HEA Conference – Generation TEF, 5th July – Institutional Strategies and Priorities Day

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The HEA conference, entitled ‘generation TEF’ was held from 4th – 6th July at the University of Manchester. See the full programme [PDF] of the variety of speakers, workshops, talks etc that were covered during the three days. The second day had presentations on institutional issues and priorities for higher education institutions. I attended as both a delegate and presenter, as Dr Rachael-Anne Knight and I had a workshop accepted on strategies on enhancing learning and teaching focussed continuous professional development.

Professor Stephanie Marshall opening address highlighted that there are now 90,000 HEA Fellows (at various levels). She also said that the HEA had lot of data to mine regarding TEF narratives and that their focus was employability, assessment, retention and the connected curriculum (the same as the Professor Dilly Fung one?). She introduced Eric Stoller to a maximum capacity 524 delegates.

Eric Stoller Keynote

Eric Stoller describes on his website that he’s ‘a higher education thought-leader, consultant, writer, and speaker’. His keynote began with the simple message that all higher education institutions are places of lifelong learning and that we as staff in them need to also be lifelong learners, willing to try new things, including social media.

He introduced and asked the audience if they had heard of apps such as Reddit, Musical and highlighted how modern tools and platforms are growing. He asked why we are not leveraging the use of social media platforms, such as Twitter to inspire students in careers in sciences, the arts etc, via tweetchats, such as #biosciprofskills. It will be another tool in 10 years time said Eric, it’s just an evolution of how people now communicate.

As institutions we want to build community, but these social media tools can help build community – how do you connect with your students asked Eric. He noted also how social media flattens hierarchies. This has been my experience of interacting with people via Twitter, but also LinkedIn.

There was also a mention to the #LTHEchat weekly tweetchat that is organised by Manchester Metropolitan’s Principal Lecturer in Academic Practice, Chrissi Nerantzi. So, as the guest organiser, I couldn’t resist a tweet. I didn’t envisage it coming up on the side screen for everyone in the audience to see!

For me, Eric made the most important point in relation to digital literacy, like mathematics, as my professors as university used to say, is not a spectator sport. “You need to experience Digital literacy to develop it” said Eric.

Dr Anna Hunter, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, University of Central Lancashire

I heard a talk entitled ‘What does teaching excellence look like? Exploring the concept of theideal teacher through visual metaphor’. I liked how the creative use of the Times Higher Education Supplement magazine’s imaginery was used to illicit richer feedback from new lecturers and PhD students, on a programme that is traditional very textual in nature.

This reminded me of a similar activity an ex-colleague of mine (below, John Francis, 2014) and I did on the PGCert in HE at Brunel.

Anna discussed the using metaphor in this way has been researched for a number of years and citated the paper, I’m a dancer’ and ‘I’ve got a saucepan stuck on my head’: metaphor in helping lecturers to develop being-for-uncertainty‘ by Daphne Loads

Next, I heard a talk from Kathyrn Botham, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), who looked at evaluating their HEA fellowship scheme accredited by portfolio submission and why some staff differed submission many times over, whilst others submitted first time. Using questionnaires and semi structured interviews, she contacted a group of academics across MMU to get their perceptions, 15 months after engaging with the scheme. Those that did engage with the scheme were more likely and confident to go to literature first when thinking about innovative practice or changing their practice.

Professor Linda Price, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning, Kingston University London

Next I attended a session from various Kingston University academics discussing how they approached a recent change of VLE at the University. The session was entitled ‘Putting technology in the frame: Multiple lenses on evidenced based practice in a university – wide roll out’

They are the latest University to switch to Canvas, from Blackboard. Professor Linda Price (previously a research in technology enhanced learning and its impact on academic practice at the Open University), discussed how changing the VLE impacted on policies and procedures across the university and by using activity theory to map this, the project team was able to better understand the impact on the various stakeholders.

They also explained how each faculity had a graduate student, a learning technologist and a few faculty champions. They have developed templates in canvas that are more instructional for the staff and students, so as Linda said ‘the students know what the heck it is they are supposed to do in the VLE’.

Strategies for enhancing learning and teaching focussed continuing professional development

After lunch, I presented a workshop called Strategies for Enhancing Learning and Teaching CPD. It was interesting to hear from academic developers across the country about what they do. One participant mentioned different approaches to CPD at Angila Ruskin University. Like many studies (UCISA, 2016) have found, time remained a barrier to the engagement in CPD.

I also got to write on a blackboard (yes, you know, chalk et al), something I haven’t done since coming up to write a Physics formula on my science teacher’s blackboard in School!

Dr Emily McIntosh (University of Bolton) & David Grey (York St John University

I next went to hear Dr Emily McIntosh and David Grey discuss personal tutoring at the Universities of Bolton and York St John respectively, in a talk entitled ‘Secret agents of change: The increasing importance of the personal tutor in student retention and success’. It was interesting to hear the lack of research that has occured in this area in the past 40 years. Emily and David mentioned how often a successful personal tutor is rewarded with more students and how little development opportunities or reward was given to personal tutoring in some universities.

Dr Ruth Massie – Cranfield University

Finally, I attended Ruth Massie’s presentation on ‘The Programme Director and the TEF: How do we train the former to survive the latter?’. Ruth was presenting her MA in Academic Practice Dissertation which she completing at City, University of London. From her research, Ruth concluded that programme directors who often play a crucial role in the student experience, have very little training offered to them by their institutions. If institutions have time and money, they should focus training on student pastoral care skills, industry requirement idenitification (going out to industry to gather this) and programme quality development.

Take Away Messages for City, University of London

  • We could use social media more in our training and development
  • We could use visual metaphors in the development of early career staff and in getting feedback from staff
  • We could offer more CPD on digital literacy in our development courses
  • We could offer templates per schools that are far more instructional in design

I enjoyed the range of presentations and presenting my workshop at the conference. It’s always good to hear and learn from what others do in this field and to pick up some ideas and reflect on what we do at City, in comparison to other universities in the UK.

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