students working the office space
News, Teaching Stories

The Office: Episode Four

‘Space… ‘

At some point in Spring 2018 I went for an interview to be a BILT Fellow in Assessment and Feedback. All went well and I was offered a two-year Fellowship. But on reflection, I wasn’t sure if I really should be doing Assessment and Feedback – not because I don’t think it’s important, I do – but because I realised that having worked on a number of university projects as a practising engineer I was probably more suited to the other BILT theme, ‘Rethinking Spaces’. And so, I switched.

Last year, I spent my BILT time digging through literature on space (alongside all sorts of other things) and dreamt up some fun projects about it. And from this, ‘The Office’ was born. But it turns out that when you change space you change a whole load of other things as well. In simple terms, when I moved from thinking about teaching as lectures and considered it as coming to work, this raised so many more questions: questions about teaching delivery; identity; community; authenticity- not just space.

As a result, whilst my main topic is ‘space’, it has taken until Episode 4 to really talk about the physical space because, in short, I had so many other things to talk about. But this week I want to focus on the actual physical space.

Over the course of the last 6 months there were a number of questions to be answered. Boring, practical questions.

  • Where could I base my office?
  • How was it going to fit into the timetable?
  • How would the space look like anything other than a class room with tables grouped together?

To answer the first two questions, I reached out to a variety of different staff across the university, I visited different buildings, reviewed different options, but in the end the solution to both came from Engineering Timetabling – without whom this project could never have happened. We discussed pragmatic solutions, like allowing students to be present for core hours – but being able to go and do other things (like lectures, supervisor meetings or design project meetings) outside of these. Above all else we started the conversation early in the year, enabling options to be reviewed and timetabled early in the cycle – long before official deadlines.

To answer the third question, we started by looking at actual office spaces across the university campus, but nothing quite worked. And so, we went back to the old flatbed teaching room, as beloved by engineering (a quick walk around Queens building will show you just how much we love our flatbed teaching rooms).

The room was agreed before the summer break, enabling me to plan the space, have a trial run and work out the different furniture I needed to beg, steal or borrow. I made plans. The original plan is outlined below under week 1. There were a number of key features:

Entrance – To make the space feel more like an office and less like a classroom the first step was to create a different entrance. This was achieved very simply by putting a company sign by the office door, and placing plants either side of the entrance.

Entrance to the ‘Just Timber’ Office.

Working Space – The working space is laid out as desks in groups. Much like my old companies – tables are in lines – but unlike my old companies where everyone has a computer and at least a table each, here to fit in the number of students we placed groups of 4 students around two tables and there are no computers.

Students working in the office.

Huddle Space – When working in industry we used to have a Monday morning huddle – where we would plan the week ahead – this space would also be the location for lunch time talks. I created a large space where students could bring their chairs for the huddle.

Breakout Space – In addition to more formal working spaces, I wanted to create a breakout space which students could use to have a pause, discuss ideas, drink a cup of tea, read architecture magazines and generally refresh before cracking on with the next task at hand. It has 4 low chairs – taken from my own office (which now looks very sad) and a low coffee table. There is a couple of magazine racks with the latest issue of engineering and architecture magazines.

Students taking a break

Directors’ Tables – When in industry I have always worked in companies where the directors are in the same open plan office space as everyone else, no fancy corner offices with large leather sofas. The theory is that this flattens the hierarchy (which is does) but I also imagine the financial saving from space and furniture is quite attractive. To start with the Directors tables (where a PhD student and myself sit) were located by the huddle space for the simple reason that the tables could be quickly moved making more room to huddle in.

Directors’ Table

Storage – Finally to keep the illusion alive that this was an office and not a classroom a screen is set up (which students are invited to cover with inspirational images) and behind this all the excess chairs and tables are stored along with the lectern (nothing says lecture more than a lectern) and the giant projector screen. As the screen cannot be used a large TV is now wheeled in for all presentations.

Floorplan of the ‘Just Timber’ office.

Changes and reflection following the first week

Following the first week of delivery there was some immediate feedback from the students, most notably that there was not enough desk space. In addition, my plan to huddle did not materialize. Maybe because students were on heavy static seats rather than seats with wheels which can quickly be moved to other locations. As a result, the layout in week 2 was revised. More tables were put out, so groups now had 3 tables each rather than 2. The huddle space was removed.

There were some further consequences to this change in the use of the space in that there was now less furniture to store (all the tables in the room were being utilized) and as a result the breakout space became much bigger. In the first week I didn’t notice any groups sit in the comfy chairs, but in week 2 the space was used by a number of different groups during the day. This of course may be due to the students becoming more familiar with the space and the fact that one of their projects is much more open ended and so inspiration from different sources is required. But I also believe the space is now more welcoming.

We also opted to move the directors table to a more central position, so we were more in the mix. This didn’t change the number of enquiries during the day, but I was able to get a better feel for what was happening in the room and the conversations that were taking place – being in the ‘thick of it’.

Following the end of week 2 students confirmed that they were much happier with the space. One student requested that we use the large screen as the TV was harder to see, but I am reluctant to do this as there is still space for students to move closer if they wish and we would be back to just a flat bed teaching room if we have a lectern and large screen.

I also wonder if, by moving groups apart (there is a clear gap between each group now), whether there is a reduced sharing of information across groups and the groups become more insular, something I am very keen to avoid as the aim is that all students learn as much as possible. I will monitor in the weeks ahead. My feeling was, certainly in the first week, that when I shared some key information with one group – this was being quickly fed to other groups. For example one of the questions was whether all floor joists should be the same depth? Once explaining the different arguments to one group I found as I talked to other groups they presented back to me the same reasoning I had given, acknowledging that this seemed to be the consensus among others.

So next week as we continue to consider pedagogy and ‘the office’ we will look at authentic learning. In the spirit of the project if you would like some pre-reading I would recommend you read ‘Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview’ By Marilyn M. Lombardi (Educase 2007).

News, Teaching Stories

The Office: Episode Three

What the flip is flipped teaching?

I love lecturing. It’s awesome. I get that nervous excitement beforehand, like an actor or musician about to perform – it fires up my imagination – I think of new ways to say the same old thing. And then there is the lecture itself. The whoops of joy as I derive the equation for timber design – the ohhhs and ahhhs as it looks like my worked example has gone horribly wrong only for me to save it at the last minute with a daring leap of engineering logic (change the initial assumptions and post rationalising). And then there is the cheering – the standing ovation – as 2 hours later we come in to land. Everyone having been on an emotional rollercoaster.

Now I know what you are thinking, you think I am joking, but I am not (in fact I very rarely joke as I have a below average sense of humour – as my children like to regularly remind me). I am exaggerating – of course – but in my mind the above is how a perfect timber lecture would go.

And so, when I say “I am not lecturing on my timber unit this year”, it is with a heavy heart – and it’s important that you know that this was a hard decision for me to make, a costly one.

But I have another agenda, a more important one, I really want my students to learn about timber. I believe that the world needs more people who can design not just with steel and concrete – that we need engineers who can do more than just replicate the designs of the past – we need engineers fit for the future who can design with more materials. And however much I love lecturing I believe that by flipping the teaching my students will learn more[1].

Now let’s be clear. There is nothing new about flipped teaching. Back in 1997 when I was a green haired undergraduate studying Civil Engineering I decided to take an option on the philosophy of science. Every week we were required to read a book. And every week we would come not for a lecture but for a debate. Facilitated and led by our ‘lecturer’. The whole thing worked really well. Every week the chapter of the book would convince me that this was indeed the ‘philosophy of science’ only for this philosophical viewpoint to be slowly ripped to shreds over the course of an hours discussion and leaving me wondering why I had been so foolish to believe it in the first place? I would then read the next chapter, the next idea, which would respond to all the arguments from the discussion we had in class, only for that approach to be similarly reduced to rubble in the next discussion. Flipped teaching goes back way further than my own education. And yet in engineering it happens very rarely. We love to lecture.

But lectures are not the best way for people to learn. And so, this year, in ‘the office’ there are no lectures. No derivations. Instead I have gone for a different approach. But before I break this down maybe it would be helpful for me to describe my old approach. It goes like this:

Part 1 – Context

Talk about some projects that relate to the topic for this week for about 20 minutes. This achieves a number of things: It gives the learning some context – students can see why they are doing it. It also gives me, as their teacher, credibility – I have done it. Finally it gives them some technical language and understanding of why we do what we do – it helps them join the ‘community of practice[2]’.     

Part 2 – Theory

Next I reach for the notes. Personally I don’t like to use powerpoint for this I proffer to use a stack of paper, a pencil, and a visualiser and I will explain the theory of what we are doing – effectively teaching them what is already written in the notes. This will typically take place as two blocks of 20 minutes.

Part 3 – Example

Once the technical content has been delivered I will talk through a real example by doing it on the board. This will normally last about 20 minutes. I generally make these up on the spot – asking students for numbers. This way I have to think about what I am doing and as a result I find it easier to explain my thought process to students as I go through the example – it also slows me down (a good thing). But this also has a negative effect, for I find writing things down hard. I will say one thing and my hand will write something different. It used to make maths exams tricky as I would regularly think the right process but write down the wrong number, similarly for students my mistakes can be confusing.

Part 4 – Application and conversation

Students are set a number of problems to work through where they build up and extend their understanding of the course materials: – This occurs both in example classes, where I am able to answer questions and discuss the content with them. But also outside of the taught time as students work on their own.

This year I have used the same model in many regards but rather than deliver parts 1-3 in a lecture with part 4 predominantly happening elsewhere I have flipped it (hence the term flipped teaching) so part 4 happens in my teaching environment with parts 2 and 3 occurring elsewhere.

So this is how it (hopefully) works:

Part 1 – Context

I no longer give a 20 minute talk on projects at the start of each week. Instead I have done a few different things:

  1. I have covered the walls with pictures of real projects – to give them a sense of what they are working towards
  2. I have included case studies and inspiring photos of projects in the course notes
  3. I have invited a number of practioners in to give lunch time talks (we used to do these when I was a practicing engineer) on real projects
  4. Finally I have authored books on timber, which I hope gives me credibility without having to talk about my projects

Part 2 – Theory

As mentioned in episode 2[3] I have slowly built up a set of notes which are highly detailed over the last 8 years. So now, rather than effectively read them to the students (and anyone who has witnessed me reading a bedtime story will know that that is a lot more engaging than it sounds – see my BoB lecture for evidence[4]) I let them read them to themselves. It’s that simple.

Every week I have a list of pre-reading which has been there since before the course began so that student can read it in their own time for the whole course.

Part 3 – Example

So the biggest change for me this year has been that I have created a series of worked example videos. These go through the core concepts for each week. There are many advantages to this approach (rather than doing it live in class) students can pause – rewind – re-watch – jump ahead to where they are stuck. And more importantly I don’t make mistakes! The casual feedback from students has been very positive. The down side is that each 15 minute example takes about 1-2 hours to produce. And I need to find a silent location with no interruptions to make them in.

Part 4 – Application and conversation

Which brings us to the purpose of all of this. By enabling students to learn about the subject for each week before they arrive at ‘the office’, we can use the working day to apply the information. I have created 4 projects which they will work on over the course of 10 weeks. Each designed to challenge them in a different way. Each designed to build up their engineering understanding. I have also provided a map to show how everything links together.

Having run the office for two weeks it really seems to be going well. Students come ready to learn. As I sit and work on my own projects I listen to the buzz in the room. The hum of conversation. And much of it is around the technical details of timber design. The students are discussing their work together. Working together. And I do get a good and steady stream of questions – but good questions. No one yet has asked me to give a mini lecture. So whilst there is still a long way to go (8 weeks) at this stage it feels like it is working.

Why don’t we all do it

So the obvious question is, why doesn’t everyone do this? The honest answer is for me that it is so much more work. I can see that in the long run, once it is up and running, it will be less work. But if you are time strapped now it is so hard to invest in the future – despite the reward.

I also fear it is more work for students. Not that they will spend longer working – but that it feels harder. That lectures seem easy – information being delivered in accessible bite size chunks and that somehow this is more challenging. And coupled with this, I fear that they won’t love it as much as they love my lectures – that my ratings will drop!

Another challenge is space. Physical space. Working in collaborative groups – with easy circulation and easy access for students and staff to ask question – takes up more space than lines of desks all looking towards the screen. I have been lucky in that I have got a small enough group (36) where it works. But I also understand just how big the space challenge is.

Plus a little bit of me is missing the excitement of standing up and giving a lecture!

Next week’s episode – Space…


[1] G. Gibbs, ‘Twenty terrible reasons for lecturing’, http://owww.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsld/resources/20reasons.html, last accessed 11/10/19

[2] See Jenni Case’s ‘Education Theories on Learning: an informal guide for the engineering education scholar’ Tool 4: Community of practice (Higher Education Academy, 2008)

[3] The Office: Episode 2 – https://bilt.online/the-office-episode-two/

[4] ‘How to change the world in three simple steps’ – Jump to minute 11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWlFNt6b4Sw&feature=youtu.be

News, Teaching Stories

The Office: Episode Two

The Office opens for business (learning)

Last Thursday evening as I sat on the train heading home I reflected on my day. It had been a variety of things, exhausting, exhilarating, extraordinary, just another day at work, surprisingly straightforward and above all else not a complete disaster, yes!

Of course, last Thursday was not any old day, it was the first day that I ran my ‘office’ teaching project. I arrived at work at 7.30 – having unloaded my academic office (where I had been collecting stuff for months) into the teaching space the night before – and I moved furniture, set out tables and chairs to make the space feel like an office. I put stuff on tables – so much stuff (more on that in a minute) and tried to get everything ready. At 9am sharp my new employees (current fourth year undergraduate students) arrived ready for work, generally in work attire. People moved to their designated groups – unpacked and sorted all the equipment I supplied – and by 9.30am were ready for their first day of work. Which, believe it or not went without any major hitches.

At the end of the day I asked students for feedback. Two major items were raised – firstly that they wanted a bit more desk space – so I will reconfigure the room next week. Secondly and much more importantly they want milk for their cups of tea!

So I think as a first day goes it was a success.

Across the next 9 weeks, as well as recording and reflecting what happens in my office sessions I want to also unpack some of my thinking – and some of the practical sides of the project. I sat down a few minutes ago and wrote a list of 7 topics I want to cover without thinking – I’m sure more will arise as the weeks develop. In many ways the topics overlap and intersect. I fear it will be hard to discuss some – without referring to others, so apologies if I keep saying (especially in the early weeks) ‘more on this in a later episode’.

This week I wanted to focus on stuff. To make the office feel like an office I have generated a lot of it. Partly I have done this because I am old fashioned and used to work in a paperfull office (as against to paperless). Partly, whilst digital tools are nice, I couldn’t assume all students would have the same access to resources. And partly because at the end of the year when students graduate I hope they will take some of the items with them and treasure them in their future adventures, I produced a lot of stuff.

Employee Induction Pack

When you start at a new firm, hopefully, they will provide you with some information about what working there might look like. From policies on flexible working to how to use the printers. Rather than create a course pack which explains ILOs contact hours, methods of assessment, I created a ‘New Employee Induction Pack’. This pack covers a wide variety of topics from what to wear, EDI, company document formatting (for use in the coursework submission), quality assurance, what resources are available and what they will hopefully learn whilst working for ‘Just Timber’.

Calcpad, mug and pens

As part of my step into creating a work identity and creating a ‘community of practice’ I selected some of the ubiquitous tools of an engineer. The trusty calcpad (a pad of paper with squares on and a title block that records a number of details about the design necessary for quality assurance), ‘sign pens’ in black for rough sketches and drawing large details and orange for shading in timber. And a mug, for all those cups of tea one drinks when designing buildings (I don’t actually drink tea but the firms I worked for always had a company mug). I hope that these items help students to identify as ‘employees’ of my firm – and I hope they resonate with their own experiences working for engineering companies over the summer, whilst also giving some insider information on the tools an engineer might use.

Note: I intentionally did not provide scale rules (see https://bilt.online/teaching-stories-1-rulers-for-all/) because no engineering firms has their own rulers, they instead have a selection in their draws from the different sales people that routinely come to the office to tell them about their products.

Notes

I have been teaching Timber Engineering 4 for about 3 years now (maybe a little longer) and before this timber was part of another unit called Sustainable Construction, which I have run for 8 years. Over this time, I have developed the notes from 8 sides of A4 and an old handout from 20 years ago (which a colleague in my old engineering firm found for me from the days he studied in Bristol) into a detailed set of notes covering a large array of different topics with a number of worked examples which are not just the course notes but a valuable resource for practicing engineers. This year about the only thing I haven’t changed about the unit is the notes. Students receive them on their first day (and are also provided with a PDF on blackboard which they can access about a week before they start).

A library of information

Beyond the notes this year students are provided with a library of information. These are the books and resources they would find on the shelf of an engineering practice. They are not course notes as such and I certainly don’t expect them to be read from cover to cover, but they are valuable references covering a variety of topics. Each group receives 5 books (one of the minor hiccups of the unit is that one of the books isn’t published – I am hoping it comes before the unit is complete) 3 from industry and 2 currently issued to publishers for review prior to publication which have been written by a variety of academics from Bristol and further afield. These are coupled with a wide variety of online resources which students have access to in the same way they would if working in industry. When they get stuck students are encouraged first to find the answers themselves in their engineering library, secondly to talk to other employees and finally to ask directors. This is not because the directors don’t like answering questions (we really do) but because in industry this would be the expected process, you would try and answer questions yourself, failing that you would speak to another engineer at a similar level and only if they can’t answer would you ask a more experienced member of staff (with other engineers eager to listen in on the answer). 

Stationary

On top of the pens, employees are given an A4 and A3 folder to store calculations and drawings respectively, file dividers to keep their work organised (they have 4 separate projects to work on over their 10 weeks) a hole punch, stickers to label loose sheets of paper (when inspiration strikes whilst eating falafel and you have to write on a napkin, that sort of thing), and of course a propelling pencil (as maths should always be done in pencil and never in pen). Finally, every group has an A3 box to put everything in, both during the day and afterwards – so they can leave work behind them until next week. Ideally this would be shelves which could be locked, but both space and budget constraints required something a little more lofi. And anyway when I worked in industry, when we finished a project, the paper work all went into a large A3 box where it could be archived, just in case we ever needed to look back over what we did.

On Thursday the office will reconvene. Those large A3 boxes will be re-opened, project folders will be reviewed. And a new project will be launched. In next week’s episode I hope to cover ‘what the flip is flipped teaching’ as well as reflecting on another week in the office. Until then, take care.

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

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

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

Meet the BILT Student Fellows, News

Our Yearly Round-Up and Key Student Lessons

Throughout the year, Student Fellows led a variety of events through 4 Projects on Assessment, Big Data, Study Spaces and Student Engagement. Phoebe Graham and Corrie Macleod led ‘Empowering Students in Their Teaching and Learning’. Their goal was to engage staff and students in casual conversation about pedagogy, engagement and university life…

This short video shares the main lessons we’ve taken away from students this year. We also wanted to celebrate and showcase the fantastic projects led by Student Fellows (and friends) Zoe Backhouse, Lisa Howarth and Johannes Schmiedeker. Our position as Student Fellows was an enriching and valuable experience we will all fondly look back on. We’ve learned so much from staff, students and the BILT team throughout this creative and collaborative process.

We hope you enjoy our final little showcase and we can’t wait to see what the next generation of Student Fellows come up with…

News

Team Based Learning Masterclass

Dundee, 26th June 2019

There were two masterclasses running in Dundee – an introductory and an advanced session.  This was the advanced session.  Although the number of attendees was small at around ten, everybody had some experience of running team-based learning. 

All the activities and discussions of the day were run in a team-based format and this included the usual items such as:

  •   Individual readiness assurance test
  • Team readiness assurance test

Having read papers about this approach to teamwork it initially seemed unnecessarily complicated to me but, now that I’ve been through it a couple of times, I can see the value in it.  It’s actually very straight forward in practice.  In all cases the tests have been quite challenging in that they ask for the best answer when several of the answers could be correct.  This prompted discussion in the teams (and it meant we didn’t get everything right first time).  This made me think about my own approach to teamwork questions and how valuable this aspect is.  The ‘appeals process’ was then a discussion about our thoughts before moving on to consider how to address team-based situations like the same person verbalising a team’s answer and different methods for students to evaluate each other.

As is often the case with these sessions, it is the people you meet who are often the most interesting part of the day and their experiences gave me some ideas for the upcoming team-based work we will be starting in the School of Chemistry next term.  One colleague talked about how she got the students to give their team a name and draw up a social contract.  I’d been thinking about how we would need an introductory session to the team-based format and these seemed like great ideas to help cement a group together. I’m going to incorporate these ideas this year. 

Several resources from the Masterclass are included but additionally here is some useful info:

www.teambasedlearning.org

This website has all sorts of information and resources for team-based learning but needs a subscription to access most of the materials. 

Dr Simon Tweddell is a National Teaching Fellow and Consultant-Trainer in Team-Based Learning. Contact him on: s.j.tweddell@bradford.ac.uk

Other class organisers were Dr Prabha Parthasarathy from Imperial College and Joy de Vries-Erich from University of Amsterdam

Further resources on team-based learning can be found here.

Paul Wyatt, July 2019.