Exploring 360° feedback to develop undergraduates’ communication skills

Workshop presented by Helen Bedford, Lecturer in Midwifery, and Rachel Lavelle, Deputy Programme Lead. 21 March 2017.

Helen and Rachel facilitated an excellent workshop on discussing how the development of communication skills can be facilitated throughout degree programmes together with associated assessment and feedback mechanisms. To accomplish this in the Department of Health Sciences, they place particular emphasis on utilising ‘360°degree feedback’.

A cohort size studying BA (Hons) Midwifery Practice at York will typically consist of 23 students and the programme has been specifically designed to embed the enhancement of student communication skills throughout. During University based clinical skills and theory modules which have core communication components, students typically receive feedback via self-reflection and from peers and lecturers. In clinical practice modules students engage in self-assessment and professional midwives act as mentors and assessors. During the second year Professional Relationships module, midwifery practice scenarios/active simulations are created with the help of professional actors for individual students, where their performances providing care and communicating effectively are formatively assessed. These sessions are also video-recorded to allow for subsequent self-reflection. A typical example would be to simulate a telephone conversation with a pregnant woman where the student must establish a relationship with the woman, use their tone of voice effectively and demonstrate negotiation skills. Summative assessment takes the form of a reflective essay.

Workshop participants were encouraged to consider how they develop, assess and provide feedback for the development of student communication skills. Examples included peer-to-peer learning, presentations, vivas, team-based learning and facilitation of teaching/outreach sessions to school pupils.

Helen Bedford & Rachel Lavelle

Helen and Rachel then went on to describe what 360° degree feedback is (a system where students can receive feedback from those around them) and how they have applied this to inform their practice. An adapted version of Pendleton’s rules1 are used as a model to inform how feedback is provided following the simulated scenarios in midwifery:

  1. Student reflects on performance and identifies what went well
  2. Actor (in-character) reflects on performance and identifies what went well
  3. Student peers reflect on performance and identify what went well
  4. Actor (out-of-character) reflects on performance and identifies what went well
  5. Academic reflects on performance and identifies what went well
  6. Student identifies ways to improve
  7. Actor (in-character) identifies ways to improve
  8. Student peers identify ways to improve
  9. Actor (out-of-character) identifies ways to improve
  10. Academic identifies ways to improve

The sessions ended with participants discussing the challenges of providing 360° feedback and considering as to whether such a system could be implemented with their own students.

[1]: http://www.gptraining.net/training/educational_theory/feedback/pendleton.htm

Summary by Glenn Hurst

Making learning authentic: ‘real-world’ assessments for Masters level study

Workshop presented by Jude Brereton, Lecturer (T&S) in Audio and Music Technology, Deparment of Electronics. 30 January 2017.

Jude presented in her workshop the assessment method developed for her Masters students which can be adapted and implemented with any students, from any discipline, as it can be tailor-made and used in most modules, thus ensuring its relevancy, authenticity and meaningfulness.

When Jude devised the new assessment, she reflected on the experience of her alumni to help future students build a portfolio – making them aware of how important it is to develop their employability skills -, that they would be able to show to prospective employers, something that in her own words, would ‘survive beyond the programme’. Jude developed the assessment for a brand new MSc in Audio Music Technology taking into account the module learning outcomes and programme level learning outcomes as well as other essential criteria needed to design the new 180-credit Masters course.

She wanted students to be highly motivated in their learning and while working on their assessments, being able to both see the benefits and enjoy the process, incorporating active learning and Problem Based Learning (PBL), widely used in the Department of Electronics. Assessment tasks had to be real, not ‘pretend’ real, but actually authentic, and challenging for Masters level students. It is important to note that although the term ‘authentic’ means real, also carries the connotation of meaningful, and what is meaningful for one person might not be the same for another and so on. Therefore, when designing ‘authentic’ assessment it must be diverse and inclusive – appealing to the broad spectrum of learners, their interests and personalities.

Recently, Jude was told by an international employer that a degree was not considered essential for his company, as long as a candidate could demonstrate the appropriate professional attitude, ability, innovative thinking and could do the things that they would be expected to do at the workplace – someone with the desirable transferable skills. The employer added that for them the most important requirement was to be able to programme. Furthermore, the ideal candidate would be someone with cross-discipline skills, who could appreciate the final product, being able to work and develop the different layers of the task/job: someone who could do and understand both software and hardware; who could do programming and was able to appreciate music – in Jude’s field – aesthetically; who could do Maths but also would know how to reflect and write about the job and the process; someone who knows all the technical words but at the same time is able to communicate and engage with the general public. As Jude has put it, the future is ‘hybrid’: in this day and age, mastering one thing is not good enough; her advice to students is to do as much as you can – variety and quality – and to make sure you can show it.

In the workshop Jude also showed how she uses Google Docs to share and follow group work and provide individual feedback to each group.

Zepke’s and Leach’s article titled Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action (2010) clearly resonates behind Jude’s assessment model – follow the hyperlink to access it.

Click here to view Jude Brereton’s presentation

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University of York Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2017

The York Pedagogy – making it work

Tuesday 20 June

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS
We are inviting colleagues to contribute workshops and poster presentations.  Deadline for workshop submissions is Wednesday 15 February 2017 and for poster submissions, Thursday 6 April 2017.

The York Pedagogy will shape the ways in which we consider our programmes, our teaching and assessment for years to come, defining our institution’s learning culture and setting performance expectations.  All programmes will have distinctive and clear objectives, and modules will be designed to offer progress towards them.  Student work will also support progress towards these objectives and assessments, though largely delivered at module level, will ultimately demonstrate attainment of overarching objectives.  Interactions between students and staff will propel students’ work and programmes will define what students can expect from their department and university.  The 2017 conference will provide an excellent opportunity for discussion of how departments are managing these changes to their programmes, exploring challenges, opportunities and benefits as a result of implementation.

Making learning authentic: ‘real-world’ assessments for Masters level study

Dr Jude Brereton, Department of Electronics, will report on recent ‘real-world’ assessment tasks incorporated into a new masters level programme in Audio and Music Technology.

Four different types of ‘real-world’ tasks will be presented:

  • a research blog
  • a data-gathering exercise made available to the wider research community
  • a science communication event for school students
  • a self-promotion video.

Please bring your own laptop to the workshop, and to register, use the booking form.

360° Employability Skills: Understanding, Cultivating and Applying Professional and Continual Development Skills

Workshop presented by Carmen Álvarez-Mayo, Associate Lecturer and Spanish & Portuguese Coordinator, Languages for All, Department of Language and Linguistic Science. 31 October 2016.

The term employability as we know it has been around since the 1980s, when international corporations, global competition/trade and technology cemented the foundations for a new economic environment. The influx of new technologies set the pace of change, and has been shaping communication and trade ever since. We live in a global world where IT keeps on developing faster and faster, highly impacting in our lives and determining the employability skills required for a successful career. It is essential to understand this in order to develop the motivation and skills required to be able to keep on evolving along its side.

Education itself no longer defines learning, but rather technology does. To set out on a prosperous career, now more than ever it is necessary to keep on learning and developing good independent/self study skills and CPD competencies. It is paramount to instil in our students a taste for trying out and doing new things – that, learning is fun; exploring and discovering new ways is not only fun but necessary. In the 21st century reading and writing are not enough; IT literacy skills and an understanding of IT’s ongoing development are essential in order to be able to keep up with progress and change, and to be successful.

Furthermore, in a global world, developing intercultural competence and communication will equip graduates and postgraduates with international skills to augment their potential and scope for work opportunities and prosper. Such skills can only be acquired through learning and using a foreign language, either spending long periods of time immersed in the culture: living/studying/working abroad, or through an international bilingual collaborative e-learning project like TANGO.

Therefore, current student work and assessment practice should be reviewed and updated in order to ensure that all skills, traditional and ‘new’ can be tested – as well as to allow equal opportunities of assessment ensuring inclusivity and accessibility. We need to make sure that our graduates and postgraduates are fully equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century job market, who need to be all-rounders and possess the full range of skills, 360° skills.

A more holistic approach to the York Pedagogy and employability would be appropriate to ensure that all the good principles and ideas endorsed in the Pedagogy are taken into account and applied, sharing them effectively with our students to allow for a successful implementation of the University’s approach to excellence in education, thereby having a positive impact in society – as underpinned in the five values of the Learning & Teaching Strategy.

Summary by Carmen Álvarez-Mayo

An Interdisciplinary Summer for Interdisciplinary Students

Our latest monthly post from the Forum committee, Dr Glenn Hurst from the Department of Chemistry reflects on working collaboratively to facilitate active learning.

Following their FORUM workshop on active learning, Glenn Hurst and Jill Webb, from the York Management School worked together once again to facilitate a component of the new summer activity for students studying Natural Sciences in Chemistry. Glenn and Jill specifically designed this activity to help students to apply their understanding of first year chemistry to establish and run a sustainable chemical company.

The half-day activity challenged students to work effectively in small groups (4-5) to build a business case that they pitched to the “dragons” in the hope of gaining an investment. Students had to manage their time very effectively in order to choose their product, design a synthetic route that was both green and scalable, consider costs and advertise the product to their target audience. Students even took the initiative to collaborate with other companies (other groups) to combine their expertise.

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In order to further enhance their personal development skills, all communication between other groups and the instructors had to be made via a telephone call. Students identified that making telephone calls was “the most daunting form of communication; even more than doing presentations”. Being able to effectively communicate on the telephone is an essential skill for most forms of employment and we took this as a perfect opportunity to develop this further.

After the groups of students had formulated their business strategy, they prepared a short (10 min) presentation, which they then pitched to the dragons (to include Dr Brian Grievson, senior lecturer specialising in industrial placements for chemists). This proved to be an excellent opportunity for students to practise how to deliver presentations and communicate science to their peers in a fun and low-pressure environment, for which will form part of their summative assessment in second year.

Further to enhancing their personal development skills by working in groups and communicating effectively, the activity allowed students to contextualise their knowledge in the “real world” incorporating a strong business element to improve their commercial awareness. This activity was designed based on the requirements of companies wishing to recruit graduates. We hope that in completing this activity, it will contribute towards developing the employability skills of our students whilst enhancing the degree of constructive alignment within our degree programme.

A more detailed account of this component of the summer activity together with a discussion of the other constituents will be provided in the upcoming Autumn 2016 edition of our institutional FORUM magazine.

Glenn Hurst, Department of Chemistry