#15toptips for Student-Centred Teaching 5: Encourage co- and extra-curricular learning experiences – it could be the thing that makes your students ‘stand out in a crowd’.

Imagine you’re a manager in a large manufacturing company that builds highly sophisticated electronic control terminals for Network Rail. You’re on a staff recruitment panel and are looking to recruit a recent graduate who can lead a small team of software engineers. The skill-set required includes advanced knowledge of computing code as well as a strong grasp of Maths and Physics. So, basically, you’re looking for a STEM graduate. A small group of your colleagues have carried out a first ‘sift’ of the applications and your HR department has forwarded to the recruitment panel a shortlist of 6 applications. These are graduates from a range of Universities, some from the Russell Group, some from MillionPlus group, and some from what were until recently members of the 94 Group. Reading through them, you realise that all six candidates have gained a 1st class degree. All six have performed consistently well across the three years of their degree, and all six have terrific academic references from senior lecturers and professors in the universities concerned. Hmmmmmm. You suddenly realise that this is going to be a tricky business – how do you differentiate between them when they all seem to have such a strong academic record. Continue reading

#15toptips for Student-Centred Teaching 4: Consider the balance between formative and summative assessment

Over the past decade the National Student Survey (NSS) has provided important insights into students’ perceptions of and satisfaction with their educational experience at university. The NSS has many detractors in the sector, and one can understand why. Concerns about it are even more vocal now that data from it is feeding into the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), despite the fact that there is no proven link between student satisfaction and teaching excellence. Continue reading

#15toptips for Student-Centred Teaching 3: Build ‘authenticity’ into your assessment strategy

As lecturers we often tend to think first of what we want to teach. This is an entirely natural response if we view ourselves primarily as subject specialists. Given the task of developing a module on, say, the development of medieval domestic architecture, my own immediate priority as a young lecturer was to think of the content – domain knowledge – that it was crucial (in my view) to cover in such a module. I’d then start thinking about how these could be reframed as ‘objectives’ and ‘learning outcomes’. Thinking about assessment often came last, and when I did I often fell back on my own experiences of being assessed at undergraduate and post-graduate level. Not surprisingly, the ‘essay’ or related types of individual written exercises tended to figure prominently. But it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, if students are to develop the kind of ‘graduate attributes’ that are increasingly made explicit on University websites, setting these kinds of traditional forms of assessment will give students a limited palette with which to demonstrate them.  Check out the ‘Graduate Attributes’ that relate to your own institution – do the assessments on your modules, or on your courses, REALLY ensure that students can demonstrate these? Is there any kind of ‘constructive alignment’? Being student-centred is about placing the learning needs of students at the heart of your teaching. This extends, also, to the capacities and skills they will need to both secure graduate level jobs and to function effectively as professionals when they do so. Thinking about, designing, and employing authentic assessment is therefore a key aspect of student-centred practice. Continue reading

#15toptips for Student-Centred Teaching 2: Get your students active. It’ll take the pressure off you and they’ll learn more!

I suspect we’ve all done it at some stage or other. Faced with the challenge of juggling lots of competing deadline and tasks, it’s all too easy to allow other responsibilities to crowd-out the time needed for the effective planning of teaching. Before you know it, the day (or more) you had set aside to plan the session you will be teaching later in the week or the next week, or next month is reduced to a fraction of this, and tough decisions then have to be made about how to manage the session in question. Given this, it is also all too easy to adopt what, for many of us, is actually sometimes the least taxing pedagogical approach – the old fashioned ‘lecture’. Whilst I recognise that not all colleagues find lecturing a comfortable experience, for many it is both familiar, and easy. It’s a pedagogical comfort zone. Something to which we can retreat when the occasion calls for it. Continue reading

#15toptips for Student-Centred Teaching 1: Trust your students and they will trust you

Teaching in higher education can be hugely rewarding experience. However, most of us teaching in higher education found our way into this role because we had previously built-up a considerable body of discipline-specific expertise via our research. As a landscape historian, when I first started teaching as a PhD student my first thought was to think about what I wanted to teach (content), rather than HOW I was going to teach (pedagogy). I ‘knew my stuff’ in terms of the history, but was less than confident in designing a pedagogical approach that would ensure that the students learnt what I wanted them to. Continue reading

#15toptips for Student-Centred Teaching: Introduction

At the beginning of a new year, are there reasons to be cheerful?

Welcome to the first of my SEDA blogs. I will be writing 15 blogs over the next calendar year and look forward to hearing some of your views on issues relating to teaching and learning. Continue reading