Vol. Two - Issue Two - Oct 2007

Published: October 2007

Editorial: The Student Learning Experience


I welcome the challenge offered to me in taking up the Editorship of BeJLT. Reading the previous issues I am impressed by the diversity of the articles and the spectrum of staff from across the university that have contributed. I hope that these will continue to be strong features of the journal.

Coming from Australia I am impressed by the focus on learning and teaching in British universities and the funding available for initiatives, as well as the proud history of Brookes in learning and teaching. This issue of BeJLT reflects the Brookes traditions of student-centred learning and innovation in teaching.

Many of the articles in this issue have resulted from the lively Brookes Student Learning Experience (BSLE) conference held in May with the theme ‘Responding to what students tell us’. The National Student Surveys now seem to have become part of our lives but are only one way in which we receive feedback from students. In this issue Martin Haigh and Pete Smith have sought student views for their work on sustainable development and research in undergraduate courses (respectively), both showing hearteningly positive responses. The research note from Jane Spiro on the Student Voices project, funded by the BSLES, illustrates another way of gathering student views on an important topic. Other articles highlight imaginative responses to the challenges facing us: Mary Davis’s use of Turnitin as a learning tool for students; the actions taken to ensure continuing quality student support in the context of the reduction of NHS funding (Peter Bradley); and the success of the Personal and Academic Support System (Sue Robbins) in Life Sciences.

In another article Byron Mikellides reviews 38 years of teaching in architectural psychology and makes a strong case for its importance within architectural design to ensure ‘liveable’ buildings. We also welcome our first international contribution, from the United States (Sarah Ransdell), a narrative piece written as a lecturer takes her first steps with blended learning and experiences the highs and the lows. We also have two perspectives from Schools with Brian Marshall elucidating the restructuring of Westminster Institute of Education and Ray Lee examining the tensions between the ‘open’ aspects of research and the ‘closed’ aspects of teaching.

I would like to thank the Editorial Committee for their support as I have eased into my first issue of BeJLT and the Editorial Advisory Board who have had a lot of articles to review. I would encourage first-time writers to approach any member of the team with your ideas or drafts for assistance, and for experienced writers to use BeJLT to disseminate your ideas and your practice. An issue that will be taxing us all in the coming year is the internationalisation of our curriculum, so we would be especially pleased to receive articles illustrating how different disciplines are approaching this challenge. I look forward to reading your future articles.

Valerie Clifford

Published: October 2007

From this issue:

Issues in the design of reusable electronic learning objects for reuse

The potential for reusability is one of the primary attractions that educators emphasise in discussions about learning objects. This paper explores and analyses a variety of dimensions of reusability that arose from a project rooted in Theology and Religious Studies. These are highly text-based disciplines provoking complex questions when deliberately creating learning objects for reuse, and hence the paper is of relevance to the humanities in general. It opens by providing a background to the project and outlining the form of five Reusable Electronic Learning Objects which were designed specifically to adhere to three principal criteria, including that of reusability. It then considers the concept of reusability itself, before moving to analyse the principal issues that arose during the course of the project. It concludes by offering a first draft of a bipolar continuum that plots a range of dimensions contributing to the reusability of electronic learning objects.

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Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IoC) at Brookes?

The multilayered and inter-subjective nature of internationalisation within higher education and its construction by different agents and discourses is now widely acknowledged. The diversity of university populations, and a doubtful link between institutional IoC rhetoric and its impact on actual

Posted in Research Report

Getting the Right Blend: A Case Study of How Teaching Can Change in Blended Learning Environments

Introduction The transition from teaching in the classroom to teaching online is not one that most professors or students take lightly. This is in part because colleagues who do not teach online often ask for a defence of the concept.

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Students’ Expectations of a Research-Based Curriculum

This paper is the result of work carried out by a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Brookes. The Reinvention CETL is attempting to re-create the notion of an inclusive academic community where learners, teachers and researchers are all seen as scholars in the common pursuit of knowledge. More specifically, the Centre is helping to promote Brookes’ commitment to the development of research-based teaching and learning. In November 2006 an online survey of first-year undergraduate students was conducted with the primary objective of establishing the expectations of students with respect to a research-based curriculum. A total of 548 students replied to the questionnaire and display broadly the same personal and study characteristics as all 4,191 first-year undergraduates at Brookes. The respondents overwhelmingly agree with six statements about different ways in which research should feature in their learning at university. Agreement scores are formed for each of the statements and it is shown that students’ age and mode and subject of study have a small influence on their views about research and learning. The paper concludes that the survey has gone some way towards allaying the fear that students, or prospective students, may react negatively to research-based learning.

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Teaching and Learning in the School of Arts and Humanities

Introduction I am struck, when reading articles on teaching and learning, how often a phrase such as ‘the need to raise the profile of teaching and learning’ occurs. It would seem that those of us with a professional interest in

Posted in Perspective

Restructuring for Learning and Teaching Innovation and Development

This article discusses the thinking behind certain aspects of the recent restructuring of the Westminster Institute of Education. In particular it focuses on the attempt to enhance learning and teaching through the creation of new posts with specific developmental responsibilities in that area, alongside commitments to teaching, scholarship and research. The new posts came into effect from 1 September 2007. These posts are discussed in terms of the key purpose and the main duties. Central to the discussion are the new Learning and Teaching Development Coordinators, but other roles are also important and help to form a new Learning and Teaching Innovation and Development Team. For all members of the team, the ability to support and work well with a wide variety of colleagues is critically important. This is reflected in the Person Specification essential criteria for all of the new key posts. There is a theoretical background to the thinking about restructuring, and this places high importance on teacher collaboration and the creation of a learning organisation.

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Architectural Psychology 1969–2007

The aim of this paper is to critically evaluate the impact that research in Architectural Psychology and human aspects of design has had in the teaching and practice of Architecture, over the past 38 years. During this period there have been over 20 international conferences on the subject, numerous symposia and PhDs, dedicated international journals, books, articles and other publications. What has been the major contribution of this research to our understanding of people–environment relationships from both the theoretical and practical perspectives? Has this increased knowledge resulted in changes in legislation or directives by the appropriate professional bodies and institutions? It is argued that this significant multidisciplinary body of knowledge has contributed to a change in attitudes within the architectural profession towards a more humane environment. One of the main problems identified is how to communicate this knowledge to both students and practitioners. A case is made through the teaching of the subject over the past four decades that students not only appreciate the psychological and cultural aspects of design but consider the subject fundamental to their education. This is supported by annual feedback studies on a longitudinal basis, as well as many examples of students putting this knowledge in practice when they qualify.

The reader interested in research-based projects in the Year 2 undergraduate course, can obtain from the address above a specially prepared CD. A visit to the website http://www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/social/psych/year2projects.html will show the titles of over 1,400 Environmental Psychology reports. The reader can identify changes of students’ interests during this period and compare them with those in the international field.

Posted in Paper

Environmental Values of Open Day Visitors

The United Nations’ Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) urges every educator to promote pro-environmental understanding in all learners. This project establishes benchmarks for an examination of the impact of a Geographical education through a questionnaire survey of potential students and their parents attending a Brookes Open Day in 2005 and 2006. Despite minor differences between the response patterns across the divides of generation, gender, year of survey and whether the respondents were working alone or as a parent/offspring pair, there is general support for the ideal and ethos of ESD including a greater emphasis on responsibilities than rights and social-altruistic and biospheric values rather than egotistic.

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The Role of Turnitin within the Formative Process of Academic Writing

This study comes from an attempt to respond to the Brookes student feedback surveys on the Extended Writing Project module of the pre-Master’s diploma for international students. In the 2005 module feedback, students stated that if they were to take the module again, they would want to try to improve their writing more between drafts and learn more about using sources. From 2006-07, the study of the experiential use of Turnitin with first drafts before assessment aimed to examine the learning and ‘unlearning’ opportunities for academic literacy and plagiarism education.

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Student Support in Times of Diminishing Resources in the School of Health and Social Care

Background In 2005 a Review of student support in the School of Health and Social Care was initiated by the School’s Senior Management. The trigger for the Review was the anticipated change introduced by the Department of Health to provide

Posted in Paper

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