2018 Conference Poster Presentations

The 2018 Conference will include a number of posters to view, as follows (links to abstracts):

Evidence-based strategies for effective student learning

Author: Aidan Horner, Department of Psychology

Psychological research in the laboratory has demonstrated numerous experimental manipulations that can boost recall of newly learnt information in the long-term. The most striking examples of this are retrieval practice and the spacing effect. Can these manipulations be used in the real-world to boost student learning? I will present research relating to these mnemonic effects, in particular assessing whether the effects translate from the laboratory to the real world. I will also cover how best such effects might practically be embedded within lectures and seminars to boost student learning.

A new online module to develop the digital literacy skills of students

Author: Dr Patrick Murphy, Department of Biology

‘Studying in a Digital Age’ is a new 5-credit online module at the University of Leeds, which introduces students to blended learning and helps them develop their digital literacy skills. The Faculty of Biological Sciences (FBS) adopted the module in 2016/7 and 560 Stage 1 UG FBS students enrolled onto the module. FBS consists of 3 Schools- Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Biomedical and Sports and Exercise Sciences.

The development of this module involved a huge collaborative effort. Central Digital Learning, Library, Student Education Service and Marketing teams and Faculty-based academic and professional support staff and students from across the 3 Schools within FBS all provided input. I would like to highlight the benefits that these collaborations brought to the module. I will also discuss some of the issues we faced in the logistics, planning, design, delivery and promotion of this module and how we overcame these challenges.

I designed module content and interactive activities for FBS students from diverse degree programmes, including a discussion forum exercise on antibiotic resistance, a research task on climate change and a Blackboard Collaborate session on obesity and the ‘sugar tax’. I will report on the interdisciplinary aspects of these activities.

In this poster, I will present student engagement and assessment data and student and staff feedback on the module. I will also highlight suggested changes for future iterations of the module.

Lessons from the past?: A critical reflection on research informed teaching and learning in business and management schools using historical sources

Author: Dr Alex G. Gillett, The York Management School

While the internationalisation of business/management schools has made the use of case studies desirable in some circumstances, the excessive use of them creates the illusion of a closed body of knowledge for students and instructors alike. The limitations of the existing case method are considered as well as previous attempts to close the research-teaching gap which typically ignore the ahistorical approach of much contemporary business and management research. We issue a call to action for schools to seize the rising research interest in the uses of management and organizational history as an opportunity to supplement case based learning with archive based learning. We identify that such an approach creates opportunities for cooperation with major companies as well as with libraries and archives, while boosting both faculty research output and graduate employability.

Beyond viewership statistics: How are students engaging with Replay Lecture Captures?

Author: James Youdale, Academic Support Office

Based on research undertaken by the E-Learning Development Team between December 2017 and January 2018, the poster will present the preliminary findings of an exploration of how students at the University of York are engaging with Replay. Whilst viewing statistics can give academics a broad idea of how often recordings are being viewed, there is little transparency of how the resource is impacting on student learning. As such, the aims of the survey and subsequent focus group was to permeate student study spheres and ‘informal’ learning spaces, and to explore how Replay supports and influences student notation methods and the selection of these self-study environments.

Improving student writing using an interactive session on essay structure

Author: Sally Quinn, Department of Psychology

In previous work (Quinn et al., 2017), we found that engaging students in an interactive session relating to essay structure increases awareness of the importance of structure in essay writing. However, we did not know if this translated to actual improvement in essay writing skills. We therefore developed an interactive session that showed students how to structure an essay and tested whether conducting this session would translate to an improvement in essay writing. We took a randomised control trial approach and delivered the session to half of our Year 1 cohort (the experimental group) before asking the whole Y1 cohort to complete a test essay. The second half of the cohort attended the same session after the test essay was submitted (the control group). The marks from an essay previously completed as part of the usual degree programme acted as a baseline measure.

We rated both the baseline essay and test essay on several aspects relating specifically to structure as well as awarding each essay an overall mark. We are currently awaiting the final data but we expect to see improvement in essay writing for the experimental group compared to the control group and for this to be evident for both the overall mark for each essay as well as the ratings for the different aspects of essay structure. If positive results are found, we intend to embed this interactive session into part of the Year 1 degree programme structure.

Sharing and caring: Teaching the craft of good social research

Author: Dr Nicola Moran, Department of Social Policy and Social Work

In October 2017 I transitioned from full-time Research Fellow (of 15 years) to part-time Research Fellow and part-time Lecturer. I was lucky enough to become module lead on a new Master’s course on Practice Research for an exciting new programme, Think Ahead – a fast track programme for mental health social workers in England. This research methods module enabled me to share my 15 years of knowledge and experience with 41 MA students at the start of their voyage into empirical research with staff and/or service users in NHS Trusts and Local Authorities. Not only could I craft the lecture material on the research cycle, research design, literature reviewing, ethics processes, data collection and analysis, and writing for different audiences, but I could pepper the sharing of that knowledge and guidance with tales of lived experience of: the pitfalls of empirical social research and how to avoid or learn from them, turning low response rates or neutral findings into a discussion around engagement, the personal joy and sense of achievement that comes of giving a voice to often marginalised groups, and real examples of when social research shaped local and national policy and practice to the benefit of those who are vulnerable in society. The ability to share and discuss the nitty gritty of current research with those who will become champions of research in their chosen field is not only a joy, but is also rewarded by the opportunity to share their journey and think, learn and explore anew.

Facilitating peer-led group research through virtual collaboration spaces

Authors: Setareh Chong, James Chong, Richard Walker, Department of Biology and E-Learning Development

Peer-led group learning as a variation of collaborative learning has become widely adopted in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines (Pazos, Micari & Light, 2009). It is based on small groups of students meeting regularly to work on problems collaboratively, and represents a departure from teacher-centred instruction, offering students the space to manage their own learning and develop higher-order skills relevant to future employment and lifelong learning. Pazos et al. note that peer-led group environments are typically characterised by high levels of student participation and interaction and problem-solving, which are encouraged through light-touch interventions by the instructor in responding to questions raised by the group. This paper explores how peer-led design was introduced to a final year undergraduate module for 6 Biology students undertaking project work in microbial annotation (Autumn and Spring Terms 2017-18). Students were tasked with learning how to annotate and assemble genetic data, mastering Unix command level programming to conduct their own research projects. Although they were engaged in individual projects, meeting on a regular weekly cycle to discuss progress with their facilitator, they were encouraged to work collaboratively in the performance of their research using a virtual collaborative environment – Slack – for the duration of the module. Slack was presented to students as a hub to share ideas / findings and to raise questions for the attention of the facilitator and the wider project group.

This paper will present findings from a mixed-mode evaluation of the first delivery of this project-led pedagogic design, carried out through survey and activity logs, combined with focus groups and interviews with the course leader and online facilitator. We will discuss the learning outcomes from the peer-led project work, focusing on the frequency and nature of the interactions between group members and between individuals and the online facilitator within the Slack environment. We will discuss the implications of the peer-led pedagogical design for instructional support to students and the transferability of this model to other disciplines.

Pazos, P., Micari, M., & Light, G. (2009). Developing an instrument to characterise peer-led groups in collaborative learning environments: assessing problem-solving approach and group interaction. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-18, iFirst Article.

Research Wednesdays: Digital tools to support academic practices

Author: Susan Halfpenny, Information Services

In Autumn Term 2017 Information Services launched a supplementary programme of lectures, seminars and workshops to enhance digital capabilities. The programme was open to all staff and students. The programme was based around the following academic processes:

  • Finding and researching
  • Organising and analysing
  • Creating and communicating

The processes were encapsulated in criticality and collaboration which we identified as higher level behaviours and skills required across all processes.

The Digital Wednesdays programme was designed based on a blended learning approach enabling students to undertake both pre and post teaching learning. All supplementary online content is hosted on our Skills Guides which are openly accessible. To enable us to provide a wide reaching and accessible programme we also explore options for disseminating the face to face content online.

This poster will detail some of the teaching delivered across the programme focusing on our ‘Research Wednesdays’ theme.

Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) – Student-Centred Approach Run By Students For Students

Author: Sarah Crellin, Learning Enhancement Team (PAL)

Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL), known globally as Supplemental Instruction (SI), is an established system that has been used and developed in many universities over the years both nationally and internationally. This year the University of York has piloted PAL in five departments. We are eager to share and promote the good practice that has been developed and demonstrated to support peer-assisted learning in other departments.

PAL is a student-centred pedagogical approach that sits alongside and complements established lecture formats and seminars. It is an opportunity for experienced students to support and promote the learning of fellow students. PAL sessions are integrated into a module and assist with specific aspects of learning linked to content or skills, as identified by students. Learning is promoted through facilitated discussions and collaborative activities rather than through the teaching and introduction of new or additional content. Students are encouraged to develop their ideas and current understanding using the support and guidance of other students and PAL leaders within an informal and mutually respectful learning community.

Research in the UK (Dawson et al, 2014; Keenan, 2014) shows that PAL schemes can not only enhance transition into university, but can also improve student progression, achievement and satisfaction whilst also benefiting employability after university. This poster celebrates the positive impact that PAL has had at the University of York. It promotes the flexible and diverse approaches that have been deployed and developed across departments in the drive to build effective and sustainable learning communities.

Integrating continued reflection into the undergraduate learning experience

Authors: Rachel Hope & Kimberley Simpson, Department of Biology

By reflecting on past experiences of learning process and skills development, the depth and relevance of learning course content can be increased, and attributes relevant to higher education and beyond developed. When tasked with reflective writing activities, students often recognise the benefits of reflecting on their learning and express a desire to integrate reflection into their continued development. However, opportunities to undertake such activities are often module specific and so many students miss out.

To this end we are implementing a multifaceted approach to reflection in a formative setting in the Department of Biology. A tutorial session introduces the concept of reflection and allows for discussion of the topic. This feeds into a guided reflective journal based on the VLE to encourage reflection on learning. Students will continue this journal across academic years which will allow the individual to apply this understanding of their skills and learning process to subsequent modules and graduate employment. To examine the effectiveness of this reflective approach, data will be collected on VLE engagement, and student opinion will be reviewed via surveys and focus groups.

Becoming digital makers: Getting Bioscience students excited about programming

Author: Pen Holland, Department of Biology

As computational methods play an increasingly influential role in biology, it is important for students to understand the potential uses of programming, to have the ability to communicate with coworkers who program, and to be able to articulate what is required from software and/or hardware in order to carry out an experiment or analysis. Taught MSc courses in the Biology department therefore include ten core credits of programming. The module has to be accessible for students that have absolutely no prior knowledge of computer programming and those who have previously chosen to specialise away from explicitly computational or mathematical subject areas, but also provide development opportunities for those students who are already familiar with programming concepts.

This poster will document a series of workshops and an assessed project that introduce students to programming in Python (an open source, free, cross-platform language used widely in the biological research community) using
physical computing (solving real-world biological challenges using electronics such as environmental sensors and cameras attached to Raspberry Pi computers), from the points of view of both instructor and students. We critically evaluate the benefits and challenges of digital making as a means to practice programming, problems-olving, collaborative learning and teaching-led research. We also consider how to improve the course and the Pi Lab makerspace in which the course runs, for the benefit of future students and staff. This year’s final projects (Raspberry Pi and LEGO based prototype biosensors and photospectrometers) will be demonstrated alongside the poster display.

Learning biology skills doesn’t have to take place in the laboratory!

Author: Dr Katie Smith, Department of Biology

Development of practical and transferable skills is key to any biosciences degree. However, teaching 250+ undergraduate students in the laboratory is demanding in terms of lab space and staff time. In the Biology Department, there has been significant redesign of skills modules to increase efficiency and maximise student autonomy. Here, I describe the reform of a 2nd year skills module with examples of how students can develop scientific and transferable effectively outside of the laboratory. ‘Scientific Skills and Tutorials’ is a 30 credit module which aims to develop scientific approach and experimental design along with transferable skills such as teamwork and communication. As part of the redesign which took place in 2016, students select one of six projects (producing larger groups than in previous years) and work in small teams to design and conduct a research project. One of the project areas is human physiology where some groups worked in the York Sport Gym investigating the effects of exercise on the cardiovascular system. Undertaking a physiology project away from the laboratory can help motivate and enthuse students when learning physiology. Further, this inquiry-based approach with increased autonomy provides practice in experimental design, group work and independent learning thereby encouraging higher order learning according to Bloom’s taxonomy. The redesigned module achieved good feedback scores (4.2 in 2016 and 4.1 in 2017), with the human physiology project achieving 4.9 out of 5 in both 2016 and 2017.

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