2018 Conference Lightning Talks

The 2018 Conference will include a series of lightning talks, as follows (links to abstract):

  1. Effective Rediscovery – A Challenge for Module Tutors
  2. Research-led production of a new green chemistry children’s book resource with students as partners
  3. Multimodal Learning for Digital Literacy
  4. Improving Engagement and Learning in Practical Classes – Transforming Demonstrators to Enable Students to be Active Participants
  5. When there are no answers at the back of the book — Incorporating research in the Year-3 laboratory and easing the transition to Year-4 research projects
  6. Skills Guides: supplementary digital literacy materials

Talk 1: Effective Rediscovery – A Challenge for Module Tutors

Speaker: Dr Mark Roodhouse, Department of History

The association of originality with academic research hampers our understanding of research-led teaching. How can research inform teaching at all levels of higher education when we associate research with the new? A popular answer, and a conference focus, is problem-based learning (PBL). Give students a genuine problem and support them as work out solutions to it. Neither problems nor solutions need be original. They need only be new for the students. This is a familiar approach for university teachers in the arts and humanities. The traditional small-group discursive seminar is structured around addressing an established intellectual problem.

Drawing on this experience, I will explain the real challenge PBL poses tutors: ensuring students rediscover an idea effectively and efficiently. It shifts the tutor’s focus from performance to planning and preparation. It requires a high degree of empathy with the learners’ plight and continuous engagement with their learning journeys. Evidence from secondary-schools were such an approach is taken suggests the effort is worth it.

Talk 2: Research-led production of a new green chemistry children’s book resource with students as partners

Speakers: Glenn Hurst, Jake Walpole, Louise Summerton and Clementine Beauvais, Department of Chemistry and Department of Education

This paper describes the design and creation of green chemistry learning materials for key stage (KS) 3/4 students comprising of a children’s book and an interactive online learning platform utilising student’s as partners and research-led approaches within the Department of Chemistry. The children’s book, titled ‘The Green Formula’, is an innovative way to introduce school students to the basics of green chemistry through a storyline and excerpts of “scientific diaries”. Background research together with a storyboard was completed by two summer students as part of a Nuffield Internship. Following this, as part of their degree programme and in collaboration with the Department of Education, four students created the children’s book. An institutional art
competition was then launched where students competed to design the front cover of the book and illustrations throughout. The book also includes an activity section with kitchen and classroom-based green chemistry experiments, as well as some quizzes to test students understanding.

To complement the book, an online learning platform is being created, designed around a curriculum based on green chemistry principles and the Edexcel KS 3/4 syllabus. The website format is based on the CHEM21 platform (http://learning.chem21.eu), which contains interactive educational/training materials on green chemistry, specifically the synthesis of pharmaceuticals, for professionals. The curriculum on ‘The Green Formula’ website will be reinforced through quizzes, interactive games, case studies, experiments and video content. The Green Formula project aims to introduce and develop green chemistry internationally at the secondary level.

This presentation will be facilitated by a blend of staff and undergraduate students.

Talk 3: Multimodal Learning for Digital Literacy

Speaker: Fiona Keenan (YLTA), Department of Theatre, Film and Television

Is an acceptance of preferred learning styles still useful when trying to develop students’ digital literacy in the twenty-first century university? Do we need to cultivate new modes of learning more appropriate to engagement with digital systems? This presentation will explore some of the issues I have encountered in teaching technical equipment and digital systems to students who need to become both competent in and critically engaged with the tools they are using. I will propose that facilitating critical engagement with technology in an inclusive way may be best served through the development of multimodal learning ability. Drawing on my PhD research into enactive learning and perception, I will explore how I have attempted to facilitate this in my GTA teaching and work towards the York Learning and Teaching Award.

Talk4: Improving Engagement and Learning in Practical Classes – Transforming Demonstrators to Enable Students to be Active Participants

Speaker: Jonathan Rainer (YLTA), Department of Computer Science

Practicals, classes where students attempt to complete a series of tasks with demonstrators on hand to help, are an almost unique teaching opportunity in many of the scientific disciplines. They encompass elements of teaching from the creative and scientific fields as well as offering quick iterations of teaching and reflection on the same piece of content. Practicals also offer a unique opportunity to explore learning together with students, breaking down the perceived barriers between “teaching staff” and “students”, something that can be incredibly important in the transition between secondary and higher education.

Often however these practicals are poorly utilised by students and teachers alike. Students are often reticent to engage in activities beyond the bare minimum required, demonstrators are reactive rather than proactive and some teaching activities are ill designed for this unique medium. This presentation will explore some of the reasons for this under-utilisation and strategies from the literature and personal reflections to counter this. Specifically it will focus on the role of Postgraduates Who Teach (PGWT’s) as demonstrators, and how this role can be developed to encourage a collaborative and active approach, as opposed to demonstrators being passive actors who simply answer questions when asked. This development will be considered through the prism of departmental training and in-classroom strategies all with the aim of enabling students to be active participants in practicals to a much greater degree than at present.

Talk 5: When there are no answers at the back of the book — Incorporating research in the Year-3 laboratory and easing the transition to Year-4 research projects

Speaker: Yvette Hancock, Department of Physics

This lightning talk will outline the design of the spring term Year-3 Advanced Computational Laboratory in Physics, which develops the students’ abilities to go from well-defined, assisted learning to open-ended research in cutting-edge computational modelling over two four-week experiments. The laboratory experiments involve the students first learning the theoretical background to the models, and then – with carefully graded exercises of increasing difficulty and open-endedness – arriving at research-level capability on par and directly comparable with recent work published in leading journals. An example experiment that is developed by the students in the laboratory is the computational modelling of the Nobel Prize–winning material graphene, one of the current hot topics in condensed matter physics research. To enable the students to go from ‘always having answers in the back of the book’ to being comfortable and competent in open-ended research enquiry, requires a specific style of supportive learning environment, supervision-like teaching and a collaborative element. This lightning talk will provide details of how the laboratory is run and evidence of effectiveness through student feedback from Year-3 students, as well as students who have transitioned from the lab to performing research-based Year-4 projects.

Talk 6: Skills Guides: supplementary digital literacy materials

Speaker: Susan Halfpenny and Stephanie Jesper, Information Services

Over the past two years the Information Services Teaching and Learning Team have been working on a project to develop a blended digital skills programme that will support our taught students. We wanted to ensure that any programme that we developed was sustainable and scalable, offering both integrated digital literacy and generic skills support. The culmination of this projected has resulted in our Digital Wednesdays initiative and the launch of our online Skills Guides.

In developing our online component we’ve explored a number of different options, including Articulate tutorials, videos, Google Sites, and LibGuides content. We’ll talk about how we’ve developed our approaches, in light of experience and usage, taking advantages of the relative openness of the LibGuides platform, to create fully contextualised interactive content directly on the page. The box structure of LibGuides has the added benefit of allowing you to pull that content through to the VLE as building blocks for embedded training within

In this lightening talk we will showcase some of the online content that we have created. Highlighting new materials that we have developed in collaboration with the ASO Learning Enhancement Team.

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