Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Ash Tierney

The following post was written by Ash Tierney, a Research Associate and Project Manager for Bristol Futures. Ash has been a BILT Associate since May 2019.

I’ve been working in curriculum development roles at the University of Bristol since 2012. My focus started with Education for Sustainable Development and saw me conduct curriculum reviews on this theme across all degree programmes. I represented higher education in the UK at the House of Commons discussions on “Enabling the future we want: Education for Sustainable Development in the UK”. Outside of the formal curriculum, our team collaborated with the Students Union, Bristol Hub, the National Union of Students and UWE. One of our biggest achievements in this time was the Bristol Green Capital project “Green Capital: Student Capital. The power of student sustainability engagement”. The effort resulted in over 100,000 hours of student volunteering for sustainability across both UoB and UWE.

I was delighted to be one of three academics who co-developed the “Bristol Futures: Sustainable Futures” open online blended course, hosted on FutureLearn. It was the first time I had collaborated pedagogically with such interdisciplinary peers, one from Chemistry, the other from Engineering. The result is a four-week course that is freely accessible to everyone globally and runs three times a year.

Since late 2017, I’ve become Project Manager for the University’s Bristol Futures project covering areas of the core and optional curriculum. In 2018/2019, we delivered four new interdisciplinary optional units. The units have challenged traditional teaching approaches, experimenting with new forms of assessment and blended learning delivery. This role includes typical project management responsibilities (budget, staffing, evaluation, etc.), but also encompasses dynamic elements of content development such as script-writing for documentaries.

While completing my PhD on Historical Archaeology, I ran public engagement activities within archaeological fieldwork. In the USA, I led engagement efforts for three seasons on “Embedding Sustainability Thinking into Fieldwork: placing student learning at the heart of community engagement”. This was divided into two foci: research-led outreach in the local high school; and co-produced research with the local community archaeology interest group. Within Bristol’s archaeology degree training fieldwork at Berkeley Castle, I led the engagement team to work with the community in novel ways, most notably “The Town Museum Project”. In this project, our Bristol students created displays of excavated material culture and placed them on display in the homes and businesses of Berkeley village. By bringing the archaeology into community-led temporary curatorship, we demonstrated trust in the community and allowed those unable to visit the excavations to feel more involved. My student-led public engagement efforts are noted by HEFCE as national best practice.

Following completion of my PhD in 2017, I have taken on the role of Project Director of Archaeology within Project Nivica, in the Kurvelesh mountains of Albania. The project sits within eco-tourism domestic initiatives, with the overall ambition to compile a detailed understanding of the history, archaeology and ecology of the village of Nivica and its environs. The aims of the project are: to understand how the inhabitants of Nivica shaped their identity in relation to Epirus, Illyria and Rome; and to situate heritage practice and participatory engagement within the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals. I am working in collaboration with the Municipality of Tepelenë, the National Coastline Agency, and the Institute of Archaeology.

Within my BiLT Associate role, I am looking to focus on outputs that cross both my interests in sustainability and heritage. Over the next two years, I will engage at sustainability conferences in the HE sector, disseminating our innovative work at Bristol, including the operational and logistic aspects that make pedagogic ambitions possible. I’d like to create podcasts with other educators on topics of professional practice and ethics within teaching, exploring methodological approaches, and how to embed the Sustainable Development Goals into student-led discussions and action. Given my Arts background and involvement in the Cadbury fiasco, I would also like to work with others to create a brief for international corporations on why Arts graduates are integral to their success.

Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Sam Hitchmough

The following post was written by Sam Hitchmough, a Senior Teaching Fellow and Director of Teaching from the School of History. Sam has been a BILT Fellow since September 2018.

I joined Bristol in September 2017 as a Senior Teaching Fellow in US History (particularly American Indian History) and Director of Teaching. Prior to this I was Director of Teaching and Learning for the School of Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University where I taught on the American Studies programme.

I have longstanding interests in artefact-based teaching and how to engage with especially difficult and sensitive topics. This has involved a large archive digitisation project in Kent, numerous seminars and workshops, as well as conference papers.

The first of my proposed outputs is a case-study on how historians approach the teaching of difficult histories. Teaching difficult topics has made me reflect on my role as someone transmitting/mediating knowledge, the mechanics of how such thorny topics are taught in the classroom, and how student learning experiences might be affected by subject matter or the dynamics of the group.

This case study will discuss the business of teaching difficult histories, using a series of conversations with colleagues in the History department (and historians within other departments) about the difficult/controversial/provocative topics that they deal with, and how they approach and teach them. It will look for patterns and devise strategies that can be applied to classroom teaching. The study will also integrate, where appropriate, wider discussions on issues such as trigger warnings, political correctness, the role of the university, and the role of History itself. The end result will be an emerging companion/toolkit for discussing difficult things that could be widened out to broader canvasses.

The second output will be an opinion piece that explores tropes associated with American Indians, and how these are utilised by two groups in the English southwest that have no historic connection with any Indian nation: the Exeter Chiefs rugby union team and the Bristol Savages art collective. The histories they have constructed featuring Indian images and symbols are concoctions that tap into a rich vein of transatlantic relationships between the UK and the US. It’s a history of representation and appropriation, accumulated and distorted through the lens of popular culture, ranging from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to playing cowboys and Indians.

There’s no long history of American Indian physical presence in the UK, even more so the case in the Southwest, but through an intricate web of signifiers, meanings and values, Indians have had a presence for centuries without largely being present. This piece focuses on the two groups to reveal a tangled conversation about identity, cultural appropriation, political correctness and cultural respect, and to ask whether their names are appropriate in modern Britain.


Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Humphrey Bourne

The following post is from Humphrey Bourne, who has been a BILT Associate since September 2018.

Hello, I am Humphrey and I currently have the role of Graduate Education Director with responsibility for PGT students in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law.  As a BILT associate, my project is in and around academic integrity (and misconduct).

A few years ago, I took on the role of plagiarism officer within the Faculty which largely involved investigating cases, sitting on a lot of plagiarism panels and giving plagiarism talks, mostly to students but occasionally to staff.  It was here that I developed an increasing interest in the issues confronting students from all over the world as they came to grips with our conventions on writing, referencing and authorial authenticity, which at times they found to be quite at odds with those that they had learned on their journey to Bristol.  This interest led to something of a determination to try to change the way we look at plagiarism and other forms of misconduct, and the opportunity arose when I was asked to head up a University working group reviewing our approach to academic integrity, with a focus on plagiarism.  The group reported in October 2017, its recommendations accepted.  In brief, the key recommendation is that the University embrace a developmental approach to academic integrity, emphasising learning over policing and relevant to all students and staff throughout their time here, and beyond.  An academic integrity approach is based in values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage, with the principle that committing to these values helps to distinguish conduct that is sound and acceptable from that which is not, in ways that can be applied to all academic endeavour.  I am now continuing the work of implementing the recommendations, starting with a new policy statement on academic integrity which is, as I write going through the final stage of approval, this to be followed over the coming year by revised guidelines, practices and procedures.

Over the next two years I shall bring aspects of academic integrity (and misconduct) work into the BILT environment, starting with a session on contract cheating (“Write my essay for me!”) in February 2019 and continuing with information and support for enhancing and developing academic integrity in schools across the university.

Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Fabienne Vailes

The following post is from Fabienne Vailes, who started her BILT Associateship in September 2018. 

Is it possible to have students who are flourishing and enjoying university and university life without flourishing staff (professional and teaching)? How do we embed wellbeing in the curriculum rather than treating it as a ‘bolt on’ or ‘side activity’?

Hello, I am Fabienne Vailes and I regularly ask these questions to colleagues and peers. I left the University of Bristol in 2005 and returned in 2014. I was taken aback by the changes I noticed. Students seem less able to handle the academic work of university and less able to perform tasks that their peers could carry out nine years ago. My tutees regularly report that their number one stressor is the academic workload. There also seem to be a big difference between students themselves. Whilst two SML students may graduate after four years at university, their experiences can be drastically different. Some thrive whilst others merely survive.

In 2017, I was awarded a BILT Teaching Fellowship to investigate these questions further and to see if the model I developed in my book The Flourishing Student, published in October 2017, can be applied to larger cohorts of students. Since September 2018, I am also a BILT Associate.

I strongly believe that we cannot have a flourishing institution without staff and student wellbeing. Those go hand in hand. I am also convinced that we can create a learning environment and a culture that enhances health, wellbeing. There are very good examples here in the UK (healthy universities) and on the other side of the world (

I am French Language Director in the School of Modern Languages specialising in teaching French Language and Intercultural Competence and Communication. A key part of my role is helping students overcome the daily challenges they are faced with and develop the resilience they need to complete their studies and succeed both academically and in the work place. I hope that my research will shed some light on these questions.


Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Amy Walsh

The following post is from Amy Walsh, who has been a BILT Associate since September 2018. 

For the past five years, I have worked with University of Bristol students, academics and the community to co-create transformative opportunities to develop students’ skills and academic knowledge through their formal and informal curriculum.

Just three percent of the global population attend University, but they fill eighty percent of the world’s leadership positions (Chuck Hopkins, UNESCO Chair). Leading environmentalist David Orr (1994, p. 7) argued that our society and planet are largely threatened by “the results of work by people with BAs, BSs, LLBs, MBAs and PhDs”. Yet higher education continues to fail to equip graduates with the skills and values to overcome the complex global challenges we face (Wood, 2004; Martin & Jucker, 2005; Sterling, 2010; Sterling, 2011). As a BILT Associate I will champion the benefits of students participating in Engaged Learning in the community as part of their curricula.

My role as Bristol Green Capital Liaison Officer is based in the Engaged Learning Team in Public Engagement (RED). I manage the Skills Bridge project which aims to harness the potential of Bristol’s students to solve local and global challenges. I connect community organisations and local businesses with students to solve local and global challenges through Engaged Learning projects where students develop and apply academic theory to real-world practice.

Alongside my role in the Engaged Learning Team, I recently completed the MSc Education (Policy & International Development) programme in the School of Education. This gave me the opportunity to grow my understanding of the theories and philosophies than underpin learning and teaching for sustainable development. As BILT Associate I will work with colleagues from across the University to produce resources to support academics to develop Engaged Learning projects in their programmes.

My first output as a BILT Associate will be a critical literature review of current Engaged Learning theories and practice across the UK and international HE sector. I will produce a concise summary to be presented at a workshop at the annual BILT festival of learning and teaching. My second output will build on my dissertation work, which will explore the ethics of Engaged Learning. Investigating how we can ensure Engaged Learning projects are mutually meaningful and beneficial for students and community partners


Martin, S. & Jucker, R., 2005. Educating Earth-literate Leaders. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 29(1), pp. pp. 19-29.

Orr, D., 1994. Earth in Mind: In Edication, Environment and the Human Prospect. Washington DC: Island Press.

Sterling, S., 2010. Sustainability Education: Perspectives and Practice across Higher Education. London: Taylor & Francis.

Sterling, S., 2011. Transformative learning and sustainability: sketching the conceptual ground. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Volume 5, pp. 17-33.

Wood, E. J., 2004. Problem-Based Learning: Exploiting Knowledge of How People Learn to Promote Effective Learning. Bioscience Education E-Journal, 3(1), pp. 1-12.

Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Sian Harris

The following post is from Sian Harris, who has been a BILT Associate since September 2018. 

I am the Director of Teaching and Digital Learning in the department of English, where I am responsible for our undergraduate degree programme, as well as teaching first year academic skills and co-ordinating the final year dissertation. I am a Fellow of the HEA, and have previously held posts at the University of Exeter and Newcastle University.

As a relatively recent arrival to Bristol (I took up my post in September 2017), my first encounter with BILT came when researching ahead of my job interview and trying to make sure I’d gathered as much information as possible about the university I hoped to join! I was intrigued by the premise of this newly dedicated learning and teaching institute, and the forum it could provide for interdisciplinary discussion, and so I’m particularly pleased to have the chance to take part in those conversations as a BILT Associate.

My first project will focus on assessment and digital learning, as I pilot a different type of assessment – a collaborative online project – on my new second-year special subject ‘Concise Crime’ (a study of detective fiction and the short story). Here, the associateship has been a welcome prompt to think critically about introducing and developing the assessment element, and the ways in which the design might be shared with and improved by discussion with colleagues across the university.

Alongside this case-study, I intend to build on a longstanding interest in peer feedback and undergraduate research communities. I am keen to investigate the possibility of a student peer network dedicated to academic writing, and to explore how this specific focus might map onto existing peer and academic skills support.

Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Imogen Moore

The following post is from Imogen Moore, who became a BILT Associate in September 2018.

My current position as Education Director in the Law School affords me the privilege of overseeing programmes delivered to over 1800 law students, including an annual intake of over 400 undergraduates.

When I started teaching in law such numbers would have been incomprehensible: a rueful smile crosses my face when I think back to training courses where ‘large-group’ teaching envisaged 50-100 students. Increased numbers bring challenges beyond the obvious ones of administration, space and student and staff wellbeing. How we can successfully engage such a large and diverse student body, how we can continue to offer high-quality and appropriate academic support, and how can we best enable effective transition to university level study for these students? And cohort size is only one of many factors to bear in mind in relation to our changed, and changing, student intake. Students’ prior educational experiences may well be very different from that we ourselves experienced, as may be their learning habits and social norms. Current students may have different concerns to those we held (as well, no doubt, as many of the same) and very different, and generally much higher, expectations. These issues are not of course unique to my own discipline of law.

Exploring these questions, and in so doing trying to find ways of effectively supporting transition and academic development, will be the focus of my associateship in BILT. Within that broad scope I will be looking at how student voice might be used to bridge possible communication gaps to enhance transition, support and learning; how best to support academic development through the degree programme (linking to long-held and ongoing interests in assessment and feedback), and the impact of pre-university study in the degree subject area on transition, attainment and student experience.

Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Steffi Zegowitz

The following post is from Steffi Zegowitz, who has been a BILT Associate since September 2018.

I have been a Senior Teaching Associate at the School of Mathematics since 2016. I currently teach `Introductions to Proofs’ (formerly known as Foundations and Proof), a large first year undergraduate course in pure mathematics. When I first taught Foundations and Proof in 2016, I realised that students often struggle with the transition from A Level mathematics to university level pure mathematics. I have found technology to be a valuable tool in aiding with this transition, so my work with BILT focuses on using technology in teaching.

In mathematics, students learn by doing, so the more familiar students become with mathematical definitions and the mathematical language, the easier that transition becomes. While in my first year of teaching Foundations and Proof, students were purely assessed via an exam, in my second year of teaching in 2017, I successfully introduced online quizzes as a second form of assessment. Being assessed, these quizzes `force’ students to engage with the lecture material early on, making them more familiar with mathematical definitions and the mathematical language. Feedback to these quizzes has been positive. As a matter of fact, they are now being adopted by the vast majority of first year undergraduate mathematics courses. So my first project with BILT focuses on evaluating the use of online quizzes as a form of assessment in pure mathematics.

Another way of easing that transition is to engage students via interactive lessons. Interaction is not necessarily an easily achievable task, especially when it comes to teaching a large group of students, such as in Foundations and Proof. This is where audience response systems prove to be a useful teaching tool since it actively engages students with the course material. Since the voting system is anonymous, it encourages interaction – students who may otherwise be afraid to speak out in front of their peers are more motivated to interact anonymously. This in turn engages them with the course material, which in turn may ease that transition. So for my second project with BILT, I would like to evaluate the use of the Audience Response System PollEverywhere as a form of engagement, specifically in large group teaching of mathematics.