Professional practices in HE

pub_studentsThis issue includes a variety of types of articles in addition to the familiar research paper. There is a selection of short articles describing some aspect of professional practice, two book reviews and sadly, an obituary.  We were shocked and saddened to hear of Clive Robertson’s death earlier this year. Clive drove the creation of the Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching and I am grateful to Grant Clendining and Chris Rust for putting their memories of Clive down on paper as a tribute to Clive with which to open this issue.

Following on from this are three short articles that arise from my reading of this year’s Faculty Annual Review documents. These papers are circulated around our university committees where the changes to the academic portfolio are scrutinized and student progression statistics analysed. They include a section on ‘examples of innovative approaches to teaching and learning’ —  something for which Oxford Brookes is still widely known.  I was struck not only by the sheer number of courses listed under innovative practice in these documents but also by the wide variety of roles that academic staff take on in order to ensure the best possible learning experience for their students within and beyond the curriculum. In this issue we see staff taking on roles to organise field trips (Judith Piggott), liaise with alumni and colleagues in industry (Nicola Timbrell), and discuss the contents of the day’s newspapers (David Bowie). Finally, it is a delight to add to this group of articles the role of the learner, as James Percival takes us on a journey to experience studying for another A level after a gap of 30 years. These illustrate just some of the many roles that we take on in order to extend learning opportunities for students beyond the classroom and planned for curriculum. I hope to have more of these brief, personal insights into teaching in future issues.

Andrew Fisher returns us to the more familiar ground of the role of the course designer and classroom teacher in sharing his story of creating engaging ways of teaching philosophy of language to second years. Driven by a desire to teach in interactive and exciting ways that make learning enjoyable, the team at Nottingham University came up with the idea of a course where students had to make short films, which were then shown to the group in order to facilitate group discussion. This paper illustrates many of the issues that students commonly raise with group work and presenting in front of their peers. However, we also see that changing from live to pre-recorded group presentations changes the nature of what happens in the classroom — promoting more face-to-face discussion. Fisher reflects that in order for such changes to be successful, perhaps the greatest challenge is to ‘uncover and challenge the models of learning that the students are bringing to the module’. This is an important point to note as we increasingly see examples in the sector of engaging with students as co-creators, researchers and producers – a theme explored at this year’s Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference.

Finally, this issue includes reviews of two quite different books which might be of interest for your summer reading beyond the curricula you teach and research: Martin Seligman’s ‘Authentic Happiness’ and Ellis and Goodyear’s ‘Students’ experiences of e-learning in higher education: the ecology of sustainable innovation’. Please let me know if there are other books you would like to see reviewed – or if you would be prepared to write a book review yourself.

I hope that you find something of interest in the variety of article types and themes explored in this issue. In the words of Clive Robertson, when he was Editor of BeJLT in 2005,  ‘We hope that such variety offers something for everyone. We also hope that it will prompt you to write for future issues of BeJLT – to share with others the work you are doing and so contribute to our understanding of, and our ability to enhance, the student experience.’

Rhona Sharpe

Posted in Editorial

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