Transform to learn: the need to combine theory and practice in the curricula

On Monday 16th September, I attended the “Learn to Transform: The Pedagogic Revolution” event at the University of Sussex (UoS). As a recent graduate in Anthropology and International development from UoS and Students’ Union community organiser volunteer, I was keen to find out about this revolutionary approach and what it means for students’ academic performance. The event invited academics and professional services colleagues from across the University to start a pedagogical revolution through direct engagement in a range of activities and workshop sessions, such as the co-creation of inclusive curricula and outdoor learning ideas, in addition to, inspirational talks and technology use throughout the day. Continue reading

Developing the Characteristics of Expertise in Teaching in Higher Education

For a number of years I have been interested in ‘ways of thinking and practising’ (WTP) in academic disciplines (e.g. McCune & Hounsell, 2005). As an educational developer this led to considering what might be the WTP of teaching in higher education (HE). The extensive literature on the characteristics of expertise (e.g. Ericsson et al, 2006) provided me with some interesting food for thought in terms of how we might conceptualise WTP. In addition to being a thought-provoking theoretical consideration, there could be practical implications for educational development: if we can better understand the WTP and expertise characteristics of teaching in HE this may then help inform the enhancement of educational development (Kreber et al, 2005; Saroyan & Trigwell, 2015). Continue reading

Encouraging critical practice in curriculum delivery

One of the challenges we are often faced with as educational developers is supporting academics to engage as critical agents in the design of delivery right from the start of their teaching careers. The study by Daniela Jaklová Střihavková approaches the issue from the perspective of Social Work, and describes an intervention by the author to support students in developing an early appreciation of key concepts in Social Work and in particular how to relate their learning to Social Work practice and problems, as well as developing specific academic skills for essay writing. Students were first years drawn from Czech and Slovak backgrounds, and taught in Czech. Continue reading

Active engagement in class can encourage active engagement before class

In her chapter, Natália Gachallová considers a familiar challenge: how to encourage students’ engagement with pre-class preparation. This is one of the more common issues I hear from academics, and one perhaps more acute for PhD students like Natália. They may feel they have limited power over the rest of the course and what happens outside their class, yet are frequently teaching the small classes where such preparation is expected so often. Continue reading

No-one ever said transition was going to be easy…But why is no one telling our students that?

It’s that time of year again where thoughts turn to preparation for welcoming our new students, particularly pertinent for me this year as my own son prepares to make the transition into Higher Education. He won’t be alone in this- approximately one third of 18 year olds apply to UCAS each year and with the increasing prevalence of foundation courses, new entry qualifications and varied programmes available, the diversity of students that we welcome to our institutions is likely to broaden. Students are encouraged to spread their wings and move away from home, with the promise of independence that many crave. However, whilst an exciting time of life, it isn’t all plain sailing and for many the process of making the transition can be particularly challenging. Continue reading

Heutagogical partners rather than pedagogical passengers

In her chapter, Alica Rétiová, of Masaryk University tackles the issue of self-directed or heutagogical learning in an innovative study on introducing her students to ‘the intriguing world of social theories’ and ‘the fascinating realm that is academia’. Heutagogy is defined as the ability to direct one’s learning. According to Lisa Marie Blaschke and others,  heutagogical learning environments facilitate the development of independent learning, as well as the learner’s capability and capacity to learn. Continue reading

TEF – Boon or bust for educational developers?

The TEF (Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework) has rapidly become part of the lexicon of higher education and a familiar part of the landscape for educational developers. But is it the boon that it might be for those of us invested in teaching enhancement activities? Or could it lead to a downward spiral in traditional ED activities where these are not reflected in TEF metrics? How can educational developers contribute to Subject level TEF and use it to cement their position as pedagogic experts in an institution?  Continue reading

Constructing constructive alignment, the benefits of a hands-on approach

Petra Srnišová, who works as a teaching assistant on a mandatory accounting module for economics students, considers in her chapter the key question of how to foster better student outcomes through aligned engagement. This is especially pertinent when teaching material important to their overall studies but not necessarily of significant immediate interest to students. Specifically, Srnišová decided to test a hypothesis that student disengagement on this module resulted, at least in part, from less than optimal alignment of two assignments that acted as a gateway to the final exam and an overall teaching design aimed at passive and rote learning. Continue reading

Time for change: Putting students at the centre of their learning experiences

In his chapter, Alexander Pechersky has explored the effectiveness of the Student-Centred Learning (SCL) approach which he had identified through comparing his lived experiences as a student both while studying at a Business School in Vienna where SCL was prominent and at University of Economics in Bratislava which was more teacher centred. He displays a good awareness of student-centred approaches, the skills it evokes such as independent study, critical thinking and communication which is refreshing particularly as he is from the next generation of teachers. Alexander also identified that real-life application of theory through case-studies is essential, which is something I completely agree with, as it helps students put their learning into context, see the point and rationale for what they are being asked to do and clearly aligns to the course of study or employment pathways. Continue reading

Active engagement = better understanding. Doesn’t it?

I read the introduction to this chapter and thought, ‘I know where this is going…’, but I was wrong…. The results of a well-designed study seeking to report the benefits of active learning challenged my expectations. Whilst the author, Martin Karas, found that active learning did indeed lead to higher levels of engagement, it did not affect knowledge retention and understanding. This I found surprising and wanted to read more as to why that had been the case in this study. Continue reading