Supporting ScHARR’s teaching for 2020-21

15 September 2020
By the editors

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in late March 2020, we put emergency measures in place to ensure continued delivery and assessment across our programmes. We are now busy preparing for the start of the 2020-21 academic year with some significant challenges and opportunities.

We are sad to see the departure of Rosalyn Ferguson, whose skilful leadership shaped ScHARR’s vision for the consolidation and redevelopment of our Masters-level courses in response to the University’s Programme Level Approach (PLA) initiative.

It will be a significant challenge to maintain momentum for our PLA developments, to consider how to better embed employability, inclusivity and sustainability in our programmes. It is helpful that UEB has revised the PLA roadmap to give us more time to reach our objectives whilst we are all focusing on adapting our delivery of teaching and assessment for next semester.

In the past few weeks, we have seen a number of changes in module leadership and a strong response from all quarters of ScHARR – academic, research, professional services and administrative staff alike. These changes should ensure that we are well placed to respond flexibly to a need for tighter restrictions or more open access to campus-based teaching. This is essential for good student experience.

While there is still uncertainty about how our teaching will look across the semester, Luke Miller, Rosalyn Ferguson and Peter Grabowski are delivering a series of three ‘Bytesize’ sessions to help prepare for the next academic year. These focus on considerations for developing:

  • Alternative assessments to replace timed invigilated exams.

  • Resources available for engaging students actively in synchronous and asynchronous delivery of learning outcomes.

  • Improving the accessibility of learning resources for students in line with recent changes in legislation.

  • Keeping PLA priorities in mind as we go forward.

Learning and Teaching Publication

Rosario E, Grabowski P, Evans M. (2020). How do spaces for learning and teaching impact upon the achievement of small group learning outcomes? A student perspective at the University of Sheffield, UK. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal. 3(1):157-166.

In this project, funded by the Student Engagement team at the University of Sheffield, a group of six Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching (SALT). These students were drawn from across the Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health. They developed a questionnaire to assess student views of the appropriateness of current teaching and learning spaces for achieving target learning outcomes, across small group learning activities.

In follow-up focus groups, they further explored how a range of teaching spaces might impact upon the achievement of learning outcomes. Drawing from the literature, they looked beyond environmental factors (lighting, heating, noise etc) to identify three key recommendations that could be easily adopted. They put these forward for Faculty to consider when planning the reconfiguration of learning spaces. These were:

  • Easily configurable rooms to allow students to work in different group sizes.

  • Multiple visual aids to encourage better engagement

  • More innovative spaces with dynamic layouts. These can help regulate the power balances among teachers and learners and that encourage participation.

Seeing the potential in these recommedations, the University’s central Learning, Infrastructure and Space Management Group agreed that they should inform the University’s current refurbishment programme for learning and teaching spaces. They also agreed that student views should be included in refurbishment planning going forward. The paper includes reflections on the project from the SALT Lead (ER), the academic supervisor (PG) and the L&T Professional Services supervisor (ME) and it demonstrates effective empowerment of students’ voice across the Faculty.

(Peter Grabowski is a Senior University Teacher in ScHARR and is Programme Lead for the MSc in Human Nutrition. He collaboratively developed the above project during a secondment as a Faculty Officer for Learning and Teaching.)

MEd Graduation

In January, Emma Hock graduated from the School of Education with an MEd in Teaching and Learning in Higher education. For her dissertation, she examined the impact of a new problem-based learning (PBL) module. This module looked at the integration of teaching and research in a research-led department at a research-based institution and was conducted through interviews with staff and students on the module. Her findings revealed that the module gave students an insight into the research undertaken in the department. However further steps could be taken to make research-teaching integration more complete. In broad terms, participants highlighted a need to make research-teaching integral to both teaching and research, potentially involving a ‘win-win’ solution that respects the workloads of staff while also getting students more involved. She presented her findings at the Learning and Teaching Scholarship Showcase at the University of Sheffield in November 2019 and June 2020.

(Emma Hock is a Senior Research Fellow in ScHARR. She leads on two MPH modules and is Deputy Programme Lead for the MSc International Health Technology Assessment, Pricing and Reimbursement.)