Most university lecturers will have their favourite anti-lecturing quote. Mine has always been Camus’ oft-quoted “Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep”. Another favourite is the variously attributed definition “Lecture: a process by which the notes of the professor become the notes of the student, without passing through the minds of either.”
In fairness to university lecturers, none of the lecturers I know deliver these kind of dreary monologues. Also, if a lecturer is timetabled into a room with a lectern, projector and screen, and tiered seating containing 250 students then surely we cannot chastise them for using that room for the purpose it was designed and intended for. Obviously such space can be subverted and used differently (as professors such as Eric Mazur and Simon Lancaster have done), but surely the best solution is simply not to build these kinds of spaces in the first place. If active, participatory learning in small groups is what is best (and the evidence suggests that it is) then why not build spaces that accommodate this kind of learning and teaching.
At the University of Northampton that’s exactly what is happening. As was recently reported in the Sunday Times, the University of Northampton’s Waterside campus “is to be built with no traditional lecture theatres, providing further evidence that the days of professors imparting knowledge to hundreds of students at once may be numbered.” The new campus ”is the first in the UK to be designed without large auditoriums.”
While it is true that the majority of teaching that takes place at the Waterside campus is planned to be active, interactive and participatory, and to take place in small classes, there will obviously need to be some element of professors imparting knowledge to their students. This is, after all, for most people a key part of the process of teaching and learning. However, the plan for Waterside is for such ‘professorial knowledge imparting’ to take place online, prior to attending class; a process often known as flipped or blended learning. This means that time is not taken up in the small class sessions with getting knowledge across to the students, or with ‘covering content’, but on helping students to understand, assimilate and make sense of the knowledge they have grappled with prior to attending class.
Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, is not only building a campus in which active, participatory, small class teaching will be the norm, but as a member of the teaching staff he is already teaching in this way himself. Professor Petford adopted this blended learning approach in his physical volcanology classes during the 2015/16 academic year, and you can see him talking about how it went in this video.
Jane Mills, Senior Lecturer for Fashion at the University of Northampton and BA (Hons) Fashion, Textiles for Fashion, and Footwear and Accessories students, Bregha, Gemma, Louise and Upasna discuss their use of the Trello App to support their group work projects.
As part of the recent S.H.E.D. roadshow, we invited teaching staff to share their successful practice. The example below could be a useful approach for anyone looking to encourage their students to research and understand their subject, and to share that understanding with their peers.
In a third year module on Biodiversity and Conservation, Professor Jeff Ollerton asks his students to engage with a range of scientific writing published around the subject. This includes articles from peer-reviewed journals, UK Parliamentary briefings, scientific journalism, and more. In this part of the module, students are initially provided with recommended articles, and asked to read them critically, attending to the aims, message and methods, and considering whether the conclusions are justified. They then discuss their views in class, where their contributions are assessed using a rubric that is made available to all students in advance. The students are then asked to identify a paper of their choice and deliver a 5 minute verbal presentation to the class. The grade for this is combined with the contribution grade to make up 30% of the total module grade (other parts of the module are assessed using a report and a group debate).
These tasks not only help to ensure that students engage with research and develop their understanding, but they also build confidence and presentation skills. The attached Assessment Brief gives more detail about the assessment structure.
In this video Sylvie talks about how she has been changing the delivery of academic skills to develop the the level of integration between generic academic skills and subject specific skills. In addition, she explains the process of integrating blended approaches into CfAP’s (Centre for Achievement and Performance) delivery.
The Science and Technology in Pedagogy (STRiPe) Research Group was set up to facilitate those working on teaching and learning activities related to science and technology to collaborate. Pedagogy is central to the success of the University, and having a cross-disciplinary and cross-university groups aims to help with this. STRiPe’s aims to take the work members are doing or planning to do with their students, and help with collaboration.
I used to teach Contextual Studies at the Carmarthenshire School of the Arts. I found a fairly simple way to utilise TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) through working with Pinterest* as a 21st century equivalent of a visual diary/reflective journal/ sketchbook. In a Level 4 Visual and Material Culture module for Contextual Studies I teamed up with the tutors leading practical modules to create a joint task. Each tutor (theoretical and practical) set up a Pinterest account that demonstrated their aesthetic interests.
Stage one of the tasks was that students reviewed staff sites in order to identify contemporary trends and to evaluate the components of each staff member’s aesthetic (formal elements such as colour palette and conceptual concerns).
Stage two was to create their own boards relating to their own concerns and at least two elements from the lecture programme. The title function on the image can be used to capture short, critical and reflective writing on their selections.
Throughout the module students were expected to share pins and form a ‘visual dialogue’ with each other. They also had to write a short reflection on the development of their aesthetic across the term. The boards, pins, notes, visual dialogue and reflective account then became part of their assessment at the end of the module*1
What is nice about Pinterest is that you can Pin any 2D or moving image so I have also used this in an education context because you can create snapshots of texts, review books, share video case studies etc and comment on them.
*Please note that Pinterest is not a University supported tool and so no targetted staff development training is available. However, it has an extremely user friendly interface and is easy to self-teach.
*1 Due to the fact that Pinterest is an external provider you cannot put students in a position where they would be disadvantaged if they did not use it. My way round this was to allow alternative modes of responding to the task (e.g. the more traditional sketchbook or reflective journal)
Undergraduates on the Film and Screen Studies degree course are now enjoying seminars and screenings at the Errol Flynn Filmhouse, in Northampton, allowing them to see movies as directors intended – on the giant screen.
“This is an exciting opportunity for students, enabling them to study films within the environment of their reception, while also providing them with an invaluable insight into industry practices,” said Dr Michael Starr, Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies.
Source: University of Northampton. 2015. University of Northampton students get their lecture kicks at the flicks. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.northampton.ac.uk/news/university-of-northampton-students-get-their-lecture-kicks-at-the-flicks. [Accessed 30 November 15].
The Geography+ project aims to support the development of employability skills in students studying in levels 4 and 5 of the Geography programme. It is currently running as an extra-curricular ‘module’ led by Faith Tucker, with support from staff in the discipline and staff from the Changemaker hub.
For more detail about Geography+, have a look at the overview:
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