Tag Archives: STEM

Improving university teaching (Is it possible ????)

29 May

A very quick post, as I’m in the middle of the biannual marking-hell. I’ve had a couple of discussions with colleagues over the last few weeks about improving the quality of university teaching, and having just read a great article on the subject I thought I’d record my views here.

1) Most university teachers work on the basis of mirroring the style of teaching that they feel benefited them most when they were an undergraduate. The logic of this approach is clearly ridiculous. By definition, academics are likely to have been at the very top of the distribution of abilities in their undergraduate classes, and thus by modelling teaching on what worked for them it is likely that we are excluding the 95% of undergraduates who don’t end up in academia.

2) Students recognise good teaching more than we think they do. Ever year I ask students who have been at university for around seven weeks to tell me about examples of ‘bad presenting’ that they have witnessed. Every year, in addition to producing some embarrassing revelations, this exercise produces a list of what makes for a good presentation that would not be out-of-place in most ‘How To….’ books. In the past I have had quite senior colleagues tell be that poor teaching actually benefits students because it forces them to become independent learning. Hopeful with £9000 per year fees in the UK now, this defence has had its day

More thoughts on this when I have got the exam scripts off my desk

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Even the best students might not be very clear on ‘science’

12 Jul

I’ve just come across this great video that demonstrates scary levels of misunderstanding of very basic science. I’m wondering if by showing students how poor their science knowledge is we might be able to prompt them into action

So, if you ask Harvard graduates (regularly listed as the world’s best university) to explain the cause of the change of seasons  they produce very poor results. Seems like there is that makings of a very nice in-class demonstration of poor science understanding here. I suspect school kids are all taught the ‘real’ cause of the change of seasons so it will be interesting to see how many 1st year undergraduate students actually know. I shall try this out in October, and report back !! ( Slightly worried that the results may be depressing)

Paper on my work

24 Apr

I recently presented a paper at the Higher Education Academy’s Annual Conference for Science , Technology, Engineering and Maths disciplines (HEA STEM) on the teaching approach I use to encourage rational thinking.

All of the papers from the HEA STEM conference are available on their website, and there is some very interesting material amongst them

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