Head shot of Prof. Bruce Macfarlane

Freedom to Learn at University


Abstract

The student engagement movement has become a worldwide phenomenon and national student engagement surveys are now well-established internationally. Curriculum initiatives closely associated with student engagement policies include compulsory attendance requirements, class contribution grading, group and team working assignments and reflective exercises often linked to professional and experiential learning. These types of initiatives grade students for their ‘time and effort’ and commitment to active and participatory approaches to learning. They are justified largely by reference to improving retention rates and achievement levels. However, these policies have led to practices that constrain the extent to which higher education students are free to make choices about what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. Three forms of student performativity – bodily, participative and emotional – have been created that demand academic non-achievements to be acted out in a public space. A higher education is, almost by definition, intended to be about adults engaging in a voluntary activity but the performative turn in the nature of student learning is undermining student rights as learners – to non-indoctrination, reticence, choosing how to learn, and being trusted as an adult – and perverting the Rogerian meaning of ‘student-centred’. This presentation will be based on arguments presented in a recent book entitled Freedom to Learn (Routledge, 2017).

Bio

Bruce Macfarlane is professor of higher education, Head of the School of Education at the University of Bristol, UK and distinguished visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. He has previously held chairs at a number of universities in the UK and Hong Kong. Bruce’s publications have developed concepts related to values in higher education such as academic freedom, the ethics of research and teaching, the service role, and academic leadership. His books include Freedom to Learn (2017), Intellectual Leadership in Higher Education (2012), Researching with Integrity (2009), The Academic Citizen (2007) and Teaching with Integrity (2004).

Photograph of Mike Neary

Teamwork: Students as Producers



Abstract

Student as Producer was established at the University of Lincoln in 2010 to embed research-engaged teaching as the organising principle for teaching and across the institution. This approach to research-engaged teaching was informed by critical theory, critical pedagogy and popular education. Mike Neary will talk about the practical and conceptual issues involved with implementing Student as Producer at Lincoln. He will go on to discuss the way in the pedagogic model is being used to create a new framework for higher education in the form of a co-operative university.

Bio

Mike Neary is Professor of Sociology at the University of Lincoln. He was the Dean of Teaching and Learning at Lincoln 2007-2014. Before working at Lincoln Mike taught Political Sociology at the University of Warwick (1994-2007). He is a National Teaching Fellow (since 2007) and Principal Fellow (since 2016) of the Higher Education Academy. In 2014 Mike was made an honorary life member of Lincoln’s Students’ Union for his work with students. He is a founder member of the Social Science Centre, a co-operative organising no-fee higher education in Lincoln.

News

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.

Thumbnail image of Humphrey Bourne

“Write my essay for me!”: Rising to the Challenge of Contract Cheating


Abstract
Reported incidents of ‘contract cheating’ or ghost writing are increasing along with the number of ‘essay mills’ – the providers of bought essays, projects and even dissertations – whose marketing is becoming ever more sophisticated.  In this seminar, we will explore the extent, nature and responses to this threat to academic integrity before suggesting ways in which we can alert and inform students and staff, counter the threat, and develop ways of minimising the occurrence of contract cheating in assessment.

Bio
Humphrey Bourne is Education Director (PGT) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law.  He teaches strategy in the School of Economics, Finance and Management and his research focuses on values in and around organizations, extending into research in organizational identity.  He chaired the University working group on academic integrity and misconduct, reporting in October 2017, and has since been closely involved in the implementation of its recommendations.

Teaching Spaces Workshop (pm)

Description

Students, come along and have your say on the future of physical and virtual teaching spaces at the University of Bristol! As universities move towards more active learning, teaching spaces are becoming more flexible and adaptable, with traditional lecture theatres being redesigned to facilitate group discussion and collaboration. Technology is becoming better integrated into teaching spaces and students are expected to engage with online learning environments and participate in class via Apps. With all of these changes taking place, it is important that your views are heard! Should we get rid of lecture theatres? Should digital learning replace face-to-face teaching? Should libraries be updated to allow for group work and collaboration? This workshop will involve a range of short activities designed to elicit your views on how you would like teaching spaces to look in the future. Come prepared to talk, draw, drink coffee and eat cake! Bring friends! As a thank you, all participants will receive a £5 Amazon voucher. Spaces are limited!

Organiser

Lisa Howarth is a Student Fellow, studying at the University of Bristol and working for the Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching (BILT) to gather student perspectives on teaching spaces.

Head shot of Sian Bayne

Near Future Teaching

Abstract

Within universities there is a growing trend to apply futures and design thinking to our teaching and learning, often as a way of understanding how digital shifts are affecting education. These initiatives tend to be characterised by their focus on speculative, big ideas, and by collaborative approaches which engage with as wide a group of people as possible.

At The University of Edinburgh we are applying ‘futures’ work to digital education: our aim is to enable a wide conversation to take place among students and staff around how we would like to see digital education grow over the coming decades, and from that to build a vision for the university which balances technological change with the values of our academic and student body.

In this talk I will describe how we are going about this project, and will share some of the project outputs and ideas. I will explore some of the key themes which are emerging – including the ‘hollowing out’ of the campus, automation of teaching, creativity and diversity – and speculate on the implications of these for how we plan our digital futures.

Bio

Sian Bayne is Professor of Digital Education and Assistant Principal for Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh. Based in the Centre for Research in Digital Education, her research is currently focused on open and distance education and the application of theory from the humanities and social sciences to digital education. More information about her work is on her web site at: http://sianbayne.net

digital education office logo

Learning Games #2

If you’ve ever used games in your teaching, wondered how, or want to hear what other people are doing, come along to the latest Learning Games lunch on the 17th January between 1-2pm. This event is a chance to share your plans, get ideas and meet others who are interested in the topic.

This event does not require booking, but as lunch is provided we would be grateful if you could email Suzi Wells to let us know you intend to come. We will let you know the location of the event upon your email. 

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?

News

Update on the ‘Rethinking Spaces’ theme

Since the launch of the ‘Rethinking Spaces’ theme in June 2018, several things are going on.

The ‘Teaching Space Principles’ were formally signed off in October and are now available to be used as a guide when refurbishing or building new teaching spaces.  The ‘Teaching Space Principles’ are as follows, though you can read a fuller version via this blog post.

  1. Teaching spaces will allow all students to actively engage with content through appropriate design and technologies that support multiple modes of teaching[1]. The learning that takes place in these spaces will be accessible to all students
  2. . The University will foster a welcoming environment for students beyond timetabled teaching activities, to include social, learning and recreational spaces so that students’ experience of time spent at the University is coherent and integrated and supports their well-being.
  3. Teaching and learning environments will encourage active collaborative interactions between students.  Peer learning, multi-disciplinarity, in large or small groups, through and with technology, will be key to supporting students to create, develop and extend their own understandings and learning activities.  Teaching spaces should therefore be designed to an appropriate size to allow for meaningful and comfortable interaction.
  4. Our teaching and learning spaces will allow interaction between teachers, students and others, and will thereby encourage the active facilitation of student learning.  This learning environment will be flexible, incorporate appropriate technologies, and have space to move around in by staff and students.
  5. Teaching and learning spaces should be designed using the best current evidence-based practice and flexible enough to allow for emerging and future pedagogies.

Two of our BILT Fellows are focusing on teaching space. James Norman, a senior teaching fellow in Engineering and Christian Spielmann, a Reader in Economics, are both exploring the relationship between space and learning, though from different slants – James is looking at physical space design and Christian is looking at Bristol Futures and how his open unit uses digital space. Both have published blog posts, which can be found here. We have also appointed a student fellow, Lisa Howarth to explore this theme – her introductory blog post can be found here.

We are working on the links between pedagogies, physical and digital space.  To this end we are developing strategic plans to work with interested schools wishing to move to more active styles of teaching, learning and assessment and the link to the design of classrooms.  This brings together members of BILT, Digital Education Office (DEO), and AQPO. A pilot workshop was help with member of the School of Management and more are planned.

The inaugural meeting of the Learning Environment Committee (LEC) has been held.  This committee will take strategic oversight for advising the University on teaching and learning space.

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.