Month: December 2017

Talking Teaching: Demystifying Abstract Concepts

It was really encouraging seeing a group of some sixty-five Professors, Teaching Fellows, Lecturers and staff attend the Teaching Talking lecture yesterday afternoon. This was the first of a series of events designed to showcase best practice in teaching and support to students and student life. Professor Simone Buitendijk Vice Provost (Education) inaugurated the series and welcomed the attendees. She spoke briefly about the goals and ambitions of the College’s new Learning and Teaching Strategy, and her hopes that this forum would be a way of developing a community of professionals to support excellent student outcomes and the Strategy’s success. Next, Professor Alan Spivey, Assistant Provost (Learning and Teaching) shared with the group how the College had been directing its efforts to support curriculum review and strategy implementation. Following this, Professor Martyn Kingsbury (Director of the Educational Development Unit) focused on what the review process would mean for student outcomes, and the key issues and topics that departments will need to work through while reviewing curriculums. He also promoted the new resources that are now available, and those that will be launched in the New Year.

The highlight of the event was Dr. Caroline Clewley’s presentation. She spoke passionately about her work in the Physics department overseeing a new visualisation project which helps to support teaching in the classroom. The genesis of the project was in part a response to student feedback about the difficulties they experienced in understanding and visualizing complex and abstract concepts within Physics and other STEM subjects. Some of these concepts form part of the core content of Maths, Physics and Chemistry courses, and include vector algebra, calculus and differential equations. This teaching tool offers a way to understand theoretical concepts and reinforce some basic educational principles. During the talk she demonstrated how a diatomic molecule behaves when you change its vibrational and rotational kinetic energy. This would be a novel and practical tool for students to test new concepts, to really understand these, and have fun while studying! The recording and slides from the talk are here

After Caroline’s presentation, there were some thoughtful questions from the audience about its content. Dr. Andreas Kogelbauer from the Department of Chemical Engineering commented that “Caroline’s talk was really great. Sometimes communications around strategic initiatives can be patchy across the College. This session was the best way to facilitate communication and demonstrate the innovative work departments are doing around pedagogy and new teaching technologies. The Jupyter Notebook software is something that our department is also very interested in. I think there could be some scope to collaborate with several departments around this.”

The Excellence Fund for Learning and Teaching Innovation

Applications for the next round of funding from the Excellence Fund for Learning and Teaching Innovation Fund are now open.

One of the four pillars of the Learning and Teaching Strategy is the fostering of an inclusive and diverse community, where different backgrounds and cultures in staff and students are cherished and celebrated, and their different cultural experiences and identities are embraced. In making our teaching and our curricula more inclusive, we aim to support staff and students to turn diverse backgrounds and cultures into an opportunity for mutual learning, taking advantage of different experiences and perspectives.

In support of this strategic aim, funds will be awarded to support projects which stimulate the development of more inclusive learning and teaching, with a focus on the development of inclusive curriculum content and use of inclusive research and research concepts.

More information about the scheme, including information about the criteria and suggested topics and the application form, is available from the website.

Professor Peter Lepage on Campus

Visiting us at the South Kensington Campus today is Professor Peter Lepage, Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics at Cornell University. 5 years ago, as the then Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, he implemented a substantial program to introduce active learning into undergraduate teaching at Cornell.

Peter’s visit has kicked-off with a networking lunch, where DUGS and DPS have been questioning Peter about implementing active learning methods. A very similar lunch will run tomorrow for Teaching Fellows, 12:30 pm in 163 Skempton.

Peter will be on Campus until Wednesday, when he will give a Perspectives in Education lecture at 17:30 pm, Huxley 340.

We will be recording Peter’s lecture on Large-Scale Pedagogical Change. Staff members will be able to access this recording here.

An Update on Curriculum Review

Curriculum review is now underway with every department in College having secured funding to help achieve this.

Each department will recruit at least one Strategic Teaching Fellow with many of these posts currently being advertised or interviewed for. Teaching Fellows from across the College will be deeply involved not only in curriculum review but also in pedagogy transformation projects arising out of this process. To support this, we will form a network of all teaching fellows to share experiences and spread good practice across College, coordinated through the EDU.

Pedagogy transformation funding is now available to support the implementation of active learning methods – such as peer-learning and problem-based learning – and the development of complementary digital content. The deadline for the next round of funding is the 2 March and you can find the proposal template here.

Our curriculum review support programme will ramp up in the New Year. The programme will include workshops, drop-in sessions and associated on-line resources. More details will be available soon.

If you have any questions, leave a reply below or email us at