Thursday, 22 April 2010

LJMU Learning and Teaching Conference 2010 - Tuesday pm

After lunch it was time for a bit of mind mapping - well learning about how mind mapping was used with English students. Kate Walchester talked about how mind maps were used as part of a staff research project and a Level 3 independent study module. Level 1 students were asked to create a map in groups exploring what it meant to be an English student. They could use text, symbols, pictures - it was completely open to them. What was demonstrated by the maps was that students have complex lives in which study is only a part. All aspects are integrated and we need to take this into consideration, we can't see study as a distinct aspect. The exercise allowed them to target some of the common anxieties

  • making friends - created an English society
  • huge assignments - led to some year long modules
  • lectures and note taking - tried different lecturing strategies

The Level 3 students led the task with the Level 1s and they commented on how much more focused on particular careers the current first years seemed to be - more than they were when they were in first year. It could be the current climate that accounts for a more strategic approach to university but we don't know. The maps can be used to help students realise their expectations. Where there is a discrepancy between what their expectations are and what staff know English to be they can see where the student is likely to be challenged. For the Level 3 students, they have been thinking about thinking - thinking about their subject and what it means to study their subject.

The next session was led by Alex Irving from the Liverpool Screen School and looked at the harnessing the power of metaphor in HE. She argued that metaphorical language is generally valued less than the literal and yet we talk about the need to be creative. Creativity is seen as a way to manage and cope with the rate of change that is currently happening. Can we teach creativity and creative thought? In an attempt to unlock creativity in students leg serious play and labyrinths were used. Students built a metaphorical model of their own identity. It's argued that learning happens when we create something external to ourselves. Level 3 journalism students created models of their learning journey, past present and future.

The labyrinth encourages mindful meditation. It is different to a maze (something I didn't realise) as it has one path that meanders into the centre and then back out again - so it's a meditative walk. I thought we could do with one of these and wondered if it would help with my attempts at mindfulness, which I'm finding pretty hard right now.

Very interesting - I think we should ditch PowerPoint at the next officers day and get the Lego out.

More coffee and then time for more sessions. The first was Jim Turner showing us the innovative learning spaces that have been created around LJMU. He looked at how the different aspects of the Physical, social and cultural act together to aid (or not) learning. Rooms can be amplifiers amplifying the social and cultural aspects, whether good or bad. The aim was to create spaces that aided learning. The students interviewed gave positive feedback on the use of the new rooms. In general space can improve the well being in the group which affects the level of learning. It looks like we have some really interesting spaces in LJMU that provide more opportunities for different ways of learning, than the traditional lecture style. I think we need more of these spaces and I hope the work of the group continues because some rooms across the university are incredibly difficult to work in.

The last presentation of the day was led by Martyn Stewart and Sue Piddock Jones looking at the forgotten students - the 2nd year students. They talked about the "sophomore slump" phenomena which students grades dip in their second year and then rise again in the 3rd year. They are aiming to research whether this happens across disciplines or whether some areas are bucking the trend, thereby giving possible solutions to the problem. Sue talked about the Sport Development course where the sophomore slump doesn't happen. They take a different approach:

  • a 5 week transition period in year 1
  • personal tutor - pdp module, focusing on learning at your best, goal setting and reflection
  • problem based learning module at the start of level 2 (transition again)
  • worked based learning at the start of year 2 for 4 weeks
  • options modules in year 2

Other things to consider are:

  • assessments in year 2
  • marking in relation to level "twoness"
  • expectations at level 2 (staff and students -do they match?)
  • transition to more independent learning
  • curriculum content and delivery

The other question to ask is: is it all about level specific strategies or building bridges between the levels?

An excellent first day - day 2 report coming soon

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