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Flexible Delivery of Graduate Skills Professor Mary Cotter Director of Teaching and Learning College of Life Sciences and Medicine.

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Presentation on theme: "Flexible Delivery of Graduate Skills Professor Mary Cotter Director of Teaching and Learning College of Life Sciences and Medicine."— Presentation transcript:

1 Flexible Delivery of Graduate Skills Professor Mary Cotter Director of Teaching and Learning College of Life Sciences and Medicine

2 Summary of thoughts: Flexible assessment is key Persuade colleagues to embrace assessments other than essay-based 3 hour written exams. Trust students to work autonomously. Be prepared for lots of preparatory work. Really worthwhile for students and staff Foundation Skills for Life Sciences Research Skills for Life Sciences

3 BI2005 = Foundation Skills for Life Sciences The course focuses on developing core skills for life scientists and is required for all students with degree intentions in the School of Medical Sciences and Biological Sciences. What does it involve? Wednesday mornings: PRS session 9-10 in Arts LT followed by Workshop 10-1 in College Teaching Facility (Zoology Building). Staffed entirely by academics in SMS and by staff and demonstrators in SBS. Practice Questions available for a week on WebCT. Individual Assessment following Wednesday (College Teaching Facility) at 9am, 10am or 11am, 3 computer delivered, 3 paper-based.

4 Week 12Numerical Skills Week 13Practical Skills Week 15Data Interpretation Week 17Statistical analysis Week 19Experimental Design Week 21Problem Solving and Scientific Writing *****All content is contextualised to relevant disciplines. The Practice questions are NOT the same as the Assessment Questions. Students cannot learn the answers and remember them.

5 Students are instructed to retake any failed assessment as many times as needed, Practice makes Perfect! Although they can only achieve a 9 for any additional attempt, means all students get practice and that increases for students who find task more challenging. Also individual help available. Only 6 students failed out of 282 this year.

6 Pros: Challenging Flexible Allows all students to reach a basic competence level in multiple skills Very forgiving, repeat assessments until pass Enables targeted help to weaker students Assessments are available on alternate days for those involved in Sports or otherwise unable to attend main session Cons: Huge amount of work for course design team and administrative staff Diversity of student ability means too easy for some and way too difficult for others

7 BI2506 Research Skills for Life Sciences All Level 2 students (~180) with degree intentions in the School of Medical Sciences. Aim is to develop the essential skills needed to undertake a research project. Also allows flexible delivery and a different way of doing things. What do they have to do? Work in groups of ~6 to research a topic on Health and Disease. Prepare a joint project for Powerpoint presentation to peers and staff. Write an individual summary of the project under exam conditions.

8 One of the most important aspects of the project is that the members of the group explain and inform the rest of the group about the section of the project that they have been responsible for investigating. In the question session following the oral presentation, any member of the group can be asked questions on any aspect of the project. So the expectation is that that they have an understanding of the project in its entirety, via Peer Assisted Learning (PAL). Groups have a tutor who is there to troubleshoot and also runs a tutorial type exam after ~6 weeks to ensure all students engaged and keeping others educated. They decide how to run it, who does what, who does the presentation. Milestones are set that have to be achieved.

9 Assessment: Group Presentation30% Tutors of Theme 10%Other groups in Theme Course Performance15%Tutor (Including Tutorial10%) 5%Peer group Individual Essay40%Tutor (moderated by Theme leader and course organiser) 100% The Resit exam consists of an oral presentation to staff and submission of an entire project report under exam conditions, ie have to do it all on their own.

10 Students did extremely well,170 passed out of 175 Comments from staff included the presentations were as good as at International meetings.

11 StatementAgree/Strongly Agree Disagree/Strongly Disagree The course has challenged me78%4% The course has increased my interest in my subject 75%5% The course has increased my understanding of my subject 75%2% The course has helped me become a more independent learner 74%6% The course has helped me develop my group working skills 79%3% The course has helped me develop my presentation skills 78%4% I feel more confident about undertaking new assignments 74%2% I would perform a similar project better in the future 79%2% I have enjoyed this course65%6%

12 Real pros Students enjoy the autonomy and the responsibility Very flexible to deliver Plays to student strengths Enhances academic and transferable skills Allows those involved in Sports to take part in away games Cons Students who register later than first week Non-participants Complex to administer

13 More examples of flexible teaching: To address the diversity of ability and background in the large first year Biology class ~ , students are invited to address Biological Challenges and develop websites for prizes. Entirely voluntary, although did have a dedicated tutor. The first run, 6 groups started but only two ended up submitting for the deadline. This year, 5 groups successfully completed. The teams present their work to the rest of the students in a lecture slot, and they vote for the one that they think is best. Supporting material for students undertaking this option Take Home Message: Dont be afraid to challenge students, they will respond really well, but you need to provide the framework


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