Advance HE Teaching & Learning Conference 2018

Despite only being able to attend 1 day of the 3 day Advance HE Teaching & Learning Conference 2018, I have once again been inspired and encouraged by the variety of new, re-creation of old and improvement of current pedagogies. Worried I would be one of the few that did not have a background in education, it was a relief and an inspiration that so many of the delegates today were from a wide variety of disciplines and positions in universities. Spanning from fellow lecturers to department heads to administrative staff, it was uplifting knowing that so many HE staff were 1) willing to engage in these types of discussions about teaching; 2) actively speaking about and researching development in HE; and 3) sharing ideas which they themselves had tested and trialled.

The first session I attended was an “ignite workshop” (love it already) about Spinning Seminars. Attending a conference which is not your area of expertise can be a little daunting, but the layout of the room and atmosphere of this ‘workshop’ style session encouraged chatting between the audience instantly.

The concept of spinning seminars encourages student participation, engagement and creates a more student-centred learning environment (three things we are all striving for!). This style of seminar groups students and provides them with responsibilities which carousel every seminar. This allows every student to experience each activity, contributing to the seminar in different ways (e.g. presenters, discussants, summarisers, and reflectors), developing a variety of skills throughout the term and encouraging collaborative, learner-centred and student-focused study. For further detail on this contemporary pedagogy see Pablo’s slides (I’m a little eager and the conference has not yet but up the slides but I will update ASAP). This session was entirely hands-on, as we as delegates were grouped up and carried out a mini-seminar to experience the method. For me, this style of seminars would be ideal for my international students and for foundation programme students beyond my content courses. This would help students to develop skills from the beginning of their degree, it would also allow the weaker, less talkative, or more conscientious students to play an active role in seminars through different activities that don’t always push them to be extroverts (see my reasoning for this here in this fabulous TED talk). Spinning Seminars may feature a little differently if I were to include them in my content courses, but as suggested by other members in the workshop, this would remove the pressure of THE BIG PRESENTATION, and engage students with the reading throughout the course rather than the reading for their particular topic. Regardless, I was enthused and will be attempting to integrate this in my classes. Update to follow!

The second session of the day that interested me was on ‘Student Engagement: active blended learning’. Active and blended I have heard numerous times in education conferences and CPD sessions, however the two together was a more novel term for me. The group of colleagues from the University of Northampton gave an overview on the university’s move to completely ‘active-blended learning (ABL)’ – a mixture of flipped-classrooms, pre-session activities or a mix of class and online sessions. You can see the university’s scheme and some examples on the slides from the session here.

I was also very pleased with my session, speaking with a few participants after my talk, I felt I had influenced some to consider how we present assessments to our students and whether our students really understand our intentions. From the positive responses, I hope I will finish this paper over the summer and will have something to share with you all soon.

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