Research-Inspired Learning Panel

Prof Karen Mattick (Professor of Medical Education and Director of PCAP) and Dr Shaun Mudd (Academic Development) convened and chaired a panel on “Research-Inspired Learning” at The Graduate School of Education’s Annual Research Conference on Friday 23rd March.  This panel was a collaboration between the APN and the Research Inspired Learning Steering Group (of which Karen is one of the two chairs), as well as the PCAP and LTHE programmes (Karen is the Director of the former, whilst Shaun is the HASS lead tutor on the latter).   Four speakers presented papers related to outstanding assignments from the PCAP and LTHE programmes.  This panel therefore served a double purpose: to celebrate excellence coming out of these IMG_0046.jpgprogrammes, and to disseminate good practice in research-inspired learning.

Laura Colombo (PhD Researcher in Management Studies) started the panel by discussing her “Experiences with Critical Management Education”.  In this paper, Laura identified how her identity as a researcher was influencing her practice as an educator, and then considered what it means to be a critical educator.  Laura began by focusing on an overheard conversation regarding the recent UCU strikes to illustrate the neo-liberal approach to education and its shortcomings.  A “critical approach” was then posed as an alternative to combat issues; this is based on togetherness (rather than individualism), belonging (rather than alienation), an active-mode of learning (rather than passive), and substantive rationality (rather than instrumental).  The benefits of this were illustrated, and Laura then returned to the UCU strikes to illustrate how this approach works in practice through analysing an email regarding them.

Dr Susannah Cornwall (Senior Lecturer in Constructive Theologies) then spoke on “Toward a Change in Professional Practice: Sharing Work in Progress with Students in HE Teaching”.  Susannah explained how her views on this subject were inspired by participation in a 2014roundtable discussion on “Researching Sexuality and Religion: Cultivating Self-Reflexive Practices and Ethical Relationalities”.  Those present reflected on issues such as students becoming more and more anxious, and Susannah explained how she developed a self-reflexivity approach from this.  Her approach is based on sharing reflection on her own research practice with students, where she acknowledges her own vulnerabilities, and then encourages students to likewise take risks by creating environments where they can fail safely.  Susannah illustrated this with research-led teaching examples from her own modules.

Dr Irene Fernandez-Molina (Lecturer in Politics) addressed “Biases in Student Perceptions and Student Evaluations of Teaching”.  She noted how student evaluations sometimes may not correlate to one’s own perception of their own teaching, and outlined research on factors which might unfairly influence a student’s evaluation – such as the teacher’s gender.  Irene noted an article which argued that, as student evaluations are frequently biased, their use may even be illegal.  Researchers have identified three main groups of factors (beyond the effectiveness of the teacher and module/session):

  1. the individual circumstances of students (their previous experiences, expectations, etc.)
  2. the wider context (the environment, whether it’s a mandatory or optional course, class size)
  3. factors relating to the individual teacher (race, gender, etc.)

Most research on this subject focuses on the teacher’s gender, and Irene showed an interactive chart which allows you explore the words used to teachers in about 14 million reviews from RateMyProfessor.com, comparing between how often they’re used for male and female teachers.

The final paper was by Dr Yang Liu (Lecturer in Engineering), who spoke on “Module Assessment in Engineering: Limitations and Alternative Perspectives”.  Yang outlined the current assessment methods employed on an Engineering module, considering them in view of the teaching schedule, and considering the problems and limitations of each assessment.  For instance, Yang noted that assignments were very commonly employed, but they were very time consuming, stressful for students, and plagiarism was common.  The alternative schedule proposed involved a greater amount of peer working and learning, leading to collaborative lab projects.  Yang then outlined how he would evaluate this new schedule once implemented.

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