A student’s experience of the Learning and Teaching Conference 2018

Photo credit: Allan Bovill

In this post, Vikky Park, a final year veterinary student at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, shares her experiences of attending the University of Edinburgh’s Learning and Teaching Conference…

This summer, I was able to attend the University’s first Learning and Teaching Conference for staff and students. There was a good number of talks to choose from and, as a student, I was able to find some that were relevant to me.

The first keynote speaker, Professor Tsui, discussed curriculum reform at the University of Hong Kong. Some changes they implemented were adding in choices and core courses. In my current veterinary medicine degree, I don’t have choices in my coursework, and no general education core courses, but my degree is setting me up for a specific career. On the other hand, I feel my undergraduate degree in the US had too much choice and general education, so I never felt that I was preparing for a specific career path or studying my subject in depth. It’s difficult to find a balance between the two.

Professor Tsui also added in experiential learning opportunities, which I find to be very valuable because they teach skills such as professionalism, teamwork, and interdisciplinary work. This has been an important part of my degrees. In undergrad, we were required to take interview skills and resume writing classes because we would leave classes for 6 months at a time to work, but needed to apply for these jobs like a normal job. This experience helped me grow as a person and stand out as an applicant after graduation. At the vet school, we get some of the same skills from extra mural studies and final year clinics.

At the conference, one of the session was about questions, and the reasons for students being reluctant to ask questions during lectures, including not wanting to lose face or get negative reactions. Peer assisted learning activities can help get over some of these struggles since it relaxes the environment and puts less pressure on those asking questions. I think it is also helpful to see peer teachers interacting with instructors because it shows that asking questions isn’t so intimidating. Also discussed was judging when to approach students and how to ask open questions. These are things I have started to work on through helping teach classes.

Another session at the conference was about analysis of the National Student Survey. A repeating theme was found to be community. The vet school is unique in that many staff give lectures and then are interacted with again in practical classes and/or in the hospital. There are also staff at social events at the school, staff-student collaboration through UCVME activities, and various opportunities to express opinions to staff. This creation of a community at the school promotes more open conversation between staff and students, and has led to some unique collaboration.

A hot topic right now is lecture recording, and an analysis of its use was presented at the conference. As was found with this analysis, I like the idea of having lecture recording as a safety net if I need to miss class, but I also share staff concerns about decreasing attendance. At the time of this analysis, decreased attendance was not seen although more lectures are now being recorded, so analysis may need to be repeated. I do agree with the vet school’s current policy that not all lectures are recorded since lecturers need to be comfortable in class and some course content may not be appropriate if shared.

It was great to be able to attend the Learning and Teaching Conference this year. There were a number of familiar faces in attendance and the vet school’s dedication to learning and teaching was clear. I would have enjoyed seeing more students at the conference because this could be a great opportunity for showing student work and staff-student collaboration. More students in attendance could also help change some of the conversations that were being held at the conference’s sessions. If I’m in Edinburgh then I’ll be sure to attend next year’s conference.

Talks Attended

Keynote 1: Transforming Student Learning: The Journey of a University-Wide Curriculum Reform – Professor Amy B.M. Tsui

1A: The Near Future of Teaching at Edinburgh – Sian Bayne

2A: What do Edinburgh Students Want? A Mixed Method Analysis of NSS 2016 Free Text Data – Jill MacKay

3B: What Question? Enabling Dialogue Between Students and Their Teachers – Anna Wood

Keynote 2: Strong and Weak Ties – Changing Teaching Cultures in Higher Education – Dr. Torgny Roxå

4D: Preparing Students for Dealing with Wicked Problems – Rebekah Tauritz and Velda McCune

5C: What is the Value of Lecture Recording at the University of Edinburgh? – Jill MacKay

5C: Developing Online Career Development Learning Tools for the Vet School: Using Alumni to Inspire Confidence in Professional Networking – Susan Bird and Rebecca Valentine

5C: Wider Themes in Digital Education – Flexibility, Structure and Student Agency – Peter Evans

Vikky Park

Vikky Park is from Massachusetts, and has a BSc in Behavioral Neuroscience and Environmental Science from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. While at the Dick Vet, Vikky has enjoyed spending time with the university’s archery club and doing activities for the education certificate. Through her work with the GEP students, Vikky received an R(D)SVS Outstanding Student Leadership Award, was nominated for two Impact Awards, and is excited to see the program continue each year with new students. This year, Vikky will be applying for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Her main areas of interest in veterinary medicine are wildlife, exotics, and teaching.

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