Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sustainability – thoughts from the Experts.

The JISC operate a Pedagogic Experts Group which I have been fortunate to have been a member for a little while. At a recent event a cluster from the Curriculum Design programme were invited to engage the experts as were a cluster from the Curriculum Delivery programme. We (ESCAPE) were part of the Curriculum Delivery cluster invited to talk to the Experts. I jumped at the chance and suggested that our session be about sustainability.

I am keen that our project does not wither on the vine when the funding runs out, nor do I want our leaning to stay confined to us at UH. And so I was keen that we didn’t just engage in a traditional show-and-tell routine but use the Experts Group to help shape and / or validate our thinking on sustaining our projects.

After a brief into from Malcolm Ryan – the critical friend of the cluster, Gunter Saunders outlined some of the work from Westminster’s project. I followed and briefly introduced ESCAPE. We then moved to ask the group …

* What would you do to ensure that the projects are not sustained ! (reversing the question is just great to get the ideas flowing ) and

* What one thing would you suggest the projects consider / do to ensure the sustainability of the projects.

Some great ideas flowed

Working with Dominic we I will go through the list and use the thoughts / ideas to challenge our own work.

I always like the buzz that seems to be present at the JISC Experts Group and I was particularly (selfishly?) pleased that some of the buzz and thinking will flow into our ESCAPE project.

ESCAPE – surfacing and using existing technologies.

A few years back I developed a technology rich assessment programme. The approach to assessment uses technology to create, collect, mark and provide feedback on student-unique, Weekly Assessed Tutorial Sheets (WATS). The WATS approach to assessment was developed to support my own engineering undergraduates but has also been used and influenced practice elsewhere - both inside and outside the university.

The ESCAPE project provided another opportunity to showcase the WATS approach to assessment and debate how it might respond to the challenges of the ESCAPE partner schools.

Due to the ESCAPE project, the School of Life Sciences are now engaging with WATS. In addition to using the WATS approach to assessment in ways which we already know supports students‘ learning,, the School of Life Sciences have put a new twist on its use. The School of Life Sciences are using WATS to set tasks in IBMAP – a core module taken by many students. The students tackle weekly tasks and are presented with prompt and personalised feedback. Additionally, the students’ performance data is fed to the students’ personal tutors. Now the students study profiles, and performance form a useful part of the pastoral care conversations. Although not specifically developed to support pastoral care, the nature of the data that flows form the WATS approach to assessment suggests it can readily be used, not only to support learning and shape teaching, but provide early warning signs of struggling students.

I will keep you posted of how the WATS approach to assessment shapes up in the IBMAP.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Collateral Effects

As the ESCAPE project moves forward through its various stages it is becoming increasingly apparent that thee are a great many collateral effects from the project. Many of the conversations that are taking place include references to stakeholders using the techniques , technologies and practices that they have been exposed to in modules other than the "official ESCAPE "ones. There are many incidences of the ESCAPE influences spilling over in to related module areas. Examples include:
  • a new approach to supporting practical work in Life Sciences, using short videos of practical techniques made available on studynet.This will have a wider impact across the school on other modules that use practical work
  • The increased use of flip cams as a teaching aid - with students being encouraged to produce their own videos
  • the adoption and embedding of the WATS mathematical tutorial system across a number of on ESCAPE modules, rather than the initially envisaged single module
  • approaches to group work and submission of draft course work - whilst not adopted in a particular level 3 ESCAPE module being considered relevant for a level 1 non ESCAPE module, that the module leader teaches on.
  • ESCAPE module leaders starting to act as "agents for change " across other modules and with other module teams - this is possibly a consequence of the growing confidence felt by the ESCAPE participants

It will be interesting to see how these collateral effects develop, as they will be key to the project's sustainability over the long term - when the ESCAPE pebble is sitting at the bottom of the pond its ripples will still be felt!

Poster and Video

This last week we have been involved in the production poster and video in preparation for a joint meeting of the curriculum design and the curriculum development projects in Manchester on the 13th and 14th of October. The poster is a visual representation of the stages and mechanisms of the project. It captures the journey through the project by the stake holders and illustrates the approaches taken at the various stages of the project by the ESCAPE team. It was influenced heavily by the change management development activities that we were involved in at our last CAMEL meeting. One of the aspects of change management was looking at a four stage model of change management, viz:
  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Trying
  • Adopting

It was interesting mapping our project activities to these four stages and realising the the stages were not atomic- that is to say that they could overlap - and that it was possible for stakeholders to drop back a stage( or two!).

The poster does not really capture the complexity of what we are doing - for example we are working with 9 different module teams, with some module attempting quite complex and innovative changes in assessment practice, but is a good start as a "top layer" map of the project.

I am now working on a three minute flip cam video that will introduce the ESCAPE project and include a stakeholder voice. This along with videos introducing all the other projects, can be found at - a JISC dedicated channel on YouTube.