New paper

Today the second paper from my maths teaching and learning project got published:

It is a reflective methodology paper published in SAGE Research Methods Cases.


Teaching animal nutrition through product development and design

Abstract to be presented at #SEBCST16

Students enrolled on Veterinary Physiotherapy, Animal Therapy or HE Equine courses at Writtle University College share an introductory animal nutrition module in the second semester of their first year. In order to encourage development of both subject-related and transferable skills in their curriculum, this module includes coursework which asks the students to analyse a new animal feed in the laboratory, after which they are required to design a package and a commercial video for this product. This was a group exercise.

The assessment was supported by lectures on nutrition for various life-stages in dogs and horses and legal requirements for packaging, lab practical sessions to help understand the nutritional values, and workshops to support the design process and use of various software packages involved in video editing.  At the end of the semester, student groups were asked to present their commercial video, submit a hard copy of their package and were questioned on various nutritional aspects of their product. They received peer feedback and staff feedback on their work, covering both product design and subject-specific matter.

Student feedback on this assignment was positive. They enjoyed the opportunity to be creative and demonstrate their understanding through product design. Some students went as far as to role-play their commercial video or create a 3D model a feed package. There was a good spread of marks, and staff feedback was very positive.


New addition to the collection

Today I received a copy of Boyle and Charles’ Curriculum Development. For now it will have to go onto the reading pile for the summer, but a quick flick though has already shown some very useful sections which I can take forward as an undergraduate course manager and curriculum developer.

More on this at a later point.

Curriculum Development book

Boyle, B. and Charles, M. (2016) Curriculum Development. London: SAGE Publications, pp.222, ISBN 978-1-44627-330-2.

Excellent post on writing research proposals

The 4-sentence research proposal

By Amanda Wolf Amanda Wolf is Deputy Head of the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Like many of us, I was taught that research starts with a research question. The more generous texts and supervisors may quietly soften that imperative with a whispered confidence that it is permissible to amend […]

via The 4-sentence research proposal — Doctoral Writing SIG

#LTHEChat 55 : Bilingual German/English May 18th – Opening-up HE for non-traditional students, Martina Emke (@martinaemke)


#LTHEChat 55: Die Öffnung der Hochschulen für nicht-traditionelle Studierende, Martina Emke (@martinaemke)

OFFENE_HOCHSCHULE_portraits_00986 Martina Emke @martinaemke

Who are non-traditional students? According toa 2015 report by theNational Center for Education Statistics (NCSC) there is no clear definition. However, there seem to be some characteristics that many non-traditional students (NTS) share: NTS often study part-time, work full-time and have dependents. Another common factor seems to be that for many NTS the support of university staff and the institution, to help increase their confidence in learning and address practical and personal issues, is crucial for their success at university study (Field, Merrill & West, 2012).

NTS already possess professional knowledge and work experience which influence their attitude towards studying. Research suggests that they are interested in applying knowledge and that they are determined and committed to learning and studying because they have clear goals, which are often connected to pursuing a professional…

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HEA Webinar: Postgraduate transitions – exploring disciplinary practice

Today I “attended” the HEA Research Webinar 9: Postgraduate transitions – exploring disciplinary practice. Although a lot of my time as a course manager is taken up by recruitment activity and manageing student populations once they arrive, another important part of my role is to make sure that students are aware of their options once they graduate. The leaving destinations of graduates are reported anually in HESA’s Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey, and it is something my courses and the College are benchmarked against. Obviously a graduate level job is one leaving destination measured, but another, equally important destination is further/postgraduate studies.


The webinar revolved around the current situation in transition from UG to PG (Taught and/or Research) studies. It started off with a very clear overview of current transition numbers, which HE disciplines are better than other in progression to PG studies, and what various institutions are doing to promote this transition both internally and externally. Also, the presentation showed PG Taught studies seem to have been forgotten about in institutional policies. The data was very interetsing and makes something I am going to read up on to discuss with colleagues.

I think the main message of the webinar was that the evidence-base is very limited, specifically because HEIs are not very good in keeping and monitoring information in this area. The recommendations (see below) were very clear, and to me make sense. I have taken away some useful pointers for me as a course manager, and was particularly interested in the concept of using our PG transition numbers as an indicator of how we develop a culutre of scholarship.

Recommendations made in the HEA webinar

The full findings of the EA research project discsussed during this seminar can be found here. I think the report makes very good reading and food for thought. There are some simple things we can do to support UG students who are interested in or would like to find out about PG studies.

The webinar was recorded, and can be found here for future watching. This was my first HEA Webinar, and I enjoyed the experience, so I will be looking out for future events. The next event is scheduled for June. I will be there, will you?

HEA research webinar ten: Evaluating teaching development in HE

1 June 2016, 12:30-14:00

Professor Pauline Kneale and members of the PedRIO team at Plymouth University will discuss their latest HEA-funded research which explores how best we can evaluate teaching development in HE. In addition to a literature review, the team have developed an evidence-informed toolkit which can be used to evaluate teaching development and CPD. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how these activities impact and influence teaching, learning and the broader student experience.

– See more at:


Student entry profiles do not define their chance of success

During the Writtle College HE Open Day yesterday, one of the parents accompanying their daughter asked me why our UCAS Tariff for the new Integrated Master in Bioveterinary Science was so much lower than similar courses at other HEIs.

At the time, my answer was that  I don’t believe that the decisions young people make in their early education journey and/or circumstances in their life when they are 16-18 years old should define their chances of entering higher education and their chances of becoming a successful graduate.

When I got home later that day, I started thinking more about this, and suddenly I remembered a TED talk I was shown in one of the workshops I took for my PgCert in Higher Education Practice. The talk was by Angela Duckworth and describer her research into “grit”.

Grit, or in my words “sheer hard word and dedication”, is something that is really important in higher education, especially in the transition from secondary education. In her talk, Angela refers to work done on Mindset Theory by Carol Dweck, who has also given a TED talk on the subject:

I strongly identify with the idea of Growth Mindset in young people, especially when they just arrive at university. Some of my most successful students have come in with entry profiles which were not even close to being considered at various “elite” institutions and graduated with first class honours degrees, after which they obtained postgraduate studies places at the institutions where they were rejected a mere 3 years earlier. Similarly, I see students with stellar entry profiles who don’t make it through year 1, because for the first time in their education journey they are confronted with setbacks and they fail to deal with it.

I am of the opinion that, with hard work, dedication and an open mind (or in other words grit and a growth mindset), candidates with less than ideal entry profiles can become successful HE graduates. Perhaps not all of them graduate with a first class award, but a student who works as hard as they can, takes up all opportunities they are offered, and who is passionate about what they do and ends up achieving a 3rd class or 2:2 class award is a successful graduate in my book. Mainly because the grit and mindset they have shown during their higher education journey will serve them really well further on in their career. These students have a bright future…

I plan on showing this videos on grit and growth mindset to new first year students next academic year, in the hope that it inspires them to think about their future and how they are going to get there.