2020 Conference Presentations

Creating Innovative Learning Methods in Archaeology: Integrating the Practical and the Theoretical in Artefact Studies

Andy Needham, Jess Bates, Mike Groves, Andy Langley, Steph Piper – Archaeology


We report on the creation of an innovative learning method as part of the recently redeveloped Accessing Archaeology year one undergraduate course in Archaeology, which allows students to appreciate theory in practice in relation to the study of artefacts, a key pillar of archaeological inquiry.

We combined experimental archaeology, a practical technique in which objects are replicated to understand their manufacture and function, with object biography, a theoretical approach to integrate information about an archaeological object and explore its full life course to aid in the exploration of the fields of social relationships in which the object was integrated. When taken together, these approaches were mutually reinforcing, and encouraged students to think more deeply about the artefacts they encountered across the course, coming to appreciate ways to explore the people behind the artefacts being studied.

Student feedback reflects that students enjoy this coming together of the practical and theoretical within the same module. Our observations, both in seminars and in practical session, suggest that the integration of the practical and the theoretical encourages multi-sensory engagement with artefacts, a deeper appreciation of aspects of production, functionality, and use, as well as encouraging engagement with the intangible social aspects embedded in ancient craft activities, supporting the achievement of the learning aims for the module.

Technology in the Classroom: Game Based Learning Platforms and Student Engagement

Ellen Spender Lesley Davies – Accounting and Finance, School of Management


In 30 years, technology has advanced at an exponential rate, from a time when students and lecturers were mainly reliant on text books and passive attendance at lectures to gain knowledge. Today, can we view passive attendance at classes in the same way?
The aim of this session is to explore the use of technology in curriculum design as a creative and innovative learning method. We will share our experience and good practice with colleagues so that delegates may implement the findings/initiatives in their own practice.

Gaming is increasingly part of everyday life and has become hugely popular. One of the reasons being that mobile platforms, in terms of games, are available on smartphones, and as such, are portable and can be carried around. Including that technology and portability in the classroom seems a natural inclusion in the teacher-learner relationship and Game-Based learning has become increasingly used in teaching in recent years. Research has found that one of the positive effects is increasing engagement.

From pre-assessment consumption to ongoing active engagement: Student-created content and peer review using the Panopto recorder

Angela O’Flaherty and Rob Shaw – Language and Linguistic Science / Programme Design and Learning Technology Team


As part of an increased focus on active learning and student engagement, interest has grown in student-generated content and peer review processes in HE (Sánchez et al., 2019). Research has indicated that there are potential benefits in the use of student-created video content in terms of engagement, satisfaction and learning outcomes (Greene, 2014; Chewar and Matthews, 2016).

Our presentation discusses and reflects on the reframing of a Year 2 French video project, piloted in 2018-9, in order to optimise students’ learning and engagement. By shifting the onus of video creation from lecturer to students, the project aimed to consolidate students’ learning and to provide a snapshot of their understanding. Feedback indicated the videos were primarily used as revision tools. In order to move beyond pre-assessment consumption of videos towards greater ongoing engagement, we introduced a series of changes for 2019-20. These included the use of Panopto (the University’s tool for lecture recording) to facilitate the recording and sharing of videos between ‘creation groups’ and ‘feedback groups’, and the introduction of a reflection component more closely tied to the module learning outcomes.

We will explore the impact of the modifications made and suggest changes for the upcoming academic year, drawing on feedback collected from students who have both completed the project and who are currently working on it. By focusing on the students’ experiences of making and working with the videos, we will investigate how far these activities allow students to engage with their learning in a creative way.

University of York Students’ Vision for an Diversified and Liberated York

Giang Nguyen – YUSU


During Black History Month 2019, YUSU and GSA hosted a panel discussion for students and staff, ‘Start the conversation: Decolonising and diversifying curriculum at York’. Interestingly, some of the conversations at and around the event touched upon whether diversifying the curriculum necessarily involves the complete removal of those who are dominant, namely, white, western, cis male authors. This raised interesting questions about student and staff reactions to diversifying and liberating activities and how best to sustain constructive conversations across the University. It also encouraged us to start thinking about resistance to change and how to overcome this. It was clear that we needed to continue the dialogue! We formed a Union strategy group and began thinking about how to stimulate dialogue and develop a vision for a diversified and liberated UoY. We wanted to develop our vision collectively with students, so we asked them what a ‘diversified and liberated York’ means to them. We’ve taken their narratives of hope, agency and collectivity and explored ways, we as Unions, can develop projects to drive small-scale change, which could eventually make their hopes a reality.

International students’ pathways: the journey and the challenges

Eddie Cowling, Wanting Gu, Wei Sun – International Pathway College


Recent figures show almost a fifth of university students are from non-UK domiciles (Universities UK, 2018), and here at the University of York well over 3,000 students are from overseas. The economic, cultural and intellectual benefits that international students bring to local communities and HEIs are invaluable. However, international students face a multitude of challenges when embarking on study at a British university such as York, be it academic, cultural, linguistic, or social. Such benefits and challenges in turn can inevitably shape other students’ and staff experiences.

The International Pathway College prepares students from a wide range of linguistic and educational backgrounds with the language and study skills needed to operate within a British university, along with an introduction to academic content related to their chosen discipline. Part of this talk will hear from two Chinese students who are currently studying at the University of York. They will discuss their experiences of life at the IPC and we will explore the challenges they now face in their department as they work towards their degrees. We will give an overview of how IPC students are prepared both linguistically and academically, and the rigorous processes involved in assessing international students’ ‘readiness’ for university study.

“From Margins to Centre?” A Student Perspective on Representation in the Historical Discipline

Clare Burgess – Department of History


The historical discipline has a diversity problem: as the October 2018 RHS Race, Ethnicity and Equality report showed, university history departments are “overwhelmingly white” – more so than the national average undergraduate population. Although 86.3% of those surveyed suggested that departments were attempting to diversify curricula, undergraduate research and teaching conducted is still lacking in representation of women, BAME groups, the LGBTQ+ and the disabled community. Numbers of students from these communities drop substantially at postgraduate and again at PhD level, as the RHS demonstrated. This trend is recognised by Student Unions: student campaigns to decolonise the curriculum exist at most universities. YUSU and GSA are running a similar campaign, and recently organised a “Decolonising and Diversifying Curriculum at York ” event.

“From Margins to Centre? An Undergraduate Conference on Marginalised Histories” was established to combat the lack of diversity and to encourage undergraduate students to take ownership of the discipline. It will be held at the University of York in February, featuring major figures such as Catherine Hall, and undergraduate panellists from across the country.

This presentation discusses establishing and promoting an entirely student-run conference, and shares feedback from the conference. It aims to give attendees an idea of the challenges and benefits of student-led initiatives, and of the state of diversity in the historical discipline. The conference is unique in the UK; the only student-run undergraduate history conference, and thus provides valuable insight into student perspectives.

Understanding and improving practice learning experiences and outcomes for BAME social work students

Hannah Jobling, Kelly Devenney, Jenny Threlfall, Polly Sykes
Social Policy and Social Work


Social work students from black and ethnic minority backgrounds have poorer continuation rates and attainment outcomes compared to their white peers (Fairtlough et al, 2013). Placements appear to be a particular site of difficulty for BAME students, where they are more likely to experience referral, placement breakdown and fails (Hillen and Levy, 2015). At 170 days in total, placements make up a large proportion of social work programmes, and are integral to student success overall. Placements are the most complex part of the social work programme to administer and assess, as they involve a disparate range of practice settings and actors, and practitioners are the primary decision-makers on whether to pass or fail students.

In this context, the social work teaching team at York successfully applied to the 2019-20 York Widening Participation Initiative to carry out a project exploring placement experiences and outcomes for our BAME students. The project draws on qualitative and quantitative data to inform knowledge exchange with our placement partners on good practice with BAME students. In this presentation we report on the early findings of the project, focusing on the main areas of challenge, and on the key messages for improvement in placement practices. Whilst the project is grounded in social work placements, the findings will hold relevance for any programme which involves practice – based learning. The presentation speaks to the themes of ‘building inclusive learning communities’ and ‘diverse learning and assessment strategies’.

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