Intro Once upon a time, in a not so distant era, university students were given assessments to complete that required them to regurgitate disseminated lecture material with little opportunity to demonstrate creativity, originality, or innovative thinking. Assessments were handed in at the end of term as a meltdown mountain of panic and stress loomed. These assessments were often rushed, held little value to the students submitting them and were, most likely, never looked at again by the students. It almost felt like a tick-box exercise.
Thankfully this fairy tale is not yet over and is taking an exciting turn. Fast forward to 2022, and the advent of a new era of more active and creative assessments has begun. The focus on assessment has fueled a renewed interest in looking at exactly what we are asking students to do and why. What value is this particular task going to be to students going forward? How are we going to make the process of learning enjoyable? How can we draw on student experience to enrich their learning and ours? In trying to answer these questions, we found ourselves increasingly breaking down large assessment goals into a series of smaller tasks that required students to actively go and explore, create and innovate, which is where the idea of active assessment arose. Far removed from the days of students passively regurgitating lecture content back to us, active assessment involves students thinking outside of the box and drawing on their own experience to make links with new content.
One example is the active essay writing project. This project breaks down the task of producing a good quality written response into a series of stages, each of which facilitates student creativity and innovation. For example, in Stage 1, rather than simply regurgitating a lecture or frantically googling an entire essay title to find relevant literature, students are encouraged to start with their own ideas and thoughts around a key question. In doing so, we ask them to imagine having a conversation about that question with another person, and to think about the sort of points, questions, and debates that might arise.These ideas are then presented as a collage, enabling students to put their artistic mark on this initial stage of the assignment. They may not want to take all of these ideas forward but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is to give students the opportunity to draw on their own experience, respecting the diverse perspectives they might bring to their work, to develop confidence in their own ideas, and to be creative in their presentation of these. By the time they get to stage 2, where they search the academic literature, they already have some ideas to start with which enables them to enter more specific search terms into the search engines, guided by their own independent thinking, that they will use as a starting point for this part of the process.
While this only covers the initial stages of Active Essay Writing (for more see links below), hopefully it is clear how even traditional assessment types, like essays, can quickly become more active and engaging for students, and in turn, enable them to engage with something personally and academically valuable, starting with their own experiences and thoughts and using these as a way into the academic literature. However, this is only one example. In our Tweetchat, we look forward to exploring the idea further, looking at the backdrop, benefits and barriers to this idea further. We welcome you to the discussion…
Bio Wendy Garnham is a Reader in Psychology at the University of Sussex and is a National Teaching Fellow. She is also the co-founder of the Active Learning Network, an international award-winning collaborative network for anyone interested in active learning. Wendy also co-hosts both the monthly SEDA Transitions Community of Practice meetings and the SEDA Teach Meets every Tuesday. Currently, Wendy is the Director of Student Experience for the Foundation Year Programmes at Sussex.
Heather Taylor is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She is also a member of the SEDA Transitions Community of practice and is the Head of both Widening Participation and Attainment in Psychology and the Recruitment and Schools Outreach Officer in Psychology at the University of Sussex.
Why is it so important to draw on student experience in assessment? Bevitt, S. (2015). Assessment innovation and student experience: A new assessment challenge and call for a multi-perspective approach to assessment research. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(1), 103-119.
For an interesting read about the importance of creativity in assessments: Matraeva, A. D., Rybakova, M. V., Vinichenko, M. V., Oseev, A. A., & Ljapunova, N. V. (2020). Development of creativity of students in higher educational institutions: assessment of students and experts. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 8(1), 8-16.
Digital inequality or digital divide is the disparity between people who have access to digital technologies and those who don’t. People from certain socioeconomic backgrounds have always been more affected. This gap has most definitely been widened in the last couple of years, when “carrying on as normal” depended on reliable digital devices and a stable internet connection.
To put this in the context of education, the Student digital experience insights survey 2020/21: UK higher education findings published in September 2021 has revealed 63% of the 38,916 students who responded have had issues with WiFi. The survey explicitly states that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have been more affected. If students don’t have stable access to the internet, then it is reasonable to assume they might have had trouble accessing learning activities and materials at some points.
The pandemic has been a double edged sword. On the one hand, it has presented us with many wonderful opportunities to revisit how digital technologies can support the design and delivery of good educational experiences. For example, many successful implementations of blended learning and hybrid learning have made education more flexible and accessible for students with different needs. However, on the other hand, all of these amazing achievements have been, to a large extent, at the expense of our students who are affected by digital inequality.
Some universities have put interventions in place to bridge the gap, for instance, laptop loans, hardship funds, “free” wifi dongles and so on. However, as a pessimist, I cannot see any of these being a long term solution because sooner or later, these will stop, if they haven’t already. More crucially, these provisions feel like putting a plaster on an old infected wound, when we really should tend to it so it can heal properly.
As educators, we ought to look at the longer term, more sustainable ways to try and tackle this problem from within our own practice. We should look at whether our teaching is equitable not only from an accessibility point of view, but also from the perspective of access. Only then, the world might be a little bit fairer and our students could be a little bit happier.
To end this post, I want to mention something a friend said in an interview for a related study I conducted recently. He said some of his students who come from a cultural minority background, who are also the poorest, had to travel over 40 miles a day just to get stable access to the internet. They became so stressed and focused on whether they could login to join a webinar on time, the rest of the educational experience didn’t matter to them anymore. Being at university should be some of the most exciting and fun experiences in life, but it isn’t the case for more people than we care to admit.
Puiyin Wong is a PhD researcher in e-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning at Lancaster University. Puiyin is also a Learning Technologist at the Royal College of Art.
Puiyin’s research interests include digital access and inclusion/exclusion due to political, racial and social disparities; how open educational resources (OER) might bridge the gap for those less privileged. In addition, Puiyin is very passionate about how, by developing learners’ digital capabilities, their practices can benefit. For example, how learners can competently and confidently develop their individual online identities, comfortably moving between different online spaces, using a range of digital tools and resources that can help them achieve their educational goals.
This #LTHEchat post and associated tweetchat aims to explore Higher Education identity. In particular we’d like to explore issues around coping with the change brought on by the sharp shock of the pandemic and making sense of self and role as blended teachers and supporters of learning.
Pandemic Shock and Disruption
The Covid19 pandemic meant that Higher Education staff were suddenly dealing with increasing challenges and rapid change. This included
working at home, in isolation and/or in chaos, many times without equipment (chairs, computers and quiet space)
thrust online often with feelings of imposter syndrome, panic, fear, loss and bewilderment
needing to adapt to rapidly changing calls from University management as they reacted to sector and student needs with the pace of change to teaching, supporting learning and assessing being significant
personal isolation, fear, changing dynamics and opportunities
society in turmoil in all aspects
The shock and disruption of the pandemic has certainly eclipsed the proposed disruption promoted in the early MOOC era. The necessary pivot to online teaching and supporting learning meant that all staff needed to embrace the online space. Arguably some of the biggest shock was felt by colleagues who might have been categorised as being part of Late Majority (34%) and Laggards (16%) in terms of online teaching or supporting learning adoption.
Educator (teachers / supporters of learning) Identity
Identities are fluid, adapting through experience and this applies to an educator’s professional identity (Beauchamp and Thomas, 2009 cited in El-Soussi, 2020), including those considered to be blended and other third space professionals providing learning support (Azadbakht, E.S., 2021; Whitchurch C. 2009).
Teacher identity and the identities of HE educators has been explored extensively over the years. Academic (including teaching and supporting learning) professional identity is fluid, influenced by multiple factors including
our disciplinary affiliations and norms,
feedback and interactions from students,
the direct work environment,
our own experiences at School and University – including “proper ways of doing it”, experiences positive and negative as a learner,
Our transitions into different roles within higher education
wider context of higher education and available CPD, including interactions with and expertise of colleagues.
Our confidence and self-efficacy as educators can be undermined when many of these factors are absent or compromised causing feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty of who we are (Henkel, 2000: 251; Becher and Trowler, 2001, 47; van Lankveld et al, 2017, Smith et al., 2022).
Moving Online: Impacts on Identity
Under the ‘rapid’ move to online teaching, studies (e.g. El-Soussi, 2022; Smith et al, 2022) have confirmed that many academic staff
Reconsidered their teaching personas and beliefs about effective teaching approaches;
Had feelings of incompetence as they learnt new tools and their status as ‘subject experts’ diminished;
Expressed concerns about how they might effectively pastor students given ‘chance encounters’ to check in were reduced;
Recognised the importance of ‘seeing’ faces as they taught/supported learners;
Had understandable concerns about sharing their home/personal lives through their cameras in particular.
Turned more to colleagues and personal learning networks for technological support and ongoing CPD;
These weren’t all new features of the rapid move to online teaching/support however. Many aspects of identity change were expressed when an online approach was introduced in a planned manner (see Cutri and Mena, 2020, Thanaraj, 2016).
Lessons Learnt: Supporting Staff in Making Sense of Identity Transitions and Challenges
What are some of the lessons learnt then on how we might support staff to make sense of likely impacts on their identity when faced with changes and transition?
Provide assurance that concerns are valid
Providing some emotional support and offering assurance would help colleagues know that their fears and concerns are shared with others and ‘natural’.
Provide a safe environment to explore new techniques
Enabling staff to have time, safe places and peer support to adopt new approaches is key. We need to acknowledge that many new to teaching in HE since 2020, may have little or no experience of supporting learners synchronously and in person. They will need support and a “safe place” to experiment with in-person techniques.
Showing the ‘Personal’ Side to Connect with Students
Connecting with students is a key factor in influencing our identity. There are many different suggestions of trying to establish a connection with our learners both educationally and personally. But there are challenges in doing this with large cohorts in particular (regardless of mode) and showing an insight into your personality and background may not always be comfortable for either staff or students.
To help strengthen staff confidence, what advice can we offer to staff when efforts to build connections and engage learners do not work? What aspects of showing insights into your ‘personal’ life might be brought forward to a face to face learning situation?
Recognising Supportive “SuperStars”
Many staff went the extra mile to help colleagues adopt the technology and new approaches. There was also a greater willingness to share tips and expertise across institutions and online CPD became more affordable and practical to undertake.
How can we capitalise on, support and recognise individuals to be the exemplars of effective pedagogy regardless of mode and discipline? Where might that initiative and personal commitment fit into institutional reward and recognition policies, for example?
CPD as a planned, integrated approach to practice
‘Training’ and CPD became a vitally important part of supporting staff to adapt to new ways of teaching/supporting learning and assessment. Smith et al. (2022:10) note that ‘confidence based on mastery and competence will serve to consolidate any sense of self as an assured educational practitioner’.
Significant amounts of time were invested by staff to read, watch, “attend” various sources to equip themselves with both technical and pedagogical skills. It was unprecedented and at a time of incredible response, many staff worked excessive hours (some became the ‘superstars’ as noted above) and overall well-being was negatively impacted.
Clearly this approach cannot be maintained, but to minimise negative impacts on an educator’s professional identity, it’s in everybody’s interest to encourage and allow time for keeping one’s practice up to date. By enabling CPD to be seen as an integrated part of academic practice* we can mitigate against the shock that the rapid shaft to online approaches brought about. What are effective ways to do this?
Our personal and professional identities remain fluid, influenced by a variety of factors. Having the knowledge and skills to apply effective teaching approaches is one thing. But having a safe place to practice, the time to do so and institutional policies which respect trial and error in applying effective teaching practices are significant factors in promoting strong self-efficacy. To avoid staff burnout and/or leaving the academy for these particular reasons, how can we practically mitigate, in advance, against worries about identity disruption and give confidence to colleagues to adopt effective teaching approaches regardless of the mode?
*A key criterion of HEA Fellowship, Senior Fellowship and Principal Fellowship
El-Soussi, A. (2022) “The shift from face-to-face to online teaching due to COVID-19: Its impact on higher education faculty’s professional identity”, International Journal of Educational Research Open, Vol 3 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedro.2022.100139
Henkel, M. (2000) Academic identities and policy change in higher education. London: Jessica Kingsley.
van Lankveld, T., J. Schoonenboom, M. Volman, G. Gerda Croiset and J Beishuizen, J. (2017) “Developing a teacher identity in the university context: a systematic review of the literature” Higher Education Research & Development, 36:2, 325-342, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2016.1208154
Louise Rees – Following 8 years in Canada initially undertaking a Masters degree, followed by employment, Louise has worked at Swansea University since 2000, initially in the area of quality assurance/enhancement. Between 2000 and 2015, she oversaw the QA functions for taught programmes and coordinated the preparations for Institutional Review Preparations and supported a number of Working groups and sub-committee and the University’s Learning and Teaching Committee. It was during that time, in writing policies for learning teaching and assessment and in trying to guide programme directors through their challenging role, that Louise’s attention turned towards academic development. In 2015, Louise took on the role of Senior Academic Developer at Swansea University’s Academy for Learning and Teaching (SALT). She leads on the internally accredited programme for HEA Fellowship recognition and teaches on their PG Cert in teaching in Higher Education regarding professional identity for HE educators and in assisting participants reflect on their PG Cert journey.
Danielle Hinton – Danielle is an Educational Developer at the Higher Education Futures institute (HEFi), University of Birmingham. Danielle has worked in a variety of roles in Higher Education over the last 20 years including instructional design, e-learning and librarianship. In particular Danielle teaches on Birmingham’s PGCHE (as module lead and programme lead for our new online PGCHE) supports HEA Fellowship scheme, enhancement projects and CPD provision. She is particularly interested in active learning, the emotions of learning and teaching, enhancement of learning through technologies, distance learning, serious play in Higher Education and Education for Sustainable Development. @hintondm e-mail: email@example.com
This week’s chat on will be led by student interns Fernandos and Míde with their mentor Sharon on the theme of student partnerships.
The Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities Project (EDTL) is aimed at enhancing the digital attributes and educational experiences of Irish university students through enabling the mainstreamed and integrated use of digital technologies across the teaching and learning process. Between 2019 and 2021 we hired 20 student associate interns to the EDTL project with the aim of engaging students as co-creators in developing digital teaching and learning resources.
Using our internship model as a case-study, we conducted 18 qualitative interviews with 10 interns and 8 staff towards the end of 2021 with the aim of understanding (i) staff’s and students’ perspectives on students-staffs partnership in teaching and learning and (ii) students perceived benefits when actively involved as co-creators in teaching and learning.
Staff reported that having student interns brought about productivity and effectiveness in their work at their respective universities as they brought in authentic students’ voices through sharing their learning experiences and thoughts that would not have been otherwise captured by only staff in developing teaching and learning resources. On the other hand, student interns reported that the partnership made them feel as active stakeholders in the teaching and learning process and provided an avenue through which they shared their learning needs in creating resources.
Lessons drawn from our internship model highlight the value of actively involving students in the process of developing teaching and learning resources as they bring in authentic student voices and own the process.
Chat questions will be uploaded after the chat on Wednesday (no spoilers!) 😉
Míde is a Student Associate Intern for Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities. A Conamara native, she is a fluent Irish speaker and has just finished final year studying Law with Social Justice in University College Dublin. During her time in UCD she has been active in UCD Students’ Union as Oifigeach na Gaeilge and Law College Officer. She is a strong believer in the importance of the student voice in decision-making in Irish universities, with a particular interest in the concept of Students as Partners in teaching and learning
Fernandos Ongolly (@ongollyF)
Fernandos is a PhD student at UCD Michael Smurfit Business School. He has a background in anthropology with lots of experience in qualitative research. He has interests in technological innovation specifically design thinking and user experience research. Outside academic work, he is the auditor/chairperson of the UCD PhD Society. As part of his internship with the Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning project he has been conducting research into the impact of the student intern scheme through qualitative interviews with students and staff involved in the project.
Sharon Flynn (@SharonLFlynn)
Sharon is Project Manager for Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities, funded through the Higher Education Authority Innovation and Transformation Programme. She works closely with senior academic leaders across the university sector to develop, pilot, review and roll out an ambitious staff development programme to enhance the digital confidence, skills and competences of those who teach in Irish universities.
This week Dr Adam Tate asks the question “whose higher education is it anyway?”
Higher Education (HE) in England has had to adapt at pace in response to the Covid-19 pandemic providing opportunities and challenges for all parties. Most notably this has involved navigating a great deal of uncertainty, at a time when the sector was already negotiating the outcomes of the Augar Review and the potential reprofiling of the sector (Ahlburg, 2020; Whalley et al., 2021). The HE Sector in England, as part of the Global Knowledge Economy, has been experiencing further challenges from providing financial sustainability in an increasingly connected and marketised place, making course design and delivery more dependent upon each HE provider securing student numbers (Nielsen, 2015).
With shifts in how the HE sector is financed, notably since 1992, there has been a shift in the perception of the purpose and role of HE by students, staff, business, government, and other publics. Numerous reports into the HE sector have focused on sustainability and efficiency with the idea of value for money. Such changes are not only in the perception but also in the apparatus, regulation, and operation of the sector; with HE providers having more responsibility than ever before for self-sustainability. With a focus on the finances, this plays a significant role in decisions made by universities to attract students, through a show of on the one hand investment into the university and the student experience, a metaphor for showing that the student debt investment in that university is a good choice. The entrepreneurial university being positioned as one that is rooted within a global market and is supports staff and students develop a range of skills for life and contributing to the economy. This way of conceptualising the sector and individual universities provides a challenge to who HE is for, what HE is for, and how HE is conducted. This picks up key thought by the likes of Ron Barnett, Stephen Ball, and many other key thinkers.
Ahlburg D. A. (2020). Covid‐19 and UK Universities. The Political Quarterly, 91(3), 649–654.
Nielsen, G. (2015). Figuration Work. Student participation, democracy and university reform in a global knowledge economy. New York and Oxford: Berghahn.
Whalley, B.; France, D.; Park, J.; Mauchline, A.; Welsh, K. Towards flexible personalized learning and the future educational system in the fourth industrial revolution in the wake of Covid-19. High. Educ. Pedagog. 2021, 6, 79–99.
Q1 Does the university work for students or do students work for the university?
Q2 Whose voice is most important in decision making in the university?
Q3 Name an example of when a government/sector policy has had an impact on students’ experience?
Q4 How able are students to make a change in their university?
Q5 How important are Student Unions for representing students in decision making?
Q6 How have student behaviours shifted since increases in tuition fees to £9,000 per year in England?
Adam is a Lecturer in Academic Practice teaching on the Academic Professional Apprenticeship (APA) / Postgraduate Certificate of Learning & Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE) at Nottingham Trent University. He is passionate about effective education, utilising inclusive pedagogies and removing barriers to participation. He is studying for a PhD in Education at Oxford Brookes University. He is researching the extent to which universities’ interactions with their students reflect or embody the ‘soft power’ of the state as distinct from their own wholly autonomous actions as education providers. To that end, my research explores how student behaviours and practices are influenced by universities.
Q1To what extent do you use visuals (photos, diagrams, charts, etc.) in your presentations? What type do you use most and why?
Q2When others are presenting using PowerPoint or other presentation software what are the visual (or other) things you admire and/or that irritate you?
Q3What are the barriers to you using visual images in your presentations?
Q4What would enable you to incorporate more or better visuals into your presentations?
Q5When you use images, what are your usual sources? To what extent do you create your own?
Q6What changes, if any, might you make to the way you design your presentations for lectures, seminars, conferences etc?
The Hosts’ Bio
Professionally, I am an academic, researcher and consultant, with a background in the performing and visual arts. Currently I am Senior Consultant (Higher Education) at Ciel Associates and a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University in London and Rose Bruford College in Kent. Previously I was the Higher Education Academy’s UK Lead for Dance, Drama and Music in higher education, supporting and enhancing learning and teaching in those disciplines in universities and colleges across the UK. I am a regular speaker at conferences and seminars, and undertake consultancy work.
My research is mainly in the fields of creativity, assessment and curriculum design, though I also write about other issues in higher education
How do you feel about undertaking a scholarship of learning and teaching (SoTL) project? Are you an experienced and confident SoTLer or do you struggle to get started? A recurring topic of conversation when those of us who work or study in education get together is the problems we all face when we try to do this thing called SoTL – it all feels so alien to us because it takes us out of our comfort zones. Yet when we step back and think about it, we should realise that we all have a multitude of skills that ought to be relevant. Whether your background is as a high-flying academic, an early career academic on a teaching track contract, a professional services/academic support role or a student, you will have a wealth of skills and experience learnt from your previous academic studies (whether undergraduate or postgraduate) and your working life. The challenge is to understand how you can harness all of this knowledge and use it to become a confident and successful SoTLer.
As a newcomer to the learning, teaching, and scholarship track, I had quite the identity crisis when transitioning from discipline-specific research and understanding my role within a “research-intensive” University. Two years in I am still reflecting on what “scholarship” really means and how I can best use it to improve my teaching practice and student experience.
Coming from a scientific background the themes and methods seemed quite disparate from my previous experience and training. I often joke about having never written about “feelings” so much in a professional context before! However, I am inspired by the way we can use our own unique personal experiences to shape our ideas of scholarship and practice to champion causes that we feel most passionate about.
What excites me most about scholarship is the possibility to experiment and innovate. The dynamic nature of SoTL has enabled me to contribute to podcasts, resources, and game development to name a few. I have loved the diversity of projects and the collegiate spirit of the community.
Scott’s SoTL Story
I came to having SoTL as part of my research though, like many, I just wanted to improve the way I teach and more importantly improve the learning experience for my students – very much a work in progress. Main focus has been on developing student’s problem-solving and programming skills, and it has spun off into engagement with schools and many other things I have been fortunate to be involved in.
The challenge I struggle with is doing some discipline-based research as well as SoTL, both of which I enjoy. How to progress in a career when I enjoy doing both (and along with teaching itself)?
Sarah’s SoTL Story
I came to my current role in academic development by accident, as so many of us do – but now I am here I am very happy in my current role (which is actually a professional services contract, and not an academic one). Throughout my time in HE I’ve been researching and writing without really making a distinction between research or scholarship because I didn’t need to differentiate – and it is only over the last couple of years that I’ve really started to think about the differences between where I started and where I am now.
I think that there’s often a belief that academics with a background in Humanities find it easy to make the transition from subject-specific research to SoTL. Well, I can tell you that, at least for me, that was categorically not true. My original subject was Philosophy, and its practices are very different from those I’ve needed to develop as a SoTL practitioner.
One difference might surprise you – I have never written a lit review because philosophy doesn’t use them – and the thought of ever having to write one fills me with dread. My PhD in Education doesn’t even have one – it has a chapter called “writings that have inspired this thesis”, but as my supervisor will tell you it is nothing like a lit review. Luckily for me my lack of ability has never been a problem – I like to write collaboratively and (so far!) there’s always been someone who actually enjoys doing the lit review section. But I still feel that I am not a *proper* SoTL practitioner.
Tierney, A. M., & Webb, A. S. (2020). Investigating Threshold Concepts in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and the Influence of Disciplinary Background on the Research Process. In R. Land, & J. Timmermans (Eds.), Threshold Concepts on the Edge (Vol. 73, pp. 285-295). (Educational Futures; Vol. 73). Brill Academic Publishers. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004419971_020 [behind paywall for me]
During this time 6 questions will be posed (one every 10 minutes) – everyone is welcome to contribute (as much or as little as they like) or just to read. Conversation is also welcomed at any time post 9:00pm BST.
Q1 What is your academic background? Tell us, or show us with an image or gif
Q2 What does Scholarship mean to you? Tell us, or show us with an image or gif
Q3 How confident are you in your Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) abilities? Tell us, or show us with an image or gif
Q4What do you think are the main barriers to undertaking Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) (and how could these be overcome)?
Q5 What advice would you give to newcomers to Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)?
Q6 How can we, as a community, support each other in our scholarly endeavours?
I am a lecturer in Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Glasgow since August 2020 on the Learning, Teaching & Scholarship track. Although I am relatively new to all things SoTL, I have developed a keen interest in. gamification and game-based learning as well as promoting student engagement through active learning approaches. My current practice also includes working with student partners as content co-creators. I’m very much looking forward to supporting the LTHEchat! .@Dr_CL_Elliott
Scott Turner MIET, MBCS, MIEEE, MACM, FHEA, FRSA is Section Director for Computing at Canterbury Christ Church University. Scott has worked in education for over 20 years and has particular interests in problem-solving, teaching within Computing (see for more details https://bit.ly/ProblemSolvPub); along playing with Technology in general including robots, free AR and VR(e.g. https://bit.ly/3MkQOlc) and visualising social media (e.g. https://bit.ly/SocmedViz). He is a Fellow of the HEA; and proud to have been awarded Golden Tweeter Award in December 2018, and to be asked to be involved with #SocMedHE and the National Teaching Repository. .@scottturneruon
Sarah Honeychurch is a Good Practice Adviser at the University of Glasgow where she has worked in a variety of roles since 2001. She completed her PhD in participatory learning in 2021 and is grateful to the many online networks and communities, including LTHEChat, that supported and sustained her throughout her learning journey. She is an avid knitter and plays uke very badly (and, thankfully, only in the privacy of her own study). She and her husband Niall are owned by two tuxedo cats, Cagney and Lacey. .@NomadWarMachine
Welcome to the #LTHEchat #creativeHE mash up to explore how music can facilitate learning and teaching in HE! On 8 February 2022, we asked the #creativeHE community to explore meaningful ways of using music in our teaching practices to facilitate learning. Read the #creativeHE blog Let’s dance! Play that funky music to facilitate learning to find out more.
Since then, we have collectively been reflecting and experimenting with music and we would invite the #LTHEchat community to take their own unique musical journeys…
Composing teaching: Classical jazz
Similar to musicians, teachers choose their tools for their “compositions”. Long presentations, full of text and pictures, often dictate the tempo of seminars and lectures, with rigorous musical structure. Academic texts too have their rhythms and structures. Finding the rhythm can release us into our academic community, facilitating our own thinking and writing. On the other hand, creativity and unstructured thinking play a fundamental part of the process of emergent learning. We need to drop the classical score and go a little freeform jazz, get a little bit messy if we want something transformational and indescribable to happen.
The soundscape of learning
Imagine the sounds you find in learning environments… What do you hear? What do those sounds mean to you?
The sound of silence in a classroom can indicate deeper learning but it can also put us on edge while we wait for someone to answer our question – “Argh, somebody say something soon!”
The occasional white noise resonating in the metal bars of the tables and chairs.
Wind whistling through the windows’ fixtures, thumps of feet walking up the stairs.
Music wants to be there. Rhythms, patterns, motifs, they all want to be there.
Anything can emit music. Ever listened to “Saturn’s Music”? Even our brain, while in sleep mode, emits “sound” (with all those delta brainwaves). If only we could hear those as we can see them in an electro-encephalogram, maybe cats can? Wondering what music that would be. Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) probably…..
Our learning environments – and even our learning processes – generate their own soundscapes. So, how can we harness the power of music to guide how we learn and teach?
The power of music in learning
I really need to point this out. Thanks to (also) music I could learn another language (English). Listening to the British and American bands Nirvana, Sex Pistols and Pink Floyd when I was little, hugely contributed to how I learned English. It’s weird to think how I could possibly have understood what they were saying in their songs. I could not grasp the whole sentence, but I knew exactly what sort of anger Kurt Cobain (lead singer of Nirvana) was going through. You could appreciate the depth of the feeling thanks to music.
Music can make you cry; music can empower you when you go to the gym or whatever you do to keep healthy. A film would not be a film without a soundtrack.
Music is an effective communication tool, abstract, intangible, invaluable. It helps to surface the unknown, to make explicit the implied, enabling non-verbal ways of knowing to emerge. Music has the potential to break down barriers and power imbalances, encouraging differences and diversity.
Music can be fundamental in childhood to help you memorise the alphabet at school, same with numbers, poems, the colours of the rainbow. But how many ‘put aside such childish things’ and forget these powerful ways of thinking and learning?
Following this question, could we expand the perception of music as a teaching tool in academic areas where art does not necessarily make an impact? Could we do more to support inclusive learning through the use of music?
Something inside so strong
On our first meet up for 2022, the #creativeHE community explored ways to introduce music in teaching. We shared ideas on how to break the ice through music or to create a calming atmosphere for “keynote” sessions, creating positive associations for students about the session, knowledge and lecturer. We considered music to help thinking and to help creatively organise and communicate thoughts. We shared music workshops that we had run with students that developed self-efficacy and confidence in the academic classroom.
As highlighted during the meetup, music might appear as imparted, forced or obliged and not necessarily to students’ taste. At first glance, variation in genre should be sufficient to satisfy most of the audience. We could also use these differences in musical preferences to develop core skills of valuing and welcoming others’ views.
We invite you to join us for an hour to explore how you might use music in your teaching and how it could facilitate learning in any discipline.
During this time 6 questions will be posed (one every 10 minutes) – everyone is welcome to contribute (as much or as little as they like) or just to read. Conversation is also welcomed at any time post 9:00pm BST.
Q1 If your teaching and/or supporting learning practice was a musical genre – what would it be and why?
Q2 In what ways have you used or are aware of others using music to support student learning? If you’re not aware of any, why do you think that is?
Q3 What might get in the way of using music in learning and teaching?
Q4 How can we as an #LTHEchat #creativeHE community overcome barriers to using music in teaching and/or supporting learning?
Q5 How could you use music as part of the process of facilitating learning?
Q6 If we had an #LTHEchat playlist, what track(s) would you add and why?
Hi, I am Gioele Attardo. Born in Sicily, I grew up near Agrigento, famous for its “La Valle dei Templi”, Temples Valley. I studied nursing at the Policlinico di Messina and once qualified I moved to the North-West of England. What a journey. Love for nursing and the inner drive to bring positive change drove my career into becoming a Lecturer. Electronic music making has always been a passion and a hobby on an amaturial level. Synthesisers populate my desk at night, sonic exploration dictates my creativity. I strongly believe that music and its physical vibration are a powerful, mystical, tool for communication.
Emma Gillaspy @egillaspy
Hey, I’m Emma Gillaspy, a National Teaching Fellow, #creativeHE host, academic developer and executive coach based at the University of Central Lancashire. I blend appreciative inquiry-based coaching, heutagogy and social learning to support academics in realising their amazing potential and becoming the best teachers they can be. I use creative materials and non-linear learning technologies to support this approach which enables non-verbal ways of knowing to emerge, leading to congruent development aligned with learners’ core values and beliefs
Sandra Sinfield @Danceswithcloud
Hello, I’m Sandra Sinfield, currently I’m an academic developer but have previously worked as a laboratory technician, a freelance copywriter, an Executive Editor (Medicine Digest), in the voluntary sector and with the Islington Green School Community Play written by Alan (Whose Life is it Anyway?) Clarke and performed at Sadler’s Wells. I’ve taken a production of Bouncers on a tour of Crete music venues and produced teaching and learning courses and materials in a range of settings. I am passionate about the role of creativity for learning.
The term ‘contract cheating’ was first coined in 2006 by Robert Clarke and Thomas Lancaster (Clarke & Lancaster, 2006) to describe the phenomenon they were seeing where students were, rather than potentially simply plagiarising other’s materials, actually paying someone else to complete their assignment for them (usually essays) and then submitting the work as their own. Since then, the term has broadened slightly to remove the focus on whether the student paid for the work, but rather on whether they ‘contract’ someone else with or without payment.
In 2014, Australia was hit by the MyMaster scandal, where the Fairfax Press broke the story that significant numbers of students had been paying for assignments and laid these facts bare for the nation to see. This prompted the Australia higher education sector to undergo a major review of the practices at their institutions and to put processes in place to counter this problem. As a result, Australia is now an international leader in how to identify and combat such threats to academic integrity.
There is general recognition now that the contract cheating that was revealed by the MyMaster scandal is not in any way unique to Australia. There is evidence of such behaviour affecting many universities in many countries. Cath Ellis (an established expert in the field) at the University of New South Wales, has remarked that if we haven’t noticed contract cheating in our own institution, it’s probably because we haven’t yet looked hard enough! Last year she gave a fascinating talk to Ireland’s National Academic Integrity Network (NAIN), which is a unique partnership between the national quality agency (QQI), the Union of Students in Ireland, and representatives of the higher education institutions. The recording, and a summary of the key points can be found at: Detecting and Investigating Contract Cheating Cases and Supporting Students through the Process.
Recent estimations in Australia say that up to at least 11% of students (Curtis et al, 2021) will engage in contract cheating during their time at university. Contract cheating is now accessible, affordable and all too attractive to some students who have been under high levels of stress during the pandemic in particular. Contract cheating providers, and platforms which facilitate such behaviour (albeit that they often have an ‘honor code’ and state that submitting work on the platforms for assignments is against the site’s rules) have become more and more prominent in recent times and the subject of journalistic attention (e.g. This $12 Billion Company Is Getting Rich Off Students Cheating Their Way Through Covid). Many sites often promote themselves as providing learner support, fostering peer-learning, and sharing learning materials, but even a cursory glance at some of their offerings will reveal uploaded student assignments, exam papers, and lecture notes with little regard for copyright or Intellectual Property.
When deciding whether or not to take the gamble of using such services, students will often find that the cost of purchasing materials is cheaper than repeating an exam or a year of study (Yorke et al 2020). In addition to the perceived value for money, ‘help sites’ are available 24/7, often during those hours when students are scrambling to complete their work and when official supports are not open or available.
What many students do not realize is that there is a significant risk to them when they engage with contract cheating services. Some providers have threatened to reveal the fact that the student has contracted an assignment (including, in some cases, years later, even after graduation) if they don’t pay them more or pass on contact information of other students on their course (Yorke et al 2020). Blackmail is not the only risk, more and more employers are becoming aware that students are engaged in such behaviour and universities run reputational risk for their degree programmes and qualifications. An additional trend is that some services are actively recruiting postgraduate students (or even current or previous academic staff) to work as writers or ‘tutors’. In Ireland (as in Australia), the provision of contract cheating services and facilitating cheating, or writing work for another to submit as their own, is now illegal, with fines of up to €100,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to five years.
Contract cheating and other forms of academic misconduct are time-consuming to combat, and their nature and form continue to develop and expand. Any individual institution will find it hard from both a policy and resources perspective to stay current and effective in this effort. The benefits of taking a sectoral approach and of sharing knowledge and expertise internationally are essential to rise to the scale of the issue.
At a more fundamental level, of course, a continuing ‘arms race’ is far less preferable to the nurturing of an integrity culture, in which ethical behaviour, personal and professional standards, the provision of support, authentic assessment, and mutual trust become the hallmarks of university learning.
During this time 6 questions will be posed (one every 10 minutes) – everyone is welcome to contribute (as much or as little as they like) or just to read. Conversation is also welcomed at any time post 9:00pm GMT.
Clarke, Robert, and Thomas Lancaster. 2006. “Eliminating the Successor to Plagiarism? Identifying the Usage of Contract Cheating Sites.” Paper presented at the Proceedings of 2nd International Plagiarism Conference, 19–21 June 2006.
Guy J. Curtis, Margot McNeill, Christine Slade, Kell Tremayne, Rowena Harper, Kiata Rundle & Ruth Greenaway (2021) Moving beyond self-reports to estimate the prevalence of commercial contract cheating: an Australian study, Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2021.1972093
Q2. What do you think/know ‘academic integrity’ means to students? What about the term ‘contract cheating’?
Q3. Contract cheating services now regularly reach out to students via social media & recruited promoters. How familiar are you with these types of services and activities? Have you come across examples?
Q4. Does your institution currently have policies in place which reflect the wider academic integrity landscape, or are they largely focused on plagiarism?
Q5. The importance of students as partners in promoting academic integrity is now recognised. How can we engage students in conversations around academic integrity and what practical steps can we take?
Q6. What do you think are the best ways of building an ethos of integrity within higher education assessment?
Dr. Mairead Greene (@MaireadGreene2) is Assistant Director of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the National University of Ireland, Galway and a HEA Senior Fellow. Mairead is known for her work in inquiry-based learning, assessment design and academic integrity. Mairead has worked extensively at NUI Galway to increase awareness around academic integrity in general and contract cheating in particular. Her recent work has included facilitating academic integrity workshops for lecturers, leading the review and rewrite of the current plagiarism policy to expand to a more comprehensive academic integrity policy and co-writing a lesson for students to raise awareness of contract cheating.
Dr. Iain MacLaren (@iainmacl)
Dr. Iain MacLaren (@iainmacl) is the Director of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) in NUI Galway. He has worked in academic and educational development locally, nationally, and in international contexts and continues to learn every day from colleagues, students, and others. He is a member of the steering committee of Ireland’s National Academic Integrity Network (NAIN), and a Principal Fellow of the HEA/AdvanceHE.
Dr. Michelle Tooher (@michelletooher)
Dr. Michelle Tooher (@michelletooher) is an Educational Developer in CELT at NUI Galway and has been working on curricular design, assessment reform, and on policy development. Michelle is a contributing author to “Reflective Teaching in Higher Education” (Ashwin et al, 2020). She is currently working with Mairead on the issue of academic integrity. Mairead, Michelle, and Lyndsay Olson (Learning Technologist) have produced an online lesson aimed at students to raise awareness of these issues: https://www.crannog-he.ie/mmcontent/ContractCheatingGeneral/story.html
Societies globally are facing a troubling time and embedded societal inequities lead to adverse impacts for marginalised groups which can be magnified in times of crisis. This can be seen in the second part of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change sixth assessment report (released in late Feb 2022 – blink and you missed it) which explored the coupling of climate systems, ecosystems and human society:
“Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions (very high confidence), driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance (high confidence).” (IPCC, 2022).
As educators of the generation who are likely to spend their lives adapting to a low carbon economy in an age of social upheaval, what is our role to empower all students across further and higher education to act with agency within their systems? How can they be equipped to challenge oppression and work towards equity within their organisations and the unbalanced societies we all work in?
Critical pedagogy positions education as a place to identify systems of oppression and equip students to notice them and (if they choose) resist. While broader criticality requires us to notice and critique power relations at multiple scales, critical pedagogy takes this ethos into the classroom itself. Educational spaces become places for students to explore power and equity. In critical pedagogy, the educator becomes a co-explorer. We are all trying to unlearn the unjust practices we have been enculturated with.
In order to become critical pedagogues, we necessarily have to begin with ourselves. Useful questions to pose along the journey include the following:
What am I doing to foster a sense of belonging and community in my classes?
How am I preparing my students to play a positive part in a globalised and diverse world?
How am I enabling my students to express their views and respect the views of others?
How am I helping students to gain ‘cultural competence’ and how secure is my own knowledge of people who are culturally different from myself?
Critical pedagogy is about collective and collaborative re-imaginings of the world we find ourselves in. Not doing things for or to our students, but with them, be it through pedagogical relationships which may be rhizomatic and go beyond the classroom walls, creative, art-based processes that allow students the scope to think ‘what if?,’ and co-constructed curricula that fill in the missing voices of the past and allow us to think about the present. Shoe-horning in stand-alone pieces about equality may be important and worthwhile, but democracy and social justice need to cut through the very heart of what we do. The cult of ’embedding’ needs shifting to a movement of ‘promotion’ where we model behaviour, enable thinking to happen, and become more overt about what we are doing to create those transformative, pro-social spaces of belonging and community. Despite the challenges of academia, this is possible wherever we gather people together for the process of learning. And of course it is not limited to classrooms, but also our social and work spaces. As Giroux (2016) states:
‘…education is fundamental to democracy. No democratic society can survive without a formative culture which includes but is not limited to schools capable of producing citizens who are critical, self-reflexive, knowledgeable and willing to make moral judgements and act in a socially inclusive and responsible way. This is contrary to the forms of education that reduce learning to an instrumental logic that too often and too easily can be perverted to violent ends’ (Giroux, 2016).
Different sectors have different relationships with critical pedagogy and the notion of criticality. The principles appear more aligned to the humanities and arts than the sciences. It is hard to see where there is space for organic and disruptive conversations when multiple mathematical principles and standard practices need to be learnt for students to enter their profession. Scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians in particular come from apolitical educational traditions with respect for the heritage of technical constructs and pedagogies developed in the past. The established educational model for many subjects comes from a time when the outcomes of education served the powerful in society, and our behaviours were not compromising the viability of multiple regions of our planet. By repeating patterns of education, we should ask whether we risk repeating our mistakes. Critical pedagogies have been developed principally by scholars in the Global South and from minoritized groups such as Paolo Freire and bell hooks, individuals well practiced at working from within and against social systems that resisted them. Their work on critical pedagogy can offer all of us a way to break the cycles that trap our thinking. With them as guides, we can leave the beaten path (Freire) and work with our students to explore and co-create new ways towards a more just world.
Freire, P. (1994). Pedagogy of Hope: reliving Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Giroux, H. (2016). The Violence of Forgetting. New York Times. Opinion. 20th June 2016
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom. London: Routledge
IPCC (2022). Summary for Policymakers [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, M. Tignor, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem (eds.)]. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.
During this time 6 questions will be posed (one every 10 minutes) – everyone is welcome to contribute (as much or as little as they like) or just to read. Conversation is also welcomed at any time post 9:00pm GMT.
Q1. ‘Critical’ is a contested term in pedagogy. What does it mean in your discipline?
Q2. Critical pedagogies aim to equip us all to resist systems of oppression that harm. What examples can you provide where educational and broader social systems cause harm?
Q3. Critical pedagogues seek to ‘leave the beaten path’ (Freire, 2014), disrupting established educational power dynamics. In what ways do tweetchats subvert the usual power relationships within education?
Q4. Students, lecturers and those supporting learning increasingly suffer with mental health, precarity and poverty. How can we narrow the gap to find spaces of support and solidarity?
Q5. Leonard Cohen wrote ‘There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’ What ‘disruptive behaviours’ in and outside the learning environment might shake-up the unjust status quo and widen those beautiful & hopeful chinks of lights?
Q6. In identifying disruptive behaviours, what are the challenges and opportunities of acting on them in our learning environments? How do we maintain hope through the struggle?
Kay Sidebottom is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Childhood at Leeds Beckett University. Her current research explores how teachers can work with posthuman ideas to facilitate meaningful and disruptive education spaces for our complex times. With a background in community and adult education, her pedagogical specialisms include critical, radical and anarchist education, arts-based practice and community philosophy.
Darren Minister is an Academic Developer at Swansea University. He supports academics with inclusive learning and convenes the Critical Pedagogy community of practice at Swansea University, bringing together educators with an interest in social justice as a way to support the development of praxis.
Patricia Xavier is an Associate Professor in Engineering at Swansea University. A water engineer by training, Patricia now conducts research in engineering education as part of a multi-disciplinary team. They explore the role of value systems in furthering understanding of what happens when the worlds of STEM and inclusivity collide, using critical pedagogies as tools to reimagine engineering education.