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ISSUE 46 | AUTUMN 2019

Creating learning

3 The benefits of
hindsight: Lessons Dear Reader
learnt from leading my
first cross-department Welcome to the 46th edition of Forum magazine, and
student-staff my first as editor. The articles in this edition respond to
partnership project the theme of this year’s Annual Learning and Teaching
Conference, ‘Creating valuable learning partnerships in
7 Counting all
the contemporary university’. The Conference was held on
backgrounds: How
21st June and featured a keynote from National Teaching
could accounting
Fellow Dr Ruth Healey of the University of Chester on
students navigate
an interdisciplinary ‘Developing learning communities through staff-student
module? partnerships’. Dr Healey contributes an article to this
edition of Forum on a student-staff partnership project
8 Photo diary: Learning to redesign the second-year geography curriculum at
and Teaching the University of Chester. Reading the article, I was particularly struck by the insight that
Conference members of a partnership need to take time to reflect on what equality means, and found
the distinctions between ‘equal’, ‘equitable’, ‘equivalent’ and ‘same’ really useful tools to
10 Introduction of Peer
think with. Dr Healey’s view of partnership as being about ‘breaking down the barriers
Assisted Learning (PAL)
for Life Sciences so that ideas from everyone are given due consideration’ connects with other articles in
this edition, such as the pilot project ‘Students as Consultants’ which took place in the
15 Treading in the Department of English and Related Literature and which encouraged critical reflections
footsteps of giants on race and diversity in teaching practice. Students were also made partners in designing
module materials in Marina N. Cantarutti’s project using Google Docs in seminars.
16 Learning Together: Learning partnerships are shown to facilitate unexpected and significant new
Building a community
developments. Set Chong’s account of a Peer Assisted Learning scheme in Biology notes
of learners within and
that students often asked unrelated questions of their PAL Leaders, ‘regarding module
beyond prison bars
choices, studying for a masters, revising techniques, etc.’ This was seen as one of the
18 Partners in education: scheme’s benefits: that PAL Leaders ‘got to know, and befriend peers they had never
building an education spoken to prior to the scheme’. Similarly, Rachel Vipond’s article on a module launched in
community through conjunction with Buckley Hall, a category 3 male prison, notes the creation of ‘improbable
authentic problem friendships’ as students from both Buckley Hall and the University of York worked together,
solving ‘grappling with some of society’s biggest problems’.
Elsewhere in this edition, partnerships help to establish expectations and aspirations
20 A blended-learning
for new students and to build a learning community, as shown in the article ‘Partners in
design for data skills
education: Building an education community through authentic problem solving’, and in
modules in Biology
the Department of Sociology’s ‘University of the Future’ programme. Jane Neal-Smith and
23 Building the University Philip Linsley’s plans for an interdisciplinary approach to an ‘Accounting and Risk’ module,
of the Future in involving ‘a seminar buddy system whereby students actively utilise their existing, prior
partnership with knowledge’, can also be seen in this light. Partnerships are also shown to provide space for
our students staff activities that it is difficult to make time for – as in the case of a writing retreat for
Teaching and Scholarship staff – and to address student perceptions and fears, as in Emma
24 Piloting students as
Rand’s article on the challenges of teaching data analysis and programming in Biology.
The idea of breaking down barriers between staff and students is not a new one; indeed,
26 Students as partners it was very much in the air in the early years of the University in the 1960s. However, I hope
in the design of that you will find these articles to be sources of ideas and inspiration for what learning
module materials: partnerships are and can be today. They showcase innovative thinking and practice across
An experience in the University and beyond.
using Google Docs in
seminars With my best wishes for academic year 2019/20,
Ben Poore (Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media)
28 Support, development
and recognition for Editor
Learning and Teaching

For a large print, Forum is published biannually by the Learning and Teaching Forum at the University of York
black and white text Editor Ben Poore
version, please contact Sub-editor Phil Robinson-Self
learning-and-teaching- Editorial Committee Ben Poore, Phil Robinson-Self, Glenn Hurst, Mark Egan Design and print Design and Print Solutions
Front Cover image Paul Shields

2 Forum issue 46 | university of york


The benefits of hindsight:

Lessons learnt from leading my first cross-
department student-staff partnership project
Ruth L Healey, University of Chester

tudent-staff partnerships have been al. (2014: 6-7) definition of student-staff students as partners as a way of working
shown to offer significant potential partnership as “a collaborative, reciprocal to enhance teaching and learning as a
for enhancing learning and teaching process through which all participants ‘no-brainer’; it seemed clear to me that this
in higher education; however, they are have the opportunity to contribute was a way forward in enhancing learning
not without their challenges. This paper equally, although not necessarily in the and teaching. This entailed splitting two
reflects on my experience of leading same ways, to curricular or pedagogical 40-credit existing modules (one in human
a team in our first cross-department conceptualisation, decision making, geography and one in physical geography)
student-staff partnership project, implementation, investigation, or analysis.” into four new modules with more specific
identifying five key lessons that were My colleagues and I were clear in our themes. This was the first project of its kind
learnt from the experience. minds that student-staff partnership went within the department, in an institution
beyond asking students what they thought that did not have centralised support for
Beginning partnership of their experiences – which was the most working in partnership. Departmental
Just after graduating from my common way in which my department staff were invited to be involved in the
undergraduate degree in 2004 I had engaged with students at that time – and project but, whilst it was by invitation, the
the opportunity to manage the first involved, wherever possible, engaging them supportive culture of the department and
International Network for Learning and in working with staff to identify and deliver general interest in teaching innovations
Teaching Geography in HE (INLT) Writing change. As Dunne (2011: 4) comments, may have meant that some staff felt they
Group Symposium in Glasgow. I sat in “there is a subtle, but extremely important, should get involved despite not necessarily
on the group working on ‘teaching for difference between an institution feeling they had the time to commit. The
social transformations’. Unexpectedly, that ‘listens’ to students and responds staff had no prior experience of working
the members of the group valued my accordingly, and an institution that gives in partnership with students to design
perspective as a student. This was my students the opportunity to explore areas courses, although several of them worked
introduction to what has since become that they believe to be significant, to with students in partnership in learning
known as an example of ‘students as recommend solutions and to bring about and teaching and in research and inquiry.
partners’ (SaP). I went on to co-author the the required changes.” Four undergraduate students with no prior
resulting article, my first ever publication experience of working in partnership were
(Wellens et al., 2006). Since then, I have Contexts: the curriculum employed to work for 50 hours each over six
been inspired to take opportunities to work redesign project months in one of two teams (one focusing
in partnership, first as a student and then With two like-minded colleagues, I on the two human geography courses,
as a member of staff, whenever they have applied for funding to embark on a the other on the two physical geography
arisen. Hence upon embarking on leading relatively ambitious project leading eight courses). Two staff members were
my first cross-department student-staff academics and four students to re-design involved in the human geography courses,
partnership project in 2015-16 I was already the second-year undergraduate geography and six in the physical geography courses.
convinced of the benefits of this process. curriculum at the University of Chester. The research team designed a light-
I had taken to heart the Cook-Sather et We were positive and enthusiastic, seeing touch approach to establishing and

university of york | issue 46 Forum 3


supporting the developing partnerships. project is to research the practice of full partnership. Given the number of
Through a one-hour workshop all partnership itself. people and time constraints involved, it
participants were introduced to some My own rationale for my prior student- was perhaps naïve to expect otherwise.
definitions of student-staff partnership staff partnership work had been that I
(Cook-Sather et al. 2014; Dunne & wanted to work with students to enhance 2. Take time to reflect as a
Zandstra, 2011; Healey et al., 2014; my teaching practice. In this project we partnership team on what equality
Williamson, 2013), the relationship wanted to involve other colleagues. The means in student-staff partnerships
between partnership and other types decision to re-design the curriculum One of the most common comments I
of participation (Bovill & Bulley, 2011), provided an opportunity to do this. have had in discussions with people about
and to the HEA (2015) principles of However, that did not negate the need student-staff partnerships has related to
partnership. We also discussed examples to produce the required output. The the notion of ‘equality’. Sometimes people
of partnership in other learning and other project participants were involved dismiss the practice with the rebuff that:
teaching contexts. for a variety of reasons, but everyone “It’s not possible for students and staff
The four modules were designed was clear on the need to ensure that to be equal”. So what does equality mean
and delivered to positive reviews from the new modules were designed within in this context? There are important
students, staff and external examiners. the necessary regulatory timeframe. differences between the adjectives equal,
However, leading a group new to working Whilst everyone participated in the equitable, equivalent, and same:
together in this way was challenging and initial workshop introducing partnership n ‘Equal’ = having the same status,
perhaps over ambitious. We have reflected principles and practice, the reality of the rights, or opportunities
on the experience of this in detail through day-to-day demands on both students and
n ‘Equitable’ = Fair and impartial
our recent publication in the International staff meant that the focus quickly moved
Journal of Students as Partners (Healey et towards the work that needed to be done n ‘Equivalent’ = equal in value, amount,
al. 2019). This, and my subsequent more rather than how that work was done. function, meaning
extensive experience of partnership in a Figure 1 illustrates the different ways n ‘Same’ = identical; not different
range of different contexts, has led me to in which students might be engaged in
reflect on some of the lessons we learnt enhancing the student experience. At When some people say partnership
about partnership through this project. different points in the project we were between students and staff is not possible
I have grouped these under five themes working at varying points along this because they are not ‘equal’, they may
which I would take on board if I was continuum. Examples of the different mean to say that they are not the ‘same’.
starting such a project again and which types of the participation were: This is, of course, true: students and
others may find useful if considering a n Inform – staff participants explained staff have different roles, opportunities,
similar project. the requirements and structures responsibilities, relative power etc within
of university module descriptors to situations. Students and staff cannot be
1. The balance between the process student participants the ‘same’ in a partnership. Indeed, the
and the output of partnership needs reason for developing partnerships to
n Consult – students were consulted
to be considered work on issues in this context is precisely
on the staff plans for the ordering of
Both the partnership process and the because we want people to address the
targeted output are important. However, topic from different perspectives. A
both require time for consideration, n Involve – students were involved in principle of partnership is to recognise
which means that in time-limited designing specific learning activities that everyone brings something to the table
contexts where participants are engaged n Partner – student-staff team conducted and to value these differences: eg students
for a variety of different reasons, it may a fieldwork reconnaissance visit bring experience of being students, while
not be possible to focus on both to the n Control – student participants staff bring subject and teaching expertise.
same extent. Depending on the purpose designed teaching resources Depending on the nature of the project
of the partnership the members of independently (reviewed by staff) it might not be possible for students and
that partnership may make the choice, staff to have equal responsibility for the
consciously or otherwise, to focus The nature of the student participation outcome; however, they can have the same
more on the process or on the output. was therefore variable and not necessarily status, rights or opportunities within the
Many projects are primarily focused achieving the fully immersive partnership process. Partnership between students and
on outputs. Working in partnership is relationships achieved in some other staff in different ways offers opportunities
a means to produce these outputs and contexts explored in the literature (eg to be equal, equitable and equivalent, but
not always something that is explicitly Ntem & Cook-Sather 2018). This situation not the same.
considered emerged partly due to the need to focus on
or discussed, unless the purpose of a the output and not having time to focus on 3. Work together to establish
the partnership relationships and process and build the relationship
to the extent that is necessary to achieve between partners
Partnership is messy – how partners
build a relationship will vary every time
depending on who is involved and how
Partnership between students and staff in different they are engaged in the partnership.
Beyond exploring different partnership
ways offers opportunities to be equal, equitable and models and principles we did not know
what to expect in terms of how the
equivalent, but not the same. partnerships themselves would work.

4 Forum issue 46 | university of york


Inform Consult Involve Partner Control

Goal To provide students To obtain To work directly To partner with Students design
with balanced student feedback with students students in each and lead initiatives
and objective on analysis, throughout the aspect of the that matter to them
information to alternatives and/or process to ensure initiative from and are in control
assist them in decisions. that their concerns identification to of final decision-
understanding and aspirations solution. making.
the problem, are consistently
alternatives and understood.

Style “Here's what’s “Here are some “Here's a problem, “Let's identify “You care about
happening” options. What do what ideas do you the issues and this issue and
you think?” have?” work together to are leading the
develop a plan initiative, how can
and implement a we support?”

Figure 1: Types of participation (after Student Voice Australia 2019, adapted from the International
Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Spectrum of Public Participation model)

Indeed, one of the aims of our research took several days to respond (though Context provides the basis for and the
into partnership was to investigate some staff members were also guilty parameters of what is possible in terms
how different partnerships operated. of long email response times). On one of a specific partnership project, and
We therefore encouraged the different occasion this meant that the team missed establishes the motivation for participants
participants to find their own way in an opportunity to undertake a fieldwork to want to try working together in
how they chose to work together. This reconnaissance trip together. this way. Working in partnership is
raised various different challenges, often Both of these issues might have an experience which can render both
based around differing expectations been mitigated to some degree if the student and staff participants vulnerable.
between different partners that were not teams had discussed their expectations It takes us outside of our comfort
articulated or explored leading to tensions around these key elements of working zones. It requires staff to relinquish
both during the project and at its end. together. One approach to this might significant control and power to students,
This may be illustrated by differences be to work together at the beginning of and requires students to accept this.
in a) how participants perceived the partnership to co-create guidelines Accepting this control and power may
partnership working; and b) how partners by which the members will work. This be intimidating and requires courage
communicated with each other. might be called a ‘partnership agreement’ from students as well as staff. Both
Despite the initial workshop on in which key elements of working elements of the partnership need to work
partnership, the participants brought together are identified and the team together to develop trust in one another,
different perspectives on the nature decide together, for example, how they be open to new ideas, and learn together
of partnership to the project. In one define partnership, what that looks like to be comfortable in the uncertainty that
case the student participants perceived in terms of work practices, and the best working in their partnership brings.
partnership to only be occurring if mechanisms for communicating within Some people may be hesitant here as they
the staff and student partners were the team. In subsequent projects, we have consider this to mean that a student-staff
working together synchronously on an co-constructed such agreements in an partnership team would have to go along
element of the module design, whereas editable format and always had them with with ideas from the students. Rather,
the relevant staff participant perceived us at project meetings for the team to be partnership is about breaking down the
partnership to be occurring if different able to reflect on and edit if necessary. barriers so that ideas from everyone
members of the team took responsibility are given due consideration no matter
for different elements of the module 4. Consider how to approach whether they are from a staff member or
design, working on these in their own partnership in your context a student. Staff bring their expertise on
time and then bringing them back to Elsewhere I have written about the the project in the same way as students
the team for discussion and further importance of the context when do – it is this different expertise coming
development. Communication was discussing students as partners (Healey together which allows enhancement. So
another issue for some teams in which & Healey 2018). This includes how the challenge is to stop thinking of each
staff sent students emails about meetings ‘partnership’ is interpreted, the emotions, other by our roles and consider ideas in
and work, while student members did not motivations, attitudes, behaviour and relation to their potential for the project.
tend to use email as their primary form values of the participants, and the aim,
of communication and therefore often scale and timeframe of the project. 5. Focus on what worked and what

university of york | issue 46 Forum 5


you learnt, as well as what didn’t as well as on the outcomes/output of that students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher
[accessed 17th June 2019].
appear to go to plan partnership. Undertaking partnership is
The majority of the literature I had read messy with no single approach that will Healey, M. & Healey, R.L. (2018). ‘It depends’:
Exploring the context-dependent nature of students
up to the start of the project instilled be effective in all cases. The willingness as partners practices and policies, International
the virtues and benefits of working in to work in an uncertain context may be Journal for Students as Partners, 2(1). https://doi.
partnership, elaborating on wonderful welcomed by some but is uncomfortable org/10.15173/ijsap.v2i1.3472
success stories of how such practice had for others. Whilst this first experience of Healey, R. L., Lerczak, A., Welsh, K. & France, D.
significantly enhanced the student and staff leading a cross-department student-staff (2019). By any other name? The impacts of differing
partnership project did not turn out as assumptions, expectations and misconceptions
experience in a wide variety of ways, but
about student-staff ‘partnerships’. International
with limited discussion of the challenges anticipated it has had a positive longer Journal for Students as Partners 3(1): 106-122. https://
of working in this way. This reflected the term impact on perceptions of partnership
field being relatively new at the time. There in the department. The experience of Higher Education Academy (HEA) (2015). Framework
are many more varied examples emerging being involved in the re-design of modules for Student Engagement through Partnership (HEA:
in the literature now (eg Mercer-Mapstone led to reduced resistance and emerging York).
2017; Ntem & Cook-Sather 2018). However, it partnership practices throughout the
partnership-new.pdf [accessed 31st May 2019].
meant that when this project had not gone department. Students as partners continues
Ntem, A., & Cook-Sather, A. (2018). Resistances and
in the way that we had expected it to, I was to grow and has become the expected resiliencies in pedagogical partnership: Student
disappointed. It took some time and analysis norm in relation to running open days for partners’ perspectives. International Journal
to reflect on the experience and recognise potential applicants, and enhancing student for Students as Partners, 2(1): 82-96. https://doi.
that we had learnt much about different employability, and it is becoming more org/10.15173/ijsap.v2i1.3372
ways of approaching partnership by going and more common for students and staff Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S. L., Matthews,
to adopt partnership approaches towards K., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P., Knorr, K., Marquis,
through a project which had experienced E., Shammas, R., & Swaim, K. (2017). A systematic
challenges. A project may not always go teaching and learning. literature review of students as partners in higher
smoothly; indeed, if you find yourself education. International Journal for Students As
References Partners, 1(1).
writing a reflective piece about the process Bovill, C. (2017). A framework to explore roles within
a few years later, there is much more to talk student-staff partnerships in higher education: Wellens, J., Bernardi, A., Chalkley, B., Chambers, B.,
about if it did not! which students are partners, when, and in what Healey, R.L., Monk, J., and Vender, J. (2006) Teaching
ways? International Journal for Students as Partners geography for social transformation, Journal of
1(1): 1-5. Geography in Higher Education 30(1): 117-131.
Concluding reflections Williamson, M. (2013). Guidance on the development
Bovill, C., & Bulley, C. J. (2011). A model of active
It is not uncommon for new innovations and implementation of a student partnership
student participation in curriculum design: exploring
in learning and teaching to experience desirability and possibility. In C. Rust (Ed.). Global agreement in universities. Edinburgh: Student
significant challenges the first time round. theories and local practices: institutional, disciplinary Participation in Quality Scotland. Retrieved from
and cultural variations (pp. 176-188). Oxford: Oxford [accessed
Whilst the process of these partnerships
Brookes University, Oxford Centre for Staff and 17th June 2019].
might not have been what we originally
Learning Development.
envisaged, this did not lessen the impact
Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014).
of the project in terms of the production of Engaging students as partners in teaching & learning: A
four successful modules, and also in terms guide for faculty. San Francisco, CA, USA: Jossey-Bass.
of the significant learning that staff and Dunne, E. (2011). Foreword, in Dunne, E. & Zandstra,
students across the department experienced R. (2011) Students as change agents – new ways Ruth L. Healey is an
in partnership working. We learnt the need of engaging with learning and teaching in higher Associate Professor in
education. (pp. 4-5). Bristol: A joint University Pedagogy in Higher
to have realistic expectations as to what it Education at the University
of Exeter/ESCalate/Higher Education Academy
is possible to focus on within the context Publication. of Chester, UK. In 2016,
of competing pressures and limited time Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014).
she also joined Healey HE
and that in order to develop the partnership Consultants. She is a Senior
Engagement through partnership: Students
Fellow of the HEA, a National Teaching Fellow
relationship it is important that all as partners in learning and teaching in higher
and an inaugural Fellow of the International
partners agree to reflect on the process of education. York, UK: Higher Education Academy.
Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and
Retrieved from
partnership as the relationship progresses, Learning. Email:

6 Forum issue 46 | university of york


Counting all backgrounds: How could accounting

students navigate an interdisciplinary module?
Jane Neal-Smith and might wish to embrace the opportunity alternative perspectives (theories) of risk
to deliver interdisciplinary teaching, it is and focusing on a case study. The second
Philip Linsley, from The York unclear whether the students would feel is to radically change the operation of
Management School, discuss similarly. The majority of the students the seminars to utilise the students
come from a traditional accounting/ a priori knowledge regarding other
the idea of incorporating an finance/economics background so are disciplines. This could be enhanced
less likely to have encountered subjects through the adoption of carefully selected
interdisciplinary approach like anthropology in an academic context, pre-module reading of a range social
into a postgraduate ‘Accounting although they may have had some prior sciences literature. Students can find
exposure to psychology or sociology. This reading literature from other disciplines
& Risk’ module. makes it challenging for students to really akin to having to learn a new language
‘get to grips’ with theories that derive from and this second approach might help in a

he Management School is moving a wide range of disciplines within one learning process which also demystifies
towards embedding the idea of term’s worth of module delivery. disciplines new to students.
interdisciplinary teaching across We propose to fully immerse ourselves
its programmes, and this has provided At the conference in the ideology of interdisciplinarity and
the impetus for us to question both what Presenting this module at the celebrate this through the formation of a
interdisciplinary teaching means and how learning and teaching conference, we seminar buddy system whereby students
we might operationalise this for students raised a number of issues: what does actively utilise their existing, prior
who choose the Accounting & Risk interdisciplinary mean? How many knowledge to enhance their seminar
module option. This reflective account of disciplines count? Who should judge experience. Students will be asked to
the feedback we received explores options which theories should be deemed form groups where there is a varied
and considers ideas about how we plan significant enough to warrant inclusion prior experience – either academic or
to draw on students’ a priori knowledge in the module? Does drawing on what is cultural – of different disciplines and to
of other disciplines and how that will deemed alternative perspectives dilute draw on this collectively to facilitate a
enhance their learning. a traditional discipline and does this deeper understanding of the module. It
The ‘Accounting & Risk’ module is an enhance or detract from the subject will be in students’ best interests to form
option module on the MSc Accounting matter? At what point do the learning groups with a wide range of backgrounds.
and Financial Management degree outcomes and module aims separate We argue that this will allow groups to
delivered to c.130 students. The module from the core subject and from a quality draw on one another’s knowledge and to
focuses on examining how different standpoint, when does accounting cease explore different perspectives in the safe
theories of risk can provide alternative to be about accounting? It is apparent environment of a seminar. This will enrich
understandings of accounting and that we need a divergence of thought the learning experience and encourage
accounting issues such as audit and yet also to continue to uphold the traditional accountancy students to move
failures, the management of risk, and rigorous standards necessary within outside their academic comfort zone and
communicating financial risk in annual a module. Moreover, we are aware embrace interdisciplinarity.
reports. The theories of risk are drawn that adopting a blinkered perspective
from psychology, anthropology and restricts the creation of knowledge and
sociology. Therefore, the module could the possibility of encouraging students as
possibly be understood as an exemplar producers or partners.
Jane Neal-Smith is a
of interdisciplinary teaching; however, Two ideas stemmed from the feedback lecturer in the York
whilst the students enjoy the module and received at the conference. The first, Management School.
give it good feedback, our experience which is a simple fix, is to change the Her PhD is in industrial
in delivering the module suggests they assessment. Currently the module psychology examining
organisational life for
may see it in more linear terms of being is assessed through a 3,000 word women airline pilots.
about accounting and risk. So whilst staff assignment examining and critiquing She teaches in the areas of organisational
behaviour, risk management and research
methods. She has experience in running
action learning sets for students and senior
management in high risk industries.

Philip Linsley is Professor

of Accounting & Risk and
Deputy Dean in the York
Management School. Philip
teaches in the areas of
accounting, finance and
risk. His research interests
are risk-related and include investigating risk
disclosure in annual reports, risk and culture,
and risk management. He is particularly
interested in applying the ideas of Mary
Douglas to the accounting and finance field.

university of york | issue 46 Forum 7

photo diary

Many of the articles in the present edition of Forum magazine
emerge from the University of York’s annual Learning and Teaching
Conference, which took place in the summer of 2019.

ith hundreds of delegates from One highlight of the day was the
across the University and a many posters on show, with those
good number of externals, the presenting doing a great and tireless
stage was set for rich, engaging dialogue job of talking through their projects
across a real range of fascinating with conference attendees. Many
sessions – as the materials throughout congratulations to the winners of the
this issue amply testify. Recordings of conference poster competition, pictured:
all of the conference workshop sessions, Pen Holland, for ‘Catastrophic, a card
along with slides and other materials, game supporting systems thinking in
are made available to University of York Biology’ (left), and Fabien Pecot, for
staff via the Learning and Teaching ‘Performance in Live Case Studies: the
Forum blog: role of uncertainty’ (right).
annual-lt-conference/2019-conferenc/. Keep a lookout for more information
If you weren’t able to join us for the on the next Learning and Teaching
conference but your interest has been Conference, which will take place on
piqued by this issue of Forum magazine, 13 March 2020.
do visit the blog to find out more.

8 Forum issue 46 | university of york

photo diary

university of york | issue 46 Forum 9


Introduction of
Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)
for Life Sciences
Set Chong and her co-authors discuss the development of a PAL scheme in Biology

Peer learning is an intrinsic form of
learning that mostly occurs naturally
and informally. It is particularly effective
when incorporated into the curriculum
with planned relevant activities (Saunders
1992) that provide students with the
opportunity to learn from each other
in and beyond the classroom. There are
several models of peer learning but the
most common model describes the use
of more experienced students facilitating
the learning of more junior students. This
form of peer interaction has been shown
to benefit both groups (Boud, Cohen,
and Sampson 2001) and provide better
integration into the learning community 1 Molecular Biology and Biochemistry between the programmes offered within
(Keenan 2014). There are other, more (MBB) module (BIO00004C), joining the the Department, creating a disparate
pragmatic, motivations for introducing second phase of a university-wide pilot student cohort with varying academic
peer learning including as a response and scheme which introduced peer learning backgrounds. Increasingly a significant
adaptation to increasing student numbers to the University of York. The scheme is minority of students have insufficient
and higher staff workloads as a result of led by Tamlyn Ryan and colleagues in the chemistry knowledge to cope with the
changes to the HE sector. The introduction Academic Support Office (ASO) and was content of this module, which relies
of peer learning enhances the overall started in 2017-18. At York the scheme heavily on a good understanding of
experience of students (Keenan 2014) from is referred to as Peer Assisted Learning chemistry. In addition, student interest
across different cohorts, complements (PAL); other names for peer learning and level of confidence in chemistry varies.
the staff-led support that students receive include PASS (Peer Assisted Study Student feedback indicates that the lack
and can improve staff-student ratio Sessions) (Miller, Oldfield, and Bulmer of prior chemistry training makes this
(Worthington et al. 1997). 2012) (Fostier and Carey 2007). module particularly challenging: “As I did
The MBB module is a challenging not take A-level chem [sic] I really struggled
Background and Approach module that is compulsory for the throughout the whole module, there was basic
In the 2018-19 academic year, we entire first year cohort in the Biology chemistry which I didn’t understand which
introduced peer learning to our Stage Department. Admissions criteria vary made the lectures very difficult to follow,”

10 Forum issue 46 | university of york


and “I found the module rather challenging, helped to answer any particularly approximately 40 PAL Leaders remained
especially as I hadn’t done A level chemistry.” challenging questions – making it clear engaged in the scheme. This reduction in
Over the years, we have introduced several that there is often more than one correct numbers was mainly due to lack of time
methods to support student learning for answer and not all answers are known. particularly for Stage 3 students. Of these,
this module including staff-led Support Each PAL session was followed by a 27 participated in 4 or more sessions and
Chemistry sessions (led by Dr Amanda timetabled hour-long debrief attended by 5 attended more than 10 PAL sessions.
Barnes) and more recently creation of the Module Lead, PAL Coordinator, PAL The number of PAL Leaders attending
an online Life Sciences Skills Hub where Leaders and a member of the ASO team. each session varied between 9 and 27.
more basic chemistry material is provided. The feedback discussed in the debriefs Due to timetabling restrictions many of
The PAL sessions introduced this year was consolidated and summarised by the the Chemistry volunteers were unable
were designed to complement other Coordinator who also ensured that the to participate in the scheme with only 1
support provided for the MBB module. planned activities for subsequent sessions chemistry PAL Leader attending several
Research suggests that for PAL to be were implemented, and addressed any PAL sessions.
successful it should not be perceived as feedback from students and PAL Leaders The debrief meetings were vital for
remedial (Keenan 2014). Therefore, PAL regarding the session. Attendance and evaluating the previous session and
was made available to all students and a summary of the debrief meeting were included feedback from both Stage 1
integrated into the curriculum with passed to the ASO by the PAL Coordinator. students and PAL Leaders. In addition,
one-hour, weekly sessions timetabled for In addition, the Coordinator attended the debriefs were used to plan the
lunchtime when most students across termly meetings with the ASO team following sessions and the PAL Leaders
all year groups are available; however, and PAL Coordinators from other were instrumental in drawing on their
attendance was optional. These sessions departments to discuss successes own experiences to plan and steer the
were coordinated and attended by a and problems arising in PAL sessions. direction of the MBB PAL. For the later
PAL Coordinator (Sarah Tindall, a PhD These meetings were useful for sharing sessions, PAL Leaders were provided with
student in the Department) and several knowledge but also for meeting those on the relevant lecture slides in advance
PAL Leaders (students from Stages 2-3 other courses. and developed activities based on this
who had already taken the MBB module), content (eg Building DNA models, Nobel
but were not attended by the Academic PAL LEADERS Prize timeline, match the amino acid
Module Lead to reinforce the student-led Over 45 stage 2 and 3 students from the flashcards). During the PAL sessions,
aspect of this approach. Stage 1 students Department of Biology and a further direct links were made to the learning
were divided into groups of 6-10 and each 21 from the Department of Chemistry outcomes of MBB lectures.
group was assigned two PAL Leaders who initially volunteered to become PAL As the PAL Leaders confidence
led discussions. As these sessions are Leaders following an email to all latter grew, they took a much more active
not compulsory, attendance varied from year students outlining the requirements role as partners in the development of
between 11 to 63 students/week (out of 312 of the scheme. PAL Leaders were asked to teaching resources, writing workshop-
students registered on the module). participate in a minimum of 2 sessions. style questions, developing activities
PAL Leaders were trained centrally and games to make biochemistry more
Preparation and organisation of by the ASO team, as well as in the fun, planning and even leading sessions.
PAL sessions Department by the Module Lead and the Feedback from our PAL Leaders suggests
PAL COORDINATOR PAL Coordinator, prior to the start of the that they found the experience invaluable
The role of PAL Coordinator is a first session in Week 2 (Autumn 2018). and highly rewarding, changing their
challenging yet rewarding task and an The first few PAL sessions were planned own perspective and making them feel
excellent way to increase confidence by the PAL Coordinator and Module Lead more integrated within the Department.
in both teaching and communicating in the summer of 2018. An initial meeting
with others. In particular, it provides with the PAL Leaders at the start of the REFLECTION BY PAL LEADERS
the opportunity to learn how to explain Autumn term 2018 focused on reviewing By participating in PAL, as a PAL Leader,
difficult concepts through different these plans, discussing strategies for students experienced MBB for a second
activities and provides teaching engaging their peers and increasing their time. This was invaluable to their own
experience through the planning of confidence. The format for the MBB learning and allowed them to develop
questions and other activities to help first PAL differed from the other University other skills at the same time:
year students expand their knowledge. pilot projects, where a smaller number Knowledge Consolidation and
The Coordinator additionally benefits of students were expected to participate Resource Planning: the PAL Coordinator
from getting to know the students, PAL and mentoring was on a more one-to-one and groups of PAL Leaders would often
Leaders and staff involved in the module, basis. By the time the scheme started, actively combine their knowledge and
which integrates the PAL Coordinator
into the local learning community.
The Biology PAL Coordinator
supported the general organisation of PAL
sessions and debrief meetings. Initially
this involved helping to recruit PAL
Leaders, scheduling PAL Leader rota, and As the PAL Leaders confidence grew, they took
organising the first term of PAL sessions.
In subsequent terms the sessions were
a much more active role as partners in the
predominantly led by PAL Leaders, but development of teaching resources
organised by PAL coordinator.
During PAL sessions the Coordinator

university of york | issue 46 Forum 11


brainstorm an answer to a student’s of PAL. The divide between student and students commented that they would prefer
question, which made not having the “teacher” was very narrow, but enough “more questions to test knowledge” or “a
answer to each question no problem at to provide a welcoming yet rewarding worksheet to go through”. Therefore, we
all. Discussions provided the opportunity learning experience. introduced practise questions into some
to further Leaders’ problem solving Motivation: Each week Leaders PAL sessions. Students much preferred this
skills when presented with difficult, perceived that they were genuinely aiding approach and commented that “the use of
yet insightful, questions from students students, which provided the motivation questions has improved”.
as well as allowing PAL Leaders to to return in subsequent weeks. Leaders
develop their strengths in working felt that it was not often that students
in teams. Development of activities have the chance to make contributions
allowed for greater consolidation of PAL to a department. The knowledge that the
Leaders’ knowledge as they realised resources they contributed will be used
that fully understanding a topic is key and built on year after year made the
“more worksheet questions to work
for developing resources to help others. experience even more rewarding.
Students often asked unrelated questions Teaching Experience: Throughout the
regarding module choices, studying year, the PAL Leaders developed their “provide more questions to help go
for a masters, revising techniques, etc. ability to deliver material in a creative, over and test understanding.”
The Leaders and Coordinator provided yet informative, manner. For example,
different years of expertise (Stage 2 one Leader noted that when comparing “[useful] helping me understand
to PhD), variable disciplines (Biology, eukaryotes and archaea, it was more the lectures and giving context to
Biochemistry, Biomedical sciences) productive to take a visual approach equations [covered in the lectures]”
and multiple strands (BSc, MSc, BSc and have students draw structures to “[PAL was] good because it brought
with industry, etc) which allowed help identify differences, rather than up questions I had not thought of”
PAL sessions to provide a plethora of trying to trigger students’ memories with
experiences that would otherwise be rare related facts, which was well received. STUDENTS LIKED THE
to find in one place. The planning process provided excellent GAMES THAT PAL LEADERS
Improved Confidence: Not knowing practice and insight into the development DEVELOPED
what to expect made the first session of educational resources; this is invaluable
challenging to plan and it did not run experience, especially for PAL Leaders “...[it was] good making an active
smoothly; however, the sessions quickly hoping to teach in future. session with a game”
improved as knowledge and resources Overall PAL experience was important
“ was useful to recap and fun
were accumulated. Initial concerns in recognizing skills that PAL Leaders
playing games whilst learning”
included time commitment (eg planning already had and garnering more along
each session) and being caught out with the way. PAL is a unique experience for [Halloween] sweets were an
questions Leaders were unable to answer. both Leaders and students with seemingly important addition to this learning
As the weeks passed, the PAL Leaders only an hour at lunchtime to lose and a lot and useful as model for Michaelis
grew in confidence. Some PAL Leaders more to gain. -Menten [kinetics].”
appreciated the degree of socialisation
participants and Leaders achieved. PAL Evaluation
helped Leaders to feel more part of the POST-IT NOTE FEEDBACK
We did not include a specific question
department and build a larger network At the end of every PAL session, students
in the end of term departmental student
than they would have otherwise. One were provided with post-it notes to
evaluation surveys for the MBB module
PAL Leader found this interaction provide feedback on what they felt went
concerning PAL; however, students
useful in collecting enough signatures well, and what could be improved. These
highlighted this scheme several times
to successfully run for Departmental were reviewed in the debrief and provided
in their replies with many positive
Student Representative. Being trusted real-time student feedback that was
comments as exemplified below:
by staff to deliver PAL sessions was a instrumental in shaping planning and
massive confidence boost. Leaders got to strategy for the following sessions.
know, and befriend peers they had never The majority of the feedback was EXAMPLES OF STUDENT
spoken to prior to the scheme. Leading positive and highlighted that the PAL COMMENTS IN THE
sessions in pairs for a similar group each scheme was useful for enhancing module- END OF TERM STUDENT
week allowed PAL Leaders to familiarise specific knowledge; the PAL Leaders were EVALUATION SURVEYS
themselves with each other and allowed “enthusiastic” and “approachable”; and the (2018-19)
the students to become comfortable small group setting made students feel
asking and answering questions, without comfortable to contribute and ask questions. “...the PAL sessions were amazing
the aid of notes or encouragement. PAL In addition, this feedback emphasised other and helped so much!”
Leaders who participated regularly benefits of PAL for example, “good to talk to
and Stage 1 students developed an others on course” and “for advice on future “The Pal sessions for this module
atmosphere of familiarity which was module choices”. were very helpful and provided good
key in making PAL successful. With A number of improvements were opportunities to talk to second-year
students and get their advice on
this closeness, PAL produced a relaxed suggested, as the feedback was reviewed
other aspects such as exams.”
learning experience in which both after each session, we were able to adapt
Leaders and participants could thrive. teaching based on this instant feedback. For
Both Leaders and students asking and example, initially discussion-style questions
receiving advice is one of unique aspects were displayed on the main screen; however,

12 Forum issue 46 | university of york


students who are already motivated and

REFLECTION BY ISY MARTIN STAGE 1 BIOLOGY STUDENT engaged with their course and not just
those struggling with course content.
PAL sessions were an essential part of my learning of the MBB module content.
Final Perspective
PAL provides managed learning
PAL leaders provided us with questions based on the lecture content learnt in MBB
that week, everyone contributed the information they could remember then came up
opportunities for both Stage 1 students
with a consensus answer which a PAL leader was then able to fill the gaps in, correct and Stage 2 and 3 PAL Leaders that
or confirm. enhance subject understanding but
also improve other transferrable skills.
The various feedback methods used
For example having covered some metabolism content in lectures one of the synoptic
in this process point to PAL being an
questions we were asked to answer by PAL leaders was: ‘how are glycolysis and the
TCA cycle compartmentalised in a eukaryotic cell?’
effective way of establishing a learning
community where deeper learning and
understanding is fostered especially for
It was a fun, painless and easy way to revise content, as you acquired the bits of
PAL Leaders (above). Engaging students
knowledge that the others in your group contributed, and you have the opportunity to
who are not naturally motivated remains
test the knowledge you’ve already learnt.
a challenge. However, the introduction
of PAL as a support mechanism for MBB
In the sessions the questions which were provided and answered covered all the is a useful way of alleviating some of the
most essential parts of the lectures, meaning you understood the most fundamental anxiety associated with this module and
principles of the lecture content.
overall provides a positive experience for
all those involved. For this interaction to
It was also a great opportunity to ask experienced 2nd and 3rd year PAL leaders be effective, PAL Leaders need to attend
questions about content that you did not understand in the lectures and get that PAL sessions regularly. Implementation
content nailed. In my experience, access to these second and third years also made of a successful PAL scheme is time
me feel more a part of the department, which was supplemented by the fact that the consuming, and requires organisation,
sessions were a fantastic method of meeting other first years doing the same module
planning sessions in advance, and
(on the same or other courses within the department), especially as the sessions were
coordination of PAL Leaders as well as
based on group work.
extra contact with Stage 2 and Stage 3
students. However, the PAL Coordinator’s
Some sessions were more useful than others as it depended on the PAL leader role significantly alleviated the extra
assigned to your group, but the leaders tended to change from week to week so burden from the Module Leader, and
continuing to attend paid off.
the extra interaction with Stage 2 and 3
students in an informal setting proved
To those who have not attended a PAL session before my greatest piece of advice to be a highly enjoyable and valuable
in order to get the most out of it is don’t be shy to put forward information that you experience for all those involved.
think you remember from lectures but are not entirely certain of, because often you
actually absorbed more of the content than you think from lectures, also if no one References
puts forward potential ideas of how to answer the question then you can never reach Boud, David, Ruth Cohen, and Jane Sampson.
a group consensus! (2001). Peer Learning in Higher Education: Learning
from & with Each Other. Psychology Press.
Fostier, M., and W. Carey. (2007). Exploration,
Experience and Evaluation: Peer Assisted
Study Scheme (PASS), Sharing the Experience
of The University of Manchester: 480 1st Year
agreed/strongly agreed that by discussing
Further Evaluation of PAL Bioscience Students. Science, Learning and
concepts or explaining them to others, Teaching Conference, 19–20.
Other means of assessing the
they improved their own understanding Keenan, Chris. (2014). Mapping Student-Led
effectiveness of PAL include reflective
of the subject and that PAL helped build Peer Learning in the UK. York: Higher Education
and exit surveys. The results of the Academy.
their confidence in the subject, and 100%
Autumn term exit survey showed that files/resources/peer_led_learning_keenan_
agreed/strongly agreed that PAL provides
few students used PAL for improving nov_14-final.pdf.
a place to improve their understanding of
their revision techniques (Figure 1, bar Miller, Valda, Elwyn Oldfield, and Michael Bulmer.
course material. (2012). Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) in
8) or time management (bar 9), but the
majority of respondents found PAL useful Exam Performance First Year Chemistry and Statistics Courses:
Insights and Evaluations. Proceedings of The
for improving module knowledge (bar Analysis of total mean exam mark Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics
11), their own understanding (bar 15) and (%) of students attending 3 or more Education (formerly UniServe Science Conference)
understanding course material (bar 5). PAL sessions showed that this group 10 (0).
Our Spring/Summer exit survey had significantly outperformed (64.6%) those index.php/IISME/article/view/6493.
low participation (n=8) possibly due to not attending PAL (56.4%) (Two-sample Saunders, Danny. (1992). Peer Tutoring in Higher
Education. Studies in Higher Education 17 (2): 211–18.
the timing of the survey which clashed t-test; P<0.0014). Students attending PAL
with the Summer Term assessment outperformed their counterparts who did Worthington, Andrew C., Jens Hansen, John
Nightingale, and Ken Vine. (1997). Supplemental
period. However, 85% of those who not attend PAL in other modules which Instruction in Introductory Economics: An
responded agreed/strongly agreed that were not supported by PAL (though this Evaluation of the University of New England’s
PAL increased their opportunity to result was not statistically significant). Peer Assisted Study Scheme (PASS). Australian
be part of a learning community, 75% This indicates that PAL is attracting Economic Papers, 69–80.

university of york | issue 46 Forum 13


AUTUMN STUDENT EXIT SURVEY Setareh Chong is a Lecturer

in Biochemistry in the
Department of Biology and
the Biochemistry Programme
20 Lead. She has been working
on improving student
experience and facilitating
15 student learning through e-learning and peer
interaction. She is the Module Lead for the
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry module.

Sarah Tindall is a second

5 year PhD student in the
Department of Biology
and the PAL coordinator
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 for the Biology department
PAL scheme.
Not sure No Yes
Emmah Younis was a
Figure 1 The number of students responding yes, no, or not sure to 16 questions in the exit survey. Stage 2 PAL Leader and
Key for Autumn Student Survey graph is shown in Table 1. has started Stage 3 BSc
in Biochemistry in the
2019/2020 academic year.
Table 1. Key for graph of Autumn term survey
1. Helped with transition to university Harriet Bywater was a
Stage 2 PAL Leader and has
2. I found information about the course started Stage 3 Biomedical
Sciences in the 2019/20
3. I got to understand better what is expected of me academic year. She is
also the incoming Biology
4. I became less nervous because I knew there was support if I had any problems Department Rep.

Mik Santos was a Stage 3

5. It's a place to test/improve my understanding of course material
PAL Leader and is now a
fourth year Biochemistry
6. It's a place to evaluate how I am doing by listening to others' problems/questions
Integrated Masters
student in the Department
7. Finding information (which books to use and how; library tour)
of Biology.
8. It helped me improve my time management and organisation skills
John Parry was a Stage 2
9. It helped me improve my approach academic problem/questions PAL Leader and has started
Stage 3 BSc in Biology in the
10. It helped me improve my knowledge of MBB 2019/2020 academic year.

11. I feel comfortable asking questions

12. The Leaders were helpful

Isy Martin was a part of
13. The Leaders were approachable the MBB PAL scheme as
a Stage 1 Molecular Cell
Biology student.
14. By discussing concepts of explaining them to others, I improved my own

15. I found out more useful information from the leaders about my course that I could
have done on my own Tamlyn Ryan is Academic
Skills Adviser (WP, Access
and PAL) with the Academic
Support Office and is
the Project Lead for Peer
PAL FRAMEWORK Assisted Learning. She is
interested in supporting
Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) is an excellent opportunity to nurture a closer students, staff and departments build
departmental learning community. To support the development of peer-assisted learning effective learning communities. Tamlyn also
groups in your departments, the PAL Project (Learning Enhancement team) can provide: works on several Widening Participation
initiatives, including Next Step York,
§ Presentations and information about PAL for staff and students; Pathways to Medicine and a project aimed
at improving the mature student experience.
§ Consultations about the logistics of establishing a robust PAL scheme;
§ Training for PAL Leaders;
§ Initial close support until your PAL scheme is established;
§ Support with the evaluation of the PAL scheme.
If you would like more information, please email

14 Forum issue 46 | university of york


Jane Neal-Smith and Gillian Bishop, of the York

Management School, discuss the creation of communities
of practice for teaching and scholarship academics.

eaching and scholarship staff may have a use one day but never quite the creation of communities of practice
(T&S) are encouraged to write for finding that use or finding that day. through reflection on our own learning
publication but are generally not When reflecting on our own practice which could lead to publishing in a
‘REFable’. Rather than pedagogical papers and in a sense taking the position pedagogical sphere. Our heads were full of
being seen as ‘the other’ and defined of students as we learn (to write), we stuff that we either didn’t use, need or even
by what they are not, we wanted to developed the idea of using inspirational know if we wanted anymore but now feel
celebrate our scholarship and encourage places as the venue for writing retreats. cleansed by having taken part in a spiritual
our teaching and scholarship colleagues Emphasising the importance of blocks writing retreat.
to be inspired by their research active of silent writing space and the necessity
colleagues through publishing as well as of initial free writing to stimulate the References
practicing their scholarship. As part of our process, we proposed to expand the model Bohm, D, (1980). Wholeness and the Implicate Order,
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul
citizenship we organised a one day writing by amalgamating Lave and Wenger’s (1991)
retreat for T&S staff as per Murray and communities of practice through action Cunliffe, A. L. (2002). Reflexive dialogical practice
in management learning. Management Learning,
Newton’s (2009) model. learning sets (Revans, 1983) to include how 33(1), 35-61. doi:10.1177/1350507602331002
This paper explores the journey of the learning environment is influential to Cunliffe, A. L. (2004). On becoming a critically
an academic writing retreat from its the process of academic writing, exploring reflexive practitioner. Journal of Management
beginnings couched in a shed analogy the significance of spiritual places for Education, 28(4), 407-426.
through its delivery in Ampleforth Abbey helping T&S staff develop scholarly activity. Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning:
to the inception of action learning groups Both of us have previously worked Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge:
to support T&S colleagues. The choice in action learning sets and this idea of Cambridge University Press
of venue was of particular importance: engendering communities of practice using Murray, R., & Newton, M., (2009). Writing retreat
as structured intervention: margin or mainstream?,
during our recorded dialogue the idea dialogue (Bohm, 1980) in a supportive
Higher Education Research & Development, 28:5,
of spirituality, peace and tranquillity environment really appealed. We wanted 541-553, DOI: 10.1080/07294360903154126
arose. We needed to go somewhere away to make some additions to the original Raelin, J. A. (2002). “I don’t have time to think!”
from work and home which could act as model, using a spiritual retreat to clear versus the art of reflective practice, Reflections
an inspiration for writing. The nostalgic out our heads and to acknowledge the (Cambridge, Mass.), 4(1), 66; 66-79; 79.
image of times long ago, ideas of a monastic importance of that spiritual environment Revans, R. W. (1983). Action learning: Its terms
community walking their solitary paths, in turning the contents into good research and character. Management Decision, 21(1), 39-50.
striving for goodness and crafting great and scholarly outputs. Through a shared
works, held a spiritual appeal. understanding of the purpose of a retreat
The day was facilitated by an which followed a model of best practice, Gillian Bishop is a
experienced ‘retreater’ and followed and with participants being mostly Lecturer in TYMS, her
Murray and Newton’s model of pursuing successful in achieving their objectives, a PhD is in pedagogy for
international students
initially free writing and then chunks of community was born. Mirroring a self-help learning to reflect and
time set aside for writing. The aim of the group, staff supported one another and her research interests
session was to achieve a piece of written worked in solitude soaking in the peace and are in critical pedagogy,
work but also to create and develop the idea quiet afforded by the views at Ampleforth. specifically action learning, developing
dialogue and storytelling. Gillian found
of a community of practice within T&S The lack of distractions and the hallowed that attending writing retreats in peaceful
colleagues. atmosphere created at the Ampleforth and atmospheric locations played a key
Our conversations started quite retreat provided the perfect setting to part in developing her academic voice and
generally in an informal setting to develop indulge in focused periods of creativity. completing her PhD.
clarity in the planning and implementation Our proposal to front and rear load the Jane Neal-Smith is a
process. Our idea came to us in the analogy academic writing retreat gave it a clear lecturer in the York
of a ‘shed’ to explain how it sometimes felt purpose for T&S colleagues developing Management School.
Her PhD is in industrial
to be an academic with a strong interest in their pedagogic writing. The addition of psychology examining
pedagogy. At times we find that we have an action learning set enabled staff to gain organisational life for
ideas about developing our research in support from one another in a safe and women airline pilots.
teaching, learning and scholarship but confidential setting. In conclusion, then, She teaches in the areas of organisational
behaviour, risk management and research
that finding time and space to take this the process we followed began in a dialogue methods. She has experience in running
any further never quite happens – just like about crowded sheds, evolved into seeking action learning sets for students and senior
having a shed where we dump items that solitude and inspiration, and flowered in management in high risk industries.

university of york | issue
of york 46 Forum 15
issue 46 15

Building a community of learners
within and beyond prison bars

Rachel Vipond discusses

how a learning community
between students inside
and outside prison has
been created.

his year, the Department of Social collaboration with Lindsay Coomer, being the first in the UK and Europe to
Policy and Social Work launched from the People and Organisational provide such an opportunity for their
the module Social Policy, Crime Development Team, we were able to create Criminology students. Such a successful
and Criminal Justice, in conjunction with a module and a learning experience partnership between Durham University
HMP Buckley Hall. This module brought which brought people together who would and HMP Frankland inspired a number
together third year undergraduate students normally not interact. of other partnerships to form, with
studying a range of degree programmes various models being created including
at the University of York, including Social Two worlds apart? the ever-expanding Learning Together
Policy and Criminology, to learn alongside Despite seeming as if they are worlds model established by the University of
prison-based students about key aspects apart, universities and prisons are both Cambridge. It is all of these partnerships,
of social policy and how governmental institutions which strive to be individually each with differing modes of delivery,
decisions affect all our lives. and socially transformative. Both which inspired the creation of our own
The module provides students who institutions aim to invest in people and partnership with HMP Buckley Hall.
are both ‘inside’ (those in custody) and encourage individual growth. Educational Our partner prison is a category C male
‘outside’ (those at university) with a unique connections between universities and institution, which has a regime focused
experience that involves high levels of prisons are not new: in the USA the Inside/ on training. It is located on the outskirts
reflection not only on the course materials Out Prison Exchange Programme has been of Rochdale and served as the site for our
but also on the process and meaning running in a number of states since 1997 pilot Social Policy focused module.
of learning. The distinctive element of (see Davis and Roswell, 2013). The model of
the module is its ability to break down bringing students from local universities Student Recruitment
barriers created by social division, giving into prisons to jointly learn a subject in a Students from both institutions were
all students involved an insight into the shared learning experience has expanded recruited to the module identically through
lived experience of their peers. Through in recent years, with Durham University an application and interview process. The

16 Forum issue 46 | university of york


module design from the outset was to

provide as much parity between the two
sets of students as possible; this meant that
we tried to make the process of recruitment,
despite institutional barriers, the same.
Parity was important, as we did not want
to further disadvantage individuals who
were already disadvantaged by the nature
of being in prison. We were not looking for
the best academic students nor the ‘model
prisoner’; priority was given to students
who could demonstrate a dedication to
personal development and had values
akin to those of the module (openness, knowledge alongside their experiences and Celebrating Success
willingness to listen and recognition of environment all shaped their behaviour. The module was a success in many ways,
potential). We wanted a mix of students After students had completed the exercise some of which we celebrated at our own
from different backgrounds, ages and separately, they were introduced to each graduation ceremony hosted at the prison. It
other social demographics so that we had other’s responses, which showed, to their was incredibly important to celebrate each
a range of opinions and experiences in surprise, a thread of commonality between student’s success and to mark the conclusion
the classroom. them in relation to a desire to be open with of the students’ time together. The module
one another and non-judgemental. This demonstrated the power of connection and
Underpinning pedagogy formed a strong platform for us to build showed how students, despite institutional
The module and the learning experience upon as the module progressed. barriers, can move beyond them and realise
are embedded within a transformative that transformation and growth can come
learning pedagogy, which seeks to create Assessing the learning in many guises. The students on the inside
a learning space where the focus is upon The module concluded with five excellent are currently exploring further education
dialogical and experiential engagement group presentations being delivered by the opportunities and considering university
between the students and staff from students in a bid to win £50,000,000 from courses- something they say that they would
both institutions. Through prioritising the inaugural Secretary of State for Social not have done before this experience. The
shorter, summative lectures lasting no Justice for a new policy focused on one area students on the outside have graduated and
more than twenty minutes, the majority discussed across the course. Proposals moved onto employment, or are planning
of the two and a half hour session is spent included the creation of a Mental Health for postgraduate study- one of our students
engaging the students in sharing their Network, the use of abandoned buildings is even getting ready to start training as a
experiences, thoughts and opinions on a to provide emergency accommodation prison officer, something she had not even
range of different topics and issues. The for homeless people, installation of solar considered before this experience.
learning community formed between panels onto the houses of elderly people to After a successful inaugural year, the
the 15 students who participated in the tackle fuel poverty and the conception of module has now recruited its next cohort
module prioritised the sharing of students’ a basic income loan to help fund start-up of students and we are devising plans to
knowledge and life experience through businesses. Whilst all five presentations expand within Buckley Hall and beyond.
facilitator-led activities. The role of the were excellent in terms of their innovation We will continue to provide an equity
facilitator (Lindsay Coomer) was integral to and delivery, team Education’s policy and of hope and opportunity for all learners
the success of the module in that through pitch won the (albeit fictitious) money! regardless of their starting point or where
utilising his unique skillset a series Their proposal to place a mental health they currently reside; that is where higher
of ‘improbable friendships’ (Armstrong worker in each of the most deprived schools education can truly be transformative.
and Ludlow, 2019) were created whereby in the country was well considered and
students from both institutions worked passionately put forward. The end of the References
together, grappling with some of society’s module demonstrated how much progress Armstrong, R and Ludlow, A. (2019). Opening
each of the students had individually and Address, Learning Together Network Conference,
biggest problems: discrimination in
HMP Brixton, 27 June 2019.
education policy, challenges to accessing collectively made. This was further reflected
Davis, S. W., & Roswell, B. S. (Eds.). (2013). Turning
healthcare, the changing nature of in the other two module assignments Teaching Inside Out: A Pedagogy of Transformation
employment and Brexit. The key to such students had to complete, a reflective for Community-Based Education. New York, NY:
mature and informed debates was the learning log and an individual essay. Palgrave Macmillan.
time spent preparing students for what Student feedback on the module has been
the learning experience entailed. Through overwhelmingly positive, with comments
the use of ice breakers, skills training and such as: Rachel Vipond has been a
behaviour icebergs, which were delivered lecturer in the Department
both separately and jointly, a cohesive ‘It has been the happiest and most enjoyable of Social Policy and Social
time at uni. I relaxed, and learnt so much work for the past 5 years
and connected group of students was
and has built up a 3-year
formed which allowed for such tricky more!’ (York student); relationship with Buckley
and sometimes divisive subjects to be Hall Prison. Rachel is
debated. One such exercise was to explore ‘I have enjoyed this course, it opened my eyes passionate about higher education within the
a behaviour iceberg where students were into a lot of areas that need to be improved prison system. She is a firm believer in the
provision of opportunity through education
separately asked to look at how various in our country, the lecturers have all been for all no matter of background or academic
elements such as their attitudes and brilliant! One of the best things I have ability all delivered via an evidenced-based
assumptions, values and beliefs, skills and participated in ever!’ (Buckley Hall student). pedagogical approach.

university of york | issue 46 Forum 17


Partners in education:
building an education
community through authentic

problem solving
Lynda Dunlop, Clementine Beauvais, Caroline Crang and Mary Collins,
Department of Education, discuss the evolution of the STEP 1 project

TEP 1 is a compulsory component of supported by the trained facilitators, until
all undergraduate programmes in the week 7 when groups present to a not-at-
Department of Education, involving all intimidating audience of their peers,
partnership with educational charities, lecturers, facilitators and the external client,
businesses and NGOs. It was designed to from whom they receive feedback. In the
help build a sense of community amongst two years the project has been running, we
students in the Department of Education have had a creative range of presentations
whilst at the same time offering something including videos, poetry and animations,
of meaning and value to the wider and learned about a broad range of
education community. educational approaches from different
As soon as students arrive at York, they national and international contexts. The
are placed in groups to respond to an project is compulsory, but not attached to
educational challenge pitched by an external a module and not summatively assessed,
client (see boxes 1 and 2). The project takes meaning it is an opportunity for students to
place in the first term of first year of get used to the challenges of university life
Education programmes, culminating in a and to take risks in how they approach and
presentation to the client in week 7 during present academic work.
which groups make research-informed
recommendations to the client. The projects What we think the project has achieved THE CURRICULUM
demand teamwork, communication, As a result of STEP 1, all first year students FOUNDATION IN SEARCH
research and presentation skills, building are able to talk about their ability to OF A WORLD-CLASS
in graduate employability skills from the work in a team, their synthetic skills, CURRICULUM
start of the programme, building a sense of organisation, research and presentation
belonging and community, and providing skills, professionalism, and engagement Vikki Pendry from the
students with experience of authentic with external clients. The project has also Curriculum Foundation set
educational problem solving. built relationships within the cohort and students the challenge of
between students in different year groups, finding schemes, practices,
How STEP 1 works with students in second and third year able programmes or policies all
The students, in groups of 4 to 10, work to induct the first years into university level around the world, which could
with a project facilitator from Stage 2 or 3 work, both in relation to the project and more help meet the requirements of
to research and produce presentations in broadly. Education programmes have several Target 4.7 of the Sustainable
response to the question or challenge set summative assessments requiring group Development Goals for a
by the external client. Groups meet weekly, work; STEP1 provides a gentle introduction world-class curriculum. The
to working as a group – and reflecting on how students’ role was to research
best to manage the challenges associated with approaches that have been used
working with others. with teachers or students in
The second and third year facilitators other contexts (nationally and
gained training and support in managing internationally) to present the
group work and were able to provide most promising programmes,
orientation and research support to the strategies or interventions
first year students, very rarely needing to they have found to meet the
call on staff. sustainable development goal –
“I found working as a facilitator gave and the evidence used to justify
me confidence in my own knowledge and their decision.
made me aware of all I have learnt over the
course of my degree, as I felt I could make a
useful contribution to the students learning.
Further, it was very interesting to work with

18 Forum issue 46 | university of york


It is a rather daunting prospect having to embark

on a group project as one of the first things you do
at University, but having a facilitator who has a lot
of experience in university-level projects makes it a
lot less intimidating as they are there to guide you.
A student’s perspective

a team and presenting to a large audience,

and to foster a sense of community within
PATHFINDER TEACHING SCHOOLS their programmes. This year, our external
BUILDING 21ST CENTURY SKILLS client is The Philosophy Man, who is
Pathfinder (a multi-academy trust) and Pathfinder Teaching School are both interested in using stories from different
faced with the challenge of developing 21st century skills in children and cultures to stimulate philosophical inquiry
young people. Kate Sowter, deputy head of the teaching school, set students with children.
the challenge to identify approaches to education that support school pupils
to develop greater flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction,
Lynda Dunlop is Lecturer
leadership and responsibility, and resilience and problem solving capabilities. in Science Education in the
Students were asked to consider solutions that would have a long-lasting impact University of York Science
and could be reused by the school to enable the budget to stretch further. Education Group (UYSEG).
She focuses on the teaching
of philosophy and science to
children and young people, and
is interested in how young people learn through
the first years and get their perspectives group work dynamics and research basics opportunities to ask and investigate their own
and ideas, and I really enjoyed getting to before they have to do it quite literally for questions about science, for example through
know the new students which I would not themselves during their course – and with independent research projects or philosophical
have had the opportunity to do otherwise.” Pathfinder, our external link, backing it dialogue.
“It’s always awkward to be put in a senior the students took it seriously enough to put Clementine Beauvais is Senior
position, especially when those who you are together thoughtful, professional work.” Lecturer in English in Education.
working with are only separated by a year Her research revolves around
literary and cultural aspects
of university experience. This is why it was Concluding remarks of childhood and education,
important to realise that ‘facilitating’ is by Our experience of STEP 1 has been especially children’s literature,
no means mentoring – it’s so easy to want overwhelmingly positive, with a range of creative writing, literary
to take over and give them what you know creative and academic responses to real-life translation in education, and the history and
cultural sociology of childhood. She is also a
will sit properly in the project, but because educational challenges providing inspiration writer for children and young adults in French,
it’s their work you have to take one step to ourselves and our external partners – and and a literary translator from English to French.
back and trust that they know what they’re partnerships extending beyond the project.
doing. Luckily they did! What is good about Students have been able to present practical, Caroline Crang is a final year student on the BA
the project starting so early on in the year is research-informed solutions to problems Education programme, and Mary Collins
that it gives the students a quick latch on to set by clients, gain experience working in is a graduate of the BA Education programme.

university of york | issue 46 Forum 19


A blended-learning design
for data skills modules in Biology
Emma Rand, Lecturer in Biology, Provide thorough explanations that demonstrate a deep understanding of the
overcomes the challenges of principles, concepts and theories on the origin, evolution, structure, function,
development, and distribution of living organisms, through critical evaluations of the
teaching data analysis and primary scientific literature in Biology
programming to early career
Formulate hypotheses, design and execute experiments for the collection, analysis
and sometimes wary biologists. and modelling of biological data, that tests biological systems to produce figures,

graphs and tables that are explained in comprehensive laboratory report
he analysis and presentation of data
are core learning outcomes of Biology-
Thoroughly evaluate experimental, analytical and quantitative techniques and
led undergraduate programmes and
methodologies, and first-hand practical experience and training in laboratories or
a requirement for conducting biological
the field, to demonstrate an awareness and appreciation of the application of these
research. However, the combination of a
approaches in tackling the major global challenges in Biology of the 21st century
stage one biology student’s perception of
their subject and their previous learning
Work effectively as an individual, in teams and laboratory groups to solve biological
experiences can lead them to be wary of
problems by applying logical reasoning and lateral thinking to develop safe, ethical
data analysis and coding. Furthermore,
and socially responsible solutions that may benefit humankind
the cognitive processes required to learn
these skills are towards the apex of Bloom’s
taxonomy and this is in contrast to those Communicate and interpret complex information with clarity and precision through
often required to perform well in pre- critical reviews in written, oral and other explanations, questioning dogma and
demonstrating impact at the forefront of research in Biology to real-world and global
university and stage 1 assessments. This
issues for expert, professional, business, industrial and lay audiences
article discusses some challenges in teaching
data skills to students for whom it is taught
as a skill to do the research in their chosen Demonstrate independence, originality, and a deep understanding of cutting-edge
field, and describes a blended learning practice and technology in Biology, apply numerical, quantitative, and computer-
approach to meet some of those challenges. based transferable skills to a range of working environments including laboratories,
fieldwork, education, industry, business, health services, policy, government, and media
Data Skills as a core part of the Table 1.1: BSc Biology Programme Learning Outcomes.
Biologist’s training
Underlying all biological discoveries How do the challenges arise? analyse and represent their data. Every
are data! The ability to generate reliable A stage 1 biology student may expect situation is new and they must analyse it,
measures of biological phenomena then to spend the most of their time in the recognise how to apply complex skills and
analyse them and communicate the results, laboratory or the field and our Admissions evaluate the results.
is essential for a biologist. This has long pages, for example, feature students Associated with increasing levels of
been the case (see, for example: Royal working in these environments (Figure 1.1). Bloom’s taxonomy is an increase in the
Statistical Society 1947; Finney 1968), but The importance placed on data number of mistakes made. Research is
more recently an explosion of large-scale handling and analysis in a biology degree characterised by repeated rounds of ‘trial
and complex biological data has made the can therefore come as surprise and and error’ with successes being infrequent.
acquisition of data skills even more crucial not a welcome one! These subjects are This is in contrast to the one-time
(National Research Council and others recognised as among the more difficult to correction of one’s factual knowledge, and
2003). This is reflected in the Programme teach (eg, Boulay 1986), require more and tends to be more uncomfortable. One way to
Learning Outcomes for Biology-led harder work from the student and may be characterise Bloom’s taxonomy is that it is a
programmes (Table 1.1). relatively unpopular (eg, Uttl and Smibert process of becoming more comfortable with
Opportunities to develop and apply 2017). At the start of the first lecture of Data failure as a learning opportunity.
these skills are embedded across entire Analysis in R, many students do not expect
programmes but we also include modules to enjoy it with 70% disagreeing with the What’s required to meet the
with a specific focus on data analytics. statement “I will enjoy data analysis”, in challenges?
One of these is a stage one module called 2018 (Figure 1.2). Learning to programme requires a lot of
“Laboratory and Professional Skills for the The education to which they have practice. Novice programmers see many
Bioscientist” in which a term, carrying 10 primarily been exposed is towards the aspects of programming syntax such as
credits, is devoted to Data Analysis in R. foundational levels of the revised Bloom’s the use of brackets, quotes, commas and
There are 25 hours of contact time (nine taxonomy of learning (Anderson and spaces, as arbitrary and need substantial
one-hour lectures and eight two-hour Bloom 2001) whereas the acquisition of practice and exposure to start to see
workshops) and 75 hours of independent data analytic skills occurs at the levels of code as experienced practitioners do
study and assessment. The module is taken “applying”, “analysing” and “evaluating”. (Sorva 2018). This activity is well-suited to
by 250 – 280 stage 1 students. Memorising does little to help a student directed independent learning but it can

20 Forum issue 46 | university of york

Figure 1.1: Image taken from Biology Undergraduate Admissions pages

be difficult to motivate students to do to code that will be used in the workshop. carried out before the start of the module.
sufficient amounts (A’Brook and Weyers An audience response system is used to This was specifically designed to train
1996; Carey and Papin 2018). Using contact facilitate active learning which has been students in R language syntax. The aim
time to partially achieve this can increase shown to increase student performance was to make less steep the learning
engagement but does not maximise the in STEM subjects (Freeman et al. 2014). curve involved in acquiring data analytic
value of that contact time which is better Between contact points, the independent skills by including activity that did not
spent engaging with students to develop study is focused on code ‘mechanics’ require the simultaneous assimilation
their conceptual understanding and using an online tool, which gamifies code of both statistical and coding concepts.
strengthen the staff-student partnership. practice ( This one, relatively short piece of work,
home) and allows students to practice significantly reduced the level of fear
Blended learning solutions the R language syntax without having expressed about learning R (Figure 1.3).
Flipped-learning is employed throughout to simultaneously consider statistical Whilst students’ expectations of data
Data Analysis in R to help students meet concepts. The second period of weekly analysis in 2019 were unchanged from
the challenge of acquiring data skills. The contact consists of a two-hour workshop those in 2018, the percentage of students
module has a repeated weekly structure of structured data analysis problems terrified of, or worried about, R dropped
comprising periods of guided independent which require students to apply their from 67% to 26% and that of students
study interleaved with active and problem- understanding of statistical concepts using unconcerned or excited about R rose
based learning placed within contact time. R to generate analyses of biological data in from 23% to 49% Since fear of a subject
These are followed up with formative work forms suitable for a report. The problems can influence an individual’s capacity to
(Figure 1.4). are broken down into the steps required initiate and complete tasks (Onwuegbuzie
Independent study issued before the to take the problem scenario and data 2004) we might predict an increase
first contact point gives an overview of the through to conclusion and reporting. This in learning achieved. This will be the
statistical concepts covered during that activity is well supported with graduate subject of a future analysis of attainment.
week. The exercises are designed to take demonstrators. Independent study In summary, module teaching
an hour or less and vary in format. They exercises provided following the workshop comprises online, independent and face-
include videos, accessible articles and give scenarios with data for which students to-face learning activities in which the
material from online data analysis books. design an appropriate analysis workflow. independent study is guided and fully
The lecture provides a deeper coverage In 2019, I introduced a discrete unit integrated by interleaving it with
of the topic concepts and an introduction of independent study designed to be contact time.

Definitely Probably Neutral Probably Definitely

disagree disagree agree agree

Y2018 70% 16% 14%

100 50 0 50 100
Figure 1.2: Expectations of Stage 1 Biologists about Data Analysis in 2018: Responses to the question ‘I will enjoy data analysis.’ given as the first slide of
contact time slot.

university of york | issue 46 Forum 21


Definitely Probably Neutral Probably Definitely

disagree disagree agree agree

Y2019 65% 17% 18%

100 50 0 50 100

Terrified A bit Undecided Seems OK Excited


Y2019 26% 25% 49%

Y2018 67% 10% 23%

100 50 0 50 100
Figure 1.3: Expectations of Stage 1 Biologists about of Data Analysis in 2019. Responses to the question ‘I will enjoy data analysis’ follow the same pattern as
in 2018 (upper panel). However, when asked ‘How do you feel about R?’ anxiety was significantly reduced following the introduction of an independent study
activity prior to any contact time (lower panel).

References Carey, Maureen A., and Jason A. Papin. (2018). Ten (23): 8410–5.
A’Brook, Richard, and Jonathan DB Weyers. (1996). Simple Rules for Biologists Learning to Program. National Research Council and others. (2003).
Teaching of Statistics to UK Undergraduate Biology PLOS Computational Biology 14 (1): 1–11. https://doi. Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education
Students in 1995. Journal of Biological Education 30 org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005871. for Future Research Biologists. Washington, DC:
(4): 281–88. Finney, D. J. (1968). Teaching Biometry in the National Academies Press.
Anderson, Lorin W. (2001). A Taxonomy for University. Biometrics 24 (1): 1–12. http://www.jstor. Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. (2004). Academic
Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of org/stable/2528456. Procrastination and Statistics Anxiety. Assessment
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New Freeman, Scott, Sarah L. Eddy, Miles McDonough, & Evaluation in Higher Education 29 (1): 3–19. https://
York: Longman. Michelle K. Smith, Nnadozie Okoroafor, Hannah
Boulay, Benedict Du. (1986). Some Difficulties Jordt, and Mary Pat Wenderoth. (2014). Active Royal Statistical Society. (1947). Report on the
of Learning to Program. Journal of Educational Learning Increases Student Performance Teaching of Statistics in Universities and University
Computing Research 2 (1): 57–73. https://doi. in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. Colleges. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 110
org/10.2190/3LFX-9RRF-67T8-UVK9. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (1): 51–57.
Sorva, Juha. (2018). Misconceptions and the
Structure of a week Beginner Programmer. Computer Science Education:
Perspectives on Teaching and Learning in School, 171.
Uttl, Bob, and Dylan Smibert. (2017). Student
Evaluations of Teaching: Teaching Quantitative
Independent Lecture Independent Workshop Independent Courses Can Be Hazardous to One’s Career. PeerJ 5
study study study
(May): e3299.
Data analysis Data analysis Concept Applying Data Data anlysis
Concept Concept delve practice Analysis methods consolidation
Overview § Polls § Online tools § Guided exercises § Problems Emma Rand is a Teaching
§ Video § Apps § Many 'tutors' § Concepts and & Scholarship lecturer in
§ Reading application the department of Biology,
the University of York. She
specialises in experimental
design and reproducible
data science from pre-
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 processing and exploration to statistical
analysis and visualisation. She was an
Hours invited tutor at useR! 2019, the International
R Conference, and a trainer for the Royal
Figure 1.4: The structure of a ‘Data Analysis in R’ week. There are two periods of contact: a lecture Society of Biology and The Biochemical
covering statistical concepts and a workshop putting those concepts in to practice in R. The contact Society. She is twice the winner of YUSU’s
periods are interleaved with guided independent study which focusses on the conceptual overview, code Teacher of the Year Excellence Award.
practice and the independent application of both to complex problems.

22 Forum issue 46 | university of york


Building the
University of the Future
in partnership with our students
The Department of Sociology worked with a student intern to create a ideas were honed to become practical and
deliverable – not just an unachievable or
four-day programme of skills and careers activities at the beginning of conflicting wish-list!
Spring Term. Sam Bayley, Sociology’s Department Manager, oversaw Students are often more honest and
direct with each other than they might feel
the project and reported back to the Learning and Teaching Forum. comfortable being with members of staff;
using an intern as an honest broker for
What is University of the Future? theme. Students benefited from learning feedback was therefore invaluable. Students’
University of the Future was a four-day long vocational skills that might not explicitly informal networks are also much more
programme of events, open to all Sociology link to a Sociology programme (such as effective at getting messages across than
undergraduates, which asked our students financial planning) and from practising emails and VLE announcements – essential
to work in teams to create a new university skills (such as presenting) in a safe, non- when it comes to getting engagement with
for the city of York. The programme assessed environment. There was also non-mandatory activities.
interwove various skills and careers the opportunity to meet with potential Most of our students haven’t taught, and
sessions alongside sociological content, to employers, including KPMG and PwC. very few will ever have been shown “the
allow students to apply this learning to a right way” to teach: this means they are
scenario. Everything was pulled together Participation and outcomes working within a different paradigm, which
by an undergraduate student intern, Sarah Around 65 students joined us for the first encourages creativity both for the students
Luty, who developed an information pack day of University of the Future, with over and for staff working with them.
and secured a range of fantastic speakers 50 completing the four-day programme.
and facilitators from both inside and 82% of students expressed satisfaction What do interns learn from
outside the University. with the event, with nobody expressing partnering with us?
dissatisfaction in our feedback survey. Although the skills which students most
Why run University of the Future? Teams presented their university value from a project of this nature will
The programme came into being to proposals to an expert panel with prizes vary a little by discipline, the process of
address a numBer of frustrations for the available for a range of criteria. The panel planning, delivering, and reflecting on the
Department: was chaired by the Registrar of London internship is likely to be useful for many
Metropolitan University, who remarked on students. The interns we have worked with
n We were not seeing students in the first
the outstanding presentations and student through various projects have all reported
week of term and this felt like a lost
empathy for how universities operate. a confidence boost from working in a
We also learnt a thing or two about professional environment; they have learnt
n Our careers events were typically an to work on their feet; and they can manage
what students want and expect from their
hour long which left little room to universities and hopefully inspired some of projects and their own time more effectively.
develop ideas or ask students to apply them to consider working in the sector in One thing that our interns told us was
them in depth (and nobody turned up); the future! useful to them was the process of debriefing
n Student feedback suggested a lack of with staff members who understood the
community feel around the Department, Why partner with a student intern? work they had been doing and who could
with no opportunity to mix with We’re convinced that this event would not help with drawing out examples, which
students from other year groups. have been as successful without the input could be “translated” into attributes to
of our fantastic intern. Her fresh eyes on talk about on job applications. Although
We had the idea to try and corral the Department’s offer provided a new academic supervisors often do this with
together a number of the careers-based perspective and allowed students to tell us their students, there was a real benefit in
events and over time this developed into a what they want to learn. As Sarah knew that having somebody involved who has seen the
more coherent “programme” with a core she would have to deliver a programme, her individual working first-hand.

Sam Bayley is the

Department Manager in the
Department of Environment
& Geography. In his previous
role as Department Manager
in Sociology, he implemented
a number of initiatives
aimed at improving the sense of departmental
community and helping students develop
key transferable skills to complement their
academic studies. An alumnus of York, Sam is
a member of University Council and Trustee of
the Association of University Administrators.

university of york | issue 46 Forum 23


Piloting students
as consultants
in the Department of English and Related Literature
Introduction The ‘Students as Consultants’ pilot working in partnership to explore teaching
Developing learning communities through In late 2018, YUSU approached the practices through the lens of decolonising
student-staff partnerships requires us Department to explore piloting a the curriculum. All the students that came
to problematise what Freire called the ‘students as partners’ project in the forward, except one, were from BAME
banking model of education (as cited in Spring Term of academic year 2018-2019. backgrounds. We recruited students from
Cook-Sather, 2010), where teachers deposit Based on the Department’s commitment the Department so they had some level of
knowledge in students and where teaching to critically reflecting on coloniality disciplinary knowledge and could engage
is for teachers and learning for students. and race, we decided the most effective critically with the content. We chose not
This shift to seeing students as agents in approach would be to bring students to partner students with staff who were
teaching and learning has the potential and staff together around a common teaching them (or would do so in the near
to develop reciprocal relationships, where commitment to fostering racially critical, future), as we wanted conversations to range
students participate as co-learners, co- inclusive and diverse classrooms (Cook- freely outside of conventional classroom
evaluators, co-developers and co-creators Sather 2019). power relations. As there were more
within learning communities. We agreed a ‘Students as Consultants students than staff, two of the partnerships
Over the last year, YUSU has been (SaC)’ approach had the most potential consisted of two students and one tutor.
working with a small number of in terms of supporting academic staff to The partners met to agree which sessions
departments to pilot a range of student- see their teaching from students’ diverse were to be observed; key themes; how
staff partnership approaches. YUSU angles of vision. While academics are discussions were going to be recorded; and
was keen to provide opportunities to disciplinary experts, students are experts what resources (reading lists, module guide,
students and staff that were educationally in their learning, their experiences in session plans etc) the staff member was
purposeful and resistant to neoliberal the classroom and their engagement going to provide beforehand.
approaches to ‘the student voice’, which with concepts. The nine students observed their staff
often position students as data sources To establish these ideas from the partners between three and six times
rather than equal partners. outset, YUSU delivered near identical during Spring Term (2018-2019), took
One such pilot was the ‘Students as training workshops for the seven detailed notes and met with their partners
Consultants’ project in the Department of academic staff members and nine to discuss potential improvements, areas
English and Related Literature. Inspired by students who volunteered to participate. of good practice and any actions relating to
the longstanding ‘Students as Learners and The workshops included: decolonising their teaching. The students
Teachers’ (SaLT) program at Bryn Mawr n Where the project came from and its were encouraged – with varying degrees of
College, Pennsylvania, as well as a similar key aims; take up – to meet with YUSU staff to discuss
project at the University of Sheffield, YUSU progress, support needs and any actions
n The intellectual basis of ‘Students arising from their discussions. YUSU also
and the English Department developed a
as Consultants’, namely, the idea met with staff periodically to hear about
teaching observation pilot, with students
of teacher-student with student- their experiences and what they were
observing staff teaching in order to
teacher (Freire, 1968) and the exploring with students.
develop teaching and the curriculum. The
benefits of challenging traditional At the end of the project we asked
Department’s priority was to encourage
classroom power imbalances through students and staff to report on their
critical reflections on race and diversity
partnership approaches that value discussions, learning and any ideas for
in teaching practice, benefitting from
student and staff perspectives on improvements they discussed with their
students’ unique perspectives (Cook-
learning and teaching, equally; partners. We also held a roundtable
Sather, 2008).
n Models of teaching observation and to reflect collectively on learning for
The key aims were: reflection; students, staff and the Department, and
n To facilitate open dialogue and n Discussions about race in HE, the BAME the project featured at a departmental
increase empathy between students attainment gap and ‘hidden curricula’; Teaching Away Day.
and staff; n A timeline for the project, including
suggested dates for the teaching
Reflections and learning
n To provide practical insights to inform
The learning and reflections produced
and enhance inclusive teaching observations and expectations in
by the pilot were not intended to be silver
practices; terms of reporting.
bullets for either student-staff partnership
n To provide opportunities for both Participants were self-selecting, but projects or creating decolonised
partners to develop personally and when promoting the project we emphasised classrooms. These reflections emerged
professionally. we were looking for those interested in from the unique dialogues that seven

24 Forum issue 46 | university of york


was more meaningful than Course

Reps, and feedback suggested that
the ‘SaC’ approach enabled students
and staff to engage in richer dialogue
and identify ways in which teaching
practice could better
support learning.
n The process of intentionally entering
into exchanges about race, coloniality
and diversity with students offered
unique insights into classroom
dynamics, student and staff identities
and how to address diversity in both
academics had with nine student partners. West African words/origin: banana,
pedagogy and curricula. The dialogical
They are starting points for YUSU and the apartheid, Coffee – Ethiopian, Jive and
and reciprocal ethos of‘SaC’ fit well
Department as we consider what might be Jazz from Wolof language (Gambia/
with the theme of decolonising, as
required to create decolonised curricula Senegal), Tango – Niger/Congo, Zombie –
it generated strong respect for one
and pedagogies through partnership. Central Africa. Shows the language
another’s experiences and perspectives
trade wasn’t passive and that Africans
The following stood out as key themes: and increased students’ awareness
contributed, not just accepted (Student);
Working in partnership deepened student of the challenges faced by teachers in
n Through the project, I have come to the terms of negotiating power dynamics.
and staff capacities to be reflective about
conclusion that as a white British woman
learning and teaching n Keeping students engaged throughout
I need to think of myself as an ally and
n It challenged me to look from a a term long partnership project was
be very careful not to project myself as
teacher’s perspective at seminars, challenging. For others considering
a saviour. Intersectional feminism is
especially noticing the dynamics which a student-staff partnership it
crucial in this regard, and I need to keep
go along with leading and facilitating is important to recognise time
in mind Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s
discussions. I was shown that personal constraints for students and
warning not to ‘speak for’ the other (Staff
preference plays a considerable role in academics. Moreover, it is also
how teaching works (student); important to explore incentives and
n They did an excellent job of addressing ways of recognising student and staff
n I’ve learned the value and pleasure of the different races within the novel, participation in partnership projects.
discussing teaching with undergraduate discussing the discrimination that
students. I’ve learned the importance occurs, and finally, relating to situations Thanks to the students and staff from
of pace, variety, and careful pitch of within the novel to our modern lives the Department of English and Related
questions (staff member); (Student). Literature and the YUSU Student Voice
n Some of the most important things I Team – who all worked in partnership to
have learnt are, first, that the language Staff clearly identified the benefits of the
make this project happen.
used in seminars can be intimidating. new angles students can bring to their
For example, if you use the icebreaker teaching practice
of what books they like, that can be n I’m more conscious of the different Cook-Sather, A. 2008. “What You Get Is Looking in
about cultural capital (Bourdieu) (staff perspectives students may bring to bear a Mirror, Only Better’: Inviting Students to Reflect
(on) College Teaching.” Reflective Practice 9 (4):
member). on a given topic, including experience of 473–483.
other disciplinary pedagogies;
Students and staff were able to identify Cook-Sather, A (2010). Students as learners and
n I have learnt that students are more teachers: taking responsibility, transforming
positive practice and recommend education, and redefining accountability.
interested in reflexivity than I would
purposeful improvements relating to Curriculum Inquiry, 40:4, 555-575.
have thought and that they can input
decolonising pedagogies and curricula: Cook-Sather, A & Motz-Storey, D (2019). Viewing
very productively into the classroom
n The use of weekly questions, use of Teaching and Learning from a New Angle: Student
experience. I’ve learnt that establishing a Consultants’ Perspectives on Classroom Practice,
presentations and individual tasks bidirectional relationship is key early on; College Teaching, 64:4, 168-177.
challenged students to engage with the
n A text can be made to reflect on race, Freire, P (1968). Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
texts. To improve, I would encourage [Chapter 2-3 accessed at: http://commons.
gender and diversity issues even if these
examining how Black and Asian authors
are not major themes of the text or the uploads/sites/17/2016/07/freire_pedagogy_of_the_
have creatively written about the
author. oppresed_ch2-3.pdf
Victorian era (Student);
n I’ve planned some reshaping of the Implications and future promise
curriculum to foreground Empire and Implications for student-staff Nicholas Glover is YUSU’s
“race” more, and hope to vary the pace of partnerships. Student Voice and Insight
my teaching more (Staff member); Manager, with a background
n Although there were challenges in in critical approaches to
n How the spread of English came about terms of engagement, especially in student engagement in
was mentioned. Perhaps speak about relation to gathering reflections at higher education. He is
how other countries gave back to English, the end of the project, students and particularly interested
in the theory and practice of Students as
making English what it is today. Give staff clearly valued the experience of Partners and the potential of student-staff
reference to examples of words taken working on a partnership project. One partnerships to resist neoliberal approaches
from African and Asian languages eg staff member reflected that the project to ‘the student voice’.

university of york | issue 46 Forum 25


IN THE DESIGN OF Marina N. Cantarutti, a GTA
in the Department of Language

MODULE MATERIALS: and Linguistic Science, reflects

upon her experience involving

An experience in using students in creating seminar

task “answer keys” through

Google Docs in seminars

collaborative work with
Google Docs.

Introduction experience seminars, revisit procedures, the layout in some of the PC rooms was
The university seminar is a space where and for the tutor to have a clearer idea not inviting. Opportunities for real
knowledge and skills consolidation are of student progress while engaging in collaboration had to be created in such
built through interaction with peers “live” but less exposing forms of feedback. a way that students could interact with
and a tutor. It is also an opportunity This article will informally review an each other while also working on an
for the tutor to gauge levels of student experience in using Google Docs during output.
understanding and their engagement seminars for the final-year module “The The seminar tasks were designed by
with the subject and its procedures. Prosody of English” in the Department previous module convenors so, as a GTA
Depending on the module, seminars of Language and Linguistic Science to in a temporary convenor role, I decided
may involve different dynamics and, involve students as partners (Healey, 2016) to change the method of delivery rather
particularly in some Linguistics subjects, in the design of task keys. than the task itself. Seminar tasks early
exercises requiring students to come in the module involved the retrieval of
up with the “right” answers. Therefore, Google Docs and the collaborative key information from highly-technical
it may prove difficult at times to make design of “task keys” texts, whereas from week 5 students
students feel the seminar is a “safe In the module The Prosody of English, were engaged in data transcription and
space” to engage in conversation and students learn technical skills to perceive analysis tasks.
collaboration. Making sure that students and measure aspects of the intonation The early seminars got students
participate actively and feel ready to take of English and to analyse recorded data working on their bibliography, and
risks is, then, one of the many challenges on the basis of different theoretical each group was assigned a reading or a
seminar tutors face. models. Because of this, all seminars and concept and an easy link to a Google
Moreover, seminars are generally practicals take place in PC classrooms. Form/Slides/Doc. The first seminar
not lecture-captured and may be seen This proved a challenge when attempting invited students to complete a Google
as experiential or discovery spaces by to engage students in group work, as Form with key definitions that had to be
students, but, in reality, they are sessions
which are actually consequential for
the development of skills and content
assessed in end-of-term essays and exams.
Often, after the seminar has taken
place, module leaders provide a key to
the activities on the VLE as a means of
leaving a record of what is “expected”.
As has been reported for lecture capture
(Edwards & Clinton, 2019), students
may be tempted to use this key as a
replacement for seminar attendance.
This short article will show how,
instead of a lecturer-designed key,
engaging students in producing and
publishing a collaboratively-achieved
product at the end of the seminar has
proven a useful way for students to re- Figure 1: Examples of collaborative student work on a) Google Forms; b) Google Slides; c) Google Docs

26 Forum issue 46 | university of york


cited. The second seminar involved the

use of Google Slides, where key concepts
in the bibliography had to be illustrated It was inspiring to see students distribute roles, with
graphically, one per slide. The third
seminar invited collaborative completion
some creating the pitch analysis figures, others
and illustration of some comparative working on the transcription, and other team
dimensions put forward in the
reading. Due to time constraints, these members working on theoretical accounts, as they
productions only received oral feedback
from the lecturer, and this was lecture- collaboratively discussed the resolution of the tasks.
captured. All materials and comments
were added to the VLE as session records,
but it is recognised that a better use of
these collaborative resources will need
to be made in future iterations of the
module to avoid student reliance on tutor make adjustments towards an improved through Google Docs have been described
validation and to involve students in peer version of the analysis. Figure 2 shows widely, as have its shortcomings (eg see
feedback. Figure 1 (on previous page) how different students (marked in Firth & Mesureur 2010; Blau & Caspi
shows some of the first-draft outputs of different colours by the “History” feature 2009). The opportunity to use Google
these sessions. of Google Docs) worked on different Docs during seminars in a way that does
The most exciting and most effective aspects of the task and made corrections not preclude face-to-face interaction with
use of Google Docs happened during after receiving feedback within and the tutor and peers, and which offers
the data analysis sessions, starting in outside the seminar session. written synchronous but not exposing
the fourth seminar. All students were At the end of each week, students feedback, has proven to be invaluable. It
given the same data and two questions would then have a copy of a resolved enabled students to take an active and
to answer, and each group picked one. It exercise with my own comments and committed role in designing materials
was inspiring to see students distribute some post-session advice input on a for the module in preparation for their
roles, with some creating the pitch different colour, available on the VLE. exams so that their joint attempts
analysis figures, others working on the Students were thus made co-responsible would become a “key” to the activities,
transcription, and other team members for designing instructional materials for it allowed students to self-organise as
working on theoretical accounts, as the course while attempting the (exam- teams and offer each other feedback,
they collaboratively discussed the like) tasks. Collaboration was taken and it provided the tutor with important
resolution of the tasks. During the first beyond the seminar: one of the students information as to what content or skills
part of the session, I would walk around, accomplishing a good output figure of the required further support, which could be
answering questions and offering help phenomena under study offered his own acted upon on the spot.
when students appeared confused. Later preparation files as a Google Drive link
in the session, as the first answers as a comment on the document. References
cropped up on the Google Docs, my Students attended the sessions, Blau, I. & Caspi, A., 2009. What type of
collaboration helps? Psychological ownership,
support would be input as comments, got actively involved solving the
perceived learning and outcome quality of
providing feedback in real time which exercises, and demonstrated autonomy collaboration using Google Docs. In Proceedings
was acted upon immediately by students, in their groupwork, consulting each of the Chais conference on instructional
who would tackle any issues and click other and seeking advice from peers technologies research. pp. 48–55.
“resolve” on my comments to leave a new, before requesting the tutor’s help. The Edwards, M.R. & Clinton, M.E., 2019. A study
documents were frequently consulted exploring the impact of lecture capture
improved version “on record”. Some data
availability and lecture capture usage on student
analysis was carried over to the next after the sessions, as the reports attendance and attainment. Higher Education,
session, and students would then take demonstrate. 77(3), pp.403–421.
some time to address my comments and The benefits of collaborative work Firth, M. & Mesureur, G., 2010. Innovative uses for
Google Docs in a university. Jalt call journal, 6(1),
Healey, M., 2016. Students as Partners and
Change Agents in learning and teaching in
higher education.

Marina N. Cantarutti is a
PhD student and GTA in the
Department of Language
and Linguistic Science,
researching prosody and
gesture in co-productions in
interaction. She lectures in
The Prosody of English and is a seminar tutor
in Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology.
She holds 10 years’ teaching experience in
Higher Education, having lectured in Phonetics
in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Figure 2: Examples of collaborative solving of the tasks in seminars 4 and 5 (students’ names anonymised)

university of york | issue 46 Forum 27

the back page

Support, development and recognition for

organises an exciting series of one- DEVELOPMENT (YPAD) LEARNING (TEL)
off workshops and events, delivered SCHEME Technology enhanced learning
and facilitated by experienced The YPAD scheme is based upon refers to the use of online systems
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Workshops are open to all staff and for Teaching policy, and involves teaching activities. TEL support at
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The current range of activities level of responsibility for teaching
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of seminars designed to engage ANNUAL LEARNING AND
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AWARD FOR TEACHING Teaching Conference is now open! The
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28 Forum issue 46 | university of york

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