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ISSN 2050-9995 (Online)

Journal Dec 2002–Feb 2003 This edition of the Teaching Fellows Journal has been restored from an archived online edition, hence the simplified form. Please note - Some links and content within this document may now be out of date.

Edinburgh Napier University is a registered Scottish charity. Reg. No. SC018373


Contents 2 Editorial 4 Eureka! 4 Reports 7 Review corner 10 Web spotlight

Editorial Napier’s Disability Development Adviser, Jacky Robinson, contributes the editorial for the second edition of your new tfj Teachability and facing the challenge of the disability legislation A recent report by the National Audit Office1 stated that, in England, an 18 year old with a disability or other health problem is only 40% as likely to enter HE as one without such a disadvantage. Is the situation likely to be any different in Scotland? I don’t think so. What a terrible waste of ability!

Edition Editors Angela Benzies Senior Teaching Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Academic Practice Coordinator of the Teaching Fellowship Scheme Margaret Nairn tfj Web Editor and Publications Officer Educational Development, Bevan Villa, Craighouse Campus, Edinburgh Current enquiries to: Office of the Vice Principal (Academic) Sighthill Campus, Sighthill Court, Edinburgh EH11 4BN Email:

With the current focus within post-16 education on widening access for under represented groups, it seems timely for Napier to consider students with special needs and disabilities, and how they might be included. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA), also known as Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), is now with us. For the first time this gives rights to students with disabilities to study alongside their able-bodied peers. As employees we are now faced with duties that impact on the way we do things in relation to students or potential students with disabilities. These duties include making reasonable adjustments to current practice to ensure that students with disabilities are not placed at a disadvantage compared with their peers. It’s about levelling the playing field for students with disabilities, not making it easier for them in comparison with their peers. Please note the difference! Some of you may be tempted to switch off at this point. Please bear with me a little longer. Perhaps you see students with disabilities as ‘the problem’ instead of some of our university practices being at fault, or the design of the building, or the way we’ve always done things. People with disabilities don’t have difficulty getting around accessible buildings, that is buildings which have been designed with access for all in mind. It’s the environment we create that disables them. Perhaps, then, the same applies to some of our teaching, learning and assessment practices? I hear you say ‘But it’s going to take more time and I don’t have nearly enough time now!’ I agree, it will take a certain amount of time, but not always as much as you may think, although there are certainly resource and staff training implications.


What’s reasonable? How do you go about it? There are at least two ways to look at this. The first way, the approach used most widely in the past, is to assess the learning support needs of each disabled student and provide individual support for each one. Here’s a simple example: suppose you produce handouts for a lecture. Individual adjustments for each student with a disability might mean producing one handout in 14-point font, one in 18-point font, one on blue paper, another on cream paper and the remainder on white paper in 10-point font. A less time-consuming way would be to produce your handouts in electronic format so that students can view them in their preferred format. This would benefit not only students with a specific learning difficulty but also those with hearing or visual impairment, and those with no disability at all (including those not able to attend for domestic reasons or illness). So, one adjustment — notes in electronic format — could meet the needs of many. Now if that sounds like common sense, well, it is. But as someone once said ‘common sense’ isn’t always that common! Simplistically, that’s Teachability — making the curriculum more accessible to students with disabilities — and to those with none. Obviously not all reasonable adjustments are going to be quite so easy and it may be that you see difficulties with what’s above. However, Teachability further addresses the anticipatory nature of the DDA, of meeting the needs of future disabled students and so enabling the university to become accessible to a wider range of disabled students: for example, we currently have no students whose preferred communication method is Braille or British Sign Language. In 2000—2001 a number of staff took part in a pilot of the Teachability Project. They audited four learning programmes, one from each faculty, identifying Napier’s barriers to students with different disabilities

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and making suggestions for more inclusive practice. They commented on how useful the audit process itself had been, and how their awareness of teaching issues for disabled students had been heightened by reflecting critically on learning and teaching. A few enthusiastic and committed members of this group have continued to work in their own schools, developing individual initiatives such as a school strategy for creating an accessible curriculum. The hard work and dedication to be found in, for example, the School of Computing, should be acknowledged, and their good practice more widely disseminated. More recently other staff have taken part in Teachability awareness days. The Teachability Project Team produced a report based on their findings at Napier related to the precepts of the QAA Code of Practice: Students with Disabilities, and made a number of recommendations to the university for taking this initiative forward. There is a huge task ahead in terms of staff development, staff time and resources. New staff development opportunities have been and are being arranged including the Napier staff conference on 29 January, but we must increase takeup of these. Teachability is about creating a learning and teaching environment where all staff are justifiably pleased with curricular provision for disabled students, are self-consciously aware of current good practice and are confident their work complies with the duties of the DDA. If you’re not already part of this, I suggest you sign up now for one of the forthcoming staff development opportunities. The DDA won’t go away and our wider access agenda needs your support! National Audit Office, Widening participation in higher education in England, HC 485 2001-2002. 1


Eureka! This edition’s eureka discoveries are contributed by Jenny Westwood, Teaching Fellow’s Support Team Good quality feedback helps students to progress faster and more effectively Effective feedback is characterised by the following: • it tells the student what they’ve done well and how and where they can improve • it starts and ends with the positive — the ‘feedback sandwich’

• it encourages self-assessment • it encourages dialogue — with you and others. Ineffective feedback is characterised by the following: • it begins with negatives • it tells the student everything they’ve done wrong • it comes to them long after they’ve forgotten what they did or said • it doesn’t appear to relate to what they’ve been learning

• it’s relevant and useful to students

• it doesn’t connect with transparent assessment criteria

• it’s clear, specific and detailed

• it doesn’t help them prioritise their effort

• it’s prompt

• it’s not specific

• it’s objective and based on fact

• it’s de-motivating

• it’s motivating for the student

• it makes assessment judgement appear historical

• it relates to relevant learning outcomes and assessment criteria

• it doesn’t help them to know how to learn from it

• it helps students prioritise their efforts • it looks forward • it comes at a time when they can act on it

• it consists of a sea of • red ink • ticks and crosses • put-down words and phrases.

Reports There are three reports in this edition of the tfj ILTAC 2002: Plato’s revenge? by Mark Huxham, Teaching Fellow, School of Life Sciences Report on the NIACE regional seminar to support HE in FE held at Durham, by Sandra Cairncross, Teaching Fellow, School of Computing Report on the LTSN in Scotland one-day conference held at Napier, by Linda Juleff, Teaching Fellow, School of Accounting and Economics


ILTAC 2002: Plato’s revenge? by Mark Huxham (with related EdDev comment and mapping from ICED 2002) I was recently branded a Platonist in a discussion group at the ILT conference in June. The experience caused me to reflect on what seems to be a trend. The presenter of the session had caused uproar by suggesting that tertiary level education could be distinguished from earlier levels on the grounds that ‘new knowledge’ could, or often did, arise in the course of the former, but not the latter. Delegates sprang to the defence of primary and secondary teachers. The presenter and the audience held quite different conceptions of what ‘knowledge’ was. The presenter was referring to ‘hard’ knowledge; that body of facts and theories that within scientific tradition can be verified (or falsified) in some way, that is ‘objective’

and which can be understood independently by other people. The audience took a much more constructivist view, and was clearly opposed to realist notions of knowledge. It was my support for the notion of objective knowledge during the discussion that led to the accusation. As a scientist, it is a prerequisite of working sanity to believe in some version of philosophical realism. There really is an objective reality that exists beyond human perceptions and that can be understood through empirical investigation. Without this belief, I would be like an astronaut who did not believe in the moon. But in many other subjects, especially the humanities, such realism is not always the dominant ideology. It is the perspective of the humanities which tends to dominate in discussion of HE teaching. For example, many definitions of what should distinguish tertiary education emphasise ‘relativising’ knowledge. In Developing Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (London, RoutledgeFalmer 2002) Gill Nicholls claims ‘conceptual change derives from a constructivist approach to learning, which defines learning as a process of personal construction of meaning’. This could be taken to mean that each learner ‘constructs themselves’ — undergoes personal change — through learning, or that each learner needs to find a way of making any given fact or theory meaningful to them in some way. Both of these interpretations gain my full support. But a third possibility, that each learner can in some way construct ‘the meaning’ of, say, the second law of thermodynamics, is more problematic. The meaning of the second law depends crucially on an array of facts and logical deductions that are quite independent of the learner. So I detect a tendency within HE teaching development to over-relativise knowledge, and to allow theories and concepts to float free of the facts that should be anchoring them. An important influence on this tendency is an uncritical acceptance of Bloom’s taxonomy. In Bloom’s league, poor old knowledge and description languish in the relegation zone, yet detailed description and knowledge are essential parts of many subjects. Compare Bloom with the real thing, biological taxonomy. Here, the knowledge that a fleeting, high-pitched flash of gold blowing through an oak wood is a goldcrest is the product of an array of skills and experiences. These skills are subservient to the knowledge, in as much as they have to be present to allow it to exist. They can also be modified by it (for example, by the discovery that goldcrests can be found in broad-leaved woods, as well as in their ‘textbook’ environment of conifer woodlands). There is no sense in fields such as biological taxonomy and natural

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history that knowledge and description are in any way inferior to theory and concepts — rather, they exist in dynamic mutualism, each relying on and modifying the other. Some in HE may snigger at the idea of the ‘ignorant know-all’ — the game show champion who knows thousands of disparate facts without having achieved any ‘learning’ (that is, without having ‘personally constructed meaning’). But we need to be equally wary of the ‘knowledgeable know-nothing’, the sort of ‘expert’ who understands all the theory but knows none of the facts (that is, just the sort of person who has given the term ‘academic’ its pejorative ring). So let us defend the importance of ‘knowledge’, ‘description’ and realism — even if this means we are branded Platonists. EdDev comment Differing theories of knowledge co-exist in higher education. They may account for some of our tribalism. Here’s the outline of an attempt at the International Consortium for Educational Development (Perth, Western Australia, July 2002) to identify where members of a particularly lively group were coming from. (See page 6.) Acknowledgements: S Earl: Napier University C Juwah: RGU K Prpic: Monash R Smyth: UNE F Underwood: UniSA

Report on the NIACE regional seminar to support HE in FE held at Durham by Sandra Cairncross NIACE (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education), in conjunction with Warwick University, City College Manchester and Sheffield Hallam University, has received money from HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) aimed at supporting all those involved in delivering HE in FE. This seminar was one of a series aimed at getting feedback from practitioners on the draft materials, to ‘make them relevant, useful and accurate for the situations that we find ourselves in’. Two documents are planned: • Guidance for Managers — with an introduction from HEFCE, a contextual overview, and a survey of college practice


Epistemology (theory of knowledge) Positivist





Theoretical perspective



Critical theory

Gender is a social construct

No essentialism

The research question?



Broad social change




The essence

Excluding the other

Local truth

Scientific observation/ experiment




Multi and meta

Action research




Statistical analysis


Key event records

Discourse analysis

In-depth interview


In-depth interview

Case studies

Time series analysis

Inductive analysis


Creating shared meaning

Links between facts, values and beliefs


Stakeholder involvement

Sample research technology

Sample methods of data collection

The values?

Feeling Objective

• Guidance for Practitioners — with seven sections planned on context, through assessment and support, to enhancement and partnership. These will be published in the new year, in hard and soft copy, with the latter downloadable from the HEFCE website. The day started with a general exploration of some of the issues facing HE in FE, from English and Welsh perspectives. It soon became clear that in many respects the context of HE in FE is very different south of the border. My experience of HE in FE is primarily related to running programmes collaboratively with FE colleges — for example stage 3 of the School of Computing’s direct entrant suite is also offered at partner colleges or FE colleges running access courses with guaranteed places in HE for successful students. It emerged that while there were collaborative programmes with local universities there was less


Complexity and depth emphasis on access courses, and more emphasis on foundation degrees. HNCs, too, were considered as HE in FE, particularly when validated by a university rather than a national body, such as Edexcel. To further complicate matters, the former was subject to QAA review but the latter by Ofsted. Gaining entry to degree courses from HNDs also seemed more problematic than in Scotland — unlike the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework, the National Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland does not include HNCs or HNDs with the result being that individual articulation agreements often have to be sought. Not only was the provision much more diverse than my own experience of HE in FE, the colleges themselves were also more diverse — ranging from large citycentre or town-centre colleges to smaller communitybased colleges, often spread out geographically. Student funding was obviously more of an issue with many more able school leavers choosing to enter the workplace rather than continuing with their education, which does not help widening participation!

Staffing was another concern. It is becoming harder to recruit staff when schools and universities pay more. Finding time for the research and scholarship needed to support the teaching of higher education courses is difficult when faced with heavy teaching loads. A variety of different collaboration models was also presented, including indirectly funded partnership and independent provision validated by a university or Edexcel. In general, however, and despite differences, the concerns facing many of those attending the seminar were shared by us at Napier and our partner colleges engaged in delivering HE in FE. The guidelines, once developed will be of interest north of the border too. Illustrative case studies should be interesting. The seminar provided a valuable opportunity to meet new colleagues, share and discuss experience, to learn from one another and also to reflect on practice. The day finished with an exploration of how to build on the success of these seminars. The idea of setting up a more permanent network was mooted but, as one delegate commented — ‘no thanks I’m all networked out!’, a view shared by others. However more one-off events were perceived as useful. All in all a useful day out — not least in the ‘thinking’ time it afforded on the train. Thanks to EdDev for supporting my attendance.

Report on the LTSN in Scotland one-day conference held at Napier by Linda Juleff In November 2002 the LTSN Generic Centre hosted a conference at Napier’s Craighouse campus entitled The LTSN in Scotland. The purpose of this event was to allow Scottish regional representatives of the LTSN subject centres to meet to discuss the future direction of LTSN within the Scottish context. Following a welcome address from Cliff Allan of the LTSN Executive, Bill Harvey and Georgina Follett representing SHEFC discussed the role of learning and teaching within the new Scottish quality enhancement framework. Rachel Farrand, the event organiser, and Brenda Smith of the LTSN Generic Centre then presented a review of current LTSN activity within Scotland. In the afternoon, a series of group discussions took place regarding the current and future role of the LTSN subject centres. Common themes which arose included the role which LTSN could play within the new quality enhancement framework; the need for institutional commitment to learning and teaching; and the difficulties which were sometimes experienced in getting staff within higher education to embrace new methods and practices. By the final plenary session, it was clear that the event had been a success (with the venue and conference arrangements being widely complimented) and it was agreed that another conference would be arranged for 2003 to enable the discussion to be taken further.

Review corner Two complementary books are reviewed by Sandra Cairncross, Teaching Fellow and Programme Director, School of Computing’s Direct Entrant Suite Closer by degrees: the past, present and future of higher education in further education colleges Gareth Parry and Anne Thompson (2002), London, Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) ISBN 1 85338 758 4 Collaborating for change? Managing widening participation in FE and HE Mary Stuart (2002), Leicester, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) ISBN 1 86201 098 6

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Widening participation in higher education will, by necessity, involve further education (FE) and higher education (HE) working in partnership if the government’s target of 50% participation by 2010 is to be met. How this might be achieved is the theme of these two very different but complementary publications. Parry and Thompson’s analytical account is a ‘qualitative and historical study of the issues surrounding the delivery of HE programmes in FE colleges from 1987 to the present day’ (foreward). Stuart, on the other hand, explores a series of case studies in order to provide ‘realistic accounts of experience’ which ‘can offer a useful way of interrogating what we do’ (p7). In selecting the case studies, Stuart sought examples to help inform her own practice, making it a more personal account. Both publications are of interest to Napier, especially to


those of us involved in partnerships and collaborative provision with FE colleges. The first volume, Closer by degrees, is a report of a study into HE in FE carried out on behalf of the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA). The study, as well as providing an overview of policy between 1987 and the present day, also serves as an evidence-base for further research; research that the authors assert is much needed in order to support the effective implementation of policy. In the foreward, Parry and Thompson identify a number of key areas that this research could usefully focus on, including:

lead to confusion and misunderstanding and the authors are to be commended for providing a clear overview of changing policies that often shift like quicksand. 1994 saw a move towards ‘consolidation’ bringing with it an increased emphasis on collaboration between HE and FE through franchising arrangements. Parry and Thompson identify key features of HE in FE, many of which hold true today, including: • a local and access orientation • flexibility and student choice

• quality and comparability of HE in the two sectors

• lifelong learning

• learners’ experiences of HE in FE

• a regional and local emphasis (p8—9).

• student support systems • the distinctiveness of teaching and learning within the two sectors • examining concepts of studentship and learner identity. These are all areas of interest to those of us involved in the delivery of HE in FE at Napier and we could usefully explore them further through the Educational Research Network and associated bodies in Napier and partner colleges. An overview of the changing policies affecting HE in FE is then given. First comes Low Policy 1998—1997, then Dearing and a special mission for the colleges, and then High Policy 1997—2001. This is very much from an English perspective. While it must be remembered that the Scottish context is different in many respects, there are also many similarities. In particular the driving forces for change are common and although we are at different levels, the drive to increase and widen participation is shared. The first point made by the authors is that HE in FE is not something new — FE colleges have a long history of providing advanced or higher education but this history is often hidden and confused, partly due to legislation and changing terminology. In the past FE offered advanced and non-advanced education, which then changed to prescribed and non-prescribed courses of higher education. Full-time BTEC HNDs are described as prescribed but part-time BTEC HNCs, which were advanced, became non-prescribed. Students on prescribed courses were entitled to central funding but some HNDs, although advanced, were not prescribed as funding was through local education authorities. Lack of a clear definition can


Indeed, all of the above are part of the rationale behind the School of Computing’s collaborative provision with FE colleges. Dearing comes next as the authors explore the impact of recommendations in the inquiry. Dearing’s recommendations led to funding changes; in England and Wales funding for all HE, including HE in FE, was to be funded by a central HE funding body but in Scotland and Northern Ireland all sub-degree provision was to be funded by a central FE funding body with degree provision being funded by a central HE funding. Not only, then, is HE in FE funded differently north and south of the border but also differently within Scotland depending on whether it is sub-degree or degree provision. This provides further and ample illustration of the complexities involved in providing and exploring HE in FE and the need to clarify exactly what is being offered or discussed; failure to do so is likely to lead to misconceptions and misunderstandings. Another theme explored is ‘collaborating to promote diversity, accessibility and efficiency’ (p28), concerns which are very relevant today. Finally in this section the authors explore the changes in quality assurance procedures resulting from the Dearing inquiry, including the involvement of the QAA, and its code of practice for collaborative provision, on which our own QES drew in developing and revising Napier’s code of practice. The authors then explore the impact of more recent changes in policy, including the government’s goal of 50% participation in HE by 2010. To this end there are discussions on widening participation, student progression and regional partnerships, parallels to which can be drawn with Napier’s partner FE colleges in Scotland. The move away from ‘franchising’ to direct, indirect and consortia funding is then explored;

again this is of direct relevance to us at Napier. Further exploration of the role of the QAA follows.

• a mutual sense of purpose

In the final section, having provided the reader with a thorough examination of the changing nature of HE in FE, Parry and Thompson look forward to what needs to be done next. They point out that funding for students, or rather lack of it, ‘serves to disturb, not to say undermine, the careful balance of recommendations of the [Dearing] inquiry’ (p67). The need for continued collaboration between FE and HE, if numbers entering HE are to grow, is also identified. This must be accompanied by research if we are to overcome the research-policy gap and overcome participation barriers.

• collaborative working (p45).

Overall, Parry and Thompson provide a detailed overview of the changing contexts of HE and FE, exploring the changes in policy and funding and the changing nature of collaboration between FE and HE. They very much focus on the ‘big picture’ whereas Stuart, in the second volume Collaborating for change?, while exploring similar ground, offers a much more personal account primarily based on three case studies. Stuart starts by exploring ‘why widening participation’ and ‘why collaboration’ and in so doing takes a very sober view pointing out that education on its own will not cure all society’s ills. She goes on to argue that genuine widening participation should be transformative as well as inclusive, and ‘requires managers to change practice and engage their organisations in new ways of working’ (p24). Having set the scene in the opening chapters, Stuart goes on to examine management in FE and HE in chapter 3. She discusses the current process of managing organisations and suggests new approaches are needed which highlight partnerships both between staff and students and also between different institutions and other organisations. This is the focus of chapter 4; for Stuart partnership, collaboration and joint working are pre-requisites for widening participation. Drawing on the literature in this area, she defines three essential elements for a successful partnership:

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• a joint agreement of future action

The difficulties in maintaining this are addressed. A particular source of tension for staff engaged in a partnership with another institution is the conflicts that arise from trying to satisfy two sets of agenda — that of their parent institution and that of the partnership. These agenda can be quite different; many partnerships are characterised by mutual responsibility and accountability but clear reporting lines may still be firmly in place in the partner organisations, and so ‘the difficulty … is that they will be expected to behave in the partnership as a colleague amongst equals yet in the work environment as a member of staff responsible to a manager’ (p58). Stuart also addresses issues of power and authority within partnership and at times asks some uncomfortable questions — just how equal are many partnerships? Stuart then presents a series of case studies that focus on different aspects of partnerships and from different perspectives — that of the individual manager, that of FE institutions and that of HE institutions. All are of interest to staff at Napier. Obviously the HE perspective will be closest to home but we should also be aware of those of our partners. Stuart concludes by looking forward to the future of widening participation and argues for working together for transformative participation requiring ‘new ways of organising education and a very different set of practices that enable learning’ (p123). It will be interesting to see what the future does, in fact, bring. Two very different accounts, then, on the same topic, but two accounts that complement and reinforce the messages of each other. Parry and Thompson offer an historical overview of the changing nature of HE in FE; Stuart offers a case study approach. The latter illuminates the former. Although both are written from an English perspective they still have much to offer us here at Napier and indeed elsewhere in Scotland.


Web spotlight The web spotlight falls on two projects related to this issue’s editorial on teachability and accessibility: Sit back and relax: a guide to reading onscreen The Teachability Project Sit back and relax: a guide to reading onscreen There is no technical reason why onscreen text is often so poorly presented. Guidelines for ‘readable’ text are very similar to guidelines for ‘accessible’ text. ‘Sit back and relax’, a project by Bruce Ingraham and Emma Bradburn, University of Teesside, to convert 1500 pages of text into a format that could be easily read on screen has resulted in a series of draft guidelines and style sheets for the creation of readable


and accessible electronic text and are available from here. The Teachability Project is funded by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) and provides materials which aim to inform the development of departmental action plans for meeting more effectively the teaching and learning needs of students with various impairments. Departments will also be able to address the challenges of the QAA Code of Practice: Students with Disabilities, and the requirements of the Disability Rights in Education legislation. The materials can be accessed from here. Extracts from the materials may be reproduced for education or training purposes on condition that the source is acknowledged as ‘©The University of Strathclyde 2000’

Dec 2002 - Feb 2003 Teaching Fellows Journal  

Restored web version of the Edinburgh Napier University Teaching Fellows Journal

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