Teaching Stories

The Office: Episode One

For the last year I have been on a BILT fellowship looking into learning space. I have travelled far and wide to see different teaching spaces, I have read numerous papers and I have written a few blog posts on the way. But also over the last year I have been planning and plotting and on Thursday this hard work all comes to fruition. Over the next ten weeks I plan on writing regular updates but let’s rewind back to the beginning.

Before I started in academia, before I did a PhD, I worked for an engineering firm designing buildings. And this work took place in an office.

Now, for many years people have learnt to do things in an authentic environment.

I learnt to drive a car in a car not in a classroom.

I have taken my children to multiple swimming lessons that occur in a swimming pool and not in a classroom.

We take our engineering students out into the field to measure and set out because you really can’t learn this just in a classroom.

And yet for many years I have taught practical subjects, like the design of buildings, in a classroom and not where they actually occur, in an office.

No more. This week, in just three more days, 40 students will walk into my new engineering practice, called Just Timber, where they will learn about Timber Engineering (a fourth year engineering option). To make this possible I will be transforming a flatbed classroom into an office.

Logo for the office ‘company’.

To understand what I will need to make this space feel like an office I went back to my old practice, Integral Engineering Design, and took a look around. I made a note of what they had, the photos of projects on the wall, the office plants, the meeting table and chairs, the library of useful books which you reach for when stuck, the comfortable waiting space, the architecture and engineering magazines which were in racks on the walls.

Various features of a typical engineers office.

Over the last year, I have been collecting up the necessary items, my office now more like a storage room than an office. I contacted old colleagues for images to put on the walls (in time I hope to add to these with students own designs). I have secured the loan of large pot plants for a day a week, will be donating my own comfortable chairs and coffee table. I have also created a library of information that each group of 4 students will have access to, this has included writing two books to fill gaps in what’s currently available and I have subscribed to engineering and architecture magazines.

Over the summer I had a trial run, moving tables and chairs around to make it feel more like an office. The typical teaching space lectern and screen hidden behind a screen along with excess tables and chairs. Pictures were spread around the space (although I didn’t attach them to the wall at the time). Plants will be brought in. And students will be encouraged to personalise their spaces, making their desk and their team space their own.

Teaching space transformed into office space.

Of course one of the things I have learnt in my last 12 months as a BILT fellow is I can’t just have an idea and do it, there needs to be a purpose, a research question. And so I wrote out what I was trying to achieve. I iterated it, discussed it with my BILT mentor (Jane Pritchard) and eventually I came up with:

‘In what ways does simulating a professional design office influence students approach to their learning in Timber Engineering 4?’

Open large version.

I then tried to work out what I was hoping it would achieve. I looked back over the last three years of feedback I had had on my Timber Engineering Unit. What had worked well, where were their concerns. And I came up with a number of desired outcomes. I subdivided these into learning outcomes and professional outcomes.

Learning outcomes

1. Students to take ownership of their own learning

2. Students to more directly input what they are learning into what they are doing

3. Students to take ownership of feedback

Professional outcomes

4. Students to work sensible (office) hours and not work more hours than necessary

5. That both learning and assessment will be integrated so students co-learn and co-create

6. That students produce outstanding projects which totally blow me away. Projects which look amazing, have clearly used the problems/constraints of timber to lead to a solution and can articulate this.

7. That students will be able to speak to their experience in a professional context such as an interview and that it would add value for them in this situation

Over the next few weeks I will let you know how it’s going, talk about ‘authentic learning’, identity, feedforward and flipped teaching. I hope to learn a lot along the way and more importantly I hope that my students both learn a lot and really enjoy it.

Teaching Stories

The Primary Experience: What Can We Learn about Cross-Institutional Changes?

The following post was written by Dr. Isabel Hopwood-Stephens, a TESTA Researcher.

As one of the TESTA researchers attached to BILT, I’m going to be involved in collecting and analysing data about Bristol undergraduates’ experience of assessment. The aim of TESTA is to provide an evidence-based starting point for discussions among Programme Teams about how students’ experience of assessment might be improved, thereby increasing their engagement with their study and satisfaction with the course.

This is done by sharing any issues identified in the analysis and providing ideas which are likely to involve teaching staff making changes to aspects of the assessment experience; for example, offering detailed verbal feedback on a draft of an essay, which the student can use to improve it, before the essay is submitted for grading, or explicitly discussing and exemplifying the marking criteria with students to help them internalise standards.

Having a good idea about how to improve students’ experience of assessment is one thing, though; making the required modifications to working habits to enact those ideas is another. My recent research into the factors that enable or inhibit changes to assessment practice among primary school teachers has provided some interesting pointers.

As part of my study into primary teachers changing their assessment practice, I looked at the main vehicle for teachers’ professional development in primary schools: the staff meeting. I was expecting to find that staff meetings with particular characteristics – where teachers could discuss how they worked, were encouraged to raise questions, and where the focus on learning was clear – would be significantly linked to subsequent reports of school-wide changes to their assessment practice.

Instead, I found out that the characteristics of the wider workplace seemed more influential. Teachers who felt that their workplaces encouraged collaborative, cross-departmental working and innovation were more likely to also report school-wide changes to how they carried out assessment.

This made me think that the kind of professional learning that helps primary teachers to change the ways that they do their job takes place during the wider working day, through ongoing conversation with colleagues, rather than within the confines of a staff meeting. When I looked at communication style between teaching colleagues, I also found that the activities which school-wide changes to teaching practice seemed to entail – negotiation and agreement of shared goals; reflection upon and review of progress; sharing of best practice; questioning and clarification of aims – were underpinned by an open and dynamic communication style that facilitated the involvement of all in discussion and decision-making. This research was conducted with primary teachers in state-maintained primary schools, a working environment which we might consider somewhat removed from the more selective and purposeful atmosphere of a university. However, it will be interesting to see whether the characteristics of the working environment and the interpersonal communication style experienced by academic staff plays a role in enabling programme-wide changes to aspects of practice as a result of participating in TESTA.

News

What did starting University feel like to you?

Some of the BILT team have shared their first experiences of university and offered some advice to all our new Freshers. What was your first impression of university? Share with us in the comment box below!

‘Starting university felt like a door opening in terms of access to knowledge, opportunities, friendships and a new city to explore. It felt like finally being set free! I was also pretty terrified.’
– Caro, BILT Coordinator

All I really cared about was making friends and not letting my parents down. Looking back, I wish I had gotten more involved in university life and taken advantage of all the knowledge and experiences I had access to.’
– Amy P, Digital Resources Officer

‘My top tip is to speak to people. Anyone. Everyone. Learning to talk to people is an incredible life skill (and one I have developed much later than normal). When you talk to people generally they are delighted because you have done the hardest part and all they have to do is join in. As a lecturer I actually find my classes of 70 students quite scary (especially as I’m an introvert) and although I build a lot of opportunity for me to discuss the work with students it is always easier if people come and ask me questions rather than the other way round. ‘
– James, BILT Academic Fellow

‘One of the best things about University is the friends you make for life. My recommendation is to be proactive. For instance, when you finish a seminar where you’ve been chatting to other students, ask them out for coffee, swap contact details and make this a regular thing. So often we sit back and wait to be approach when we can instead be the person who starts the social interactions.

Look through the various handbooks for the units you are studying. They tell you what’s expected of you on the unit, and offer an insight into how to do well. It can helpful to check out the reading lists early in the term and find out where the resources are online and in the library. Getting ahead on your reading sets you up for success later in the term, especially for essays and exams.’
– Ash, Education Developer

Teaching Stories

Engaged Learning 101

During our smooth, buffer-free Skype call, Senior Lecturer in Design Thinking Ann Padley and I chatted about the fresh take the Innovation course at Bristol has undertaken. The 4-year integrated master’s programme collaborates with 14 subject disciplines (from Music, to Computer Science to Social Policy) and has a cohort of up to 80 students. The interdisciplinary programme is structured around two aims: i) specialisation in a subject and ii) the acquisition of practical skills and initiative.

‘Through the programme, we aim to make our students T-shaped graduates.’ What Padley means by this is that the course combines the breadth of practical skills students learn at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the depth of knowledge from their subject disciplines. But how does the programme strike this balance between breadth and depth?

The course encourages students to fully immerse themselves within the department of their chosen subject area by fulfilling the same unit requirements as Single Honours Students. The added dimension of students in Innovation comes through core units.  

These units are not graded with the typical summative exam students are used to. These assignments are not floating around waiting to be marked, processed and dissolved into the academic ether.

These assessments are not meant to be forgotten. They are meant to engage and be engaged with.  

Such assessments are business plans, client presentations, and proposals for new innovations organisations to consider… They are projects that burst through the bubble of academia.

The value of these projects does not only come from their unconventional format. They reside in collaborative partnerships students build with each other, their tutors and… external actors. That’s right, students work with professionals through the concept of engaged learning.

In a nutshell, engaged learning is that bridge where theoretical knowledge and the oh-so-desired work experience employers seek finally meet. But the experience isn’t a simple binary between academia and the professional sector. Engaged learning fosters skills like collaboration, creativity, problem-solving… Transferable skills and experiences that would make students well rounded scholars as well as well rounded people.

The projects that students take on are conceived through their working relationship with tutors and the organisations that supervise them.  These projects are usually a long-term process. 2-3 weeks are taken to flesh out and evaluate the parameters of assignment and 9-10 weeks are taken to execute the project throughout a Teaching Block. This extended effort allows students to engage with a project they co-produced with their tutors.  Students get to shape their project alongside their industry professionals and give them the opportunity to claim authorship of their work.

You could call the Innovation programme the lovechild between a consultancy position or start-up experience and a full-time degree. The programme is practically designed to whet students’ appetite for experience and quench recruiter’s thirst for well-equipped entry-level applicants.

Ten engaged learning projects were led last year on the Centre’s Client-Led Briefs unit with companies ranging from a top national law firm to Northern Surveying, a family-owned quantity surveying practice. Padley highlights that such projects allow the concept of engaged learning to be put into practice rather than being taught as an isolated ‘island’ concept that students learn about without applying it to their wider academic interests and/or working skills.  

Engaged Learning projects are a refreshing pedagogical step forward, however, they are not without their challenges. This type of learning makes students learn about the unavoidable obstacles of the working world. (Clients that are difficult to get a hold of, team members not pulling their weight, uncertainty about the best next step to take…etc.)

This is when partnership principles are put into place to mitigate the obstacles of such projects and to safeguard and preserve the interests of students, academics and the external institutions.

When conceptualising these principles, Padley states ‘We need these principles to be able to help shape the way engaged learning takes place and to build an ecosystem focused on creating value for all parties involved.’ For her, principles are not only put into place to guide methodology, but to manage power dynamics between parties and peoples. Padley states that as well as collaborating with others, students and staff should also learn to gage compatibilities and delegate responsibilities in a just manner.

This hierarchy of power and responsibility should be viewed as a network that encourages the collaboration of knowledge. In the Client-Led Briefs units, Innovation students are considered ‘junior consultants’ and their tutors ‘senior consultants’. These titles do confirm that a hierarchy does not necessarily negate a partnership but enhance it.

Padley highlighted that students are not ‘placing an order from a set, defined menu.’ Although I was a bit confused at first, this intriguing metaphor did make sense. Students aren’t placing a fast order of work experience to companies through a quick business transaction. Students must think about the impact of their order, and the contributions of their exchange. Companies are not cashiers, they are waiters, more interactive and receptive to the order. They let you know about the seasonal specials, the tasty work constraints, the crunchy financial plans…

Engaged learning is about understanding this academic transaction. Students, staff and academics do not just create a partnership to passively exchange notes, but to examine and evaluate the benefits of their collaborative efforts.

Innovation is entering its fourth year and is expected to export its first cohort of graduates next summer. When I asked Padley about the work opportunities her future graduates were expected to fall into, she said that some graduates would have the potential to start their own business, use their entrepreneurial mindset within existing organisations, go into consulting, or forge their own path into a completely different sector they are passionate about.   The Innovation programme’s incorporation of Engaged Learning is a glimpse into the future pedagogical landscape of tertiary education. This is hopefully a landscape where assessments and projects are no longer feared for their immediate numerical outcomes but valued for their emergent learning experiences.  

Corrie Macleod

Teaching Stories

An American Indian Holocaust?

Sam Hitchmough, Director of Teaching and Senior Lecturer in American Indian History

Historians of any field constantly grapple with a thorny mass of official histories and unofficial/vernacular histories, histories that are constructed, invented, exaggerated or politicized, narratives and counter-narratives, memories, hagiographies, teleological narratives or triumphalist epics, even when the events are relatively recent. Often, history is rescue work, uncovering voices and perspectives from the past that have previously been lost, disassembling and reforming our understandings. Historians are, as a result, regularly accused of re-interpreting past narratives from modern standpoints with active agendas, of retro-fitting, or else attempting to re-engineer our societal foundations and ‘re-remember’ events in certain ways.

Teaching American history is one such minefield: frequently a triumphalist history, a story of empire, destiny and progress. A predominantly white, male, Euro-centric narrative has been rightly challenged, particularly in the past 50-60 years, and whilst this has resulted in important revision, the way that American national history is presented and taught is still problematic at many levels. Amongst the most overlooked histories (and indeed communities) are American Indian, and when we give due weight and space for discussion to arguments forwarded by scholars of American Indian history (both American Indian and settler) the challenges to the celebratory narrative of the American national project are numerous and robust.

There has been a steadily growing body of academic work that makes the case that American Indian experiences in the U.S. should be discussed with reference to the terms ethnic cleansing and genocide. Whilst not making significant inroads into school curricula, these arguments have nonetheless gained widespread traction in academic circles as well as growing references in popular culture. There is, however, another layer of argument that is fearsomely controversial and is a debate that many historians have preferred not to engage with at all.

Can, and should, American Indian experiences be referred to as a Holocaust? Some argue that this should encompass over 500 years of interaction since 1492, whilst others focus more directly on 19th and 20th century experiences of successive U.S. administrations. The implications of this argument are profound and the debate around it fierce.

There is not a consensus on this amongst scholars of American Indian history, and it also creates debate amongst scholars of the Holocaust, with one prominent Jewish historian, for example, suggesting that we should ‘dare to compare’ the two experiences, whilst others claim the Holocaust in the Nazi era is ‘phenomenologically unique’ and resists all comparison. The comparisons explored involve apparent similarities between the American ideology of Manifest Destiny and the Nazi ideology of Lebensraum, both giving rationale for the annexation of land for a perceived to be superior race, the official Removal policies of successive U.S. administrations and the forced marches in Nazi Germany, and terminology utilized in the U.S. that frequently and openly called for extermination of ‘inhuman savages’. Whilst this already carries some pedagogic challenges, some have gone a step further and suggested that closing the door to comparisons, those that wish to conceive of the Holocaust as unique and that the term remains exclusive to events in wartime Europe, are actually committing the great crime of denying a holocaust elsewhere.  

How can this debate be utilized as a lens through which to explore the teaching of difficult topics? More broadly, how can we use cases like this to effectively share experiences and strategies that can be adapted to make a whole range of teaching difficult subjects less daunting?

I can share some reflections on the way that I have taught the question of whether the word Holocaust can or should be used; I have taught this using a debate format for nearly ten years in two different universities.

Focus on the question comes roughly half way through a course on American Indian history from the 1830s to the 1950s, so the first few weeks deal with context and major emerging themes in terms of American Indian ideologies and U.S. policy. Arguments around ethnic cleansing and genocide are introduced and scrutinized in order to broach issues of applying modern terminology to past events.

Two weeks are typically set aside for a debate about whether the word holocaust should be used to describe American Indian experiences. One or two further weeks are used to reflect on the debate, largely online so that other topics can be moved onto.

Key staging posts:

Length: These are 2-hour sessions

Debate: Should the word Holocaust be used to refer to American Indian experiences in the U.S.?

Form: 2 groups, one arguing that it should, one that it shouldn’t.

First session:

  1. ‘Space.’ It’s been useful having short discussions about the nature of academic learning spaces (in addition to the introductory session that talks about learning expectations and the adoption of a shared learning model), including freedom of expression so long as doesn’t cause offence, the validity of opinions that might be different to our own.

    We’ve also discussed the importance of the art of argument: this is an exercise that reveals how effective arguments are constructed, nuanced and critiqued. As such, students are reminded they may wish to engage with the debate as devil’s advocates (for some students in the past this seems to have offered a degree of objectivity that they’ve preferred)
  2. Why do students think this is an important question to ask? Are there aspects of the debate that students imagine will be difficult or controversial? This can be a short written exercise that is useful post-debate, and I’ve also read some of them out beforehand.
  3. I’ve often asked at this point how students feel they most effectively learn about difficult subjects, not necessarily to get fully-formed responses but to encourage them to think that others may learn differently, and to prepare them for the range of tasks involved in reflecting on the debate.
  4. Knowing the debate question, the group is split into two by sign-up. If the numbers are uneven then any absent students are added to the smaller group.
  5. The groups spend some time discussing their possible arguments, assign reading to do over the week.
  6. I show groups the VLE pages dedicated to the debate – online discussion pages for each group, suggested readings, and a whole-group discussion forum. They are encouraged to communicate with each other over the following week.
  7. The ‘architecture’ of the debate is discussed. Depending on the size of the group, various roles are sometimes introduced: ‘debate facilitators’ (one student who acts as a ‘chair’ if discussion needs to be re-focused) and student ‘scribes’ (one or two students who take fairly detailed notes that capture key points, to be made available to entire group afterwards).
  8. ‘Conduct’ is discussed and earlier points reiterated about the nature of academic expression, that debates flourish when multiples voices and perspectives are heard.

Second session:

Ensure that the space is appropriately configured so that students don’t need to raise their voices and don’t have defensive lines of tables/desks in front of them.

  1. The first 30 minutes is used for the two groups to reconvene and run through their arguments. They are reminded to present two or three short and precise points that act as springboards for discussion.
  2. A coin toss to see who starts. One side then forwards its two/three key points, the other side does the same, and then it’s an open discussion that usually uses the points as hooks.
  3. The debate itself has around 60-65 minutes to run.
  4. I’ve found it important that the debate doesn’t run up to the end of the session – some sort of reflection is crucial. Each side is asked to reflect on how they felt it went and to identify three points that the opposing side made that they found persuasive.
  5. Discussion of what the most challenging and difficult questions/points were – what did they think were the best ways n which to tackle these?

Possible related tasks: in the past I’ve asked students to create posters that reflect the debate, write up reviews of the debate for fictitious magazines or newspapers that can either require objectivity or else op-eds work well. Students have also engaged in a post-debate online discussion forum.

I’m particularly interested in how we teach difficult subjects, the kinds of pressures and challenges (and often pitfalls) that they create (to the extent that in some cases we can become relatively vulnerable) and how these subjects affect the learning environment and the student learning experience. In the case-study here I’ve known that many students will be upset by the topic, some will get angry, and that some have had relatives who died in, or survived, concentration camps. In some cases I’ve followed up in the next session with a silent debate for around 30 minutes. This is an opportunity to have students in smaller groups, of around 4 or 5, focus on specific points from the previous week’s full debate and explore them further. These are often the most contentious or controversial, and it’s interesting to use the silent debate format as an alternative as it often allows students who might have been frustrated or subdued during the debate to have an opportunity to express their opinion in a different setting.

I’d be very interested in talking with anyone about the challenges of teaching difficult subjects, perhaps with a view to writing up a number of case-studies that might prove useful to colleagues across the university.

News

BILT welcomes colleagues to the team

With the new focus on curriculum development, BILT has expanded its team!

Firstly, we have two new members of the core team. Amy Wilson has now been made permanent BILT administrator, and Dr Ash Tierney has joined the team as an Education Developer.

BILT has also joined forces with the Educational Development Team from Academic Staff Development, which includes Louise Howson, Emilie Poletto-Lawson and Julian Kendell.

We also welcome Dr Mohammad Golam Jamil and Dr Isabel Hopwood-Stephens as TESTA researchers, who will play a key role in the implementation of TESTA across many programmes in the University.

Professors Paul Wyatt and Nigel Savery have also joined BILT in part-time seconded roles as Senior Academic Developers, assisting with curriculum transformation project.

We are also being joined by four new Student Fellows, who will be starting in October. The students will be working on projects aimed at improving the student experience, including: wellbeing in the curriculum; active, collaborative learning; challenge-led, authentic learning and students as researchers. Their names are Toby Roberts, Emily Kinder, Owen Barlow and Marnie Woodmeade.

News

Introduction to 2019-20 from Sarah Davies, BILT Executive Director

Welcome to a new academic year! BILT are expanding our activities this year, while building on key areas of existing work. We’re hard at work planning how we continue to support you and build a community of practice at Bristol around learning and teaching innovation and enhancement.

With Tansy Jessop, formerly BILT visiting professor, joining the University as Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, we’re sharpening our focus on research-informed teaching and evidence-based practice, and will be building links with and between existing faculty-based educational research communities to raise the profile of evidence-based teaching practice across the institution.

We’ll be continuing to champion students as co-designers and partners in their educational experience, building on the work of our BILT student fellows and our summer hackathon. If you haven’t already, do have a look at the outputs from our 2018-19 student fellows (links available below) – their short video round-up is a good place to start. We have four new BILT student fellows starting in October, and I’m really excited to see what they achieve.

The BILT hackathon, during which we brought 8 students together for a four-week period in June-July to explore, and design solutions to, some key educational challenges facing the university, was certainly one of my highlights of last year, and we want to build on this approach going forward. This year’s hackathon outputs and lessons are available in this short report (UoB only). We’re also raising the profile of students as researchers at Bristol, and will be supporting students to submit abstracts for the British Conference of Undergraduate Research in Leeds in April.


Assessment and feedback has always been a key theme for BILT, and this year we’ll be working with a selection of programme teams to review their students’ programme-level experience of assessment and feedback, through the TESTA process. TESTA was developed by a team including Tansy Jessop, and has been used nationally and internationally to improve assessment patterns to foster deeper learning. We’ll also be working with programme teams across the university who are reviewing or redesigning their programmes, including in support of the Temple Quarter initiative.

We’re also very excited that the CREATE team within academic staff development are moving into BILT, so that we can work together to provide a joined-up staff development offer on learning and teaching for both new and more experienced staff. We’re also reviewing how we can best support individuals and teams through guidance and resources – whether text-based, videos or our new podcast series – so if you have a question or challenge about learning and teaching, do please let us know, so we can shape our resources around those real life challenges.

On top of all that, staff across the university continue to work on our funded projects and fellowships, and will be reporting progress, findings and recommendations through our blog. My thanks go to those staff who have recently completed their BILT fellowships and have been publishing on the blog – a selection of their reflections can be found below .
We look forward to working with you in 2019-20!

A few of the Student Fellows outputs
Zoe Backhouse created a zine about assessment.
Johannes Schmiedecker undertook research on learning analytics and big data.
Lisa Howarth produced a video series on learning spaces.
Phoebe Graham and Corrie Macleod started the ‘Humans of Bristol University’ blog series.

A few reflections from our outgoing Academic Fellows
Tensions with Programme-Level Assessment‘ by Helen Heath.
Summary of a team-based learning masterclass from Paul Wyatt.
Should all assessments be inclusive?‘ by Emilie Poletto-Lawson.

News

Blogs 2018-19

We’ve pulled together all the blogs that we’ve published and organised them into five categories: teaching practices; event summaries; musings; interviews; musings and introduction.

Teaching Practices
Event Reflections
Interviews
Musings
Introductions

Teaching Pratices

Five Things to try in your Teaching Next Year

Assessing Celebrity Cultures

Week Three of the Student Hackathon: Six Takeaways

Wellbeing in Education – what if building flourishing institutions was the answer?

Gamifying Histology

Should we go ‘The Whole Hog’ with programme-level assessment?

Student Voices: Learning Analytics

Introducing Student as Producer: A Bristol perspective

Teaching Stories #8: James Norman

Teaching Stories #7: Aydin Nassehi

Teaching Stories #6: Ksenia Shalonova

Teaching Stories #9: Erica Hendy

Teaching Stories #3: Lucy Berthoud

Teaching Stories #4: James Norman

Teaching Stories #2: Ann Pullen

Students Talk Spaces

Is there any link between design thinking and essays?

Three visits, three takeaways

‘myopportunities’ and the launch of the Bristol Futures Engagement Opportunities badge

Informal exploratory writing: three activities you can try with your students

Teaching Stories #1: Rulers for all

Update on the ‘Rethinking Spaces’ theme

University of Bristol Teaching Space Principles

Implementing a Mental Wellbeing Toolbox: Reflections on integration into the veterinary curriculum and identification of opportunities for wider application

MAP Bristol

The LeapForward Project

Developing a guide to support the use of video in undergraduate assessment

Building Confident Engaged Researchers Through Active Partnership and Problem Based Learning

Testing the use of digital technologies for field based education to enhance graduate confidence and preparedness

Evaluation and benchmarking of the new Biochemistry MSci Research Training Unit

Event Reflections

Team Based Learning Masterclass

ABC Learning Design: Presentation and Q&A at UCL

ABC Learning Design: Workshop at UCL

Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the Curriculum – Advanced HE Workshop Reflection

Bristol Teaching Awards 2019

Learning Games #3

Photos from BILTs Pedagogical Pub Quiz

#Digifest19: The technology conference encouraging more human interactions

Insights from attending UWE’s Festival of Learning for an afternoon

Getting Creative in the Archive – University of Bristol Theatre Collection

Bristol Conversations in Education: Does School Design Matte? 16/1/2018

Learning Games #2

Event Summary of ‘Making IT* Happen: from strategy to action’ at the University of Leicester

Reflections on Dorothea Smartt and Travis Alabanza events

On attending University of Bristol’s Gender Research Centre and Centre for Black Humanities joint seminar: A conversation with Dorothea Smartt

‘Why is my curriculum white?’ Towards imagining what our curriculum might look like were it researched, taught, and learned from Black Queer-Trans perspectives

Using Games in Teaching

Easing the transition of undergraduates though an immersive induction module

Exploring Microsoft Office 365 for Teaching and Learning

Interviews

Humans of Bristol Uni… Lizzie Blundell

An interview with… Lisa Howarth

An interview with… Alan Emond

Humans of Bristol Uni… Walker Grevel and Patrick Shannon

An interview with… John Gilbert

Humans of Bristol Uni… Dr. James Norman

An interview with… Bruce Macfarlane

In conversation with a fourth-year Liberal Arts student

An interview with… Alex Forsythe

Humans of Bristol Uni… Damien McManus

Humans of Bristol Uni… David Bernhard

Humans of Bristol Uni… Emma Robinson

Humans of Bristol Uni… Bex Lyons

Humans of Bristol Uni… Thomas Jordan

Humans of Bristol Uni… Mark Schenk

Humans of Bristol Uni… Tricia Passes

Humans of Bristol Uni… Jez Conolly

Humans of Bristol Uni… Alix Dietzel

An interview with… Chris Adams

An interview with… Michaela Borg

Musings

My Retirement from Competitive Baking

Snow days and the death of lecturing

Our Yearly Round-Up and Key Student Lessons

Our time with BILT: Empowering Students to Impact their Learning and Teaching

Strategic Students and Question Spotting

Confessions of an Engineer

Hackathon is go!

What’s in a grade?

Bristol wasn’t B(u)ilt in a day: On Learning and Building

This is why I teach

Teaching Space as a Teaching Lab

Understanding technology horizons in a new context

Why I am making a Zine about Assessment

My Flirtation with Dungeons and Dragons: Musings on Leaving

Surveying the Students

No lecture theatres? No problem!

Should all assessments be inclusive?

Time for a new approach to our generational differences?

The A-Ha Moment

What exactly is Bristol Futures and what does BILT have to do with it?

Tensions with Programme-Level Assessment

The Gap between Pedagogy and Design

Utilising Student Voice in Learning Support and Transition

More good news for Education and Pedagogy Researchers in SSL!Introduction to 2018/19 from the BILT Director

Introductions

Meet the Associates… Ash Tierney

An introduction from Tansy Jessop, our Visiting Professor

Meet the Student Fellows… Corrie Macleod

Meet the Student Fellows… Lisa Howarth

Meet the Student Fellows… Johannes Schmiedecker

Meet the Student Fellows… Zoe Backhouse

Meet the Student Fellows… Phoebe Graham

Meet the Associates… Sam Hitchmough

Meet the Associates… Humphrey Bourne

Meet the Associates… Fabienne Vailes

Meet the Associates… Amy Walsh

Meet the Associates… Sian Harris

Meet the Associates… Imogen Moore

Meet the Associates… Steffi Zegowitz

Meet the Fellows… Zoe Palmer

Meet the Fellows… James Norman

Meet the Fellows… Christian Spielmann

Teaching Stories

Five Things to Try in your Teaching Next Year

We sent round bookmarks to academic staff outlining five new things they could try in their teaching – this post includes more detail about those things and where you can get support to try them.

1. Get Moving – Spend five minutes of your session moving the furniture around to create a more dynamic learning environment and energise your students.

2. Live Lecture Polling – Introduce online polling for instant learner feedback and to encourage active learning.

The Digital Education Office exist to support with this sort of activity – get in touch with them to find out more here.

This comprehensive bibliography on classroom responses systems includes subject-specific examples.

3. Start a Podcast – Create informal engagement with your subject by starting a podcast and invite your students to take part.

We can help you set up your podcast using our equipment and advise you on any purchases you may want to make, as well as how to make the podcast available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. We can also put you in touch with staff who have set up podcasts for their subject to provide additional support.

4. Explore the City – Students love to feel connected to our city and it makes learning memorable when concepts are connected to reality.

The Engaged Learning team exist to support academics in partnering with community organisations and businesses.

There are many examples where academics have used the city and its history to connect learning to a space. Two excellent examples are the MAP Bristol project, undertaken with a BILT grant in 2017/18 by Chris Adams, and the Bristol Futures open units.

5. Gamify Learning – Whether it is a points-based system for engagement or a tailored card game, games can make difficult content more accessible and enjoyable to learn.

Suzi Well and Chrysanthi Tseloudi run a ‘Learning Games’ event, where staff come together to discuss their ideas and examples of game-based learning. Any upcoming events will be shared in the BILT Briefing.

The BILT Discretionary Seedcorn Funding is available for staff to apply for small amounts of money (up to £1500) – last year three games were developed from this funding.

500 Words, News

My Retirement from Competitive Baking

Yesterday, after an excruciating three-week wait, it was the Education Services Charity Bake Off Final. I had made it through to the final after winning my heat (cheese and rosemary scones, if you must know) and I had been practising for my chance at winning the title ever since.

I was as happy with my cake as a novice baker could be, having opted for a chocolate and passionfruit cake, and eagerly awaited the results as the morning went on. By the time it came to 1pm, when colleagues from across the office gathered around waiting our Director to announce the winner, I was actually nervous.

I didn’t win. I didn’t expect to win – there were some amazing cakes on offer from some equally amazing bakers – but no one likes to lose do they? I spend the afternoon texting my husband about how I was never going to bake again and fanaticising about throwing my rolling pin away when I got home.

And I don’t plan on entering another baking competition; I didn’t like the waiting around for weeks not knowing what the result is going to be – yet this is exactly what so many 17 and 18-year olds are going through today.

Having sat their exams months ago, they have spent their summer nervously awaiting the results that will determine their future. Whether they go to university or not, and whether, if they do choose on university, that university is their ‘first choice’, or whether they have to go though ‘clearing’ (an awful process and even more awful word to use for it – surely there is a better way it can be done?*).

But there is no option for a university student to ‘never bake again’ – doing a degree is like a three-year baking competition. For the few students who do well in all of their assessments this is fine (read: smash the soufflé), but for the majority of students who struggle though at least some of their degree, the process of endlessly awaiting the next result is hugely detrimental for their wellbeing – and yet we continue to assess in this way.

As an adult, we don’t experience this same kind of stress. The wait to hear if you’ve been accepted for a mortgage, or if your latest paper has been accepted in to journal, is about as close as we come. But these are annual occurrences at best and, as adults, we have the experience of know we can always resubmit a paper or apply for a different mortgage. I wonder if we experienced the continual insecurity and nerves that students face around assessment that we would still choose to assess in this way?

One way to reduce this insecurity could be a move towards more formative assessments and less summative assessment may be one approach, or a move away from numerical grading may be another, but it is difficult to know what balance could be reached between keeping students motivated while still removing the carrot of a grade they are happy with.  

So, while I’ll be hanging up my apron for the foreseeable future, I’ll be thinking of all the students starting in September (and coming back) who will be facing another year of blind bakes and wondering what we can do to help reduce the anxiety around results and assessments this causes.  

*If this area interests you, I highly recommend this WonkHE piece on making university admissions truly inclusive – including two very viable recommendations.  

Amy Palmer