Does attendance at lectures matter? An accidental case study

There is a lot of discussion in the University sector at the moment about student engagement and attendance at lectures. I know that several institutions (including my own) have ongoing pedagogic projects trying to ascertain why there has been a decline in the number of people turning up for face-to-face teaching sessions.

I was faced in March with the dispiriting spectacle of turning up to give one of my second year lectures and finding the room considerably under-populated. The attendance monitoring system suggests that there were 66 out of 185 students present, so that would be about 36%, so a smidge over a third (and this is before we get into the rising phenomenon of “swipe-n-go” students who log their attendance… then don’t!). Yes it was the last lecture in the entire module, yes there were probably looming deadlines in other modules, but part of my frustration at the level of absenteeism was borne out of the fact that I knew that my 15 mark Short Answer Question for the summer exam was based on the content of this session. I was therefore intrigued to see how the students would get on – would there be reams of blank pages (the outcome that leaves academics with mixed feelings – disappointment at missed learning, offset by a guilty acknowledgement that their marking burden is reduced)? Continue reading

Why I take exception to “Exceptional”

Emerging from our University library a few days ago I was struck by the sunshine glinting off a vinyl banner located near the main entrance. In keeping with many institutions, our campus and nearby roads, are home to many such signs used as opportunities to convey motivational messages to current students or to celebrate past successes for the benefit, primarily, of applicants we are hoping to persuade to make us firm choice for their education from the start of the next academic year.

sign

The observant will note: (a) this was not taken on the sunny day mentioned in the text and (b) my thumb is intentionally obscuring the name of the student quoted

As I looked more closely, I registered the phrasing on the banner – “The teaching is exceptional”, it declared, attributing the quote (by first name only) to a recent graduate. I recognised the name, she is a studious Asian woman, who had completed one of our bioscience programmes a year or two ago. Continue reading

Where’s the flippin’ flipping?

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment around the notion of “flipped teaching” or the “flipped classroom”. The common thread is the requirement (or opportunity) for students to do some kind of course-related work on their own, away from the classroom setting.

LCnotFC

However, there’s a problem. Some people may think I’m being picky, but I believe that sloppy usage of the phrase “flipped teaching” is significantly muddying the waters. Specifically, I worry that the notions of flipped teaching and “lecture capture” are being conflated, to the detriment of careful examination of both.

In recent days I’ve had cause to read two different articles purporting to be about flipped teaching. In both cases, the work described a comparison of attendance at a live lecture versus watching a recording of the lecture. These are investigations of the potential impact of lecture capture, but they are NOT flipped teaching. Flipping the classroom requires that there is still some face-to-face classroom task. Advocates for this approach, of which I am one, would argue that the point of moving some of the activities out of the face-to-face session is to require (or at least encourage) students to have engaged in some preparatory work that makes the subsequent contact time richer and (probably) more interactive than a traditional lecture would have been. But there has still got to be some real world encounter between an academic and their students.

Now there is clearly overlap between lecture capture technology and flipped teaching. Tools such as Panopto can be efficient ways to prepare short videos to be watched before the face-to-face session. But not all flipped classroom preparation is necessarily video based (it might, for example, involve reading something instead). Equally, giving students the opportunity to watch a recording of a lecture they missed is a valuable catch-up tool, but this is not flipped teaching per se.

 

What characterises “quality” in ethics education?

I recently read Ercan Avci‘s 2017 paper Learning from experiences to determine quality in ethics education (International Journal of Ethics Education 2:3-16). Avci, from Duquesne University, conducted a literature review looking for shared characteristics in peer-reviewed, full text articles with “ethics education”, “ethics teaching” or “ethics learning” in the title and “ethics” or “ethics education” in the keywords during the period 2010-2015 (which the author describes as the “the last five years”, though it looks like six years to me). A total of 34 papers were examined, drawn from 11 academic disciplines and 10 countries (plus 3 international studies). As one might anticipate, the USA was the most represented geographical context, and healthcare (Nursing, Medicine, etc) was the discipline with the highest number of studies. I was a little surprised to see that none of the reports were from the UK.

As the author himself points out, this is a rather eclectic mix of settings. This might be spun either as an advantage (e.g. capturing diversity) or as a limitation (when it comes to drawing universal lessons). Notwithstanding these issues, Avci makes a number of important observations, some of which resonate with my own experience (e.g. see the Notes for the Tutor section, p16 onwards, in my contribution to the 2011 book Effective Learning in the Life Sciences).

AVCI

Taking a step back, there is an initial question before examining the quality of any ethics programme, namely is ethics being taught at all? It is apparent that many courses – even in Medicine, even in the States – do not include a formal ethics component. However, a broad range of subjects are now including some ethics in their teaching. Continue reading

Some tips for developing online educational repositories

As part of my work enthusing about the use of broadcast media in teaching, I am in the process of writing a guide to the use of Learning on Screen’s Box of Broadcasts resource. However my reflections on this project, coupled with the development of other blog-based resources such as Careers After Biological Science, set me thinking about some more generic recommendations for anyone thinking of setting up an online collection of educational resources. These crystallised quite naturally into a series of questions to ask oneself about the purpose, scope and authorship of the materials.

On the advice of a couple of colleagues, I submitted this to the Association for Learning Technology blog. I was delighted when they accepted it, since members of that community are likely to be developing similar resources. My self-check questions can be found via this link.

altcblog

 

The NSS and Enhancement (Review)

Coverage of the findings from the recent, new style, National Student Survey drew my attention to the Making it count report for the Higher Education Academy, coordinated by Alex Buckley (I’m afraid I’ve lost details of who pointed me towards the report, so cannot offer credit where credit is due).

make it countMaking it count is not new, it was published by the HEA in 2012, and therefore predates both the new-NSS and the introduction of the TEF. Nevertheless I found it a fascinating and worthwhile read – hence this reflective summary.

As most readers of this blog will know, the UK National Student Survey was introduced in 2005 and draws inspiration from the Australian Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ), which had been in use since the early 1990s. From inception until 2016 there were a standard set of 23 questions in the NSS (see this link for complete list). The questions were all positively phrased and students in their final year were invited to respond using a standard five-point scale from “definitely agree” through “mostly agree”, “neither agree or disagree”, “mostly disagree” to “definitely disagree”  (“not applicable” was also an option). Following extensive consultation, the questions were changed for the first time in 2017. A total of 27 questions were included, with some original questions retained, some rephrased and some brand new added (see this link for 2017 questions). Continue reading

Capturing more than lectures with “lecture capture” technology (paper review)

The July 2017 edition of British Journal of Educational Technology includes a pilot study The value of capture: Taking an alternative approach to using lecture capture technologies for increased impact on student learning and engagement investigating the potential to exploit lecture capture technologies for the production of teaching resources over and above recording of lectures per se.

BJET

I was keen to read this paper because I am already using Panopto (the same software used in the study) as a means to generate short “flipped classroom” videos on aspects of bioethics which, it is hoped, students will watch before participating in a face-to-face session. I have also produced some ad hoc materials (which author Gemma Witton terms “supplementary materials”), for example to clarify a specific point from my lectures about which several students had independently contacted me. Furthermore, I have also written some reflections on the impact lecture capture is already having on our courses (see Reflecting on lecture capture: the good, the bad and the lonely). Continue reading

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