Enhancement Themes Conference – Days 2 & 3

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Some notes on days 2 & 3 – by Julie

Alastair has already blogged about the keynote speaker for Day 2 – Professor George Kuh and mentioned his concept of Higher Impact Practices (HIPs).  If Alastair’s blog has piqued your interest, you can find out some more details about these on the American Association of Colleges and Universities webpages.

Honourable mention must to go Lyz Howie and Evelyn Mohammed from UWS where they have been encouraging assessment of trainee midwife personal development through creative activities.  We were treated to poetry and song from their students who had participated in “The Gathering” (as they called this initiative) and the depth of reflection and understanding from the students was evident in their very powerful performances.  An excellent example of embedding creativity and engagement into the curriculum and showing that assessments can also be creative and innovative.

Another interesting project was “The Dissertation Maze”, presented by Jacqueline Brodie and Kay Penny from Edinburgh Napier University.  This is an online Moodle resource for direct entrants into fourth year who often have to hit the ground running with regards to their dissertation.  They conducted interviews with students about their needs and experiences and created an Open Moodle e-toolkit.  This e-toolkit includes a number of topics e.g. “Finding your research idea” and “Referencing” (hyperlinks are to publically available video content from the e-toolkit) to help students through the dissertation process supported by interactive resources and “virtual buddies”.  The researchers have created a WebEx presentation of their research and toolkit and their videos can also be accessed online (google: the dissertation maze napier).  I really liked the look of this and the initial feedback from students seems to be very positive.

The final presentation I attended was by Joakim Palestro and Ulrika Thafvelin of the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKӒ), talking about the Swedish approach to quality review.  The UKӒ has just finished a cycle of reviewing HE provision which is conducted centrally at a programme level in Sweden.  What was particularly fascinating was their approach to evaluating the outcomes of the programmes rather than processes.  They have a guide on their webpages but the main philosophy is assessing whether students have achieved the programme learning outcomes (which are based on nationally set objectives) by looking at samples of students’ independent projects, interviewing students and a university self-evaluation document.  Quality process issues are not considered as this is felt to be the remit of the institution and it is the student outcomes that are important.  If programmes are found to be of “inadequate quality”, they are given a year to remedy any shortcomings and the UKӒ ultimately may decide to revoke the institutions entitlement to award that qualification.  This focus on outputs rather than processes is an interesting one, particularly given the current reviews of quality frameworks going on across the UK and so a lack of certainty regarding how future reviews of provision in the UK might be done.

The full set of papers presented at the conference (including workshop presentations) can be downloaded from the Resources section of the Enhancement Themes website.

International Conference on Enhancement and Innovation in Higher Education – Glasgow, 9-11 June 2015 (twitter: #ETConf15)

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Reflections on Day 1 of the conference by Julie:

The weather in Glasgow this week has been absolutely amazing so far. Sunshine is beating down on the conference venue which is located next to the River Clyde, lending a stunning backdrop to the proceedings (see photo below). This is truly an international conference with delegates from Hong Kong, Australia, the US, Belgium, Sweden, to name but a few as well as delegates from all over the UK. Scottish institutions, as you might imagine, are very well represented with a number of colleagues from Abertay attending over three days, including giving some presentations. The theme of the conference ties in with the current Scottish HE enhancement theme of “Student Transitions“.

Conference venue in the sun

So, how did day 1 go? Well, we started off with an energetic keynote from Professor Sally Kift, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at James Cook University, Australia (@KiftSally; Professor Kift’s Fellowship page). Sally has been doing some amazing work on the first year experience and drew on practice and research from across the globe in her overview of things which make transitions better for students. Of particular interest was her belief that the entire institution needs to be working together to support student transitions and her use of policy documents to drive improvements. Something I’ll be thinking about when I return! A website has been developed as a result of the work of Sally and others which I think colleagues will find interesting to look at:

There were a number of presentations from institutions using online pre-entry support modules but one presentation was from Leeds on an online support module for students going into 2nd year (their first honours year in the English system, so equivalent to our 3rd year). This included some subject specific support e.g. recommended readings for students to do over the summer between first and second year; study tips, videos from previous students about what to expect and support for new skills or skills that would be developed further in 2nd year e.g. how to read a journal article and examples of annotated 2nd year exams. The University of Stirling is also looking at the transition into the Honours years of university study as part of their transitions theme work and I think this is something that Abertay might want to consider as well, especially now that our third year also counts towards degree classifications. The Partnerships Office already does some great work with students articulating into our honours years, so we already have some good practice that potentially could be adapted to our existing students.

GCU are doing some brilliant student engagement work with their Engage project and UWS students discussed using Xerte (which we have at Abertay – speak to our TELS team) within their modules to “engage students in research-based co-creation & co-production of re-purposable learning outputs” – contact me if you want this unpacked a bit and more details! David Carless plugged his new book which sounds really interesting “Excellence in University Assessment” and gave details of his research on the practice of excellent lecturers in Hong Kong (which you can find out about in his book).

I talked about our Week 7 ‘Structured Feedback Week’ in a workshop about feedback practices and a number of institutions were really interested in this idea. One of the things that has struck me whilst attending the presentations and looking at the posters is that we have a lot of amazing, innovative and excellent practice across Abertay and I don’t think we always realise this and give ourselves the credit and national/international airing our practice deserves. I will be contacting Schools over the next few months to find out about some of the practice we do and gather some case studies as part of our ELIR preparations and to share with other colleagues at Abertay and promote this externally once the NetTLE webpages are open to the public. I hope that you will tell me about what you are doing and I look forward to hearing about it.