Just a few more thoughts on attending Day Two of the Staff and Educational Development (SEDA) conference.
Student and staff as partners
Becka Colley, Dean of students at the University of Bradford and National Teaching Fellow gave the first keynote of the second day entitled Why Am I here? Why should I stay?
Becka has overall responsibility for the student experience and success and started by talking about how key drivers for change in the sector is the different and diverse kinds of students and their different expectations to University. Listening to the students at Bradford have revealed that they are aware that a degree is considered a good thing and necessary by parents, government etc, however, they are still very uncertain about why they should be going to University.
She underlined the importance of seeing students as individuals, as people not simply consumers – thus linking to similar concerns to the ones expressed by Usman Ali in yesterday’s first keynote. Throughout her presentation, Becka continually returned to the need for a holistic perspective and a holistic approach to the student experience. For example, don’t force the students to fit University processes, acknowledge that students have responsibilities and priorities like rent, work, etc.
Becka went on to talk about how one-third of first year students have had doubts about being at university and seriously considered leaving. The main reasons are that they are not engaged academically (course is not what they expected or they feel they are not clever enough), feel socially isolated (also disengaged, feeling lonely, homesick and friendless) or they have concerns about not being able to achieve future career aspirations.
In her research, some of the main reasons student gave for being at Uni:
- Nothing else to do
- Parents/others told them to go
- Don’t want to get a job
- Want to study the subject
Becka Colley spoke passionately and convincingly about HEIs having a moral and ethical responsibility to help students become effective learners because they have been given a place at the institution. Her stance means that everyone in the institution – also (and perhaps especially) academic staff – need to take responsibility for student learning, encourage students active engagement in the academic curriculum and create environments where students feel they belong because retention and student success should be something that matters to them.
I found the keynote very inspiring because it made me realise things actually need to change radically – more radically than most staff in HE think. It was very positive to be presented with the potential of a holistic university enabling students as well as staff to be fully and productively engaged.
You can view the keynote slides at http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/rcurrant/seda-keynote-may-2012
Student and staff pedagogical perspectives
Julie Hall and Jo Peat lead a really interesting workshop presenting some findings from the Gender and Pedagogies NTFs project at Roehampton University. Part of this research involved interviewing 64 students to get their perspectives on their learning experiences which was then shared with those academic staff who taught them. Interestingly, there was a big disconnect between student and staff perception of what happens in the classroom or other staff/student interaction. The quotations detailing the student perspective had often surprised the staff but encouragingly led to reflection on their practice and discussion of their approaches to teaching and learning – an opportunity to reflect welcomed by the staff. I look forward to the toolkit that will emerge from this work and I think it will prove to be a powerful way to get staff to engage in discussions about student and staff perceptions of teaching and learning interaction and situations.
Engaging students in the curriculum
I also attended a workshop run by Avril Honan and Roisin Curran (contributing via skype) from the University of Ulster. The Students’ Union and the Staff Development Unit have worked together to involve students in the cycle of revalidation. Key areas student discuss in workshops led by the SU, which then inform course team decisions, are transition, assessment and feedback, engagement, employability. Plans were to develop this engagement further involving students in curriculum and assessment design as partners.
Undergraduate research as a way of engaging students authentically
Helen Walkington, a National Teaching Fellow from Oxford Brookes University and current HEA discipline lead (GEES) presented the final keynote and the topic echoed conference themes of authentic ways of engaging students in a supported environment and with an emphasis of community and joint inquiry. Helen suggested that a conference of undergraduate research (CUR) promotes the kind of feedback-dialogue that students say they want and are most useful for developing their learning.
Some advantages of CUR:
- Students gain recognition as disciplinary researchers
- They get to talk to people on equal terms
- They develop self-criticality
All skills that are key graduate skills and useful for life as well as employment.
I hope to be back to the next SEDA conference to share and explore more ideas around engaging staff (and students) in teaching and learning development.
Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen). I aim to represent all the speakers as accurately as possible but please note that I can of course have made mistakes in the way I have written up their words.