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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.

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Insights from attending UWE’s Festival of Learning for an afternoon

The following post was written by Emilie Poletto-Lawson, a BILT Fellow and Educational Developer in Academic Staff Development.

The Academic Practice Directorate at the University of the West of England (UWE) is the equivalent of Academic Staff Development[  team at the University of Bristol. They organised a week-long winter festival of learning [] after the success of their one day Learning and Teaching Conference which started in 2011. This year, they aimed to “create a buzz about Learning and Teaching to coincide with the NSS survey”. I attended one afternoon but it was fantastic to see students and staff come together to share their enthusiasm for learning and teaching.

The first half of the afternoon was entitled “Fresh approaches to T&L – A session in our new laundry space to get you inspired” led by Dr Laura Bennett (Associate director – academic practice directorate). The session included members of staff that delivered sessions in the new ‘laundry room’ as well as students that were attending sessions there but who were also using the room for extra-curricular activities.

I valued the opportunity to visit the Glenside campus of the University of the West of England to discover the laundry  room. At a time when a lot of thinking is going into teaching spaces in our University (BILT symposium June 2018 , BILT fellows working on space and design of Temple Quarter) it is always enriching to see what colleagues are experimenting with.

Before telling you about the presentation, let me tell you about the room. When we came in, it was a big empty space. I must say it had a medical feel to it, very white, sink at the back, metal shelves, not a warm atmosphere but perfect for its intended purpose: “a practical learning space for trainee optometrists, paramedics and occupational therapy students”. The facilitators were coming straight from another session on the other side of the campus so we had to build our classroom which was in itself a nice way to feel like we belonged and it was our space.

The room can be described as a “connected classroom”. There are four screens on both side walls, connected to a keyboard that enables students to use the screen as a group and it is also possible for the facilitator to show the main screen on all screens or to display the students’ screen on the main screen/all the screens. If you were able to attend a session during the digital classroom roadshow two years ago (June 2017) the set up was very similar apart from the fact that the tables were not fixed to the floor.

As the idea was to experience the technical aspect of the room we built our on wheels foldable table next to the screen and sat on high stools (not very easy if you have short legs like me) ready to roll. As I managed to sit down I realised my bag was quite far down from me on the floor and I had nowhere to put my coat. I was also quite far from the front as the room can open on both sides to create an even bigger space so the screens are at the back. Having moved the weekend before it did not take long for my back to start hurting but I was not quite sure what to do when another lady voiced the same issue and was given the option to grab a heavy chair instead of the stool. It was good to have an option but the chair was considerably lower creating some difficulties if you wanted to work from the table. Final hurdle for me as a non-native speaker, a fan covered the voices of speakers that did not use a microphone and it was a real strain to keep up.

However, despite all that, I still think it was a great workshop because it was about possibilities, about teaching differently and the space supporting your approach and ideas rather than limiting you. If you came into the room and lectured for three hours just talking at students, you would be missing the huge opportunities the toom has to offer to make your students more active, to encourage and facilitate group work, peer learning etc.

Laura Bennett introduced the aim of the session and presented key ideas from the literature regarding space and concluded that “Space should be what you need it to be”. The next speaker was Liz Reilly (Senior lecturer, social work) whose presentation “The Laundry in action – pitfalls and possibilities” gave a very engaging insight into the use of the room. Liz was very positive regarding the possibilities the room offered for learning and teaching:

  • Create groups based on theme 
  • Carousel approach – screens act as flipchart 
  • Moving from one table to the next made the students were very active 

However, she also picked up on the inclusivity issues I mentioned earlier and some other practical aspects.

  • Inclusion: comfort, high tables are a problem for people who cannot spent too much time on a stool and for wheelchairs, far away so lip read or hearing impairment 
  • Booking of the room, paperwork involved
  • Groups complained they could not hear what the lecturer said to specific groups 
  • Finally, being faced with one of her students lying on the floor to do back exercises despite the active approach she had in place was definitely not an outcome she expected.

Here are her pieces of advice:

  • Play around in the room 
  • Play around with what you are doing 
  • Log in ahead of your session and test everything: screens, keyboards, etc. 
  • Have a conversation with people managing the room 
  • Get feedback from students 
  • Get someone to observe you 

The following presentation, “Simulation: the Laundry as Emergency Room” byAimee Hilton (Senior Lecturer, Adult Nursing) took the original idea behind the design of the room and took it quite a few steps further. She transformed the Laundry into an emergency room treating the victims of a mass casualty event for paramedics, radiographers and nurses students. Drama students joined students paramedics, radiographers and nurses from other years to play the roles of patients. She also involved journalists students whose aim was to get as much in the way as possible journalists would should such an event take place. The university security team, fire brigade and ambulance crew also joined in to add to the realism of the situation. Did I mention professional make-up? Now, I must admit I would have loved to be a fly on the wall. The feedback from the students was extremely positive. It was very interesting that the hardest part of the planning was recruiting enough actors. I particularly liked the multi-disciplinary approach of the project.

The last presentation was by three students from the pre-hospital simulation society who study in the room but also used it for one of their events. The society provides “student led learning with the aim to facilitate realistic quality simulations to improve clinical competency and confidence within student Paramedics”. The Laundry is only one example of location, they have created simulations in a car, outside, during freshers’ fair etc. The idea is to design simulations of rare situations so that students are better prepared should it ever happen to them in their professional life. Each simulation is followed by a debrief at the end looking at what went well, what the literature says about such a situation etc. Their enthusiasm and commitment were exemplary.

Finally, Laura Bennet concluded the session with a tour of the side rooms and suggestions of technology to use to make your teaching more interactive. If you have attended CREATE workshops, you will recognize a few of those:

I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend the event and I feel I have learnt a lot. For me the main take away is that we need to make the space work for us and to be mindful of who will be in the room and how accessible out teaching as well as the room are.