Top ten most read Teaching Matters blog posts of 2019

Happy New Year from Teaching Matters! For our first post in 2020, we are celebrating the top ten viewed Teaching Matters blog posts in 2019. Three of these posts featured in the 2018 top ten, while the other seven were published this year…

Teaching Matters in 2019

Teaching Matters readership has continued to grow steadily throughout 2019; the October issue (research-led teaching and learning) attracted over 10,000 hits. The Teaching Matters podcast was launched in February, with 14 episodes now available for download. The episodes accompany the popular mini-series blog posts, which covered the following ‘hot topics’ across the University in 2019: Social responsibility and sustainability in learning and teaching practices; Academic blogging; Inclusivity in the curriculum; Mental health and wellbeing; and Peer learning and support. At the end of 2019, Teaching Matters was also delighted to welcome Josephine Foucher to the team, who will be focusing on increasing student engagement with Teaching Matters, and supporting students to write and contribute to the blog and podcast.

Top Ten of 2019

10. A clean slate (20th August 2019; 660 views)

In the tenth spot, Dr Ross Galloway, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy, writes an amusing yet insightful and reflective post on the place of the blackboard in the modern classroom. This post generated great interest on Twitter, ‘travelling’ to an international audience. In fact, this post inspired a new PTAS-funded research project that will explore how engaging with Teaching Matters’ blog posts creates conversations both offline and online (such as on Twitter), and thus support development of learning and teaching practice. Specifically, the project will explore creative ways to ‘measure impact’ that eludes capture by analytics alone.

9. Experiential education: Defining features for curriculum and pedagogy (23 August 2018; 686 views; ranked No. 7 in 2018 Top Ten)

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. Aligned with this approach, the Centre for Experiential Learning website provides some useful examples of experiential education being undertaken across the University.

8. Mini-series: Imposter syndrome at university (10th July 2019; 720 views)

This Mental Health and Wellbeing mini-series post, authored by Harriet Harris (University Chaplain and Head of the Chaplaincy Service) really struck a chord with our readers. Harriet discusses how prevalent imposter syndrome is at university, from students to staff, and gives some tips on how to face the imposter demon. Supporting student and staff mental health and wellbeing remains a top priority across the University, with dedicated resources available, including a recent podcast series Let’s Talk, which includes an episode on imposter syndrome.

7. Mini-series: Practical approaches to embedding access and inclusion into the curriculum (12th June 2019; 786 views)

In another mini-series post – this time, from the Inclusivity in the curriculum mini-seriesRayya Ghul, Lecturer in University Learning and Teaching at the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), provides some starting points for thinking about how to enhance access and inclusion in the curriculum. She helpfully defines the difference between the often-interchangeable terms ‘access’ and ‘inclusion’, as well as offering the reader prompt questions to guide their critical thinking and planning for inclusivity across the curriculum.

6. Creating a “relentless welcome” (21st October, 2019; 792 views)

In June 2019, the Learning and Teaching Conference was delighted to welcome Professor Peter Felten, from Elon University, North Carolina, USA, as a keynote speaker. Peter’s keynote talk on the value of creating a ‘relentless welcome’ for students at university is underpinned by the simple, yet often overlooked, message that ‘Relationships Matter’. The next University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference, Curriculum Futures, will be held at McEwan Hall on Tuesday, 16th June 2020 – registration will open in early March 2020. 

5. Approaches to Equality and Diversity in Higher Education Teaching (12th December 2016; 1024 views; ranked No. 2 in 2018 Top Ten)

As in 2018, 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. As demonstrated in the Inclusivity in the curriculum mini-series, the University established the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee task group, “Promoting inclusion, equality and diversity in the curriculum”, to consider how diversifying the curriculum could be highlighted as an institutional priority, while ensuring the issue didn’t get transformed into a tick box exercise. However, whilst the task group has now concluded, the work needed to ensure a diverse and inclusive curriculum across the University is not complete. In Diva Mukherji’s words (2018-19 Vice President Education at Edinburgh University Students’ Association):

For this [task group work] to be a meaningful change, it requires sustained input from every member of the University community over several years. This is a dynamic project, and needs to be regularly updated and discussed, while ensuring the experiences of marginalised communities at the heart of these discussions.

4. An introduction to student and staff co-creation of the curriculum (8th January 2019; 1198 views)

In this popular post, PhD student, Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka, explains what the term ‘co-creation of the curriculum’ means, and how it can be an effective student partnership approach. There have been some fantastic examples of co-creation in practice across the University recently, including Student-staff co-creation of a course: Understanding gender in the contemporary worldDeveloping research methods, data analysis and statistics course (RMDAS), and Co-creating care home nursing education in the curriculum. The University’s ENGAGE network has been specifically created to support students and staff interested in student engagement, partnership, and co-creation of the curriculum.

3. Dressing to impress: Suits may not be so suitable in front of students (29 August 2019; 1333 views)

Dr Ben Marder, a Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Edinburgh Business school, along with PhD student Sebastian Oliver, penned this post to showcase their findings of a study that explores the effects of academic dress and relationships with students in lectures. They found that “more formal attire gives a higher perception of competence and a lower perception of warmth. But this is not the case if the student went to a high ranked university. For those students, no matter how their teacher dressed, competence perception remained the same, though warmth increased when they dressed more informally.” 

2. Enhancing students’ self-determination: A theory-based approach in tutoring (17th October 2019; 2939 views)

Dr Somia Imran, a recent PhD graduate in Clinical Psychology and a postgraduate tutor in the School of Health in Social Science (SHSS), captured many readers’ attention with her description of a theory-based approach to her tutorial teaching. While working towards her Edinburgh Teaching Award, Somia was able to link education literature and theory to her practice and drew on the components of Self-Determination Theory to help her address the needs of her tutees.

1.Smile(y) and the whole student body will smile with you (5th June 2018; 4511 views; ranked no. 3 in 2018 Top Ten)

And… the number one read blog post is another post written Dr Ben Marder in 2018. This posts 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. Interestingly, as Ben recommends in his post, I recently chatted to a student about the use of smileys, and she pointed out that the inconsistent use between different staff members, with some using smileys while others required formal salutation, often left students feeling confused and unsettled about the ‘real’ rules of staff-student communication practices.

Editors Choice

Finally, I have two Editor’s Choice posts to highlight. While these posts didn’t reach the top ten, they resonated strongly with me…

Spotlight on ELIR: Enhancing the student experience – Reflection and review (1st October 2019)

Well, I’m sort of cheating here by choosing this blog post as it actually represents a whole ‘Spotlight on…’ series initiated this year by the ELIR Support team and Teaching Matters. By openly blogging about the Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) process that will be taking place in autumn 2020, all staff and students have been invited to comment, and thus contribute to, the chapters that comprise the Reflective Analysis component of ELIR. This is an innovative (and already externally commended) approach to compiling an important quality assurance process, which I have really enjoyed working on and helping share with others across the University.

A life-changing gift: Fundraising for Widening Participation initiatives (30th May 2019)

This post by David Haines (Head of Philanthropy, University Programmes at The University of Edinburgh) has always stuck in my head as one of my top reads this year because it made me cry (just a little) the first time I proof-read it. In a good way. Here was someone who clearly gained so much from his job and the work that he does to help raise funds for Widening Participation initiatives. David wrote this as part of our May theme on Widening Participation strategy, and all of the posts in this series were a delight to read and publish.  

Again, 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 2020…

Jenny Scoles

Dr Jenny Scoles is the editor of Teaching Matters. She is an Academic Developer (Learning and Teaching Enhancement) in the Institute for Academic Development, and provides pedagogical support for University course and programme design. Her interests include student engagement, professional learning and sociomaterial methodologies.

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