Curriculum futures: Experiences from the University’s Learning & Teaching Conference 2020

Image Credit: Original Unsplash. Remix by Joe Arton

In this post, Catherine Bovill Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement at the Institute for Academic Development introduces this month’s issue that will feature posts by the presenters of this year’s Learning and Teaching Conference that was moved to an online format with great success.  

The University’s Learning & Teaching Conference is an annual opportunity to reflect on learning and teaching, as well as to envisage the future of learning and teaching at the University. In April we made the decision to move this year’s conference, focused on ‘Curriculum Futures’, online. Instead of meeting in the McEwan Hall for one day, we held a four-day conference online using Blackboard Collaborate. The Conference was opened on Tuesday 16th June by the Principal, Professor Peter Mathieson, and 386 people joined us to listen to keynote presentations from Professor Sian Bayne The near future of teaching (and who gets to define it), and from Professor Colm Harmon Curriculum review, curriculum reform and the COVID pivot. The following four days of vibrant conference sessions included College-curated lightning talk sessions, paper presentations, workshops and posters. Over the four days, an impressive 759 individual delegates attended sessions at the conference. The theme was a chance to explore how we think about the curriculum, and how our values, disciplinary expertise and ultimate goals of higher education can influence and reimagine the curriculum. We were impressed by, and grateful for, colleagues’ willingness to move their conference presentations online, and almost all our original presenters were willing to adapt their plans, enabling us to offer a diverse programme of events.

This month, Teaching Matters will feature a range of blogs from presenters at the Conference. We start with a post from Stephen McBurney, describing how he and colleagues teaching the Masters in Public Health have developed a postgraduate model of the Student-led, Individually Created Courses (SLICCs) where students design their own projects, set their own learning outcomes and reflect on their learning. Heidi Smith and colleagues, in their blog, seek to disrupt the binary thinking that separates outdoor from indoor learning through approaches to teaching and learning that are interdisciplinary and engage both cognitive and affective domains. They highlight a student/staff collaboration sharing digital narratives to show how deep experiential engagement in and with nature have led to forms of understanding that have promoted activist standpoints. Later this month, Johanna Holtan describes work with colleagues, which addresses global inequality in access to higher education at Edinburgh and beyond, with a focus on refugee access. All the blogs this month demonstrate the rich variety of curricular enhancement taking place at the University.

The online format for the conference this year enabled us to have more people attend some of the sessions, it helped us to record more sessions, and enabled us to provide electronic copies of all the conference posters. The posters, and recordings from the conference presentations are available to view, so we would really encourage you to take time to explore this rich set of resources from around the University.

Here you can find a link to the conference posters page:

Catherine Bovill

Dr Catherine Bovill is Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement at the Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh and Visiting Fellow at the University of Winchester. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association and an Editorial Board member for Teaching in Higher Education. At Edinburgh she leads the IAD programme and course design team and the Learning and Teaching Conference team as well as supporting a range of strategic projects focused on student engagement. She regularly publishes and presents her work on partnership and co-creating curriculum internationally. In 2019-2020 she was a Fulbright Scholar based in the USA.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *