Category Archives: Quick Reflections


Following on from my last post “Don’t Forget About Your Subject Centre” I decided that another quick post highlighting some of the supportive practice of the UK Centre for Bioscience was in order.

Last year I was delighted to be short-listed for the Ed Wood teaching Award organised by the Centre.  I found the entire process very supportive, unobtrusive and prompting further refection of my own teaching practice.  Each of the finalists was asked to record their reflections of the process and these may be read in full in the Centre’s latest bulletin.  I have quoted my reflections below.

Put simply, the Ed Wood Teaching Award process is straightforward, supportive and highly beneficial.  When I applied for the award it was with a certain degree of trepidation as to what might be entailed, however I discovered that the most challenging part was completing the application form in a manner that succinctly conveyed the teaching practice I was offering up for consideration.

Once that was done and I had been shortlisted the rest of the process allowed for reflection on my own practice during the observed teaching sessions and the ensuing interviews and evaluation, culminating in the production of the case study.  This part of the process I found very helpful and unobtrusive given that the teaching observations and interviews were carried out during one of the busiest times of the academic year.  The case study was written by Sheryl and passed back to me for comment; the whole process being very supportive with minimal stress for the academic.

While I have benefited from a working environment where innovation in teaching and learning is encouraged, supported and rewarded,   the Ed Wood Award process allowed me to gauge how my teaching practice was perceived on a national level by peers and closer to home by my own students.  Applying for such awards is as one of my own colleagues described “like putting your head above the parapet”.  However, in terms of reflecting on your teaching practice and having it supportively evaluated and showcased on a national level I highly recommend being involved in the Bioscience Teacher of the Year Awards!

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Reps Forum Revisited

I know this report has been out for a while, but I thought it worth flagging up again.  The content and activities of UK Centre for Bioscience Reps Forum 2010 was encapsulated in the report which is available on their website.   It covers just about everything that happened over the two days and is a great way of recalling all that took place!

Report on the 2010 UK Centre for Bioscience Reps Forum

Smilies for Student Feedback

Yesterday a colleague and I were leading a focus group with a bunch of students who had just finished their first year at University. We were keen to hear their thoughts on the types of assessment we use and their evaluation of year one generally.

A number of things came up that were not a huge surprise. They liked practicals, exams, class tests and essays but are not so keen on presentations and feel that we could do better on feedback.

What was a little surprising was just how much they liked getting feedback on electronic formative self-assessment tests in the form of a smiley 🙂 . They described how they would attempt questions over and over again until the smiley appeared indicating they had got the correct result. Coupled with this was their comments on how they needed encouragement to build confidence as they made the transition to University study.

On reflection we realised that sometimes feedback indicators that in effect say “You’re doing ok” go a long way in giving students the reassurance they need.

Used in the right context could “smilies as feedback tools” be the next big thing?

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10 Uses for an iPod Touch in Education – #1 Making Notes

iPod Touch Photo of Notes

I have recently acquired a 32GB iPod touch to be investigated mainly for its use in a higher education context. I intend in this occasional series to reflect on the various features and applications that I have found to be useful. By implication these applications this will also apply to the iPhone but the plan is to talk about features that apply to both.

In the first of this series I want to briefly mention the “notes” application which comes as standard on the iPod touch.
I have found this feature to be most useful; in fact I am using it to write these reflections during a quiet moment in an examination board session as I wait for another course to be considered! Do these things ever run to time?!

Admittedly it is unlikely you will write a book chapter using this app but to capture ideas or make a quick note to yourself, it then comes into its own.

In a teaching and learning context notes could be used to make rapid feedback during practical classes or at presentations where background noise or the very disruptive nature of doing so might preclude recording audio feedback.

The beauty of this app lies again in the handiness of the iPod technology which is much more portable and more readily coaxed from standby mode than even the most agile laptop PC or netbook. Notes captured on this app may be emailed either to a group for feedback or to your own email account for use in other applications.

My uses or suggested uses are given in the list below.

Notes for feedback at student presentations
Notes for feedback during lab classes
Writing blog posts or sections of papers during spare moments
Notes during conference lectures if you are not tweeting!

Of course there are also situations where students could use these devices to record their reflections or for learning purposes. If readers are using Notes for other things in an education context, please add these as a comment below.

Writing Concisely

Using Twitter is helping me to write more concisely.

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