YLTA presentations – Supporting student learning in a diverse classroom

Thursday 31 May 2018, 12.30pm to 14.00

Speakers: Marina Cantarutti – Department of Language and Linguistic Science; Agata Lambrechts – Department of Education; Daniel South – Department of English and Related Literature; Kirstie Wailes-Newson – Department of Psychology
Location: Room HG/21, Heslington Hall, Campus West

Workshop Summary

Our student population is more diverse than ever. Students come from various educational, social and cultural backgrounds and supporting students in different areas of their academic life can therefore be challenging. This workshop is aimed to encourage discussion on how we as academics can best support students within this diverse teaching and learning environment. The workshop will open with four speakers presenting four different experiences of supporting students in various aspects of their learning. This will be followed by group discussions on how we can best support students, using the examples given in the presentations as a basis for discussion.

This is an opportunity to hear four outstanding presentations from the recent York Learning and Teaching Award cohort

Panopto video adverts: (University of York login required)
Marina Cantarutti: Teaching international and home students
Agata Lambrechts: Supporting transition between school and university
Daniel South: Developing student thinking
Kirstie Wailes-Newson: Overcoming statistical anxiety in the social sciences

Workshop Report

by session chair, Sally Quinn, Psychology

This lunchtime workshop centred around talks delivered by four PhD students who have just completed the York Learning and Teaching Award (YLTA). The common theme running through all four talks related to supporting student learning in the diverse classroom. Before the talks began, we discussed in groups the different challenges we face in our practice in terms of the diversity within the student population. These ranged from awareness of different cultures, issues relating to mental health, the age range of students, and prior experience of education, including different levels of study skills.

The first talk was delivered by Marina Cantarutti (Department of Language and Linguistic Science) who reflected on her experiences of teaching the same module in Buenos Aires and in York. Marina specifically focussed on the model of ‘Learners as Partners’ and showed how through various strategies, she enabled students to become creators of teaching content and to respect the diversity within their own class. There was a short discussion after Marina’s talk about whether there are certain variables that are conducive to the ‘Learners as Partners’ model (e.g. staff’s teaching styles and/or seniority in the department, and student motivation).

The second talk was delivered by Kirstie Wailes-Newson (Department of Psychology) who shared her experiences of dealing with statistics anxiety among students in the Social Sciences. She talked us through various strategies she uses such as giving real world examples to contextualise the statistics, using humour to relax students and decrease anxiety, and taking into account existing knowledge and using scaffolding techniques to build on this. Kirstie also ensures students receive regular feedback and encourages students to become the teachers themselves (e.g. asking students to explain a concept). The discussion after Kirstie’s talk centred around the possibility of using peer mentors to support student learning, and ensuring that students are aware of the importance of learning the statistics (e.g. by ensuring programme design enables students to use these skills elsewhere in their degree).

The third talk was delivered by Daniel South (Department of English and Related Literature) who focussed on methods he uses to develop student thinking. Daniel explained how he uses alternative materials to encourage students to think about content in a different way. For example, he asked students to discuss paintings and then related these discussions to the text students were being asked to analyse. He also encourages an atmosphere in which students recognised that their learning can be positively affected by making errors and that sometimes, these errors offer a different way to understand content. The discussions following Dan’s presentation focussed on how we can get students to ‘learn how to learn’ and the challenges that offers when students are often at different stages of awareness of their own learning styles.

The final talk was given by Agata Lambrechts (Department of Education). Agata talked about data she collected from students on a module ‘Research Literacy’ which aims to address skills relating to engagement with academic literature since these are not often taught at school. Her research showed that a sizeable number of students had not previously engaged with academic literature before arriving at University but most had since they had been at University. There was generally a positive view of the module and students could see the skills they were developing would be useful for their futures. Agata aims to continue with this research to further understand the skills where students need support; skills which may not be taught at schools but are paramount for success at University. She also hopes these results will help her department in the future development of the module.