2019 Oral Presentations – Session 2

Presentation 1: A blended-learning approach to overcoming the challenges of teaching data analysis and programming to large cohorts when they are not a student’s core discipline

Author: Emma Rand
Department of Biology

Data analysis and programming are recognised as among the more difficult and challenging subjects to teach (e.g., Du Boulay, 1986), require more and harder work from the student and may be relatively unpopular (e.g., Uttl and Smibert, 2017). This is particularly the case where they are taught as skills required to do research in another field such as the biological and environmental sciences, accounting, finance and management.  The teaching of these subjects must start early and often precedes a student’s understanding of their subject as a research field. As such, they may find it difficult to devote study time to them. Novice programmers see many aspects of programming syntax such as the use of brackets, quotes, commas and spaces as arbitrary and need substantial practice and exposure to start to see code as experienced practitioners do (Sorva, 2018). These are activities well-suited to directed, independent learning but it can be difficult to motivate students to do sufficient amounts (Carey and Papin, 2018). Using contact time to partially achieve this increases performance (Freeman et al., 2014) but does not maximise the value of that contact time which is better spent engaging with students to develop their conceptual understanding and strengthen the staff-student partnership (Bryson, 2016).

In this talk I will share blended-learning strategies to implement the York Approach (https://www.york.ac.uk/staff/teaching/themes/theyorkpedagogy/) that propel students to carry out directed independent learning as an integral part of module teaching thus maximising the value of staff-student contact time and enhancing inclusive learning activities


Presentation 2: Fostering learning partnerships with heritage organisations to facilitate the ‘outdoor classroom’

Authors: James Taylor, Dav Smith and Matt Jenkins
Department of Archaeology

This paper will examine role Jersey Heritage has played in facilitating the University of York’s Department of Archaeology’s, Elizabeth Castle Project and fostering a learning environment both for student and public stakeholders that have engaged with the project. All the project directors teach extensively in the department, and consistently draw upon a wide range of disciplinary experience and expertise (from recording the built environment, excavation and evaluation of archaeological material, contextualisation of the site through documentary research, public engagement, to digital recording and dissemination of the site) to inform their teaching, and, ultimately to run this research project as a field school where students, as team members, gain residential first-hand experience in all of these skill sets.

York’s Department of Archaeology particularly values the role of fieldwork in teaching, actually embedding excavation and other field techniques within its modular curriculum. Indeed, the pedagogic value of field schools as applied experiential teaching environments cannot be underestimated. Often it is the external ‘learning partnership’ with individuals, external projects, heritage organisations and landowners who not only facilitate these projects, but actually drive the research agendas and set the parameters for this kind of teaching. It is these alliances, which supply actual data and real-world research questions for students to engage with, that both students and teachers find extremely rewarding, and which can prove extremely fruitful in the design and deployment of research-led teaching in the ‘Outdoor Classroom’.


Presentation 3: Social capital and peer-mentoring as strategies to foster social and academic integration in higher education

Author: Maria Chavana Villalobos
Department of Education and Languages for All

The promotion of peer support and the development of a sense of belonging have become widespread strategies to improve students’ experience and success in higher education.

Mu paper explores how undergraduate students develop social integration in a context that nurtures individualism and competition among students in order to promote academic elitism. In the context of my study, peer-teaching and peer-mentoring practices are observed, and it is identified how social integration represents a gateway to access informal academic support that helps compensate the gap between students’ prior academic experiences and the expectations of academic elitism, particularly among first generation students.

It will be discussed how students overcome barriers to the development of social integration embedded in the school habitus using two strategies: bridging social capital, and peer-mentoring communities. In order to develop those strategies, students need to gain membership to the group, a task particularly challenging for students from under-represented groups. Hence, the improved opportunities to achieve academic success within a neoliberal institutional habitus of individualism and competition is strongly linked to the capacity students have to build bridging social capital and group membership at university.

This paper contributes to the discussion of social and academic integration issues observed in the context of learning communities, and it informs relevant agents of hidden interactions that can foster or hinder the participation of students as partners in learning and the effectiveness of peer support schemes in higher education.


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