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ABC Learning Design: presentations and Q&A at UCL

Emilie Poletto-Lawson is an Educational Developer (based in Academic Staff Development) and a BILT fellow working on the BILT theme of inclusive assessment. 

This blog of a follow up from the blog post “ABC Learning design: workshop at UCL” which presented how the ABC Learning Design approach works. In this post, we will explore how colleagues at other institutions are using the kit.

First of all, many thanks to Clive Young and Nataša Perović for giving away a complete kit to all participants. It was extremely useful when reflecting back on the day. It is worth noting that all the ABC resources are available on line under a Creative Commons licence Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

Here is what the kit looks like:

This photo shows the content of the kit: “Tweet and Share” document, set of cards, document with additional activities, blue tack, stickers, a blank action plan, a guide on how to run the workshop and a recap document.

I personally find the material very inviting and a great testimony to the hard work of all involved. After our hands-on session, Clive and Nataša opened the second half of the morning with a history of the project and update on what it is now and where it is being used. This was then followed by presentations by colleagues from other institutions who shared their take on the method.

Gill Ritchie and Ben Audley from Queen Mary, University of London

First of all, Gill Ritchie from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), presented how the ABC for Learning Design has become part of their PGCert Academic Practice programme. In the module “Teaching with learning technologies ”, participants are introduced to the technology wheel and a set of amended cards that contain the technology available at QMUL. They are then expected to design an online activity by December, that they then try out between January and April before writing up their reflection on how it went for their PGCAP.

The image is the technology wheel created by the ABC team based on the 6 learning types. Available here.

The updated version of the wheel by QMUL aims at highlighting what is available and supported by experts within the institution while being less daunting than the pedagogy Wheel Model  developed by Allan Carrington based on Bloom’s taxonomy that can be seen as offering an overwhelming amount of options. The University of Reading also created its own version (link  here ).

The wheel and activity types cards from the ABC kit are used with participants to discuss possibilities within their teaching leading to what sounded like fruitful conversations. If you are interested in finding out which technological tools the University of Bristol supports, you can contact the Digital Education team .

Gill’s presentation was then followed by her colleague’s, Ben Audsley, dental electronic resources manager in the School of Dentistry at QMUL. Ben supported lecturers with the transition of a module on dental public health to be fully online for distance learning. His approach was to look at the topics for each week and to then think about the technology that could be introduced to support learning. He used the kit focusing on the online suggestion of activities. It was interesting to note that his biggest challenge was to keep staff on track.

Luke Cox from the London School of Economics

Luke Cox, from the London School of economics, introduced a very interesting element in the process: using a critical friend. His presentation was on designing distance learning process and the way he approached it was to request having the course designer and a critical friend together to work and reflect on the design. He identified, actually, getting that critical friend in the same room at the same time as the designer as the biggest challenge.

Arthur Wadsworth, Moira E Sarsfield, Shireen Lock and Jessica Cooper from Imperial College London

The presentation by colleagues from Imperial College London was a great follow up to Luke’s as further to the critical friend, they suggested involving graduate teaching assistant (GTA). I believe this would be a fantastic opportunity to give GTAs a voice and to make them feel more strongly part of the community so long as their time is compensated and at an appropriate point of their studies. Colleagues at Imperial identified that lecturers and teaching fellows are not ready for the 25% module transformation in engineering objective they have. They also added a “fixed approach to teaching and learning” as a key issue. Their solution is to show a sign of remission from leadership around the area of workload and availability.   

Peter Roberts from Goldsmiths, University of London

Peter Roberts from Goldsmiths, University of London, adapted the cards so that instead of names of activities they list verbs. He then adapted the concept to an online activity on Trello , creating a deck with the learning activities (acquisition, collaboration…) to then drag and drop to create their design online.

This image shows an example of Trello to plan your weeks of teaching. Thank you to Peter Roberts for sharing this screen capture.

He also recommended the use of “Learning Designer ” developed by Laurillard at UCL, originally for school teachers.

Another online approach was mentioned in the questions following the presentation. The University of Lincoln has developed “Digital Learning Recipes” to support staff with the technological side of the design. The website gives examples of activity for each learning type and it is then followed by extra resources on the tools available and guides to use them.

And those were just lessons learnt from the morning!

Many thanks to Clive Young and Nataša Perović for sharing the ABC learning design and providing a kit to take home as well as inviting colleagues from other institutions to share their take on the method. It was a very insightful day and I look forward to finding out what’s next.

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ABC Learning Design: Workshop at UCL

Emilie Poletto-Lawson is an educational developer (based in Academic Staff Development) and a BILT Fellow working on the BILT theme of inclusive assessment. 

If you are at the stage of reviewing how the year went or planning next years teaching, the ABC Learning Design  approach might be for you.

This blog post will share how the ABC Learning Design method works. A second blog post will share how colleagues at other institutions are already using the approach.

An only slightly delayed train journey got me right on time to start a workshop on the ABC Learning Design kit designed by Clive Young and Nataša Perović at University College London. No time to sit back, our two hosts, full of energy, guided us through a 90-minute session in just an hour. Clive and Nataša ran through the different steps of the process at the speed of light to ensure we would have time to try it out. Each table chose a programme lead wanting to design or review their course and off we all went!

First step

The first step of the method is to complete the “Tweet and Shape” document.

This is a photo of the ‘Tweet and Shape’ document described below.

You start with completing information regarding your programme. Your first challenge is to fit the description of your module/unit in the size of a tweet (140 characters). Your students should be able to understand what your module is about by just reading this and ideally wanting to sign up for the course if it is optional. This was the hardest part for our group!

You then reflect on where you are/want to be when it comes to the different learning activities. To help you, you can look at the cards, on the front, there is an explanation of what the type means and, on the back, examples of activities. It is worth noting that the activities are listed according to their digital or non-digital nature supporting your reflexion about developing a blended approach.

This is a photo of an example of the cards found in the kit as described below.

Finally, you need to reflect on how blended your course is/will be. How much is taking place online and how much face-to-face. You then put this aside and look at your course week by week and populate it with the different learning types activity cards. For example: week 1 could be Acquisition followed by Discussion; week 2 could be Investigation, Collaboration, Production and so on and so forth.

This is a photo showing the different cards lined up to represent the content of week 1 and week 2 as described above.

Once you are happy with the shape of your weeks, you can turn the cards over and look more precisely at the types of activities you would do. You then tick the relevant box(es) and you can also add your own.

This is a photo showing the different cards lined up on the other side, listing types of learning activities.

Nothing is set in stone for your redesign and you can make as many changes as you see fit.

Last step

Your last step for the design is to think of assessment. Do you have any formative assessments? If so, you can stick a silver star next to the ticked box. You will do the same with summative assessment, but the star will be gold. At this stage it is worth taking a step back to reflect on the student’s experience. What is the timing like? Will they have other assessments at the same time as yours? Will they have enough time to use feedback to improve if you have formative assessments built in your course? Are the activities and assessments aligning with your learning outcomes?

Once you have done all this, you go back to your “Tweet and Shape” that you completed in red originally and go through all the steps again with a blue pen to identify which changes, if any, you have made.

Optional step

Clive and Nataša added another stage which we did not have time to do in the workshop but that I find extremely valuable. During that last stage you could use more stickers to identify when the different learning outcomes are being achieved throughout the weeks. They also suggested identifying how your module/unit fits in with the university education strategy.

Conclusion

To me, this approach is extremely valuable as it gives you a very practical tool to design/review your unit/module/programme making sure you include activities that will be varied and encompass the different learning types that are key to students’ success. It is also a good way to reflect on the place of assessment on your course and more generally on your programme.

I can see real value in using the ABC learning design method with your colleagues during an away day to gain an overview of what your students experience is throughout the different modules they attend. A nice way of getting that overview, as suggested by our facilitators, is for colleagues to “promenade” in the room looking at all the designs. I also believe it would go extremely well with the TESTA project.

Many thanks to Clive Young and Nataša Perović for sharing the ABC learning design and providing a kit to take home. It was a very insightful workshop and I look forward to trying the kit out.