Category Archives: Pedagogy Blogs

Lecture Response Systems

banners-learning-lecture-room1200x250Large classes present a number of challenges for HE academic staff.  Students typically sit in vast tiered lecture theatres whilst a lone figure patrols the stage in front of them, seeking to impart knowledge and enthusiasm of the lecture topic.  It can be very difficult to actively engage students in such an environment and to gauge whether the students are actually learning anything.  One approach that a number of academics in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) have tried is to experiment with different lecture response systems. Such was the level of interest that we made this topic the subject of our School of MACE eLearning Community of Practice meeting in Sept 2015.

We discussed four different lecture response systems during the meeting: Mentimeter, mbclick, Twitter and electronic handset based systems (commonly known as clickers) Continue reading Lecture Response Systems

Designing assessments that are meaningful, equitable and manageable in UK higher education

Designing assessments for very large classes is often a problematic experience for academic staff, a challenge that is magnified in today’s highly internationalised student environment. In this post, which has been published on the Higher Education Academy website, I discuss the considerations and constraints that must be taken into account when designing assessments that are meaningful, equitable and manageable for both staff and students alike. The post will be of particular interest to the “newbie academic” or those facing the challenges of large class teaching for the first time. You can read the post here

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Getting Started in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Once a year myself and a colleague deliver a session to participants in the New Academic’s Programme at The University of Manchester entitled “Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)”.  Our aim in this session is to spark interest in  the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as a valuable and legitimate scholarly activity.  The slides, which are available in Slideshare here, provide an overview of what SOTL is, how it is similar and yet subtly different to pedagogic research, and tools and techniques for getting started.  It is a resource that I wish had been available when I was starting my academic career and I hope it is useful to you as a means of reflecting on and improving your teaching practice in Higher Education today.

Moving from individual to group based coursework

The holy-grail of assessment in large class HE teaching, IMHO, is finding an assessment process that is in equal measure meaningful, equitable to students and manageable for me as a busy academic.

Iron triangle of assessmentI have blogged on this topic previously, and a couple of years on I want to share my experiences of moving my coursework from individual to group-work on a large international post-graduate taught module.

In previous years the coursework element of my MSc unit on  Project Finance for Infrastructure has typically comprised an individual essay with a strict 6 page limit (including all references, diagrams etc) on a topic which requires students to critically appraise the theories of project finance and to compare them with what happens in practice on a real project case study.  Although I had a brief dalliance with a group based wiki assessment in 2009, the technological issues that arose had me retreating to the safety of a word based individual essay in 2010. This academic year (2014/15) I decided that enough was enough. My rationale for moving to group-work was largely pragmatic: I wanted to reduce the burden of marking, yet try to ensure that the assessment remained meaningful and equitable.

Here is what happened and what I have learned from the process. Continue reading Moving from individual to group based coursework

Reflections on Large Class Teaching

As academics, I think we can often feel like this image here of an overloaded truck.  There are many competing demands on our time: research, teaching, administration, student experience and the all important NSS.  Who doesn’t feel like this some days ?overloaded truck Senagal- Credit Daniel Penney

Large class teaching can be one more pressure that we have to deal with.  There are myriad challenges to address, such as managing student expectations, being available to students but also having a life outside work, and perhaps worst of all the relentlessness and never-ending nature of the marking.

In the early days, when I asked for help about how to deliver good teaching to very large classes, a distinguished elder scholar who shall remain nameless retorted “I just wouldn’t do them” – not that helpful to a newbie academic!  My hope today is to offer tips that are a bit more useful than that, yet grounded in the reality that large classes are not going to go away and we as academics need to deal with them. (A copy of the presentation on which this blog post is based is available on Slideshare ) Continue reading Reflections on Large Class Teaching