Teaching Tips - A taste of success

18 March 2016 - By: Sara Marsham

Teaching Tips - A taste of success

By Sara Marsham, Newcastle University

On behalf of the SEB+ Committee I attended the Promoting and Sharing Excellence in Higher Education Teaching meeting in January, hosted by The Physiological Society in collaboration with the British Pharmacological Society and the Royal Society of Biology. The long journey from Newcastle to London started early but positively – there is nothing like a hot chocolate to warm up a cold morning. A short walk from King’s Cross to Hodgkin Huxley House brought me to the home of The Physiological Society. We were welcomed by Blair Grubb, Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee of The Physiological Society before Manasi Nandi delivered her plenary session. As a Marine Ecologist I was a little wary as to how much I would understand, but Manasi presented an overview of her teaching practices and how she has embedded online learning tools. Her comment comparing complex laboratory practicals with a novice chef making a soufflé definitely struck a chord and her advice that online tools need to be introduced, used and explained by academics rather than just leaving them for students to figure out can be applied to any discipline. 

Adding Flavour

Dave Lewis (Leeds University) introduced the swap shop sessions where presenters had seven minutes to share an aspect of their teaching. Many of the eight talks covered teaching technologies and online learning, such as using TurningPoint, physiological computer simulations and online tutorials for large cohorts. We learnt about students using private self-tests with Certainty Based Marking, the introduction of PDPs in the early stages of programmes, the impact of personalised feedback, and students completing Objective Structured Practical Examinations (OSPEs) to consolidate practical skills. An interesting point from the OSPE presentation – practicals are often taught by small numbers of academics with no back-up in the case of an emergency! It made me realise this is often the case and it may be wise to have some resilience. The final presenter spoke about flipped lectures. Nick Freestone (Kingston University) showed a video explaining what he had done, and his student’s thoughts on the flipped scenario. The feedback from the students was positive, contrasting the advice Nick had received before he introduced this, which was that students were reluctant to engage with flipped lectures. While sharing of experiences and practice is extremely valuable, sometimes we just have to take that step and go for it!

The lunch break offered the opportunity to present posters, and I shared some work I am involved in at Newcastle University on the use of GradeMark and engaging students with the marking process. The posters offered an informal opportunity to speak to more people and follow up on questions from the morning session.

Recipe for Success

The focus of the afternoon switched from sharing teaching practice to presentations from the host societies on how they support learning and teaching in HE. Each shared a different approach but it was good to see that all are doing so much in this area and that members of the societies can access a range of initiatives to encourage their progression in HE.

The final part of the day saw Nicolette Divecha (BIS) and Nick Hillman (HEPI) present on the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework, followed by a panel discussion allowing delegates to further quiz those in the know on this. While there were some hard-hitting questions, the panel members were not made to squirm too much and provided a useful insight into the introduction of a framework focused on learning and teaching. Attending the meeting allowed me to make new connections and discover useful practices in other disciplines.

Full details of the meeting, along with presentations from the day are available at: http://www.physoc.org/promoting-and-sharing-excellence-higher-education-teaching





Category: SEB+
Sara Marsham-Author RS

Dr Sara Marsham

Sara is a Lecturer in Marine Biology and Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) for the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering at Newcastle University. Sara’s subject-specific research interests are in intertidal ecology and plant-animal interactions in the marine environment. She is a previous Education and Public Affairs Section President’s Medallist, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a UKPSF Professional Standards Advisor at Newcastle University. Sara is a member of the SEB+ Committee and co-organiser of the SEB ‘Creativity in Science Teaching’ meeting to be held in London, December 2016.