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ISSN 2050-9995 (Online)

Journal June–Aug 2007 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 Please note - Some links and content within this document may now be out of date.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 3 Eureka! 5 Reports 6 Review corner 7 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:

Editorial The Oxford Experience Dr Alistair Duff, Senior Lecturer and Teaching Fellow, School of Creative Industries, shares some thoughts and experiences on his recent sabbatical to Oxford University This is going to be a little different, perhaps a little more light-hearted than the usual editorial article. Hopefully, though, there will be something of value in it. Certainly, my subject, The Oxford Experience, is a worthy one, even if I don’t do it justice. So in this piece I would like to reflect, in a very personal way, on how Napier and Oxford compare pedagogically and in terms of student experience. Please permit a little stage-setting. An Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) research leave award enabled me to spend much of the 2006-7 session away from Napier, engaged principally in producing a book manuscript and accompanying articles. Before anyone grudges me that, please bear in mind that it was my first sabbatical in twelve years. I’d like, though, to thank those colleagues at Napier for taking on extra dissertation marking and personal tutorials in my absence. There is a philosophical point that could be made here. Why does Napier not have a sabbaticals policy? I have raised this in many forums at the University and have never had, to my mind, a satisfactory response. The concept of an academic sabbatical is based firmly on the brilliant biblical principle that every one and every thing needs some time for regeneration. That applies to the environment, animals, manual workers and even scholars! If Napier is going realise its potential – in which I firmly believe – of being the unrivalled modern University of the People’s Republic of Scotland or, in less visionary terms, to continue to compete in national inter-varsity games like the Research Assessment Exercise, then perhaps the issue of sabbaticals policy needs to move further up the agenda. If the University cannot afford automatic sabbaticals, then why not an internal competition for a limited number of such? Just a thought... But back to Oxford. I spent my time as a Visiting Fellow (which technically runs until September 2007) in a marvellous department at the University, the Oxford Internet Institute ( The institute has, in less than ten years, established itself as one of the world’s leading centres of research into the


social impact of information and communication technologies. As well as research, it also supervises doctoral students, and is shortly launching taught master’s programmes too. My involvement was limited mainly to seminars, which were attended by both staff and students. I have to commend the high level of discussion at these seminars, both the ‘brown bag’ lunch-time ones, and bigger events featuring visiting speakers from abroad. To see ideas being bounced off people; the sparks of intellectual exchange; the emergence of new interfaces as different disciplinary perspectives cross paths – ah, is that not the life and soul of a university! Yet, and I say this sincerely, I have seen the same thing at Napier University many times. And in terms of student participation in seminar discussions, I have seen our own postgrads contributing every bit as intelligently and vocally as those in Oxford. Given the difference in maturity of these universities, that observation, if accurate, can perhaps be treated as a cause for modest selfcongratulation. Pedigree, though, is a dimension along which Oxford University, founded in the mid-12th century, surpasses Napier University, founded 1992. Or is it? One of the finest features of Oxford, of course, is its architecture, and the history and ideas that such architecture embodies. Christ Church and numerous other colleges, the Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre are among the venues that mesmerise students and tourists alike. Yet does not Napier, too, boast comparable buildings — the perfectly restored Merchiston Tower, where the great computing genius John Napier lived; Craiglockhart, intimately associated with poets who pinpointed the asininity of the first world war; Craighouse, where a princess was abducted and Scottish history made — Craighouse, indeed, a campus whose location, dramatic views and architectural beauty compare with anything in academia the world

over? How fortunate we are among the dreaming spires of Napier! As a temporary member of Oxford I was entitled to join, for a fee (naturally), the celebrated Oxford Union. Synonymous with debating, and famous for attracting speakers of high prominence in every field, the Union represents the important extracurricular side of the Oxford experience. I have attended four debates there so far, and every one was a model of oratorical flair, humour, courtesy and democratic participation. I heard Malcolm Rifkind demolish uncritical proAmericanism, Jimmy Wales1 (founder of Wikipedia) extol the Internet, and, even more fun, students both attack and defend an obscure Union regulation which runs something like: ‘Dogs are not permitted in the Union. An exception is made for dogs belonging to visually impaired members. However, on Oxford Union premises such dogs will be referred to as cats. Another exception is for police dogs. However, such dogs must be referred to as wombats’. Oh, to be twenty again! Seriously, though, debating societies and the like are surely an important part of a university education, and perhaps this is something we at Napier can learn from Oxford. I fear that in our enthusiasm for programmes and modules and innovative pedagogic techniques, we sometimes forget the extracurricular dimensions which go towards an enjoyable Student Experience— and are often, as with Oxford debating or sporting achievement, a fast lane to employability too. Moreover, they keep speakers to time in the Oxford Union. So perhaps I should keep to my allotted 1000 words and sign off, albeit a little abruptly. What is it the speaking pros say? Stop talking with your audience hopefully wanting more, rather than keep talking with your audience secretly begging you to end... Editor’s note: This Oxford Union debate is available to view at the Oxford Internet Institute’s website at www. then follow the ‘Webcast’ link. 1

Eureka! Ten ways to make the most of your Library service Ellen Paterson, Assistant Information Services Advisor and Isabel McLeod, Information Services Advisor, NULIS, offer tips on making the most of Napier’s Library service 1. Register! The Library provides a service for all

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Napier staff, but you must register to borrow books and journals. Your Staff ID card also acts as a Library membership card, so simply visit your nearest campus Library and complete a registration form. 2. Get to know your Information Services Advisor (ISA). ISAs are responsible for liaising with specific Schools, Faculties or Services and can: • purchase material for Library collections


• help you to identify and locate information sources relevant to your teaching or research

by C&IT Services on the university network.

• provide information skills instruction for you or your students

A Helpsheet on how to use EndNote is available at Information/ Help+Sheets/InformationSkills.htm

• advise on Library requirements for programme validation and development • respond to Library issues at Boards of Study etc.

Find out who your ISA is at Library/LibraryServices/About+Us/Contacts/InformationServicesAdvisors.htm 3. Start with the Library home page! From campus Library opening hours to electronic resource guides to coping with exam stress, our web pages contain all the information you’ll need to get started using the Library service. Go to the Library home page at staff.napier. and use the left-hand menu to navigate the site. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Click on ‘Ask us’ (under ‘Quick Links’) and let us know how we can help you. 4. Get results – use the Library catalogue NUIN to search for all books, audio-visual and electronic materials available from the Library. You can also login to renew loans online and request items that are out on loan or held at another campus. Ask Library staff for password details. Access NUIN at nuin.napier. A Helpsheet on how to use NUIN is available at Help+Sheets/InformationSkills.htm 5. Use NUINlink to find e-journals and articles. The Library’s NUINlink search tool provides a single access point to our electronic resources. Search by subject category, cross-search databases, or browse the comprehensive list of electronic journals. Use your customisable personal profile (‘My Space’) to save search results or list favourite resources. Access NUINlink at and login using your NUIN username and password. Helpsheets on how to use NUINlink are available at Help+Sheets/InformationSkills.htm 6. Manage your references and create bibliographies. Import references from Library databases using the EndNote bibliographic management software provided


C&IT Services run training courses on EndNote as part of their Training Schedule. Details of the C&IT Services Training Schedule are available at Services/ citservices/Information+for+Staff/Further+ Help+Support+and+Training/Instructor+Led+Training/ TrainingSchedule.htm For Faculty of Health, Life & Social Sciences staff who use RefWorks via NHS e-Library, a user guide is available on request. 7. Turn print into electronic. Use the Library’s digitisation service to digitise book chapters and journal articles for your WebCT modules. A Helpsheet is available at Information/ Help+Sheets/OtherHelpsheets.htm 8. Get borrowing access to other academic libraries. A SCONUL Research Extra card enables staff and PhD research students to borrow from other libraries in close proximity to where they live or work. A list of the 127 participating libraries, and application forms, are available at srx Details of reference access arrangements at 140 other local Library services within Edinburgh are available at Bookshops/AccessingOtherLibraries.htm 9. Use the Document Supply Service to obtain books, journals, articles, conference proceedings, theses and reports that are not available within our own collections or within Edinburgh. This service is available to all staff and students for a nominal fee of £1.50 for each item. Details are available at DocumentSupply.htm 10. Make the information come to you. Do you find it difficult to keep up to date with new research in your subject area? Set up email alerts or RSS feeds from major databases and the British Library, and receive automatic notification of new articles and reports via your desktop. Check out Zetoc, the British Library’s Electronic Table of Contents service at zetoc.mimas., or the services provided by individual journal databases. Ask your ISA for further details.

Reports Linda Juleff , Senior Lecturer and Senior Teaching Fellow, School of Accounting, Economics & Statistics, reports on the HEA/RCUK conference ‘Bringing Research and Teaching Together’ This conference, which took place in London on 24 November 2006 and was jointly sponsored by the Higher Education Academy and Research Councils UK, was designed to provide a platform for ongoing work in this area, including in relation to the current QAA Research-Teaching Linkages theme. Following a welcome from Professor Paul Ramsden, CEO of HEA, Professor Ian Diamond, chair of RCUK, gave an interesting and thought-provoking presentation entitled ‘Building onto the effective relationship between UK research councils and UK universities’. He set out four basic premises in terms of the links between teaching and research: 1. all teaching should be informed by research involving research in teaching can excite and inspire students 2. involving research in teaching can offer opportunities to raise awareness of careers in research 3. all researchers should teach, and professors should profess. These points sparked an ongoing (and sometimes heated) debate throughout the day regarding the extent to which research-teaching linkages were explicit or implicit; whether it was the product of research (knowledge) or the process of research (research skills) that was most important to impart to students; and whether ‘learning’ was more important than ‘teaching’, and therefore it was the former rather than the latter that should be underpinned by research. The remainder of the morning was filled by parallel sessions relating to case studies of research-teaching linkage including undergraduate research and vacation bursaries, undergraduate research journals, and general undergraduate research skills. The exclusivity of some of these initiatives was heavily criticised, for example providing a few bursaries for ‘exceptional’ students to undertake/assist with research projects instead of working with a wider audience. A strong focus on science-related research was also in evidence, suggesting room for development of other disciplines. Funding, not surprisingly, was being viewed as a

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particular issue, with much of the work being done by the HEFCE funded Centres of Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CETLs). This obviously presents a challenge for Scottish universities in relation to the absence of such funding north of the Border. After lunch, the second keynote speech of the day was given by Rosemary Haggart of the US National Science Foundation which again primarily focused on developing research skills/knowledge in the scientific/ engineering disciplines. Fostering student engagement in this way was clearly seen as being key to producing the next generation of researchers with research process seen as at least as important as research product in this regard. The rationale presented for this approach was that as knowledge quickly becomes outdated, in some areas at least, the development of research skills, and hence the ability to create new knowledge (or at least to adapt existing knowledge), are seen as critical to the development of the discipline. Finally, the panel session at the end of the day sought to provide a framework for future development work to more firmly link research and teaching. At institutional level, the frequent separation of organisational structures and roles into ‘research’ and ‘teaching’ was noted and debated. The (potential) impact of the RAE in terms of encouraging the prioritisation of research over teaching was also discussed, and while it was broadly agreed that this outcome was undesirable, there was also consensus that this was basically a fact of (academic) life given current funding mechanisms. At subject level, stronger research-teaching linkages were believed to exist but were hard to quantify and it was believed that further work in this area was needed. This clearly fits in with the current QAA Research-Teaching Linkages agenda, where a number of projects have been commissioned to investigate the mechanisms by which research and teaching are linked in particular subject areas. At the end of the day, Professor Ramsden undertook to both encourage further work on research-teaching linkages via the HEA subject centres and to continue to liaise with RCUK and other relevant stakeholders to progress this agenda. The general feeling in the room, however, was that there was quite a long way to go in terms of more explicitly identifying and developing the links between research and teaching, and that this issue would be on the agenda for some time to come. Editor’s note: the conference description and programme are available from the HEA website at


Review corner Alan Edgar , Lecturer and Teaching Fellow, School of Engineering and Built Environment, reviews Write it Right: A Handbook for Students by John Peck and Martin Coyle (2005) Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, Palgrave Study Guides ISBN 1403994870 208pp £9.99 Writing a review on how to write in good English was a brave decision. I had steered clear of formal instruction in the English language for many years. It was perhaps time for a skills update. The book succeeded in giving me guidance and help in producing effective English – but you must be the judge of that! The first chapter uses good examples to show how a piece of text, in the context of letter, can be adapted to improve its effectiveness. The rules to be followed are explained in a straightforward fashion. Examples highlight the points being made and put them in proper context. There is great emphasis on the simplicity of the rules to be followed. At all times the reader is encouraged not to be frightened to implement the rules. The text then loses its way. There is a large section on the writing of personal statements for UCAS forms. The points being made are valid but a backward step for university students who will be passed the stage of writing UCAS statements. A better choice of example would have made it more appropriate. There is more value in the section dealing with job application letters but it’s confined to the last section of the chapter and only two pages long. The next two chapters attempt to explain the mystery of sentences. One of the authors’ key pieces of advice is to keep sentences simple. The mechanism of sentence construction is discussed and points are made to help improve your own sentence structure. Many of the formal grammar terms are introduced and the rules of sentence punctuation are covered with emphasis given to the role of the comma. Sensible techniques in writing are then dealt with suggesting common sense approaches in terms of errors and their avoidance. The text raises the reader’s awareness of the errors and advises on methods to both spot and correct them. The problem is that many are punctuation and sentence structure mistakes. The misplaced comma also makes another appearance. It


also requires the reader to check work and assumes you can recognise the errors. The fifth chapter is an interesting insight into language and discusses how it can be used to improve what you have written and how it is read. Styles such as using direct words and the importance of short words are illustrated. The authors suggest that, for a final check, read your work aloud. Any weaknesses in language and punctuation will usually be revealed. After this there are two chapters which concentrate on the structure and effectiveness of essays using simple guides to help you. Paragraph construction and control are two key areas and these chapters deal with the techniques in some detail. Emphasis is given to the planning and purpose of paragraphs. There is a key section on refining and polishing stressing its importance in any piece of written material. At the end of these chapters are checklists to enable selfchecking and pointers to what is effective. This was not of great interest to me as the bulk of my writing is done in the form of technical reports. The final chapter, Taking Stock, reiterates all the most important concepts from the previous chapters. The first section, Writes on Writing, uses quotes to show us that even great authors do not always like writing. Refining a piece of text is vital and most authors expect to do so several times before allowing someone else to read their material. There is then a section of alphabetically listed errors followed by three sections covering the difficulties of English, writing manners and tone. The two final sections are on breaking rules with some George Bush quotations. While these are quite amusing the last chapter is very disjointed.

Summary In the Introduction to the book the authors give the secret to effective writing: Write shorter sentences, making sure the sentences are correctly punctuated. The remainder of the book serves to reinforce this idea. The style of the book is interesting. The authors tried to create a text where readers could ‘drop in’. The format is fixed, ten chapters each of ten sections. I am not sure what benefits this gives. The last chapter suffers as the authors try to bring in enough material for their last ten sections. The numbering is not intuitive, for example Section 21 is in Chapter 3.

The concept of ‘dropping in’ to a book in English is also alien to my thinking. For example when would you want to suddenly read a section on Corrective surgery for a comma – spliced sentence (or for a ‘fused’ sentence)…? The Contents page at the beginning has only Chapter headings. The Full Contents Guide lists chapter headings and sub-section titles at the end on page 190: it would have been much better had this been at the beginning.

However, I found that I actually enjoyed reading the book. I enjoyed the tips and how the examples highlighted both good and bad. But I do not think many students would read this handbook although, if the students I teach in the School of Engineering and the Built Environment did, they would get some benefit. But getting them to read and implement its advice would be difficult so I will build some of the formal advice on letter content and job applications into a module I teach and I will use sections of the text to give guidance on writing reports and so on.

Web spotlight Do your students know about ‘Get ready for university study’? If not then point them in the direction of Get ready for university study, an online resource aimed at students new to university life and study to help them develop the skills they’ll need to get the most out of their time at university. Funded by the Scottish Funding Council the site has been developed by Napier staff Anne Chirnside, Mary Hutchison and Keith Smyth. The resource is easy to navigate, bright and lively, with information initially categorised under ‘Getting started’, ‘Managing you studies’, ‘Managing information’, and ‘Writing and presenting’. Thereafter

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information is sub-divided into manageable chunks, for example, ‘Information skills’ is divided into ‘What are information skills?’ and ‘How do I get started?’. Interesting and encouraging ‘students said’ quotes together with photos of real (Napier) students and simple but engaging and supportive activities to help students with, for example, time management skills, enliven the site and make it a ‘must’ for all new students, particularly those coming to university from HE or returning to education after a break. Point your new students to GUS and bookmark this useful website for the future.


June - Aug 2007 Teaching Fellows Journal  

Restored web version of the Edinburgh Napier University Teaching Fellows Journal