#Take5 No.15: The Best Teaching and Learning Conversations

TLC: The Best Teaching and Learning Conversations

http://www.celt.mmu.ac.uk/flex/tlc.php

Happy new academic year! This year, #Take5 is celebrating MMU’s Teaching and Learning Conversations (TLC). These free, open online conversations offer an exciting informal cross-institutional collaboration to provide joint CPD opportunities for everybody teaching and/or supporting learning in Higher Education.

Manchester Metropolitan University with London Metropolitan University, Northampton, Surrey, Suffolk and Sheffield Hallam universities are organising these monthly Webinars to bring together colleagues from different disciplines, institutions and countries to engage in Teaching and Learning Conversations.

Together, we will discuss and debate a variety of current teaching and learning topics in a series of monthly webinars which will be a great opportunity to reflect on our practice but also share good practice and find out what is happening beyond our own institutional walls in the more global HE landscape.

All webinars are open to the wider community to join and will be advertised locally at participating institutions but also via social media channels. Please feel free to share the link to the TLC programme and individual webinars with others who might also be interested. Have look at the programme below, and read the instructions on how to participate.

TLC now has its own blog where you can find more information about each Conversation – and where links to recordings of previous sessions will be flagged up.

Come to the Next TLC:

Using poetry in teaching #TLCwebinar with Dr Sam Illingworth, join us on the 18 Oct, 1.30pm UK time

In this interactive session, Sam who is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University, will discuss how poetry can be used as a facilitatory tool to explore a variety of subjects in higher education. Further details and information about Sam can be found on the TLC website at: http://wp.me/p6HUdF-7F

Joining the conversation:

Simply follow this link http://mmu.adobeconnect.com/tlc/ and enter as a guest by typing your name, institution and country into the name field and clicking on the “Join Meeting” button.

Whether or not you have previously participated in a webinar or online activity using Adobe Connect we advise that you make sure that you do some checking and preparation in advance. Check your set-up and connection here. You may also find our Adobe Connect Webinar Participant Guide useful to print out in advance of the session. We really hope that you will be able to join for what should be a lively and highly interactive TLC.

We are really looking forward to discussing poetry with Dr Sam Illingworth and all of you.

Take5 #11: What makes a great exam?

CREATING ACTIVE LEARNING IN EXAMS

Inspired by October 30, 2015 iad4learnteach blog with permission from Simon Bates.

In our last Take5 blog, we looked at what makes a great lecturer – this post explores what makes a great exam.

Simon Bates is Senior Advisor for Teaching and Learning and Academic Director for CTLT at UBC Vancouver. He has spent time re-thinking classroom practice – AND he has also designed a new two-stage exam that includes both individual and group elements – and that he argues better models real world issues with which graduates will have to engage – and that in the process offers students a more authentic and meaningful exam experience.

Simon’s model has been implemented in over 140 courses and across a range of faculties. In the two-stage exam, students take an individual conventional exam in the first two thirds of the exam time – and a final group exam in the last third. The group exam draws on the same set of questions as the individual exam, although there may be more challenging questions.  Typically the individual exam is worth 85% of the final mark, with the remaining 15% allocated to the group exam.

Although this may seem a strange process on first reading, Bates points out that the two stage exam is a logical extension of the kinds of active learning methods that are firmly embedded in our teaching practice: group discussions, peer-to-peer- and problem-based learning.  Moreover, they turn exams away from assessment of learning to assessment as learning – and they model the problem solving that we engage in in the real world far better than an individual exam ever could.

The group exam is a noisy, dynamic process, where practically every student contributes. The stakes are high and discussions can be intense.  Perhaps the most striking thing Simon reported about the group exam is that afterwards the students leave with smiles on their faces – they are happy!

The mark awarded for each group exam tends to be higher than the marks scored in the individual exam, so the two stage exam process represents a grade boost for most students.  For about 5% of students the individual exam marks are higher than the mark awarded to their group.  In these cases UBC awards the student the mark scored in the individual exam.  This ensures that the marks for the group exam can never be used to penalise students.

What are the advantages of this system?

In this model, the exam becomes a learning experience instead of a measurement activity. In the discussions, students have to explain reasons for their choices – they have to argue and make cases for their points of view. There is a celebration that peer-to-peer learning occurs in the exam. There’s the opportunity, too, for all students to contribute.  And there’s a prevailing sense that the students like this model – it’s a logical extension of the kind of group-based learning they’ve become used to in the classroom and they’re aware that it’s an opportunity to boost their grades.  And it’s a great learning opportunity providing immediate feedback at a moment when they actually care about it.

And the disadvantages

Importantly, it’s only something that can work where students are already used to working in groups.  If more traditional teaching methods have been employed in the course, with little or no learning through collaboration and discussion, then the group exam is unlikely to find favour.

The dynamics of the group may be an issue, as with all group work, the process can be disrupted by a domineering student or participants who are not pulling their weight. It could be easy for students to get side-tracked or not manage the time or tasks well. It could be challenged on accessibility and inclusivity: how can students with different needs, the requirements for extra time or for quiet spaces to work, be accommodated, for example?

Arguably the pros outweigh the cons.  And research with the students seems to add weight to this.  In open-ended questions about the process, the positive comments exceeded the negatives by four to one.  Students appreciated the discussions and the opportunity to learn why their original answers were wrong or right. They liked approaching the questions from new perspectives and, of course, the opportunity to enhance their grades.  On the negative side they struggled with coming to a consensus about the answer, and with managing the time. They also struggled if there were knowledge gaps in the groups.

And finally

The two stage exams seem like a logical extension to the kinds of active learning that have become so important during class time.  They shift us away from a situation where students take an exam in order to get a grade, towards a process where learning and engagement takes place as part of the exam itself. Simon argues that they are a very efficient method of assessment and very easy to implement. Indeed, after hearing about Simon’s practice, it seems strange that we have not already thought about how to make exams more active and interactive.  If you are interested in developing your assessment practices – do consider enrolling on CELT’s MAF module.

About the ideas man

Simon Bates is Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at the University of British Columbia. Prior to that he worked at the University of Edinburgh where he was Professor of Physics Education, and Dean for Learning and Teaching in the College of Science and Engineering.  

Going Further

In CELT we offer the Managing the Assessment and Feedback Process (MAF) module as part of our MALTHE – and as a standalone CPD course. It is a creative and interesting module, exploring assessment of, for and as learning – and we argue that it is possible to design assessments that are authentic, engaging and purposeful… Typically, no one tends to explore how to make the exam process itself more meaningful – and that is one reason why Simon Bates’ engaging blog on exam practice caught our eye.

Take5 #9: It’s Autumn 2015/16 – and we’re getting creative with Chrissie Nerantzi

Welcome back to Take5 – the user-friendly staff development blog from CELT at London Metropolitan University.

This autumn we are launching Take5 by joining in with Chrissi Nerantzi’s open course: Creativity for Learning in HE. Like everybody else we are much too busy … BUT if we don’t make time for some creativity – then what’s it all about anyway? So – we are sharing this invitation with you and hope that you too will make the time – take the leap – and join us… Come on in… the water’s lovely!!

Tips:

  • If you are from LondonMet and would like to join in a real life group to focus on this course – do email s.sinfield@londonmet.ac.uk and let us know that you are interested.
  • Why not blog about your engagement with Take5 and with #creativeHE:
    • Blog posts need only be 300-500 words long – be swift and reflective.
    • Your audience will be other staff, just like you – so write your posts for them: why will they be interested in what you have done or learned? What will you want them to think or do after reading your blog post?
    • Blogs are less formal than essays or articles – find a writing style that works in a blog.
    • Add pictures (photographs or drawings) to make your blog more user-friendly and readable.
    • Read other blogs – each time you read someone else’s blog – ‘like’ it – leave a Comment. The point with the blogs is to create a friendly dialogue about what we are doing.

NOW – Here’s Chrissi’s invitation:

“Dear colleagues,

The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom will be offering the open course Creativity for Learning in Higher Education. I’d like to invite individual colleagues from across the HE sector and groups of colleagues from the same institution and their tutors to join this course as part of their CPD given them the opportunity to spice up their teaching.

We will explore the following themes:

    • Conceptualising creativity in higher education
    • Enablers and barriers of creativity in higher education
    • Learning through play, games, models and stories
    • The role of curiosity and other intrinsic motivations for engagement
    • Developing creative methods and practices
    • Evaluating a pedagogical innovation.

This course will be used as a case study for my PhD research in open cross-institutional academic development, with a focus on collaborative learning and I would like to invite learners to participate in this study.

The open course site for Creativity for Learning in HE can be accessed at:

https://courses.p2pu.org/en/courses/2615/creativity-for-learning-in-higher-education/

The facilitated online part of the course will be offered over 8 weeks starting on the 28th of September 15 until the 20th of November. Participation is flexible and can be fully tailored to personal and professional circumstances and time available. Collaborative learning opportunities will be there as an option for those who wish to learn with others.

I hope this sounds interesting and useful for you and colleagues. Please share this invite with others who might also be interested …

To get started access:

https://courses.p2pu.org/en/courses/2615/content/5638/

Connect with other learners in our online community at:

https://plus.google.com/communities/110898703741307769041

Really looking forward to seeing you there.

Please note, ethical approval for this study has been granted by Edinburgh Napier University and further details about the project will be shared with group/course/module/programme leaders who are considering joining us with a group of colleagues.

Thank you for considering this. Best wishes,

Chrissi (Nerantzi) from CELT, MMU”