Enhancement Theme

#ATLEF 4 Abertay Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund: Student-Led projects

Posted on Updated on

Today sees the launch of Abertay’s fourth round of funding to supporting teaching and learning innovation.   Abertay’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Call 4 (known as ATLEF 4), consists of two strands.  One is a call for proposals to staff in the area of “online learning”, the other, is a first for ATLEF; we are looking for students to propose ideas and lead projects designed to help enhance the learning experience at Abertay.  The call is being run in conjunction with Abertay Students’ Association and opens on 3rd February, closing at 4pm on 4 March 2016.  Guidance and forms are available from the TLE intranet pages.

Why is Abertay doing this?

Supporting students’ deeper engagement in their learning and promoting pedagogical approaches which encourage greater partnership between staff and students is well established in contemporary academic literature and is part of the philosophy of Abertay’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement strategy and our Student Partnership Agreement. ATLEF has been very successful already in terms of building capacity in the University for pedagogic research but also supporting greater student engagement. The latest ATLEF call is an exciting new opportunity for students to obtain funding to work on an area which is of interest to them and make a positive difference to the learning experience at Abertay.  Abertay’s call follows a number of very successful similar initiatives at other UK universities which have demonstrated positive outcomes for both students and staff.

How will the scheme work?

Project proposals can come from either individuals or small (2-5) groups of students.  Proposals might cover an area of curriculum development, be related to a particular service area (teaching and supporting learning focus), surveying students’ perspectives on their experience or helping to develop student-friendly information or resources related to an aspect of teaching and learning or something else which students would like to explore.  However, projects should have benefits for/impact on the wider Abertay student community and should also have relevance to the current national enhancement theme “Student Transitions”.

In order to help support successful and sustainable project outcomes, all student projects will have a staff supporter and a Student Association supporter working with the student research team.  Depending on the nature of the project, the staff supporter may come from one of the academic schools or from a service area.  The purpose of the staff and Student Association supporters are to help and guide the student researchers.  The staff and Student Association supporters may act as critical friends to the students but should not lead the project themselves.  Staff within TLE provide a co-ordinating function but also mentoring support for each of the projects and overall management of the initiative.

The ACMs in each School have been nominated as a first port of call for students who don’t know which members of staff might be interested in supporting projects.  This will be facilitated by the Students’ Association for students whose proposed project requires support from a service area.

What does it mean for staff?

We would be very grateful if staff could please promote the call to their students and encourage them to apply. Staff can of course suggest potential projects to students but it is up to the students to take ideas forward and take ownership of the project whilst supported by staff.  Students are asked to obtain the signature of their staff supporter on the bid to ensure that the supporter is aware of the project and is willing to spend time on supporting it.


The budget is set at a maximum of £1,300 per project with a maximum of five projects being funded.  The £1,300 per project covers a maximum of 100 hours of student time (the 100 hours to be split between the group, if a group project), plus some extra for travel or equipment (maximum £200).  Travel to other universities is particularly encouraged.  Funding will not cover FED/overheads, contingency funds or staff time.  All funding will reside within TLE’s budget and financial management. Projects are expected to run between 3-8 weeks, the start and length of projects is flexible though all projects are expected to be completed by 15 August 2016.  All projects are expected to present their findings (e.g. poster or short talk) at the next Abertay TLE conference in autumn 2016.

 Next steps

The call is being promoted through a variety of communication channels and through social media, supported by the Student Association. In addition, a Question and Answer session for both interested staff and students will be held on the 10 February, 2-3pm in the Events Area.  Students and staff who wish to know more can also contact Julie Blackwell Young in TLE (j.blackwell-young@abertay.ac.uk).


Enhancement Themes Conference – Days 2 & 3

Posted on Updated on

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)

Posted on Updated on

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.

NetTLE site updates

Posted on Updated on

We have a range of new updates on our NetTLE site available including:

A selection of news articles in the media.

Resources from recent TLE seminars including presentations from our very successful February TLE seminar on “Students as Partners”.

More details on the University’s new CPD scheme “Going for Gold”, including the draft CPD handbook.

The latest edition of our Journal “Professional Practice in Higher Education Teaching” including contributions from everyone who undertook the PG Cert HET in AY 2013-14.

Curriculum Reform updates on the new interdisciplinary electives and guidance for narrative to accompany new programme specifications.

Making the most of national enhancement initiatives

Posted on Updated on

Roni Bamber of Queen Margaret University challenged the Scottish Higher Education Developers at Edinburgh University on February 5th 2015 to reflect on how we can make the most of initiatives such as the QAA Student Transitions Theme and Learning from International Practice (LFIP): Postgraduate Taught Student Experience. There has been a considerable investment over time in enhancement projects. How many of us recognise the acronym REAP, or the resource of the Re-engineering Assessment Practices project at the University of Ulster supported by JISC? As ever there are lots of issues such as the maintenance of websites, editable resources and the continuing currency of ideas once projects have concluded. Staff developers were reminded of the theme cards produced by REAP and presented with a Masterness Toolkit and Seven Cards produced by LFIP. Lots of stuff, you might say, but how can staff use the stuff to enhance student learning? “Promoting dialogue” was one answer offered by Roni Bamber who provided the example of a Dialogue Sheet from the current enhancement theme: http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/docs/workshop/student-transitions-dialogue-sheet.pdf?sfvrsn=14

The gauntlet was thrown down to education developers to try out the Dialogue Sheet at the workshop, and by extension to take the idea back to our home institutions. At the end of a stimulating workshop I was left with the eternal education development, enhancement dilemma of where is the most appropriate place for development activities to make the most of materials generated by national enhancement initiatives. If anyone would like to know more about, or try out the Dialogue Sheet approach to transitions at a School or Team meeting, feel free to get in touch or call by 2536 for a coffee and a chat.

Martin Watson