To wrap up the year, this editorial post celebrates the top ten viewed Teaching Matters blog posts in 2018. This list captures some of the prevalent teaching and learning issues that have been swirling around the general HE zeitgeist this year. Interestingly, three of these posts were written in 2016, showing that the blog’s content is continually being accessed both nationally, and internationally. A huge thank you to all our contributors and readers, and here’s to celebrating more wonderful, supportive and inspiring teaching and learning practices in 2019…
10. Student mental health at Edinburgh: An introduction from the Director of Student Wellbeing (2nd November 2017)
In the tenth spot, Andy Shanks, the University’s first Director of Student Wellbeing, reflects on his (at the time) new and challenging role to address the stigma of mental illness, ensuring the right level of support is delivered at the right time, and empowering students to develop strategies to manage their mental health, and to support their friends. Look out for a Student Wellbeing Teaching Matters mini-series in July and August 2019.
9. The benefits of blogging for PhD students (25th May 2017)
Blogging is increasingly being recognised as an established method of communicating academic writing. Dr Sara Shinton espouses the value of blogging for PhD students, and shares her tips on the craft of writing, and maintaining, a blog site. Within the University, the Academic Blogging Service was launched this year to provide a supported, centralised blogging platform – blogs.ed.ac.uk. Next year, Teaching Matters colleagues will be undertaking a research project investigating how a multi-authored blog (Teaching Matters!) creates different spaces for conversations around teaching and learning.
8. Learning with Lego (11th November 2016)
In experimenting with his kid’s lego bricks in the classroom, Dr Dan Swanton found that the playfulness of lego elicited a creative side to learning, which was based on story-telling and story-making. Using lego, he found new ways to explain the importance of referencing, and shifted ‘lecture’ teaching spaces into small, engaged group work.
7. Experiential education: Defining features for curriculum and pedagogy (23 August 2018)
Dr Simon Beames, a senior lecturer in Outdoor Learning at Moray House School of Education, along with his colleagues, presents a theoretical framework of experiential education that is centred around six defining features. This was a timely published blog post as it coincided with the launch of the Centre for Experiential Learning – an online hub for pulling together best practice across the university, and supporting the development of new tools and frameworks for experiential learning.
6. Good teaching – student and teacher perspectives from the Conservation Science course (10th June 2016)
This post, written jointly by then-student, Gergana Daskalova, and teacher and course organiser, Isla Myers-Smith, continues to garner a large readership. This short dialogue between student and staff is a motivating, honest and collegial conversation about what makes good teaching. Conversations between staff and students about such topics need to be further encouraged across the University, and initiatives such as Cake and Coffee Conversations could be one way to take this forward in Schools.
5. Why we should focus on assessment and feedback literacy (6th February 2018)
Dr Chris Perkins offers a thoughtful deliberation of the current pressures on assessment and feedback practices, and asks to shift the discussion onto assessment and feedback literacy. Here, the emphasis is placed not on the delivery but on the reception of feedback. Chris provides an example of how, on one of his courses, they include a workshop on assessment literacy for the students, using the HEA Engaging with Feedback Toolkit. However, he argues just doing one workshop is not enough…
4. “Dear Oak”: Showcasing the value of place-based education through local landscapes – a video blog post (4th July 2018)
Under the expert direction of the University of Edinburgh’s Communications and Marketing Video Unit, Dr Nicol Robbie and his students created a video blog, which showcases the teaching and learning that takes place on a Masters course – Outdoor Environmental Education: Concept-Based Practice. A residential trip to the Cairngorms National Park provided the stunning backdrop for this video:
3. Smile(y) and the whole student body will smile with you (5th June 2018)
A simple yet highly effective technique, Dr Ben Marder explores the significance of adding a smiley face to email communication with students. He conducted a series of six studies with colleagues at Copenhagen Business School and the University of Birmingham, which included experiments and interviews aimed at understanding if staff should use smileys. Their results were rather conclusive…
2. Approaches to Equality and Diversity in Higher Education Teaching (12th December 2016)
Professor Vicky Gunn and Dr Pauline Hanesworth’s blog post still resonates strongly with viewers, as they each discuss how to bring inclusivity into the heart of disciplinary practices. Vicky offers a series of propositions as a way to conceptualise the disciplines’ role in inclusive teaching practice, while Pauline considers the practical implications of these propositions.
The University’s commitment towards ensuring equality and inclusion in the classroom has resulted in the publication of the innovative and successful ‘recipe’-style book, EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education, edited by Judy Robertson, Alison Williams, Derek Jones, Lara Isbel and Daphne Loads. This can also be downloaded as an Open Access e-book from Sense Publishers.
1. Lecture Recording: What does research say about its effect on attendance? (7th September 2017)
And… the number one read blog post was written by student (at time of writing), Karoline Nanfeldt, who captures the student voice in her summary of the effects of lecture capture on lecture attendance. This blog post has been referenced in an LSE blog post, Impact and student use of lecture recording, and The Learning Scientists blog.
Karoline’s blog post unintentionally acted as a precursor to the popular mini-series on Lecture Recording. With over 2000 views of 13 blog posts, this year’s mini-series, co-edited by the Lecture Recording Programme, aimed to provide a snapshot of lecture recording at Edinburgh, and present a range of perspectives, experiences, and research findings.
Finally, I have two Editor’s Choice posts to highlight. These posts didn’t reach the top ten, but that I feel really should have more exposure!
A student’s experience of the Learning and Teaching Conference 2018 (13th November 2018)
Vikky Park, a final year veterinary student at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, shares her experiences of attending the 2018 University of Edinburgh’s Learning and Teaching Conference. This blog post is important to me for two reasons. Firstly, it represents Teaching Matters’ commitment to feature student-authored blog posts about learning and teaching. Secondly, it showcases the highly successful inaugural University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference. Look out for the next Learning and Teaching Conference, scheduled for 19th June, 2019!
Expanding Peer Learning in Informatics (12th June 2018)
I particularly like this blog post by Lisa Nowak, from the Students Association, and student, Hanne Carlsson, because it touches upon a number of important issues around learning and teaching particular to Edinburgh. These including fostering a sense of belonging to a School and building an academic community, developing authentic student-led learning, supporting transitions to honours, and creating opportunities for experiential learning. Plus, it is as relatively simple and practical initiative that can be adopted and modified in most Schools.
Finally, I wish all our readers and contributors a very Merry Christmas and a happy 2019.