophia Karagiannis is Lecturer in the Department of Dermatology, Cutaneous Medicine and Immunotherapy Unit, St. John’s Institute of Dermatology, King’s College London Guy’s Tower, Guy’s Campus.


Peer-to-peer information exchange Jane Henderson & Clare Canton School of Law, King’s College London This paper will describe a very successful interdepartmental cooperation, which allowed King's students of Russian law and Russian Academy of Justice students improving their language English skills King’s English Language Centre to get together for a mutual exchange of information. This academic year 30 undergraduate students from the School of Law take the optional module, Soviet and Post-Soviet Legal Systems. The English Language Centre at King's has an arrangement with the Russian Academy of Justice whereby the Academy sends each semester a group of around 15 ‘highflying’ 16 to 17-year-olds from its College, to undertake intensive English language training. Early in the semester an informal social meeting was arranged between the two groups of students, which was later built on in the form of an organised session of mutual interviews. The students formed groups consisting of about 4 English law students and 2 Russian students, in which the English law students interviewed the Russians about Russian legal education, and on the basis of their information wrote a report which was submitted for marking, and also anonymised and posted up on their module intranet site. The Russian students similarly interviewed the English law students about English legal education. A considerable amount of pre-planning and organisation on the part of staff members led to a very successful interchange. In over 30 years of teaching, teaching staff had never seen such an energised teaching group; with one student who had admitted initial apathy even making a point of coming to thank the staff for a wonderful teaching session. This paper aims to demonstrate how a comparatively simple idea can be brought to successful fruition with forethought and goodwill.

Introduction This paper describes an example of very successful interdepartmental cooperation. Law students from King's College School of Law, taking an optional undergraduate module on Russian law, got together with law students from the Russian Academy of Justice in London on an intensive course at King’s College English Language Centre to improve their English language skills. The two sets of students were able to mutually exchange information through semi-structured interviews. There were a number of interesting points in the implementation of this information exchange which we will describe. However, there are also some more general insights which we would like to highlight. Not every teacher can have the good fortune to find an appropriately complementary set of students with whom they may arrange interaction with their own students, but there are some more general messages about the approach to teaching and learning which we felt are inherent in our experience which we would like to share. Firstly, have courage. Don’t be afraid to try something new or different to the usual. Experienced teachers especially may tend to get stuck with their "tried and tested" methods, and of course implementing something novel carries risks and needs to be approached with forethought and the critical faculties definitely switched on. But ‘nothing ventured’ ‘nothing gained’ applies as much to teaching as to other areas of life. Korthagen and Vasalos (2005) discuss the analogous issue of a teacher’s mindset limiting their available scope of appropriate action. Secondly, look around. Be imaginative about possible available resources. As mentioned earlier, not everyone can be as fortunate as we were, but teachers working within large institutions may have a surprisingly wide pool of potential resources that they may be able to call upon. This is likely to involve crossing boundaries between subdivisions within the institution; something at which we are not necessarily proficient, but the rewards can be very worthwhile.


Thirdly, avoid the negative impact of the insidious culture of accountability and time management. Don’t get so caught up in trying to be ‘efficient’ that you lose any sense of fun. This links to the first point. Thinking of an activity which you believe will be enjoyable, and therefore will engage and enthuse students, gives it a value which may not be measurable for the purposes of "transparency exercises" but is nevertheless very real. Fourthly, don't always expect some sort of payback. Following an interest merely because it is an interest is allowed. It may be that at some time in the future it will bear fruit, but don't only be motivated by desires for reward or achievement. In this particular case, the very positive co-operation which helped both groups of our students to have an enjoyable and extremely valuable interchange arose as a result of an informal approach and subsequent friendly relations between the English Language Centre, who were hosting a visit by some Russian legal academics, and a Law School lecturer with an interest in Russian law. Initial meetings were purely social, with no practical motivation, but out of that developed a very worthwhile enhancement for teaching in two different departments. Fifthly, teaching and learning involve more than the transfer of information from A to B (teacher to student, usually). The education experience should be much richer than merely acquiring facts, and in our case interaction between young people from different legal cultures would build bridges that no amount of book learning or equivalent could construct. Interestingly, having planned our presentation to include these wider thoughts, we were gratified to find very similar ideas presented in the introductory presentation by Professor Paul Blackmore, the newly appointed Director of the King’s Learning Institute at the opening of the 2008 Excellence in Teaching Conference. Professor Blackmore commented that one of the roles of a university is to give a "space to be imaginative". He also alerted us to the lack of focus thus far from such bodies as the Higher Education Authority to the academic experience of members of staff. He said that, “… it is important that we do not just look at student learning experience… [in relation to staff] we are not just talking about efficiency and effectiveness but talking about their wellbeing”. It was heartening to hear this eloquent plea for attention to be given to academics’ subjective experience of their role, with a view to enhancing their well-being and enjoyment of the tasks that they perform. These propositions were consistent with our own view that allowing a bit of fun into the classroom can yield disproportionately positive benefits.

The Participants Clare’s students Clare’s group consisted of 15 students, aged between 17 and 18 from the Russian Academy of Justice. The latter is an institution, situated in Moscow, which accepts 15 year old school children who wish to pursue a career in the law. They graduate from the Academy at the age of 19, and in consequence of their four years of study, are exempt from the first two years of the Russian law degree. During their time at the Russian Academy, the pupils study a wide variety of legal subjects. They are also given a solid grounding in English language. In the first year of their course, they attend six one-hour classes in general English per week and in the second the number increases to eight. In their third year, they receive six hours of English tuition per week: two in grammar and four in legal English. Since September 2007, the Academy has been sending 15 students per term to the King’s English Language Centre to take the Centre’s new Certificate in Academic English and Law course. The overall grade that the student obtains at the end of this course counts towards his/her end of year result in Moscow. The IELTS scores of those who have attended the first two courses vary between 5.5 and 7. The attendance requirement consists of 21 hours per week, with tuition including a two-hour law seminar and three and a half hours of legal English classes. In addition to this, students are expected to devote a minimum of four hours a week to self-study and must undertake both oral and written assignments.


The law assessment takes the form of an eight hundred word essay on the differences between legal education in England and Wales and in Russia. Students are told that they are to obtain their information partly from textbooks and partly from the answers given to them in the peer-to-peer information exchange. These students will be referred to throughout the paper as the Russian students.

Jane’s students Jane's group consisted of 30 undergraduates from the School of Law taking an optional module, Soviet and PostSoviet Legal Systems. The module runs during the two teaching semesters of one academic year, and for the students is one of four modules which they study that year. The majority of the students are in their second or third year of an LLB (the module is one of a number of options open to both year groups). A handful of students are second-year students on the LLB English Law with French law degree course, whereby they spend two years in London and two years in Paris to get a joint qualification. A few of the students are taking a Diploma in Legal Studies over one year, before returning to a home institution in Europe; one of the Law School’s partner institutions as part of a Socrates project which allows law students to spend a year abroad. The students in the seminar are therefore a heterogeneous group, but united by the fact that they have already spent a least one year studying law full-time, and will have at least another year or two of such study. For simplicity, in the following account they will be referred to as the English law students, as despite their range of ethnicity and nationality, it is English law they are currently studying.

The Student Interactions The English law students first met the Autumn Term Russian students at a social gathering. Thanks to the generosity of the English Language Centre, the English law students were brought to meet the Russians for an informal sandwich lunch on 19 October. The timing of the weekly seminar for the English students of Russian law happened to be 12 until 2pm on a Friday, and it was comparatively simple for the seminar leader to condense the work covered in the class that week into one hour, allowing the second hour of the timetabled period to be spent on icebreaking social interaction between the two groups of students. This was luxury not available to the Spring Term Russian students. It was only after this social lunch meeting, having observed how well the students got on with each other, that the scheme began to be hatched to bring them together in a more pedagogical setting. Mutual diary coordination between the teachers, and consideration of the topics to be studied by the English law students, resulted in time being set aside in the seminar on 9 November for the students to compare notes about legal education in their respective jurisdictions. In preparation for the meeting, the English law students were given a handout explaining that they were being set a piece of written work (one of two formative pieces to be completed that semester) based on the information that they would obtain from the Russian students. The copy of this handout can be found in Appendix B. There was list of suggested questions, based on the teacher’s knowledge of Russian legal education and geared to bringing out contrasts between the Russian and English systems of legal education. The Russian students were also given a list of suggested questions, see Appendix A. With full attendance, the English law student group comprised 30 students, whilst there were 15 Russian students. The teachers decided that the students should be arranged into groups of four English law students to two Russian students. There were a couple of reasons for this. It was felt that having just one Russian informant for any subgroup of English law students would risk misinformation, whereas having two for any subgroup would allow a simple measure of quality control on the information being given by the Russians. This then determined mathematically that the number of English law students would be four to each subgroup, which conveniently allowed the teacher to ensure that there were at least one or two students in every group who had been brought up within English legal system and would therefore have a cultural knowledge about it. This was done by getting the students to sort themselves out into subgroups of four before the Russians arrived, making sure that there were at least two "locals" in each group. All the English law students had been warned that they would be asked about English legal education, and as all were partaking of some aspect of that education, even if only for a year, it did not seem unreasonable that they should know something about it. The session worked excellently. It may have been very helpful that the students had already met each other; at least one of the English law students’ subgroups asked for specific Russian students by name. The English law students formed their subgroups and spread themselves about the room, and Russians in pairs joined them.


An excited hum of conversation ensued, as the mutual interviews took place. Clare and Jane, overseeing the interaction, found that their only role was to stand back and let the students get on with it, merely giving a time warning towards the end of the hour-long session. It subsequently transpired that the students had taken advantage of their meeting to exchange email addresses, although it is unknown to what extent they remained in touch. The English law students subsequently produced their pieces of written work, which were anonymised and posted up on their Virtual Learning Environment so that they could check others’ information if they wished. The reports were generally very well written and informative, and the students clearly found the contrast between the different jurisdictions’ legal education systems quite startling. The second set of interviews were between the same English law students, but a different group (the Spring Term intake) of Russian students. This took place on 29 February. The timing was the same in as much as it was in the second half of the two-hour seminar, but the timetabled room had changed. The new room was prettier, light and high ceilinged, but the acoustics not as good as in the previous room. The two groups had not had the opportunity to meet beforehand. The topics for interview were slightly different. The Russian students had been presented with a list of the topics from the Russian legal system that the English law students were studying that semester: criminal law, criminal procedure and aspects of civil Law. Of these, the Russian students volunteered to be interviewed about criminal procedure, and worked out for themselves a list of appropriate questions that they would be able to answer. This was excellent as far as the English law students were concerned, as they had already written an essay on the role of the advocate in Russian criminal procedure, and so were well prepared to understand the significance of any answers that the Russian students gave them. The English law students were prepared to answer questions about their legal education again; none of them had studied English criminal procedure, and would not have been in a position to answer a symmetrical set of questions. As before, the subject matter was of great benefit to the Russian students who needed the information in order to complete their assignment. The two teachers observing thought that there was not quite the excited buzz as they had seen in the first set of interviews, although still strong student engagement with the task. They speculated on the reasons for the difference: it could not be ascertained whether it was dependent on the acoustics in the room, or the fact that for the English students at least the process was not novel, or the fact that the two groups of students had not met each other before and so a certain degree of social "sizing up" had to be done before meaningful exchange of information could take place. Nevertheless, student feedback on the session from both groups was very positive. The English law students were subsequently given a brief questionnaire (see Appendix D for copy), and of the 9 returns under question 4, "any other comments", 8 were positive: "very enjoyable & interesting"; "nice and interesting"; "simplifies what could seem complicated to us"; "very interesting - to have their point of view (of different perspective) - we went deeper into some topics we had already studied". Only one was negative, and that was a complaint that the "time given was too short to get detailed notes". The Russian students were asked specifically to identify two positive features of the interaction and two respects in which it might have been improved. Nearly all said that they had greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet and exchange information with law students who were native speakers/highly competent speakers of English. Responses included: “we learned a lot of information”; “we liked working in small groups”; “we received answers to some questions which are rather difficult to find elsewhere”; “it was exciting to find out the opinions of foreign students”. Other students commented: “a perfect opportunity to get some interesting information about the educational system in England”; “it gave me a chance to share my knowledge with other students”; “really useful and important for our education”; “a good chance to improve my speaking skills”; “the [English] students were very friendly”. Giving constructive criticism of the experience, practically all respondents said that they would have appreciated a longer session. Pressure of time had dictated that the students had had only 40 minutes in which to interview one another, and most said that they would have liked to have had at least an hour. One student expressed regret that the activity had been conducted only once during the term, while a second suggested that each group might have prepared its own set of questions which could then have been circulated to the other group for consideration before their meeting.


The Perceived Benefits to the Students From the perspective of the teachers, there were a number of obvious benefits. Firstly, the English law students were receiving up-to-date information in fields (Russian legal education and Russian criminal procedure) where there have been recent major reforms, and the information in English language sources is either nonexistent or rather one-sidedly presented. Secondly, there was a layer of meta-education that young people brought up under another legal system were comparatively normal, and that system was no more irrational than any other. This is particularly important at the present time when relations between the United Kingdom and Russia are at a rather low ebb. There is even talk about a return to the Cold War mentality. Allowing fruitful personal interaction between young people from both systems seemed a very worthwhile investment for future entente. Thirdly, as observed and from their feedback, it was evident that the students clearly enjoyed the process, and their enthusiasm for their studies was thereby enhanced. Fourthly, the project allowed the students to be autonomous in their acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and at least from the first set of interviews produce some very good written work with minimal tutor interference. Finally, as one of their number himself said, the experience provided the Russians with an excellent opportunity to practise their speaking skills with English law students.

Limitations of the Project There were some difficulties to overcome. From the perspective of the teacher of the English law students studying Russian law, these were the following. Firstly, because the interaction was not pre-planned into the Russian Law seminar scheme already elaborated and enshrined in the semester handout for the English law students, time had to be made within a crowded syllabus. Also, the project had to be organised to make it relevant and integrated into the already published module materials in order for the students to appreciate its value. It is, moreover, regrettable that the fact that the English law students will be involved in examinations during the summer term will mean that it will be impossible for the interaction to be repeated with the Summer term intake of Russian students. For both teachers there was quite a bit of initial organisation in order that the sessions would run smoothly, and so that the students would know what they were going to do sufficiently for the teachers to be able to stand back and let them get on with it.

Conclusion Overall, the interaction was a great success. It was clearly worthwhile, and despite the difficulties identified above, it is hoped that it will be repeated in the first two terms of the next academic year. Clare and Jane will give thought as to the subject matter of and material design for future interviews in the light of their students’ needs, abilities and legal interests. If the event can be arranged for the early part of each term, this will have the advantage that the students will have the opportunity to make contact with each other several weeks before the Russian students’ return to Moscow. In this way, lasting friendships may be forged and students may establish contacts which could be of benefit to them throughout their future careers.

References: Korthagen, F. & Vasalos, A. (2005) Levels of reflection: core reflection as a means for enhancing professional growth, Teachers and Teaching Theory, 11(1), 47-71.

Address for Correspondence Jane Henderson, School of Law, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS

Notes on Contributor Dr Jane Henderson is a Senior Lecturer in the Laws of Eastern Europe at the School of Law, King’s College London.


Appendices: A: List of suggested questions for the Russian students to ask about Legal Education in England and Wales B: Instructions to English law students of Russian Law for their written work, based on their interviews with the Russian students, including suggested questions C: List of suggested questions for the Russian students to be asked about Russian criminal procedure (suggested by the Russian students themselves) D: Questionnaire given to English law students to get feedback about second set of interviews



Do most students take a law degree immediately after completing their secondary education?


How many years of study does it take to obtain an undergraduate law degree?


How many subjects are normally studied on an undergraduate law degree?


Are Kingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s undergraduate law students normally assessed by assignment, dissertation, examination, or by a combination of these?


How many hours teaching would an undergraduate law student receive per week?


What are the diďŹ&#x20AC;erent methods of tuition that are used in the degree? Please give a full description of each.


Is it necessary to have an undergraduate law degree in order to enter the legal profession? If not, might those entrants who pursue an alternative route be at a disadvantage?


Is it common for an intending barrister or solicitor to take a postgraduate degree in law?


How does a law graduate qualify as a solicitor?

10. How does a law graduate become a barrister? 11. What do you consider to be the biggest barrier to entry to the legal profession? 12. Why do you think it is that many law graduates decide not to pursue a career in the legal profession?


Appendix B KINGS COLLEGE LONDON SCHOOL OF LAW SOVIET & POST SOVIET LEGAL SYSTEMS RUSSIAN LEGAL INSTITUTIONS 2007/8 WRITTEN WORK 2 Russian Legal Education Please write a memo of no more than 1000 words, comparing and contrasting the system of Russian legal education to the system of legal education in any jurisdiction of which you are familiar (if you don’t know about legal education elsewhere, just describe the Russian system, but comparison is more fun). You will get your information about the Russian system by interviewing Russian students on 9 November. Before then, you could read through the information on the legal profession given for seminar 10 – see pages 33-36 of your Autumn semester seminar sheet pack – to gain some background terminology about the Russian legal profession.

Suggested questions might include: Do most students take a law degree immediately after completing secondary education? (contrast the USA where law is a postgraduate degree) What is the application process to get a place to study for a law degree? How many years does it take to get higher legal education in Russia? What is the qualification called? What subjects are studied? How many hours per week, and what format classes? What format are the examinations? Is any further study then required to practice as a lawyer? If so, what further qualifications are required? What higher degrees exist? How are they gained? (examination, research thesis etc.) Please word process and save as a .doc, .rtf or equivalent, and send it as an attachment to by Thursday 22 November.



What are the main sources of criminal procedure?


What is the main aim of criminal procedure?


What are the main stages of criminal procedure?


What role does a civil claim play in criminal procedure?


Who are the participants in a criminal case and what rights and duties do they have?


Describe the hierarchy and jurisdiction of the criminal courts.


What service exists to prosecute the alleged offender?


Identify the types of criminal offences and the differences between them.


What is the standard of proof in the criminal law?


On whom does the burden of proof lie in a criminal case?


In what circumstances is evidence inadmissible in a criminal case?


What is the role of defence counsel in criminal procedure?


Appendix D KINGS COLLEGE LONDON SCHOOL OF LAW SOVIET & POST SOVIET LEGAL SYSTEMS RUSSIAN LEGAL INSTITUTIONS 2007/8 INTERVIEWS ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURE Qu. 1: What information were you given by the Russian law students that most surprised you?

Qu. 2: Was there anything that you disbelieved or that otherwise diďŹ&#x20AC;ered markedly from what you had read about Russian criminal procedure?

Qu. 3: Do you feel that your attitude to/perception of Russian criminal procedure has changed as a result of the interview with the Russian law students?

Qu. 4: Have you any other comments about the whole exercise of mutual interviewing?


Peer tutoring schemes: enhancing teaching while improving clinical ability Sally Richardson Clinical Skills Centre, King’s College London Abstract The aim of this research is to investigate, using a single site case study, whether Peer Tutoring Schemes can help the peer tutors become more accomplished teachers, as well as improving their clinical and procedural skills. There has been much research showing peer tutoring improves both the peer tutors’ and tutees’ confidence and clinical and communication skills, but little on whether their teaching ability improves. Without this we have no real insight into whether such schemes really help or hinder the students’ teaching skills. A single site case study is used, consisting of forty-four peer tutors, to investigate whether peer tutors can become more skilled teachers. Data is gathered using reflective accounts, focus groups and teaching observation. It is felt such schemes cannot guarantee making all students into more accomplished teachers, but they should certainly strive to provide a forum for learning and improving teaching skills. To be able to do this the scheme has to be well planned and implemented, and include training and support for the peer tutors.

Introduction The practice of students teaching other students has a long history, dating back thousands of years, even to the ancient Greeks (Topping, 1998; Wagner, 1990). Much of the original research focused on the peer tutee, and the fact that it is seen as a desirable and cost effective way to implement teaching. Peer tutoring is now recognised as much more diverse with its benefits seen in school age and higher education students. Researchers claim that peer tutoring heightens intelligence, develops a sense of responsibility, improves self-confidence and allows growth in interpersonal relationships (Brueckner & MacPherson, 2004). This research is based in the Medical Education Department of a university, where large cohort numbers, reduced patient stay and increased patient rights; result in students having a variation of learning experiences with regard to the patients they see, the teaching experiences they gain, and the number of clinical skills they can achieve. With students in higher education being encouraged to be more involved in their academic development, a peer tutoring scheme not only tackles the problem of inconsistent learning experiences in the clinical setting, but, also, involves the students in solving this problem. The success of previous schemes run within the researchers place of work were evaluated well by both the tutee and tutor in terms of increased confidence and clinical skill acquisition. Though, when the researcher looked more deeply into the scheme, it became clear that the peer tutors were not always developing into more skilled


teachers, thus illuminating a real need for more research into the peer tutor, and what they require to enable them to become more accomplished teachers within such schemes. This is particularly relevant for medical students, as teaching is seen as an essential part of the medical curriculum. Medical students are expected to be able to teach students and colleagues when they qualify (GMC, 2003). The primary objectives arose from a literature review and professional experience: 1. Investigate the peer tutors’ opinions of the training and whether it met their short and long term learning needs of being a peer tutor. 2. The peer tutors’ perceptions of the teaching process including their development as they go through the scheme. 3. Investigate the nature of the support the peer tutors think they need in order to develop to make the most of the opportunity.

Research Methodology and Methods The research uses a qualitative methodology, because the researcher wanted to look at the students’ perceptions of the peer tutoring scheme. A single site case study method was chosen to allow each student a voice through the different collection methods. This approach was better able to establish whether such schemes can truly provide a forum for improving teaching skills, and, if it can, what training and support is needed to aid this development. This research highlighted any differences that emerged from individuals, therefore offering a better basis for any future action. The research looked at all the students in the scheme, as the aim was to provide primary input into the researcher’s own practice and to enable light to be shed on the wider issues for future research and future action to improve the scheme. The research used multiple methods of data collection to improve the research validity. In the research, each student case study was looked at in a variety of different ways: reflective accounts, observation, and focus groups. These methods of data collection were chosen to enable the researcher to complete a thorough study into the research question. The researcher felt this was essential to get a true indication, from the perspective of the peer tutors, as to whether they, themselves, feel they were more accomplished teachers, whilst enabling the researcher to further investigate the evolving students’ perspectives and explore the research question through observations and focus groups.

Research Participants The sample for the research was a convenience sample of all the randomly selected year four medical students in the scheme. Year four medical students were chosen as they are the most appropriate year due to their level of medical training and location of placements, to partake in the scheme to teach year three medical students. The sample size was forty-four this number was dictated from a practical point of view, because the researcher had calculated that this is the number of peer tutors needed to teach the four hundred and twenty year three medical students in small groups of no more than ten, approximately four times each. The whole of year four medical students were emailed to select the sample of peer tutors. The criteria for sample selection was that the students had to be able to attend the compulsory training days, that they could commit to teaching three to four teaching sessions throughout the scheme, and they were prepared to be actively involved in the research being carried out. No academic requirements were stipulated as the students in year four would have passed their Objective Clinical Structured Examination and their written examinations to have progressed to year four.

Data Collection Methods Reflective Accounts The researcher asked the students to keep reflective accounts of their training, support, development and teaching for every session of the Peer Teaching Scheme. This enabled the researcher to get some insight into all three of the research objectives. The reason the researcher decided to include reflective accounts within this research was to gather in-depth information from the students about their own progress through the scheme. The aim was that these accounts will provide some insight into how the students feel they are developing as teachers and what is helping, and hindering, this development.


Focus Groups The aims of the focus groups were to generate rich data which could be developed from themes which arose from the reflective accounts. They provided insight into the peer tutors’ development through the scheme, and their own perceptions of themselves as teachers, as well as imparting useful information for the development, evaluation, and modification of the Peer Tutor Scheme.

Teaching Observations Teaching observations were used to further explore whether students own perceptions of themselves as teachers is reality or rhetoric.

Data Presentation and Discussion The data was collected and analysed from the researcher’s empirical research. The themes set out below emerged during coding of the empirical data

The Teaching Tips Training Session The majority of the reflections on this training session were good. This session was presented by an educationalist based within the university the session mainly discussion based and included topics such as preparation for teaching, managing small group teaching and use of questions. In the researcher’s observations of the teaching it was found that many of the peer tutors had benefited from the information on the use of questions, with questions being used within their teaching to check knowledge and understanding. Though there were some peer tutors who found using questions difficult or based their whole session on continual questions to their group. This demonstrates the fact that, the students learnt slightly different things from the initial session. They were trying to put the ideas into practice, though some more successfully than others. Both, the peer tutors’ accounts during the scheme, and the focus groups’ feedback, made it clear that the peer tutors would have liked a longer training session with more tips on how to teach and manage a group: ‘more needed on actual teaching skills’. Several students commented that they would have liked additional optional sessions throughout the scheme to help develop their teaching skills and their ability to cope with some of the problems they encountered with their groups, such as, difficulty in getting the group to interact, dealing with disruptive students, or very knowledgeable students.

The Clinical Skills Revision Training Session This received mixed comments on whether the students’ learning needs were met. All clinicians teaching the peer tutors were emailed a lesson plan with the aim and learning objectives of the session. This included the skills that needed to be covered and how the session should be delivered. The clinicians that had read through the researcher’s plan for the session and taken it on board received positive comments:- ‘good to revise skills’, ‘good to highlight knowledge deficits’, ‘the clinician encouraged questions and discussion which were helpful’, and ‘made me aware of the preparation I needed to do’. These positive comments became negative when the clinician did not facilitate the group in the way the researcher had asked them to, or due to their own lack of preparation: ‘the clinician did not seem to know how to do some of the skills’, ‘the clinician taught the skills we knew rather than providing us with feedback’. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where this session went wrong. It was taught by foundation year two doctors, senior house officers and then some more experienced consultants. Though, it would be presumptuous to say one was better than the other, it was certainly the less experienced doctors who requested more input from the researcher with regard to running the session and what to include, whereas the researcher had no additional contact with the more experienced clinicians other than the initial emails.


‘Microteaching’ Training Session This session, really stood out as the most beneficial for meeting the peer tutors’ own learning needs. It seemed to really boost their skills and teaching confidence: ‘the ‘microteaching’ made me more confident in my ability’, ‘I am now very enthusiastic about teaching year three’, ‘feedback was helpful to boost confidence’, and ‘felt confident in my teaching style’. This session was based on using role-play: each student had to teach a clinical skill to their small group as if they were year three students. Clinicians and the researcher facilitated these sessions. The aim was to use the same clinicians for both the clinical skills revision session and the ‘microteaching’, though it resulted in being mainly the new doctors who facilitated these sessions. All clinicians were provided with a lesson plan clearly stating the aims and objectives. This session really highlighted for many of the peer tutors that they would need to do some preparation for their teaching sessions: ‘showed me the importance of planning work’, ‘made me realise how important preparation is’, ‘I need to do more background reading’. It is interesting that it was this session that made the tutors realise this, because the importance of planning was covered in the first session: ‘Teaching Tips’. The experience of ‘microteaching’ also enabled many of the peer tutors to think about the process of teaching: ‘showed how challenging it is to confidently demonstrate and explain skills as you go along’, ‘enabled me to put into practice what I had learnt by asking group questions to keep them alert and involved’. These comments enabled the researcher to see that the training did manage to establish a level of integration between the sessions. The students were able to use the knowledge and practice they had gained from the other parts of the training to put together and implement their ‘microteaching’ session. This also demonstrates their ability to reflect on the different aspects of the training and evaluate its effectiveness for them as individuals, which reinforces the importance of all aspects of the training, and highlights how they are developing through the scheme.

Teaching in Pairs The students were all put into pairs for their first teaching session. The aim of this was to provide them with some peer support, for the students to discuss their teaching experience, to learn from each other and to provide each other with feedback. In reality the majority of the peer tutors did not find this as positive an experience as was hoped. This seemed to mainly stem from the fact that, though all students were told who their partner was and were encouraged to contact each other prior to the teaching, many did not. In fact in the focus groups the researcher found that no peer tutors had contacted their partner prior to their teaching, unless they already knew each other. This had a negative effect as they then found it difficult to divide the teaching and work with their pair if they had differing teaching styles. When this was explored further the peer tutors did not have an adequate reason why they did not contact one another: ‘I thought it would just come together’, ‘I didn’t contact the person I was paired with as I did not know them’. The positive comments about the paired teaching were from the students who felt less confident and prepared for the teaching: ‘improved confidence’, ‘the other peer tutor helped when I was unsure of how to answer certain questions’, ‘I found being in a pair really supportive’. In a focus group, one student in particular was really pleased she had been paired for the first teaching session, as she felt very unconfident with her ability to teach and manage the group. Many felt they would have liked this to be optional, because the more experienced at teaching (and thus more confident about taking the session) did not want to be in a pair. Though, as one student pointed out, the whole point of the pairing system was not necessarily for the students with more experience, but for those with little or no experience, meaning that the experienced students helped and supported the less experienced. This is precisely why this was arranged and the researcher is disappointed that this opportunity for a collaborative teaching experience was not fully utilised by the students. It is surprising how the peers approached pairing, as collaborative teaching is an important area within medical education.

Managing the Peer Tutee Group It was apparent throughout the scheme that the peer tutee group dynamics changed depending on group size, previous knowledge and learning needs. The comments from the peer tutors about their year three groups varied from: ‘very keen and asked lots of questions’, ‘found it easy to interact with the group as they were enthusiastic and forthcoming’ to ‘I found it hard to engage them, which made me feel a lot less confident’.


Many students found that they needed to have a more flexible teaching style than they had originally realised, as the year three group dynamics changed each time: ‘less interactive group than last time, so the teaching had to be adjusted slightly’, ‘need to be flexible about to how run a session’. This is encouraging as what makes a good teacher is someone who can have a flexible approach and change their teaching style depending on their students’ learning needs. Though through the researchers’ observation it was seen some found this easier than others. In one group, it was clear that the peer tutor was losing the attention of the group the peer tutor stuck with their teaching style for the whole session. Another peer tutor, who had a larger group, paired the students to practice, so they all did the skill at the same time, showing flexibility which worked well. One challenge that the researcher observed a few times was that one confident year three student would answer the majority of the questions. One of the peer tutors dealt with this situation by directing the questions to others in the group, which worked in this session without alienating the confident student. Other peer tutors found this more difficult to cope with in the reflective accounts two peer tutors talk about situations as observed by the researcher: ‘the student knowing more than me could have been awkward.’ ‘A student in the session who appeared quite knowledgeable contradicted me. I found this a little undermining, but as she had been wrong I forgot about it.’ This highlights that the peer tutors were coming across real teaching issues that even more experienced teachers and lecturers struggle with. A contributing factor to these problems was the size of the group. Group size could vary depending on whether there was good attendance, or a peer tutor was not able to teach and could not be replaced. This seemed to cause a division in opinion; some peer tutors were not phased by the larger groups others found the larger groups had a negative effect on their teaching development. Another area that arose repeatedly when observing teaching, though was not evident from the reflective accounts or the focus groups, was the fact that the peer tutors did not think about their teaching environment. Several peer tutors taught with their back to the group when demonstrating a skill. Some did not check their equipment prior to teaching, meaning a few peer tutors did not realise the absence of a certain piece of equipment until half way through their teaching. Either that, or they would realise they were unable to work the piece of equipment. This made the peer tutors lose focus on their teaching, making some of them appear quite nervous, whereas, before this happened they seemed fairly confident. At the other extreme, one peer tutor, who is slightly more mature and has teaching experience, showed the power of having the equipment prepared. The peer tutor tested the equipment before he started to teach and, also, brought along additional pieces of equipment that he was aware that he needed from the previous sessions that he had taught. This really made his teaching smooth; he came across in a confident and organised way. Although, after the training, the peer tutors were able to reflect on the fact they needed to prepare for their teaching, one area many of them forgot was their preparation of the classroom and equipment.

Support Support was offered throughout the scheme. The researcher was present at all sessions and had email contact throughout the scheme. The focus groups were also seen as a support network by the peer tutors. Many said they liked the focus groups as they enabled them to meet to discuss positive and negative aspects of the scheme: ‘good to meet other peer tutors’, ‘nice to hear other peer tutors are having the same problems as me’, ‘has helped me pick up tips for my next session’. Support was rarely mentioned in the peer tutors’ reflective accounts. When the support system was discussed within the focus groups the overwhelming answer was that the students did feel supported and able to contact the researcher if they had any problems with regard to the scheme: ‘good researcher, there at each session, so we knew we could come and find her if needed’, ‘didn’t feel at this stage any more support was needed’, ‘researcher kept in constant contact so knew could express any concerns if had them’.

Implications for Running Future Peer Tutor Schemes Training There is a need to think further about how to chose and prepare clinicians, prior to the training session. This will be reviewed with the possibility of mainly recruiting F2 and SHO’s and providing them, not only with a lesson plan, but also a briefing prior to the session.


There was a need for more sessions on teaching. This would prove difficult in the initial training due to time constraints, though, as the peer tutors suggested, continued sessions throughout the scheme could be introduced. From this scheme it can be seen that not everyone would find this beneficial, so it would not be compulsory.

Support The researcher will maintain the same support network as in this scheme, though a much more peer orientated, peer support network, will be introduced. This will be achieved with the continuation of focus groups, originally run for this research, and peer observation. Teaching in Pairs:- The concept of using pairs to help with confidence and development proved not as successful as was hoped in this scheme, though the importance of medical students being able to work collaboratively with one another cannot be ignored. Therefore in subsequent schemes the students will have a session on the concept of paired teaching, alongside an explanation of its aims and objectives, and what is expected from them. This preparation will hopefully lead to this being a more effective learning and teaching support for the peer tutors.

Conclusions Can a peer tutoring scheme truly offer a forum to learn and improve teaching skills, as well as improving clinical and procedural skills? This research concludes that such schemes can help to develop peer tutors to become more accomplished teachers. It is clear from this research that the students developed their skills through the scheme, learning whilst actually teaching, though, not all who participate in such schemes benefit and develop as much as others. It is vital that this is not ignored, and, instead, schemes should strive to improve training and support for all, to ensure teaching development meets all the students’ needs. As, however much we ‘sugar coat’ it, we are asking the peer tutors to teach, so we should equip them to do this. In the literature review, peer tutors’ roles within this scheme were considered. Peer Tutor Schemes can encourage skill development, independence and confidence, which should be seen as complementing the mainstream teaching. With good, well organised training, encouraging reflection, feedback and support throughout the scheme, the peer tutors are certainly being given the opportunity to learn about teaching, within a safe environment, to develop these skills and to learn from their experiences, with the aim of developing more accomplished teachers. Perhaps the question this research has raised is just how accomplished the peer tutors need to be as teachers to make a real difference, and can any Peer Tutor Scheme, with its shortage of time and resources, truly enable the peer tutors to achieve this?

References Brueckner, J. & MacPherson, B. (2004) Benefits from peer teaching in the dental gross anatomy laboratory, European Journal of Dental Health, 8 (2) 72-77. Topping, K. (1998) Peer assessment between students in colleges and universities, American Educational Research Association, 68 (3) 249 -276. Wagner, L. (1983) Peer Teaching: Historical Perspectives (Contribution to the study of education) (Greenwood Press, Connecticut).

Address for Correspondence Sally Richardson, Department of Clinical Skills Centre, King’s College London, Guy’s Campus, London SE1 1UL

Notes on Contributor Mrs Sally Richardson is the Clinical Skills Centre Manager in the Department of Medicine, King’s College London.


Enhancing undergraduates’ active participation in the academic environment to avoid classroom silence Anna Battaglia Department of Anatomy & Human Sciences, King’s College London

Abstract One of the major issues in Higher Education (HE) is the one-way relationship that often characterizes studentslecturer interaction. Students are so used to being talked to and lectured to that they often forget that they also have a voice, and an important one, in the academic environment. This engenders a fear of speaking up in tutorials, seminars and lectures. Literature on the topic (Chohan & Smith, 2007) suggests some of the reasons why this might happen, beyond the simple fact that they are not used to doing so. Feeling nervous about talking in front of a large group of people is one of them: it has been referred to as communication apprehension or a fear of communicating within a group context (Petress, 2001). Other reasons are low self-esteem, lack of confidence or lack of knowledge altogether (Drew & Bingham, 2001). Power dynamics have also been considered as a possible explanation for the reluctance of students to participate in discussions in the class (Johnson-Bailey, 2002). So in the light of these findings it seems necessary to help undergraduate students to build up their confidence in expressing their ideas gradually, in questioning their teachers and discussing openly. In this paper I present a small case study on silence in the classroom both from a student and a teacher’s perspective. I then propose the usefulness of teaching undergraduates how to enhance their active participation during the course of their university studies. This has to go in parallel with the training of academic staff for a more interactive teaching style.

Introduction According to the “Ethics of Human Communication” by Johannesen (1983) and reported by Petress (2001), students who refuse to participate in an active way in their own learning are acting unethically. In this paper I would like to expand on this issue as I think that one of the major faults in our higher education (HE) system is the spoon-feeding attitude towards teaching students which limits their active participation in the academic environment. In a way, students’ attitudes mirror the environment they are in and their actions reflect what this environment requires from them. As in any human relationship responsibility is never on one side only. The most common teaching session in HE is represented by a lecturer delivering ‘knowledge’ to huge numbers of students (especially in medical and dental courses) who, in the best of cases, take notes and go on to the next lecture theatre to receive other ‘knowledge’. Students are so used to being talked to in university that it looks as if they forget they have a voice too. This engenders a fear of also speaking in tutorials and seminars, smaller teaching settings that are, in theory, ideal for allowing an increased level of communication and interaction between staff and students. Rodriguez-Valls (page 2) says: ‘we have designed a methodology that educates students to become critical thinkers in both public and private universities. Our methodology moves from a lecture model to a participatory learning process. The first tends to sedate the language organ (Chomsky, 1999) due to the fact that it is a univocal communication. In this instance, faculty talks at the student not with the student, limiting for the expansion of meaningful knowledge and critical thinking.


The only linguistic code utilized in this process is the one instituted by the ‘academia’ (Rodriguez-Valls, 2008). Interaction and learning are intertwined so if the former is lacking the latter will suffer. According to Brookfield and Preskill (2005) discussion is one of the best way to nurture growth. In this case growth is used in the sense given to the word by Dewey (1916) as development of an ever increasing capacity for learning. For a very long list of benefits of learning through discussion and interaction see Brookfield and Preskill (Brookfield & Preskill, 1999).

Student Factors In the scant literature on the topic many other factors are considered part of the reasons why HE students find it hard to speak up. For example Chohan and Smith (2007) suggest that just feeling nervous to talk in front of a large group of people is one of them. According to Turk, “Nervousness seems to disable common sense and normal intelligence gets swamped by anxiety” (1985, p100). Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is a well documented psychological phenomenon, whose main manifestation is the fear of talking in public; for a definition see the following web site address of the Institute of Psychiatry ( This has been referred to by Petress as “Communication apprehension or clinical fear of communicating with or in presence of others” (2001, p3). Other reasons cited are low self-esteem, lack of confidence or lack of knowledge altogether. In particular low selfesteem is held responsible for the fear of speaking up: fear of appearing foolish, being convinced of having nothing valuable to say or saying the wrong thing (Brookfield & Preskill, 1999). Lack of confidence may also be attributed to lack of familiarity with topic (Drew and Bingham, 2001). Another important issue to take into account is related to power dynamics in the classroom. Social dividing factors such as race, gender, class are powerful in segregating students also in the academic environments and are accountable for unequal active participation in teaching sessions. As recent research on the topic has shown, white male students experience a higher level of confidence in leadership roles in group settings and especially when power issues are not controlled by the tutor (i.e., allowing everyone in the class to have a say). So reluctance to participate has to do with perceived power dynamics when these are not regulated or dealt with by the tutor/lecturer (Johnson-Bailey, 2002). This suggests that some students need more support than others to make themselves heard. Moreover as our universities are multicultural environments, difficulties faced by non-native English speakers need to be considered as cultural differences may account for lack of active participation. Perceived inability to convey own ideas, opinions in English keeps international students away from active participation. It is widely recognised that small-group interaction helps overcome language barriers (Trice, 2003; Cathcart et al., 2006). Facilitating learning in multicultural environment thus seems essential in modern universities for an inclusive approach to teaching. Another interesting point that has been raised is that there are ambiguities in the interpretation of silence according to different educational contexts. Traditionally in our schooling system, silence is associated with discipline which enables learning and reflection. In different cultures silence is also seen as a form of respect and politeness toward the teacher, i.e. Chinese cultures. Yet in active theories of learning there is an attempt to break that silence as it is seen as a barrier to participation and learning. So we need to be careful in associating silence with a negative connotation only and distinguish the different contexts and cultures of learning (Armstrong, 2003). Moreover providing space for students to reflect before answering questions often requires tolerance of silence in the classroom. Interestingly it has been reported that lecturers’ perception of the amount of time they allow to the students to answer a question is much longer than the actual time, i.e. ten seconds vs. three seconds. This means that the few questions asked by lecturers in a lecture theatre are either rhetorical or are almost immediately answered by the lecturer himself (Armstrong, 2003). The same often goes for tutorials where there is a students’ input at the beginning of the session, which is picked up by the lecturer who goes on to lecture to a smaller group of students this leads to the important issue of the lecturer/tutor’s ability or willingness to allow students’ active participation. In Medical Schools one of the modern approaches to teaching is the use of Problem Based Learning sessions. These sessions rely on students’ participation and expertise in group facilitation, which is a skill that teaching staff have to develop for these new methods to be successful (Gill et al., 2004).


The point I would like to make in this paper is that staff should be trained to develop enabling them to elicit a greater amount of active and substantive student participation in the academic environment. I strongly believe in a facilitatory role of tutors in this process. I believe that if students are relaxed and encouraged to speak the issue of poor communication quickly loses its salience. On the other hand students should be trained from the very beginning of their university studies to build up gradually their confidence in order to become active members of their learning environment. In this paper I have tried first of all to identify the main reasons for students’ reticence to speak, both from their point of view and from that of their tutors in the biomedical setting where I am currently working. Questionnaires were given out to students and to lecturers/tutors. Secondly, possible ways to overcome the issue of poor participation are suggested.

Small-case study on silence in the classroom: a student and teacher’s perspective In this small-case study I asked a group of second year medical students (n=40) to answer to an additional question written at the end of a feedback questionnaire on my teaching sessions (Neuroscience tutorials). The open-ended question was the following: “What is the main factor which makes it hard for you to speak out during lectures, seminars or tutorials (i.e. ask questions, express your opinion, participate in discussion, etc..?)”. Students were debriefed on the aim of the activity telling them that I needed the answers for a research I was doing on finding possible methods to enhance their active academic participation. They replied anonymously and at the end of the teaching session I collected all the answers, which were then analyzed. Lecturers/tutors (n=12) on their part answered either anonymously or replying to my e-mail to a mini questionnaire asking them to reflect on their experience of “silence” in tutorials (see Appendix A).

Results Students perspective on silence in the classroom Students’ answers were categorized and percentages for each type of answer were calculated: Table 1 Type of answer In lectures no one asks questions, too many students, no familiar faces, too big theatres so it is just too difficult Risk of getting the answer wrong due to lack of knowledge Fear of asking something everyone else knows, fear of reaction, so fear of peer judgment Some tutors are not very helpful, do not smile, look strict, this prevents questions being asked to enhance my understanding Do not want to ask a stupid question I do not usually find hard hard to speak in tutorials and seminars Not allowed to speak, tutors should be able to elicit more from students I do not want to wast people’s time I lack confidence and get very nervous of being the focus of attention Difficulty to put ideas into articulate sentences, language barriers

% 17.5 17 13 12 10 9.5 9 4 4 4

The same results can also be presented in a graph employing similar categorizations as the one used for lecturers’ answers (see below). In order to do this some answers have been combined: for example, “In lectures no one asks questions....” and “I lack confidence and get very nervous of being the focus of attention” are categorized under the heading of lack of confidence (there might be a problem here, as lack of confidence in talking to an audience could also be due to lack of knowledge). Or answers such as ‘some tutors are not very helpful...’ and “Not allowed to speak, tutors should elicit more from students” have been grouped under tutor’s attitude.


Table 2

Lecturers/tutors perspective Lecturers/tutors’ all admitted to experience ‘silence’ in their tutorials. 60% of those respondents, however, are not affected by this. The remaining 40% who are affected mainly talk of feeling insecure, being disturbed by silence in the class or feeling that something in what they are doing is wrong or being affected only by awkward silences. All take action to improve the session. In summary the methods used are: 1) Organize students in small groups 2) Asking students questions directly 3) Encourage them to answer questions by using the board 4) Questions are reformulated based on students’ level of knowledge 5) Run tutorials in an informal way, setting expectations (i.e. telling students that they have to do most of the talking) allowing “silences” to think 6) Encourage advanced preparation (i.e. sending papers to read before the tutorial) 7) Use of humour to try and engage more the students Regarding the reasons given for “silence” in tutorials these are the results in percentages (reasons were graded from 1 to 5, with 1 being equivalent to “do not agree” and 5 being equivalent to “strongly agree”). Table 3


1) Students’ lack of knowledge 2) Students’ lack of confidence 3) Students’ lack of self-esteem 4) Peer pressure/judgment 5) Tutor’s attitude in tutorials 6) Power dynamics in the class 7) None of those (not in table; 90% were 5, 10% was 2)

Discussion This small case study was done with the idea to try to find out some of the reasons behind difficulties with students active participation in the academic environment both from a student and a lecturer perspective. The main points arising from students’ answers demonstrate a widespread lack of confidence (i.e. fear of saying the wrong thing and looking stupid in front of peers especially in big lecture theatres compared to smaller size teaching settings), perceived non-facilitating tutor’s attitude and a lack of knowledge which does not allow them to be active members of the academic community. This matches the results from Gill’s research which show that lack of preparation (73%) and lack of confidence (28%) are the main barriers to participation. One could argue, together with Drew and Bingham (2001), that lack of familiarity with content of the topic at hand is obviously a major obstacle in a two-way lecturer-student interaction and this is in itself a reason for lack of confidence in speaking in lectures or seminars. This expresses certain assumptions about learning, my view is that knowledge needs to be constructed together with the students and not given out to the students. There is a widespread expectation amongst the students’ population that knowledge is there to be delivered to them so that they can easily obtain the degree they want. Universities, to fulfil their educational role, should be there to send a different message, and one could be: ‘Knowledge is not for sale it is to be acquired’ (Rodriguez-Valls, 2008), which is a motto I totally agree with but rarely adopted in today’s market-led educational world. For example, in order to become active participants, students need to be able to critically read text and be able to deconstruct text meaning independently, with the facilitator help of a tutor. Lecturers tell us what to read, why to read it and what we should obtain by that reading, disempowering the student. As Rodriguez-Valls poignantly says:’ On the other hand lecture based reading creates a dependent learning experience where students await the knowledge of the academia to reach an understanding of the texts’. Since the second millennium the role of university implied all participants to have an active role in the function of creating knowledge, a role that modern universities have partly lost. And so students, just recipients and not participants ‘adopt a motionless role when they enter the aula; their expectations are to receive some ‘snapshot’ knowledge instead of acquiring the tools needed to manipulate information in a way that becomes an effective influence in our society” (Rodriguez-Valls, 2008). In this small case study, personality and power dynamics were not considered to be a major obstacle to lack of participation whilst in other studies (Gill et al., 2004) these factors are perceived by most student of to play a major role. The main points emerging from tutors’ answers are the importance given to students’ lack of knowledge and of self-confidence (considering both the ‘agree’ and “strongly agree” answers). Here again the impression is that some lectures/tutors expect students to be passively becoming knowledgeable and confident after attending lectures. Nonetheless a number of lecturers are aware that tutor’s attitude plays an important part in ‘silence’ in the classroom (70% overall ‘agree’ or “strongly agree”) and who feel uneasy when students do not actively intervene in smaller teaching sessions. It seems, from this preliminary study, that tutors more than students, acknowledge their essential role in eliciting participation whilst students mostly blame themselves for their lack of interactive qualities. Most of the lecturers interviewed feel the need to engage students more and use different methods to improve their teaching sessions. So this leads us to the next section of this paper.


How can we enhance students’ active participation in the academic environment? First of all I think that lecturers/tutors should not take for granted students active participation and must convey the message that being able to discuss, ask questions, affirm own ideas are all skills to be learned. Teaching staff should propose oral communication training sessions and suggest reading self-help guides and other learning development resources (Drew & Bingham, 2001). One of the solutions to the problem of under-participation in the academic environment is proposed by Petress ( ) who advocates the benefits of group study. Group study skills enhance students’ social skills and help increase selfconfidence and assertiveness. How to get students to talk in small group settings? Here are some tips from the Center for Teaching and Learning in Stanford ( ). The tutor should be able to decentralize and share the authority in the class. He should ask students open-ended questions and give them time to think. If “off target” comments are heard, the tutor should respond encouragingly. A strategic body language might help to send positive and inclusive messages to the students. If the tutor is seen taking notes when students are speaking this will boost their self-esteem. The tutorial/seminar should include active learning strategies such as solo free write, pair share, small groups and skills building activities Overall we should increase the opportunities for small-group teaching (i.e. tutorials, seminars, group work), allowing students from the early days at university to give short presentations (Hay, 1994), present posters, lead classroom discussions and participate in group work, attend oral communication training sessions with the goal of gradually building up increasing levels of confidence in expressing own ideas, questioning lecturers and discussing with and in front of peers different topics. In Gill’s et al., study (2004) the majority of students, i.e. 90%, prefers tutorials over lectures. As a last point I would like to stress the importance of being able to learn the art of encouraging high quality questions: asking and answering questions are skills to learn (Walsh & Sattes, 2004). So “teaching for questioning” should be developed and students must be stimulated by the lecturer/tutor to ask high quality questions. Question asking needs to be practiced and become a normal activity. Improve design of teaching sessions to avoid inhibition in asking questions. What seems obvious also from the results of my small case study a standard lecture does not motivate students to ask questions.

Conclusion In conclusion many reasons underlie the lack of students’ active participation in academic settings. Lack of confidence and lack of “knowledge” seem the most influential. These can be overcome by introducing early on in any undergraduate course oral communication skills sessions; reducing teaching to large numbers of students and increasing small-size teaching. As tutors’ attitude has also an important part in “silence” in the classroom, staff should be trained to adopt a more interactive teaching style eliciting high quality questions from students.


References Armstrong, P. (2003) Cultures of Silence: Giving Voice to Marginalised Communities. Available online at: (Accessed on 19 January 2008). Brookfield, S. & Preskill, S. (1999) Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for University Teachers (The Society for Research into Higher Education, Open University Press, Buckingham). Brookfield, S. & Preskill, S. (2005) Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco). Cathart, A. et al. (2006) Reluctant hosts and disappointed guests? Examining expectations and enhancing experiences of cross-cultural group work on postgraduate business programmes,’ International Journal of Management, 5,13-22. Center for and Teaching and Learning, Stanford University, CA. Available online at: (Accessed on 26 February 2008). Chohan, R. & Smith, K.(2007) Oral Communication Literature Review. Available online at: (Accessed on 26 February 2008). Chomsky, N. (1999) Language & Politics, (Black Rose, Tonawanda). Dewey, J. (1964) John Dewey on Education. Edited by Reginald D. Archambault (University of Chicago Press, Chicago). Drew, S. & Bingham, R. (2001) Student Skillpack, Seminars, Group Tutorials and Meetings, Starter Level (Gower, Aldershot). Encouraging Student Participation in Tutorials. Available online at: (Accessed on 08 May 2008). Gill, E., Tuck, A., Wai Gin Lee, D. & Beckert, L. (2004) Tutorial dynamics and participation in small groups: a student perspective in a multicultural setting, The New Zealand Medical Journal, 117(1205),1142-1148. Hay, I. (1994) Justifying and applying oral presentations in geographical education, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 18,43-56. Johannesen, R. (1983) Ethics of Human Communication. Waveland Press, Prospect Heights. Johnson- Bailey, J. (2002) Race matters: the unspoken variable in the teaching-learning transaction, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 93,39-50. Petress, K. (2001) The ethics of classroom silence. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 28(2),104-107. Rodriguez-Valls, F. (2008) “Professor, Give Some Knowledge; I Do Not Have Time to Think College Expectations: Knowledge and/or Requirements?” available online at: (Accessed on 08 May 2008). Trice, A. (2003) Faculty perceptions of graduate international students: the benefits and challenges, Journal of Studies in International Education, 7, 379-40. Turk, C. (1995) Effective Speaking, Communicating in Speech (Chapman & Hall, London). Walsh, J. & Sattes, B. (2004) Quality Questioning, (Corwin Press, London).

Address for Correspondence Anna Battaglia, Wolfson CARD, The Wolfson Wing, Hodgkin Building, King’s College London, Guy’s Campus, London SE1 1UL.

Notes on Contributor Dr Anna Battaglia has worked as a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the Centre for Neuroscience Research, now Wolfson CARD, since 2001. She has recently been appointed as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anatomy and Human Sciences at King’s College London.


APPENDIX A (Questionnaire given to lecturers/tutors)

Mini questionnaire on students’ participation in tutorials 1: Do you experience “silence” in your tutorials? Yes/No If yes: 2: Does it affect you? Yes/No If Yes: 3 In which way? 4: Do you take some action to improve the session? Yes/No If yes: 5: What do you actively do to elicit/enhance students’ active participation? 4: How much do you think “silence” is due to the following list of reasons (grade 1 to 5 with 1 being “do not agree” and 5 “strongly agree”):

Students’ lack of knowledge Students’ lack of confidence Students’ lack of self-esteem Peer pressure/judgment Tutor’s attitude in tutorial Power dynamics in the class None of those Other (please specifiy)


1 1 1 1 1 1 1

2 2 2 2 2 2 2

3 3 3 3 3 3 3

4 4 4 4 4 4 4

5 5 5 5 5 5 5

Dental students’ perceptions of four-handed primary care dentistry in an extended clinical environment. Albert Leung Dental Institute, King’s College London Abstract This paper investigates dental students’ experience of four-handed dentistry (“dental procedures undertaken by the dentist on a patient with full chair-side assistance from a dental nurse” (Finkbeiner, 2000, p17) in the learning of primary care dentistry at the Maurice Wohl GDP Centre, Department of Primary Dental Care, King’s College London Dental Institute. Following on from relevant literature findings, qualitative methodologies and a progressive focusing approach will be adopted. Data will be systematically presented, interpreted and applied in the context. The main findings are, that dental students overwhelmingly perceive four-handed dentistry as a positive and valuable learning experience closely resembling the notions of ‘novice to expert’ learning (Benner, 2001) and the ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ (Collins et al., 1987). It concludes that teamwork and the holistic learning environment arising from four-handed dentistry facilitate clinical skills acquisition and reflection in learning for the dental students, although there is still much room for improvement for the latter to achieve meaningful reflection to facilitate effective learning and professional development.

Introduction Clinical efficacy and patient experience have been two of the key pillars underpinning quality healthcare delivery in dentistry (Clinical Governance, 2002). Although the training required for dental students to reach this standard of efficacy has been well established (General Dental Council [GDC], 2002), much of it has traditionally been delivered in an open-plan clinic setting where dental students receive no dedicated chair-side support from dental nurses while treating their patients because every available dental nurse has to support approximately 10 students simultaneously (Lennon, 2004). In this learning environment, dental students often have to simultaneously multi-task both as dental nurses and dental operators. This modality of delivery of patient care could potentially compromise the standard of care, patient privacy and confidentiality (GDC, 1999). It might also have an adverse impact on the dental students’ learning experience (Robinson & Davies, 2004), attitude to clinical practice and health (Gilmour et al., 2005), and the standard of cross infection control (GDC, 2005). In order to promote high standards of clinical care (Clinical Governance, 2002) and to provide a holistic learning environment taking into account sound educational principles (Ramsden, 2003), the concept of fully integrated four-handed has been gradually introduced at the Maurice Wohl GDP Centre, Department of Primary Dental Care at King’s College London Dental Institute. This piece of work will explore the efficacies of four-handed dentistry and investigate the perceptions dental students have of the experience of four-handed dentistry in a restorative primary dental care clinical environment with a particular focus on the quality of their learning.


Four-Handed Dentistry, Clinical Learning and the Literature Two main areas of literature are to be explored: firstly, learning in general but more specifically learning as related to the healthcare professionals particularly dentists; secondly all aspects of four-handed dentistry, particularly its efficacy and the role it plays in clinical learning. Four-handed dentistry is a ‘great clinical technique for delivering clinical dentistry to the highest standard’ (Paul 1975, p33). Its benefits are well recognised in dental literature, such as to improve visibility of the operating field (Kilpatrick, 1977), to undertake better quality dentistry (Paul, 1991), to increase patient and operator comfort (Chasteen, 1978), to increase professional satisfaction for the dental team and less stressful practising life, to improve patient privacy and confidentiality (Freeman et al, 1995) to name but a few. In fact, Finkbeiner (2000, p17) went further and suggested that ‘no product can increase productivity and reduce stress and strain on the dental team as much as using the singular concept of four-handed dentistry’. Coupled with this very effective clinical technique, it was also suggested that all dentists and dental nurses ‘should be given the opportunity to learn and practice four-handed dentistry……(because) this is good for the team to learn and develop…’ . In the context of King’s College London Dental Institute, four-handed dentistry plays a central role in primary care dentistry at the Maurice Wohl GDP Centre because it forms ‘a vital part and cornerstone……of an integrated approach to clinical practice and professional development’ (Seldon, 2004 p999). In the context of good practice and learning, fourhanded dentistry endorses guidelines from the e al., GDC (2002). On surveying the wider literature for common ground between clinical learning and four-handed dentistry, only a small minority of dental literature makes some direct or even in-direct links between four-handed dentistry and clinical learning. Perhaps this is because these two subjects have rarely been looked at together with different groups of clinical lecturers and educational researchers not interacting enough in this important and common area. However, digging more deeply into the field of clinical learning reveals the fact that there is actually plenty of literature on clinical learning, particularly in clinical nursing and in the context of clinical medicine. On reflection, they resonate with the writer’s own experience in clinical dentistry so much, that the issues raised could equally be generalised and be applicable in clinical learning in dentistry. Four-hand dentistry facilitates clinical learning because within this supportive environment when “immersed in a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere of cross fertilisation and nurturing (of knowledge)…” (Robinson & Davies 2004, p70) which assists the students to “acquire the skills in a co-operative and reflective manner of learning” (Davie,s 2000, p124). When dental student and dental nurse work as a team as in four-handed dentistry, this process bears much of the hallmarks of the “cognitive apprenticeship model” of learning espoused by Collins et al., (1987). Under this ‘cognitive apprenticeship model’, the ‘novices’ are initiated into a continuing holistic learning environment and into a community of expert practices where they learn, and are offered hints, feedbacks and reminders upon which a ‘scaffolding’ of extra support is built while they learn and carry out tasks, which ‘fades’ by gradually handing over the control of learning process back to the learners as they acquire the skills and develop competency and finally to develop their own expertise. In fact, other educational researchers also endorse many of these views on learning, that much of how the learner develops are embedded in the natural setting of the learning environment (Pea, 1989), through observing, support and practice (Lave et al., 1988), through the guidance of the ‘expert’ (Brown, 1989) and nurturing the performance in the designed work environment (Grubb & Pilhal, 1990), similar to what Collins et al., (1987) model espouses. In fact, applying the ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ model to the context of clinical dentistry, literature reaffirms the importance of four-handed dentistry in student development because it provides the ingredients of the holistic learning environment where learning takes place and the ‘scaffolding’ support teamwork where clinical development of the dental student can thrive.


The ‘cognitive apprenticeship model’ also bears much resemblance to the ‘novice to expert’ learning model as per Benner (2001). Not only is the concept of the ‘novices’ common to both models, as far as clinical knowledge is concerned, both suggest that it is articulated through skill acquisition based on critical practical learning. Applying the same principles of learning in the context of four-handed dentistry, it can reasonably be concluded that such learning would take place at the chair-side and thereby echoing the notion of ‘chair-side learning’ (GDC, 2002) in clinical dentistry.

A Common Sense Approach to the Models of Learning for Clinical Dentistry Although the models for learning in the literature can perhaps be criticised as “dangerous in their simplification and polarizing of issues because they are reductionist” (Fish & Twinn, 1997, p46), on reflection, in the absence of anything-else concrete addressing directly four-handed dentistry and learning, these models remain the best for a measured consideration of the crux of learning and four-handed dentistry, highlighting similarities and emphasising differences, thus enable issues to be properly considered in this paper with the opportunity to enlighten practice. However, the apparent interwoven intimacy from literature resonates with the writer’s experience of how quality learning takes place in the congenial and holistic clinical environment in properly implemented four-handed dentistry. Although this has been described as ‘common sense’ by Davies (2000), in the absence of any other dental literature directly addressing these issues, this will be a good opportunity for this paper to test this resonance. The literature also demonstrates the efficacy of four-handed dentistry and its circuitous relationship with clinical learning in dentistry through the various models of clinical professional development as applicable to other similar clinical disciplines. The gaps within the literature identify the absence of a learning model specific to four-handed clinical dentistry, indicating that further research is warranted to ascertain if and/or how these models are also applicable to learning and professional development in four-handed clinical dentistry.

Reflection: An Essential Means of Learning in Practice In relation to four-handed dentistry in this extended clinical environment, it is clear that “excellent clinical practice requires action and reasoning with particular situations” (Taylor, 1993, p275). Reflecting more deeply into this thought on the clinical/educational interface in the context of delivering highly skilled intricate primary care restorative dentistry, that “experiential learning in (these) high-risk clinical situation requires supportive learning environments” (Benner, 2001, p17) from where clinicians are given the opportunity to be reflective when they learn and develop. More crucially, these qualities offered by four-handed dentistry promotes the ‘reflection-in-action’ and ‘reflection-on-action’ practices espoused by Schön (1987) in a ‘sheltered practicum’ as in the context of learning in a protected clinical environment. It encourages active learning by allowing experience to be considered not only by thought and feeling but also by action, in other words, “to review learning in order to describe, analyse, evaluate and so inform learning about practice” (Ashley, et al., 2006, p11). These aspects of learning as related to the use of four-handed dentistry espoused by educational literature resonates with that in the dental literature, where the GDC (2002, p6) states that “learning opportunities and experience should be designed to encourage a scientific and safe critical approach ….and to foster intellectual skills required for future personal and professional development”. Under this learning environment, the ‘learner’, in this case the dental student, benefits from being allowed the time and space “not to learn by doing… but to learn by doing and realising what came of what we did” (Dewey, 1929, p37). Modern day literature continues to support this traditional view on learning, echoing that “applying reflections on learning……results in improving practice” (Benner, 2001, p81).


After all, echoing Carr’s (1995) notion that developing the reflective approaches to learning as being crucial, de Cossart (2005) goes further and suggests that having the experience is not the same as understanding its meaning because in a clinical setting, there is far more to a clinical event than is visible on its surface. Reflection, on the other hand, enables the learner to make meaning out of experience, making the invisible visible (Schön, 1983), thereby enriching the learner’s practical knowledge from selected learning opportunities, generating knowledge out of practice, a vital means of learning in the clinical practice of dentistry. Furthermore, “what passes for reflection is often not reflection” (Driscoll & Teh, 1999, p96) because reflection is a skilled activity “requiring an ability to analyse practice actions and beliefs and to make judgements about their effectiveness” (Ashley et al., 2006, p11); meaningfully developing the very essence of clinical acumen, one of the cornerstones of patient care in dentistry. Literature therefore strongly endorses that reflection is very important for the professional development of dental students and can enable meaning to be made out of experience and enhance the learning emerging from it. The empirical work presented in this paper will have the opportunity to illuminate these issues.

Context, Methodology and the Data The research is to be conducted by the writer at the Maurice Wohl GDP Centre, a self-contained dental outreach facility in an extended clinical environment being part of the Department of Primary Dental Care, King’s College London Dental Institute, London, the largest dental school in the United Kingdom. Taking into account the interactive factors involved in the many clinical groups of dental students attending periods of nonoverlapping rotations of clinical activities, a group of 16 final year dental students from two different clinical groups of 8 students each will be recruited. They will be given specific competency training in accordance with good clinical practice and assessed accordingly prior to their participation. The potential pitfall using practitioner researcher needs to be addressed since there is a tendency for students to see teachers as competent experts with perceived power (McCroskey & Richmond, 1983). This may increase the likelihood of them complying and concurring passively with the teacher rather than expressing their views fully (Barrows, 1979). Pre-introduction structured focus groups will be convened to minimise these potential problems, in that members of the focus group interact with each other and not with the practitioner researcher, and that the group dynamics are within the group and not with the researcher.

Legal and ethical considerations Ethical clearance from King’s College Hospital London Research Ethics Committee (KCHREC) will be sought in line with ethical practice guidelines. The research is subject to approval by the Research Ethics Committee. Expressed consent will be obtained from all subjects as a pre-requisite to participation in accordance with the guidelines from the Department of Health (2005). All data collected will be anonymised in accordance with the ethical guidance from the General Dental Council (GDC, 2005).

Pre-introduction structured focus groups for the dental students and progressive focusing Two groups each of eight participants will be convened for the focus groups to address initial perceptions and to provide a valid baseline from where future comparison can be made. Appropriate qualitative questions in specific areas on the issues identified are to be raised, with the principle of “getting the right people together for the purpose and then getting the structure right”, as per Streatfield (2003, p3).

Personal development diaries (PDDs) ‘Live’ PDDs will be used to reflect true student perceptions (Biggs & Collis, 1982) and to minimize the potential adverse effects of the power relationship. The contemporaneous nature of these rich free-text qualitative data will serve as a powerful aide memoire to enrich the individual semi-structured interview (Cohen et al., 2003) at the end of the period of investigation.


Post-experience qualitative interviews for the Dental students After a period of approximately 20 weeks’ exposure to four-handed dentistry, post-experience individual in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews will be convened. This will identify the critical issues and encourage participants with insights to contribute.

Data analysis The data collected from the empirical work will be exclusively qualitative and data analysis within this research paradigm will be interpretive and of “a reflexive, reactive interaction between the researcher and the decontextualised data that are already interpretations of a social encounter” (Cohen et al., 2003, p165).

Results and Discussion Following ethical clearance, the empirical work was carried out in accordance with the timeline as at the Appendix. The results confirmed many aspects of clinical learning in four-handed dentistry and the following main points were identified:

On four-handed dentistry in an extended clinical environment • “The dental nurse helped me a lot: two minds were better than one and I virtually operated with four hands in my command” • “Although I would have liked to work faster, four-handed dentistry helped me communicate better with my patients and improved my standard of cross infection control, after all in the age of HIV, Hepatitis, CJD and MRSA, you could not compromise on standards! My patients liked four-handed dentistry, too” Four-handed dentistry had been well perceived by the dental students as an effective means of communicating with the patients as well as delivering treatment to them. Data presented herewith would fill in some of the ‘gaps’ in the literature by reaffirming what had been known in the context to be true but which had yet to be expressed in words: such as its value in cross infection control and the many aspects of professional development for the students. Although dental students favoured four-handed dentistry, as their clinical efficacies continued to develop throughout the 20 week period of the empirical work, there were no further perceivable longitudinal changes of their perceptions of four-handed dentistry. These findings implied that other factors at play might have been the real reasons for this ‘static’ approval of four-handed dentistry over this period, such as the difficulties engaging with reflection in learning.

On four-handed dentistry and the holistic learning environment The participants were very positive that the contemporary clinical setting of four-handed dentistry helped to deliver a holistic learning environment, whereby meaningful experiential learning (Kolb et al, 1975) and professional development (Friedson, 1994) would be nurtured in a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere of cross fertilisation of knowledge. • “I felt calm: I did not have to run around for the materials, notes, did not have to hold the suction, bend my neck forward, and my nurse really helped me…. I was totally relaxed and in actual fact, I delivered far better clinical dentistry” • “I had more quality time to think and learn what I did” This holistic environment enabled the dental students to find ways of understanding the complexities of clinical dental practice and learn, echoing de Cossart and Fish (2005, p75), that “it is the right arena …to develop ways of seeing and attending to holistic patient care and learner-centred education…to generate knowledge”, and provided the teacher opportunities to utilize ways of engaging the students in the relevant practical activities, to develop their acumens and most importantly, engage them to clarify, solidify and develop their learning (Fish & Twinn, 1997), and so “inform learning about practice” (Reid 1993, p307).


On four-handed dentistry and reflection in learning There was nothing in literature specifically addressing four-handed dentistry and reflection in learning. Yet, the literature reviewed unequivocally placed reflection at the heart of the learning strategy and emphasised its vital role in professional development. Based on analysis of evidence already presented, four-handed dentistry would offer a golden, holistic and non-threatening opportunity for learning through reflection, which inter alia, was a very powerful argument for using four-handed dentistry. Unfortunately, the important concept of reflective learning had not been meaningfully featured in the dental curriculum (GDC, 2002) and had not been brought to the forefront of the students’ clinical development. Despite this, it was obvious that some students had taken advantage of four-handed dentistry and this environment to reflect on their practice and to develop their understanding, with approximately one third of the students involved in this research showing the rudiments of reflective practices: • “I absorbed into my brain the clinical tips given by the very serene clinical teacher, but do not ask me how: it just happened, but only when I was given a bit of time to think and digest: four-handed dentistry helped me do just that” • “Four-handed dentistry often made me think about what experience meant” The setting of four-handed dentistry offering a holistic clinical learning environment was so rich in experience that was worth reflecting on, that these learners needed little help in starting the reflective process. Unfortunately, the environment had not been optimally utilised for learning by virtue of most of the learners’ ignorance about reflection, resulting in some patchy, un-coordinated and perhaps ineffective reflective learning activities. Although the students were given the time and space to think and reflect, they were not meaningfully engaged in it. The problem was fully uncovered in the voices of many of the dental students who were either totally instrumental in their view of learning: • “I would do anything to get my grades to pass and would not slow down and think unless I really must” or did not grasp the concept: • “Funny you should say that, I had been seeking to understand why I would be thinking the way I was in terms of the knowledge and experience I gained and had found this fascinating…….but I wasn’t getting very far ” • “I didn’t know much about reflections in learning: I heard that they were meant to be good for my professional development. I wished I had been told more about it because I was struggling to attach meaning and relevance to some of the things I had learnt” Firstly, this demonstrated entrenched negativities and a complete lack of belief, understanding and mindset of some learners for the need to engage in meaningful reflections for clinical professional development, striking the very heart of reflection and professional development which was unfortunately not part of the dental curriculum. Secondly, these perceptions showed that if co-ordinated and developed, the green-shoots of reflective learning should trigger a far greater depth of understanding of practice with a reflective approach to learning from where knowledge would be generated (Fish & Twinn, 1997), to allow “ongoing focusing one’s own practice and its particular context…. for better understanding in the context of improving practice” (Moon, 1999, p11), the very essence of genuine professional development. Despite good intentions, the absence of guidance on developing reflective approaches resulted in a lack of ‘reflection–in-action’ and the knowledge generated through reflective experiences (Schön, 1987). This could explain why there was no longitudinal progress of the perceptions of four-handed dentistry as a means to facilitate reflection by the students as their clinical skills developed over time.


Since the students had very little concept of how to engage in reflection, they had not managed to utilise the vital holistic environment offered by four-handed dentistry to derive more meaningful learning. They appeared to have wasted genuine learning opportunities provided by four-handed dentistry and missed a golden chance to address the real deeper aspects of “the professional dimensions of professional practice the knowing that is drawn on during action” (de Cossart & Fish 2005, p83) and for those seeking to develop a deep understanding “to draw the learner to self-reflect as an integral part of learning and action” (Grundy, 1987, p19).

On four-handed dentistry and clinical skills acquisition Perceptions that were expressed had strongly suggested that four-handed dentistry enriched clinical learning and played a pivotal role in skill acquisition in a manner resembling some of the main points described by the “cognitive apprenticeship” (Collins et al., 1987) and “novice to expert” (Benner, 2001) models of learning. The typical responses from the dental students were: • “Involve me in my learning, show it to me, explain the rationale and logic, demonstrate the clinical principles, make sure that I can concentrate on the clinical tasks/work(this is where four-handed dentistry come in very handy), then I would learn, then I would reflect: this was good learning for me and I felt fulfilled” • “With four-handed dentistry properly executed, my learning was much more focused and intense” These learners exhibited many of the characteristics befitting the ‘novice’ and ‘advance learner’ stages of professional development. It was obvious that four-handed dentistry clearly benefited them at these stages of professional development: where the ‘cognitive apprentice’ was initiated into a community of expert practice, echoing that four-handed dentistry would benefit learners requiring nearly context-free rules as per the “scaffolding” concept discussed in the literature. They also showed that four-handed dentistry created the ambience and environment for effective reflection, embellishing the means of learning and quality supervision in the clinical setting (Fish & Twinn, 1997). However, for the ‘competent’ or ‘proficient’ learner, • “I felt less stressful with four-handed dentistry because everything was well organised. However, I found the pace too slow: as to learning, it was frustrating; only repeating the things I had known for a while: I wished I was given more freedom to do what I wanted” It was clear that for the ‘competent/proficient’ learner, clinical development and learning requirements was very different. In this context, clinical performance was guided by maxims, situations perceived as wholes and not aspects, when speed and clinical flexibility had been built up. The modality of the standard four-handed dentistry support designed for the average undergraduate dental student simply did not suit, and the intensity of the requisite support might have to be modified accordingly to take into account the differences in learning requirements.

Conclusions and Recommendations The empirical evidence was unequivocal: four-handed dentistry provided a relaxed, non-threatening teamwork environment and setting, where favourable clinical learning and professional development for the dental student would take place, be nurtured and embellished. In line with literature findings, this holistic learning environment was perceived to be nurturing good educational practices such as reflection in learning, and was well received by the students. Four-handed dentistry should therefore be used as widely as possible throughout King’s College London Dental Institute and beyond. The teamwork involving the dental student, dental nurse, the patient, working collaboratively under the supervision of the clinical teacher complemented the holistic, non threatening learning environment offered by four-handed dentistry and was very favourably perceived as excellent opportunities for learning and professional development. The collaborative teamwork concept complemented the learning process and should be maintained and valued.


Despite the very strong endorsements from literature, the art of reflection in learning was not in the curriculum and was subsequently poorly understood and used by the students. In the presence of a holistic environment most suited to reflection in learning, this was clearly a missed opportunity to focus the context of the learners’ practice on the deeper, better understanding to improving practice, empowering the learner to control the learning situation and to create knowledge collaboratively with the teacher. This was also a powerful argument for using four-handed dentistry as it provided this essential holistic clinical environment. Urgent action should be undertaken to formulate a valid strategy in order to implement the practice of meaningful reflection in clinical learning within the curriculum. The ‘novice to expert’ and the ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ models of learning were found to be largely applicable to skill acquisition in clinical dentistry in the context. For students at the novice/advanced learner stages of clinical development, the standard format of four-handed dentistry support offered by the Department was sufficient in enhancing clinical skill acquisition. For students at the competent/proficient/expert stages of clinical development, the intensity of four-handed dentistry support might have to be enhanced to fully support the intensity of their professional development accordingly. More work should be undertaken to develop the learning models further to inspire practice. Four-handed dentistry support might have to be intensified to facilitate some precocious learners but further explorations would be required. Given the research context, many of the findings could only be generalisable and theorisable in relation to King’s College London Dental Institute. However, many other dental schools would face similar issues in four-handed dentistry, reflection and learning for their students where these findings might resonate. It would be worthwhile investigating the feasibility of collaborative academic practice research with other Dental Institutes both in the United Kingdom and abroad to illuminate practice.

Implications and future developments Although this paper has not covered the aspects of practical financial arrangements for undergraduate dental education, these contexts do inevitably have an impact on the delivery of training for the dental students. In accordance with the latest financial arrangements and requirements from the funding bodies, most dental schools in the United Kingdom are in the awkward position of being expected to be more productive whilst suffering a shortage of resources (Medical Schools Council, 2006). Operating within these constraints to economise costs for the dental nurses and to train more dentists within the same clinical facilities, some dental schools are beginning to have dental students work in pairs on the clinics supporting each other by acting in a dental nurse role when they are not performing clinical procedures of their own (GDC, 2007). Applying these findings for learning and development from novice to expert, this reduction in overall operative clinical activities per student may prolong the length of time necessary for students to develop beyond the novice/advanced learner stages of clinical development, decelerate the development of the higher level of knowledge via reflection, and delay when professional competency might reasonably be expected to be achieved. This may eventually have a negative impact on the standard of total patient care on offer and potentially affect the quality of healthcare delivery for the patients in the teamwork environment. Meanwhile, the service level arrangements between the Dental Schools and their corresponding Primary Care Organisations who hold local commissioning purse-strings under the provisions of the Health and Social Care Act 2003 are target driven. This may well influence the manner on how dental students are trained at the expense of the high quality, educationally robust but more expensive training such as four-handed dentistry. As far as professional development is concerned, the “knock for knock” financial arrangements (HEFCE, 2006) currently in place between research and healthcare deliveries inherently favour clinical activities with the lowest unit-cost and arguably only pay lip service to the quality of professional development for the learners. Furthermore, the government’s shifting ideologies and policies on higher education manifests in the latest teaching funding method review (HEFCE, 2007) which proposes that much of the resource allocation should be directly linked to league table positions. This will present some fundamental but yet un-chartered challenges on professional practice, if implemented. Given the substantially different standpoints as have been illustrated, there are inevitable conflicts in value and dilemmas about the true meaning of professionalism from the stakeholders involved in academic practice.


This ironically may differ so much that the notion of professionalism may arguably be “only as useful as ideologies and to realize a dream” (Friedson 1994, p6) for those in authorities who make the decisions. However, there is little doubt that these decisions will have far-reaching consequences on the quality of dental education reverberating well beyond King’s College London Dental Institute.

References Ashley, F., Gibson, B., Daly, B., Lygo-Baker, S. & Newton, T. (2006) Undergraduate and postgraduate dental students’ reflection on learning a qualitative study. European Journal of Dental Education, 2006 (10) 10-19. Barrows, L. (1979). Power relationships in the student teaching triad. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (San Francisco, California. April, 1979). Benner, P. (2001) From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing Practice (Prentice Hall, New Jersey). Biggs, J. & Collis, K. (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning: the SOLO Taxonomy (Academic Press, New York). Brown, J. Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989) Situated cognition and the culture of learning, Educational Research, 18(1), 32-41. Carr, P. (1995) For Education: Towards Clinical Educational Inquiry (Open University Press, Buckingham). Chasteen, J. (1978) Four-Handed Dentistry in Clinical Practice (Mosby Company, St Louis, USA). Clinical Governance (2002) Improving Standards and Accountability (HMSO). Cohen, L. Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2003) Research Methods in Education (5th Ed.) (RoutledgeFalmer, London). Collins, A. Brown, J. & Newman, S. (1987) Cognitive Apprenticeship: Teaching the Craft of Reading, Writing and Mathematics (Technical Report No. 403) BBN Laboratories, Cambridge, MA. (Centre for the Study of Reading, University of Illinois). Davies, B. (2000) Moving Towards Co-Operative Learning at the Maurice Wohl General Dental Practice Centre (Dundee University, Dundee). de Cossart, L. & Fish, D. (2005) Cultivating a Thinking Surgeon: New Perspectives on Clinical Teaching, Learning and Assessment (TFM Publishing, Shrewsbury). Department of Health (2005) Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care. (Department of Health, London). Dewey, J. (1929) Experience and Nature (Grave Press, New York, USA). Driscoll, J. & Teh, B. (1999) The potential of reflective practice to develop individual orthopaedic nurses practitioners and their practice. Journal of Orthopaedic Nurses, 1999 (5) 95-103. Finkbeiner, B. (2000) Four-Handed Dentistry: A Handbook of Clinical Application and Ergonomic Concepts (Prentice Hall, New Jersey USA). Fish, D. & Twinn, S. (1997) Quality Clinical Supervision in the Healthcare Professions: Principle Approaches to Practice (Butterworth Heinenmann, Oxford). Freeman, R. Main, J. & Burke, F. (1995) Occupational stress and dentistry: theory and practice. Part 2: assessment and control British Dental Journal 1995; 178, 218-222. Friedson, E. (1994) Professionalism Reborn: Theory, Prophecy and Policy (Polity Press, UK). General Dental Council (1999) as amended in 2005. Maintaining Standards: Guidance to Dentists on Professional and Personal Conduct, and Standards for Dental Professionals (General Dental Council, London). General Dental Council (2002) The First Five Years (TFFY) – A Framework for Dental Undergraduate Education (General Dental Council, London). General Dental Council (2005) Standards for Dental Professionals: Principles of Patient Confidentiality (General Dental Council, London). General Dental Council (2007) Report of the General Dental Council Inspectors on the Graduate Entry BDS Programme at King’s College London Dental Institute. (General Dental Council, London). Gilmour, J., Stewardson, D., Shugars, D. & Burke, F. (2005) An assessment of career satisfaction among a group of general dental practitioners in Staffordshire. British Dental Journal 2005: 198, 701-704. Grubb, W. & Pilhal, J. (1990) The Cunning Hand, the Culture Mind: Models for Integrating Vocational and Academic Education, (National Centre for Research in Vocational Education, Berkeley, California USA). Grundy, S. (1987) The Curriculum: Product or Praxis. (The Farmer Press, London). Higher Education Funding Council for England [HEFCE] (2007). Review of Performance Indicators for Higher Education: Outcomes and Decisions, Including the National Framework for Costing and Teaching. Available online at: . (Accessed on 11 January, 2008). 115

Higher Education Funding Council for England [HEFCE] (2006). Funding Healthcare Education and Training. HEFCE publications 2006. Available online at: (Accessed on 11 January, 2008). Kilpatrick, H. (1977). Functional Dental Assisting (W B Saunders, Philadelphia USA). Kolb, D. & Fry, R. (1975) Toward an applied theory of experiential learning, in C, Cooper. (Ed.). Theories of Group Process (John Wiley, London). Lave, J. Smith, S. & Butler, M. (1988) Problem Solving as and Everyday Practice (Report IRL88-0006). (Institute for Research and Learning, Palo Alto, California USA). Lennon, M. (2004). The personal dental service as a setting for an undergraduate clinical programme. British Dental Journal 10; 196: 419-422. McCroskey, J. & Richmond, V. (1983) Power in the classroom I: teacher and student perceptions. Communication Education, 32, 175-184. Medical Schools Council (2006) Clinical Academic Staffing Levels in UK Medical and Dental Schools (Medical Schools Council, London). Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice (Kogan Page, London). Paul, E. (1975) A Practical Guide to Assisted Operating (British Dental Association, London). Paul, E. (1991) Team Dentistry (Martin Dunitz, London). Pea, R. (1989) Socialising the Knowledge Transfer Problem Report no. IRL 89-009. (Institute for Research on Learning. Palo Alto, California, USA). Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education (2nd Ed.) (RoutledgeFalmer, London). Reid, B. (1993) “But we are doing it already”: exploring a response to the concept of reflective practice, Nursing Education Today, 13: 305-309. Robinson, P. & Davies, B. (2004) Reflective practice in the teaching of conservative dentistry to undergraduate dental students- perceptions derived from a pilot study using personal development diaries, European Journal of Dental Education 2004; 8: 67-71. Schön, D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner (Jossey Bass, San Francisco; California USA). Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner (Basic Books, New York). Seldon, T. Cullum, N. Dawson, D. & Lankshear, A. (2004) What’s the evidence that NICE guidelines has been implemented? Results from a national evaluation using time series analysis, patients notes and interviews, British Medical Journal 329: 999. Streatfield, D. (2003) Endless palaver? The focus group as a research tool, in Information Research Watch International Column: Research Methods Masterclass. Taylor, P. (1993) Collaborating to reconstruct teaching: the influence of researcher beliefs, in: K. Tobin (Ed.) The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education (Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey, USA), 267-297.

Acknowledgements This paper has been written based on some of the work undertaken by the author as part of the empirical research leading to the Masters of Academic Practice. The author wishes to thank Ms Sharon Markless, Lecturer in Higher Education for her invaluable guidance in respect of the original empirical research without which it would not have been possible to produce this paper.

Author Correspondence Albert Leung, Maurice Wohl GDP Centre, Department of Primary Dental Care, King’s College London Dental Institute, 4547 Caldecot Road, London SE5 9RW

Biographic Note for the Contributor Dr Albert Leung is Deputy Director of the Maurice Whol GDP Centre, Department of Primary Dental Care and an Admissions Tutor at King’s College London Dental Institute. He is Chairman of the MGDS Examinations for the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and was in the first cohort to have completed the Masters of Academic Practice at King’s Learning Institute.


APPENDIX Timeline for the empirical work (2006/7) 1. Research proposals and funding to be applied for (Month 1 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Month 2) 2. Ethical approvals for the study to be applied for from the research ethics committee prior to any investigations. Liaise proposed schedules with head of department (Month 1 - Month 3) 3. Organisation of all the resources: IdentiďŹ cation of cohort of dental students, co-ordinating their timetables, organising clinical facilities, liaison with fellow clinical lecturers, hospital administrators, dental nurse managers and dental nurses. (Month 4) 4. Pre-introduction semi-structured focus group meetings with the cohort of dental students involved with the research (Month 5) 5. Introduction of close-support four-handed dentistry during the relevant clinical seminars in accordance with good clinical practice (Month 5) 6. Clinical competency test for closed support four-handed dentistry assessment in a restorative dentistry procedure to be in line with good practice in: (layout/seating/cross infection control/instrument exchange/patient monitoring) plus retraining and retesting as required (Month 6) 7. Personal development diaries (PDDs) to be provided for the dental students (Month 6) 8. Period of investigations: Four-handed team dentistry experience. (Approximately 18-20 weeks for the collection of data, with the aim of getting no less than 30 episodes of four-handed team dentistry in total at the Department for each dental student participant). PDDs to be updated contemporaneously (Months 7 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Month 11) 9. Structured individual interviews for the participants (Month 11) 10. Analysis of data and reporting (Month 12 onwards)



MUVEs and second lives: exploring education in virtual worlds Dr Steven Warburton School of Law, King’s College London Abstract This article traces the history of virtual worlds back to early multi-user online computer gaming environments and describes the key features that have made unstructured 3D spaces, such as Second Life, so attractive to educators. The paper describes a number of teaching approaches and architectural spaces that are being explored by institutions, and moves on to examine what it means to transfer teaching from a real to a virtual setting. In a short study of in-world workshops, two key dimensions are revealed that impact on the success of any teaching activity - the tension between pedagogy and control. These are critical issues that need to be addressed for good practices in teaching to be realized. The conclusion acknowledges the overlapping social, technical and cultural elements complexities that come into play when these spaces become inhabited. Yet, research is uncovering the particular elements that combine to make the virtual a real place future education.

Introduction The idea of virtual worlds is not new. They have existed in images, books and films as futuristic and often utopian spaces that have captured our collective imaginations. The virtual for many, may represent a place of escape, yet new social environments such as Second Life and the serious games movement are changing perspectives on what these spaces might offer to the enterprises of business, learning and teaching (de Freitas, 2006). The story of virtual worlds is also one that cannot be separated from technological change. As we witness increasing convergence between broadband, wireless computing, video and audio technologies, we are seeing virtual immersive environments becoming more accessible, usable and populated1.

What are Multi-User Virtual Environments? The roots of Multi-User Virtual Worlds (MUVEs) are firmly embedded in the history of MMOs (Massively Multi-player Online games) and share a number of common features that are reflective of the genre (Smart et al., 2007). These include: • • • • • •

Persistence of the in-world environment; Shared spaces that allow multiple users to participate simultaneously; Virtual embodiment in the form of an avatar, a 3D extension of our selves; Interactions that occur between users and objects in a 3D environment; Immediacy of action such that interactions occur in real time; Mirroring of real-world elements such as physics, topography and movement that provide the illusion of being there2

What marks a significant difference between MUVEs and MMOs is the lack of a predetermined narrative or plot driven storyline. In the worlds exemplified by Second Life3 , there is no inherent purpose unless one is imposed. Here social interaction exists not as a precursor to overt goal orientated action, but rather within an open-ended system that offers a variety of user freedoms such as the creation of objects, the creation of interpersonal networks, and transactions within a tangible economic structure (Castronova 2005, Ludlow & Wallace 2007). It is primarily this open-endedness, combined with the ability to create content and shape the virtual environment in seemingly indefinite ways that has attracted educators to the possibilities afforded by these spaces. Yet for us as users, there remains the question of what makes these virtual worlds so compelling to our contemporary 119

imagination. As Jones (2005) describes, their attractiveness can be understood through the ways in which they blur the boundary between: • • • •

Corporeality and transcendance; The real and the virtual; Where and nowhere; Single and multiple selves.

MUVEs come in a variety of forms and can be categorized in a number of ways. For example, in the taxonomy shown in Table 1, MUVEs are grouped by their narrative approach and 3D representational system. Table 1. A typology of MUVEs (adapted from McKeown, 2007) Flexible narrative

Social world



Games (MMORGs4) and serious games

Social platforms, 3D chat rooms Simulations or reflections and virtual world generators of the ‘real’

3D realisation of CSCWs

World of Warcraft6 NeverWinter Nights7 Ardcalloch8 Rivercity project9

Second Life Metaplace10 Habbo Hotel11 Sims Online12 vSide13

Distributed Observer Network (DON)14 GoogleEarth

Project Wonderland15 Olive16 Open Croquet17

The world is a setting in which your story or narrative unfolds within the constraints of the rules and goals set by the designers.

The world may have elements of both a fictional and physical world and exists as primarily as a place for social interactions to occur.

The world is a close representation of the physical world and governed by the same rules, in relation to the simulation itself.

The world provides a virtual workplace setting for collaborative activity and often includes the necessary tools.

You are a character in a role with a defined purpose

You are an extension of yourself.

You are yourself

You are yourself

What is Second Life? Second Life is a social 3D immersive environment that opened its virtual regions in 2003. The number of residents has steadily increased, and figures for 2008 reveal a world populated by over 15 million avatars with an average of 60,000 users logged on at any one time. Linden Labs, located in California USA, are the architects behind Second Life and provide both the hardware platform and the overarching governance structure – one that ultimately dictates the boundaries of conduct and behaviour of its users. With Second Life, Linden Labs remain the leading provider of an alternative virtual experience by offering a unique configuration of creativity, interactivity, construction of the self and personal economic enterprise. Second Life is unique among virtual worlds in that it offers not only the ability to construct complex objects but also allows residents to protect the IPR on their creations through a system of ownership permissions. What they sell is the dream of possibility. One that is limited only by our collective imagination. Yet many commentators have expressed wariness at the idealism that runs through the rhetorical statements of what Second Life might offer us:


“While Second Life captures the imagination of individuals who wish to create new lives free from societal and physical limitations of ethnicity, gender, geography, sexual orientation or status; it still manifests aspects of society (American, capitalist, gendered) from which it sprung and therefore is more reflective than transcendent” (Jones, 2005: 4) And Shields (2003: 15) provides a further counterpoint to the possibilities of the virtual, warning of the seductive nature of virtuality: “The hype around digital virtuality over the past decade has been more about myth and less about cyberspace. […] Symptoms of virtualism include exaggerated expectations of anything described as ‘virtual’, and unrealistic expectations that digital technologies will solve social problems”.

How are educators using Second Life? Gartner (2007) predicts that virtual worlds will become widely used as spaces for knowledge and social-based interaction; by 2011 some 80% of Internet users will have a virtual presence in some form. The heightened awareness of virtual environments as a place for learning and teaching has been reflected in the 300 plus global institutions that have now established a presence in Second Life. We can find various types of activity taking place including delivery of courses, recruitment events, summer camps and conferences. In July 2008, the SL Bar Association hosted a seminar that became the first professionally accredited legal seminar in Second Life with approval being granted by the California Bar Association (SLED blog ). In step with these developments there has been an increasing research focus on the particular affordances of the more established environments such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. These studies have started to identify where MUVEs can facilitate innovations in pedagogy through: • • • • • • • • • •

Social interaction including dialogue and cooperation through a strong sense of co-presence Visualisation Contextualisation Relation to doing in the physical world (e.g. designing, building and scripting) Informal learning opportunities e.g. language based communities Affective nature of immersion, empathy and motivational aspects Simulation and experiential learning (some physical constraints can be overcome) Roleplay or taking on new roles as a lived experience Strong communities (coherence around groups, sub-cultures and geography) Opportunities for content production that are both individual and owned (though transferability outside of the virtual world is limited within proprietary environments such as Second Life)


These aďŹ&#x20AC;ordances are being exploited in a variety of ways and the following ten images from Second Life provide an illustrative sample of spaces that educators are creating: 1. Visualisation I View from outside a large-scale interactive model of the human testes. The scale of the model allows the student to navigate and ďŹ&#x201A;y through objects and receive pertinent information at key points in their journey.

Molecule docking simulation. Image courtesy of Eloise Pasteur 2. Visualisation II This snapshot shows the docking of a malarial enzyme molecule. Students can use chat commands to control the molecules ďŹ&#x201A;oating in the air. This particular model demonstrates a chemical reaction where all of the intermediates are made visible. Normally something that is hard for to visualise on paper, but easy to demonstrate in three dimensions.

3. Roleplay Many opportunities exist for roleplay within games-based and other community participation events. This can be used to promote learning by role taking as opposed to learning by doing.

4. Self-paced tutorial An example of self-guided and self-paced learning. Here an avatar is following a tutorial on building objects at the Ivory Tower of Primitives on Natoma.


5. Simulation SciLands is a mini-continent and user community devoted exclusively to science and technology with over twenty teaching locations. Second Health is a virtual hospital campus commissioned by Imperial College, London, illustrating a healthcare setting of the future.

6. Quests and problem solving The Pot Healer Adventure on Numbakulla Island is one of the largest and most detailed puzzle solving mysteries in Second Life bearing much resemblance to the classic adventure game Myst. Quest type activities like this have been extensively used in the area of language learning. (SLURL of island location)

7. Conference and lecture spaces Presentation style spaces can be creative and imaginative. Here at the MetaverseU conference, held at Stanford University, video was streamed live into Second Life. Multiple-media forms were used for audience presence including text, audio and moving image.

8. Workshops Small group teaching settings are easy to create and the freedom of space and movement combined with a strong sense of co-presence can provide a compelling learning experience.


9. Virtual Reality The virtual reality room is a 360 degree photorealistic space created with captured images converted into a QuickTime VR panorama format and uploaded to SL.

10. SL to VLE links The SLOODLE project links 2D and 3D teaching environments by creating channels for data transfer between Second Life and Moodle, an open source Virtual Learning Environment.

Table 2. Ten examples of learning and teaching activity inside Second Life Finding good practices in MUVE-based teaching What does a more detailed investigation of teaching inside Second Life reveal about the ways in which educators have appropriated MUVEs. As an emerging technology it is unsurprising that many reports of practice, good or otherwise, are found within secondary literature sources. These include blogs, wikis, mailing lists and conference proceedings. In the recent report from the Second Life Education workshop held in Chicago 2007 , the majority of articles tackle general issues such as tools, building spaces and observations on teaching experiences. This reflects the tentative nature of the first steps that are being carved within a new teaching domain. More in-depth studies, aimed at uncovering good practices, have included an analysis of twenty ‘hands-on’ workshops held inside Second Life (Perez-Garcia & Warburton, 2008). Here, participatory observation, followed by semi-structured interviews with tutors and students, was used to build a taxonomy of factors that impact on workshop planning, design and implementation. The ‘hands-on’ sessions were organised by nonformal learning providers, all one hour in length, and offered to the SL public. Each workshop was aimed at teaching a specific set of competencies, for example building complex objects and creating interactivity by working with the in-world scripting language. To validate the gathered data, the taxonomy of was tested with a new panel of teachers. This process uncovered some of the major tensions that go to the heart of the design and delivery of teaching inside virtual spaces. The taxonomy of factors revealed that the level of openness of the pedagogical approach versus the level control of the environment worked together to produce four different types of learning and teaching experience (Diagram 1).


Diagram 1. Identifying good practice in Second Life workshops: the tension between pedagogical approach and control of the environment (Perez Garcia & Warburton, 2008) When these two dimensions are plotted against other they reveal scenarios that not only describe how a workshop runs, from the student perspective, but also provide insights into the practitioner’s profile:

1. Unstructured space and reflective learning Student perspective: often confusing and disorientating. Practitioner profile: an innovator who has not yet developed mastery of the virtual environment 2. Unstructured space and directive learning Student perspective: cognitive overload. Practitioner profile: the behaviorist, the inexperienced tutor who has not mastered virtual spaces for teaching 3. Structured environment and directive learning (the most common situation) Student perspective: teaching feels repetitive and unsatisfying. Practitioner profile: non-professional tutors who possess a strong set of virtual world competencies 4. Structured environment and reflective learning Student perspective: the ideal situation and reported as the most satisfying experience. Practitioner profile: the innovator confident in their ability to work with the constraints of a virtual space for teaching The study has been valuable in identifying some of the recurring problem spaces that educators face when teaching inside a MUVE such as Second Life: • • • • • •

Physical design of the teaching space; Establishing communication and interaction policies; Individualising the learning experience; Time required for designing the workshop; Validation and testing of workshops; Translating real life teaching expertise into Second Life teaching success.


Conclusions The first phases of teaching activity in MUVEs have raised awareness of the educational possibilities of MUVEs. The pockets of activity, that span a broad range of practice from small group teaching to more adventurous use of simulations and roleplay activities, are evidence of the increasing interest that many educators have in exploiting the particular affordances of MUVEs. Complimentary phases of activity, in the area of research, are uncovering the need to match pedagogy, context and good practice with the specificities of virtual worlds as. As more research focuses on the evaluation of these activities it is becoming clear that the direct transfer of face-2-face teaching practice to a virtual setting is not straightforward. Virtual worlds represent new spaces that demand new ways of thinking about both educational aims and digital literacies. The design of the learning space needs to be in harmony with the pedagogical approach and the skills of the tutor need to be addressed. Finally, a range of ethical issues are now emerging. These include digital reputation management, the relationship between immersion and addiction, identity and authenticity, and the moral dimensions of virtual sub-cultures. It is clear that open and playful spaces such as Second Life are both exciting and challenging. On one hand they can provide positive motivational drivers for engaging learners and tutors and on the other they can be disconcerting and disorientating environments where behaviours can seem to be outside of the safety zone – a dangerous place of no limits and no boundaries.

References de Freitas, S. (2006). Learning in Immersive Worlds: A Review of Game Based Learning. JISC Report. (Accessed on 1 July 2008). Castronova, E. (2005). Synthetic Worlds. (Chigago, University of Chicago Press). Gartner (2007). Gartner 2007 Press Releases. (Accessed on 20 July 2008). Jones, D. (2005). I, avatar: constructions of self and place in Second Life and the technological imagination. Gnovis 6, (Accessed on 30 August 2008). Ludlow, P. & Wallace, M. (2007). Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid That Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse. (Cambridge MA, MIT Press). McKeown, L. (2007). Taking action learning online in the 3D virtual world of Second Life The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 8, No 3. Perez Garcia, M. & Warburton, S. (2008). What are the key dimensions that impact on teaching in Second Life? (Accessed on 5 September 2008). Shields, R. (2003). The Virtual. (London, Routledge). Smart, J., Cascio, J. & Paffendorf, J. (2007). Metaverse Roadmap Overview, 2007. Metaverse Report. (Accessed on 30 August 2008) Further resources For further information from projects working in this area please see the following sites: MUVEnation – LLL3D – Open Habitat – Liquid Learning –


1 User figures for both Second Life and World of Warcraft in June 2008 show over 10 million players active in each of these virtual worlds; see Bruce Woodcock, 2 See also Yee, N., Bailenson, J.N., Urbanek, M., Chang, F., Merget, D. (2007). The Unbearable Likeness of Being Digital: The Persistence of Nonverbal Social Norms in Online Virtual Environments. The Journal of CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10, 115-121. 3 Second Life site at 4 Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game 5 Computer Supported Collaborative Workspace 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Figures taken from the Second Life website at for Q1 and Q2 2008. Last accessed August 30, 2008. 19 For a review of UK based institutional activity please see the Eduserv SL snapshot for May 2008. Last retrieved August 30, 2008, from 20 21 Second Life URL 22 Reports from the Field: Second Life: Community Convention 2007, Education Track. Available from, last accessed 01/07/08.

Address for correspondence Steven Warburton School of Law, Strand Campus, King’s College London,

Notes on contributor Dr Steven Warburton is a e-learning Manager in the School of Law, King’s College London




King’s Institute of Learning & Teaching

This collection of papers reflect a range of eduational research and innovative teaching practice across King’s College London. In doing so, it brings together scholarship, reflection and creativity from a broad range of disciplinary and professional backgrounds. The papers reflect on a diverse range of themes - including the empowerment of students, widening participation, clinical pedagogies, peer work and the use of multi-user virtual environments - that have relevance across the College and sector as a whole. It is hoped that they will serve to show good practice and inspire further innovation in teaching practice, providing students with new spaces in which to “excel”.

Excellence in Teaching Conference 2008 Annual Proceedings 122

Edited by Lesley Gourlay & Sue Saxby-Smith

Annual Programme 2008  

In 2007 King’s Learning Institute ran the first Excellence in Teaching Conference. After working with staff across the College for a number...