Report from Learning at City 2017 – Developing Theory into Practice

Developing Theory into Practice, the hottest ticket in town. Learning at City 2017The 9th Annual Learning at City Conference took place on 21st June. We returned to the Northampton Square campus of the University, to our new learning spaces in the Drysdale Lower Ground on a very hot June day (34.5C!), thankfully we had air conditioning! The overall theme for the Learning at City Conference focused on developing theory into practice in higher education, with sub-themes including sharing practices and approaches, supporting student success, working with others and technology enhanced learning. The Conference gave participants an opportunity to exchange ideas, celebrate, promote and disseminate good practice in learning and teaching in higher education.

This year, we had a record 138 people attending, including staff from all Schools and Professional Services at City and at least 40 externals from the University of Glasgow, Kingston University, QMUL, UCL, LSE, Kings College to Plymouth University and Brazil. We had over 450 tweets (using the hashtag #learningatcity17), some of which can be seen in the Storify below. The keynote speeches were watched live online (via Periscope) by over 320 people, doubling the previous year’s audience.

The day consisted of 10 workshops, 20 papers and 13 case study posters for the attendees to take part in an discuss. The keynote speakers were Professor Debby Cotton, Head of Educational Development in the Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory (PedRIO) at Plymouth University and Zain Ismail, Vice-President Education, City Students Union.

Staff from City who had achieved levels of Higher Education Academy fellowship through the Academic Practice Programme and the RISES (Recognising Individual Staff Education Status) CPD route, were also celebrated with prizes given by City, University of London President Professor Sir Paul Curran.

Professor Debby Cotton Keynote

View the Slides [PDF]

The keynote speaker was Professor Debby Cotton with a talk entitled ‘Developing the Theory and Practice of Higher Education through Pedagogic Research’. She highlighted the benefits and pitfalls of focussing on pedagogical research and referred to pedagogic research as the ‘Cinderella’ of academia and alludes to the TEF as maybe helping the perception that pedaogical research isn’t real research in our insitutions. She also highlighted how students view male and female lecturers with regards to satisfaction, a metric in the TEF (a link to last year’s keynote Dr Matthew Williamson)

“Universities can endlessly describe what they are doing but to find out the impact and effectiveness of these activities, progression, attainment, learning analytic, retention, completion, all of these, need pedagogic research to demonstrate effectiveness, so it struck me there was a real possibility, for pedagogic researchers to feed into this and to make the arguement to senior managers, actually you need us, you need our work to help feed into these activities’ – Professor Debby Cotton

Debby concluded by saying that with an increasing focus on research intensity in the REF together with the need for evidence of impact on students for the TEF submission combine to provide a potential space for the further growth in pedagogic research. There are are opportunities as well as risks from the new ‘ugly sisters’ of HE (REF and TEF).

We had a roving artist, who drew each presenter, this is Professor Cotton’s drawing

The day continued with parrallel sessions, some of which you can see resources for on our conference page.

Some tweets below highlight the flavour of the topics covered and some of the posters on display throughout the day.

Zain Ismail Student Keynote

The day concluded with a student keynote from Zain Ismail, the outgoing Student Union Vice President Education, who described his perspective on the importance of extra curricula activities on the student experience. In a personal account, he charted his journey from East London to joining City and getting involved with youth work along the way. He highlighted some of the things our student union does at City, which includes strengthening the programme rep system, hosting the first ever student leadership conference, establishing the Keep Calm Study On and Study Well campaigns, campaigning on a policy change for lecture capture and lobbying for better training and support for PhD students who teach amongst many other highlights.

He made the arguement of why it is so important for students to be involved in extra and co-curricular activities. He said he didn’t know there was a student union, that spoke up for others that couldn’t when he was in his first year of studies. He went onto describe how he sees the student union functioning in 2020 (see below).

City Students' Union - Vision 2020 - Click to view larger version
City Students’ Union – Vision 2020 – Click to view larger version

“My last words today are to leave you with one of my quotes by Nelson Mandela, Education is one of the most powerful weapons we can use to change the world” – Zain Ismail.

We hope everyone who attended, presented and the brilliant student ambassadors who helped delegates around on the day enjoyed Learning at City 2017. We’ll be back next year, for the 10th Annual Learning at City Conference #learningatcity18.

If you’d like to read the tweets from the day, see our Storify here.

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