Tag Archives: teaching

HUCBMS Conference

Last Friday I took part in the Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Science (HUCBMS) Conference 2011 held at the Coleraine campus of the University of Ulster. I was presenting on Using Mobile Technologies and Video Sharing to Engage Students in the final session on Innovation in Teaching and Learning. This turned out to be a very interactive session and I am grateful to the delegates for the many questions and comments received during and after the presentation.

My slides from the event are provided here as a PDF.

Image credit.

Festival of Innovative Practice 2011 #CHEP11

Today I will be at the University of Ulster’s Centre for Higher Education Practice (CHEP) second “Festival of Innovative Practice”. The event website states the following:

“The purpose of this event is to showcase and celebrate the wide range of innovative work undertaken by funded CHEP and TFL projects during 2010-2011, and some ongoing work from projects funded in previous years. In addition, and importantly, it aims to allow all participants to share and learn from each other’s practice.

The Festival will be opened by the Vice Chancellor and will include a keynote address by the Centre’s Visiting Professor, David Boud, on the importance of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The day provides an opportunity to hear snapshot presentations of the outcomes and progress of a number of CHEP Development Fund and Technology Facilitated Learning projects. Project posters and stands will also be available to view in an interactive exhibition hall. The range of topics will include:

  • technology-enhanced learning
  • creative approaches to teaching and learning
  • curricula developments
  • pedagogic research
  • assessment and feedback

After lunch, Dr David Adams, Director, UK Centre for Bioscience, HEA will facilitate an interactive workshop on Creativity and Innovation.”

I will be chairing one of the parallel sessions but also in my role as rep for the UK Centre for Bioscience I will be “manning” a stand with useful materials from the Centre.

As time permits I will also post a few tweets using the #CHEP11 hashtag.

The programme for the day, as taken from the Festival website, is included below.

Centre for Higher Education Practice

“Festival of Innovative Practice”

June 16th 2011, Jordanstown Campus (21C05)

Draft programme

09.15 – Tea/Coffee and Registration

Photographs of Student Competition Winners

09.45 – Welcome and Introduction – Vice Chancellor

“What Makes a Class Un-Missable?”  Presentation to Student Competition Winners –

PG winner: Eoin Costello, Ulster Business School, Business Development and Innovation;

UG winner: Amy McCabe, Life and Health Sciences, Dietetics;

UG runner up: Christopher McAuley, Computing & Engineering, Interactive Multimedia Design;

UG runner up (and alternative format): Farhaanah Ali, Social Sciences, Law.

10.00 – Keynote Address:

‘The Importance of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’ – Professor David Boud, Visiting Professor to the Centre for Higher Education Practice

10.45 – Parallel Sessions A, B, C & D: Project ‘Snapshots’

11.45 – Tea/Coffee

12.15 – Parallel Sessions E, F, G & H: Project ‘Snapshots’

13.15 – Poster Exhibition and Buffet Lunch

14.00 – Interactive Workshop:

‘Creativity in Teaching’ – Facilitated by Dr David Adams, Director, UK  Centre for Bioscience, HEA

15.00 – Plenary – Professor David Boud

15.20 – End

When You Need to Call Tech Support

It seems that with the majority of new technical innovations a helping hand is needed for new adopters.  The video below summaries this nicely!

UK Centre for Bioscience – Responses to: Conservation, Consolidation or Creativity?

I was asked to respond to Kevan Gartland’s piece in the UK Centre for Bioscience Bulletin 32, Spring 2011  “Enhancing the Bioscience Community: Conservation, Consolidation or Creativity?” on the demise of the HEA Bioscience Subject Centre. I have reproduced my response below.  Kevan’s piece and a further response by Julian Park are available in the online version of the bulletin.


There is no doubt that the UK Centre for Bioscience has done much to raise the profile of excellence in teaching and learning with many in the Bioscience community having benefited from its hallmark, high quality resources and supportive networking events. Despite its many positive attributes decisions taken in recent times appear to herald an untimely end for the Centre. So what can be done to prevent the good work of the Centre slowly drifting off the radar?

I agree with Kevan that some degree of conservation and consolidation of
resources must take place; the electronic environment can allow that to happen
easily. But one of the greatest spin-outs from the work of the Centre has to be the strong network of like-minded colleagues drawn together through its events such as the many and varied workshops, conferences and the excellent Reps
Forum.  How can this unique resource be conserved and augmented? I suggest
that in the absence of any other stimulus, social network sites and Web 2.0 tools
such as Twitter may be one means of helping colleagues band together; with
occasional blog posts and sharing of papers and ideas helping to keep the conversation going. In fact this in silico networking has already happened to some degree within the bioscience education community and may be the catalyst for the organisation of face-to-face networking opportunities organised around specific themes that emerge in the future.  Could the facilitation of such events be handled by the new structure at the new HEA?

In its myriad of functions the UK Centre for Bioscience has performed a very important role that lies close to home for each dedicated teaching practitioner in the Biosciences.  It has added a level of credence to excellent teaching practices that may sometimes be overlooked in research intensive environments. It therefore has helped to raise the profile of teaching and learning within institutions thus removing the feeling of isolation that can sometimes exist for teaching-focused colleagues. This aspect of its support will be sadly missed.

It is my hope that in the post-UK Centre for Bioscience era we who have benefited much will continue to sustain the current network, share resources, encourage and mentor junior colleagues and collectively raise the standard of excellence in teaching and learning in the biosciences. But in this regard the ball is firmly in our court.

Graduate Teaching Assistants in Higher Education

Last Friday the University of Ulster was host to a UK Centre for Bioscience event focused on graduate teaching assistants and their role in learning and teaching in higher education.

The event was part of a Bioscience Subject funded project and the format was similar to that held previously in Glasgow, Manchester and Aberdeen.  A further event is planned for the University of Reading on 14th March 2011.

Following an introduction by project co-ordinator Anne Tierney (University of Glasgow) it was down to Prof Kevan Gartland, Dean of the School of Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University to set the scene for the day.  Kevan provided an overview of teaching and challenged the delegates present to consider what “brand” of teacher they were or aspired to be by drawing analogies with well known high street shops.

Dr Katherine Clark from the UK Centre for Bioscience described the role of the Centre specifically concentrating on resources on the bioscience centre website such as Imagebank but also highlighting the strong network of colleagues that exists throughout the Bioscience discipline.

Group activities throughout the day addressed issues such as what makes a good teacher, small group and practical work, assessment and feedback and designing a course and assessment.

Delegates from the event came from the University of Ulster  and Queens University Belfast with others travelling from Glasgow to attend.
One of the highlights of the day was to see the level of discussion about teaching related issues by those with a strong remit in the research area.  Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers play vital roles in the teaching of under-graduate and post-graduate students.  In many instances post-graduate students find themselves demonstrating to first year under-graduates in large year one semester one modules.  Their attitudes and approach to teaching can therefore form strong first impressions for new students embarking on tertiary study in a daunting environment.  Their role should therefore not be under-estimated and workshops such as this provide a further opportunity for them to develop an appreciation of the role of the teacher.

It would be great to see events like this  being run on a yearly basis, and some students have already enquired about this; sadly with the demise of the Subject Centres this is now unlikely.

Image source.

Quick Reflections on the Ulster eLearning Conference 2011

The University of Ulster’s 9th annual eLearning conference was held today on the Jordanstown campus and again provided a good opportunity to explore all things in teaching and learning with a USB cable attached.

One of the highlights for me was the opening keynote address by Peter Bullen from Hertfordshire who reminded us that there is no real pedagogy around the technology that assists learning; but rather around the teaching and learning activities themselves.  He encouraged the audience to try to better understand the value of every learning activity and then concentrate on value; not cost.

The other main highlight of the conference for me was  a session led by Sal Cooke on the activities and resources of  JISC TechDis.  This highlighted such tools as Xerte and many of the accessibility resources available through the JISC TechDis website.  There are too many to individually describe high, so please take a look if you are interested in making Microsoft documents more readable.

My Tweets from the event are below.

  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)In a session looking at Blackboard learn; our new VLE! #EULS112011-01-20 14:16:39 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Playing with Xerte http://www.techdisplayxerte.info/ at #EUls112011-01-20 13:06:18 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Just found out about Accessible Twitter in the session about @JISC_TechDis with Sal Cooke at #EUls11 http://www.accessibletwitter.com2011-01-20 12:36:23 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)In a session about @JISC_TechDis with Sal Cooke at #EUls112011-01-20 12:06:23 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Being shown An Open Letter to Educators at #EUls11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P2PGGeTOA4 Quite annoying but some good points #edtech2011-01-20 11:07:23 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Some of the qualities of social networking may clash with current pedagogocal paradigms (Karen Fraser) #EUls11 #edtech #edchat2011-01-20 10:53:35 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Students feel comfortable learning in an environment that is familiar to them; eg Facebook. Lurkers can also benefit. #edtech #EUls112011-01-20 10:51:54 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)In a workshop on social networking at #EUls11.2011-01-20 10:46:11 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Try to better understand the value of every learning activity and then concentrate on value not cost. Peter Bullen #EUls11 #edchat #edtech2011-01-20 10:28:47 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)How much impact on the learning environment does our attendance and discussions at conferences really have? Ques from Peter Bullen #EUls112011-01-20 10:24:50 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Sometimes the best teachers are taken out of teaching to be involved in innovation. #EUls11 #edchat2011-01-20 10:15:20 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Picture of rubbish bags at #EUls11 containing marked but uncollected coursework destined for the bin. Waste of feedback!2011-01-20 10:09:17 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Innovating, sustaining and embedding technology enhanced learning #EUls11 @UlsterUni2011-01-20 09:58:08 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Keynote address by Prof Peter Bullen Univ of Hertfordshire at #EUls112011-01-20 09:54:55 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Prof Kate Greenan opening the 9th annual University of Ulster eLearning conference #EUls11 (making my own hashtag; is there another one?)2011-01-20 09:49:10 UTC


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!

Image credit.