Category: Uncategorized

Managing student expectations and understanding of what it means to be an Imperial student

Dr Tiffany Chiu, Teaching Fellow in Educational Development, Educational Development Unit

Dr Freddie Page, Strategic Teaching Fellow, Dyson School of Design Engineering

The Learning and Teaching Strategy aims to establish a supportive and inclusive scholarly community which helps students with the transition to study at Imperial. To achieve this, the Strategy has stressed the importance of “managing expectations and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to play an active part in our academic community”. We recognise the challenges of the transition from school to university where expectations of university students are not always made explicit and transparent, which are central to inclusive and diverse learning and teaching practices.

Anecdotal evidence from staff conversations, especially at Imperial, has highlighted the increasing concern that students are taking a pragmatic approach to their education. That is, students are over-emphasising academic outcomes/grades, and overlooking the holistic aims of higher education, such as the importance of transferable and higher-order skills development. To support the development of an inclusive culture of diversity, we need to generate conversation and discussion on what it means to be a university student and what we expect from our students within our curriculum. For establishing a platform to initiate this kind of conversation, we have used the Ideal University Student survey as part of induction exercises in the Dyson School of Design Engineering to discuss any potential mismatches between student and staff expectations. This survey is an ongoing educational research which looks into views and expectations of what it means to be a university student, from the perspectives of students and staff in higher education. Below we briefly describe how this exercise can be facilitated in class:

We used the final part of the first year Design Engineers’ induction to the department talk to run a segment titled University Learning. We wanted to build upon students’ thoughts on the most important qualities of a university student before prompting them, so we asked students to spend 5-10 minutes completing the ideal university student survey ( individually before moving to discussion. The survey contains fifty-one qualities related to university learning, and students had to score how important they thought each was. After students completed the survey, they discussed in groups their ideas on the most important features of a student in Design Engineering and then submitted their answers to a Mentimeter poll. Students were also asked to respond to their thoughts on tutor expectations (i.e. What do you think the tutors think the most important features are?).

During the whole class discussion, we asked students to elaborate what they had agreed was important and why. This cohort identified ‘innovation, ‘collaboration’, and ‘critical thinking’ as being particularly important and thought that their tutors might also expect students to have ‘good communication skills’ and to get ‘enough sleep’.

We also discussed the relative weighting to the degree of the first year and the master’s project (the project carries more weight than the total first year). With these discussions, we hope students are able to see the university is a journey that supports them to develop their identity as an engineer, rather than focusing heavily on chasing every last mark. We also showed students what employers often look for when recruiting graduates, and what our programme’s learning outcomes are and how they align to this. We hope that by reinforcing this attitude throughout the degree, students are able to take more responsibility for their learning and see our programme as a framework to help them to succeed. Ultimately, we hope to support our students to become well-rounded independent graduates with a high level of self-efficacy.

To find out more about this project, please visit the Ideal University Student website. If you would like to discuss how you can use this exercise to manage student expectations, please drop us an email.

Dr Tiffany Chiu (

Dr Freddie Page (





Embedding Academic Literacy within the Curriculum

By Andrew Northern, Teacher of English for Academic Purposes, Centre for Academic English

You may be familiar with the concept of academic literacy, but what exactly does it mean in the context of Imperial? Is it the ability to identify what is relevant from a lecture or a reading text? Is it the ability to communicate your science effectively to your target audience in speech and in writing? Is it the ability to recognise the need to adapt the way you communicate your science to an increasingly interdisciplinary audience? Academic literacy encompasses all of these abilities and more, and is thus an integral part of learning and engaging with science. Moreover, it is also a vital part of the Learning and Teaching Strategy and its drive towards a more inclusive curriculum in which the student experience is enhanced through active learning.

Here’s a quick example sentence to show you how successful communication of science to a target audience requires more than just accurate grammar and vocabulary  ̶  it requires academic literacy:

Using this theoretical background and a wide range of well-known qualitative research methods, this paper reports on the specific innovative management processes that were at work in the development of two new products over the last four years that were outside the core business of the Chilean forestry firm described earlier and which were nevertheless successfully developed.”

The risk is that the value of the work described in the sentence above may be clear only to the scientist and not to the intended reader or listener. As a result, the mind of the latter may start to wander away from the science and its impact may be lost. What if the information were organised and communicated as below?

“We used this theoretical background together with qualitative research methods to map and analyse the specific innovative management processes used to develop two new products at the Chilean global forestry firm. Despite being outside the core business of this firm, both products were successfully manufactured over the last four years.”

Dividing the information into two sentences enables the reader/listener to pause and process before taking in a new piece of information. The reader/listener can appreciate the value of the scientific work as it is given prominence in the second sentence. The meaning in the original sentence also becomes clearer and more accessible with the use of active verbs (“We used…to map and analyse”) and more explicit linking (“together with” instead of ‘and’). An awareness of the reader/listener ensures that the science is communicated successfully and effectively.

The Centre for Academic English (CfAE) is a team of academic literacy experts who specialise in the communication of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine. We provide courses, workshops and consultations that cover all areas of academic literacy and are available to all members of College, including academic staff.

You may have attended our workshop as part of Imperial College Education Day 2018. Specifically, in terms of the undergraduate curriculum review, the CfAE team is collaborating and sharing our expertise with departments across the College. Our mission is to ensure that Imperial College students can have the academic literacy competence they need as lifelong learners and science communicators, both on their degree course and in the workplace. You can find a detailed overview of the broad range of ways we are working to embed academic literacy in the undergraduate curriculum here.

Visit: Centre for Academic English, Level 3 Sherfield Building, South Kensington Campus

Academic Promotions – Educational Research

The College is launching a new promotions framework for staff whose primary focus is teaching. It is designed to recognise achievements in the delivery of the College’s educational mission, for example innovating curricula and pedagogy, educational scholarship, and educational research and evaluation. It also recognises those that have taken up national and international leadership roles which support the College’s mission to excel and to lead in the field of Higher Education.

What has changed?

We’ve put in place a revised career structure which allows for two distinct career pathways for learning and teaching staff:

  • A practitioner pathway enabling educational practitioners to access promotion based on their contribution and impact
  • An educational research pathway for staff focussed on scholarly activity and research within higher education, as opposed to research within their own subject discipline
Diagram showing the Learning and Teaching Job Family Structure
[Top row of diagram] The Practitioner Pathway progresses from Assistant Teaching Fellow to Teaching Fellow to Senior Teaching Fellow to Principal Teaching Fellow to Level 6.
[Bottom row of diagram] The Educational Research Pathway follows the same career route as the Practitioner Pathway until the level of Senior Teaching Fellow, at which point colleagues may choose to progress to Associate Professor in Education and Professor of Education thereon.

A new pathway

The new career pathway for staff focussed on educational research, leading to Professor of Education, is now live. New job titles also include Associate Professor of Education and Reader in Education. Titles are conferred to reflect disciplinary context, e.g. Professor of Engineering Education, Associate Professor of Digital Education, Reader in Higher Education etc.

Staff currently within the Learning and Teaching job family and the Academic and Research job family may apply for promotion via this pathway. Staff should also be aware that research responsibilities will be included in their contract, and they will therefore be considered as ‘research active’ for REF.

Who decides?

The Promotions Committee will include the Assistant Provost (Learning and Teaching) and the Director of Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship, in addition to the Vice-Provost (Education).

What are the criteria?

Staff will be expected to have influence and impact at Faculty/College Level, be making a significant contribution to the delivery of the Learning and Teaching Strategy, and be increasingly involved in educational research and scholarship. They should also be contributing to the field of pedagogy and enhancing day-to-day practice.

What is considered ‘educational research’?

The College anticipates that most educational research will fall into the following four categories:

Practice – reporting aspects of pedagogic practice. Written by practitioners, for practitioners; case-study type approach; local context.

Research – reporting pedagogic research studies, presenting empirical data. Related to practice of authors or others, but focus is presenting data and conclusions; used as evidence.

Theoretical – range of evidence to present, clarify or critique pedagogic theory or theoretical frameworks. Written by academic theorists.

Policy – presenting vision of ‘best practice’, using evidence. Written by government, professional bodies, senior practitioners etc.
The educational research output is expected to be of the highest quality, in line with expectations from other disciplinary areas represented within the College.

It will take time for colleagues, and the College in general, to develop expertise to this level.  In this context, it is important to recognise that there may be other markers of quality, and different approaches to establishing a ‘profile’ and evidencing ‘impact’, which may not be typical in other disciplinary areas.

How can I find out more?

Further guidance is available in Appendix 5 – Criteria for Promotion for Senior Learning and Teaching Staff

The Student Success Guide revisited: preparing Imperial students to thrive in a new learning culture

By Dr Tiffany Chiu and Dr Mark Anderson, Teaching Fellows in Educational Development, Educational Development Unit

The Learning and Teaching Strategy aims to “build a culture which values learning and teaching highly, rewards staff for their teaching and moves towards greater parity of esteem” between research and teaching. As with any cultural change, the language we use to share meaning and values will be an important vehicle for this transition.

To successfully navigate our rich educational landscape, students will need to be fluent in this language. Developing university-level ‘learning literacy’ early in their degree will enable students to recognise and harness the opportunities offered by our new teaching methods.

To support our students, we have introduced concepts of active learning in the recently-revised online Student Success Guide on How will you learn at Imperial, with descriptions of how these forms of learning and teaching activities might actually be experienced by learners, and why they can be valuable. We have framed this message around six broad types of learning activity that students may encounter on their degree programme. These are:

As students come to recognise these types of learning and understand the value of full participation, we hope that they will be better able to take active ownership of their education and enhance their self-efficacy. In line with the Strategy, this will create opportunities for us to work in partnership with students for knowledge creation and co-construction.

The Student Success Guide was promoted at the Fresher’s Fair this year, where a range of branded merchandise was distributed with clear signposts to the online Guide.

In alignment with the Imperial Graduate Attributes, the ultimate goal of the Success Guide is to support Imperial students to become skilled, empowered and independent graduates – specialists who are well-prepared to tackle global challenges. The Curriculum Review process offers an exciting opportunity to embed a variety of invigorating, collaborative and problem-solving learning activities that will help students along this path.

To find out more about these learning types and example activities at Imperial, visit Success Guide – undergraduate students. If you would like to discuss how you can develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance, please drop us an email.

Also, don’t forget to check out the Active Learning workshop series run by the EDU where we explore the six learning types and other active learning strategies.


Dr Mark Anderson (

Dr Tiffany Chiu (

Future proofing our students and our degrees

By Katie Dallison, Careers Consultant, Careers Service

The robots are coming! This call has never been more real than right now, and right here at Imperial, mainly because we’ll be involved in creating them. So here, at the dawn of the 4th industrial revolution of embedded technology, how do we make sure that our students are ready to take on whatever they will find once they graduate? We teach technical skills, and coding, and theories, but how relevant will some of this knowledge be in 10, even 5 years? How much of the subject related knowledge you gained for your undergraduate degree/s is still used or, in some disciplines, even correct today? According the World Economic Forum, the most sought after skills in 2020 for graduates will be these:

This image lists what the World Economic Forum expect the most sought after skills in 2020 for graduates will be

These skills link nicely to our Imperial Graduate Attributes and realistically, much of the teaching we do already incorporates elements of them. Embedding these attributes into curriculum is often a matter of highlighting where this is already being done, whether that is to students or ourselves, and ensuring we’ve given our students the tools to perform tasks we’re asking of them. For example, if we ask them to do a team project, where in the past have they learnt how to work in a team? Have they had a chance to assess what they are good at, or where they need to improve? How can we make sure we give them all of the tools to properly develop this vital, complex skill? There are some great examples already out there from Imperial and beyond.

Now is the time to make sure our degrees and our graduates are fit for purpose in the future. Yes, we’ll need to teach them solid academic knowledge but to really make sure we are producing the best, we’ll also need Imperial graduates that have the ability to communicate and adapt to an unknown, ever changing environment.

To find out more about embedding attributes visit Resources for staff, Workshop resources: 18 July Employers, Employment and Employability and to discuss your departments unique requirements, drop me an email.

Introducing StudentShapers

By Dr Mike Streule, Imperial StudentShapers Director, Education Office

This week sees the introduction of StudentShapers to the Imperial Community.

StudentShapers is a programme developed between Imperial College and Imperial College Union to support partnership between staff and students. The programme represents the Learning and Teaching strategy’s commitment to working closely with students during the strategy’s implementation and beyond. StudentShapers supports projects in educational development and educational research with the programme open to the entire Imperial College staff and student body.

Scheme framework

The scheme framework provides a structure and guidance for fostering effective co-creative partnerships between staff and students, with bursaries to support the student contribution. These partnerships can adopt either Curriculum Development and pedagogic enhancement and innovation (Theme 1) or Learning and Teaching Scholarship and Research (Theme 2). Within each theme there are various project streams (see image below).

This image outlines the different types of StudentShapers projects. Staff can propose: curriculum development projects (under Theme 1) for UG and PGT, Educational research and investigation projects (under Theme 2) for UG and PGT, Translation of research in to teaching projects (under Theme 1) for PGR and additional projects which are ad-hoc projects for all students at other times of year or across themes.

Key benefits (amongst many others) for staff:

  • Enhanced the relationship or trust between students and staff
  • Development of new or better teaching or curriculum materials
  • Increased understanding of the “other’s” experience (e.g. staff understanding student experiences or vice versa)
  • Expanding a department’s capacity for educational development work

Key benefits (amongst many others) for students:

  • Increased student engagement/motivation/ownership for learning
  • Increased student confidence/self-efficacy
  • Increased understanding of the “other’s” experience (e.g. students understanding staff experiences)

Project Funding Proposal Process

Applications submitted via the online form on the website specific to project type (guidance notes are given to help with submitting an application that will be approved); see deadlines on the website.  Funding proposals for projects partnering with UG or PGT students are geared towards ‘full time’ projects taking place in the summer vacation. However long term projects with lesser levels of commitment with UG or PGT students plus projects for PGR students can be proposed throughout the year.



Follow on Twitter: @studentshapers

Developing I-Explore Modules

In launching the Learning and Teaching Strategy we made a commitment to provide a broader and more inclusive education experience for our students.

We know we must prepare our students for the challenges of a rapidly changing world by providing them with educational experiences, skills and knowledge which go beyond defined curriculum boundaries. In pursuing this objective, all new undergraduate students starting their programmes from 2019/20 onwards will take a for-credit module from a suite of options outside of their academic discipline.

These will be called I-Explore Modules – named for their interdisciplinarity and breadth.

By engaging with challenging activities potentially outside of their discipline, students will apply their knowledge in a new context, hopefully driving a transformation of their understanding and identity.

What choices will students be offered?

The I-Explore Modules will consist of a broad range of cross-College modules grouped into four categories, two of which already exist (but which will be expanded), and two of which are entirely new. These modules will enhance and compliment the disciplinary learning experience by providing a suite of opportunities for additional learning in line with the Learning and Teaching Strategy. This varied range of courses should ensure that every student finds something to their taste within the I-Explore offer.

The I-Explore Modules will be grouped into the following four categories:

  1. Horizons Modules

The current Horizons offer is being expanded in various directions, while maintaining the Horizons ethos of cross-disciplinarity and openness to all. In addition to the 171 different modules that will be available from AY 2018/19, the offer will be further enriched in collaboration with the Advanced Hackspace, the Enterprise Lab, the Wohl Reach Out Lab and others. The opportunity to take additional Horizons modules for extra credit will remain.

  1. BPES Modules

These modules will be based on the current ‘Business for Professional Engineers and Scientists’ modules and will be delivered in on-line and face-to-face format by Imperial College Business School. These modules are designed to provide students with a greater understanding of the financial, strategic, operational, environmental and organisational context of their chosen discipline.

  1. STEMM Modules

These modules will be new and provided mainly by academic departments. The detail has yet to be developed but the intention is for modules to be provided which are suitable for any undergraduate student in College to take (i.e. both discipline and non-discipline specialists). A module might address a specific topical issue (e.g. ‘cybersecurity’, ‘gene editing’, ‘microfabrication’ etc.), or provide an introduction to an area of a discipline not currently accommodated in the core curriculum (e.g. ‘essential hacking concepts for chemistry’, ‘gendered robotics’ etc.).

  1. Interdisciplinary Project Modules

These project modules will also be new. The vision for these will be developed in partnership with the Imperial College Union, and will provide students with opportunities to collaborate on projects with peers and academic staff from across departments. Inspiration for the transformative educational power of interdisciplinary research projects comes from initiatives such as the success of the ‘Engineers without Borders’ programme and the ‘FoNS MAD Competition’. Students will also have the opportunity to collaborate with partner institutions.

Considerations for programme design

All I-Explore Modules will be offered for degree credit attracting 5 ECTS. All departments will need to reserve 5 ECTS within their new curricula for an I-Explore Module and decide which year to offer this out of years 2, 3 or 4 of an undergraduate programme (or a combination thereof). By choosing a combination of years in which to offer I-Explore modules, a Department will provide their students with greater flexibility to shape their curriculum.

I-Explore Modules will be offered at FHEQ levels 5 and 6 (with language provision measured against the CEFR). We intend that all students will be able to select from the same full set of I-Explore Modules whichever year/combination is offered by a department. This flexibility should allow curriculum review teams to decide what works best in their curriculum design and for their students.

The timetable slots currently reserved for Horizons & BPES will be retained [i.e. Tue 4-6 pm (1st years); Mon 4-6 pm (2nd years), Thurs 4-6 pm (3rd/4th years), with BPES modules running mainly in lunchtime slots (12-2 pm, Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri)]. The new STEM Modules will likely also run in some of these slots. The new Interdisciplinary Project and Horizons Modules may also run in timeslots outside of the normal timetable (e.g. over summer vacation periods).

All I-Explore modules will be graded but will not form part of the degree classification calculation (i.e. credit will be acquired on a pass/fail basis and the mark obtained will appear on transcripts). The modules will be offered and assessed at the same level of academic rigour as all other taught modules. The administrative, governance and quality assurance framework for this new offer will be developed in the coming months in close consultation with all faculties so as to build a robust system for initial implementation in AY 2020-21.

Progress and next steps

The existing Horizons and BPES co-curricular College offer provides a great foundation from which to build the I-Explore portfolio. However, the capacity and scale of this new portfolio requires the development of many new modules and it is clear that the success of what is being planned will be critically dependent on the engagement and enthusiasm of staff across College. Inevitably, establishing new modules will be a lot of work, but we have the chance to develop something truly world-leading in terms of an educational opportunity for our students.

I therefore invite all staff who are interested in helping to shape the vision of this offer to contribute your ideas over the coming months.

As indicated above, both the Horizons and BPES offers are being reviewed, refreshed and expanded under the leadership of Roberto Trotta ( and Edgar Meyer (, respectively; if you have ideas for new courses or suggestions for improvements to existing ones please contact them.

We will also be investing heavily to support departments and their staff in developing new STEMM Modules. We are planning to hold a workshop this Autumn term to brainstorm ideas for these and solicit synopses for approval to develop. Expect an announcement about this in an upcoming LTS Newsletter.

An infrastructure and platform to facilitate the management of the Interdisciplinary Project Modules is also being planned with leadership from a team in Design Engineering and the ICU. Again, your ideas for shaping these projects are very welcome and we will be holding another workshop this Autumn term to brainstorm on this.

With engagement from staff and students across College, I believe that the I-Explore Module portfolio can embody the ambition and commitment the College has for enabling our students to really make a difference in the world and I urge you to join me in making this a huge success and something we can all be proud of.

Alan Spivey

Assistant Provost for Learning & Teaching

IMPLEMnT Edit-a-thon review

by Katie Stripe, E-Learning Technologist, National Heart Lung Institute

First of all the IMPLEMnT team would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part and has offered their support to the project so far. The edit-a-thon was great success, some areas worked really well, others less so but lessons have been learned. It was great experience trying to run a session in person and in the cloud but on a couple of occasions the technology got the better of me and I would not necessarily do it that way again.

However both physical and virtual produced some great content for the site and I am looking forward to putting it in and growing the site and the community. That will take a bit of time but I look forward to working with you in the next few months to add your case studies to IMPLEMnT and to share them with our colleagues. The face-to-face workshops also yielded some great content, but more importantly great discussions and a chance to build on our teaching and learning communities.

This experience has given us some new ideas on how to move the project forward and generate more content, so watch this space. Plus we are very excited to be officially working with the University of Brighton on the technical development of phase 2 which will start to put your content and case studies into a tool that can help everyone make well informed decisions on how to add digital tools to their classrooms.

IMPLEMnT project website

IMPLEMnT on Twitter

Edit-a-thon – in numbers

Online users – 52

  • 45 from London
  • 5 from Brighton
  • 1 from Iver (Bucks)
  • 1 from Helsinki (I have a friend working at University of Helsinki)

Visitors to the virtual rooms

  • Technology for collaboration (sharing, audience response, social media) – 36
  • Technology for assessment, feedback and course management – 34
  • Teaching Methodologies – 28
  • Technology for multimedia (content, creation, visualisation, simulation) – 22
  • Technology for data, programming and reference management – 14
  • Technology for students, web searching and personal organisation – 11

The online sheets gathered information on about 45 different technologies including:

word cloud of technologies

The face-to-face workshop had over 20 people moving in and out of rooms

  • Teaching approximately – 8
  • Technology approximately – 12

The workshop generated 71 post-it notes and content on technologies including:

word cloud of technologies

Working with students as partners

By Nick Burstow, Deputy President (Education), Imperial College Union

Imperial College London often talks of working with ‘students as partners’, but until I started my role as Deputy President (Education) I had no appreciation for just how committed the College were to achieving this aim. My role allows me to sit on a number of committees, giving me the chance to directly represent the student voice at the highest levels of the College on all matters, no matter how big or small. The curriculum review is one such matter, and it is certainly one of the bigger ones!

Students have long expressed that they feel overburdened by a curriculum that is too excessive, with a heavy focus on factual recall rather than deeper, more conceptual understanding. The curriculum reviews offers the perfect opportunity for departments to address these concerns. Involving students in this process is essential, as they are able to offer a unique and valuable perspective.

My experience of the curriculum review so far is similar to that of George Orwell’s words in Animal Farm. Just as “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” I have seen that “all departments make efforts to involve students, but some departments involve students more than others.”

This framework, co-written by departmental and faculty level Academic Representatives, aims to provide guidance to departments on how to involve students in the curriculum review process. It is our hope that staff responsible for curriculum review will engage with this document, and apply its principles to their own practise.

Staff should not overlook the value that students can bring to the curriculum review process, and strive to work with them as partners. By using the framework for guidance, staff will be able to effectively tap in to the unique and valuable resource that is their students. In working together with one another, together staff and students can ensure that teaching at Imperial is the best it can possibly be.

Nick Burstow, Deputy President (Education)

New resources for curriculum review teams

Our colleagues in the Educational Development Unit have helped to develop a list of the key topics and questions to consider as part of curriculum review, in order to help guide your discussions. You will find these on the strategy webpages (internal only).

If you’ve not already done so, please see our Resources page for a range of useful material; this will be updated on a regular basis.