Sharing good practice – inclusive curricula and professional skills

 By Dr Clemens Brechtelsbauer, Deputy Director of Undergraduate Studies in Chemical Engineering and  Principal Teaching Fellow.

The purpose of the ‘Talking Teaching’ seminars is to share good practice across the college and make people think. For me, yesterday’s session on designing inclusive curricula and sharing professional skills certainly achieved that.

Elizabeth Hauke started with an intriguing question on what inclusivity actually is. Like many I subconsciously went for ‘not excluding anyone’ rather than ‘including everyone’. While the former can be addressed through curriculum design, the latter can really only be achieved during the teaching itself, which is a lot harder. Elizabeth gave the example of ‘learning contracts’ which set out a group’s rules that students and educators formally commit to – something borrowed from the corporate world of meeting and workshop management. In the chemical engineering department, we run a workshop session with first years to set out what they expect from lecturers, what lecturers expect from them, and what students expect from each other. We introduced this to make it clear that even in a high pressure / high achieving environment such as Imperial College, a normal work-life balance is very much what everyone is entitled to. While the events were always successful, I was wondering whether we could enhance their impact even further through agreeing a formal ‘learning contract’ with the students.

Sophie Rutschmann described a two day short course for MSc students on how to effectively read scientific articles. She found that students spend too much time with reading papers cover to cover – which is not the way a trained scientist reads them. I always thought that my approach of skim reading (abstract, figures, conclusion) then deciding whether it’s worth reading the rest was some sort of a ‘guilty pleasure’. It never occurred to me that this is actually a valuable technique that is not obvious at all and worth passing on to students. It made me realize that as academic teachers we have a lot more to offer to our students than just passing on subject specific expert knowledge.

I enjoyed the session and it gave me lots to mull over. The challenge I see is that all of these very useful activities are quite time consuming in comparison with a traditional seminar or a lecture. Although they are undoubtedly more effective, this comes at a cost. As we need to streamline already congested curricula it will require serious thought where to deploy these ‘heavy hitters’ so that the associated time cost is worth it.

Call for funding to support pedagogy transformation

The second call for pedagogy transformation funding is now open. Funding is available for both Department-wide initiatives (Stream A) and for smaller scale initiatives (Stream B). The guidance has been updated, so please review this carefully before preparing your submission.

The deadline for this round of funding is 2 March 2018, and further calls for funding will take place on a rolling basis over the next three years. Please note however that all future funding calls will be for support in Stream A only.

The guidance and application forms are available to download now.

Launch of Teaching Toolkits

By Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development

We are very pleased to announce the launch of Imperial College’s online Teaching Toolkit. Based on our experience of working successfully with hundreds of Imperial’s teaching staff to introduce them to educational principles and techniques and enable them to apply these to improve the effectiveness of their teaching we have designed the Teaching Toolkit to support the College-wide Curricula Review and Pedagogical Transformation process and to complement the EDU’s workshops and PG programmes.

To reflect the aims of the Learning and Teaching Strategy and target areas for development during the initial curriculum review phase the first three sections available are:

Intended Learning Outcomes
Inclusive Learning and Teaching
Assessment and Feedback

In these sections you’ll find explanations of key educational concepts, such as what makes a useful learning outcome, strategies and tips, such as how to persuade students to act on feedback and advice, including on how to make lecturing and group working more inclusive. You’ll also find inspiring yet feasible examples from Imperial teaching staff. Please take a look, share and discuss the ideas with your colleagues and let us know what you think. We anticipate that this toolkit will become a focal point for developing and disseminating high quality, supportive teaching and learning practices across Imperial.

Coming soon… the Evaluating and researching education section and more internal and external examples, along with evidence of impact including video testimonies. This resource already represents much cross-College collaborative thinking and activity; to make Imperial’s Teaching Toolkit genuinely valuable to our community of staff who teach we’d welcome your examples of effective teaching and learning and suggestions for development.