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A geography degree in the 21st century: what should it be? Brian Whalley Queens University Belfast (like)? And how it might help attraction.

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Presentation on theme: "A geography degree in the 21st century: what should it be? Brian Whalley Queens University Belfast (like)? And how it might help attraction."— Presentation transcript:

1 A geography degree in the 21st century: what should it be? Brian Whalley Queens University Belfast b.whalley@qub.ac.uk (like)? And how it might help attraction & retention NB, for this GEES website version I have: i. Added the Stickies responses from the session ( lilac slides) ii Added some pertinent references (pale green slide) iii Included some other slides that might have gone into a session for a longer period within the sequence but not shown (marked *) iv At the end some slides developing some of the ideas (these mainly relate to developing ideas in explicit/tacit knowledge and skills implementation etc.

2 GEES conference 2007 What is the greatest problem we face with our students (please vote, for all of the following) Retention Engagement Attending lectures Attending tutorials Results: too long a tail –ie too many 3rds and 2iis, or too few 1st and 2i Others? Are any of these linked?

3 GEES conference 2007 *Question If you are a teacher, what are you in your subject (at HE, FE) for? To research? –Subtext: to produce research students? To teach geography? –Subtext: to really get them to understand my L3 option? To empower students to become good graduates –Subtext: to instill a good measure of graduateness And what do your colleagues/HoD/VC think you are there to do?

4 GEES conference 2007 Posing the question: where are we coming from? Questions at school career meetings –What can I do with geography? –What can my son/daughter do with it? Our responses: –Pretty much anything….. Special sessions for brain surgery –Ok, well Masters Courses can lead on The unstated questions: –What can students do with a degree? –How do we cope with 50% participation?

5 GEES conference 2007 Being provocative…….. The late 20C curriculum is Victorian! Geography (or E or ES) knowledge doesnt matter (as such) Some intervention ideas –Do what the government wants us to do –Do what students want - employability skills –What cognitive psychology suggests we might do –What I suggest (!) increase coursework, decrease essays and essay exams - these are elitist. Moreover, we need assessment methods which are experiential and relate to employability

6 GEES conference 2007 So, what do properties do you want a geography graduate to have in 2010? So - youve guessed it Take a Post It Write on two attributes –No more than a two word phrase – (as large as possible) Pass the PI to the end of the line –Please stick it on the large sheet (see next 3 pages for results) Then think about how we did this operation [we often have to be quite explicit and perhaps assume tacit knowledge]

7 GEES conference 2007 Workshop comments: What do you want a geography (GEES) graduate to be? 1 Computing skills Ability to critically assess information Community Awareness Appropriate skills Far seeing Do the job Interpret Synthesise Literacy curiosity Capacity to think Capacity to apply knowledge in a range of relevant contexts

8 GEES conference 2007 What do you want a geography (GEES) graduate to be? 2 Able to articulate debates in written/oral form Confident, independent learners Know about geography at an appropriate level Confident, articulate flexible Application of knowledge Ability to research independently Request assistance Numeracy & Literacy Good communicator Good researcher

9 GEES conference 2007 What do you want a geography (GEES) graduate to be? 3 Ability to recognise relevance of subject knowledge Flexible Independent Executive summary Mathematical skills Problem solving Desire to continue learning Problem solving Appreciate scientific/quantitative base to physical processes Willingness to grapple with difficult aspects of study

10 GEES conference 2007 * Where are we going to? The concept of Graduateness –Graduate standards programme (report) Using: –Benchmarks –better ways of teaching –Assessment - more experiential –Recognising tacit knowledge requirements –Feedback methods

11 GEES conference 2007 How are we getting there? Attracting more students With (probably) continuingly decreased resources Fewer staff A continued research culture Implications for attracting Implications for retaining students

12 GEES conference 2007 Now, why did I say …… The late 20C curriculum is Victorian! Do you agree? (Hands show) Reasons for Yes Reasons for No

13 GEES conference 2007 How do we get from there to here? Using a Victorian legacy! –Yes, I think it is (see also quote in Notes section) –Think about the way we do things; Assessment, exams and CA Write all you know about ….. What is in your lab report, field note book? Filling 24 t-table slots with 24 lectures Scribbling comments on essays and calling this feedback Doing this with students from a league table environment –More on this from elsewhere

14 GEES conference 2007 * Drew 1998……… This model of a liberal education for an elite few and these prejudices against vocational education and skills persist, despite the evidence of Britains relative economic difficulties in the global context. The British higher education system was designed for a minority, for an age when knowledge changed slowly, and when jobs were frequently for life, whereas in the modern world, there is mass participation in higher education, knowledge and technology advance rapidly and short contract and portfolio work is increasing Quote from Washer 2007

15 GEES conference 2007 * Employment and Employability Government (and HEA) statement Leitch report (you might not like it but…) http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/523/43/leitch_finalreport051206.pdf Employers etc (see presentations by Chris Thomas and Tony Grindrod) Do our Victorian colleagues see employability as a dirty word?

16 GEES conference 2007 * If we want to go there, how might we get there? And what is the relationship to retention? Engagement? - what do we mean? –See next slide Initial Engagement at entry What turns students off? What turns students on? –Experiential learning –If so, why is this now not available in A Level?

17 GEES conference 2007 Student engagement A current topic of discussion Students lack engagement –More than just an absence at lectures –Lack of response to feedback –Lack of doing things properly include –Lack of following (understanding) assessment criteria –Lack of professionalism (PDP etc)

18 GEES conference 2007 Starting point. What are we providing…..? Statements from institutions… How meaningful are these? What do they say? Endeavour but how do you know? Crucial question. Do statements and responses from quality assurance committees etc have meaning? Yes, (perhaps) with the old system, not with the new. Does anybody?

19 GEES conference 2007 * The need to start again - with a new endpoint in view Graduateness (in geography, etc) How do we get there? If we lose engagement early on then its lost (or at least reduced)

20 GEES conference 2007 What do students say they want? And what do they get - and how do we know? Have we asked them? Put bluntly, the vast majority of students around the world go to university with the prime, perhaps even sole, aim of enhancing their career prospects Washer 2007

21 GEES conference 2007 Asking students what they want Apart from loaded questions and that they dont really know what they want… Responses……? Do students know the range of instruction and assessment types? Not if we dont use them!

22 GEES conference 2007 * The elements of Graduateness Learning empowerment More than just employability skills Graduates should leave higher education better in many ways than when they entered it, and this improvement should be attributable to the undergraduate curriculum, rather than to the fact they are simply three or four years older (Knight, 2001).

23 GEES conference 2007 Is graduateness more than keyskills (etc)? Communication skills Working with others Problem solving Numeracy, Graphicacy, literacy The use of information technology Learning how to learn Personal and Professional development Washer 2007

24 GEES conference 2007 Other attributes (than Washers)? Professionalism –Handing things in on time, –Attending meetings on time –Doing a good job of things Tacit knowledge –Should students be learning a lot of things as tacit rather than explicit

25 GEES conference 2007 Tacit knowledge is knowledge that people carry in their minds and is, therefore, difficult to access. Often, people are not aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. ……valuable because it provides context for people, places, ideas, and experiences. Effective transfer generally requires extensive personal contact and trust. is not easily shared. "We know more than we can tell." (Polanyi) ….onsists often of habits and culture that we do not recognize in ourselves. In the field of knowledge management it refers to a knowledge which is only known by an individual and that is difficult to communicate to the rest of an organization. The process of transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is known as codification or articulation

26 GEES conference 2007 Do we over instruct? See this, do that – (with a full set of instructions) Lab class fieldwork Analysis of note books suggest student often miss the point - prolific - but not skilled note takers or sketchers What, and where, are the sticking points? Essay writing - can this be done from a book? Do we over-instruct using essays as assessment?

27 GEES conference 2007 Explicit as tacit? But tacit is more difficult to convey Can this be done in a pre-Victorian manner? –Apprenticeships of old –Adso of Melk and William of Baskerville –Not Socratic but Apostolic (Gk: messenger)

28 GEES conference 2007 "The brain is a machine with limited resources for processing the enormous quantity of information received by the senses. As a result, attention is extremely selective and the brain must rely on all sorts of shortcuts if it is to cope effectively. Clive Shepherd on material by Itiel Dror How best to use this? How can we convey the necessary tacit information which the shortcuts often require?

29 GEES conference 2007 Some things we might do in (developing) this new scenario - using experiential attributes 1.Provide explicit assessment criteria 2.Follow 1 up in feedback 3.Provide more explicit and directed learning opportunities (linked with 1) 4.Expect professional results (from entry) 5.Provide tools, guidance and use and experience for 4

30 GEES conference 2007 Constructivist Assessment Cycle Explicit Criteria Active engagement with criteria Self-assessment with submission of work Active engagement with feedback Price and ODonovan 2006

31 GEES conference 2007 Can tacit knowledge be added via feedback? Taking basic knowledge and extending it Negotiation - how well is it done? Information handling, video conferencing etc Personal information strategy

32 GEES conference 2007 Linking criteria, tacit knowledge and employability skills Breaking down a practical into task components such that problem areas can be identified. Here, sub-tasks in red might be tacit knowledge that needs special attention to convey to students. Incidentally, this Concept Map was constructed with the free tools from: cmap.ihmc.us/

33 GEES conference 2007 References Skills Washer, P. 2007 Revisiting Key Skills: A Practical Framework for Higher Education. Quality in Higher Education, V. 13, 1, 57-67. Drew, S. 1998 Key skills in higher education: background and rationale. SEDA, Special Publication No. 6 Fallows, S. & Steven, C. 2000 Integrating key skills into higher education. Kogan Page. (See esp. papers by, OBrien, Ability-based education; Harding, Creating incurable learners; Fallows and Weller, a graduate apprenticeship scheme [esp re some of the Talks at the GEES conference]; De la Harpe and Radloff, Helping academic staff to integrate professional skills) Knight, P.T. 2001 Employability and quality. Quality in Higher Education, V. 7, 2, 93-5. Cognitive Psychology See papers by Dror in Learning Light http://www.learninglight.com/FileRetriever.aspx?id=129http://www.learninglight.com/FileRetriever.aspx?id=129 Or on his Website: http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/id/ Criteria Referencing in Assessment Price, M. and O'Donovan, B. 2006 Improving performance through enhancing student understanding of criteria and feedback. In: Innovative Assessment in Higher Education, Eds Bryan, C and Clegg, K. Routledge, 100-109

34 GEES conference 2007 End of slides used The following slides are ones in that I might have used and are also preparation for something on the development of feedback provision. Actually, I want to get away from using feedback; in control systems the term means something somewhat different from its use in assessment.

35 GEES conference 2007 OK, enough of me being provocative! Are there things we can do to engage students and answr some of th questions posed previously?

36 GEES conference 2007 Tinto 1993 Pre-entry attributes Intentions, aims, commitments Academic experiences Social experiences integrationintegration Intentions, aims, commitments Departure decision

37 GEES conference 2007 What is experiential learning?* Experiential teaching? Experiential learning? But can we have: –Experiential assessment? –Experiential feedback? Are active experiences (fd trips, practicals) truly experiential? Moving from explicit to tacit knowledge transfer

38 GEES conference 2007 Tacit knowledge (elements, skills) What is it? How can we build it in? How can we assess it? Can we practice it? Is this useful knowledge that students could use?

39 GEES conference 2007 Tacit knowledge examples we might identify How to do/decide/check/estimate… Project planning Tools to use Methods to use What to do and what not (and why)

40 GEES conference 2007 The system Defined however you want: –Department/staff/students/administrators –Institutionally – what across the sector? Is the system adaptive Is the system providing experiential learning (active learning) What do we really mean by experiential learning? –Can this be achieved by examinations (or examination style systems, such as essays?) Experiential means more than just doing –Close marking with criteria-referenced assessment

41 GEES conference 2007 The role of PDP Will PDP help? It probably has to! Guidance in tacit knowledge skills Making sure students know what the questions are from their point of view

42 GEES conference 2007 The role of employability What is employability? However, although the employability and skills agendas are often equated, they are not necessarily identical Washer 2007 Is it just the means of assembling skills such that students become more employable?

43 GEES conference 2007 Examples in assessment? Price & ODonnovan (Mini-grid). Is this level-referenced? Does it have sufficient criteria which students can be shown what is required (is this showing tacit knowledge? - I think it probably is)

44 GEES conference 2007 Other aspects Consciousness and self-awareness –A complex relationship in cognitive psychology and philosophy –Try: self awareness = reflecting on the experience –Can we bring this into doing tasks? –The importance of coursework Inclusivity of the educating process –= Consciousness + self awareness

45 GEES conference 2007 Employability skills Instead of: Write an essay on.. Why not: Write a briefing note on… Construct a Concept Map to… Write a research proposal to … Plan a project to... Design a publicity brochure to.. Design an instruction manual to.. and within these introduce: costings ethics, safety, risk analysis project planning and scheduling professionalism in production

46 GEES conference 2007 Its not what you teach… But they way that students learn which counts Without going deeply into this we can recognise some important aspects in education

47 GEES conference 2007 Meta-cognitive skills Are important Not easy to learn Even more difficult to teach –You have to experience them And practice them (strategies) Tacit skills and knowledge?

48 GEES conference 2007 Learning strategies for effective learning *(Dror) Cognition and learning are dependant on 2 distinct processing mechanisms: Bottom up: controlled by info coming in to the cognitive system (Driven by the information itself -mind is passive) Top down:rely on the person and what is in the cognitive system already: know, expect, mental state, previous experiences The Top down play an important part in the motivation

49 GEES conference 2007 Revising how we look at and use feedback Although widely used, feedback is not a useful, or misleading, term –At least when applied to control systems –Which is what we have when looking at staff-student information transfer –This is something I am trying to develop using a constructivist approach –See following slide by Rust

50 GEES conference 2007 Constructivist feedback: Rust 2007

51 GEES conference 2007 Constructivist Assessment Cycle as an information control system Explicit Criteria for task Active engagement with criteria Self-assessment with submission of work Active engagement with feedback Modified from: Price and ODonovan 2006 Student Tutor Provides T Checks S is aware of C Provides T - task instructions C - assessment criteria Checks C against T

52 GEES conference 2007 Feedback Control Systems 1 Positive and negative to control the system Controllers (Proportional-integral-derivative) controllers in a time domain Negative good (keeps the system under control) Positive bad (system goes out of control unless -ve fback is applied) (But, if the input changes faster than the system can respond - then -ve fback can behave as +ve and the system oscillates) NB, This isnt what we mean by feedback in an assessment sense!

53 GEES conference 2007 Feedback Control systems 1a In this view, feedback isnt useful (as a concept) we want the student to advance (like the advance and retard mechanisms cars used to have!) The response needs to be rapid (depending on the system)

54 GEES conference 2007 Feedforward Control systems 1 These react to changes in the environment to maintain some desired state Responds to a measured perturbation in a pre-defined way Feed-forward control can be combined with feed-back

55 GEES conference 2007 The form of feed-forward to students Next time you do a piece of work (of this type) note that….. Plan it Finish it in good time Proof read it and check references –Check calculations etc….. Try to confirm/provide the tacit knowledge

56 GEES conference 2007 tacit By definition, tacit knowledge is knowledge that people carry in their minds and is, therefore, difficult to access. Often, people are not aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Tacit knowledge is considered more valuable because it provides context for people, places, ideas, and experiences. Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact and trust. Tacit knowledge is not easily shared. One of Polanyi's famous aphorisms is: "We know more than we can tell." Tacit knowledge consists often of habits and culture that we do not recognize in ourselves. In the field of knowledge management the concept of tacit knowledge refers to a knowledge which is only known by an individual and that is difficult to communicate to the rest of an organization. Knowledge that is easy to communicate is called explicit knowledge. The process of transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is known as codification or articulation

57 GEES conference 2007 Benchmarking Compare the ideas on the last three slides with the sections on the new benchmarking statement: www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/benchmark/statements/Geography.pdf

58 GEES conference 2007 Finally, consider the following points from Bryan and Clegg, 2006 Innovative Assessment in Higher Education p 225 Active participation in authentic, real-life tasks that require he application of existing knowlege and skills Participation in a dialogue an conversation between learners (including tutors) Engagement with and development of criteria and self- regulation of ones own work Employment of a range of diverse assessment modes and methods adapted from different subject disciplines Opportunity to develop and apply attributes such as reflection, resilience, resourcefulness and professional judgement and conduct in relation to problems Acceptance of the limitations of judgement and the value of dialogue in developing new ways of working


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