The next #LTHEchat on Wednesday 9th May 8-9 PM (GMT) will be based on questions from Dr Martin Rich @MartinRich106 about Pace in Learning and Teaching.
For many of undergraduate students who I teach, their first big challenge, having started their course in September, comes when the clocks go back in the UK towards the end of October. Not only is this when the initial novelty of studying has worn off, coursework deadlines start to loom, and their first exam period in January is close enough to cause some anxiety, but it’s getting cold and dark as well. And in a London winter it’s not even cold in an interesting or attractive way: lots of trudging through drizzle but no skiing.
This observation set me thinking about how we manage the pace and timing of learning in higher education, and particularly how this fits in with various stages of the academic year. It’s an integral part of what we do whenever we design and deliver our courses, yet I have found little written about it in the pedagogic literature. We make decisions about assessment in particular which have a considerable impact on the timing of students’ work as a whole. And we grapple with competing pressures about that timing, for example if we are to include formative assessment we need to ensure that students have time to act on it, but we also want to set it once they have learned enough to have some learning which we can assess. Even if we get the timing right in teaching one subject, it can be difficult to coordinate different parts of a big and complex course. That’s especially true if we offer students a lot of options with different modes of delivery and assessment – something that our students frequently tell us in the National Student Survey and elsewhere that they value, but which adds to the challenge of managing students’ workloads.
Sometimes the impact of a particular event, whether it’s a great party for freshers or a tough statistics test, can make a difference to students’ motivation and energy levels and it would be good if we could take this effect into account more effectively. If, as in the courses where I teach, there is a significant amount of group work we need to build in time for these groups to form, storm, and norm and to consider when best to set group tasks. If we teach students particular skills and knowledge that they can expect to use later in their course, we need to recognise that they might forget it if they don’t use it: I’ve encountered students who struggle with writing an extended essay for a final year undergraduate project because they learned to write essays in their first year but haven’t done any since.
And all this is before even considering the requirements of part-time students, who are balancing competing pressures from study and work and for whom there is a whole further set of issues around pace and timing.
Martin Rich @MartinRich106 is a Senior Lecturer, and Course Director for the BSc in Business Management, at Cass Business School, which is part of City, University of London. His work centres around how Management education can evolve to a changing and uncertain environment, and how different generations of students use technology within their studies. He is interested in the connection between formal and non-formal learning particularly within the context of students attending degree courses where the principal channel for instruction remains face-to-face. He has published about pedagogy in Higher Education and is a regular participant at conferences relating to this area.