Meet the BILT Student Fellows, News

Hackathon is go!

This week saw the start of our student hackathon, kicking off with two days of training and practice in digital storytelling, leading up to a showcase of the students’ own stories. Eva, Sam, Alex, and Samia share their reflections on the process.

Stories are the way in which we share things about ourselves, make sense of the world, and remember key moments in our lives. In our first two days, we utilised stories to share pieces of ourselves, to get to know one another and to warm ourselves up to telling some of the many stories which make up the university of Bristol.

Image showing people sitting round a camp fire.
Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

We were prompted into telling our stories through visual images, a task which at first seemed daunting in a room of people who up to a few hours ago were complete strangers. But through looking at some of the random pictures during the workshop, we found a spark and started to weave a story. The activity allowed us to put our creative hats on, in some cases for the first time in a while.

As for so many tasks, the hardest bit of writing a story is putting pen to blank sheet of paper. We tried a technique called free writing to get over this – spend 3 minutes just writing, not worrying about how good it is or self-editing, but just getting it down. Sounds awful, but in fact takes the pressure off, and we were all out of the starting gates!

The two days included both creative thinking and technological hands-on practice. We all found it hard to balance the ideal with the achievable, but even though our digital videos may not have been polished, we were amazed how well everyone’s story shone through. Thinking about how to structure and present a story has given us an impetus to explore and communicate experiences.

We were struck by how many educational issues and challenges were highlighted in our collective stories – think how many more there are in every lecture hall and lab across the university. It reminded us how important the student engagement work of the hackathon is, looking at some key issues for the university with that multifaceted student perspective.

The whole experience so far has been fun, interesting, unexpected, and enjoyable. We’ve connected with each other in novel ways, and the next four weeks don’t seem so daunting any more. We’re excited to see what Monday brings.

Meet the BILT Student Fellows

Meet the Student Fellows… Corrie Macleod

We asked our Student Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT role. The following blog is from Corrie Macleod, who has been a BILT Student Fellow since December 2018.

My name is Corrie Macleod and I am a new Student Fellow working with BILT! I am a final year Masters of Liberal Arts student majoring in Anthropology. After my degree, I hope to pursue an interdisciplinary research project examining the representation of transcultural identity and race in contemporary fiction. I first wanted to get involved with BILT to feel more engaged with my university community and to learn bout about the pedagogical structure of tertiary education.

During my time at Bristol, I found that my most memorable learning experiences in the classroom always involved a dynamic relationship between my peers and my lecturers. The perfect recipe for an enriching learning experience would strike a balance between sharing and absorbing new knowledge of disciplines and subjects, and having dynamic and engaging conversations with students who shared the same academic curiosity and interests that I do.

As a student fellow, I will be working on Project 3- ‘Empowering Students to Impact their Teaching and Learning’ – with my colleague (and friend) Phoebe Graham. Having just come back from our year abroad, we hope to bring fresh, new and international (!) perspectives on education. Through our project, we would like to learn and understand: i) How we can help students gain more authorship over their degrees and ii) How can we enhance their university experience to make it an enriching academic experience?

From inter-faculty film nights, to cross-disciplinary lecture series and to interactive social media postings, we hope to get students to feel more engaged with their community and to encourage them to learn beyond the scope of their degree in an innovative and entertaining manner. We hope to investigate the intricacies of tertiary education to finally understand: what part can students play in shaping the future of academia?

Meet the BILT Student Fellows

Meet the Student Fellows… Lisa Howarth

We asked our Student Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT role. The following blog is from Lisa Howarth, who has been a BILT Student Fellow since December 2018.

I am currently studying for a MSc in Education and Neuroscience, which combines my interest in brain development with my career in primary school teaching. I am passionate about education as a means towards social justice and have taught in the UK, Hong Kong and California. In San Diego I taught a project-based curriculum, with a focus on equity, personalisation, authentic work and collaborative design. The level of student engagement was extremely high and their creativity, confidence and sense of social responsibility was inspiring. Although these children were accustomed to an innovative inquiry-based curriculum, where they were accountable for their learning and could think critically, they struggled when attending university.

The gulf between teaching in primary and secondary schools and teaching at university was particularly apparent to me after returning to higher education as a student after a break of several years. I believe that higher education should encourage and facilitate critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration, and that teaching spaces should reflect and inspire an evolving pedagogy. For this reason, I am very excited to be working on the project ‘Making the most of our teaching spaces’ as a Student Fellow.

I hope to gather views from a range of staff and students about their experiences and expectations of teaching spaces at the university, to encourage conversations around a changing pedagogy and to give students and staff a sense of ownership over their spaces. When undertaking this project, I would like to gain inspiration from the use of space in other teaching and work environments, inquire into a range of perspectives about current teaching spaces and to gather views on the future of teaching spaces, both physical and virtual. I look forward to working with many of you in the future!

Meet the BILT Student Fellows

Meet the Student Fellows… Johannes Schmiedecker

We asked our Student Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT role. The following blog is from Johannes Schmiedecker, who has been a BILT Student Fellow since December 2018.

Hi!

My name is Johannes Schmiedecker, I come from the beautiful country of Austria, where I studied law at the University of Vienna. In finished my degree in June 2018 and in September, I moved to Bristol and now study the LLM programme European Legal Studies here at the University of Bristol.

Studying European law in the UK in those times might not be everyone’s first choice but I find it interesting to see the Brexit debate from the British point of view. And, who knows, what will happen it the next months. Apart from studying I enjoy exploring the city, travel around in England and use the sports facilities at the University as well as engaging in different societies. The openness and friendliness of the Bristolians really surprised me in a positive way and I enjoy living here. I want to use this (probably) last year as a student for improving my language skills, get to know different people from around the world and learn as much as possible before I will start working.

I got appointed as a Student Fellow for Project 4, which is researching BILTs new theme. In this position, I will, among other things, do research about how we can improve learning and teaching by analysing the big amount of information that is collected. I find this a great opportunity to explore new digital technologies and how they might be useful in the academic environment. One thing that I would like to focus on is Big Data. The huge sums of information that are collected nowadays could be used effectively to improve the teaching and learning atmosphere. Doing research in this field is new to me, as I come from a legal background, but I am very excited in exploring new areas.

Meet the BILT Student Fellows

Meet the Student Fellows… Zoe Backhouse

We asked our Student Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT role. The following blog is from Zoe Backhouse, who has been a BILT Student Fellow since December 2018.

My name is Zoe Backhouse. I’m a fourth year Liberal Arts student newly appointed as a BILT Student Fellow. I’ll be working on a project called Improving Students’ Understanding of Assessment.

This marks my fifth year trying to shake up education practice here, which either makes me an education practice nerd or suggests there’s a lot to change at Bristol. Just kidding! I love Bristol Uni 😊.

When I started in 2014 I needed a part-time job and overheard that the Students’ Union was a great place to look (its Living Wage Employer status meant high £££ for first years). By my second week, I’d landed a role as an Administration Assistant with the Educational Representation team. Without realising, I’d found a passion. I worked with student reps and academics from across the University, supporting them to challenge the curriculum and change degrees from the grassroots. Inspired, I went on to become a course rep, a faculty rep and then took a year out after second year to work as the Undergraduate Education Officer.

I learned a huge amount over those three years. I encountered diverse opinions and practices and, although overwhelming, this taught me that there was no one way to experience this University. Despite the difference, there was something that became consistent to me – whether it was as a high or a low, most students’ time was defined in some way by their experience of assessment.

Just as I began to develop a detailed picture of student needs and was putting together a manifesto for the University to help address this time-old problem, my term ended at the Students’ Union and I had to go to McGill University in Montreal, Canada for my year abroad. What a shame!

I ended up having probably the best year of my life there. Although this was of course because I was in one of North America’s most exciting cities, I have to be honest in saying that the year was special in what it gave me educationally.

Suddenly I was at a University where I wasn’t just studying disciplines I’d encountered in school. I was being educated in Indigenous Studies, Jewish Studies, learning about contemporary Canadian history through Fine Art and historic Islamic law through English Literature. I was assessed through volunteering, creative writing, building real-life grant bids for a project I’d set up in the city, and, yes, through formal research papers. I felt I’d never learned so much in my life.

Coming back to Bristol, a university with many of the same qualities and challenges as McGill, I saw only opportunity in terms of where we can go. I love what BILT does and think it’s already had a huge effect in supporting academics to take risks with their teaching practice and experiment with whole new concepts in Higher Education.

Now I’d like to see how this applies to students. What is the potential of us co-creating assessment? How can we cross disciplinary boundaries and be assessed on, or even beyond, our programme? And, perhaps most importantly to me personally, how can we understand our mental health in the context of our learning and assessment (not just in the context of support services)?

Prepare for focus groups, debates and more blogs over the word limit. I can’t wait to start!

 

Meet the BILT Student Fellows

Meet the Student Fellows… Phoebe Graham

We asked our Student Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT role. The following blog is from Phoebe Graham, who has been a BILT Student Fellow since December 2018.

My name’s Phoebe (or Phoebs, or any form of creative variation) and I am one of BILT’s wonderful student fellows for this academic year. I am a final year Liberal Arts student majoring in English Literature, and I have recently returned from a year abroad at McGill University in the freezing but heart-warming landscapes of Montréal, Canada.

I will be working on Project Three: Empowering Students to Impact their Teaching and Learning alongside fellow #LiberalArtist Corrie Macleod, under the wise guidance of Professor Tansy Jessop. In this role, I hope to be a part of the amazing effort that BILT is undertaking to improve both student and staff experience at the University, helping to make a space which can facilitate academic curiosity as well as emotional empowerment.

When I first came to the University as a very young, wide-eyed and terrified 18-year-old, I found the emotional transition from Secondary School to Higher Education a tricky track to tread. I felt like the comforting rug of home life had been pulled from underneath me, and I was free-falling for a good few months before I started to find my feet again. I found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that, even in a space filled with so many students, I could feel so lonely. I couldn’t develop a sense of pride or attachment to the University, because I didn’t feel like a valued or empowered member of its community. Rather than coming out of a shell, I found myself building one up for myself *emotional string quartet plays.*

But in my third year studying abroad, I was able to use the environmental change to critically engage with my time in Higher Education up until this point. Now I return to the vibrant city and University of Bristol both reinvigorated and hoping to commit my voice to the academic and pastoral development of the University through combining theoretical and practical research methods. I am also just a large lover of people and learning of, and from, other people’s perspectives. I am ready to use my well-developed skills of combined coffee-drinking and communication to engage with the wider student body and an array of staff in order to create a vibrant and cohesive academic community.

In my spare time, I can be found listening to Leonard Cohen, writing about theatre, thinking about the overlaps of the arts and activism, reading stories, preaching the value of interdisciplinary education, attempting to sing while playing the piano at the same time and, of course, dancing like a dad.