ISSN 2050-9995 (Online)
Journal Oct 2009 â€“ Jan 2010 This edition of the Teaching Fellows Journal has been restored from an archived online edition, hence the simplified form.
Edinburgh Napier University is a registered Scottish charity. Reg. No. SC018373
Contents 2 Editorial 3 Eureka! 5 Reports 6 Review corner 9 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: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.url.napier.ac.uk/tf
Editorial Dr Peter Easy, Senior Vice-Principal, shares his thoughts on learning and teaching at Edinburgh Napier, suggests a direction for Teaching Fellow activity and offers us a challenge When I was appointed to Edinburgh Napier University in 2005, I can remember two of my former colleagues at the University of Gloucestershire singing the praises of the Teaching Fellowship Scheme and, more generally, the healthy state of learning and teaching practice here. Since they were Professor Mick Healey and Professor Kristine Mason O’Connor (both National Teaching Fellows), I valued their judgement and looked forward to working with colleagues who understood and appreciated the importance of high quality teaching and learning, and the education research which often supports and informs it. In four years at the University, I have experienced that enthusiasm and expertise directly, and not the least in the Teaching Fellows and Senior Teaching Fellows whose work I greatly respect. Whilst a modern University on the scale of Edinburgh Napier is involved in many activities, teaching and learning form our absolute core business, and we are fortunate to have a body of Teaching Fellows whose practice and research is widely recognised both internally and in the sector as a whole. I still regret the slight ‘wobble’ that the HERA process caused in the nature and organisation of the Teaching Fellowship Scheme, but I do believe that, in its revised form, it is in an even stronger position to be the prominent and influential body in the University in all matters related to teaching and learning. This position is even more important when considering the challenges to the University in 2009 in respect of its teaching; two, in particular, stand out. One was the very lively and provocative address given by Liam Burns (then Depute President – now President – of NUS Scotland) at our conference, Enabling our students to become effective learners, in June 2009. One of his slides was quite blunt: ‘Practicing what we preach’ • We want graduates who are: – lifelong learners – confident in up/re-skilling – reflective and self-critical. • Can all our lecturers claim the above in regards to Learning & Teaching?
He went on to talk about the pragmatic approach of most students and their wish for us to get the basics right: punctuality, reliability, good teaching, good assessment and speedy feedback. Liam’s comments, of course, were not aimed specifically at this University but were issued as a challenge to the whole sector. It was a timely reminder of what students consider to be important. The second challenge, however, is more direct. This year, the University entered the National Student Survey for the first time. Putting to one side the detail of the individual ratings we received, it is interesting to see how we compare to other Scottish Universities in the general areas covered by the NSS. I think we can be pleased that in the questions related to the most problematic area, assessment and feedback, we are well-positioned at the mid-point (6 of 12 Universities who entered): some of that is due to the investment in the Consistency in Assessment exercises which started in 2006 and to the very hard work that staff have put in to ensuring that our assessment processes and practices are in good shape. There is a different story attached to the students’ view of our teaching: we sit at 10 of the 12 Universities. We scored well on ‘staff are good at explaining things’ but much less well on ‘staff have made the subject interesting’ and ‘the course is intellectually stimulating’. There are plenty of problems with the methodology used by the NSS and its outcomes can never be taken completely at face value. However, it is healthy for us to be challenged and for our assumptions to be
interrogated. It is impossible not to conclude that, whilst we have a number of outstanding practitioners in the Teaching Fellowship – and that the standard of teaching is probably very high in most parts of the University – there is some poorer practice that we need to identify and improve. For me, this is a challenge that the Teaching Fellows and Senior Teaching Fellows need to take on for the University. We still need all of the advantages that are associated with the Teaching Fellows which include the excellent education research and the promotion of our external reputation and profile. But just now we also need Teaching Fellows to turn inwards and to increase the work they do with other colleagues. I should like to see some version of the principles of Consistency in Assessment applied to teaching so that we establish an acceptable benchmark for all staff to achieve. And in doing this, I would look to the Teaching Fellows to be an influential force, to assist and support their colleagues, and to be the models on which good teaching practice in the University is based. In the coming months, the University will be reviewing its general Learning, Teaching & Assessment Strategy. Part of this process will involve individual meetings with each School to discuss the directions which they think the University should take in the next few years. I hope that many Teaching Fellows and Senior Teaching Fellows will be able to attend these meetings: what better opportunity for us to discuss what we need to do in order to increase the satisfaction of our students when it comes to teaching and learning?
Eureka! Angela Benzies, Senior Teaching Fellow, Academic Development, offers us some top tips from the past in the form of posters from previous staff conferences We often don’t have the opportunity to fully take in the messages when we view posters during the breaks between conference sessions but there is some really good stuff there. The posters are always available on the staff conferences section of the Academic Development website but I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight twelve of them and indicate where I think they might be related to current issues.
Looking at these posters I see some themes. The importance of people comes across strongly, whether that’s meeting tutors, PDTs, or other students, and it includes the social side. From speaking with new students whom I know personally, it’s clear that those initial contacts with enthusiastic and helpful people, and having the opportunity to make friends, is so important in their engagement with the institution and their studies – see posters 1 to 3. Peer mentoring is a development of this, as is the use of previous graduates to mentor current students; these are illustrated in posters 4 and 5, the latter being work supported by a Teaching Fellowship grant. Helping our students acquire and develop a range of academic skills is vital to their success, whatever the
tfj Oct 2009 - Jan 2010
subject area. In posters 2, 6 and 7 some aspects of this are presented. Diversity is an important issue for the university as we seek to help all our students succeed, and to also ensure that we are meeting our obligations under current legislation. Internationalisation and supporting students with special needs are both part of that and posters 8, 9, and 10 offer some practical tips. The CIA evaluation found that while formative assessment was used in the university, there was perhaps scope to develop this further. Posters 11 and 12 comment on how, and why, to do this. It’s clear that there is much good work going on throughout the university which is well worth sharing and building upon, such as that reported in these posters. If you see something of interest, or that you find helpful, then please encourage your colleagues by letting the poster creator know. Margaret Nairn and myself would also appreciate any feedback you have. 1. What aspects of Week 1 do students most value? Fiona Campbell, Academic Development. Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Enabling our students to become effective learners, 18 June 2009. Download poster [PowerPoint® Presentation: 206KB] 2. Signposts to success: helping students get prepared. Anne Chirnside, Daphne Loads, Caroline Moffat and Justen Ross. Napier University Staff Conference: Assessment for learning: designing strategies to engage students and enable learning, 21 June 2007. Download poster [PowerPoint® Presentation: 127KB] 3. Enabling our learners to achieve their potential: task group findings. Fran Alston, Faculty of Health, Life and Social Sciences. Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Enabling our students to become effective learners, 18 June 2009. Download poster [PowerPoint® Presentation: 3.53MB] 4. Informal learning at university: the role of student peer mentoring. Hazel Christie, Caroline Moffat and Justen Ross, Student Affairs. Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Enabling our students to become effective learners, 18 June 2009. Download poster [PowerPoint® Presentation: 3.22MB]
5. Mentoring in the School of Computing: Cultivating student graduate attributes using recent graduates. Sally Smith and Paul Vallis, School of Computing. Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Enabling our students to become effective learners, 18 June 2009. Download poster [PowerPoint® Presentation: 436KB] 6. Critical reading, writing and thinking skills for postgraduate study. Marilyn Philip and Maureen MacMillan. Napier University Staff Conference: Assessment for learning: designing strategies to engage students and enable learning, 21 June 2007. Download poster [PowerPoint® Presentation: 73KB] 7. How reflection plus online tools facilitates professional practice for veterinary nursing students. Clare Bryant, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Care. Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Enabling our students to become effective learners, 18 June 2009. Download poster [PowerPoint Presentation: 240KB] 8. Internationalisation of undergraduate civil engineering students; a collaborative European network. I. Smith and M. D. Taylor (School of Engineering and the Built Environment, Edinburgh Napier University) and P. J. de Klerk and G. J. Bierlaagh (Opleiding Civiele Techniek, Hogeschool van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Internationalising the curriculum, 28 January 2009. Download poster [Adobe PDF: 550KB] 9. Accessibility is international. Mary Hutchison and Anne Chirnside (Student Affairs, Napier University). Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Internationalising the curriculum, 28 January 2009. Download poster [Adobe PDF: 102KB] 10. Reflections on the experience of a visuallyimpaired language learner. Christine Penman and Julie Ricci, School of Marketing, Tourism and Languages. Edinburgh Napier University Staff Conference: Enabling our students to become effective learners, 18 June 2009. Download poster [PowerPoint Presentation: 213KB] 11. Early formative assessment by poster display. Robert Mason (School of Engineering and the Built Environment). Napier University Staff Conference:
Assessment for learning: designing strategies to engage students and enable learning, 21 June 2007. Download poster [Microsoft® PowerPoint® Presentation: 525KB] 12. Formative assessment and feedback for first year success: enhancing academic and social
integration (Emerging themes from QAA Scottish Enhancement Themes). David Nichol, University of Strathclyde. Napier University Staff Conference: Assessment for learning: designing strategies to engage students and enable learning, 21 June 2007. Download poster [Microsoft® PowerPoint® Presentation: 71KB]
Reports Judy Goldfinch points us in the direction of the Assessment in Higher Education Conference, held at the University of Cumbria, Carlisle Daphne Loads reports on the 9th Annual SEDA Summer School for Academic Developers: Supporting Educational Change The 9th Annual SEDA Summer School for Academic Developers took place this year in July at Cumberland Lodge in beautiful Windsor Great Park and included: as facilitators David Baume, Independent Consultan; Diana Eastcote, Independent Consultant; and Jan Tennant, Loughborough University: and guest speakers Stephen Bostock, Keele University; and James Wisdom, Independent Consultant. Designed for colleagues in their first few years of academic development work, the Summer School attracted a lively mix of early- and mid-career academics, located either in central academic development units or faculty–based posts, mostly in modern UK universities. The three days of activities were structured around individually identified projects. For example, one participant was considering how she could foster trust across disciplinary boundaries in inter-professional learning modules; another was looking for ways of capturing unexpected learning outcomes arising from scholarly activities undertaken by FE colleagues; a third wanted to fulfil the requirements for professional accreditation of her institution’s Postgraduate Certificate in Education, without losing the distinctive spirit of the programme. For myself, I was keen to clarify the contribution I could make to academic development at Edinburgh Napier in my role as a Teaching Fellow. The organisers promised to provide opportunities over three days for the 22 delegates to: • Analyse the opportunities and challenges of their role in academic development • Develop both conceptual and practical approaches to their work
tfj Oct 2009 - Jan 2010
• Share and test ideas and practices from other developers. The time and space for such analysis, development and sharing in any educational context is precious. It is absolutely necessary in an area of work that is often beset with bewildering questions: What exactly is academic development? What is my role in it? How will I know if I’m making any difference? We took part in a range of individual and group processes, including role-play and real-play, ‘shared time and mutual interviewing’ in triads and a modified form of action learning in larger groups. Two messages came across clearly throughout the Summer School: the central importance of evaluation in academic development projects and the need to re-conceptualise dissemination. David Baume argued persuasively for the need explicitly to state the anticipated outcomes of all our development activities, identifying right from the start what difference we intend to make, and how that difference will be clearly demonstrated. He quoted the old adage ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any bus will do’. I initially resisted this outcomes-focused approach, countering with an analogy of my own: ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, why not take a flight in a balloon?’ My concern was that, without open-ended exploration we may end up with a reductionist set of measurements and what Eisner (2002) describes as a rigid and sterile ‘surprise-free’ education system. Baume claims that his approach does not reduce complexity, but welcomes and investigates it; that the lack of immediately apparent or easily measurable impacts can be overcome by looking for proxy outcomes; finally, that his approach need not exclude unintended outcomes but in fact encourages us to seek out, understand and even cherish surprises. Convinced by his claims that goal-setting and evaluation are worthwhile and necessary, and can even be energising and satisfying, I nevertheless advocate the creation of some free ‘spaces where ideas and creativity can grow and flourish, spaces where being with our
thoughts offers opportunities to rearrange them in spaces where the values of being are more central than the values of doing’ (Savin-Baden, 2008: 8). By means of a skilfully constructed real-play exercise, in which groups of developers collaborated on a project concerning feedback to students, Jan Tennant brought home to us the need to revisit our understandings of ‘dissemination’. She drew on King’s (2003) distinction between scattering, sowing and propagating information and resources, to highlight the value of dissemination-for-awareness, dissemination-for-understanding and ultimately, dissemination-for-change. Far from being a bolt-on or an afterthought, she argued that the purposes, methods, timings, audiences and resources for dissemination deserve our careful attention at every stage in a development project. This summer school was well-organised and wisely facilitated. The varied and well-paced programme managed to engage the imagination of a group of thoughtful participants, and gave rise to lively discussions on a diverse range of topics: how to move from naïve to savvy while maintaining integrity; the academic developer as internal consultant; the opportunities for enhancing learning, teaching and assessment with appropriate technology; the search for a professional identity and the necessity of seeing
events such as workshops in the context of larger development ventures. One great strength of the summer school – the opportunity to remove ourselves from the routines and reactions that fill up our ordinary work lives – was also a limitation. On returning to work, it’s easy to lose focus, forget insights and let commitments slip. I hope that membership of an online community of participants will help me to stay in touch with the inspirational spirit of the Summer School. I would like to express my thanks to Edinburgh Napier Teaching Fellows’ Fund for supporting my participation in this event. For more detailed information about the activities and materials used in the Summer School, please contact email@example.com. References Eisner, E. W. (2002) The Arts and the Creation of Mind. London: Yale University Press. King, H. (2003) Disseminating educational developments in Kahn, P. and Baume, D. (eds) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development. Oxford: Routledge pp. 96-115. Savin-Baden, M. (2008) Learning Spaces: Creating opportunities for Knowledge Creation in Academic Life. Maidenhead: SRHE.
Review corner Daphne Loads, Academic Support Adviser in the Faculty of Health, Life & Social Sciences and Teaching Fellow, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Care, reviews Researching Learning in Higher Education: An Introduction to Contemporary Methods and Approaches by Glynis Cousin (2009) Oxford: Routledge ISBN: 978-0-415-99165-0 257pp £22.99 Janis Greig, Senior Lecturer and Teaching Fellow, School of Health & Social Sciences reviews Inclusion and Diversity: Meeting the Needs of All Students by Sue Grace and Phil Gravestock (2009) Oxford: Routledge ISBN: 978-0-415-43045-6 245pp £26.99
Many Taylor & Francis and Routledge books www. tandf.co.uk are now available as eBooks from www. eBookstore.tandf.co.uk
Researching Learning in Higher Education: An Introduction to Contemporary Methods and Approaches reviewed by Daphne Loads Opening this book was like stumbling upon a delightful clearing in the middle of a dark, dense wood. Although billed as an ‘introduction’, I predict it will be most useful for readers who have already ventured a little way into the forest of research methods, methodologies, paradigms and perspectives, and are ready for some quiet reflection in the sunlight. Cousin speaks lucidly to an ambitiously wide readership of university lecturers, academic developers, educational researchers and graduate
students, but her main target is identified in the foreword as the dual professional who is committed both to a discipline and to the learning of her or his students. After three introductory chapters on the context of Higher Education research, the centrality of ethics and the characteristics of qualitative data analysis, she presents a series of methodological ‘rough guides’ for the intrepid traveller who wants to explore, for example, ethnographic approaches, narrative inquiry, visual research, or appreciative inquiry. It is her stated intention that the reader will be able to put the research methods she describes into practice in an informed and intelligent manner, and to this end each of her main themes or topics is considered under the headings of appeal, purposes, methods and theoretical concerns, ending with a brief conclusion and a small number of suggested further readings. Her message, put across with wit and gentleness, is that research paradigm wars are pointless: we need to get out from behind the barricades and see what people on the other side really look like and what they have to offer. So she encourages hard-bitten positivists to take a stroll with artistic souls like Eisner, and entices interpretivists with promises of plenty of ‘uncertainty, fuzziness, humour and interpretation’ if they will only venture into the domain of the scientific tradition. Within the qualitative family of approaches, she pays little attention to old quarrels and looks instead at what individual members can contribute. However this philosophy of openness and acceptance does not lead her to suffer fools gladly, and she has sharp words for those who assume that qualitative research can be carried out in a spirit of ‘careless rapture’ or who seek to use focus groups as a cheap way of ‘prettifying’ quantitative research reports. One of the strengths of Cousin’s writing is her graceful use of illustrative examples. These are often deceptively simple, for instance her distinction between reality and representation: Crudely put, my trip to the dentist and my narrative about it are always going to be two different things. (p. 11) or her acknowledgement of different levels of complexity that call for different researcher responses: Most researchers are happy to…describe this wet stuff falling from the sky with the relatively innocent signifier ‘rain’. However, if someone says that…it
tfj Oct 2009 - Jan 2010
is raining in their heart, then we are in a different interpretative league. (p. 13) Because her presentation of different perspectives is so straightforward and sensible, she is able to slip in some thrillingly subversive ideas, such as Schostack’s definition of a research text as ‘an invitation for the creative play of others’. (p. 12) In a clearly and carefully written book, it is surprising (but satisfying in a rather pedantic kind of way) to notice such obvious errors as ‘overseas’ for ‘oversees’ on page 22 and a muddled use of male and female pronouns on page 97. I have a more serious criticism about the overall structure of the book. Refreshingly, Cousin has not tried to cover every approach to pedagogical research, nor does she squeeze her chapters into a hierarchy, or an historical account. However topics like ‘semi-structured interviews’, ‘action research’ and ‘researching threshold concepts’ sit uncomfortably together under the heading of research approaches. This muddying of the waters is also seen in recent advertisements for the same book under the title of ‘Strategies for Researching Learning in Higher Education’. A brief explanation of how the author sees all these different levels of activity and conceptualisation relating to each other would have been helpful, particularly for readers unfamiliar with the field. Researching Learning in Higher Education reads like a distillation of many years of practice and scholarship in a form that has the potential to unsettle certainties, support inquiry and inspire creativity. I recommend it to all colleagues who want to take part in that ‘noble practice’ of pedagogic research which ‘engages the heart as well as the head’. (p. xi)
Inclusion and Diversity: Meeting the Needs of All Students reviewed by Janis Greig Overview This book by Grace and Gravestock (2009) may be only 245 pages long but it is ambitiously broad ranging in scope as it touches on diversity in age, ethnicity, disability, sexuality and gender. It is one of a series of ‘Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education’ published by the Routledge group. Other books in the series focus on specific topics such as assessment, marking and feedback. The aim of this book, and indeed the whole series, is to consider methods in teaching and learning in the modern context of higher education where there is an increasing diversity of students and a growth in numbers of students.
Observations on structure and content After a brief introduction in Chapter 1 to some key concepts, terminology and legislation, Chapter 2 outlines some educational principles underpinning inclusive learning and teaching, mentioning constructivism, transformational learning, andragogy, action learning, learning styles and skills learning. It does this in 13 pages! These two chapters form the basis of diversity consideration which is then applied to inclusion re the topics in the following chapters: • small and large group teaching • e-learning • learning outside the classroom • students’ lives out of the classroom • skills agenda
style and use illustrative examples and case studies which make this book highly suitable for self-study. It could equally be incorporated as an adjunct to formal induction to teaching in higher education. The book is well-organised and logical with easy-to-read short chapters, varying between 13 and 35 pages in length. One of the authors’ aims given in the introduction is to bridge the theory-practice gap, offering ‘realistic and practical’ strategies for the new lecturer. Certainly, each chapter has numerous checklists or boxes headed ‘Some Suggestions’ but most of these are unreferenced throughout despite the stated intent that the book content is underpinned by ‘current research in the field’. One of authors (Gravestock) is an e-pedagogy expert and has helpfully incorporated suggestions for C&IT use to promote inclusive teaching and learning in each chapter, with web resource links at the end.
• assessment • employability and further study • personal tutoring. The chapters on small and large group teaching (Chapters 3 and 4) and assessment (Chapter 9) were very useful indeed. They were the three longest chapters in the book and most ‘strategy-rich’ in content providing a wealth of practical ideas for the novice teacher. I was particularly drawn to the e-learning chapter (Chapter 5) as e-pedagogy is so topical but was disappointed to find that 20% of the chapter content took the form of information and black and white screen shots on how to make a basic PowerPoint slide/presentation with fairly limited application to the inclusive learning agenda. I question the emphasis of this section of Chapter 5 as making simple PowerPoint slides is part of the 5-14 Guidelines (Scottish Executive 2004) taught in Primary 6/7. Having said that, the VLE overview might be useful for complete beginners but the screen shots in this section were unhelpful. I really appreciated that the authors used a social model, with a holistic view of students and acknowledgement that learning takes place not just at university but also outside the classroom in field work or work placement (Chapter 6). Uniquely, this book considers the whole student journey with Chapter 7 even addressing students’ personal lives outside the classroom and Chapter 10 called ‘Life after the course has ended’, focusing on employability. Use and style Grace and Gravestock (2009) have a clear written
‘Pause for Thought’ boxes usefully occur in each chapter encouraging reader engagement and activity in the form of self-review questions. These, for me as an experienced lecturer, were the most challenging and most interesting aspects of the whole book and fitted very well with the authors’ desire to promote reflective practice. Some of the reflection questions were extremely high order and qualitatively different in level compared to the level of the surrounding text which seemed more geared to novice teachers. This is perhaps a strategy to widen the book’s appeal or to encourage further study. However, it might be a source of frustration that there was no direct feedback to any of the ‘Pause for Thought’ activities. Again, this may be an attempt to avoid ”spoon-feeding” and, as previously stated, the authors always give further reading and resources at the end of each chapter to follow up. Conclusion This a very useful book to promote teacher awareness of inclusive learning and teaching methods. The target audience for this book is new lecturers, graduate teaching assistants, tutors or demonstrators in higher or further education. However, I suggest that experienced lecturers could also use it to self-review or update. One of the main strengths of the book is that, under the inclusive learning and teaching agenda, it pulls together a wide range of diversity material which would usually be found in separate places. It provides a brief overview of underpinning theory then applies that to key topics such as assessment so in that way, it bridges the theory-practice gap. The chapters are short and it is easy to read with practical suggestions throughout but there is acknowledgement that the
book is not a ‘one-stop shop’ and helpful resources are offered for further study. Another key strength of the book is the high order opportunity for personal reflection throughout that is so crucial for all teachers, regardless of the stage of their career.
Reference Scottish Executive (2004) Purposes and Principles for the Curriculum 3-18. Available at www.scotland.gov. uk/Publications/2004/11/20178/45862 Last accessed August 2009.
Web spotlight piknik — photo editing made fun and easy! If you’d like to edit and have fun with your photos then take a look at picnik photo editing available at www. picnik.com/app#/home/welcome, an online tool that’s easy and fun to use and refreshingly free from jargon and ‘techie’ language! It allows you to upload photos from your own hard drive, memory stick or even flickr and facebook and has all the tools you need to alter and manipulate your photos — just click on the ‘get
tfj Oct 2009 - Jan 2010
started now’ button and off you go. You don’t even need to register. Simple! Tell your students about piknik and add the link to your favourites for stress-free photo editing. Editorial note: The Picnik is over Picnik closed on April 19, 2012. It’s packed up and moved some of its most popular tools and effects to Google+. Please visit here for more details.