Two cows at the gate
Education Enhancement Funds

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

A Teaching Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr Louisa Slingsby, Dr Rose Grogono-Thomas, Dr Julie Townsend, Ms Lucy SW Bates for the academic year 2017/18 – you can find a summary of the project they undertook with their grant below. If you would like to read the full report, please contact bilt-info@bristol.ac.uk

Project summary

Mental wellbeing encompasses the ability to feel good and function well within one’s life. This is a priority area to address within the university and beyond; wellbeing is a high importance topic within the veterinary profession.

Building on previous work we have devised a novel, evidence based “Mental Wellbeing Toolbox” (MWT) which we have introduced as a wellbeing vertical theme within the undergraduate veterinary programme (BVSc). The aim is to assist students in building their mental wellbeing, personal resources, skills and confidence, and in doing so prepare them for graduation and the workplace. It also aims to highlight how anyone can benefit from improving their mental wellbeing, resulting in better job (and life) satisfaction.

Each year group of the BVSc now has a three-hour seminar introducing one aspect of the Toolbox. A MWT Handbook has been developed for students to access at any time; if desired, it is possible to look ahead to aspects of the Toolbox taught in later years.

Following ethical approval, quantitative and qualitative data has been collected from students to evaluate the introduction of the MWT into the curriculum. Generally, feedback has been positive, with some key areas highlighted for improvement.

Conclusions

  • The MWT offers a more forward-thinking approach to teaching mental wellbeing, by encouraging all students to engage in their mental wellbeing, rather than focusing on those that are unwell.  
  • The integration of the MWT has been well-received. 
  • An aim of the project was to build a curriculum that will assist students in building their mental wellbeing, personal resources, skills and confidence, and in so doing prepare them for graduation and the workplace. On average, 80% of students learnt something new as a result of the seminars and 60% will look up something new and/or do something differently as a result of a seminar, hopefully indicating the curriculum has helped students build resources and skills.  
  • Teaching methods which are deemed positive when delivering a mental wellbeing curriculum include providing interaction with the material (while allowing anonymity), and content which is relatable, personal, interesting and/or scientific.  Anecdotes are also well-received.  

 

Three children looking at a test tube and beaker in a laboratory
Education Enhancement Funds

MAP: Bristol

A Teaching Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr Chris Adams for the academic year 2017/18 – you can find a summary of the project he undertook with his grant below. If you would like to read the full report, please contact the BILT Team

Project summary
MAP-Bristol (Monitoring atmospheric pollution in Bristol) was a project which allowed first-year students to participate in a real scientific investigation by carrying out a survey of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution across the city of Bristol. They used the investigation to provide the raw material for workshops in scientific report writing and data handling which form part of their first year-unit ‘Communication and Information Skills in Chemistry’.

At the same time, the ‘Eco Team’ from Bristol Grammar Primary School undertook a similar monitoring project. They were then invited into our labs to do some chemistry and analyse their results, with some of our first year undergraduates acting as laboratory demonstrators.

Conclusions 

Overall, I would give this a 7/10. The students engaged with it, liked the societal relevance, and generally enjoyed it. The practical aspects worked and went well.  

Just reiterating how enjoyable and valuable the NO2 project has been. Very glad to see public health issues and science being linked in this way, especially on the first year of our course! 

As described above, I was disappointed by the quality of the written work produced by many of the students, and this will be the focus going forward. 

The project has a number of ‘hidden’ benefits. This may well be the only time during their time here that students do any practical which is (a) not entirely laboratory based and (b) relevant to their everyday lives, and it will certainly be the only time that most of them get on a bus and venture into Fishponds and beyond. It teaches a broad range of ‘transferable’ skills in an authentic context and makes the second year of the degree program ‘fairer’ – currently students write a number of reports which are all summatively assessed with absolutely no training whatsoever. Many of the activities were carried out in groups, and students therefore also gained a great deal of experience in group working. 

It addresses several points of the University’s Education Strategy: 

  • We will embed assessment for learning, as articulated in our Institutional Principles for Assessment and Feedback in Taught Programmes across the institution such that a common approach to assessment is formed articulating the cyclical relationship between learning, assessment and feedback and improving students’ understanding of their learning experience. (2.3) 
  • We will provide a curriculum that supports the development of enduring, transferable skills and attributes in disciplinary appropriate ways within all programmes (3.2)  
  • We will provide students with the opportunities for professional and community engagement in a variety of contexts, including, internships, placements or volunteering activities. (3.4) 
  • We will provide a Bristol Skills Framework against which students can assess their skills development, evidencing and recording their personal development in order to foster and demonstrate a rounded set of graduate attributes. We will provide academic study skill resources to support students to successfully transition to study at University and progress through their academic programmes (3.1) 

This kind of model could be replicated across the University – indeed, Geography are already doing something similar (above), and I have been contacted by a microbiologist colleague who is thinking about distributing sample tubes about Bristol in a similar fashion. It is my belief that many of the schools in the science faculties are trying to teach similar skills and could implement similar programs – indeed, that is one of the reasons for the forthcoming Educational Excellence seminar. I do firmly believe that many colleagues across the University are trying to teach many of the same things, and that sharing ideas and practice is a necessary prerequisite for improving the University’s educational offering. 

Image of the outside of Dolberry Building in Langford Campus
Education Enhancement Funds

The LeapForward Project

Dr Sheena Warman was the lead academic on her project, ‘LeapForward’, for which she was awarded a Catalyst Fund from BILT for 2017/18. The project summary and conclusions can be found below – if you would like to view the full report please contact the BILT team.

Project Summary

The LeapForward project aimed to evaluate and improve feedback and feedforward practices within undergraduate Health Sciences programmes (BVSc Veterinary Science, MBChB Medicine, BDS Dentistry), MSc Social Work, and BA Theatre and Performance Studies – a truly interdisciplinary approach. We have focused on student transitions, particularly that from classroom to workplace-based learning environments. 

The overall aims and objectives of our research were to: 

  • Explore the impact of current feedback and feedforward practices 
  • Identify priorities for improvement in feedforward in supporting students’ self-regulatory workplace skills 
  • Develop a novel feedforward intervention/resource relevant across diverse disciplines 
  • Identify what different disciplines can learn from each other’s practice 

In Phase 1 of the project we explored the impact of current feedback and feedforward processes and practices, by collating existing resources and running ten focus groups, talking to groups of students and staff from each discipline (in separate groups) about their experiences.  Analysis of the staff and student focus groups enabled us to identify twelve overall themes, clustered into three overarching categories, which illuminate the student and staff experience of feedback and feedforward across the different disciplines, in the Bristol context.  

In Phase 2, we built on the earlier findings to design and develop a modular training package for both students and staff which is intended to support students in their development of self-regulatory workplace skills and provide new feedforward interventions which have the potential to be applicable more widely across the university. 

 Conclusions

  • Interdisciplinary approach: there are similarities as well as differences in practices and experiences of feedback and feedforward and both are instructive in understanding feedback and feedforward processes at the University of Bristol  
  • The interdisciplinary nature of the project means that both Phase 1 findings and Phase 2 training packages developed can potentially be applied widely across the University to both Students and Staff, and that there are consistent messages for both parties in the feedback /feedforward dialogue. 
  • Student and Staff ‘Feedback Literacy’ is similar, however, for maximum overall benefit, both groups can be supported to move through ‘literacy’, via ‘capacity’ and ‘managing affect’ to ‘action’ (Carless and Boud, 2018) on a consistent and agreed trajectory. 

 

Two students recording using a video camera and boom microphone
Education Enhancement Funds

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

A Teaching Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr Emily Bell, Dr Rose Murray and Dr Andy Wakefield for the academic year 2017/18 – you can find a summary of the project they undertook with their grant below. If you would like to read the full report, please contact bilt-info@bristol.ac.uk

Project summary

Project members (PMs) (Bell, Murray and Wakefield) are developing an open-access framework to enable the easy implementation of innovative and creative assessment. This includes an interactive guide for teachers and learners which supports the creation of video as a means of assessment. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to use audio-visual production/editing software as well as helpful advice on suitable equipment. PMs are also creating an appropriate, transdisciplinary framework for evaluation of the students’ video projects. By focusing the assessment of the video at group level and embedding this within a portfolio of supporting tasks the PMs hope that their guidance will be applicable to a greater number of disciplines within higher education.

This novel assessment method was embedded into a field course module (June 2018), with 20 students working in groups of three or four. Students were instilled with a wide range of transferrable skills as well as having the opportunity to stretch their creative legs. In tandem, and via the same processes, students’ confidence was evaluated in four key skills areas (academic self-efficacy, groupwork, communication and digital capabilities) via data collection from pre-post questionnaires and student reflective critiques. Preliminary data analyses suggest that student confidence increased over
the course of the week in these areas.

Conclusions

Despite only preliminary analysis of the data gathered thus far, it is apparent that participants who took the filmmaking course perceived an increased level of confidence in several different skill areas; academic skills, social efficacy, communication sk ills and digital capabilities. The qualitative responses corroborate findings from the quantitative responses, and the authors look forward to evaluating the reflective critique data later in the year. On reflection, one of the main themes identified from the data was the increased confidence particularly in social efficacy. This was highlighted as a particular cause for anxiety or apprehension prior to the course by the participants, yet by the end, it was clearly an area in which participants had grown in confidence. This will be explored further as the project progresses. As this was a single field course from a collection of ~15 courses which run each year, it would be interesting to evaluate other courses to explore whether this increased confidence of participants is replicated, or whether it is a unique quality of the film making course. The authors hope to repeat this study in the next academic year with the following cohort of students to test the robustness of these findings.

Digital classroom
Education Enhancement Funds

Building Confident Engaged Researchers Through Active Partnership and Problem Based Learning

A Teaching Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr Chris Kent and Dr Jess Fielding for the academic year 2017/18 – you can find a summary of the project they undertook with their grant below. If you would like to read the full report, please contact bilt-info@bristol.ac.uk

Project Summary

This project was designed to assist the redevelopment of our research methods provision at Year 1.

The newly developed course will focus on active learning in small groups and continuous, low-risk, assessment. Specifically, it will address four main aims in our Year 1 teaching:

1. Enable students to programme and conduct their own experiments within TB1

2. Provide weekly continuous formative feedback on knowledge and understanding

3. Enable effective small group peer support via ‘homework clubs’

4. Embed a culture of student participation in lectures via interactive smart-phone response systems (SRS).

The BILT grant facilitated the redesign and comprised two main work packages

(WP). WP1: development and evaluation of a self-contained series of lab sessions designed to deliver design, programming and analysis skills to Y1 psychology students (meeting aims 1 and 3). WP2: developed a set of home and class activities for summative and formative assessment (meeting aims 2 and 4).

Conclusions

We feel the grant was extremely helpful to us. We have meet our aims and are in a much better place to implement our redesigned research method training courses.

Students, who undertook the pilot, showed a keen interest and disposition to research methods once they were exposed to a hands-on approach to building experiments and understanding why programming and statistics were important (via problem-based learning and active participation in work shops). The students left with a positive disposition towards further exploring research methods and we highly positivetowards the way in which the material was delivered. All students managed to develop their own independent research question, programme an experiment to test it, collect and analysis the data; this is quite impressive given the short six week time scale!

The research skills we developed by actively engaging students in research from the get-go, by showing them they could develop their own simple experiments and analysis with a few simple tools. The problem-based approach to introducing new software was successful and students felt confident in exploring the software.

label on pile of rubble and rocks
Education Enhancement Funds

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

Jenny Riker was awarded an Teaching Innovation Grant in 2017/18. You can find a summary of her project, and the project conclusions below. If you’d like to access a full copy of the report, please contact the BILT Team. 

Project summary
Geological mapping is an integral element of undergraduate degree programmes in the earth sciences. It is an immersive, active learning experience linked to the affective domain and deep learning (Boyle et al. 2007). Learning to map indoctrinates students into the community of earth science practice and enhances their ability to master high order skills, such as disembedding information from noise and developing 3D and 4D constructs of the earth (Reynolds 2012). For these reasons, mapping remains a cornerstone of undergraduate training, where it is conventionally taught using pen-and-paper techniques. However, recent advances in the capabilities of Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled tablets mean that most field data can now be collected and analysed digitally. The needs of the geoscience workforce and employer expectations of our graduates are changing as a result. An approach that relies solely on traditional techniques is increasingly at odds with professional practice and student expectations.

This project set out to introduce digital tablets for field-based data collection and mapping into our 3rd year fieldwork unit and evaluate their effectiveness in developing students’ sense of self-efficacy with regard to key fieldwork skills. It aimed to better equip our undergraduates with skills and affectations that will serve them best in life after graduation. Self-efficacy and attitudes towards fieldwork were evaluated using paired questionnaires distributed before and after the field trip. Survey responses indicate a broadly increased sense of self-efficacy after undertaking the new mapping approach. Students and staff were also highly enthusiastic about digital mapping, which was overwhelmingly positively received and offered many benefits–some anticipated, others unexpected.

Conclusions
This project enabled the introduction of digital geological mapping techniques into our 3rd year field course for Geology undergraduates, with remarkably positive results. Student survey responses indicate a broadly increased sense of self-efficacy in relation to key field work tasks after undertaking the new mapping approach, which may help to instil confidence needed for life after graduation. Digital mapping generated positive  effective responses from both students and staff and helped to streamline the process of fieldwork and its assessment. In view of these outcomes, we recommend its continuation
and possible expansion within our curriculum. Future efforts will focus on securing the funding needed to maintain a cache of tablets, streamlining the process of managing the technology, and integrating the new technology with other aspects of our field programme and beyond.

Student looking down microscope in a lab
Education Enhancement Funds

Evaluation and benchmarking of the new Biochemistry MSci Research Training unit

Alice Robson was awarded an Teaching Innovation Grant in 2017/18. You can find a summary of her project, and the project conclusions below. If you’d like to access a full copy of the report, please contact the BILT Team. 

Project summary

The aim of this project was to gain increased understanding of how we develop our
students as researchers, by evaluating a new Research Training unit (RTU) that
forms part of the new MSci in Biochemistry. The outcome of the evaluation is already
being used to enhance the student experience by improving the unit under study and
the knowledge gained can also be fed into other units across the School and beyond.
Developing research skills is a key part of any science degree, yet there remains a
lack of consensus about the best way to develop these competencies, particularly in
light of increasing student numbers (Willison and O’Regan, 2007). The School of
Biochemistry has recently introduced a Research Training Unit, which students on
the MSci programme take in their third year, instead of an individual research project;
these students then do an extended research project in their fourth year. The aim of
this unit is to give students an authentic research experience, developing the skills
and the self-efficacy they need to succeed in an individual research project in their
final year.
The evaluation project sought to determine whether the proposed learning outcomes
of the RTU were met and to gain a deeper understanding of how students gain key
research skills and develop the identity of ‘research scientist’. In addition, the
learning experiences from the RTU were compared with those from traditional
internship-style research projects (using the students on the BSc programme as a
reference group), and issues of consistency and scalability were considered.
The results showed that students who took the RTU developed a greater sense of
researcher identity than those on the BSc route, and feel well prepared for an
extended research project in their final year. Areas of weakness in the course design
were also revealed, and this is being used to improve the course for future years.

Conclusions

The evaluation provided some very useful insight into the students’ perspective on their learning within the RTU. The design of the evaluation, particularly the fact that focus groups and interviews were carried out by an independent researcher, meant that students gave refreshingly frank and honest reports of their experience on the course. This in turn allowed us to get unparalleled insight into their self-assessment of development throughout the course. Some very interesting results were obtained, particularly pertaining to the development of researcher identity. One key aspect in developing enthusiasm for the work was the students’ sense of ownership of their projects, since they had chosen and design the targets themselves. It would be very beneficial to introduce such research-inspired practical work earlier in the curriculum, in first and second year, in order to begin the journey towards being a research scientist earlier in our students’ careers.