L&T Session B5: Skilling up for international communication

Victoria Jack and Paul Roberts Education/CELT

AbstractPresentation | Recording

A recent (2015) British Council Report suggests that “A common challenge shared by employers around the world is finding employees with adequate intercultural skills”. For today’s graduates, it is becoming ever more compelling not just to be able to communicate across cultures, but to develop communication skills in multilingual settings, and to do so quickly. These skills can be further enhanced, for those aspiring to leadership positions, by the ability to analyse and evaluate the success of international discussions and to provide ad hoc advice to conversation participants.

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This discussion paper, given by staff and students from CELT, presented CELT’s work in Transcultural Communication addressing the above needs and to focus in particular on:

(i) how students meet the challenges of moving between self- and peer-assessment (by developing criteria for the evaluation of successful communication) and selfmonitored practice (applying and modifying those criteria)

(ii) how ‘home’ students struggle where ‘international’ students succeed.

The presentation included video clips of students’ transcultural interactions, with their self-assessing commentaries. Delegates were then invited to discuss the effectiveness of the self-assessment process and ways in which more students might be engaged in this essential skill building process, for example by embedding TC into programmes being redesigned within the York Pedagogy.


Rethinking feedback in light of the York pedagogy

Monday 2 November 2015, room HG21, Heslington Hall, 12.30-2.00pm

The next Forum workshop will be run by Cathy Dantec and Bill Soden and will explore the theme of ‘Rethinking feedback in light of the York pedagogy’.

Cathy and Bill would like participants to consider the following questions before the workshop:

  1. What do you include under the term feedback, and what do you think your students understand by the term feedback?
  2. Are there aspects of your feedback practice that you have changed / developed in recent years, or aspects of feedback practice that you would like to change?

Please think about these questions and add any comments to this post. Specific points will not be focused on during the workshop.

Value added graduates

In the first of our monthly posts from Learning and Teaching Forum committee members, Phil Lightfoot asks, ‘How do we build a York graduate?’

York graduates

How do we build a York graduate? Do we always have a clear idea what kind of graduate our degree programmes will produce, and are we confident in the effectiveness of our programmes to deliver on these claims? Is it possible for our students to graduate from our undergraduate programmes unable to articulate the progress they have made to facilitate their transition into employment or future study?

One of the main reasons students choose to study at university is to enhance their career prospects. This becomes increasingly important in view of rising costs of education and levels of debt on graduation. Over the years, there have been many government-inspired initiatives and reports urging higher education in the UK to make a stronger connection with the needs of employers. These have had limited success, and the extent to which programme level learning outcomes address the progressive development of vital graduate skills is often ill-defined.

The York Pedagogy asks us to consider programme level learning outcomes; to consider how the modules we teach, the knowledge based skills, practical skills and transferable skills serve our programmes. As such the programme learning outcomes are specifications rather than consequences. Whilst it might be assumed that there already exists a reasonably clear, coherent development of subject content within programmes and across stages, to what extent is the progressive development of transferable skills comprehensively mapped?

Do the learning outcomes of our modules mainly relate to knowledge, comprehension and application? Do they therefore constrain lecture content, teaching style and assessment? Are module-level learning outcomes determined following an appraisal of the progressive development of subject complexity within a programme? Do they exist within a programme map which articulates stage specific development and progression?

How can we ensure that essential transferable skills and capabilities are also embedded within the design and delivery of our programmes? Development of employability skills is often regarded as being distinct from subject based content, and some programmes provide this material via bespoke activities detached from the academic programme. Key objective 2 of the University Strategy 2014-2020 (https://www.york.ac.uk/staff/teaching/procedure/strategy/) shares a vision in which “we will invite students to explore their subject as independent learners and as active researchers. We will encourage and develop creativity, advanced problem-solving skills and critical, independent thinking. Our students will be challenged to reach the highest level of attainment and they will acquire skills that enhance their employability and professional effectiveness”. Implementation however (descriptor 5) describes the enhancement of employability through engagement with activities to a greater or lesser degree distinct from the academic curriculum.

It is important to recognise that professional performance requires graduates to demonstrate wide ranging capabilities primarily to enable the effective application of theory to practice. Future success in the job market will rely precisely on the ability of our graduates to combine operational skills with transferable skills, and to be able to adapt these skills to different contexts.

In a global marketplace increasingly reliant on technological advancement we must endow students with the ability to learn from their experiences, to reflect, to think critically, to innovate and to make the most of opportunities. An unstable job market requires students to be adaptable, flexible and resilient to change, demonstrating strong business and commercial awareness. These qualities appear more difficult to embed within our curriculum and measure in our graduates than for example, communication, team work and problem solving skills.

An ambition to develop skills beyond specialist knowledge via their explicit embedding and integration within the programme, implies a willingness to re-examine the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. This carries with it no expectation of upheaval, the dilution of academic content, or the need to introduce widespread changes, for example flipped classrooms, problem based learning or revised assessment methods.

It only requires us to consider the ways in which our teaching might contribute towards the development of a York graduate. This could be through the introduction of active learning mechanisms, forum based learning, e-learning resources or interleaved practice. Module content could better provide students with the opportunity to develop metacognitive and critical thinking skills, inside and outside contact time.

There are many examples of good practice relating to the embedding of employability skills within the curriculum and some of these will be described and discussed at the annual Learning and Teaching Conference on 7th June 2016 in the Exhibition Centre (https://www.york.ac.uk/staff/teaching/community/events/annual-conference/2016/). I hope you will be able to attend and participate in the discussion.

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, https://yorkforum.org/forum-magazine/

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, learning-and-teaching-forum@york.ac.uk.

Innovating Pedagogy 2014: OU Report

innovatingPedagogyIts getting to that time of year when we start to see the “hot or not” lists… The annual “Innovating Pedagogy” report has been published by the Open University. The 3rd such report of its kind, explores “new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers”. Some of these new forms may seem rather familiar, particularly to those who have attended FORUM workshops and conferences over the last couple of years which have been clearly ahead of their time (Flipped classroom, Bring your own devices and Threshold Concepts), where as others may be completely new or at least a new spin on an established pedagogy or approach (Bricolage, Massive Open Social Learning).