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.


L&T Session G – Learning and Technology

i) Video recordings of physics lectures , Martin Smalley Physics

Abstract Presentation: Session G i | Forum magazine article Recording (University of York login required)

ii) Learning before and after the lecture: the role of learning technology, Matt Cornock E-Learning Development Team, Academic Support Office

Abstract | Recording (University of York login required)

Dr Martin Smalley began this engaging session with a discussion of his pilot project using audio and video lecture recording in the Department of Physics with undergraduate students. Recordings were made by a student with a video camera the made available via the VLE and YouTube for student access and dissemination to the wider public. Martin explained how this approach could be used to capture the vivacity and dynamism of the face-to-face lecture while supporting students to tailor their learning to their individual needs.

Martin was able to inform the audience that the lecture recordings had been used by students to support attention in lectures, take better notes and enhance their understanding, especially with regard to challenging subjects. In particular, lectures on optics that were known to be difficult for students had higher viewing figures. Although students viewed the videoed lecture throughout the module, it was clear viewing figures for all lectures peaked at revision time.

MLT-Forum-06-15-87artin concluded the lecture recordings worked well as part of an integrated blended learning approach (VLE site), were very popular with students and seem to have had a significant positive effect on the exam performance.

Matt Cornock began his session by encouraging delegates to reflect on how they currently plan episodes of learning and consider the role of the face-to-face lectures within the lifespan of a module. Whist lectures aim to impart knowledge, engage students and inspire them, Matt identified limitations in viewing a face-to-face lecture as a one off event and proposed that lecture-based learning could be optimized by perceiving it in the context of a blended approach with independent learning activities. Matt suggested that the use of lecture capture in this context could enhance learner independence and promote higher order thinking.

Matt offered some insights into students’ experience of lecture recordings based on work with students in Psychology and Biology at the University of York. Students completed study diaries and provided comments on their learning experiences through face-to-face interviews. Students reported using lecture recording to help them take better notes and enhance their understanding, demonstrating active learning utilising lecture recordings as a learning resource. In some cases, students’ independent study was structured by the provision of recordings, enabling them to work through lecture content with a more scaffolded approach. Matt concluded there is a relationship between the use of lecture captures and students’ independent study practice, suggesting that learning design that incorporates lecture capture can be usefully adopted to support independent study.

Ros Browlow, Health Sciences, University of York 

L&T Session F – The Multi-cultural classroom

i) Effective group work in the multi-cultural classroom: a video presentation

Chris Copland – Education

Abstract | Handout: Session F | Forum magazine article Recording (University of York login required)

This session was run as a groupwork session (appropriately enough) framed around a sequence of three video clips*, with specific topics to focus on before watching each video:LT-Forum-06-15-91

  • Video 1 (multi-national PG group, mix of native/non-native speakers of English): focus on clarity of instructions, and interaction between native/non-native speakers.
  • Video 2 (all PG students with Chinese as a first language): focus on the participants’ skills in English and the quality of the discussion.
  • Video 3 (multi-national group, mix of UG/PG, all non-native speakers): focus on the benefits vs. limitations of having different cultural perspectives in the group.

The group noted that the videos appear to show normal group behaviour, with some students not participating very much. However, Chris said he felt that some students found the presence of the camera ‘face-threatening’ and thus behaved in a more reserved way. We can’t always infer from someone’s behaviour what the motivation of the behaviour is.
* www.effectivegroupwork.blogspot.co.uk/

ii) Chinese students – an amorphous mass? : Raising awareness of the diversity of Chinese students in British HE communities

Ping Wang (Abby) – Education

Abstract | Recording (University of York login required)

In this talk Abby reported the results of a survey study that she carried out, alongside her PhD research, arising from her experience as an IELTS tester prior to coming to the UK. The literature on the IELTS exam presents a varied picture, with different components of the test (reading, speaking etc) found to correlate best with later academic performance, in different studies. One study (ref) notes that students’ perception of their own general academic ability is affected by their IELTS score and/or how easily they were able to achieve that score.


Abby then presented some background information about the numbers of Chinese studying outside China now, and the amount of English practice they will typically have had prior to coming to the UK. Most IELTS candidates in China are from the major urban centres in the east of China such as Shanghai and Beijing. Training and testing for IELTS is a major industry in China, and individual can re-sit the test repeatedly. There are training ‘factories’ helping students increase their IELTS score due to intensive practice and test-preparation.

The study comprised 20 students of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and 20 students in other social science subjects, who completed a questionnaire and participated in focus groups/interviews. Their motivation for coming to the UK to study was quite varied, but all were primarily driven by the possibility of better job prospects back in China after their studies. The majority of the students had taken IELTS twice in order to meet the required overall score of 6.5. A question is whether a score resulting from repeated testing reflects a real improvement in their English proficiency, or just an improvement in their test-taking techniques.

Abby closed her presentation with a question: should the number of times a student has taken the test, prior to meeting the IELTS requirement, be used as a diagnostic to identify students who may benefit from additional help?

Sam Hellmuth, Language and Linguistic Science, University of York 

Enhancement of Lectures with Video Recordings. Physics Pilot Project

Martin Smalley and Matt Cornock discuss a pilot project creating lecture recordings to support student learning


The limitation of lectures

One of the main ways in which we teach our students is through lectures. This seems a classic ‘one size fits all’ approach with maybe over a hundred students, sitting together in a lecture theatre attempting to interpret and distil the lecture content into their own notes. However, students are taking away quite different, individual experiences from the same lecture. Some may have hearing impairments, dyslexia, or physical disabilities that make it difficult to capture hand-written chalkboard notes or assimilate text presented on slides within the lecture environment. Some may have English as a second language, requiring additional time to interpret subject context and new terminology. Without jeopardising the value of lectures as a way to creatively deliver course content and inspire student interest, how do we cater for different students’ learning needs to ensure that all reach their potential?

Enhancement with recordings

One straightforward answer is that we record the lectures. Lecture recordings offer all students the opportunity to supplement their lecture notes, recap misheard or misunderstood concepts, improve their revision practices, and act as supplementary resources for disabled students and students with English as a second language (Newton et al., 2014). Not forgetting that students may miss a lecture through illness, family commitments, competing academic work or even a night at the pub (!) and wish to catch up before the course moves on.

A simple audio recording in conjunction with slides may be sufficient for certain types of lecture, but particularly in physics and mathematics, which still largely employ the ‘chalk-and-talk’ approach, this may not be fit for purpose. The use of chalkboards within these subjects is necessary, for example when delivering a long derivation with many equations, to ensure that the students have time to follow the structured thought processes underpinning the content and are able to take meaningful notes (Pritchard, 2010). If recordings aim to be of use to these students, they should capture what makes a lecture unique.

Physics video pilot project

Bringing this together, the Department of Physics has been involved in a pilot project to create video-based recordings of lectures, supporting the delivery of one of the central modules, Electromagnetism & Optics (20 credits), in Stage 2 of the Physics degree programme and the new Natural Sciences degree programme, and two Stage 4 MPhys modules. In addition, the recordings of the fourth-year modules have enabled students on placement to participate on the module when they would otherwise be unable to attend the lecture sessions. The project, supported by the Replay service team (ELDT and AV Centre), aims to assess the benefits and constraints from a pedagogic and technical perspective in order to support wider deployment in subsequent academic years. However, unlike the automated capture of audio with slides through the Replay service, the pilot recordings are made using a video camera operated by students to follow the chalkboard content and lecturers’ explanations.

Initial findings

For our preliminary report, 70 of 154 students from the Electromagnetism & Optics module responded to a survey on their use of recordings (with consent for this analysis).

Our initial findings suggest that recordings support individual students’ chosen approaches to study and revision, with 100% saying that the recordings assisted their learning and understanding in the module. The motivations for using recordings fell into three broad categories:

  • to gain a deeper understanding of the course content (including preparation for problem classes) (n=43)
  • to compensate for absence (n=29)
  • to support study practices (e.g. controlling the pace of the lecture, note-taking) (n=26).

These reasons emerged from term-time use and do not reflect the anticipated benefit during revision. With this module, the fast pace (three lectures each week) requires students to keep up with the content, and this may have been a driving factor in their use.

Number of recordings watched by students

Approaches to watching recordings

The majority of students (61%) tended to watch the whole lecture again. For the third of students who were more targeted in their approach, proportionally they were more likely to use recordings in preparation for problem classes and improving their understanding, and substantially less likely to cite attendance as a reason for use of the recordings. Of particular importance also is the way that the recordings have been regularly used: 67% of respondents reported they watched more than half of the recordings available.

Somewhat surprisingly, when asked how useful video captures would be to supporting learning compared to the provision of complete lecture notes, 66% of students (n=46) indicated recordings would be more useful. Yet, the strongest view comes from comparing video recordings to audio only capture or audio with slides: 96% of respondents indicated video recordings would be more useful to support their learning.

Recordings for all?

Students’ perceived value of video recordings over complete notes or audio-only recordings reiterates the importance of visual explanations and the contribution they make to students’ understanding of mathematical concepts. This pilot has highlighted how recordings have been used to support students’ understanding of the module content, overcome barriers to note-taking and contributed to further study for problem classes. Yet without the infrastructure and recognition of the value of video-based recordings to student learning, such a pilot may be difficult to replicate at a greater scale.

Join us for our presentation at the Learning & Teaching Conference as we explore further the impact of this pilot as an approach to inclusive practice benefiting a wide range of students.


  1. Newton, G., Tucker, T., Dawson, J. and Currie, E. (2014) ‘Use of Lecture Capture in Higher Education – Lessons from the Trenches’, TechTrends, 58(2), 32-45.
  2. Pritchard, D. (2010) ‘Where learning starts? A framework for thinking about lectures in university mathematics’, International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 41(5), 609-623.

Martin SA7_Smalley_biomalley is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Physic. Martin has had a diverse career, with spells at the Universities of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Oxford, Kyoto and London (UCL), as well as two years on an ERATO project in Japan in the mid-1990s.

Matt A7_Cornock-bio-picCornock is the Lecture Recording Coordinator and an E-learning Adviser within the Academic Support Office, offering advice and support to staff in using and evaluating the Replay service and other learning technologies. Matt is currently undertaking research exploring how Replay is being used by students as an integrated part of their study approach: http://bit.ly/replay-res-dec