Published: July 2013
Editorial: 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
Education in the Digital Age Recommended by Mike Ratcliffe, Director of Academic and Student Affairs Bowen, W. G. (2013) Education in the Digital Age, Princeton, Princeton University Press More about MOOCs and higher education? There may be polarised views on whether that
Aim This short article argues that it would be beneficial for Oxford Brookes University (OBU) to work towards an outline of what Digital Media and e-Learning Developers (DMeLDs) should do which takes us beyond their current job description. DMeLDs need
The Coalition policy which sought to centralise the position of the student in the workings of the academy also marked the beginning of new opportunities for private universities and other for profit organisations to offer, according to policy rhetoric, a more diverse and responsive Higher Education (HE) system. The inevitable outcome of such a policy is impacting on the size and shape of the UK HE sector as new markets emerge, work based learning becomes the mantra, and new routes to the professions become mainstreamed. Focusing on changes to the training of teachers this article described the impact of current policy directives whilst also posing questions about the stability of other Higher Education provision.
Faced with my own inability to think of a full response to a question put to a panel at a recent conference about the nature of effective feedback for students whose first language is not English, I was motivated, following a scholarship of teaching (henceforth SoTL) approach (see e.g. Prosser, 2008), to conduct a reflective audit of feedback practices, on a group of seven undergraduate academic English modules. The aim was to investigate the feedback practices and explore the currently somewhat tacit rationale for these. Then to evaluate the extent to which they were integrated into course design to effectively target the specific needs of English as an additional language novice undergraduates (henceforth EAL students). The audit did reveal that the feedback practices, which had grown somewhat organically over a number of years, are generally fit for purpose, but more interestingly, that a significant number of the practices provide a scaffolding function to cater for novice HE students unfamiliar with assessment and feedback processes in the UK. The feedback practices therefore, aim to prepare students for their future assessment experiences. The reflective audit resulted in the development of a framework for paving the way for feedback for the students in question. This serves as a conceptual framework for planning, monitoring, targeting and developing assessment feedback practices. It is hoped that the paving the way for feedback framework may inform the practice of others.
This paper presents a reflexive account of student experience involved in a peer group setting where formal, written feedback was presented for the group to critique and review. As the impact was not the positive experience as the teacher intended, I felt compelled to turn my negative experience as the student concerned, into a positive outcome. As a result, the aim of this paper is to propose criteria as considerations for teachers to better prepare students prior to employing peer review sharing of written feedback, concluding with recommendations for further avenues of research in other educational contexts and from other participant perspectives.
This paper emerged in response to the author’s frequent teaching encounters with students across subject disciplines, who expressed confusion when confronted with the request to be ‘reflective’ in their written assignments. Amongst the confusions voiced by them, was how far ‘reflective writing’ gave them permission to make themselves visible personally in their writing. Yet content and linguistic choices are less significant than the learning which underlies them. The study described here asks: how did students respond to the invitation to be ‘reflective’ and what did this reveal about their understandings of the term? Does the systematic development of reflective writing actually develop the capacity to reflect? It will attempt to answer these questions by considering how one cohort of student teachers, engaged in a teacher development programme, responded to a reflective task at the start of a period of study, and at the end. The cohort included both domestic and international students, so it is also possible tentatively to suggest patterns of response that might differentiate between these two groups. Whilst this study is specific to a particular student group, the research questions invite us to consider how far perceptions change as an outcome of higher education study. The study also causes us to review our assumptions about students from domestic and international backgrounds, and to consider what is, or is not, valued in their experience of higher education.