Making sense of higher education

The first three papers in this issue are concerned with how students make sense of the tasks they are presented with in higher education. Two of these are provoked by a concern for international students but have much wider applicability. They show that while the study of international students’ experiences is motivated by a concern for the progress of this specific group, it highlights the challenges all students face when they are less familiar with UK higher education practices.

Jane Spiro opens the issue with a study of how international and home students respond to reflective tasks. This longitudinal study not only observes linguistic changes in the reflective writing of teachers, it also attempts to show what reflective writing reveals about how these student teachers’ make sense of the term. Although looking out for differences between the international and home students, the conclusion is that all students need to make sense of our expectations of reflective writing. Jane found that after a year of master’s level study, teachers shifted their conceptions of reflection from being about linking their study task to their own teaching practice to an evaluation of their own practices as scholars and researchers. They used reflective writing to arrive at plans of action as developing academics.

Fiona Gilbert and Garry Maguire review their feedback practices to help international students make sense of assessment tasks. Drawing significantly on the work of the Oxford Brookes ASKe CETL, they describe how they prepare students for assessment and their feedback practices. This reflective audit led them to make explicit their own practices and consequentially to they were able to produce a model which draws together their thinking. This paper is packed with links to resources they use and have created for the reader to follow up.

Jenny Phillips continues our ambition to include student perspectives in each issue of BeJLT (see student perspectives in Issues 5.1 and 4.2). She writes as a student expected to undertake peer group review, offering a vivid insight into what was for her, an emotional experience. Jenny constructively reflects on her negative experience in order to produce advice for lecturers to better prepare students for such tasks.

The remaining two short articles explore how staff are making sense of the policy context and their roles within a changing higher education system. Liz Browne offers a personal critique of the Coalition government’s recent School Direct proposals and their potential impact on teacher education. She sets out to present a clearer picture of the challenges facing us and issues a call to action for staff to be aware of such changes in their own professions. Irmgard Huppe reflects on her role as a Digital Media and e-Learning Developer and the potential of this group of staff to fulfill the potential of technology enhanced learning and the ambitions of the Oxford Brookes Strategy for Enhancing the Student Experience.

Finally, we leave you will some recommendations for your summer reading from members of the BeJLT Editorial Board and other colleagues from Oxford Brookes. I hope you find something in there to interest you.

Professor Rhona Sharpe

Rhona Sharpe

Professor Rhona Sharpe is Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development at Oxford Brookes University. Her interests are around developing and tutoring online courses, developing learners for a digital age, and  pedagogic research. Rhona is one of the co-founders of ELESIG (Evaluation of Learners' Experiences of e-learning Special Interest Group), a Senior Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a National Teaching Fellow. She is Editor of the Brookes eJournal for Learning and Teaching.

Posted in Editorial

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