Learning and Teaching in Action

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MMU Learning and Teaching in Action
Volume 3, Issue 3: Focusing on Students

Published by: Learning and Teaching Unit

Rachel Forsyth

Conceptualising the Student-Tutor relationship
David Webster

Developing and Sharing Best Practice
Della Fazey

Plagiarism: a how NOT to do it guide for students
Bill Johnston

Designing out Plagiarism & supporting Widening Participation
Richard Eskins

Enhancing Feedback to Students
Jonathan Willson

Degrees of Uncertainty or TIPS for Success?
Gill Rice & Karen Duggan

The Employability of History Students
David Nicholls

Diversity and Achievement
Kate Kirk

LT2004 fast-forward: A winning formula
Mike Cole

Faculty Learning and Teaching Reports

Learning and Teaching News from the Library

photo of rachel forsyth

Rachel Forsyth

Learning and Teaching Unit


Once again we are able to include several papers in this issue which have been developed from in-house conferences and workshops.

This is a clear indicator of the health and vibrancy of learning and teaching activity at the University. Taking time to reflect on, experiment with and disseminate our practice has become valued more and more as a part of normal professional activity. One of the aims of Learning and Teaching in Action is to provide a forum for this kind of activity. To find out to what extent this is being achieved, a questionnaire was sent out in the spring term 2004 to all 46 members of staff who had contributed long articles to the publication, asking various questions about what had happened next in relation to the articles. 34 responses were received (74% response rate). One-third of the respondents had been approached, or had been motivated, to develop their paper for presentation at a conference or seminar, or for publication in a recognised journal or online resource area such as the HE Academy website 1. A further third were considering such development. It is good news that the aim of providing a starting-point for publication by MMU staff on learning and teaching in HE is being achieved, and we will keep this under regular review. Your ideas and suggestions for improving LTiA are always welcome.

This issue of Learning and Teaching in Action is entitled Focusing on Students. Each of the articles encourages us to consider educational development in the context of students’ needs and expectations, and to keep a clear view of the purpose of our activity.

The issue opens with a challenging article by David Webster, based on his presentation at the MMU Cheshire annual learning and teaching conference. The article encourages us to refocus on the purpose of what we are doing rather than rushing straight into the process. Whilst the process is something which regularly, and legitimately, fills these pages, we all know that is can be easier to worry about how something can be done than to think deeply about the why of it. Whilst I hope that the many Learning and Teaching Unit ‘how-to’ courses are accompanied by reference to sound academic practice, I found David’s article to be a useful reminder to review the tutor-student relationship whenever changes are proposed.

Della Fazey from the University of Bangor picks up this theme in her paper which is based on her keynote presentation to the MMU Cheshire conference. She points out that best practice is dependent on educational context rather than particular techniques, and then goes on to present a model for educational development which has been tried and tested at Bangor.

We then move on to a trio of articles from the Faculty of Humanities, Law and Social Science, all based on MMU Cheshire conference presentations, and all on the theme of assessment. Bill Johnston presents the “Plagiarism Project” which evaluated staff and student perceptions of this issue, and then produced an online tutorial for students which provides a clear and consistent explanation of University policy.

In a complementary approach, Richard Eskins explains how a course team came up with a practicable solution to reducing plagiarism by amending assessment design. Most ‘anti-plagiarism’ strategies involve demanding an increased number of shorter submissions from students, and this is no exception. However, when you groan at the thought of more frequent marking, and turn the page, you will find how the course team dealt with this by implementing an ‘electronic feedback’ system (the one which was described in Learning and Teaching in Action Volume 2, issue 1). Jonathan Willson describes how it worked and what the main benefits were.

Richard and Jonathan explain that they felt impelled to change their approach to assessment policy partly to reduce plagiarism, but also to try to provide assessment opportunities which were more appropriate for the changed student group, which had a wider mix of experience than had previously been the case.

Many of you will already be aware of the project described in the next article, Transition, Induction and Progression Strategies, or TIPS. This project aims to support students from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’, and Karen Duggan and Gill Rice here present the project and give some early results of its impact.

Two members of MMU staff have been successful in achieving National Teaching Fellowships 2. These prestigious awards recognise individual achievement and help to fund future development and research. David Nicholls, who won an award in 2002, gives an update on his project here, and Kate Kirk, who was successful in 2004, previews hers.

Finally, Mike Cole has contributed a report on the Faculty of Science and Engineering Learning and Teaching Event which had an innovative format and was very successful. The event had several concrete outcomes which will inform learning and teaching policy in the Faculty this year, and we thought that others might find the description of the format useful and interesting.

We welcome your comments and suggestions: contact me at r.m.forsyth@mmu.ac.uk .


1 Report on Survey of Authors, Learning and Teaching Unit internal report, 2004 , available from the editor

2 For more information on the National Teaching Fellowships, see http://www.ntfs.ac.uk


Winter 2004
ISSN 1477-1241

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