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Department of Chemistry & Materials, Faculty of Science and Engineering
A winning formula?
On June 25 th 2004 , the Faculty of Science and Engineering held its principal Learning and Teaching event and was considered to be a great success. This year’s event (called LT2004 fast-forward ) was the fourth such event organised by the Faculty L&T Committee. In an attempt to enhance the profile of learning and teaching (and instilling a fresh enthusiasm) within the Faculty, the organising group opted for a somewhat new format and venue.
To emphasise the importance of this event, it was decided (with the support of the Dean of Faculty) to hold the event at an external venue. Due to the fact that the event coincided with the last day of the academic year, it was decided to have an event structure that facilitated, for those attending, the opportunity to contribute to the way the Faculty develops/moves forward with the ever expanding L&T agenda.
The two main aims that the LT2004 organising group hoped to meet were :
- To get staff (from all the different Departments) to talk to each other about various L&T matters, thus enabling the exchange of ideas and good practice to take place.
- To obtain a clear set of short-term and long-term goals that can be incorporated into a revised Faculty L&T strategy document, together with the generation of a shortterm Action Plan (which the Faculty can use as a focus for the 2004/05 academic session).
Format and Structure
The event was held at the nearby Manchester Art Gallery where 60 people from the Faculty were invited to a sitdown lunch. Over lunch, each of the six tables (10 people per table) was involved in a series of discussions/exchange of ideas on a specific key topic. Each table had a Chairperson, who had been briefed (before the event) to direct/focus these discussions in a particular way, so that clear short-term and long-term goals could be identified (which could be used in the ‘revamp’ of the Faculty L&T strategy).
In all cases, the Chairperson for each table was a Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow of MMU. Towards the end of the event, each Chairperson gave a 5-minute synopsis of the table discussion(s) to the whole audience. Table 1 presents the list of the key topics discussed on each table together with the name of the corresponding Chairperson.
(Faculty of Art & Design)
||Quality Learning Strategies
(Learning & Teaching Unit)
(Faculty of Science & Engineering)
||Recruitment and Retention
(Faculty of Science & Engineering)
||Generic Skills and Employability
(School of Law)
||Feedback: Tutor - Learner and Tutor - Tutor
(MMU Business School)
Table 1: List of Key Topics Discussed and the Table Chairpersons
At the corresponding event last year (LT2003), the number of people who attended was disappointing; so in an attempt to prevent this from happening again, each Department (in the Faculty) was informed that 10 seats had been reserved for them (in the case of Combined Honours only 3 places were allocated). The onus was put on each Head of Department to select 10 people and to identify each person’s 1 st and 2 nd choice of discussion group. So as to encourage a good exchange of ideas, the organising party made the decision to restrict each table to having only 2 people from the same Department. By and large this decision was adhered to, but in a couple of instances this rule was bent to allow 3 members from the same Department to sit on a particular table.
With a little bit of encouragement / persuasion, all 60 places were taken, although on the day only 58 people attended due to illness/ other reasons. Still this was very pleasing as this was a significant improvement on the number who had attended LT2003. Table 2 provides a breakdown (by Department) of who registered to attend the LT2004.
|Chemistry & Materials
|Computing & Maths
|Engineering & Technology
|Environmental & Geographical Studies
|Others (Dean and 6 Chairs)
* Two of the Table Chairpersons were from the Department of Biological Sciences
Table 2: Departmental Distribution of LT2004 Delegates
The table discussions were structured in a specific manner. The first round of discussions (which took place over lunch with the original table members), involved identifying good practice, weaknesses within the Faculty, and how the Faculty should move forwards. This was generally achieved by focused small-group discussions. In an attempt to encourage a good crossfertilisation of ideas, before the second round of table discussions (held after the comfort break) took place, half the members of each table were asked to move from their original table and sit at another table. This was achieved by using a simple colour coded transfer mark system placed on some of the delegate name cards. As a ‘wrap-up’, once these table discussions had finished, each Table Chairperson gave a 5-minute summary to the whole audience where there was also an opportunity to ask questions or make general comments.
Summary of Key Issues
The key issues to come out of LT2004 are summarised below;
- Central student support at a more local level (due to the remoteness and inadequacy of the University central support services).
- Automated assessment systems should be a priority in the Faculty.
- With the ever-widening L&T agenda, there should be a higher profile for MMU staff development and a new focus on staff training and development needs.
- A staff sabbatical/placement system should be set up to allow the development and implementation of key L&T projects to arise (across the Faculty and Uni-wide).
- Develop a Faculty-wide assessment strategy that has guidelines, which can be adapted by Departments. (This would include suggestions for the appropriate balance between summative and formative assessments and the levels of student effort with respect to assessment within a unit).
- The Faculty should promote more activities to encourage the social integration of students. This could be achieved by having a Facultywide calendar of social and scientific events.
- The incorporation of a proper administrative support system that can help Tutors monitor student attendance and academic progress.
- To carry out Faculty/ University audits to gather information about the plans for the introduction of PDP and the identification of generic online (WebCT) course areas that cover student skills support.
At the end of the event a short questionnaire was issued to everyone, so the organising party could gauge how the new format and structure was received. From the 45 completed questionnaires received (a 78 % response rate) the feedback was extremely positive. This was echoed by the verbal and written feedback received from the Table Chairpersons.
In short, the LT2004 event was deemed to be a great success where the format was good and where the event met its aims. The meal was rated as good and there was general agreement that the venue was suitable though there were a few comments about the level of background noise from the other tables. The most common suggestions (for future events of the same ilk) revolved around the invitation of nonacademic staff and other external people (to the Faculty) including specialist practitioners.
In conclusion, the LT2004 fastforward was seen as being very successful; and with the total cost of staging the event being about £2000 it was felt that the event overall was very good value for money. The event attracted a significant number of people from each Department, which created an excellent forum conducive to the exchange of good ideas and practice right across the Faculty.
From one of the Table Chairperson’s reports, it was noted that the event had a ‘real buzz’ to it. In another report, there was a call for more of these types of focussed events to be held which were convened in a social and informal fashion. This L&T event has helped to identify a number of key L&T issues that need to be addressed by the Faculty. A report has been submitted to the Faculty Senior Management Group, which hopefully will be informative and helpful in prioritising the course of action(s) that need to be implemented across the Faculty. This will help to enhance and consolidate the position of the Faculty of Science and Engineering in terms of the provision of high quality learning and teaching both in the short-term and long-term.
telephone: 0161 247 1427
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