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!

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.

News

The A-Ha Moment

The following blog was written by James Norman, a Senior Lecturer in Engineering and a BILT Fellow. 

I am sure we have all been there, it’s the Monday before the start of term and as we do the final preparation and look at the time table for next week we notice that we don’t recognise the room number where we are teaching. As a matter of fact, we don’t recognise the building either. As an engineer I have taught in most buildings from the arts faculty to Maths to biomedical sciences. Every building has its own character (I particularly enjoy walking past jars full of animal parts and large skeletons, I feel like I am at the Natural History museum), and its own set of distinctive teaching spaces. Standing up to lecture for the first time there is an A-Ha moment. If I had known a few months ago I was teaching in here I would have done this differently. Of course, I could have checked the space out before hand (I always do, as well as sweet talking the porters of the building into accepting large bowed of my printed notes) but something about the moment you stand up to teach brings all the senses alive and makes you think, could I have done this differently.

As a practicing engineer I have spent many years thinking about buildings, drawing them, carrying out calculations. Even now I can describe in intimate detail every aspect of the new building at Oxford Brooks University which I worked on for 5 years. But I can’t imagine what it would be like to stand up and deliver a lecture there. And yet we often expect lecturers and other members of staff to look at the plans of buildings and do exactly that. Or even worse we give them 100’s of pages long technical specifications and expect them to make sense of them and imagine they are teaching in that space.

I would like to explore recreating the A-Ha moment as a tool for helping lectures think about the space they are going to be teaching in and more importantly critique it before it has been constructed. I would like to go one step further and explore whether we can use different virtual spaces to explore teaching and learning and the opportunity for innovation in rethinking space.

Finally, I was recently at a workshop on simulating living on Mars. At this workshop, organised by Professor Lucy Berthoud and Ella and Nicki, two artists who plan to live in a mars simulator for six months, we were discussing sensory deprivation. Many of us in the room assumed that if you wear a VR headset you can fool the body into thinking it is in a large field of corn not a tiny space capsule. However, Dr Ute Leonards pointed out that current research in embodied cognition is looking into whether the body needs full sensory immersion to believe it is somewhere else, that visual simulation is not enough. I am therefore interested whether my idea to create the A-Ha moment to test teaching space will be further enhanced by the smell of new carpet and the babble of excited students looking forward to a whole term of lectures on concrete. Whether the A-Ha moment is enhanced if you really think that you are about to stand up and teach?

For more information on the Mars project see http://www.ellaandnicki.com

If you are interested in helping to create a series of virtual environments or have expertise in the immersive experience please contact James at james.norman@bristol.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

News

The Gap Between Pedagogy and Design

The following blog was written by James Norman, a Senior Teaching Fellow and a BILT Fellow since September 2018. 

For centuries universities have taught in lecture theatres. But the lecture theatre may well soon be a thing of the past. The new lecture theatre is the flat-bed teaching room. Or classroom to anyone who has been to school. The flat-bed teaching room offers many advantages over the lecture theatre. It is flexible. People can re-arrange furniture and work in groups. It removes some of the hierarchy between the teacher and the learner. But are flat bed teaching rooms really the solution to all our problems? Do flat bed teaching spaces really make pedagogical sense?

“Pedagogy needs to be explored through the thinking and practice of those educators who look to accompany learners; care for and about them; and bring learning into life.”

(Mark K. Smith, 2012)

Pedagogy is not about teaching. It is about learning. It is about understanding how people learn and by extension where people learn. I have been learning about pedagogy by reading in a coffee shop. Not in a flat-bed teaching room. I learnt to drive in a car, not in a flat-bed teaching room. We teach dentists the practical skills they need in a mock dentist’s surgery, not in a flat-bed teaching room. But what about lawyers and economists. Archeologists and historians. Where do they learn and how do we design spaces that work for them? So much learning occurs not in the lecture theatre OR the flat bed teaching space. So how do we approach the design of learning spaces and how do we keep pedagogy at the center of this process?

Is the solution rows and rows of flat-bed teaching rooms with movable partitions as suggested by the “Learning Space Rating System” (2017) or is it the use of metaphor to imagine our learning spaces as trees or gardens as advocated by The UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit? Professor Wright from the University of Bath would acknowledge both of these approaches as design strategies in the design of architectural space. But these are just 2 of 14 approaches. And Professor Wright’s approach is just one of many available design methodologies that can be utilized. So the question becomes how can we best combine pedagogy and design methodology to understand how to enhance the learning of our students. I don’t yet know the answers but I am looking forward to learning in unexpected places to try and find a new perspective on placing pedagogy at the heart of designing space.

Mark K. Smith, What is Pedagogy? (2012), http://infed.org/mobi/what-is-pedagogy/ accessed 14/11/18

Malcom Brown et al, Learning Space Rating System, Learning Space Rating System initiative, EDUCAUSE, 2017.

Gill Ferrell, The UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit, Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association.

Alexander Wright, Critical method: A pedagogy for design education, Design Principles and Practices, vol. 5, no. 6, pp. 109-122, 2011.

group of students on round table
News

University of Bristol Teaching Space Principles

Introduction

The principles below are intended to provide a pedagogical framework for the design of teaching and learning spaces. Each of the five principles is oriented towards facilitating active interaction and ensuring flexibility as follows:

  1. The interaction of students with the content or material being learned. Encouraging active, tailored and accessible learning.
  2. The interaction of teaching and learning spaces with social and recreational spaces and the wider environment. Encouraging a cohesive learning experience and promoting well-being.
  3. Interaction between students. Encouraging peer to peer, cooperative and collaborative learning.
  4. Interactions between teachers and students. Encouraging the effective support and facilitation of research-rich learning by teaching and research staff.
  5. Flexibility in relation to current and future pedagogies. Encouraging evidence-based practice and innovation in teaching and learning.

 The Principles

  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.

Notes:

By flexible we mean that there is no fixed furniture or if fixed furniture is used, it must allow for different types of learning activities. That tables and chairs can be moved easily into new and different configurations. Whiteboards will be available on many walls. Technology and charging points will be available for all users of the space.  There will be no fixed lectern, multiple screens will be available.  Storage space (for spare furniture) and storage space for coats, bags etc, will be available.

[1] Finkelstein, A., Ferris, J., Weston, C. & Winer, L (2016) Research-informed principles for (re)designing teaching and learning spaces.  Journal of Learning Spaces, 5 (1) 26-40.

Icons available on the Office 365 package
News

Exploring Microsoft Office 365 for Teaching and Learning

The ‘Exploring Microsoft Office 365 for Teaching and Learning’ event took place on Monday 10th September in Great George Street, and aimed to answer four questions:

  • How would tools for education improve learning, teaching, and experience of students?
  • What innovative practice could be brought in?
  • How would it work for HE and how would it scale?
  • What are the next steps for implementing these tools, in terms of experimentation and learning?

The Current Picture

The session started with review of the relevant strategic picture (BILT, Digital Learning Environment phase 2 and the Digital Workspace Programme, and examples from Bristol of Office and Google tools used for Education.  Mike Cameron from the Digital Education Office discussed their use of:

  • Google Docs to record collaborative group work/workshops. Roger Gardner from the DEO uses this tool as a collaborative scratch pad in workshops. One of the main benefits is that it saves time with sharing ideas in groups. The software runs relatively smoothly when multiple users are adding simultaneously.
  • Google Sheets and Forms to create a peer-review market, in which each student could post work for review, other students could volunteer to review it and the whole thing would run on a points system where students got marks for any reviewing they did and it cost them points to get their work reviewed. Whilst this only made it to the prototype stage, there could be great potential in developing the approach through Office tools in the future.
  • Yammer (part of the Office 365 package) as a channel for communication in the ‘MsC in Strategy, Change and Leadership’. This tool is more appropriate than Facebook though offers similar functionality to that of Facebook.
  • Excel Online (also part of the Office 365 package) to complete collaborative work in classroom and at a distance, with groups of 4 working collectively on a spreadsheet. The plan is for this to run as part of the Bristol Futures optional unit, ‘Inequality, Crisis and Prosperity: How to Make Sense of the Global Economy’, with collaborative work taking place regardless of being in a physical or digital space.
  • Blended learning in Modern Languages (with David Perkins de Oliveira). Most of the ‘blended learning’ has taken place via setting work before class groups. Students give feedback on problems they’ve identified in the pre-work so that the seminar can be tailored to the group’s needs.

A Case Study – OneNote in the Centre for Medical Education

A case study was then presented by Martin van Eker and Jane Williams, from the Centre for Medical Education eLearning team, on their use of OneNote for case-based learning.

You can view the case study here – for further details please contact Martin or Jane.

Office 365 Highlights and Tips

Ian Woolner, the Microsoft Representative, then showed the group the Office 365 Training Center, a place where staff and students can find training videos, PDFs and tip on how to make the most of the Office 365 tools. He highlighted some of the best tools he believed are available as part of the Office 365 package, including:

  • Quick Starter – builds a PPT template based on a web search. It is estimated that 20% of time working on a PPT is on the presentation; Quick Starter does this for you.
  • Translator – translates transcripts and then emailed back to you. This can subtitle live speech, so can support remote learning. Free add on, available now.
  • The Office 365 package complements VLE, but will not replace VLE. It links with Blackboard, in part using a CSV connector to enable Blackboard and Office to integrate.
  • Microsoft are currently consolidating different versions of programmes e.g. Excel Online and Excel Desktop. The interfaces of the online and desktop versions will soon become more similar. He explained that eventually there will only be one version that all will use though it will take approximately 5 years for full functionality to be available on the online versions.

Ian also highlighted Microsoft Teams as a key tool to support the Education agenda at Bristol. The interface for this tool has been vastly improved, making it easier to add and remove members, and with a great deal of added functionality. Some of the benefits Ian listed were; it supports students resolving issues together rather than going to a tutor, and therefore create opportunities for collaborative problem solving. ‘Teams’ also includes: IM and logs the chats (like an Outlook inbox); a calendar; Skype functionality and; details on team members. Get in touch with the Digital Education Office if you’d like to find out more about using Teams with your students.

Moving Forward

The final part of the session considered what will happen next, and how to move the conversations that had taken place forward. By the start of the 2019 academic year, all staff and all students will have access to Office 365 and be using Outlook as their email server (some students are using the Gmail server). In 2018/19 first year students will be using Outlook as their email server. The 2018/19 academic year will be seen as an experimental period in which selected programmes and units can test different tools in order to facilitate learning about functionality/ limitations/ scalability, etc. Both Bristol Futures and the CREATE programme were suggested as places for experimentation.

The Office 365 package can meet a number of benefits the Education Strategy hopes to bring. The availability of tools online means that more online and blended learning can take place, though discussion about how this can be scaled still need to take place. The package also allows for equal access to all students – this supports students from widening participation and alternative route background. Further to this, using tools such as OneNote and Teams also allows for greater personalisation in teaching and creates links between spaces (digital and physical) and the individual.

The package can also support the Bristol Futures curriculum. The work around assessment, pedagogy and Programme Level Assessment, specifically how we can use technology to support inclusive assessment, can also be supported by the use of Office 365. The increased feasibility of online assessment needs to be met with questions about what value is brought by bringing assessment online, and the type of assessments that are used – are they fit for purpose when assessing students on different tasks?

Wider questions were then considered about the use of space in the University and how the Office 365 package, and general technology use, fits into this. The constraints of room bookings and timetabling were brought as a potential issue, as were issues about training.

It is imperative the tools do not drive the practice, and that pedagogy always comes first. A space where staff can record the activities and tools they experiment with, as well as the context in which they are being used, is essential for sharing practice and ensuring thinking and practice is ‘joined up’, rather than taking place in small pockets.

For more information about using any of the tools available in Office365, please contact the Digital Eduaction Office.

If you’re currently using the tools and would like to share your practice with colleague, please contact BILT.

 

Meet the BILT Fellows

Meet the Fellows: Christian Spielmann

We asked our Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT Fellowship. The following blog is from Christian Spielmann, who has been a BILT Fellow since September 2018.

 

Is there a future of large group lectures? When can virtual interaction substitute face-to-face contact and is it possible to link both virtual and face-to-face learning spaces to create greater flexibility in how students engage with learning materials? How do we best design learning materials such as video, podcasts or readings for blended and flipped teaching as well as online learning?

My name is Christian Spielmann and questions like the above drive my interest in pedagogy. I have started my BILT Fellowship in September 2018 and am working on the theme ReThinking Spaces.

In the face of growing student numbers and considering the increasing evidence that students learn best when constructing knowledge themselves, designing the space in which learning happens is more important than ever.

Thinking about ‘learning spaces’ means exploring options to make the physical space more suitable for innovative learning activities, but for me it also means exploring the possibilities of virtual and asynchronous learning to evaluate when and how these forms can achieve the intended learning outcomes.

I am a Reader in Economics Education at the School of Economics. Before joining Bristol University in 2017, I worked at University College London, where I co-founded the Centre for Teaching and Learning in Economics, which researches, implements and evaluates active teaching and learning strategies in economics. As part of the CORE project, I have been involved in rethinking the content and the way economics is taught to students all over the world. I am also a Senior Associated of the Economics Network, which is a network of economics educators dedicate to improve economics teaching in the UK Higher Education Sector.

Great Debate

The Great Debate: Engagement vs Attendance?

The fourth blog in this series has been written by Emilie Poletto-Lawson, a BILT Fellow and language associate in the School of Modern Languages. 

Have you ever tried to learn a language? Gone to your local bookshop or library and brought home the best resources you could find, sat in front of them, very excited and determined, that day is the day you start your journey! You booked on the highest rated course and sat there listening. And yet, ten minutes later, half an hour later, two hours later, one year later you realise that, well, you cannot have this philosophical conversation you dreamt of having with a native speaker, you cannot read your favourite writer in her/his original language, you cannot watch the latest film by your favourite foreign director without subtitles. Why? Because no matter how good the resources, no matter how good the facilitator, if you do not engage, if you only sit there, it will not work, it is about you.

I chose this example because I am a language tutor and this is a story I hear often but I think this applies to anything you do in life. Attending a talk, a workshop, reading a book, going to university etc. it will not work unless you engage with it. You might need to define what engaging is to you but it certainly is not sitting there, waiting for a miracle. You are the key and that can be daunting or extremely empowering.

As an educator, It think it is essential to build a supportive community in class, of course, but also outside of class. I remember amazing lectures from my time at university but my fondest memories are the activities I chose to engage with and the human adventure they were. Bearing this in mind, I try to offer those to my students. Starting a radio show in French, directing the French year abroad on stage acts, running subtitling workshops are all activities I love and that bring me closer to my colleagues involved in the project, and to my students. Seeing colleagues come together and students engage, build their confidence and further their language skills is the best reward for a teacher.  As facilitators we can make offers, we can listen, we can guide but the key lies with the students themselves.

We invite you to leave comments below.

500 Words

Pipe cleaners, pick’n’mix and colouring in – active learning goes back to basics!

Author: Andrew Doherty

School/ Centre: Centre for Applied Anatomy, University of Bristol

Andrew Doherty discusses his use of unusual teaching tools in his anatomy undergraduate classes and their impact on learning.

There’s a phrase from the media that comes to mind while wandering around the campus … young people are ‘buried in their phones all the time’. This may well be true – students do spend a lot of time on their phones. I’m not entirely sure what they’re doing half the time, but the modern digitally native student seems to be lost without one. Mobile phones are after all a font of all knowledge – an information centre with an endless library of books, articles, lecture notes, videos … and that’s before we get to the social media sites with Facechat and Snapbook …. I think!

This has given rise to the notion that students of today prefer to use digital media for their learning and that as long as we can provide our learning materials via the web, all will be well because they can all learn digitally. I’m not convinced that this is true and, while I am very interested in providing engaging and interesting digital resources for our students, I also take the view that hands-on, practical activities can sometimes provide the best tool for deep learning of complex information. The interaction between hands and brain is as crucial for learning now as it has ever been.

So, when myself and a colleague, Dr Jo Howarth, were given the job of re-designing the first year curriculum for the Neuroscience programme, the chance was there to re-think what we teach – and more importantly, how we teach it. We have introduced a raft of new hands-on workshops ranging from making pictures from pick’n’mix sweets, building models with pipe cleaners, drawing pathway diagrams with coloured pens – and yes, even using those ubiquitous smartphones to make stop-motion animations to illustrate network dynamics. After all – why shouldn’t learning be fun? We try to engage students in the process of making things themselves to help them synthesise their own knowledge and to encourage them to learn for themselves. Students seem to like what we are doing and, more importantly, are learning the information we want them to learn.

All the activities we have introduced also have an element of personal research to help students gain skills in selecting relevant and appropriate information from the ocean of stuff that sits out there in the big wide world – and the evaluations we have carried out have led to some surprising results. For instance, in providing students with a range of digital resources to learn about aspect of spinal cord anatomy, ranging from you tube videos to manipulatable 3D computer models, what resource did they choose? The good old text book – that’s right – the paper one that sits on the bookshelf!

So, are our students ready for the digital world? In their social space, indeed they are – but when it comes to learning materials, the hands-on approach still has a long way to go before it runs out of steam – pipe cleaner makers, be warned!

pipecleaners.png

Figure 1. Examples of activities used in the re-design of the 1st year neuroscience curriculum. A range of hands-on activities have been used in the revised teaching on the neuroscience programme. These range from (A) using pick’n’mix sweets to make an image, (B) using pipe cleaners to create models, (C) drawing pathway diagrams with coloured pens. Each image has been created by students studying on the neuroscience programme.