Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, News.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Last week in my Environmental Law class, we discussed the topic of nature conservation and remediation. I mentioned the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (LINK) and the fact that s14(1) of the Act (as it applies to England and Wales) makes it an offence to release non-native species, and this triggered a debate about what counts as “native” in an island whose inhabitants have been importing for millennia.

Legally, the provisions of s14(1) make it an offence to release or allow to escape into the wild any animal which “is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state” or is listed in Part I of Schedule 9. There is a less onerous restriction on plants, where s14(2) makes it an offence only “if any person plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild any plant which is included in Part II of Schedule 9.”

Schedule 9 makes for some interesting reading. There are currently 69 species listed in Part I, under the heading “Animals which are established in the wild” and recent additions include the Red Kite, Wild Boar, Barnacle Goose and Eagle Owl, all added in 2010. What this means is not that a person could import Wild boar willy nilly prior to 2010, but that the ban on releasing Wild Boar has moved from s14(a) to s14(b), as the species have moved from “not ordinarily resident…” to “established.”

In terms of plant species, there is a difference between those listed for the whole of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and those listed for England and Wales only. There are 26 species listed for Great Britain, and a further 55 species listed for England and Wales. These are mostly listed because not only are they non-native, but because they are invasive, or otherwise detrimental to domestic wildlife. The two variants of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica and Polygonum cuspidatum), are listed along with their less famous cousin the Giant Knotweed and the hybrid variant which is a combination of both.  The threat of knotweed to buildings is well-known (though, according to Jeff Howell, writing in the Daily Telegraph in 2014, “grossly exaggerated, chiefly by an industry that has grown up to eradicate it”) but other garden favourites such as Cotoneaster, Virginia Creeper, Montbretia and Rhododendron are also included. Remember this, if you are tempted to do a spot of “guerrilla gardening” – described by Catharine Howard in the Guardian in 2014 as “fun, and it’s coming to a space near you, soon” – s21 of the Act sets out that if your act of “urban greening” contains the wrong plants, you could face a fine and/or up to two years in prison.

What about non-native plants in the garden?

It the ban on non-native plants and vegetables was to extend to cultivated (i.e. non-wild) spaces, it would have a catastrophic impact on our lives. Garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, oranges, chilies, even apples (yes really), are all non-native if you go back far enough. Enjoy the late spring yellow flare of forsythia? Eastern Asia. Love the scent and purple haze of Lavender? Sorry, Southern Europe. How about one of the myriad types of clematis? Nope, China and Japan.

Those of you who follow my Twitter feed (@simonsneddon) may have noticed that I am currently growing an apricot (Prunus armeniaca) in a flower pot on the windowsill. As the Latin name suggests, the Apricot is thought to originate in Armenia, the former Soviet Republic bordering Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Iran.

When it is large enough, I intend to plant my apricot in the garden and in a few years, enjoy a harvest of fruit. I am not expecting a bumper crop – the climate of the East Midlands is not as balmy as that in Central Asia. Given the hassle of growing an apricot from the stone in the UK, I doubt if my tree will prove to be the primogenitor of a 21st century apricot forest, but you never know.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Nick Cartwright, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

You don’t need to have read news reports about the benefits cap, the withdrawal of housing benefit for younger claimants or how jobcentre staff are being set targets for sanctioning claimants to understand that this government’s policies are creating a rising tide of homelessness.  If you walk round the East Northamptonshire I grew up in the rise in the visible signs of homelessness are stark.  Seeing a homeless man, like the Houses of Parliament, was reserved for school trips to London.  Now the homeless can be seen sheltering in shop doorways in Kettering, Wellingborough and Corby.  Depressingly, with the steady rise of homelessness also comes the rise of vicious, hate fuelled, assaults.

As part of the University’s Changemaker agenda staff and students are encouraged to support local charities and I serve as a Director of Northamptonshire Rights and Equalities Council (NREC).  As part of my responsibilities as a Director I have decided to base myself once a month in Johnny’s Happy Place (JHP), Kettering to see if there are people who need to talk to someone about the discrimination they’ve experienced.  JHP is a remarkable project, set up after Johnny McKay was let down by the very services established to look after him and took his own life.  The ‘pay what you can afford’ cafe was set up to provide a safe space for anyone who needed a cup of coffee, a hot meal or just to sit in the company of others without being judged or made to feel uncomfortable.

Saturday was my first stint, more a scoping exercise than a clinic this time, and it was great to meet the volunteers, enjoy the homemade beef stew and do some craft activities with other diners.  Inevitably the number of homeless people who need places like this has risen and these now make up the majority of diners.  Looking around you can’t help but conclude that you are amongst some of the most vulnerable people in society.  Talking to Denise, who founded JHP after her son’s suicide, I am told of incident after incident of these men and women being subjected to the most vile treatment.  Urinated on while they sleep, late night revellers setting fire to their bedding or being forced to perform sex acts.  These people are being victimised because of who they are, yet because it’s not about their religion, the colour of their skin or their sexuality these inhuman incidents are not counted as hate crimes.  A hate crime is when the victim is targeted because of one of the nine characteristics protected by the Equality Act (2010).

I appreciate that there is a qualitative difference between homelessness and the characteristics protected under the Equality Act.  Homelessness is both undesirable and temporal, whereas race, gender, religion, sexuality etc… are to be enjoyed, if not celebrated, and are permanent.  However, the justification for treating some crimes as hate crimes is to identify that being motivated by hatred of another because they belong to a certain class of individuals different from oneself makes the assailant more culpable and deserving of greater punishment.  Although the detection, and therefore prosecution, rate is low and the deterrence effect arguably nil the message that a society sends by uniting in the face of hatred and standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings is powerful.

It is true that there is a simple solution to homelessness – fund more homes.  But while we wait for progressive solutions to be realised there are also simple things that we as individuals can do to demonstrate compassion, grabbing a coffee and a slice of cake at JHP and making others feel welcome is one thing, asking your MP to extend the definition of hate crime to include homelessness is another, or simplest of all you can click here and add your name to my petition to raise awareness around this important issue.

If you think you would benefit from the advice that NREC offer then either visit their website or call in and see me at JHP, I’ll be there from 12-2pm on Saturday 8 April, Saturday 13 May and Saturday 17 June.

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Nick Cartwright, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Developing the Resources Students Want

I strongly believe that our students are more empowered and engaged if they have more control over their own learning and teaching but it is a challenge to meaningfully involve students in designing their own learning and teaching.

I am currently leading two projects funded by the Institute of Learning and Teaching which focus on creating exciting and relevant resources for our law students which are centred on what our students actually want.

The first project is an URB@N (Undergraduate Research Bursary at Northampton) project, the funding provides a bursary to an undergraduate student to undertake a research project.  Bex, a second year law student, will be holding focus groups next week to examine students’ opinions of the resources we currently use. It is vital that it is a peer that collects this data, rather than me as the power relationship between lecturer and student would corrupt the data – I want to know what my students really think, not what they think I want to hear!

The second project is funded by an innovation grant and is about incorporating the student voice in creating new resources to support their learning and teaching.  Working with two recent graduates from Northampton, one an intern in the Media department and one a Graduate Teaching assistant in law, we will draw on the experiences of first-year UG students to create resources that will sit outside of modules as a ‘TV channel’ on a streaming platform so they can be accessed by all students as and when they wish.  These resources will also be shared with colleagues across the sector as Open Educational Resources.

Student feedback indicates that they need to revisit foundational topics and key skills throughout their degrees.  By creating accessible, online resources that are relevant to students and that they can dip and out of when necessary I believe we are better supporting our students.

The big difference between this project and others is that at the heart of what we create is the student voice – we don’t know what we’ll create yet because we’re still working with students to find out what they want, but what we create will be exciting, relevant and the process will have empowered our students.

If you are a current law student who studied ‘LAW1020 Learning the Law’ then I would love for you take part in one of our focus groups, and to say thank you we have a £10 Amazon voucher for all participants.  There are three focus groups, all in N18, at the following times: Tuesday 14 March at 2:30pm, Tuesday 14 March at 3:30pm, and Wednesday 15 March at 11am and you can sign up here:


Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

I have recently redesigned the assessment strategy on one of my Year 2 optional modules, ready for the September 2017 intake. The rationale for the changes was to make the assessment more like the “real world” (I hate to use the phrase in this context because it implies that University is somehow a mythical out-of-touch environment, which is has not been for decades).

What I mean by real world is that the assessment strategy mimics elements of employment-based report writing, and helps prepare students for life after University. The question is released on NILE at a set time, and 48h later the student submit their responses, and they are free to use whatever sources they feel appropriate during the assignment. This is what Mueller calls authentic assessment:

“A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.”[1]

For obvious reason, the date of the assignment release and submission dates have to be publicised in advance, which does detract from the true authenticity of the assessment.

Wehlage, Newman & Secada[2] talked about authentic achievement in schools more than 20 years ago, so it is not a new concept across education, but with the increasing focus on employability in Higher Education, a complementary increase in the “real world” applicability of module learning and assessment is essential.

The assessment titles are likely to be fairly broad (for obvious reasons, I am not going to list them here!) and will allow students the opportunity to develop their ideas within a set framework. As Albion states:

Allowing students to be let loose to find solutions independently, within a structured task, can result in them gaining a sense of what it is like to be a professional early in their studies, as well as provoking a deeper level of learning.”[3]

An earlier (2002) study in Australia found that:

Students value assessment tasks they perceive to be “real”: assessment tasks that present serious challenges, not only for the grades at stake, but also for the nature of the knowledge and skills required. Students respect assessment tasks they believe mirror the skills needed in the workplace.”[4]

As this will be a method of assessment that students may be unfamiliar with, relying solely on summative (formally marked and graded) assessment might not give students the best chance of success. To that end, I am introducing a formative piece of assessment to allow students to monitor their own progress, and to provide an ungraded opportunity to try out new idea and approaches.

The idea behind this formative piece of work is to allow the students to work in a “safe space” and minimise the consequences of misapplying the law, or misunderstanding the task. Siering says this approach is essential and that we need to address:

students’ culturally derived aversion to failure, and we need to give them safe spaces to take risks. Providing … a structured environment for taking intellectual risks can help minimize the pain of making mistakes[5]

The formative piece will requires students to identify (in seminar group-based Googledocs, linked from NILE) the key questions and stages which they believe necessary to answer a scenario-based question and commenting on the merits of each other’s answers.

These discussions will form the basis of a tutor-led seminar discussion, and a combination of individual and group formative feedback (both tutor-feedback and peer-feedback) should result in those students who participated having a valuable toolkit for the summative piece.

There has not been a great deal written about the use of Googledocs in a specific law context, but Clark & Blissenden[6] identify Googledocs as one of the tools which can be used in effective groupwork. Albion adds that “teamwork is … pivotal to legal practice[7] and Googledocs can enhance this. The element of enhanced collaboration afforded to users by Googledocs was also identified by Newsom & Kennedy who stated that

Today, with all of the social networking software and other technology capabilities, collaboration has become easier and convenient.”[8]

Students will be assessed on their ability to carry out research and planning in condensed timescale, and their skills at being able to apply the background information accurately and promptly.

As with other modules, I took a scaffolded approach to this module, by designing the week-by-week coverage and the formative assessment to clearly link to the two pieces of summative assessment. Murtagh & Webster stated that this type of scaffolding of formative and summative assessment was “conducive to deep learning[9] and having “the potential to impact positively upon academic achievement.”[10] This idea of deep learning was echoed by Albion[11] who said that authenticity further enhanced depth of learning.

The “deep approach” to learning was outlined neatly by Entwhistle and it is clear that if students can see a link to both the “real world” and future employment possibilities, then deep learning becomes more likely.

Entwhistle’s defining features of a Deep Approach to learning[12]

In addition to the topic-specific support for students, there will be a blended session in Teaching Block 1 which looks at the academic skills necessary to write a coherent essay, specifically using the PEAL (Point-Evidence-Analysis-Link) and PEEL (Point-Evidence-Evaluation-Link) models whic, although developed for GCSE-level writing,[13] but have proven invaluable to undergraduates. This is being introduced in response to student feedback, as this year students have commented that when they start their Level 5 modules, they have not written a summative essay for six or seven months.

This is the latest stage in the continual gradual development of the assessment and delivery of this module which started over a decade ago. I have taken Olsen’s view that we should not “innovate too much, too quickly.”[14]



This post is heavily based on a piece of work written (by me) and submitted for the EDUM129 Designing for 21st Century Learning module in January 2017.

[1] Mueller, J., 2016, Authentic Assessment Toolbox, North Central College, Naperville, Il:

[2] Wehlage, G. G., Newmann, F. M., & Secada, W. G., 1996, Standards for Authentic Achievement and Pedagogy, in Newmann, F. M., Authentic Achievement: Restructuring Schools for Intellectual Quality, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

[3] Albion, E., 2016, Seeing is believing: we are all converging, The Law Teacher, Vol 50 No 1 44-60,

[4] McInnis, J.C., & Devlin, M., 2002, Assessing Learning in Australian Universities: Ideas, Strategies and Resources for Quality in Student Assessment, Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education, available at

[5] Siering, G., 2012, Why Risk and Failure Are Important in Learning, University of Wisconsin Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Available at

[6] Clarke, S., & Blissenden, M., 2013, Assessing student group work: is there a right way to do it? The Law Teacher, Vol 47 No 3 368-381,

[7] Albion, E., 2016, Seeing is believing: we are all converging, The Law Teacher, Vol 50 No 1 44-60,

[8] Newsom, C., & Kennedy, K., 2008, Google and Collaboration, Journal of Library Administration, 46:3-4, 87-97,

[9] Murtagh, L. & Webster, M., 2010, Scaffolding teaching, learning and assessment in Higher Education, Tean Journal 1 (2) December [Online]. Available at:

[10] Ibid.

[11] Albion, E., 2016, Seeing is believing: we are all converging, The Law Teacher, Vol 50 No 1 44-60,

[12] Entwhistle, N., 2005, Contrasting Perspectives on Learning, in Martin, F., Hounsell, D. & Entwistle, N., (eds.) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, p18

[13] Davison, N., 2016, English: GCSE revision and exam technique, Times Educational Supplement, available at

[14] Olsen, D, 2014, Enriching Social Science with Quantitative and Survey Data Using Flipping, University of Manchester, available at

Posted by & filed under Events, Featured Lecturer, News.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecture in Law writes:

Since the last blog post on this project, on 23rd January, several things have occurred. I have submitted an abstract on this project for the Crackerbarrel sessions at this May’s Learning & Teaching Conference, and I have had an abstract for a paper on this project accepted at the socio-Legal Studies Association Annual conference in Newcastle in April. The aim of the SLSA is “To advance education and learning and in particular to advance research, teaching and the dissemination of knowledge in the field of socio-legal studies”[1] and there are usually around 400 attendees to the Annual conference.

This is great news for the project, as it means that one of the goals for dissemination has already been addressed. There is still some money left in the pot for dissemination events, so I will need to work out the most effective way to disburse that.

In terms of the project itself, the questionnaire for the second round of feedback is written, and the date for collection of feedback has been set (13th March). This is a week later than originally planned, but still provides plenty of time to analyse the results.

The delivery of Collaborate and Kaltura sessions continues and, anecdotally at least, it seems that students are overcoming their initial reluctance to engage with Collaborate. There are technical issues that are causing a few problems – some students can’t log on, there is inconsistent wifi signal, I mis-clicked the record button so the session was unrecorded (this last one is being rectified as I am doing an additional Kaltura recording) – but overall the initial reluctance is dissipating.

There is reluctance to ask questions in the allocated spaces, which is hopefully because things are explained so well there is no need to ask, but needs unwrapping further. For those who are new to this project, the hour-long session is delivered in four sessions of approximately 12-minutes each, with two minutes in between where students can ask questions or contribute to the debate.

We have one more session planned using collaborate, and the final session will be in class, mainly due to the practicalities of distributing and collecting questionnaires and also distributing the “mystery gift” to those who complete it.

This is the 4th in a series of blog posts on the ILT-funded project Strength through Collaboration. The previous post can be found here.



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Kate Exall, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

The staff experience of the revised assessment strategy.

This blog post will be focussing on some of the practical issues coming out of the assessment strategies for these condensed modules.

In previous academic years both modules had an assessment strategy that consisted of a 2,000 word assignment, a 45 minute Time Constrained Assignment and a 1 hour 30 minute examination.  Moving to condensed modules posed a number of practical considerations in relation to the assessment strategy.  The modules were redesigned with Waterside in mind so that for those modules running in the first term there would be no facility for examinations at the end of the first teaching block.  As such both modules took the opportunity to revisit the assessment strategy.

In module A the assessment strategy is now made up of a 2,000 word Court Report, a 1000 word Skills Audit and a 2,000 word Journal Article Exercise.   The Court report was submitted in November and the other two in January.

In Module B the assessment strategy still uses the Time Constrained Assignment, which is now in the form of a Multiple Choice Quiz, but has introduced a 1,000 word assignment and a 3,000 word portfolio.  The MCQ and 1,000 word essay were submitted at different times in November and the 3,000 word portfolio in January.

The MCQ was an online test that was automatically marked and so was returned to the students immediately.  There were however technical difficulties with this assignment which took some time to be resolved and generated considerable extra work for the module leader.  Hopefully these problems will have been resolved for the next academic year.

With the assignments submitted in November the module team were still teaching on the condensed modules and it was therefore difficult to get the required blocks of time to complete the marking.   The module teams are considering moving these submission dates to allow for marking to be done at the start of the Christmas vacation.  The teams have nearly completed the marking of the January submissions which as they are all new assessment items are taking more time than usual to be marked and moderated.

The module leaders reported that there was a high volume of extension requests for the January assignments which has impacted on attendance on the condensed modules starting this term as well as on other modules.  To what extent this is something new is not clear as there is a pattern in other modules of students requesting extensions for work intended to be completed over vacation periods.

This is the 4th is a series of posts about this project. The previous post can be found here.

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, News.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

“When was the last invasion of Britain?”

That’s easy. I was talking to my Equity & Trusts students about this only a few months ago – 1066, Battle Of Hastings, Harold Rex Interfectus Est, the birth of the Common Law, all that sort of thing.

By chance, I have recently been reading a fascinating book called “Britain’s Last Invasion” by J E Thomas (2007, The History Press) which points out, in detail, that the last invasion was actually on 22nd February 1797.

It was the French who invaded, this time choosing Fishguard rather than Hastings as their landing point. The fledgling First Republic, which had been established after the revolution in 1792, was starting to flex its muscles beyond the borders (the War of the First Coalition, which had been intended to crush the republic ended with various peace treaties, and France made a net territorial gain in the process).

28-year old General Lazare Hoche wanted to join forces with Theobald Wolf Tone’s Society of United Irishmen to start an uprising in England and unite the Celtic nations (Wales, Scotland and Ireland) to fight the English.

There were actually three invasions planned, but none went according to plan.

The first was to land 15,000 troops at Bantry Bay, in County Cork, Ireland, to march across the country picking up support en route to Dublin. The armada left France in December 1796 and made for the South West coast of Ireland, where extremely bad weather meant that not a single person was able to land, and the depleted fleet returned to France.

The second invasion was targeted on Newcastle, but bad weather again slowed its progress and mutiny and ill-discipline among the invaders caused the fleet to return to France, having proceeded no further than the Dutch coast.

Undeterred by the abject failure of the first two attempts, General Hoche delegated maritime control of the third fleet to Commodore Jean-Joseph Castagnier, and control of the troops to Colonel William Tate, a veteran of the American Civil War, and his Légion noire. Tate and the Légion landed at Carreg Wastad Head, three miles to the west of Fishguard in the afternoon of the 22nd February 1797.

“By 2 a.m. on Thursday 23rd February, 17 boatloads of troops, 47 barrels of powder, 50 tons of cartridges and grenades and 2,000 stands of arms had been brought ashore.”[1]

By chance, William Knox, who had been the last Under Secretary of State for the Colonies – a post abolished after the American Revolution – was at home in his estate four miles from Fishguard. Similarly fortuitously, Lord Cawdor and his troop of the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry were assembled 30 miles away for a funeral, and marched to Fishguard, joined on the way by the Cardiganshire Militia, who happened to be on exercise.

The final piece of luck was that the Welsh national dress, from a distance, in the dim light, and after drinking a crate of Portuguese wine, looks quite a lot like the uniform of the British Army, so apparently many of the invaders mistook passing Welsh women for the army.

L-R: traditional Welsh Dress, 18th Century British Army Uniforms

Of the 1,400 troops that landed 220 years ago, 800 quickly dispersed and set to looting local villages and hamlets, much to the annoyance of the locals, leaving only 600 grenadiers as the invasion force. One of those disgruntled locals, Jemima Nicholas, apparently rounded up a number of soldiers and brought them to Fishguard Church, where they were detained. On the evening of the 23rd, many of the grenadiers also deserted, having discovered some crates of wine that had been taken from a wrecked Portuguese ship a few weeks earlier.

The much-depleted force had been on dry land for less than 36 hours, before they offered a conditional surrender. It was not accepted and on 24th February, the invasion force unconditionally surrendered.

The Royal Oak in Fishguard, where the surrender was signed

The invasion had been defeated, not by superior tactics or superior numbers, but by good fortune on the part of the British and ill-discipline (and reliance on a largely unwilling conscript force) by the French.

Had the invasion been successful, the impact on 21st Century British life would probably have bene very limited, in practical terms. General Hoche never intended Britain to become a French colony, merely to engineer the break-up of the country.

There is a similarity here with the US Operation Cyclone of the 1970s, which President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski suggested had been intended to destabilise Afghanistan so that the USSR invaded, giving the US a justification for arming the mujahidin.[2]  Zbigniew and the NSA never forecast the collapse of the USSR or the rise of Al Quaida and ISIS. Similarly, the impact of a successful 1797 invasion can never be predicted.

So, 220 years on, remember Fishguard, remember Jemima Nicholas, and most of all remember the importance of being lucky!

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, Student Voice.

Kirstie Best, Subject Leader for Law writes:

I’m currently a student again, enrolled on a level 7 module at the University. The basic purpose of this module is to look at good practice in relation to module design, from learning outcomes (what the student is expected to have learnt and demonstrated by the end of the module), to the alignment of those outcomes with the planning and design of activities, the assessment strategy and, finally, effective feedback practice. In particular, this focuses on ‘blended learning’ i.e. delivery of a module through a mix of face-to-face workshops and on-line materials.

Being a student again is nice in some ways, partly because of discounts on lunch, partly because I get the chance to learn something new through a directed programme of study. Much of my work as a tutor involves setting my own priorities and working out for myself whether or not I’m doing them to the standard required, so it’s quite relaxing working to someone else’s plans and deadlines. Being a student is also stressful, especially balancing module workloads, assignment deadlines, my job and home life.

It’s been an interesting reminder of what’s good practice as a student and a tutor, and of some of the things that are annoying from the student’s and tutor’s perspective. These are of course different sides of the same coin……

In particular, being a student has confirmed what I’ve always known as a tutor, that attending and preparing for classes makes assignments easier, and that some preparation is better than nothing. It’s also confirmed that if, as a student, you’re not willing to speak in class, you can’t justifiably get annoyed when other students are talkative and get all the attention. As a tutor, it’s reminded me that students can be a bit shy about speaking and silence doesn’t necessarily mean that no preparation has been done or that someone has nothing they’d like to say.

Using NILE as a student has been odd, because as a tutor I have to access it and use it differently. As a student, it’s been a useful source of information but it isn’t always easy to navigate (do tutors always ‘sense check’ what they’ve posted on NILE to make sure that what students are expected to do, and what materials are available, are easy to access and understand?). NILE can be good for talking to other students and your tutor, but you can’t be shy about contributing. This can be challenging because what you write feels more permanent than what you say. Even with more material being developed for NILE, as a student I really liked talking to other students and my tutors face-to-face, so there’s a careful balance to be achieved between on-line and face-to-face activities.

Finally…..assignments. As a student, I should have made more use of the individual tutorial support available before assignment deadlines. The result of that is that as a tutor I really don’t understand why drop-in tutorial support around assignment time is so under-used by students.

I found submitting assignments via NILE was easy, so I’m not sure how it’s possible to submit the wrong version of an assignment (or the wrong assignment altogether). I do now understand how irritating it is when the 4-week turn-around deadline for returning marked assignments comes and goes with no announcement about when the assignments will be ready. As a student, I didn’t care whether the assignments were marked on time, just that someone let me know when they would be available so I could stop checking NILE every day, several times a day, and moaning about it with the other students.

Accessing feedback via NILE is trickier than I realised. It wasn’t clear that some of the feedback for me was recorded so I got annoyed when I thought that the feedback was just a few bubble comments (that didn’t feel as though the tutor had spent enough time on my work), and then annoyed because I couldn’t hear the recorded, verbal feedback clearly and had to write it down unless I wanted to listen to it again…and again….

Getting grades and feedback on my assignments reminded me how personal it feels when a tutor tells you that you could have done things better, and that it’s a normal reaction to look for your grade first, feel aggrieved because it’s not an A+, and only then read the feedback. As a tutor, it’s been a useful reminder of the need to balance advice about what is good and not so good about the student’s work, and how to improve so that you might wish you’d done better, but know why you didn’t.

All of this, of course, means that there is now a virtuous circle where my experience as a tutor means I’ll be a better student, and my experience as a student means I’ll be a better tutor…….

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, Links, News.

Dr Melanie Crofts, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

I recently attended a Chartered Association of Business Schools event at De Montfort University, Leicester.  The aim of the event was to hear from LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning and others) staff and students and discuss how Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and Business Schools in particular, can be transformative in terms of gender identity and equality and how we can better support staff and students.

Dominic Shellard, the VC of De Montfort University, opened the day’s discussions.  What became clear was his commitment, not only to the specific agenda we were there to discuss, but to the equality agenda more broadly. He spoke candidly about his experiences of coming out as a gay man and the discrimination he faced.  He also acknowledged that despite being gay, he was also someone who was in a relative position of privilege (as a white, middleclass, man) and that he recognised other forms of disadvantage which staff and students may face and issues around intersectionalities.  He also accepted that De Montfort was institutionally racist and gave the BME student attainment gap as an example.  He noted that the gap was still at 14%, despite having robust equalities policies and practices in place.  It was heartening (if not quite unusual) to hear a VC talking about equality in such candid terms.  He spoke about diversity as being a good business proposition and, although I am very sceptical of the business case for equality, he clearly didn’t accept the view of another VC who had told him that you “can’t increase standards and maintain diversity”.

As an institution De Montfort are involved in a number of initiatives to promote LGBTQ+ equality including having their own DMU Pride event and engaging with Stonewall, who are inspecting their practices and providing a framework for action and acting as a ‘critical friends’.  This has resulted in DMU entering in the Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index. Dominic stated that investment in the area of equality, equality champions, equality officers and equality research were all key to driving the agenda forward. He stated that universities have an obligation to challenge racist, sexist, ableist, and homo/trans-phobic discourses.  He also suggested that there needed to be authentic leadership and that we have a long way to go, and, at the very least, HEIs need to have reflective governance structures.

Other discussions and presentations during the day focused on areas such as the experience of transgendered students and the difficulties of transitioning at university.  Simple but problematic issues were raised such as changing ID cards, email addresses, registers and updating systems without having to put students who are transitioning on the spot or having to face awkward situations.  As Business Schools we need to make sure we are preparing our students to deal with diversity and understand the impact of transitioning as this will be something students will experience in the world of work, for example as HR professionals.

Professor Nick Rumens, from the University of Portsmouth, argued that Business Schools (and HEIs generally) need to do more around issues of equality and diversity and they need to do it more imaginatively by challenging the business case.  Focusing on the business case means that palatable ‘safe’ concepts of sexual diversity are promoted.  The dominance of the business case means that other discourses are supressed. He argued that there needs to be transformation not accommodation. Accommodation does not go far enough and produces a ‘gay friendly closet’.  He suggested approaches such as the use of Queer Theory in Business Schools and understanding power relationships and challenging social constructions of gender and sexuality.  He stated that we need to question concepts of heteronormativity/cisnormativity and critique pedagogic practices and what is valued in the classroom. Methods such as using case study examples from students and their lived experiences, utilising narrative approaches and dealing with multiplicities of difference were suggested as ways of developing LGBTQ+ ‘friendly’ Business Schools and developing students’ critical reasoning.

Business Schools, he commented, have a vital role to play in education in relation to equality and social responsibility and this is something they do not always do very well.  They are often merely areas which are ‘tagged on’.  He suggested that there should be serious questions raised if diversity and equality do not form a significant component in Business School education.

On the basis of the discussions which took place, I reflected on what I thought might be some of the key considerations for the University of Northampton and the Faculty of Business and Law in terms of promoting and developing issues around LGBTQ+ staff and students.

At an institutional level we must ensure we become members of the Equality Challenge Unit.  Membership sets the tone and identifies equality, diversity and inclusivity as key priorities.  We must engage with Stonewall and aim to be on the Workplace Equality Index.  This will require developing LGBTQ+ friendly and non-binary policies, procedures and practices. For example, we could use and encourage gender neutral titles.  We must have procedures in place that support staff and students who are transitioning.  Finally, we must collect and monitor data around sexuality and gender identity.

As a Faculty we must consider how we can create a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ students and staff.  We must campaign to raise awareness around LGBTQ+ issues and challenge heteronormativity, for example, by using critical approaches in the curriculum and considering how we teach gender and sexuality, either implicitly or explicitly.  We need to be aware of where our students come from and how we deal with issues of ‘conflict’ and homo/trans-phobic bullying.  Finally, we need to consider adopting a policy which takes into account staff going abroad where homosexuality is illegal, either in relation to having LGBTQ+ staff or where staff are teaching controversial ideas, and ensure that staff who do not wish to or are unable to teach abroad are not disadvantaged in terms of career progression.


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Nick Cartwright, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

The Core Law project is a project funded by the Institute of Learning and Teaching (ILT) which will evaluate law resources with a view to providing better resources to our students in future.  To support the research we have been awarded an Undergraduate Research Bursary (URB@N) to fund an undergraduate student facilitating student focus groups.

The undergraduate researcher was appointed at the end of the first-term which coincided with when the module we are evaluating concluded, we are now waiting for the relevant ethics committee to confirm that our focus groups can go ahead.  This is a frustrating but necessary wait and while we wait we are ensuring everything else in place so we can move quickly.

Assuming we get approval from the ethics committee focus groups will be held in the next fortnight so that these can feed into the evaluation of the resources we current use and the creation of new (hopefully better) resources.  We will design and create these resources, involving media students with the acting and filming around Easter time and we are confident we will have new resources in place in advance of the start of the 2017/18 academic year.

This is the third in a series of blog posts about this ILT-Funded project. the first two can be found here and here.