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Students as Partners: Three Leicester vignettes


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Slides from my talk prepared for the Working as Partners conference, November 2013. The event was held at the Students' Union of the University of Leicester and looked at a variety of models of collaboration between students and staff in educational developments.

My talk picks up on three areas of my work - in the development of a Code of Practice for Student-Staff Committees, and two different assessed activities in which students produce resources about bioethics. The best examples of the latter are made available online for the benefit of the wider community, and hence the students are bona fide developers of new teaching materials.

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Students as Partners: Three Leicester vignettes

  1. 1. Working as Partners, November 2013 “Students as Partners”: Three Leicester Vignettes Dr Chris Willmott Dept of Biochemistry, University of Leicester University of Leicester
  2. 2. Introduction • Snapshot of three collaborative projects • Code of Practice for Student-Staff Committees • Resource development as assessed activity - Videos about bioethics - Evaluation of bioethics content in BBC News Video production News analysis
  3. 3. Code of Practice for SSC • Autumn 2009, invited to Chair review of working of Student-Staff Committees with the University • December 2009, meeting with PVC Students and SU Academic Affairs Officer (“President”) • Agreed to form small team consisting of students (UG and PG), academic staff and representative of core services
  4. 4. Composition of Working Group • From each College - UG student (4) - PG student (4) - Academic Director (4) • From Students’ Union (3) • From Core Services (4) - Student Development - Distance Learning - Library - Quality Office • Chair (1) and Secretarial support (1)
  5. 5. Working Group First meeting of SSCWG (Jan 2010) - Reflection on purpose of SSCs - Identification of significant issues in existing guidelines, including: - updating re emerging technologies - addressing negative phrasing, e.g. “raising issues and concerns” - Agreed to establish smaller writing team
  6. 6. Working Group First meeting of SSCWG (Jan 2010) Writing team (Feb 2010) - Significant rephrasing of existing guidelines
  7. 7. Working Group First meeting of SSCWG (Jan 2010) Writing team (Feb 2010) Second meeting of SSCWG (Feb 2010) - Discussion of revised guidelines - Recommendation of minor alterations
  8. 8. Working Group First meeting of SSCWG (Jan 2010) Writing team (Feb 2010) Second meeting of SSCWG (Feb 2010) Third meeting of SSCWG (May 2010) - Final amendments - Passed forward to SEEG and APC
  9. 9. 2013 Review of Code of Practice • Three years after introduction of Code, invited to lead review re operation of the Code of Practice • Initial e-mail conversation with Academic Directors of Colleges and SU Academic Officer (Dan Flatt) • Elected to host a series of focus groups with stratified stakeholders
  10. 10. Focus groups • Course Reps (UG & PG) • Non-Course Reps (UG & PG) • Academic Directors • Academic staff from Depts (2 meetings) • In addition a SurveyMonkey questionnaire distributed via Union Parliament Facebook group
  11. 11. Emerging issues • In general Code itself needed only minor amendments, eg to reflect change of title and/or committee structures • Several issues emerged re application of the Code - ensuring Reps knew it existed! - ensuring Depts make minutes etc available - ensuring training of Reps includes advice on chairing meetings - conflicting messages from SU v Dept (eg regarding election procedures) - scheduling (& notification) of SSC meetings
  12. 12. Developing notion of Partnership • It was noted the Specimen Agenda emphasised reflection on previous events • In spirit of partnership, SSCs encouraged to include Course Development as regular item for discussion
  13. 13. Revised Code • Revision process completed June 2013 • Updated CoP in use from current academic year •
  14. 14. Resource development • Two different assignments, different cohorts • Producing resources as means of engagement with issues in bioethics • Why bioethics?
  15. 15. QAA Benchmarking for Bioscience “Students should expect to be confronted by some of the scientific, moral and ethical questions raised by their study discipline, to consider viewpoints other than their own, and to engage in critical assessment and intellectual argument” “Recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for ethical standards and professional codes of conduct”
  16. 16. QAA Benchmarking for Bioscience All students should: “Have some understanding of ethical issues and the impact on society of advances in the biosciences” Good students should: “Be able to construct reasoned arguments to support their position on the ethical and social impact of advances in the biosciences”
  17. 17. News analysis • Research Skills module • Second year (second semester), n = 180 • Students write 1000 word commentaries on current news story that raises bioethical issues • Max 200 words summarising content, rest focussed on ethical arguments • Appropriately referenced
  18. 18. News analysis • Story must be from previous calendar year (i.e. Jan 2012 to Dec 2012 for 2013 cohort) • Story must be available as video clip on BBC website (max 5 mins, not clip from longer programme) • Best summaries made available as resources for wider community
  19. 19. News analysis
  20. 20. Bioethicsbytes • • Set up in 2006 • A hub for sharing multimedia resources for teaching about bioethics • Variety of formats
  21. 21. Bioethicsbytes Suggested sections of films & TV programmes
  22. 22. Bioethicsbytes In depth reviews
  23. 23. Bioethicsbytes Recommendation of external resources
  24. 24. Bioethicsbytes Book Reviews
  25. 25. Film production • Second year Medical Biochemistry, n=40 • Since 2008 • Students work in teams of 4 (set by me) to produce short film • Make 3-5 min video on allocated topic • Best films are made available more broadly via YouTube (linked from Bioethicsbytes)
  26. 26. Film production • Concerns that “you cannot say anything meaningful in 5 minutes” not substantiated • Rare opportunity within biology curriculum for students to express creativity • Genuine team activity rather than just “group work”
  27. 27. Topics covered Bioethics and Sport Forensic use of DNA 3-parent IVF Pharmacogenetics Neuroimaging Organ trading Genetic enhancement Transhumanism Use of animals in research Ethical issues in public health Xenotransplantation Egg donation Gene therapy Cognitive enhancement Use of human material
  28. 28. Student films: Genre Interviews 24hr News
  29. 29. Student films: Genre Role-play
  30. 30. Student films: Genre Animation
  31. 31. Student films: Genre Finger puppets VideoScribe
  32. 32. Student self-evaluation
  33. 33. Student self-evaluation
  34. 34. Student evaluation of exercise Positive • “Video project allowed us to research areas and topics of science that were different, new, and exciting, and also challenged us to using new equipment and computer software” • “The video project was interesting way of presenting ideas on ethical issues and made sure preparation was not last minute as with essays” • “A positive, enjoyable experience – was something different than writing essays etc, and allowed us some creativity, something I miss doing the ‘sciency’ (sic) course that we do”
  35. 35. Student evaluation of exercise Positive • “Enjoyable doing video project as it was quite a novel, creative form of assessment” • “The video project was a good learning experience” • “Video gave good and varied experience of working in teams” • “Video production was different and enjoyable” • “The bioethics video was interesting and has I feel helped me to obtain skills I did not have before as I had never had to make and edit a video” • “Video project was ace”
  36. 36. Student evaluation of exercise Mixed • “Whilst doing it I thought it was a bit of a pain to be honest! But by the end I was quite pleased with the result!” • “Fun to do and spend time on, however… the marks allocated for this project were disproportionate to the amount of time and effort we had put in.” Negative • “No more video assessment (we’re scientists not media students)”.
  37. 37. Students as Partners? • One of intentions for day = evaluate boundaries of “partnership” • “Partnership can mean many things…” Cashmore & Flatt (intro to conference brochure) • Do these activities count as *Partnerships*?
  38. 38. Code of Practice for SSC • Involvement of students (UG & PG) from across the disciplines crucial in successful drafting of CoP • Not “curriculum development” per se • SSCs represent important interface between students and their Dept • As such, central to the Student Experience • Genuine “partnership”?
  39. 39. Code of Practice for SSC • Bona fide collaboration between students and staff (both academic & support) • Producing tangible documentation for institutionwide application • “No brainer”
  40. 40. Resource development • Both tasks are more engaging and real-world relevant that essay writing = Authentic Assessment • Best examples disseminated via BioethicsBytes • Developing materials to enable Public Engagement with Science • Students as Producers • Are these *partnerships*?
  41. 41. BBC News evaluation • Students: - select clip for consideration - conduct research - write analysis • I provide: - initial vision - website to host resources - editing of text for clarity and accuracy - formatting of resource • Genuine “partnership”?
  42. 42. Ethics video production • Students: - conduct research - produce film • I provide: - initial vision - website to host resources - equipment and advice • Genuine “partnership”? - “sleeping partner” model?
  43. 43. Any Questions? E-mail: Twitter: cjrw Slideshare: cjrw2 Delicious: chriswillmott Blogs: University of Leicester