Teaching Stories

Five Things to Try in your Teaching Next Year

We sent round bookmarks to academic staff outlining five new things they could try in their teaching – this post includes more detail about those things and where you can get support to try them.

1. Get Moving – Spend five minutes of your session moving the furniture around to create a more dynamic learning environment and energise your students.

2. Live Lecture Polling – Introduce online polling for instant learner feedback and to encourage active learning.

The Digital Education Office exist to support with this sort of activity – get in touch with them to find out more here.

This comprehensive bibliography on classroom responses systems includes subject-specific examples.

3. Start a Podcast – Create informal engagement with your subject by starting a podcast and invite your students to take part.

We can help you set up your podcast using our equipment and advise you on any purchases you may want to make, as well as how to make the podcast available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. We can also put you in touch with staff who have set up podcasts for their subject to provide additional support.

4. Explore the City – Students love to feel connected to our city and it makes learning memorable when concepts are connected to reality.

The Engaged Learning team exist to support academics in partnering with community organisations and businesses.

There are many examples where academics have used the city and its history to connect learning to a space. Two excellent examples are the MAP Bristol project, undertaken with a BILT grant in 2017/18 by Chris Adams, and the Bristol Futures open units.

5. Gamify Learning – Whether it is a points-based system for engagement or a tailored card game, games can make difficult content more accessible and enjoyable to learn.

Suzi Well and Chrysanthi Tseloudi run a ‘Learning Games’ event, where staff come together to discuss their ideas and examples of game-based learning. Any upcoming events will be shared in the BILT Briefing.

The BILT Discretionary Seedcorn Funding is available for staff to apply for small amounts of money (up to £1500) – last year three games were developed from this funding.

Teaching Stories, Uncategorized

‘Snow’ days and the death of lecturing…

The following post was written by Alison Blaxter, a BILT Associate and Clinical Teaching Fellow in the Vet School.

It’s August and bright sunshine but time for reviewing my teaching year.  I was remembering the ‘snow days’ we have had over the last few years. The vet school in the heart of the Mendip Hills briefly closed its doors for business and students because of snow at the end of January. Those of us providing animal care stayed to deal with emergencies but I was also due to lecture that day and the undergraduate students missed my well-crafted lecture on reproduction in cats. Instead I recorded the lecture on mediasite at my desk and it was up on Blackboard the next day. In the case-based session at the end of the cat and dog reproduction course the students didn’t express any significant difficulty with the material, nor were there a disproportionate number of questions from the content of that lecture in comparison to the others in the series.

This and a fascinating keynote speech on the formation of memory at the VetEd, the veterinary education community’s annual symposium  (https://vetedsymposium.org/) by David Shanks at UCL started me thinking about the benefits of lecturing. Lectures are a way in which we can decide as instructors what knowledge our students need and deliver it in a relatively quick and easily produced way to classes of infinite size. We also know that students who have a learning style where listening is key to their development of memory and understanding this form of knowledge transfer may be highly appropriate.


However, we also know that active learning where the learner is engaged in activity associated with the material is a better model to aspire to. There is evidence that  such an approach improves, among other attributes, critical thinking, decision making and creativity (Freeman et al. (2014). My understanding from David Shanks keynote address is that memory formation and the ability to apply information increases where testing is an inherent part of the learning process, Fascinatingly, testing before, during and after novel information transfer improves memory formation.  (Yang C., Potts R., and Shanks D.R. (2018))

 We now routinely use audience response systems such as ‘Turning Point’ and ‘Mentimeter’ to deliver in-lecture quizzes, we use case-based-learning in medicine and veterinary medicine to apply knowledge immediately to specific professional contexts, we promote ‘flipped classroom’ teaching with students preparing in advance for whole cohort interactive teaching and team based learning where peer interaction is pivotal to the learning process or other forms of peer assisted learning are celebrated. Our new accelerated graduate entry programme for the vet course (AGEP) has adopted case-based learning with an emphasis on active participation in a self-directed environment as its core. Do traditional lectures still have a role?

There is also the issue that I don’t always enjoy lecturing. The majority of my teaching is in the work-place where I am fortunate to mentor and teach veterinary students at the end of their undergraduate career on a one to one basis. Dealing with illness and health in real patients, with all the uncertainty this entails is an exciting and stimulating teaching environment. When I lecture the sound of my own voice for a long period of time can feel tedious and I get bored without the great stimulus I get from face to face teaching, so I plan active participation throughout the 50 minutes and my ‘lectures’ can be  noisy and chaotic.  

So my vision of the future involves lectures being pre-recorded, perhaps divided into smaller chunks of material and delivered in the context of a whole variety of resources to a student – videos, audio, text, quizzes and tasks.  Once established our face-to-face time becomes available to guide and mentor students by cultivating their curiosity, facilitating creative application of knowledge and engaging them in a more direct and personal way.  Could lectures as we understand be obsolete?

Freeman et al. (2014), Active learning increases student performance in science engineering and mathematics PNAS 111 (2) 8410–8415

Yang C., Potts R., and Shanks D.R. (2018) Enhancing learning and retrieval of new information; a review of the forward testing effect. Science of Learning 3(1).

Bristol doctoral college logo

TA Talks- Doctoral Teacher peer-group: with BILT

Calling all doctoral researchers who teach!

Would you like the opportunity to network with and learn from your peers?

Would you like to learn more about the development opportunities and support on offer through the university?

Then you should come along to our TA Talks series!

These are loosely-themed sessions designed to allow for peer-networking as well as engagement with providers of support and development opportunities across the university.

They will take place in the new PGR Hub, a space designed for PGRs to meet outside of their faculty or department for a variety of their development and wellbeing needs.

For this third session in the TA Talks series our colleagues from the Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching (BILT) will be bringing along a number of early career academics who can talk about how their own teaching experience influenced their research and career pathways.

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

 

 

 

 

Meet the BILT Fellows

Meet the BILT Fellows: Zoe Palmer

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 Zoe Palmer, who has been a BILT Fellow since September 2018.

For the past six years (on and off!) I have been teaching in the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience in what is now the Faculty of Life Sciences.  Within our school we teach our own undergraduates and postgraduate students, but also students on professional programmes; vets, dentists and medics.  My involvement with the medical programme also extends to recently being appointed lead for teaching block one of year two of the new medical curriculum (MB21) and I have been developing material for an optional three week pharmacology skills development and training unit.  In addition, I am involved with outreach, widening participation and public engagement.  This summer I co-organised the first Biomedical Sciences International Summer School.  This new faculty-wide endeavour is aimed at external undergraduates who don’t have the opportunity to undertake many practical classes at their home universities and so visit us to take advantage of our laboratories and teaching skills.

I am particularly interested in assessment and during my BILT fellowship I intend to investigate methods of quality assurance in exam setting.  I recently submitted my CREATE Level 2 portfolio which included a project in which I retrospectively analysed and evaluated the reliability of standard setting exam papers.  Standard setting is a process whereby exam papers are scrutinised by a team of experts to (in theory) create a robust and fair pass mark, as opposed to employing an arbitrary pass mark of, for example, 50%.  The results of this investigation were thought-provoking.  I would like to use this preliminary work to explore whether there might be a more rigorous and accurate method of generating the pass mark for exams.  This, and finding out more about assessment processes across the university and beyond, will aid us in implementing best practice and making evidence-based decisions to ensure that our assessments are valid and fit for purpose.