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By Dr. Jasmine Shadrack, Senior Lecturer in Popular Music, FAST

As this year’s choir have been asked to perform at the opening ceremony of Waterside, as well as our own performance at the Royal next June, it was important to choose a piece of music that had the wow factor. And for me, that has to be Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor. It was the first piece I ever conducted so I have very fond memories of it. I have also performed it myself as a soprano during my undergraduate degree so my knowledge of it is intimate. The fact that Mozart knew he was dying when he wrote it, makes the piece all the more poignant and special.

The music for it will take a longer time to come together but the choir are making great strides already. We have completed (in the most part!) the Aeternam and the Kyrie Eleison (the first two movements) as well as learning some traditional Christmas carols too (for a lunch time concert later in the term). This time I am joined by a new member of staff, Miss Francesca Stevens who does a two hour vocal training session a week to support what I do every Monday in choir rehearsal. Already I have noticed the bond starting to form, not just between each section of the choir, but as a unit too. One of the things I love most about doing this is watching everyone work together for a common goal. It is active blended learning at every stage, from the rehearsals all the way through to the performance. Not only do they learn close score reading, sight reading , close part harmony, how counterpoint functions, effective breathing techniques, good pronunciation, professional conduct and critical listening, they also forge real solidarity as a cohort that spans across all years of the popular music undergraduate degree.

They are able to exercise their own autonomy by using their voice. This might sound simplistic but it really helps to acknowledge that one voice can have a huge impact on a choir. Through their subjective involvement, they take part and contribute to an objective goal so it is experiential. They also gain empowerment through their learning community. As the choir is voluntary, it means that they are there because they want to be and they are not doing it for assessment purposes. I have tried making it assessable previously and it just didn’t work; it actually undermined all the camaraderie and fun we have with it. There is a real sense of inclusivity too that reflects on their personal responsibility to the choir.

So, at week three of the choir in term 1, we are making great progress and having fun at the same time!

Jasmine will be keeping us up to date with the progress of the choir, but this post is also one in a series of ABL Practitioner Stories, published in the countdown to Waterside. If you’d like us to feature your work, get in touch:

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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.

Blended Learning and Physical Volcanology

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.

Using Trello to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Fashion

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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.

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Emma Rose briefly outlines her experiments with Flipped Classroom techniques and what the benefits have been.



In this video James talks through the ways that he has changed his use of NILE to make learning more interactive and to ensure students are better prepared for class.

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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.

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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.

For information about the group, please see the page on the main University website.

Please click this link to access the blog maintained by School of Science and Technology.

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Tiled images of pinterest boardsI 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)

Pin Screen Shot

pinterest screenshot multidisciplinary


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.

Watch the film here: Errol Flynn Cinema screenings for UN students as part of Film and Screen Studies Lectures

Source: University of Northampton. 2015. University of Northampton students get their lecture kicks at the flicks. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 November 15].