Wednesday, 20 September 2017

LLI Focus On: Large Group Teaching

Tracy Dix Notes from the LLI Focus On session: Large Group Teaching and Learning, 13.09.17.
Chaired by Tracy Dix, LLI. Theme: Large group teaching and learning, and potential for peer learning.

General introduction/case study (Dylan Williams)
Excellent overview of problems of large group teaching and possible responses.
Demonstrated - Lightweight response system alternative to TopHat - anonymous (=risky?)
The problem of engagement in lectures is not new: Vella, F. (1989) 53 interesting things to do in your lectures: G Gibbs, S Habeshaw and T Habeshaw. pp 160. ISBN 0‐947885‐01‐3.
What has changed? Technology, evidence base - students?
In contrast small group teaching has discussion, problem solving, decision making, opportunities for reflection(?) - active learning.
In lectures - polling, buzz groups, peer discussion (Maizur).
Problem solving - flipped? ILOs, resources, classroom, post-session activity - 4 components not 2 components! Is evidence base biased? Hard to do effectively, no reporting of negative outcomes, confirmation bias. Lack of engagement with pre-session resources - need frequently short circuited by staff not trusting students (with reason?) and summarising in classroom. Hard to design good in class activities. Lack of engagement with dip-in flipping rather than whole course.

Case study Biological Sciences (Alan Cann, authentic assessment and teamwork)

Case study Science and Engineering (Alan Stocker, peer instruction)
Demonstrated - log on a bit less user friendly than menti.
Assigned Reading
In class peer instruction & concept tests (socrative)
Post class formative quiz. (= Maizur model)
Concept tests technology used (successively): Turning Point, flash cards, currently b.y.o.d. polling.
Outcomes - data shows that improves midrange outcomes most, less effect at the extremes (good students are good, weak students are weak).
Difficulties - directed reading (content, level, amount), writing good concept tests, regaining class focus after buzz groups.

Demonstration of new teaching facilities (Scott Scidmore, Learning & Teaching Room Support)
190 centrally timetabled rooms, currently working on refurbishing MSB seminar rooms (for start of term?).
Phones in all(?) rooms - Emergencies call x2919
Some podium changes need to be cascaded to teaching staff - module convenors could be informed to support staff.

Case study Law (Martin George, problem solving and frisbies)
Key to engagement is active decision making by students. Resources are given post-class rather than pre-class (which doesn't happen). Students engage with challenging questions in buzz groups for fear of the #redfrisbeeofdeath. Attention is kept in the room rather than split between lecturer and screens because technology is not used to forge engagement.

Alan Cann

Friday, 8 September 2017

BioSummit 6th-7th September 2017

Notes on the annual BioSummit meeting, University of East Anglia, 6th-7th September 2017.

Wednesday 6th September

Jon Scott TEF developments (Jon Scott)
TEF2 outcomes - 134 participants: gold 67 silver 45 bronze (Leicester silver), valid for 3 years
+ve correlation between outcome & entry tariff
-ve correlation with students living at home (commuters)
-ve correlation with local recruitment
Cost £4.1m(underestimate?) c.f. REF £235m
Entry allows inflation fee increase (to £9250) (BUT: fee increases at government discretion).
Future TEF Developments:
LEO Longitudinal Education Outcomes (Delhe replacement) - based on salary.
Subject level TEF - pilots 2017-19, implementation 2019-20. 35 HECoS subject arease identified for all of all HE - biosciences is one.
Teaching intensity - contact hours and class sizes.
In future - sompulsory TEF Participation?

David Coates - Royal Society of Biology accreditation and its links to the TEF.
RSB trying to get Accreditation as part of subject-level TEF?

HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year: Ian Turner, Derby: Using games to teach bioscience.

Swap Shop - 10 min talk followed by 5 min discussion:

Student & staff expectations for Final Year Undergraduate research projects, and their impact on student employability (Dave Lewis, Leeds)

Improving Postgraduate Taught Student Experience within the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham (Gavin White)

Chris Willmott RSB CPD tool as a mechanism for capturing your “evidence” (Chris Wilmott)
User-friendly framework. Points based via RSB website:

Using peer instruction in student seminars (Momna Hejmada, Bath)

Thursday 7th September "How do we get our students to think?"

Using technology to get students to think (Helena Gillespie, UEA)

How tablets have changed large undergraduate lab classes (Liz Alvey, Sheffield)
Fixed shared Android tablets on all lab benches. Used for protocols, instruction videos, data collection, formative quizzes.

Quectures: Thinking during lectures (Heather McQueen, Edinburgh)
Student questions on lecture ILOs collected during lectures via TopHat. Most "Liked" questions are answered during next lecture.

Getting students to think before, during and after practical classes (Julia Lodge, Birmingham)
Pre-lab quizzes.

Cohort creation of a bioscience blog promotes critical thinking in first year ecologists (Rachel Stubbington, Nottingham Trent)

Can adaptive learning get students thinking (and learning)? (Jon Crowe, OUP)

Biology in society - getting students to think critically about their discipline (Helen James, UEA)

Assessment & Feedback
Electronic assessment to support practical-based learning and reduce assessment load in Biomedical Sciences (Declan McKenna, Ulster)

Feedback practices using Turnitin GradeMark (Alan Cann, Tessa Webb, Robin Green, Caroline Smith, Leicester)

Barcoding hand-written coursework (James McEvoy, Royal Holloway)

Bioscience Horizons (Martin Luck, Nottingham)
10th anniversary.

Jon Scott announced that the September 2018 BioSummit meeting will be in Edinburgh. Follow the HEABIO-PEDR@JISCMAIL.AC.UK list for announcements and details.

Alan Cann

Friday, 1 September 2017

What is SoTL?


What is SoTL?

SoTL, the scholarship of teaching and learning, is "scholarly inquiry into student learning which advances the practice of teaching by making inquiry findings public".

How is SoTL different from PedR (pedagogic research)?

Subtly but distinctly! Pedagogic research deals with the theory and practice of teaching is is therefore more restricted than SoTL.


Boyer, E.L. (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton University Press, 3175 Princeton Pike, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648.
Boyer's classic book which introduced the idea of SoTL.

Scott, G. (2015) Why do we bother? Exploring biologists' motivations to share the details of their teaching practice. F1000Research, 4: 46 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.6129.1)
There exists in the UK (and across the global HE sector) a community of practitioners who define themselves as biologists but who are more than that. They are reflective educators involving themselves in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). In this paper I explore the motivations of these individuals to disseminate the detail of their teaching practice. I reflect upon my own experience and my observations of the experiences of others and in doing so I explore common enablers/disablers to engagement with SoTL. I discuss the prime importance of a supportive disciplinary SoTL community and of inspirational individuals (peers and managers alike). I reflect upon the tensions that exist between teaching and research focused career paths and I consider the possibility that this tension is of variable significance. I conclude that the barriers to individual engagement with SoTL can be overcome and that the individual drive to do so is a powerful one.