ISSN 2050-9995 (Online)
Journal Juneâ€“Aug 2005 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 Please note - Some links and content within this document may now be out of date.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 6 Eureka! 8 Reports 10 Review corner 11 Web spotlight
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: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.url.napier.ac.uk/tf
Editorial Dr Alistair S Duff, Senior Lecturer and Teaching Fellow, School of Communication Arts, contributes this editionâ€™s editorial Assessing student debating skills: from art to science? View a four-minute video clip of a formatively assessed, live student debate from the Napier module Information, Communication & Society (March 2005)
Introduction Just in case anyone should want to get tough with me under the venerable Trade Descriptions Act, I should start by saying that my concern is to make the broader case for discussion and debate as a method in teaching, not just to contemplate issues of assessment. However, as every teacher knows, if we truly value a method, we try to assess it, so perhaps there is no real distinction. Let me unleash my burden in clear pedagogic terms: formatively and summatively assessed discussion and debate (I am running these two together for the purposes of this editorial) is a neglected mode of education, and can be recommended as a useful addition to many modules in this and other universities. To some extent, this is to push at an open door. Oral communication skills have enjoyed an extremely good press in recent years, with employers tripping over one another in their rush to emphasise the importance of universities inculcating such practical virtues in graduates. The general public says much the same. In fact, it is hard to find anyone who does not want communication aptitudes improved across the board (perhaps the odd Trappist monk?). However, on probing these conventional beliefs, the picture is not quite so cut and dried. The kind of orality that I believe is important goes far beyond the business presentation skills that most employers are after. I am talking about the ability to question ideas and develop arguments and counter-arguments in a structured way and in a public forum. Educationally, this requires serious coaching work at the tricky interface between private thinking and public speaking; it involves a paradigm shift from passivity to active learning; it demands that students become comfortable with ambiguity; and, as suggested already, it requires a commitment to assess, both formatively (students rarely pull off a decent performance first time round) and summatively. All of this is easy to do, but it is not easy to do well â€“
and the assessment part, I suggest, is particularly hard to do well. Below I describe some of my own modest efforts with a Napier University module entitled Information, Communication & Society. First, however, let’s put matters into academic context by means of a rudimentary literature review.
Literature review Compared with many pedagogic topics, the literature on this subject does not appear to be particularly abundant. Here I take some examples to give a flavour of what has been written, the first of which is a 1976 article by Michel Nicola. Occupying a ‘hard science’ perspective, Nicola argues strongly for use of the discussion method to teach scientific theories. His classroom experience showed him the valuable lesson that ‘the best discussions occur when I recede to the background, when I do not contribute more than one of the least talkative students …’ (Nicola 1976:984). I totally agree with this: how vital standing back is to good teaching! Nicola also demonstrates his seriousness by assessing the discussions. Yet he confesses that he has ‘no hard and fast rules for grading student contributions’ (Nicola 1976:985). This begs the question: if even he, a physical scientist, has no ‘scientific’ assessments, who has? Gall and Gillett (1980) point out that some lecturers dismiss the discussion method on spurious grounds saying that their job is to teach, or that they are too busy for discussion, or it is seen as a frill or clashes with a hard-headed approach to teaching. Gall and Gillett also note that discussion can seem threatening to some teachers, since it involves some loss of control, and that it can even seem like disorganised, and therefore bad, teaching. Against such bogus views, they stress the method’s usefulness for deepening understanding of social issues, as well as its compliance with Bloom’s taxonomy. Where they might worry us is in their claim that five is the maximum number of students in a discussion situation. It is hard to accept this for all discussion scenarios, still less for structured debates; and even if the figure is right, modern higher education cannot afford such staff–student ratios. Singh (1997) develops the philosophical side, arguing, surely correctly, that discussion of controversial issues is integral to liberal democracy. He invokes, inevitably, Habermas’s ‘ideal speech situation’ as a model of what discussion should be aiming at. Singh notes that consensus is not necessarily possible, especially where there are genuine value differences, in which case tolerance rather than unity might become the aim of discussion. However, while he makes useful
suggestions about teachers having a moderating role in managing the ‘traffic’ of words, he says nothing about assessment. Brown and Knight’s otherwise authoritative textbook Assessing Learners in Higher Education (1994) does not deal with discussion or debating. However, Freeman and Lewis’s excellent manual, Planning and Implementing Assessment (1998), has a chapter on assessment of oral work and class participation. It reiterates the axiom (p208) that ‘as we know, most students take seriously only what is assessed and if their oral performance is not assessed, they are not likely to deem it necessary to develop the necessary skills’. It covers student participation in seminar discussions, noting the sheer logistical difficulties in identifying individual contributions, never mind assessing them summatively. One or two helpful partial solutions are suggested, such as video-recording discussions and student observers taking notes of who is saying what. Perhaps the most significant specialised work to have appeared on the topic is Brookfield and Preskill’s (1999) Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for University Teachers. The book is an extended and eloquent plea for centrality of discussion. They itemise fifteen benefits of discussion including: discussion helps students to explore a diversity of perspectives; it increases students’ tolerance of ambiguity; it helps students investigate their assumptions; it increases intellectual agility; it helps students become connected to a topic; it affirms students as co-creators of knowledge; and it develops the capacity for clear communication of ideas (Brookfield and Preskill 1999:17). Yet, when it comes to assessment, they get slightly woolly, almost as if assessment is a dirty word: ‘Our commentary will be brief because we don’t believe there really are standardized protocols or universal measures for assessing a discussion leader’s competence or the value of student contributions’ (p170). They think discussion is too subjective: ‘discussions are like marriages – no two are alike and no one on the outside can ever really understand what is going on in the inside’ (p171). However, despite this purist philosophy, they do offer a few practical suggestions for the real world, such as the use of student self-assessment by means of discussion logs and to make clear at the start of semester that overtalking and dominating discussion are not the same thing as effective participation.
A Napier case study How do I assess debating at Napier in Information, Communication and Society (Module no CA 32080)?
Context Information, Communication and Society is a 15-credit, second semester module that runs as level 3 core on the BA (Hons) Journalism programme and level 3/4 option on BA (Hons) Social Science. The module centres around the contested concept of the ‘information society’, a prominent theme in current thought and policy, and looks at the impact of information flows and communication technologies on society, covering such issues as access, censorship of the Internet, freedom of information, and intellectual property. Delivery is structured around a weekly, hour-long lecture and tutorial, with an emphasis on student involvement and active learning, alongside fairly demanding stipulations on reading and ‘scholarly underpinning’. Assessment for the module takes the form of a book review on a text agreed with the module leader, a conventional examination at the end, and also, the subject of our interest here, a class debate of approximately 20 students. The format and other details are fully explained in the Assessment Brief given to students and reproduced below.
Assessment brief: tutorial debate (summative) Tutorial 12 (ie week beginning 9 May) comprises an assessed formal class debate, on the motion ‘This House Believes the Internet Should be Censored’. In an earlier tutorial, students will have been split into two sides, one of which will be presenting the case for censorship/regulation of the Internet, the other the case against.
Work to be done in preparation Each side will have to meet several times outside of scheduled tutorials to prepare for the debate, to allocate and monitor tasks, eg to investigate different aspects of the case by consulting the literature in the library and searching the Internet, and to prepare visual aids like overhead transparencies; and to put together, finalise and outloud rehearse the script/ outline for the presentation.
Format of debate The format of the debate, which more or less follows standard Oxford Union debating practice, will be as follows: • Ten minute presentation by the pro-censorship team
on the main arguments for their position • Ten minute presentation by the anti-censorship team • A live interactive session in which each side will be able to attack/defend arguments • Final one-line summarising statement of each side’s main argument • Announcement of winner by tutor.
Materials which could be used in presentation Journal articles, screen dumps of overhead transparencies, newspaper articles, quotations from books in library or other academic authorities, official statistics, materials from lobby groups with WWW sites, quotes from laws, case studies, etc.
Assessment This debate will be summatively assessed; in other words, marks will count towards the final mark for module. 15 marks have been assigned to this assessment. Of these, 5 marks are for preparation and will be allocated by the method known as peerassessment. Each group should decide together how much each member has contributed to the team effort to prepare the case and give a mark out of 5. NB This mark is subject to review by the module leader. Each group should bring the marks along to the tutorial in week 12. The tutor will assign a mark out of 10 collectively to each side for the performance on the day, including both the presentation and the conduct of the interactive part. ALL members of the group should be involved in the preparation of the materials for the presentation and in the interactive part, although not all need to be involved in the delivery of the presentation.
Performance criteria Depth and range of research; strength of arguments, including statistical or other support; clarity of presentation; quality of visual aids; fluency of delivery; coherence of whole argument; time-keeping; readiness in responding to other side’s arguments; ability to summarise position.
Discussion and conclusions I have made a point of showing students, often at the start of the regular weekly lecture, video footage of
relevant ‘professional’ debates, in order to acculturate them in this mode. I run a formative assessment round about week 6, which, I would suggest, is vital if you want the summative assessment to run smoothly. The summative assessment itself, where possible, is video-recorded, a practice whose advantages outweigh the disadvantages, at least where help from technical staff is available. According to many kinds of student feedback, and external examiner comment as well, this is the most appreciated feature of the module (as it was of an earlier version entitled Electronic Information and Society). End-of-module questionnaires have consistently over the past years cited the debates in a positive light. Student responses from the 2003/4 session to the question What did you like most about this module? include:
• Norm or criterion: is there a case for more normreferencing than the performance criteria suggest, because of the inter-subjective, dynamic nature of assessment situation? • Should peer assessment play a larger role, and if so to what extent and at what stage? I look forward to answers, or at least expert criticism, from Teaching Fellows and other staff interested in this challenging form of active learning! References Brookfield S D and Preskill S (1999) Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for University Teachers Buckingham, SRHE/Open University Press Brown S and Knight P (1994) Assessing Learners in Higher Education London, Kogan Page
It was the only module to have a debate within its marking scheme. A good experience and definitely worthwhile.
Duff A S (2003) Higher education teaching: a communication perspective Active Learning in Higher Education 4(3): 256-270
I thought class debate was quite a good method of assessment.
Freeman R and Lewis R (1998) Planning and Implementing Assessment London, Kogan Page
The subject is full of debates which encourage deeper thought. The feedback for the debate was very helpful and having an additional practice debate also encouraged learning of another issue.
Gall M D and Gillett M (1980) The discussion method in classroom teaching Theory into Practice 19(2): 98-103
This case study, I believe, supplies evidence in favour of all of the pedagogic advantages claimed in the literature on behalf of this method, many of them quoted above. There can be little doubt that the use of discussion and debates is learning-enhancing in at least some contexts (see Duff (2003) for further discussion). However, I leave you with some final questions: • Should the several performance criteria be formally weighted, or is that assessment ‘overkill’? • How can validity be assured?
Nicola M (1976) Teaching physical science from original sources by a discussion method American Journal of Physics 44(10): 984-988 Singh B (1997) Liberalism, communitarianism and discussion method as a means of reconciling controversial moral issues Educational Studies 23(2): 169-184 Thanks Thanks to Rob McCann, James Blair, Colin Wilson and Willie Duff for technical advice and assistance in making the video and web streaming.
Eureka! Ten Wizardly Predictions! On Friday 11 March 2005 Dr Curtis J Bonk, Professor for Educational Psychology, Indiana University, dramatically entertained and creatively challenged some 60 staff at Merchiston Campus. Appropriately attired in a stunning wizard hat and cape he left us with Ten Wizardly Predictions about blended learning3. They may or may not come true but for wider dissemination and for better or worse they are summarised here by EdDev’s Christina Mainka, Academic Development Adviser, Online Learning. 1. All learning will become blended According to Prof Bonk, J R Young1, editor of The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, predicted in 2002 a dramatic increase in blended courses, possibly as high as 80–90% by 2010. At the University of Pretoria, for example, the number of students enrolled on face-to-face courses enhanced by WebCT increased from 1500 in 1999 to 24,000 in 2004. At this point in Prof Bonk’s presentation, the Borgs from Star Trek: The Next Generation warned us to accept our blended fate because ‘Resistance is futile’. 2. Both certificates and short courses will be blended Certificates and short courses will be increasingly designated as blended learning paths or options. Here, Prof Bonk pointed out results of a survey he conducted last year in which 60% of the 500 respondents from HE institutions and business organisations in North America expected that they would be offering more certificates online than Masters degrees or recertification programmes. 3. We’ll have an increased focus on learners and teacher training The increasing demand for online certificate programmes will be met by an increase in online teacher training programmes such as the Distance Education Certificate Program offered by the University of Wisconsin, the Masters Online Teacher Program from the Illinois Online Network or the University of Maryland’s award-winning Masters of Distance Education Program as well as UK examples including Napier’s blended PgC TLHE. According to Prof Bonk’s survey factors most affecting the
success of online programmes will be the pedagogical competency of the instructor and monetary support, outweighing the effect that marketing, a rigorous accreditation process, instructor technical competency or improvements to technology have. 4. We’ll have online global teacher ratings Thankfully absent in the UK, but already a grim reality for North American educators, sites such as Pick a Prof at www.pickaprof.com or www.ratingsonline.com, just two of several online college instructor ratings facilities, are projected to become more widespread internationally in the near future. 5. Online collaboration and virtual learning will grow in importance Prof Bonk is convinced that blended learning will open new avenues for collaboration, community building, and global connectedness overall. Online office management services such as the Groove Virtual Office at http://groove.net/home/index.cfm will be become increasingly popular, bringing together team members from around the world. Tools such as Tuft University’s VUE (Visual Understanding Environment) at http://vue.tccs.tufts.edu support staff and students to integrate digital resources into their teaching and learning as well as providing a means for sharing digital information from online libraries, local files and the web. Microsoft® SharePointTM, an online communications service, is available to download at www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/technologies/ sharepoint/default.mspx 6. We’ll have reality teaching and learning Reality teaching and learning includes the use of blogs (eg www.blogger.com/start), real-time cases, online role-play, simulations and games (eg www.budgetsim. org/nbs) and online performances for teaching. Whether sending students on a Virtual Tour of Oxford at www.chem.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtour, showcasing a cyber fashion show at www.sfu.ca/sfufit or joining them on an electronic field trip to erupting volcanoes at http:// volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/kids/vrtrips.html, Prof Bonk predicts that reality teaching will impact learning environments in significant ways. Students will soon be performing experiments collaboratively online with globally dispersed peers or joining archeologists virtually to examine ancient finds. 7. There’ll be an increase in focus on online cheating An issue of grave concern already, Prof Bonk warns us of more trouble ahead. In addition to the hundreds of paper mills already online such as www.nocheaters.
com or www.schoolsucks.com, IT makes illegitimate degrees easier than ever to obtain. At www.getdegree-in-5-days.com, for example, US$110 guarantees an ‘authentic’ college degree complete with student records and transcripts! Some of Prof Bonk’s many recommendations for deterring plagiarism include assessing the relevance and value of the assignment, maintaining a challenging learning field and varying exam questions and topics regularly. 8. Quality issues about courses will become pervasive Recent studies clearly demonstrate that incorporating technology into teaching reduces long-term costs and improves the quality of education. A comprehensive survey carried out by the PEW Foundation2 involving the redesign of university courses at 30 US universities, showed that student retention, lecture attendance and student satisfaction were improved after the purposeful incorporation of technology into teaching. These results have wide-ranging implications for a set of blended teaching quality standards, that in the future will become a measure for a rising number of blended teaching formats. 9. Novel online educational partnerships will emerge Prof Bonk expects global understanding and appreciation to be encouraged through educational consortiums such as the University of the Arctic (www. uarctic.org) or Hanline University’s Global Center for Environmental Education (http://cgee.hamline.edu/ index.html). For example, Tapped In® at http://tappedin.org/tappedin, established in 1997, is the online home of an international community of education professionals who can find peer support in new teaching technologies or plan and try out ideas online with colleagues from around the world. Another novel partnership includes the UK’s Centre for Educational Technology Interoperability Standards, CETIS (www. cetis.ac.uk/), a subscription-based, non-profit
organisation with members from all the leading technology system suppliers, publishers and many user organisations including leading US universities active in e-learning, working together to develop specifications and standards for learning technology interoperability. 10. Technology will continue to outpace theory Rapidly decreasing hardware costs, increased broadband availability and computer miniaturisation of will ensure widespread availability of educational technology in the next few years. According to Prof Bonk’s survey, the technologies expected to impact most on the delivery of online learning in the next three years are synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, wireless technology and reusable content objects. His vision for the near future includes tutors wearing headsets that identify each student by name, and every student using handheld supercomputers that signal assignment due-dates, surf the web and make phone calls. References 1 Young J R (March 22, 2002) ‘Hybrid’ teaching seeks to end the divide between traditional and online instruction Chronicle of Higher Education, pp A33 2 Pew Foundation Program in Course Redesign at www.center.rpi.edu/PewGrant.html The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter at www.center.rpi.edu/PewNews1.html 3 Bonk C J & Kim K J (in press) Future directions of blended learning in higher education and workplace learning settings To appear in Bonk C J & Graham C R (Eds) Handbook of blended learning: global perspectives, local designs San Francisco CA, Pfeiffer Publishing All websites last accessed May 2005
Reports Higher Education in Developing Countries: with a focus on Muslim contexts report by Shirley Earl, Senior Teaching Fellow and Head of Learning and Teaching Development, EdDev Enhancement Themes 2005-06 Employability Assessment Conference report by Alan Edgar, Lecturer and Teaching Fellow, School of Engineering Higher Education in Developing Countries: with a focus on Muslim contexts report by Shirley Earl In my experience cross-disciplinary meetings of this particular academic kind are still fairly rare, the first prerequisite being willingness to face societally rooted controversies and the second a desire to deepen understanding, in this case both within the multifaceted contexts of Muslim universities and across cultures. As this conference, held at Aga Khan University (International) in the United Kingdom, was the first the Aga Khan University (AKU) Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations has mounted in the UK it was heartening to see some 200 delegates so-minded, from 20 countries and from the United Nations. Aql (Arabic intellect) encompassing both rational thinking and intelligence was much in evidence throughout. Influential research has indicated that many public and private Muslim (and other) universities are becoming increasingly concerned about how to achieve their mission, about quality and change in teaching and research, about how to talk within partnership agreements and about how to align national endeavours for reform, international presence and student aspiration. Given such agenda AKU threaded its conference variously through themes of • education and development • international partnerships • managing and implementing change • policy governance and reforms • quality assurance • teaching learning and research • women in higher education
with the themes being complemented by keynotes from leading academics based in Cambridge UK, Mohammadiya Morocco, London UK and Karachi Pakistan. As I cannot do justice to the conference in 1000 words I have chosen simply to select five explorations, hoping to provide readers with an indication of currency and thinking within Muslim universities and illustrations of ideas with which the delegates were engaging. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha is president of the AKU. I sat fascinated as he traced through the influence of the great traditional centres of Muslim learning, the colonial era, patterns of retreat into comparative isolation and current movements towards growth. He tapestried his historical panorama with challenges – of role, community, global positioning, cultural positioning, accessibility and societal need. He identified two constants – the reality that good universities always outstrip their resources and the importance of remembering the scale of time. Vicissitudes and constants both sounded familiar and as conference delegates moved through themes the impact of resource and the importance of scales of time and task were addressed recurrently. Most indicative of the scales of task and comparative resource were the sessions on understandings of quality. We know that these are of paramount importance in our own university’s transnational growth. What I had been unaware of hitherto was United Nations (UN) matched funding involvement in quality mappings across the public universities in the Arab world. Given expansion and diversification since 1990, these mappings seek to provide a baseline for comparisons and for academic standards. The period from 1991–2003 saw an increase in Arab HE student enrolments from 2 to 5.5 million, the number of public universities grew from 117 to 242, private universities grew from 17 to 80 and American universities entered the geographic area. 2004 means for the Arab university sector are that 50% faculty have doctorates, teaching with a student:faculty ratio of 28:1. There are 2.6 research centres per university and 2.4 periodicals. A broad correlation with wealth is clear with the three leading universities being in Bahrain, Egypt and the Lebanon and the two lowest ranking institutions being in Iraq and the Sudan. All 242 public Arab world institutions, however, have co-operated with the UN to compile the overview and indicate willingness to use it to inform institutional planning
and adaptation, to inform reporting, to help them address concerns about dilution of quality and to raise standards across the region. The shared aspiration is generic models to apply across universities and across subjects. Piggybacking on the UN initiative there are now particularised projects, eg creation of subject specific texts (Computing) and consideration of subject specific teaching methodologies (hybrid combinations of teaching in dual languages in order to ease transpositions between Western and Arab ideas in business administration). Demonstrably, quality assurance and enhancement are concerns of Muslim universities. In the UK we need not arrogate them to ourselves and, internationally, I would argue, we have a responsibility to heed the schemes of others as well as our own. Several sessions of conference directly and indirectly explored difficulties occasioned by flawed direct transposition. Nelofer Halai, AKU, for example, explored a perceived lack of quality in Pakistan University education and recent attempts to seriously apply Western quality processes (QAA/HEFCE models). When implemented these processes would seem to inhibit staff satisfaction and give rise to concerns about cultural appropriacy. A balance between utilitarian faculty, curriculum, administrative and infrastructure improvements and sensitive, culturally apposite stewardship and change seems to be needed. Rajani Naidoo, University of Bath, advanced arguments that globalisation would lead to the commodification of higher education, articulating developing countries’ fears that viewing them as mass markets will have the dual effect of inhibiting indigenous capacity and exacerbating inequality through deposit of lower quality rather than higher quality knowledge. Yasmin Lodi (AK Humanities Project based in Tajikistan) used studies in Central Asia to highlight tensions between lofty goals and result. She posited that three international institutions in Tashkent produce confident, skilled graduates who can easily fit into an international workplace but often find it difficult to root and use their skills in their own societies or its public sector. Westernised-educated graduates find themselves alternative-visioned. They are essential for development but not easily employable because their education has alienated them from regional social mores. Thus the personally valued transformative education system appears to render them unsuitable for many posts. As a consequence the best and most fortunate find themselves in international jobs, second rung graduates find employment with private firms, others find themselves excluded from government posts and sequentially underemployed.
Despite some uneasiness with nuanced conventions (a valuable reminder of my own acquired cultural constraints) and dawning consciousness of how much we rely on ingrained common knowledge (which I distinctly lack in the Muslim arena) the importance of my attending Higher Education in Developing Countries is that it encouraged me to think much more deeply about the checks and balances of process and curriculum we as an academic community need to address – checks and balances between globalisation (the knowledge economy and the General Agreement on Trades in Services), internationalisation (overseas students enrolled and faculty exchanges to study, teach and research) and transnationalisation (fair and more eclectic cross-continental collaborations). Is anyone else in Napier’s Teaching Fellow or wider fraternity grappling with these concepts too? In other words ‘Continued informed quality discussion needed’. Editor’s note: In April 2005 Teaching Fellows Sandra Cairncross and John Revuelta introduced a Good practice forum that aims to provide opportunities for school and faculty based practitioners to develop Napier’s provision for delivery overseas through discussion and learning from each other’s experience. Forum seminars and meetings are notified through EdDev Events.
Enhancement Themes 2005-06 Employability Assessment Conference report by Alan Edgar The one-day Employability Assessment Conference was held at Glasgow Caledonian University on Wednesday 11 May 2005. It was attended by approximately 70 delegates from all over Scotland, including two of us from Napier. The first keynote speaker was Professor Lee Harvey of Sheffield Hallam University whose presentation was about issues affecting employability and how employability can be assessed. He attempted to disprove several myths and argued that employability, like any learning, follows intended outcomes not all of which have to be assessed directly. But he argued that, like any other learning outcome, it could be assessed. A much more integrated approach was required. He suggested that there was a need for a much more proactive approach to grading students, using more imaginative and transparent approaches, with staff and students being clear as to the methodology being applied and identifying appropriate criteria for each assessment. Delegates were pointed to the ESECT Toolkit for further advice and in particular the Open University Assessment Analysis Tool.
The second keynote speaker was Dr David Nicol of the University of Strathclyde, whose presentation was on the use of e-portfolios in personal development planning. He discussed the benefits that had been found through the planned use of websites for data storage used throughout the work of a student. I personally found this a disappointing keynote presentation that could have dealt more fully with assessment issues. Between the two keynote presentations were three breakout sessions. The one I attended consisted of three papers each of which had only the most tenuous link to employability and very little to do with employability assessment. I found these very disappointing. After the second keynote presentation, delegates were split into breakout groups each with a topic for discussion. Each group was given a brief of producing two or three questions on their topic for consideration by a panel of senior people in a ‘Question Time’ type session to complete the day. This was quite useful in networking with other delegates and some discussion regarding other universities approaches were covered.
The ‘Question Time’ session was chaired by Professor Terry Hayes of Glasgow Caledonian University and consisted of the two keynote speakers joined by Dr Ian Young, Principal, Glasgow Caledonian University and Norman Sharp, Director of the QAA Scotland. It was an interesting and entertaining approach but, given that the questions were carefully chosen, very uncontroversial. I left the conference with the thought that it had done little to address directly the methods and reasons around the issue of employability assessment. All the suggestions were at best vague and no effective guidelines were suggested for discussion. In the overall field of employability I feel that Napier addresses all the issues involved and that the Napier student body is very well prepared for the world of work in terms of the development of the necessary broadening skills. These are well integrated into all areas of the curriculum. Details of the conference presentations are now available on the Enhancement Themes website.
Review corner John Cowan, Napier Visiting Professor, reviews Women in Higher Education – an encyclopedia by Ana M Martínez Alemán and Kristen A Renn (eds) (2002) Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio ISBN 1576076148 When Shirley Earl (Head of Learning and Teaching Development, Napier University) suggested sending me this massive 634-page tome, I confess I felt that it might have been more appropriate to pass it to a woman for review. But, when I began to dip into sections, as one does with a book of this type, I soon found out that I was wrong. For much of what the encyclopaedia presents will be unfamiliar, at least in part, to many men, who will be glad to be able to inform themselves from its sections. Sadly, however, it is not only a volume dealing with a specialist subject, it has also clearly been planned and edited to cater only for a readership located in North America, or rather the United States. The encyclopaedia, with over 50 contributors, is written as an ongoing and highly readable text, rather than presented as short sections under particular
headings. It opens with a review of historical and cultural contexts in the US, a full overview followed by consideration of black women’s colleges, and other institutions such as military and community colleges. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues are accorded adequate coverage at this stage. There follow full and generally fair sections on Gender Theory and the Academy, and Feminism in the Academy. Here, as elsewhere, however, I noted that feminist pedagogy and assessment are presented firmly as contrasts to their masculine equivalents, without acknowledgement of the fact that many of the clearly set out feminist principles and methodologies have long featured in educational and research practice which was not led by women. However this text is not unique in over-making that distinction. A rich section on women in the curriculum, including their transformation of the curriculum well beyond the introduction of women’s studies, follows. This leads into the growing role, again in the US, of women in formulating higher education policy. The closing four sections deal with women students, faculty, administrators and other employees.
If I knew an academic who was contemplating working in the US, or collaborating with teams there which could be of mixed gender or wholly female in constitution, I would advise them to make use of this book (for that is how I see it rather than as an encyclopaedia as such) to heighten awareness in an informed and balanced way. Other than the way Belenky et al are treated as being fundamentally different from Perry rather than similar in approach and with complementary findings, I have but one
reservation; that is the curious omission of any mention of Alverno College, either in the sub-sections on Catholic Women’s Colleges or Leadership in Catholic Institutions, where male dominance features strongly. As a non-Catholic, and a man, I have long regarded the Alverno, founded by a community of nuns, as a powerful feminist influence on higher education, not simply in Milwaukee and the US, but around the world. I wonder why their massive contribution escapes consideration?
Web spotlight The web spotlight falls on MERLOT, a website highlighted by Dr Curtis Bonk when he spoke at Napier in March (see the eureka! page for his Ten Wizardly Predictions) MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a catalogue of online learning materials, organised by discipline, many of which have been peer-reviewed. Membership is free and is open to individuals, HE institutions and professional organisations. Amongst a range of options, members can add learning materials to the catalogue, peer-review materials, add comments and add assignments. Although the orientation is towards the US, there is much of interest and many transferable ideas in this attractive site.