Sharing notes on the ESLTIS18 conference

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I was lucky enough to present HCA’s re-fabricate project at Bristol University last week as part of  the Enhancing student learning through innovative scholarship conference.

I’m pleased to say that I learned a great deal at the conference, with presentations from a wide range of disciplines and institutions. Plus, the conference trialled a new ‘snapshot’ format; five minute talks followed by group critical discussions. There was a lot to take in but it was great to have this dialogue to help reflect on the key ideas presented.

Some key ideas taken from the conference included those on the link between student satisfaction and a sense of community by Derek Raine and Sarah Gretton (University of Leicester). Key points I took was that if we create opportunities for low stakes group work, low stakes assessment and for students to work together then this builds a sense of community that supports student engagement.

Another project that I will certainly be using as inspiration within HCA is the University of Bristol’s innovative approach to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. Ann Padley’s presentation showed how design thinking principles can be used to support students as part of a spiral curriculum which encourages and scaffolds collaboration, building up their abilities to work autonomously with higher-stakes projects.

Sarah Graham and Katherine Hadjipetrou’s research project into mental toughness ( Newcastle University) was also enlightening, using positive psychology with an emphasis on mental wellness to support students in transition. This introduced me to ideas around wellbeing which I wasn’t aware of, including the 4C’s model of mental toughness.

We also heard about the critical importance of introducing students to research concepts in L4 through non-assessed units and how this can be approached through peer-to-peer learning (Naim Dahnoun, University of Bristol). What was particularly interesting about this project is how it highlighted that the meaning of ‘research’ is hugely complex and often mis-interpreted by new undergraduates who are still exploring what it might mean.

Further presentations showed us the value not just of digital gamification to make learning interesting but the value of board games (Sara Marsham and Alison Graham, University of Newcastle).

Later sessions from Ann Pullen (University of Bristol) shared great practice around co-delivering essential careers advice with the careers service, including peer reviewing of CV’s and panel interviews for students. Likewise, Ann’s advice around how discipline-specific knowledge is delivered alongside transferable knowledge (in this caseteaching students presentation skills) was hugely informative. Again, this was all about building  providing carefully crafted opportunities for students to practice essential skills that combine these different types of knowledge in order to support graduate futures.

This reminded me of an earlier presentation from Sarah Kelly and Sheena Warman, University of Bristol which considered how feedback can best be used to support workbased learning – key points being that feedback must also feed forward and that verbal, contemporaneous feedback as part of a dialogue with students is one of the most effective methods we can use.

I’ve just picked out a few key points from my day, which illustrates not only how interesting and various the presentations were but also how much knowledge-exchange went on in this inclusive and diverse space. I hope that there will be a space for further reflection and critical discussion as we carry these innovations back to our home institutions. What particularly stood out for me is how the less-formal feel to the day supported engagement and exchange of ideas from very different disciplines and contexts, linked with a curiosity to innovate around how we support our students to learn.




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