ISSN 2050-9995 (Online)
Journal Oct 2008â€“Jan 2009 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 Please note - Some links and content within this document may now be out of date.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
Editorial All change!
Angela Benzies, Teaching Fellowship Scheme Co-ordinator
Well, perhaps not quite all but it is true that the start of this session sees many significant changes to the Teaching Fellowship Scheme (TFS) and its supporting structures, particularly following Academic Board approval of the proposals presented in April. Salary allowances for Fellows have been replaced with development grants for groups and individuals, and bidding is now open. The role of Senior Teaching Fellow (STF) is no longer available through the TFS but has now been incorporated into the promotions framework, thus giving enhanced formal recognition of teaching and learning within the University structure. And, very significantly, we look forward to welcoming new Fellows from professional services as the Scheme is now open to Fellows of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) in the university who have a teaching role but who are not on academic contracts.
8 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 At time of publication: Academic Development, Bevan Villa, Craighouse Campus, Edinburgh Current enquiries to: Office of the Vice Principal (Academic) Sighthill Campus, Sighthill Court, Edinburgh EH11 4BN Email: email@example.com http://www.url.napier.ac.uk/tf
Fred Percival, chief architect of the TFS, has now retired and we therefore have a big gap to fill! We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Fred as individuals who have benefited from our appointment as Teaching Fellows and all that that has given us in terms of recognition, reward and opportunity. We wish Fred a very long and happy retirement and look forward to catching up with him at TF social events in the not too distant future. Thank you, too, to Jenny Westwood, who provided so much support to the TF community as a member of EdDev and we wish her all the best for her new role within Student Affairs. Despite having moved, Jenny will be involved in providing a workshop within our professional development programme on obtaining Fellowship of the HEA and that will be of interest to aspiring TFs who do not as yet have that professional qualification. Please encourage colleagues contemplating a TF application to sign up for this as appropriate. Joining us as a new external assessor for the TFS is Professor Diana Eastcott. Diana, formerly Director of Staff and Student Development at the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University), is currently an independent consultant in Higher Education. We welcome Diana and look forward to working with her over the coming years.
EdDev is no more as we formally become Academic Development and are incorporated within that new professional service structure along with the former Quality Enhancement Services and Lifelong Learning. It will be ‘business as usual’ in the sense of dealing with many of the same people, albeit with some new titles and work groupings. The TFS will reside within the Academic Practice group of Academic Development and I am the primary contact for all matters relating to it including new applications, renewals, mentoring requests and applications for grants, though I will be assisted in some of these duties by Anne Wardrope, who is providing administrative support to the scheme. Session 2008/09 will be an eventful one for the university with 20-credit implementation in full swing, continuing work on Consistency in Assessment (CIA) implementation, and the Principal’s review and revision of the strategic plan. TFs have been involved in many of these activities already and it’s highly likely we will have significant roles to play in the future. Please let us know what your involvement is so we can see clearly how the TF community is contributing to the university’s work. As TFS Co-ordinator, one of my top priorities at the moment is the further development of our community, which includes all Teaching Fellows and Senior Teaching Fellows, so a number of professional and social opportunities to get together are being planned including a Burns Supper (we promise to find suitable haggis substitutes for those who shudder at the thought!). We currently have 51 TFs and 10 STFs, with a number of new applications and renewals in process so we are a force to be reckoned with and together can have a significant effect on university policy, plans and operations. I would very much like to work with you over the coming months in finding out what would be most helpful to you as a TF, and also in looking for ways to draw into our events and activities others who may be interested in developing teaching and learning,
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particularly those that aspire to become Fellows in the future. I would very much like us as a group to continue conversations we have started on excellence in teaching and our role as a community within the wider university. How do we define excellence, and how do we view ourselves as a community, especially at this time of change? Are there aspects of our thinking and organisation that could or should be adjusted? Many of us will be familiar with the concept of Communities of Practice and the challenge will be to evaluate how both the theory and the experience of others may be best applied within our own situation. Perhaps controversially in his book Understanding Teaching Excellence in Higher Education: towards a critical approach, Alan Skelton (2005) considers whether teaching excellence is defined by managerialism, the market and ‘performativity’, ie is it all about efficiency and management agendas and therefore perceived negatively? That’s something for us to discuss at our community meetings during the session. I have taken over from Shirley Earl as Teaching Fellows Journal (tfj) co-editor with Margaret Nairn, and thanks to Sarah Murray and Margaret, we now have a new look journal. Margaret and I would like to continue to develop the content of the tfj and, in particular, we’d really like to hear more about your TF activities at school, faculty and university level. See the welcome page in this edition for some preliminary details and please do email Margaret or myself with ideas for articles, reviews, reports, eureka discoveries and news about your activities, and/or thoughts on how we define and develop our community. With best wishes for current session.
Reference Skelton, A., (2005). Understanding Teaching Excellence in Higher Education: towards a critical approach. London: Routledge.
Eureka! New kids on the block Elaine Mowat, Academic Development Adviser and Co-ordinator of Academic Development’s induction programme for new lecturers, offers us ten top tips that we can all adopt to help new colleagues get to grips with Napier If you know what the Egg is, are able to find your way from Canaan Lane to Comely Bank, and can tell your PDR from your PDP, then the chances are that you’re a seasoned member of Napier staff, so it’s easy to take for granted all the different bits of information that you know about the institution and that help you do your job on a daily basis. For new colleagues, however, getting to grips with the system as they manage their new academic roles and responsibilities is often a major hurdle. Timely advice and support from more experienced staff can make a huge difference. So what are some of the important questions that new academic staff ask when they start at Napier, and how can those of us who are more experienced help to answer them?
1. How do I log in to my computer? What is my email address? Getting up and running with the Napier IT and communications systems is a critical part of joining the university community. If you are responsible for a new staff member, make sure you liaise with C&IT Services in advance of their start date to ensure that they have a login ID, password and User Guides waiting for them when they arrive. This also helps ensure that staff will receive their C&IT Services Staff Induction within the first week of arriving. Friendly and helpful information for new staff is also available on the C&IT Services section on the staff intranet; indeed there is lots of useful information here for all members of staff.
2. Who can I ask for help? Understanding who does what in a department is a significant first step to feeling at home and functioning effectively. It’s particularly helpful to understand the various specialisms of administrative and support staff in addition to the input of staff from other departments with whom there is regular contact. So if you are taking a new colleague on a tour of the department and beyond, remember to include details of roles and responsibilities as well as the usual introductions to names and faces. This is just one aspect of a comprehensive induction that
should be organised for new members of staff to help them become familiar with their day-to-day work. Corporate Learning and Development can provide advice on what to include in this. They will also provide an induction pack and invite your new colleague to attend a Corporate Induction Session designed to supplement local induction support with the wider Napier perspective – see the Corporate Learning and Development section of the intranet for further details.
3. Where do I find the form that I need to fill in? There are few more dispiriting experiences than wasting time looking for an elusive form. The staff intranet has been a positive development in terms of opening up access to a wide variety of documentation, and one top tip is to note that most service departments maintain a section on the intranet called ‘forms’ or ‘useful documents’, providing a one-stop shop for documentation in that area. For example, find documents from the Research Office, forms from Student Affairs, and checklists from Health & Safety. More experienced staff can help with the all important filtering and interpretation of this kind of information too – Which forms are vital? What do you need to prioritise?
4. What facilities will there be in the classrooms? And what do I do if the data projector isn’t working? Napier is fortunate in having well-equipped classrooms and reliable C&IT support. New staff should be encouraged to make the most of the possibilities offered by systems such as the ActivPanel presentation tool and TurningPoint classroom voting system and to take part in the wide variety of training courses offered via the C&IT Services Training Schedule and the Academic Development professional development programme. Don’t forget to tell them how to get in touch with the C&IT Support Desk and to be mindful of the information you need to hand when contacting them.
5. Who do I talk to about library support for my teaching and research? The Library’s network of Information Services Advisors provides a clear point of contact for new staff keen to find out what the library can offer them. A wide variety of questions are also answered online at the Library’s Information for Staff pages.
6. I know I’m meant to use WebCT, but how do I get started? A good place to start is Napier’s WebCT Staff Help website which has orientation information for new staff, online training resources, workshop information and contact details of the Academic Development Online Learning Team. Colleagues can also help by sharing examples of how they have used the online learning environment to support learning and teaching in their subject area.
7. Was that lecture OK? What am I supposed to do in tutorials? Am I marking these essays appropriately? Anxieties about the different aspects of the academic role are another common concern for new staff. The University provides support in terms of the Academic Development professional development programme, the Academic Induction programme and the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Colleagues, too, can provide help in a wide variety of ways such as inviting new staff members to sit in on their lectures, sharing samples of their own marking and discussing good ideas to use in lectures, tutorials and practicals.
8. What support can I offer to international students with their English/students with additional support needs/a student who is not coping with university life? Napier offers a wide variety of support services and pastoral care for students. For example, you can tell new colleagues about services such as: • Student Counselling Service • Dyslexia Support • Get Ready for University Study • English Language support. A useful link that brings together a number of important student support services is the Student Affairs A-Z of Services. Students also have access to a comprehensive list of support services via the Personal Support and Study Support links on the homepage of the Student Portal.
9. So when do I do my research and can I ever say no? Managing the time pressures of the academic role is an immense challenge to all lecturers, but this is
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perhaps especially so for new staff as they juggle new teaching responsibilities and an unfamiliar administrative system with possibly a new home town and ongoing commitments such as finishing off their PhD. Time to get used to the system before being thrown into a hectic teaching schedule tends to be top of the wish list for new staff and this is arguably where senior staff should concentrate their support. Understanding the norms of an institution and being able to judge what is acceptable and realistic is another key challenge of working in a new context. Is it OK to be made module leader on your first month into the job? Should you really be teaching 13 hours a week in your first trimester? Support and understanding from senior staff is, again, crucial.
10. What else don’t I know about? New academic staff to Napier commonly report that they have to learn about the institutional systems and processes by finding things out as they go along – there is no roadmap or big picture to guide them through. This can come to feel like working in a big black hole with no way of knowing when or whether all the relevant boxes have been checked. In this respect, there is may be a need for some kind of overview of the various policies and procedures that govern learning, teaching and assessment activities at Napier, especially in the light of recent changes. Good sources of information on the staff intranet include: • the University’s Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy available at www2.napier.ac.uk/ed/pdf/ LTA_2008.pdf • the Academic Guidance section of the Quality Framework available at staff.napier.ac.uk/Services/ QES/Quality+Framework/academicguidance.htm • the Codes of Practice from the Consistency in Assessment Review available at staff.napier.ac.uk/ Sitemap_Expanded.htm?_SiteMap=3274 • School LTA or Quality Committee members can also provide information on School action plans in relation to University/Faculty strategies or initiatives. In the meantime, if there’s a new member of staff in your department this trimester, don’t assume that they know where to find that information or how to use the data projector. Encourage the ‘daft laddie and lassie’ type questions and share your experience and Napier know-how – it will be much appreciated and probably never forgotten!
Reports We have two reports from home and abroad in this edition. Judy Goldfinch reports on the Assessment in Higher Education conference held at the University of Cumbria, Carlisle Campus, July 2008 Monika Foster reports on the Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) College International Conference on Learning and Teaching, Malaysia, August 2008 Judy Goldfinch reports on the Assessment in Higher Education conference This conference, attended by a wide range of people from all over the UK, was one of those conferences that one came away from re-enthused and energised (despite a long delay on the railway journey home!) The main themes of the conference were as follows although there was a lot of overlap:
cycles of formative assessment with good feedback. But what type of feedback? ‘Writing more and better feedback on assignments won’t improve matters because it cannot provide the interaction necessary to help students clarify their understanding’ (Nicol 2008). Too much guidance also prevents students engaging properly with the task and subject matter: it becomes ‘painting-by-numbers’ (Miller 2007). Professor Bloxham had various recommendations to help students understand the academic standards required including: • peer or group discussion or formative assessment, to allow students to check out their understanding in relative safety and see how others go about things • exemplar assignments for students to apply criteria to • tutorial activities to build lists of criteria with ‘student’ produced definitions
• feedback – ways of providing it efficiently and effectively, as well as ways of involving students in it more deeply
• making assessment feedback a dialogue rather than a monologue.
• hidden barriers introduced by various forms of assessment
To make time for the last activity, she replaces a tutorial with a group activity involving discussion and peer learning of a topic while she goes through the feedback on their assignments with individuals, particularly those who appear not to have grasped what is expected of them in academic work at the level involved.
• assessment of groupwork • new uses of IT in assessment. While almost all of the sessions were interesting, the most inspiring and thought-provoking was the plenary by Professor Sue Bloxham, University of Cumbria, entitled ‘Managing assessment to support the achievement of diverse learners’. She drew together a whole range of recent research on the relationships between success and assessment types and management, but also flagged up the pitfalls that can mean that a student’s success is more related to their understanding of an individual lecturer’s jargon and rules than their ability or knowledge of the subject. Although academics are nowadays more aware of this, the usual remedy is to provide longer and longer specifications for a piece of assessment. ‘ ‘Transparency’ seems to have become muddled with the idea of ‘writing things down’ ’ (Orr, 2007). However, the meaning of assessment criteria is very difficult to communicate, and a much more effective approach is through student involvement and discussion in how their work will be assessed, and through repeated
Her plenary also reported on an interesting survey by Gibbs and Dunbar-Goddet (2007) who found that the newer the university, the more the balance of assessment was towards summative rather than formative, and the longer the gaps before the feedback was provided. Student satisfaction with their studies in general was also found to be significantly higher for those students who had been helped to understand face to face what is being looked for in university assessment. I also came home with some good leaflets produced by ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange) at Oxford Brookes: I recommend acquiring some (email firstname.lastname@example.org). Each provides one side of A5 of bullet-pointed practical and tested ideas. The five I picked up were: • Using generic feedback effectively
• Reduce the risk of plagiarism in just 30 minutes! • Improve your students’ performance in 90 minutes! • How to make your feedback work in three easy steps! • Adopting a social constructivist approach to assessment in three easy steps! References from Professor Sue Bloxham’s plenary: Gibbs, G. & Dunbar-Godet, H., (2007). The effects of programme assessment environments on student learning. Available at www. heacademy.ac.uk/projects/detail/projectfinder/projects/pf2656lr Millar, J., (2007). ‘Painting by numbers: assessment feedback and
The sub-themes included: • Methodologies and approaches in learning, teaching and assessment (including blended learning, work-based learning and embedding soft skills in curriculum development) • Technology in learning, teaching and assessment (including e-learning strategies, plagiarism, distance learning and e-assessment) • Lifelong learning (including lifelong learning strategies, adult education) • Policies and governance in education (including quality assurance in Higher Education, staff training and development, enhancing employability).
improving learning’. 15th Improving Student Learning Symposium. Nicol, D., (2008). See the Re-engineering Assessment Practices in Scottish Higher Education project at www.reap.ac.uk. This page is well worth looking at. Orr, S., (2007). ‘Assessment moderation: constructing the marks and constructing the students’. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 32, no. 6, pp 645-656.
Monika Foster reports on the International Conference on Learning and Teaching When I was asked to present a paper at the Learning and Teaching Conference in Malaysia in August 2008, I was immediately interested in two aspects: the conference aimed to promote enhancing learning and teaching based on current research and it was organised by the Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) in Malaysia with the support of six conference partners from Malaysia, USA and THE UK, including Napier University. There were over 300 participants from 13 countries. I was pleased to see a good mixture of management as well as researchers and staff in higher education. I had been involved in a research and staff development project looking at how we can enhance the learning experience of Chinese students. TARC has predominantly Chinese students and, although different to mainland Chinese, the students share many similarities in the approach to learning, the context of their education system and the challenges faced when joining overseas programmes of study. So, the conference seemed an ideal venue for me to get feedback on my work in this area and to get some insight into the learning and teaching context in Malaysia. The two-day conference promised to be an avenue for intellectual discourse on new developments, innovations and technology in learning and teaching.
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The conference delivered what it promised with plenty of opportunities to mingle and to meet colleagues with similar interests. There were many keynote and plenary sessions. The highlights for me were: a keynote on ‘Quality Assurance in HE in Malaysia’ by Professor Zita Hj Mohd Fahmi and a keynote by Tony Buzan on ‘Learning to Learn’. With great interest, I participated in several sessions by Malaysian colleagues. They further assured me about similarities in the challenges faced by staff and students in Malaysia and China, and in pedagogical implications for curriculum design and staff development. I gave a paper and a workshop at the conference. My paper was entitled ‘Harnessing Learning Style Preferences of Asian Students to Develop Engaged Learning: Observations from a Cross-cultural Study’. I found out just before the conference that presentation was scheduled as the second paper of the whole conference and was due to take place in a grand ballroom! It was a bit overwhelming but judging by the number of questions and interest in the work thereafter, it must have gone OK! My workshop entitled ‘Using Discussion Forums to Help Students Develop Employability Skills’ was one of four workshops at the conference and, since it was over-subscribed, I ended up in the ballroom again! With the help of the organisers, I managed to turn the space into a ‘workshop-style’ setting to enable discussion. It was quite reassuring to get positive feedback and to find out that we are doing really well with employability at Napier. With some insights into the Malaysian culture, opportunities to reflect on my own work, ideas for further projects and several useful contacts, I found the conference a very rewarding experience.
Review corner Caroline Turnbull, Associate Dean (Academic Quality & Customer Service), Faculty of Engineering, Computing & Creative Industries, and Teaching Fellow, reviews Impoving Student Retention in Higher Education: the role of teaching and learning edited by Glenda Crosling, Liz Thomas and Margaret Heagney (2008) Abingdon, Routledge ISBN 978-0-415-39921-0 188 pages ÂŁ24.99 Many Taylor & Francis and Routledge books www.tandf.co.uk are now available as eBooks from www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk Naren Gupta, Director of Quality, School of Engineering & the Built Environment, and Teaching Fellow, reviews Learning, Teaching and Assessing in Higher Education: developing reflective practice edited by Anne Campbell and Lin Norton (2007) Exeter, Learning Matters Ltd ISBN 978-1-84445-116-6 Impoving Student Retention in Higher Education: the role of teaching and learning reviewed by Caroline Turnbull For all of us in Higher Education improving student retention has, for a number of years, been a significant issue influenced by the changing profile of our students and the fact that progression and completion rates have become two key performance indicators used to measure the success of educational establishments. This has driven a lot of research activity to identify the factors that influence student retention and progression and sparked much debate in terms of how best to achieve improvements. Student retention has become a central part of many institutionsâ€™ strategies and a great many staff have invested hours of time developing and devising innovative ways to try and combat the problems. I chose to review this book as it is a topic which is of interest and relevance to me on many levels. I hoped it would provide me with a summary of the key issues and research work in the area but much more interestingly, that the inclusion of a number of short case studies would provide me with an insight and some tips on how to hone my own practice
with regards to improving student retention and progression through teaching and learning. Chapter 1 is an introduction to the overarching topic of Student Success and Retention and outlines the subsequent format of the book. From this point the book is split into three sections dealing with the topics of Student Diversity, Modes of Teaching and Learning and finally Disciplines of Study. Each of the three sections takes exactly the same format, with the section themes introduced in a chapter written by one of the three editors. These chapters attempt to summarise the key issues and research findings before introducing a number of exemplar case studies which have been written by practitioners in what I felt was a very fresh and open manner where, having described their approach to improving student retention and progression, each author takes the opportunity to reflect on the work they have carried out and considers the lessons they have learnt and further development that may be required in order to achieve their original objectives. The book finishes with a concluding chapter where the editors put forward their key ways that the curriculum-based retention strategies outlined in the book can be achieved. The strategies include student-responsive curriculum development; social and academic engagement; and active learning. While the chapters outlining each section of the book were well written and provided good summaries of the research and issues associated with each theme, I personally did not feel that they contributed anything additional to my knowledge and understanding. I felt the real value of reviewing this book came in the themed case studies. Each case study gives a real sense of practitioners, for a variety of reasons, challenging existing values and methods in attempts to identify appropriate solutions for their student groups. None of the authors of these case studies claim to have found perfect solutions but were willing to share their experiences, lessons learnt and thoughts on development with a wider audience in a very honest way. If you consider using this text you will see that there are 15 case studies in all with a large number of academic disciplines represented. Itâ€™s not difficult to identify with the authors and their experiences and very easy to see how adaptations could be made and applied to our own practice. In such a short review it is impossible to consider each case study so I have opted to share with you my thoughts on a couple which made an impact on me.
Case study 2 entitled ‘How much is enuff rope?’ describes a student field-trip into the Australian outback. We learn that the majority of students studying health come from more privileged backgrounds with very little understanding of the health issues of indigenous Australians. The purpose of this visit is an immersion programme where the students spend time in a remote indigenous community. The trip aims to help students value cultural differences and reflect that in their practice and promote team work across the group that was made up of both international and Australian students. The tutors, however, where thrown into very unfamiliar territory when one very needy student attempted suicide while on the trip. This could have had a number of very negative effects but the reality was a pulling together of the student group who came forward and volunteered to support and watch the student. The incident also saw staff having to revisit their safety measures, having to enforce protocols and reconsider their ‘duty of care’ to the whole group. The case also details the important role played by two Aboriginal leaders who, sensing the difficulties of the situation, modified one of their ceremonies in order to provide support to the suicidal student as she attempted to be ‘spiritually cleansed’. The feedback from the students on the trip was that the original aims in terms of gaining a better understanding of the history and background on the indigenous people and their health issues had been very well achieved. While the attempted suicide of one of their own classmates it had produced a sense of team spirit which was truly beyond anything the students could have ever imagined. Case-study 8 entitled ‘Internationalisation of the curriculum in an interconnected world’ describes how an approach of internationalising the learning outcomes for students needs to be adopted so that all students benefit and we don’t simply confirm cultural stereotypes in classes where international student groups actually do very little to mix or interact. The emphasis in this case study is on the development of skills required to operate in the global environment. The institution in the case study decided to make use of information and communication technologies recognising that these very technologies are often cited as agents of globalisation. The tutors chose to use online technologies such as email, websites, discussion fora etc to try and develop international perspectives amongst students. They insisted that students tried to see a problem through the eyes of someone from a different culture. This was
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achieved by presenting the students with a fictional international crisis where each group of students was asked to be one of thirteen countries and conduct research in order that they could present their country’s position statements regarding the crisis. Each student in a group was given a role and tasks to undertake; the emphasis was on participation, interactive learning, role play and online discussion. Online discussions between country groups were also encouraged in order to draft and develop these statements. Through the work it became very obvious to the tutors that using simple online tools could allow any student to explore and access information from a variety of cultural perspectives. The tutors present a number of very helpful examples of how technology can be used to internationalise the curriculum in terms of student learning outcomes and online learning tools/tasks/activities that can be used to achieve these. Having undertaken the work the tutors expressed the importance of being explicit about internationalisation objectives, to carefully design learning and assessment tasks and ensuring that students are rewarded for their engagement. The value you will gain from this book, I think, will very much depend on the stage you are at in your academic career. For me the introductory chapters to each of the three themes simply summarised knowledge I had already acquired. The value is undoubtly contained within the case studies where practitioners who you can very readily relate to, allow you to gain from their attempts at enhancing the student experience and thus improving student retention in Higher Education. I challenge you to read this book and not consider how you can incorporate some of what has been tried into your own practice. Overall, this is a really good read – whether you are fairly new to teaching or an experienced academic. For the former, the text will provide you with some very useful information and teaching tips; for the latter, it will perhaps provide the inspiration to adopt different forms of formative activities and feedback.
Learning, Teaching and Assessing in Higher Education: developing reflective practice reviewd by Naren Gupta This is perhaps the most recent book on the subject of learning, teaching and assessment in Higher Education. It is also the first book which addresses issues raised by the newly developed UK Professional Standards Framework. There are 14 chapters in the book with contributions from nearly 20 authors, who
are active practitioners in higher education and have extensive knowledge and experience in their own areas of research. The authors have supported their contributions by reflecting on their own observations, research and experience. All chapters are carefully organised, so that current issues are covered at all levels of higher education, ie from foundation degree to postgraduate education. Also the contents are planned meticulously, so that the chapters are complementary to each other, but also independent in their own areas of coverage. This has resulted in an excellent book that maintains the interest from beginning to end. The book is full of real-life case studies, which encourage readers to ponder, participate and creatively involve themselves in trying to figure out solutions to the issues presented. Also each chapter has a summary or conclusion and a list of references at the end; the readers will find them very useful. The book is about a reflective practice for practitioners in HE and the emphasis throughout is on student centredness and student experience. A summary of each chapter follows. Learning about learning or learning to learn (L2L) This chapter sees the academic as the ‘lead learner’ and discusses the challenges for the lead learner. L2L is particularly useful in the context of vocational skills and social marketing. L2L skills are important, because in our career at some stage we are involved in training, mentoring and coaching. Social marketing has been defined as a systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals relevant to a social good. Supporting students’ critical reflection-on-practice Learning needs are different for different types of students, for example for mature students, for those with special needs and so on, and will depend on factors such as prior learning, motivation and academic qualification. Quality of learning and teaching can be enhanced by including reflective activities within the programmes and increasing levels of peer and tutor support for students. Problem-based learning in higher education Problem-based learning encourages students to take a more responsible approach to learning. As the tutor here plays the role of a facilitator, the interaction between the student and the tutor is increased; this makes a positive impact on student learning. This is also helpful towards deterring plagiarism.
Action learning and research and inquiry methods on postgraduate courses for professional practitioners This chapter is mainly in the context of education and health. It gives examples of activities for professionals working at postgraduate level for developing action learning through critical friendship groups, peer coaching and critical evaluation and analysis. Who do they think they are? Students’ perceptions of themselves as learners This chapter is based on a study of a group of first-year students in music. It is important for the facilitators to learn about students’ approaches to learning. The answers to questions such as ‘Who do they think they are?’ and ‘How do they see themselves in the context of HE?’ are helpful in assisting students with more effective learning. Moving from dependence to independence: the application of e-learning in higher education Creative application of e-learning can encourage students to move away from dependence and be independent learners. However e-learning poses several challenges due to factors such as: lack of compatibility between different e-learning initiatives; high development costs; lack of training and initiative may lead students and staff to opt out and not in; reliability issues, ease of access, download time, security, etc. Students with special needs may face special challenges if the technology is inappropriate. Beyond e-learning: can intelligent agents really support learners? This chapter is about use of artificial intelligence techniques to learning. Computer systems that interact with learners are meant to develop effective environments for student support and guidance. However, human computer interaction has limitations, for example in understanding spoken language, visual input and interaction with students. Using assessment to promote quality learning in higher education In this chapter the author’s aim is to encourage a reflective approach to assessment and feedback practice, based on professional values and understanding of how university students learn. Feedback should be incremental, timely and targeted at areas where the learners need to improve. Ideally, feedback should be given on each of the assessment criteria.
Formative assessment of the practice-based element of degree work This chapter is about including formative assessment in work placement to engage the student in the learning process. In order to make work placement successful and rewarding, it is important to build an effective communication system to involve the student, the employer and the academic.
Supporting students with disabilities in higher education It is the responsibility of those who work in universities to make sure that students’ disabilities do not prevent them from demonstrating their knowledge and understanding. Different disabilities have different needs and provide different challenges. The author in this chapter provides some examples of good practice.
Building on vocational competence: achieving a better workforce by degrees In this chapter the authors have identified the benefits of foundation degrees (FDs). FDs involve employers in designing and planning the delivery of the programmes. They offer a means of filling the gaps and shortages in workforce skills, and increasing the educational achievements of the UK workforce.
The development of reflective practice in higher education: a theoretical perspective In this chapter the authors have explored some theoretical underpinnings of reflective practice and action research consisting of promoting the integration of scholarship, research and professional activities with teaching and supporting learning. It demonstrates how reflection contributes to developing methods and evaluating the effectiveness of teaching. The emphasis is on the role of reflection in enhancing commitment to continuing professional development and evaluation of practice.
Combining service learning and social enterprise in higher education to achieve academic learning, business skills development, citizenship education and volunteerism There are several ways to incorporate service learning (SL) at an institution. Some modules/programmes may be developed and community partners established. Another approach is to work with colleagues to establish an SL plan. An alternative would be to work across departments and to collaborate with those who have already established SL within modules or programmes. The chapter has an interesting case study to show how SL can be integrated with social enterprise.
In conclusion I would say that this is an excellent book. The reader will enjoy reading each and every chapter and will be inspired to be thoughtful and to experiment with some of the practical suggestions. The discussion points and case studies deserve a special mention for their quality and value. I would seriously recommend the book to those who are involved in practicing learning, teaching and assessment. Finally, congratulations and thanks to the authors for their outstanding work!
Web spotlight The latest technologies - in Plain English! Do you long for simple explanations of the latest technologies and buzzwords? Are you worried about wikis and puzzled by podcasting? Then here’s the website for you: the Common Craft Show at www. commoncraft.com/show, makes ‘complex ideas easy to understand’ by providing short (about 2–3 minutes) video clips using simple line drawings with a voiceover, explaining the latest technologies, tools and resources that you and your students need to know about – and all in ‘Plain English’! These free, online videos are excellent examples of simple, high quality, reusable
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educational materials that you can watch or share for non-commercial purposes on your website or blog. For example, take a look at ‘Wikis in Plain English’ or ‘Podcasting in Plain English’ or ‘Web Search Strategies in Plain English’ for humorous, unfussy but authoratative videos that your students – and you!– will really engage with. (Versions for workplace or professional use are available via the Common Craft Store at www.commoncraft.com/store using
Creative Commons Licensing.)