Top ten Teaching Matters posts of 2021

Image credit: Kenta Kikuchi, Unsplash CC0

Today, Joséphine Foucher, Teaching Matters’ Co-Editor, introduces the blog’s Top 10 most read posts in 2021.

The Teaching Matters team wishes our readers a very happy New Year 2022! It was another unusual one, though one of great ingenuity as the University community demonstrated impressive creativity and adaptability in adjusting their teaching practices within the continuously uncertain context.

Every January, the editors at Teaching Matters take stock of the conversations on the blog that have generated the most interest among readers. A very efficient way for us to monitor interactions with the blog is to look at the most-read posts every year. And this year, two interesting observations emerged:

  • In 2021, the ten most read posts were entries dating from previous years, ranging from 2016 to 2020. This observation indicates that Teaching Matters extends beyond its role as a blog and continues to be a resource base that readers draw from to inform their teaching practices and pedagogical interrogations.
  • Many of the most read posts this year were from the series that emerged from the Learning and Teaching conference 2021 on the theme: The curriculum as a site for transformation. This gives us a clear indication that the spirit of change, of reshuffling our priorities, of deconstructing the politics behind knowledge-making and thinking about the future remains a high priority among colleagues and readers. A process that is deeply aligned with the ongoing University of Edinburgh Curriculum Transformation Programme.

In order to do justice to the most read posts, I have taken the liberty of doing two lists: the Top 10 most read posts published in 2021, and the Top 10 posts in 2021 since the blog’s inception.

Top 10 most read posts published in 2021

  1. “Decolonising the Curriculum – Sharing Ideas: The Podcast Series”:

The first most-read entry of 2021 is a post that contains all of the podcast episodes from a series produced by The Race Equality and Anti-Racist Sub-Committee (REAR)  in collaboration with Teaching Matters. In the series, we hear from academics from a wide array of disciplines on what decolonising the curriculum means to them, what that looks like in their teaching practice, and which books have inspired their personal and professional journey towards transformative teaching.

2. “Generating immersive large-scale virtual field work for Zoology students”:

Richard Fitzpatrick (Deanery of Biomedical Sciences) & Prof Tom Little (School of Biology) brilliantly demonstrate how they managed to replicate in-person field experience through a highly interactive digital environment. The popularity of this post, which was part of our series on “Acceleration of Technology and Enhanced Learning“, confirms the ongoing thirst for finding creative ways to enhance our students’ digital learning experience.

3. “From inclusion to transformation to decolonisation”:

Here, Professor Emeritus Rowena Arshad, keynote speaker at the 2021 Learning & Teaching Conference, shares insights into the various stakes of taking an inclusive, transformative and decolonising approach to teaching and learning. She does so with great humility as she reflects on the difficulties and subtle challenges of such a process.

4. “The Students’ Association’s Students-Led Teaching Awards 2021: Nominations now open”:

EUSA’s yearly teaching awards are an opportunity for students to assess the quality of teaching and acknowledge the hard work of educators at the University. The popularity of this post, in which Natalie Hay and Erin Brown from the Edinburgh University Students’ Association explain the nomination process, history and impact of the Students-Led Teaching Award, attests to how valuable this award scheme remains to colleagues.

5. “Internationalisation and Decolonisation: Can two work together unless they agree”:

In this post from the series “Focus on the internationalisation of teaching and learning”, Davies Banda (Director of Learning and Teaching in Moray House School of Education and Sport) pertinently ponders whether the themes of decolonisation and internationalisation can be reconciled within a higher education system dominated by hegemonic Western, neoliberal values.

6.  “Bringing politics back in to plans for the digital transformation of Higher Education”:

This is another post from the theme on “Acceleration of Technology and Enhanced Learning” in which Ben Williamson (Centre for Research in Digital Education and The Edinburgh Futures Institute) questions the ethical challenges of private technology companies leading and influencing the ‘digital transformation’ of higher education institutions.

7. “Top Ten Teaching Matters Posts of 2020”:

Last January’s posts on our Top 10 post of 2020 made it on the list, where our Spotlight series on “Alternative Assessments” and “Remote Teaching” sparked a lot of enthusiasm.

8.  “Podcast Series: Student Mental Health & Online Engagement”:

As the pandemic continues to challenge our models of effective and healthy learning and teaching environments, another sought-after conversation of 2021 revolved around the theme of mental health. This podcast episode gathers guests from different disciplines across the University who discuss the impacts of online learning on students’ mental health. A wise and insightful conversation!

9. “Lessons Learned: Digital Skills in 2020 and beyond”:

Readers seem to enjoy reflective pieces, that ‘take the pulse’ of accomplishments and lessons learned. In this post, Satu Kapiainen, Team Manager in the Digital Skills and Training Team in Information Services, looks back at ways on-campus training courses were translated into digital modes, reflecting on the challenges and advantages.

10.  “Teaching across the public spaces of the web”:

The argument of James Lamb’s post poses similar ethical and philosophical questions as Ben Williamson’s in post (see #6 of this list): what are public online spaces? What are the advantages of using these rather than commercial spaces? What are the ethical and political implications of making such pedagogical choices?

Top 10 posts read in 2021, including all years of publication

1. “Pedagogy and technology from a postdigital perspective” (August 2020):

Tim Fawns’ provocative piece on a postdigital pedagogical perspective remains an all-time favourite!

2.  “CoDI Show: Why is mental illness so goddam controversial?” (August 2018):

Professor Stephen Lawrie’s post from 2018 garnered lots of views this year: could this be a consequence of the pandemic and the growing awareness around breaking the taboos relating to mental health?

3.  “Sharing good practice: Examples, resources and events” (January 2020):

A useful and practical guide on sharing good practice by Gillian Mackintosh, an Academic Policy Officer in the Quality Assurance and Enhancement Team in Academic Services.

4. “Spotlight on Alternative Assessment Methods: Alternatives to exams” (June 2020):

This post by Tim Fawns and Jen Ross, which was published at the start of the first national lockdown in 2020, remains pertinent today as colleagues seek engaging ways of rethinking assessments.

5. “An introduction to student and staff co-creation of the curriculum” (January 2019):

We’re always happy to see a student-written post make it to the 10 ten list! Former-PhD student, Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka, explains what ‘co-creation in the curriculum’ means.

6. “Approaches to Equality and Diversity in Higher Education Teaching” (December 2016):

This post from 2016 on Equality and Diversity attests, again, to the persistent interest our readers have in the topic.

7. “Mini-series: The importance of diversifying the curriculum: Reflections from the Senate Task Group” (May 2019):

Another student-written post relating to the topic of diversity! Former EUSA’s Vice President, Diva Mukherji, discusses the work of the University’s task group.

8. “Key takeaways from mental health training” (October 2020):

Teaching fellow, Omar Kaissi, reflects on the value of completing a mental health training session organised jointly by the University’s Student Counselling and Student Disability services.

9.  “Smile(y) and the whole student body will smile with you” (June 2018):

Another all time favourite! Ben Marder’s research on the perks of using smiley faces in emails continues to captivate!

10.  “What is learning design?” (February 2019):

Last but not least, Andrés Ordorica from Information Services breaks down what learning design entails.

Our thanks to the authors listed above, as well as all of our contributors – Teaching Matters would not exist without you! We look forward to embarking on another engaging and thought-provoking year with all of our authors and readers.

photograph of the authorJoséphine Foucher

Joséphine is doing a PhD in Sociology at The University of Edinburgh. Her research looks at the intersection between art and politics in contemporary Cuba. She supports Jenny Scoles as the Teaching Matters Co-Editor and Student Engagement Officer through the PhD Intern scheme at the Institute for Academic Development.

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