One of BILT’s priorities is supporting research-informed teaching and evidence-based practice at Bristol. A key way we do this is by recognising or providing small levels of funding to individuals and small teams of academics to carry out and evaluate teaching innovations in areas of interest. We brought a group of these project holders, student fellows and BILT associates together a couple of weeks ago to share and discuss their work .
Although each project is necessarily shaped by needs and practices in their own disciplines, some overarching themes emerged:
Evaluating learning & teaching interventions – unsurprisingly enough, given the aim of the initiative, a focus of many of the projects is carrying out a more formal evaluation of new activities, teaching approaches, or spaces, than there would usually be time and energy for. How interventions should be evaluated is a question we’re often asked at BILT, so we’re always seeking to connect staff at Bristol who are involved in structured evaluations of aspects of learning and teaching. (If this is your area of interest, you might want to join our learning community on evaluating large-scale educational change. )
Designing in wellbeing – student and staff wellbeing and supporting students to flourish are specifically the focus of a couple of student and staff activities, but also came up in other areas, such as work on assessment. We touched on how student and staff wellbeing can be embedded across the university through systems thinking and looked at a model of flourishing and languishing students (more on this from Fabienne Vailes soon). We also discussed how the curriculum can be designed to better promote autonomous motivation and engagement, and learning for its own sake rather than to pass the test. Owen, one of our Student Fellows, talked about how students can be encouraged – and can encourage each other – to embrace failure and see it as a learning opportunity in more than just a euphemistic sense.
Helping students develop skills for professional practice – this particularly came up in the context of veterinary medicine, where a number of different approaches were discussed in order to help students develop the more human, interactional, behavioural aspects of being a vet. Some of these were particularly interesting to consider for non-native speakers of English, and neuro-diverse learners. We also discussed work in the French department to reshape teaching to better support students to further develop their language skills.
Students as co-designers and researchers – we’re seeing a lot of exciting work in this space at the moment. Emily, one of our Student Fellows, is improving how we encourage and support our students as researchers, initially focusing on taking a group of Bristol students to present at the British Conference for Undergraduate research. We also discussed an interdisciplinary student research project between life sciences and classics. Other staff are looking at what comes next after you’ve co-created a curriculum or project with students; how does that student partnering continue? This has led to evaluations co-designed with the students.
Active and authentic learning – these are themes which Toby and Marnie, our last two student fellows are working on, looking at how these can best be incorporated into a range of disciplines. We discussed evaluating spaces and specific facilities for active learning, particularly in the Vet school, and made links (in absentia) with James Norman’s work on spaces and pedagogies for active, authentic learning. There was a lot of interest in the histology card game and how engaging students had found it – the Digital Education Office co-ordinate a group on Learning Games if you’re interested in exploring further in this space.
Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about any of these projects. If you’ve got a learning and teaching innovation that you’d like to explore and evaluate, you might like to consider applying for BILT Discretionary Seedcorn Funding.
[SD(oBDoEI1]Link to the collated set of slides from attendees?