Halfway through the semester, and I am suffering from the usual lack of oxygen, having been completely submerged in teaching since before the start of term (semester). The students, I have to say, are great – interested, enthusiastic, motivated. Group work seems to be going well. Looking over their forum posts, they are really getting into it. They also seem to have taken the “reliable source material” message to heart – they’re asking questions, and they are reminding each other about it – thanks to Mary for her exercise on referencing! I also see a change in them following the Dweck mindset exercise.
In between the teaching, I have, slowly but surely, been getting new projects up and running.With a colleague in Central and East European Studies, I’m looking at the use of reflective diaries as an evaluation tool. This is already developing into something bigger than we originally anticipated as students get to grips with the whole web of learning… more to come there!
The PhD/post docs event planning is also ticking over. I got the questionnaire out in an HEA Centre for Bioscience update last week, but so far all the respondents have been from my institution. A bit more aggressive marketing is needed there, I think! I’m also starting the ball running re: content for the events on Monday – meetings!
I was recently awarded another HEA small grant, this time to develop, with colleagues, some new parasitology/immunology labs for first years – we’re trying to move towards a more enquiry-based approach. It’s difficult to persuade colleagues that no, students don’t all need to get the same answers at the end…(have a look at David Jones’ blog in my links) However, we are planning to get a student intern to help develop it, so it could be exciting. My biggest problem with the projects is finding time to engage in the literature to underpin them – online searches are all very well, but an afternoon in the library would be great. And the pressure of time is going to get worse, because marking raises its ugly head next week… for more than one reason. Read on.
Next week could be a defining moment in my career – we’re taking (for the first time) online submissions of coursework. I have faith that the students will manage (95% of them) but I have doubts about the staff – not because they can’t or won’t do it, but because of the vagaries of the VLE (Moodle). Talking with Paul in Edinburgh, the common problem seems to be that students can upload to a VLE but the problem is the editing/commenting and staff re-uploading to the students’ spaces. Of course staff shouldn’t have access to a student’s personal VLE space, but there has to be a mechanism which allows the seamless communication between tutor and student…. It could be done with the pdp software we have (Mahara) but Mahara is so inherently difficult to use that I couldn’t guarantee that 750 students would be able to upload an essay and release it to the correct marker (at least with the VLE I can assign a tutor to each essay fairly straightforwardly!).
Lastly, we finally started the minute papers – each week, two of our lab sessions comments on an aspect of the course they find confusing, then a small group of student reps works with me to try to address the student comments, producing easily accessible resources for students to look at. Once the reps realised that it wasn’t a test, they really started to enjoy themselves and we got quite a bit of work done in an hour.
Talking of reps, the HEA Centre for Bioscience is running a student network event next month. It seemed to go well last year, and some of my reps have signed up for it. Way to go guys!