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.


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

Happy New Year and welcome back

Happy New Year! We hope you had a relaxing and recuperative Christmas break…

We are already in the thick of term, but whether you are emerging from piles of marking, working with final year students on their dissertations and projects, planning lectures, or all of these and more all at once, we hope you might find time to take a break and come along to one of our Learning and Teach Forum workshops this term.

the20workshop-218x105We kick off with ‘the Workshop’ workshop on Friday 29 January, 12:45-2:15pm in Law and Managment LMB/023, where Celine Kingman (TFTV) and Jenny Gibbons (Law) ask what we mean by ‘workshopping an idea’ or ‘to do a workshop’?

computer20based20testing-218x142On Monday 8 February, 12:30-2:00pm, you can hear from Zoe Handley (Education) and Richard Walker (Head of E-Learning, ASO) discuss the potential of e-exams in their workshop, ‘Engaging learners with computer-based testing‘, in Heslington Hall HG/21.


technology-218x145Sara Perry (Archaeology) and Tom Smith (IT Support) return to talk about technology in practice, in ‘Creativity in the connected classroom‘, covering everything from social media and networking to Google apps, tools and Awesome Tables. How awesome, you ask? Find out on Monday 22 February, 12:30-2:00pm, also in Heslington Hall HG/21.

a20question20of20peer20assessment-218x105The last workshop of the term, on Tuesday 15 March, 12:30-2:00pm, looks at the role of peer-review and assessment, led by  Ollie Jones (TFTV). More details can be found at ‘Deep learning or easy marks? A question of peer assessment.’

For all these workshops, you can sign up via this booking form or by emailing

team20image-218x348Don’t forget that in June we will hold our Annual Learning and Teaching Conference – Value added graduates: enabling our students to be successful – on Tuesday 7 June. The deadlines for applications to contribute and present are coming up: Wednesday 20 January for workshops, and Wednesday 6 April for posters.

And lastly, if you have ideas for any workshops for 2016/17 you think you would like to see, or perhaps run yourself, we are always looking for ideas and volunteers – drop us a line at

Have a great term!



Strategies for successful learning: Request for contributions to the next Forum magazine

The next edition of Forum, the University of York in-house Learning and Teaching magazine, is due to be published at the start of the Autumn term. The magazine is published by the Learning and Teaching Forum to disseminate good practice and discuss issues relating to learning and teaching. Previous editions can be found on the website,

Making it stick in different disciplines
This issue will be on the theme ‘Strategies for successful learning’ and will explore some of the evidence in the new University of York L&T strategy. The magazine is for and written by colleagues involved in learning and teaching support across the University. We are always looking for input into the magazine. If you have views on this subject, or would like to highlight an example of good practice from your area, please do get in touch.

In particular, we are keen to explore the implications of the science of learning and memory for different disciplines based on the Make it Stick book (Brown, Roediger and McDaniel 2014, Harvard University Press). If you have read this book and would like to share how you address these ideas in your discipline or its potential impact then please do get in touch.

News and events
We also feature short news articles (around 200 words) highlighting achievements and developments in learning and teaching. If you have a news article from your department you would like to include, please do let me know. Please also forward any learning and teaching events being run next term, for inclusion in the calendar of events.

The deadline for receiving all copy for the magazine is Monday 10 August 2015. 

Please get in touch if you would like to contribute,

L&T conference 2015: One size does not fit all: ensuring all students reach their potential

One size does not fit all: ensuring all students reach their potential
The 2015 Learning and Teaching conference was held on 10 June 2015 with 150 delegates from across the university and externally present. This is the University’s annual event to celebrate, showcase and disseminate the wealth of good practice in learning and teaching across the University.This year, the main conference theme was based around addressing inclusivity, diversity and equality within the classroom and curricula. The conference will explore the implications of diversifying delivery of programmes and how students are supported in the process of achieving their potential.

2015 Learning and Teaching conference poster abstracts (Google doc opens in a new window)

Session summaries and materials are now available for the sessions:

Poster session

Keynote:  Christine Hockings – The craft of Artisan Teaching

Workshop A: Giving everyone a voice – all students in small groups want to say something, Victoria Jack, CELT, Education

Workshop B: Making the curriculum more accessible to disabled students, Claire Shanks, James Browne and Penn Snowden, Disability Services

Workshop C: Power to the people: addressing inclusivity and student motivation through choice in assessment format, Cecilia Lowe, Learning Enhancent, ASO, Kathryn Arnold, Department of Environment, Benjamin Poore & Celine Kingman Department of Theatre, Film and Television; Scott Slorach, York Law School

Workshop D: Fitting Language – but how many sizes?, Paul Roberts, Education/CELT

Workshop E: Diversity and mixed ability at modular and programme level. Supporting Ab Initio language students’ transitions, Cinzia Bacilieri, Sam Hellmuth,Thomas Jochum-Critchley, Maria Muradas Casas, Nadine Saupe, Language and Linguistic Science

Workshop F: Effective group work in the multi-cultural classroom: a video presentation, Chris Copland, Education AND Raising awareness of the diversity of Chinese students in British HE communities, Ping Wang, Education

Workshop G: Video recordings of physics lectures, Martin Smalley, Physics, AND Learning before and after the lecture: the role of learning technology, Matt Cornock, E-Learning Development Team, Academic Support Office

Workshop H: Personalising feedback: Can we bridge the formative-summative gap?, Cathy Dantec, Language and Linguistic Science and Bill Soden, Education

Workshop I: ‘Lad culture’ and Higher Education: Exploring implications for inclusivity, equality and the student experience, Vanita Sundaram, Education AND Inclusive Postgraduate Teaching in the Department of Chemistry, Glenn Hurst, Rob Smith, Sue Couling, Chemistry

Workshop J: Taught Student Supervisor Resource, Christine Comrie and Ali Sherratt, Strategic Marketing and Digital Communications and Pete Quinn, Student Support Services

Annual Learning and Teaching Conference: One size does not fit all: ensuring all students reach their potential

Logo_LTConf2015_Rev2The 2015 Learning and Teaching conference was held on 10 June 2015, with almost 150 delegates, from across the university and externally present. This is the University’s annual event to celebrate, showcase and disseminate the wealth of good practice in learning and teaching across the University.

This year, the main conference theme was based around addressing inclusivity, diversity and equality within the classroom and curricula. The conference will explore the implications of diversifying delivery of programmes and how students are supported in the process of achieving their potential.

Session summaries and materials are now available for the sessions.

L&T Session H – Personalising feedback: Can we bridge the formative-summative gap?

Cathy Dantec and Bill Soden – Language and Linguistic Science and Education

Abstract | Presentation: Session H

The workshop provided us with two perspectives on how the practice of providing formative feedback has developed and its links and implications for summative assessment.LT-Forum-06-15-95

Both Bill and Cathy described how they had used screencasts to provide formative feedback to students. While this had proved popular with students they questioned how effective it had been to support learning. In particular they were both concerned with its potential to reinforce reliance on the teacher for direction, undermining efforts to produce student autonomy and self-correction as well as difficulty in getting this type of feedback to “feedforward” to subsequent assessment.

Cathy described how she has taken some of the ideas around providing targeted feedback to students and incorporated iterative student development (feed forward) and peer review and critique through the development of a summative student writing portfolio that is embedded across the first year of the French Degree programme.

Participants discussion addressed issues such as the nature of formative feedback, differences between disciplines and barriers to its use.

As ever there wasn’t nearly enough time to unpack all the issues in this thoroughly thought provoking session and I look forward to seeing the discussion continue online using the comments feature below.

Simon Davies, e-learning development team