Social media isn’t the ‘new kid on the block’ anymore, it is part of the mainstream of university life. It’s been around for more than a decade now and most staff and students have engaged with at least one of the major platforms , such as Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Snapchat (Carrigan, 2019) Social media affects the lives of staff and students in a number of ways. It can help build networks both within and across universities. Blogs and twitter enable academics, researchers, librarians and support staff to meet like-minded people , who go on to share ideas, promote their research and collaborate together. Social media can also be a source of continuing professional development, Twitterchats like #LTHEchat are a great example of this type of activity. The use of social media in teaching and learning has led to some great examples and experiments in innovative practice. Social media is now seen as an important graduate skill that needs to be embedded into the curriculum to prepare graduates for the workplace (Rowell, 2019). However, it also clear that the use of social media has a downside too. Examples of harassment and trolling are now are now being reported by both staff and students. This week’s #LTHEchat is designed to provide us with the chance to reflect and be critical about the pros and cons of social media. Is it just a distraction for busy academics? Are we controlling the ‘Twittering machine’ or is it controlling us? (Seymour, 2019) Do universities provide enough support for their staff and students. Is more training the answer? Join us at #LTHEchat to share your experiences and have your say. Carrigan, M. (2019). Social Media for Academics.
London: Sage Publications. Rowell, C. (ed) (2019) Social Media in Higher Education: Case Studies, Reflections and Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishing. Seymour, R. (2019). The Twittering Machine. London: The Indigo Press.
Hi my name is Chris Rowell and I am a Academic Developer in Digital Enhanced Learning at London South Bank University. Previously I was Learning Technology Manager at Regent’s University in London, a Lecturer in Economics (1990- 2005) and a Lecturer in Education (2005-2010) at the University Centre Croydon. My first degree (BA Hons) is in Economics. I have a PGCE and I also have two MA’s in Development Studies and Education (eLearning). More recently I have completed Prince2 training for project management. Currently I am doing a Doctorate in Education at the Institute of Education, UCL. My research interests are all things to do with Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL). More specifically the use and evaluation of social media by staff and students in Higher Education. Currently, I am an editor of the Association for Learning Technology’s (ALT) blog and journal ‘Research in Learning Technology’. Previously I have been a member of the Staff and Educational Development Association’s (SEDA) National Executive (2015-10) and Conference Committee (2010-1015) and founding member SEDA’s Special Interest Group on Technology-Enhanced Practice. I am also a Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT). I live in Camberwell and I’m interested in things to do with cycling, photography, travel, politics and London.
Ethics is a hot topic in higher education (HE), touching many areas from fake news to trigger warnings, mass shootings to individual cases of abuse or discrimination. Yet ethics as a subject is often seen as dry and boring. It is only taught as a specific topic within a few disciplines, such as philosophy and religion, although research methods – and, therefore, research ethics – feature in many courses. However, research ethics in HE is primarily a regulatory system requiring students to fill in forms to please a committee, rather than an educational system teaching students to think their way through the ethical dilemmas that they will encounter in their studies and beyond.
In this complex environment, Helen will lead us to consider (via the chat) how educators can best use and create opportunities to raise ethical awareness, and what can help them in that work.
Dr Helen Kara has been an independent researcher since 1999 and also teaches research methods and ethics. She is not, and never has been, an academic, though she has learned to speak the language. In 2015, Helen was the first fully independent researcher to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, University of Manchester. She has written several books and journal articles on research methods and ethics, including Research Ethics in the Real World (2018, Policy Press), and regularly writes about ethics on her blog.
The Wakelet will be shared here following the chat.
How should we address contract cheating in higher education? Contract cheating has been an area of personal interest to me since Robert Clarke and I published the first paper referring to this type of academic misconduct back in 2006.
Even back in 2006, we could see the start of an industry being built designed simply to help students to get qualifications that they do not deserve. Left largely unchallenged, we’re now seeing an industry with an annual turnover thought to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds and which is keeping thousands of individuals in employment. Much of my recent research has focused on the individuals and providers behind contract cheating services, demonstrating that there is no shortage of supply or demand.
This week’s #LTHEchat is designed to provide us with the chance to reflect on where we are as a sector in addressing contract cheating, to discuss the positive steps that have been taken, to look at the initiatives that are working and also to map out what more we still have to do. Contract cheating is not a challenge which can be solved through a single approach or by people requiring in isolation. It requires sector wide effort.
At the same time as we make changes, we also have to be mindful of the unintended ethical consequences of the decisions we make. Is it fair to put individuals out of work who rely on selling essays to feed their family? Is it right to be considering laws which could lead to parents being imprisoned for completing the homework of their children? But, perhaps more importantly, is it even more unethical and unfair to our students to sit back and do nothing about contract cheating?
Join us at #LTHEchat to share your experiences and have your say.
Dr Thomas Lancaster is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Computing at Imperial College London. He has researched into plagiarism, contract cheating and academic integrity since 2000, working at and alongside a variety of universities in the UK and internationally, as well as with sector bodies such as the Quality Assurance Agency. He regularly discusses these areas with the media. He is a member of the organising committee for the International Day of Action against Contract Cheating and is a keynote speaker for Plagiarism Across Europe and Beyond 2020. His recent publications have explored the operation of the academic writing industry, including the providers from Kenya and India operating in the gig economy, as well as how Twitter is being widely used to being used to connect together student buyers and contract cheating providers.
This week’s discussion focusses on the emerging field of Learning Development in the context of significant changes in Higher Education (HE). These changes are being brought about by the Widening Participation agenda, increasing internationalisation, massification and marketisation of HE and drivers such as inclusivity, accessibility and student-centred teaching.
Because of these developments, the student body is more diverse than ever before, with concomitant concerns that it is also less prepared for university level study than before, and unease about access and attainment gaps.
Learning developers have a remit which is often called ‘study skills’ or ‘academic literacies’. They work with university students to help them make sense of and negotiate academic practices in HE and develop as successful, independent learners. What learning development is, is still the subject of lively debate: is it a profession, a community of practice, a discipline, a pedagogy, or a field? For many of us, at its most fundamental level, it’s our job.
Learning Developers may hold any one of a number of job titles (study adviser, academic skills coach, learning enhancement tutor etc); they may be embedded in schools and faculties, or located in central contexts such as student services, libraries, learning and teaching services or English for Academic purposes, or may have a Learning Development function as part of a wider role, such as subject lecturer. Their remit may include just academic writing, or wider ‘learning to learn’, and they can find themselves doing one-to-one tutorials, central workshops, embedded sessions, online resources or, like their Educational Development colleagues, working with academic colleagues to develop this aspect of the curriculum. Their backgrounds and expertise may be similarly diverse.
This week Helen and Kim lead us to consider what it might mean to teach study skills effectively and how staff in all learning, teaching and student support roles, as well as students themselves, might work with Learning Developers in this emerging field.
Dr Helen Webster is a Learning Developer and Head of the Writing Development Centre at Newcastle University. She works in a central, student-facing role across the institution, helping students at all levels and in all disciplines negotiate the complex conventions and practices of UK Higher Education, and reflect on their own study strategies to become successful independent learners.
She is interested in developing interprofessional models and approaches for this emerging profession, particularly around one-to-one work. A qualified teacher, National Teaching Fellow (2019), Senior Fellow of the HEA and Certified Leading Practitioner of Learning Development, she is also an executive steering group member for the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education. She blogs at https://rattusscholasticus.wordpress.com
Dr Kim Shahabudin has been a learning developer since 2006, working with the Study Advice team at the University of Reading until June 2019, and more recently as a sessional tutor for Oxford University’s Dept of Continuing Education. She was a member of the LearnHigher CETL from 2006-2010, and has served on the steering group for the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education.
Kim’s research interests are in teaching student referencing practices, support for mature students, and mediating successful transitions to higher education. She also has an interest in developing models and defining values for the emerging learning development profession. She holds Senior Fellowship of the HEA and Certified Leading Practitioner of Learning Development status. In 2018, she was awarded a University Teaching Award by the University of Reading. She retains the title of the only learning developer to be portrayed on an exhibit in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Higher Education Research Act established a regulatory framework and the Teaching Excellence Framework with associated metrics for student retention, progression and employability. In meeting these requirements, the significance of personal tutoring is clear. Despite this, according to existing institutional research, there is a need for developmental support, greater clarification on the requisite competencies, and adequate recognition for those undertaking this challenging role. Moreover, arguably compounding these concerns is the lack of distinct professional standards for personal tutoring and advising against which to measure effective practice. This research draws on data gathered from a survey of practitioners designed to determine the demand for national personal tutoring standards, identify the competencies which may populate them, and determine the recognition with which they could be associated. Additionally, it evaluates the relevance, adequacy and usefulness of existing standards such as the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning in HE. Important findings include a significant demand for a set of specific standards for personal tutoring and advising. Justifications provided for this and the opposing view are examined. Clarity for both individual practitioners and institutions was stipulated along with meaningful recognition and reward for this work which is considered highly important and yet ‘invisible’. The surveyed professionals in the field identified relevant potential content along with illuminating the debate about the relationships between personal tutoring, teaching and professional advising roles. Valuable critical analysis of standards, recognition and reward also emerged. This is considered by discussing the connection between standards and changes to practice, responses to policy developments and the purpose of ‘standards’ in comparison to ‘guidance’.
In this chat, Ben will lead a discussion of the proposition that the introduction of bespoke standards is a necessary response to alleviate some of the current tensions which beset personal tutoring and advising in higher education.
Ben is a Senior Lecturer in Academic Development at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education (HE) at the University of Derby. As Vice-Chair of the UK Advising and Tutoring association (UKAT), he has responsibility for professional development in this organisation which is the sectoral voice and lead for personal tutors and academic advisors. He is co-author of the highly regarded Effective Personal Tutoring in Higher Education which includes a foreword by Professor Liz Thomas, the author of the What Works? reports, seminal works on student retention and success. Previously, Ben undertook higher education research at the University of Lincoln and was a teacher educator within college-based higher education in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University. Going further back, he was Head of English and a full-time teacher of English for several years. He was the originator of UKAT’s current national webinar series, Tutoring Matters. His doctoral research is focussed on academic and pastoral support of students informed by critical pedagogy. He also happens to be a drummer in a Sheffield indie band… A keen writer and researcher within education, Ben is passionate about the impact the support side of a lecturer’s role, including personal tutoring and coaching, can have on students individually, as well as institutions more broadly, and I am committed to developing this field further. You can find out more about Ben’s work at www.benwwalker.co.uk.
The traditional forms of assessment are based on conventional methods of testing that usually involves the production of written document including tests, essays and reports; and follow the transmission of knowledge from teacher to learner that creates a passive learning atmosphere (Herrington and Herrington, 2006). The criticism of this assessment rests upon the level of knowledge and transferable skills that can be applied in other contexts and it does not meet the needs of a “dynamic and changing workforce” (Herrington and Herrington, 2006, p.69). For that reason, alternative assessment methods have been developed. One of them is Authentic Assessment (AA) that involves the application of knowledge and skills in real-life settings (UNSW, n.d.). AA enhances the synergy between knowledge/content and skills that traditionally were viewed as mutually exclusive, and it can be integrated and applied across different disciplines in higher education including arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Examples of AA include completion of a real-world tasks, assessment in a workplace setting, and role-play or simulation. This week’s chat focuses on the latter example.
Simulation or a simulation game is a computer-generated reality (Longstreet and Cooper, 2012) that recreates a real, complex problem-solving exercise where students have to interact, developing judgement and make decisions over complex issues. This online environment promotes a space where students can make mistakes safely and systematically in order to learn; and allows the visualisation of the effects from their own decisions in a relatively controlled environment (Peacock, 1981; Rooney et al., 2015). Hence, simulation facilitates an active, engaging and fun environment, which represents an alternative to traditional assessment types.
Another important characteristic of simulation is that it allows students to receive rapid feedback of their results after completing the game or in debriefing sessions when educators guide students to reflect on their performance, the process and their roles when taking decisions (Petranek et al., 1992). As a result, simulations integrate three domains of learning (Breckwoldt et al., 2014): Cognitive or knowledge; Affective, or the growth in feelings or emotional areas; and Psychomotor, which are the manual or physical skills (Bloom, 1956). Simulation games have been used in social, natural and applied sciences including engineering, medicine, law and business.
Despite its benefits, simulation games have been subject of criticism due to the lack of research in simulation pedagogy (Dieckmann, 2009), the insufficient solid evidence to show how complex and real is the created environment (Poikela, Paula|Teräs, 2015), its effectiveness in comparison to real experiments or field work, and the application in other academic disciplines such as humanities.
There are some examples of simulation games, including:
Ecology, using The Ecology Game (Tribe and Peacock, 1976) that allows students in groups of between 6-8 members, to research the changes in flora and fauna in Britain by analysing two photographs from areas taken before and after the changes occurred (Peacock, 1981).
A level-6 module in a UK business school that uses a simulation game as part of a group summative assessment. The game is based on a car manufacturer, in which students have to take weekly business decisions submitting a spreadsheet. The game is centred on financial and operational indicators in the spreadsheet. So, the students will not see a live representation of the company or the manufacturing process. There is an individual assessment in which students reflect and apply theoretical concepts of the group dynamics and strategic theories when taking decisions in the simulation.
A level-5 module in a UK business school that uses a simulation game as an individual formative assessment. Students have to play A game individually on the PC, where they can see a factory and they need to manage the operations to complete the production of six products. Students are not marked based on the final results of the game but in an individual report where they need to apply theoretical concepts covered in the module when they takedecisions and reflect on their performance.
Breckwoldt, J. et al. (2014) ‘Simulation Learning’, in H. Gruber S. Billett, C. Harteis (ed.) International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning. [Online]. Springer. pp. 673–698.
Dieckmann, P. (2009) ‘Simulation settings for learning in acute medical care’, in P. Dieckmann (ed.) Using simulations for education, training and research. 1st edition Lengerich: Pabst. pp. 40–138.
Herrington, A. & Herrington, J. (2006) ‘What is an Authentic Learning Environment?’, in Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education. [Online]. IGI Global. pp. 1–14.
Longstreet, C. S. & Cooper, K. (2012) ‘A meta-model for developing simulation games in higher education and professional development training’, in 2012 17th International Conference on Computer Games (CGAMES). [Online]. July 2012 IEEE. pp. 39–44. [online]. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6314549/ (Accessed 30 May 2018).
Peacock, D. (1981) A simulation exercise on scientific research for use in undergraduate teaching. Journal of Geography in Higher Education. [Online] 5 (2), 139–143.
Petranek, C. F. et al. (eds.) (1992) ‘Three Levels of Learning in Simulations: Participating, Debriefing, and Journal Writing’, in Simulation & Gaming. [Online]. Sage PublicationsSage CA: Thousand Oaks, CA. pp. 174–185.
Poikela, Paula|Teräs, M. (2015) A Scoping Review: Conceptualizations and Pedagogical Models of Learning in Nursing Simulation. Educational Research and Reviews. 10 (8), 1023–1033.
Rooney, D. et al. (2015) The Role of Simulation in Pedagogies of Higher Education for the Health Professions: Through a Practice-Based Lens. Vocations and Learning. [Online] 8 (3), 269–285.
Tribe, M. A. & Peacock, D. (1976) The ecology game. Cambridge Univ. Press.
Gustavo R. Espinoza-Ramos holds a BSc in Business and Information Technology, and an MSc in Mining Engineering. His working experience in the mining industry and self-motivation underpinned his decision to undertake part-time PhD course at University of Westminster since January 2015. His research interests are centred on topics related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the formation of social partnerships between private companies and civil society in developing countries. He is an enthusiastic lecturer at the Westminster Business and Law Schools teaching modules related CSR, business ethics, sustainable business and corporate strategy, both at an undergraduate and master levels.
This week’s #LTHEchat is going to
be slightly different. Instead of being led by one or two people, it is going
to be much more of an open, collective, networked affair brought to you by the
FemEdTech community. FemEdTech is
“a reflexive, emergent network of
people learning, practising and researching in educational technology. We are
an informal organisation with no funding: our resources are our passion,
kindness, knowledge, enthusiasm and volunteer time.”
Our starting point was around
developing and reflecting feminist perspectives primarily within the
educational technology domain. Since its inception in 2016, the network has
evolved and grown to embrace wider issues of openness, inclusion and
diversity. The main model of engagement is through shared
curation of our twitter account. This model has enabled
sustainable and diverse engagement to flourish. As a community, we have
developed a set of values, as well
as creating an Open
Space to share different voices and perspectives from across our
network. Since http://femedtech.net was
launched earlier this year, we have hosted several events, including the OER19
Open Space, WinOpen Webinar, and Values activity, which are now archived on the
Feminism is a practical matter for
the FemEdTech network, as we work to address inequality in our practice. For
example, Deepwell (2019b) spoke of this in the work of the Association for
Learning Technology, characterising its practice as:
“promoting equality on three
levels: promoting equality as a challenge for Learning Technology
professionals, promoting equality as key value in our organisational culture
and promoting equality as a personal commitment.”
In this work, we draw on feminist theories and writings; for example
acknowledging the diversity of women’s ways of knowing and the importance of
intersectionality in drawing attention to what we might be missing. Charles (2019)
explores the role of decolonizing the curriculum in making systemic change in
“The aim to self-decolonize is not limited to simply reading or support
materials for teaching, learning and research, but includes ensuring that this
critical ‘liberation lens’ examines all aspects of the pillars that makes the
institution what it is: the student, staff, and the organizational cultural
constructs and departments by, and in which, it operates.”
At FemEdTech, we extend our learning and reach, not only by following
and being followed by diverse Twitter accounts, but also by curating and
engaging with networks from which we can learn about the intersectional nature
of inequality. From and with these networks, we can learn more about the issues
of inclusion, diversity, openness, participation, and ethics that we encounter in
our professional and private lives. An example of network curation can be found
at Graves Wolf (2019). We would welcome more ideas on how to network with
In this week’s chat we want to explore with the #LTHEchat community
questions around inequality and the role that networked communities such as
FemEdTech and LTHE play in sharing and using critical frameworks to develop and
change practice. We invite you to share your experiences, thoughts, hopes
and ideas of how critically informed networked activity can help support and
affect change across the sector.
Before the session we have selected some writings that may help frame
interactions during the chat.
There is no doubt that regardless of the criticism levelled at the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) it has raised the profile of how important high quality teaching and the associated curriculum is to students and to the Office for Students (OfS). Designing curriculum is a complex and time consuming process and sits alongside a wide range of competing commitments academic colleagues have to undertake. This is where dedicated support for curriculum development can play an integral role in the effective design of curriculum and improvements to the student experience. The Centre for Innovation in Education (CIE) at the University of Liverpool is one such unit and is dedicated to supporting academic colleagues across the institution in the designing of curriculum. Our relationships vary depending on the activities, but we do our best work when the core teaching team see us as integral members of the Programme Development Team. This LTHE Chat will pose questions set by the CIE Team, relating to the work of such departments with a plea to all course/programme teams to reach out to these internal departments as a critical friend at every opportunity.
For more information about the Centre for Innovation in Education please click here
To view the Wakelet for this chat. please click here
Can you be taught how to teach? Is this something that can be reduced to Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) on a PG Cert? Can “experts” in learning and teaching equip novices with the skills they need to be successful teachers?
Well, maybe. But we would like to suggest another way of thinking about this. During a particularly lively LTHEChat, the three of us realised that learning how to teach might be both more complicated and more simple than it had first seemed to be.
We started to think about how we had learned, and what that might tell us about how we might teach. We also recalled times that we have helped others to learn, and thought about how these experiences might help us to talk about learning how to teach. We don’t claim to be experts – far from it – but we hope that the questions that we think are important will also strike a chord with you.
Tonight we are asking six questions, but we also hope to start a larger debate.
Steve Rowett is Digital Education Futures Manager at UCL. He leads a small team exploring the potential for new technologies in teaching and learning across the university’s 75+ departments. Most recently he has been working to promote active learning classroom tools, introducing a new blogging platform for UCL and conducting a review of the institution’s digital learning environment through interviews with staff and students.
Santanu Vasant is the Head of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, at the University of East London.
Leading the team of three Academic Developers and three Learning Technology Advisers plus an administrator within the University, Santanu has a research interest in how staff are developed and empowered to use technology in their practice but also to make better use of the physical learning space as a result. He also has an interest in how we motivate and engage those staff that don’t engage with CPD activity. Santanu has worked in Learning Technology since 2004 and has worked on projects as diverse as the issues of transition and induction into higher education (the subject of his MA Dissertation at UCL’s IOE (2012)), deploying PebblePad and developing activities for reflecting writing in BA Education, PGCert in HE and Business Studies (writing a chapter on this topic in Pebblegogy, 2011). More recently he has written a chapter on Bring Your Own Device Policy and Practice in Smart Learning: teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets in post compulsory education (2015) edited by Andrew Middleton and contributed to the UCIAS Learning Spaces Toolkit (2016). In June this year, he had his latest chapter published entitled ‘Attitudes, Practices and Outcomes Explored through the Use of Social Media’ in Social Media in Higher Education: Case Studies, Reflections and Analysis, edited by Chris Rowell.
Sarah Honeychurch @NomadWarMachine is a Fellow in the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, where she is investigating ways of making learning, teaching and assessment less stressful and more meaningful for staff and students. She is currently also writing-up a PhD in Education which considers the effects of online peer interaction on learning, and this has led to her interest in lurkers in online communities. Sarah blogs at http://www.nomadwarmachine.co.uk/
To view the Wakelet for this chat, please click here
Working in academia we often feel the pressure to publish. If you speak to most academics about presenting and publishing research they will start talking to you about their subject research. How many of us are publishing or presenting our pedagogic research and how many institutions are encouraging us to do this?
Although a number of institutions have made moves to create greater parity between teaching-focused and research-focused staff, both the support and the need to publish differs considerably between these two groups of staff. Part of the issue comes from many institutions choosing not to submit research in HE pedagogy into the REF. This is a topic that has come under the spotlight recently with a paper published earlier this year by Anne Tierney, which follows up an early publication by Cotton et al. (2017) both of which look at the barriers to inclusion of learning and teaching research in the REF.
One of the areas highlighted in these papers is that for some disciplines, lecturers have no experience of qualitative research or the type of research design needed for education research and therefore do not feel comfortable publishing. This was my own experience, coming from a molecular biology background when I ran very controlled experiments that produced numeric data. My initial pedagogic research was very much about providing evidence to support my own practice and I have found the challenge to be confident enough to publish as a personal barrier to sharing this research with a wider audience.
On the other side of this I have often been a consumer of pedagogic research. Either through reflecting on my own practice or helping encouraging others to reflect, finding evidence from the literature to support and help understand what I am doing has been invaluable. Equally at times I have found it frustrating that I have not been able research on some of the topics I have searched for, sometimes knowing that others have done work in the area.
In this tweetchat we will explore ideas around benefits of presenting and publishing pedagogic research, barriers to achieving and hopefully the more prolific publishers amongst us can provide some insights into overcoming these.
Cotton, D. R. E., Miller, W. & Kneale, P. (2018) The Cinderella of academia: Is higher education pedagogic research undervalued in UK research assessment?, Studies in Higher Education, 43:9,1625-1636, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2016.1276549
Tierney, A. (2019) The scholarship of teaching and learning and pedagogic research within the disciplines: should it be included in the research excellence framework?, Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2019.1574732
Isobel is currently Academic Lead: Active and Inclusive Learning at Anglia Ruskin University. During several years spent as a lecturer and course leader she developed a strong interest in using technology to support students creating their own learning. Having worked in both medical and veterinary education she is an advocate of evidence-based practice and brings this ethos to her own teaching practice.
The idea of active learning is hard to pin down. It embraces a number of educational theories and pedagogic strategies including problem-based learning, enquiry-based learning, project-based learning, and team-based learning. Such philosophies and approaches are often presented in binary opposition to lecturing and other teaching-led methods – approaches which are often how today’s ‘lecturers’ experienced university. In reality, active learning and blended learning are integrated amongst a range of techniques that address and involve the student in different ways. This can be different according to discipline, teacher and cohort. This melding of approaches is seen most obviously in the concept of flipped learning where essential knowledge is first provided online where it creates the basis for a deeper social exploration through vibrant class-based activities.
Active learning can be off-putting to staff because group work is usually a characteristic of active learning. For example, discussion, projects, co-creation, peer-led assessment, while apparently student-centred can treat students as an anonymous and homogenous mass. Active learning can be noisey, teetering on chaotic, making the classroom harder to manage and students can resent being put into groups with peers who they perceive to be less capable or innately passive and uncooperative, especially where assessment fails to recognise individual contributions and talents.
The teacher’s role shifts from sage on the stage, to guide by the side and meddler in the middle. It can challenge academic identity and esteem, being perceived by some as a shift from wise expert to manager of people.
Active learning and the technology-enhanced learning environment implicitly promotes engagement as a pre-requisite to learning knowledge. It becomes a two-stage operation: first stimulate the learner and make them curious. Then immerse the learner in knowledge and developing skills. The active and blended learning environment is an open-ended, risky, creative, agentic space. If the academic’s role now is to manage the learner, then it seems active and blended learning strategies are designed to make that management as complex as possible! It is understandable, then, that some in the academic community can approach the active learning paradigm with reservations, if not contempt.
Given the number of students in higher education is greater than ever and our students are more diverse, we need to find alternative strategies for helping them to gain purchase, reveal their talents and capabilities, and share their diversity for the benefit of all. Active and blended learning strategies recognise student-centredness and the role that a university has in developing graduate dispositions for a connected world that rejects stability and thrives on innovation. In this context, new literacies and skills are needed so that our students can contribute and learn to take leading roles on a global stage. Many academics get this and are prepared to take pioneering roles in exploring the possibilities, especially now that technology allows any of us to connect our classroom to anyone, anything or any place in the world – instantly. Sharples (2019), for example, sets out 40 new ways to teach and learn using practical active and blended pedagogies. Ideas like ‘spaced learning’, ‘seamless learning’, learning through social media, and bricolage, hint at what academic innovators are doing. Active and blended learning, it seems, opens the door to fulfilling and creative academic practices. It reveals new ways for making learning more relevant, authentic and challenging ensuring that feedback is immediate and integral in the actions we take together. In brief, the learning paradigm creates a rich learning experience that contrasts with the teaching paradigm (Barr & Tagg, 1995). Ideas about active learning are not new – Piaget (1926), for example, describes learning as “a product of the learner being involved in a process of resolving practical or cognitive dissonance.” The LTHEchat provides us with an opportunity to explore the value of dissonance and challenge, and allows us to consider how we can present it in a way that persuades reticent academics and students so that the curriculum can be experienced as a coherent, rich and vibrant space for engaging students in developing learning habits so that they are ready to embrace the opportunities awaiting them.
Barr, R & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change, November, 13-25.
Piaget, J. (1926). The child’s conception of the world. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Sharples, M. (2019). Practical pedagogy: 40 new ways to teach and learn. Abingdon: Routledge.
Andrew Middleton is Deputy Head of Anglia Learning & Teaching at Anglia Ruskin University where he is leading work to support the University’s Active Curriculum Framework and digital learning. This includes initiatives on Media-Enhanced Teaching & Learning, Employability in Practice, and Learning Spaces for Student Success. Andrew researches and publishes on designing learning environments for co-operative learning. He blogs at Tactile: https://tactilelearning.wordpress.com/.