Jun 21 2016

HEFCE recruiting for TEF Year 2 implementation

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HEFCE is seeking to appoint up to 25 panel members and a pool of up to 65 assessors to review submissions to the Year 2 Teaching Excellence Framework and decide on the assessment outcomes. High calibre individuals who are committed to excellence in learning and teaching are required from across a range of academic, student, employer and widening participation communities.

If you are interested, read more at the Panel members and assessors: Role specification document (PDF) and, if you want to apply, relevant information and forms can be found at HEFCE’s TEF panel member and assessor vacancies web page.

The deadline for applications is noon on Friday 1 July 2016.


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Jun 10 2016

LSE’s Julia Black, Paul Kelly and Eric Neumayer on recommended summer reads

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As has become traditional, our last post of the academic year features LSE staff talking about books. This time, in recognition of the launch earlier this year of the LSE Strategy 2020 and the LSE Education Strategy 2015-2020, Jane Hindle asked some of LSE’s leaders to share their recommendations.

Julia Black, June 2016, for blogJulia Black, Pro-Director Research

Earlier this year I finished the Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh (Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011) and Flood of Fire (2015)). I’ve read each book as it came out, so the trilogy has been with me for some time. Set in the period leading up to the first Opium War (1839-42), the series is named after the ship, the Ibis, which transported both opium and slaves from India to China. There is a cast of characters ranging from the heights of Indian and English colonial society to those working in the opium fields in India and the boatpeople of Canton. The trilogy focuses on different characters in each book, though some are better drawn than others, and there is an attempt to bring most of them together in the final stages of Flood of Fire, as the first Opium War gets underway. The books are rich in descriptive detail, and characters speak in a range of local dialects, creating a vivid picture of sections of colonial, military and mercantile societies in India and Canton in the mid nineteenth century. The portrayal of the polyglot, bustling trading post of Canton in River of Smoke is particularly evocative. It is difficult to sustain suspense over such a long trilogy, particularly if read over a number of years, and some of the devices used to link characters or explore different parts of India, China and Canton are a little contrived, but together the books create a wonderfully rich depiction of this particular period of colonial history.

In complete contrast, Fannie Flagg’s The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a funny, fast paced story of sisters who run the family filling station on the death of their father. They turn to flying and some become pilots for the US Air Force in the Second World War. Needless to say it took decades for the US to acknowledge the role that women pilots played in flying military planes between bases in the US during the war, and they were kicked out of their jobs when the ‘boys came home’. But the book is a multi-generational story of love, determination, excitement, loss and identity – and hugely entertaining.

Paul Kelly, June 2016, for blogPaul Kelly, Pro-Director Teaching and Learning

This summer I will mostly be reading Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs by Graham Johnson. Pretentious? I read Ian Bostridge’s wonderful Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession last year and became hooked on Schubert’s songs and everything about them. Johnson’s huge study covers absolutely everything from history and politics to musicology and it is a wonderful piece of scholarship. The three massive volumes – nearly 3,000 pages in total and I am a slow ponderous reader (fortunately there are pictures) – are a labour of love by a brilliant scholar and musician. The beautiful boxed set from Yale UP was a gift and has been staring at me across my desk. They are not exactly beach reading but they are a great read: I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I am also going to finish David Wootton’s The Invention of Science, a fantastic example of intellectual history with a purpose. I have already started this but put it aside until the summer proper. Even the familiar becomes strange: a good example is the history of the invention of the fact.

Finally, a great teacher of mine said that for every new book you read you should re-read an old book. I intend to go back to a seriously old book, K’ung Shang-Jen’s The Peach Blossom Fan (in translation; unfortunately I don’t have Mandarin) reissued by NYRB books. This 40 scene play is about everything that is important and is a classic that should be known more widely in the west. All this should take me to October but if I finish early there is always the guilty pleasure of another Game of Thrones novel. I won’t admit how many I have read but …

Eric Neumayer, June 2016, for blogEric Neumayer, Vice-Chair of the Appointments Committee

I am almost through Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women. It is an incredibly well written tale of slavery and resistance to slavery in Jamaica toward the end of the eighteenth century, told from the perspective of women slaves who conspire in the plotting of a revolt. I highly recommend this novel, from which I learned more about what slavery is than any history book will ever manage to, and very much look forward to reading his Booker-prize winning A Brief History of Seven Killings over the summer. This latest book of this Jamaican writer spans about thirty years from 1976 onwards, following the events of a murderous attack by seven gunmen on Bob Marley’s house.

I can’t resist recommending one other book even if it was published back in 2012 already. Pulitzer-prize winning author Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers provides a devastating account of ‘Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum’, as the subtitle says. It’s officially a non-fiction book though I’d call it semi-fiction at the very least (it reads like a novel). I must have read thousands of novels. I’ve never read anything as haunting that stayed with me for many weeks after I finished reading it, so much so that I still recommend it in 2016.

Our thanks to Professors Julia Black, Paul Kelly and Eric Neumayer for these wonderful recommendations and our very best wishes to all our readers for good and restorative breaks. We look forward to your company again in September.


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Jun 9 2016

Teaching research methods at LSE: a newcomer enjoys the discussion

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Jenni Carr, June 2016In her first post for the teaching blog since joining LSE last month, academic developer Jenni Carr reports on a practice exchange forum that borrowed productively from her previous experience and gave her insight into approaches to teaching and learning at LSE

Search imageWhen you are preparing for a job interview you spend a lot of time scouring the relevant bits of the institution’s website, trying to gather the information you might need to answer those tricky questions that you imagine will be posed by the interview panel. Every so often you come across something that makes you pause and think “Now that sounds like something I would really like to be involved in!” For me that something was discovering that LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre facilitated a teaching research methods practice exchange forum.

I love teaching research methods! In my previous job at the Higher Education Academy (HEA), part of my role had been to support the Teaching Research Methods in the Social Sciences strategic priority, which involved commissioning projects from higher education providers across the UK. You can access the resources from these projects via the links at the end of this post.

Luckily for me, I got the job here at LSE and last week I participated in the latest practice exchange forum. Two colleagues – Felipe Carozzi from the Department of Geography and Environment and Ben Wilson from the Department of Methodology – shared insights from their practice there.

Felipe focused on the notion of threshold concepts and how these concepts can form barriers to students’ engagement with quantitative methods that are embedded in discipline focused courses. He outlined how some statistical techniques can be taught using ‘recipe book’ approaches – if you do this and then do that you will get this result, and that is what you need. But Felipe highlighted how this approach could hide from students the threshold concepts that underpinned the recipe book approach, which in turn could lead to the students not being able to recognise when or how to apply the statistical technique in other contexts. Felipe used an example from his practice – one where his approach hadn’t been as successful as he had hoped – to illustrate the points he was making, and this was a great way to stimulate discussion. Given the various constraints on our teaching and students’ understandable frustration when trying to come to grips with those ‘troublesome knowledges’ that are a key feature of threshold concepts, don’t we sometimes have to stick with the recipe book so that our students aren’t stranded in that liminal space, unable to engage with other aspects of their learning?

I don’t think the discussion that followed Felipe’s presentation came to any conclusion – I suspect there is no one right answer – but I think the discussion itself illustrates the value of a forum like this. As Felipe points out:

“The forum is a unique place to exchange ideas and share experience with other scholars conducting research methods teaching. While textbooks and other materials cover the content delivered in many of these lectures they are silent about the learning problems and difficulties faced by students and how to circumvent them. This forum fills that gap by allowing for open, sincere discussions about our teaching and how to make it better.”

Ben’s contribution to the forum focused on sharing resources and expertise. He took us on a ‘guided tour’ around Methodology’s Moodle site, highlighting where resources produced for different courses were available both for re-use in teaching and for our own learning. Having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ is a habitual issue in research methods teaching – one that thankfully the open access trend is starting to address – and it was really valuable to have Ben highlight where we can access this institutional knowledge.

Ben closed by telling us how he is curating resources focusing on methodology, research design, and analysis via his personal website, inviting colleagues not only to share the resources but also to make suggestions for any additions. Speaking about why he finds the forum valuable, Ben said:

“The forum provides an excellent space to meet colleagues and share experiences. It’s nice to know that others face the same challenges, and I always come away with some useful ideas for how to improve my teaching.”

Question everything imageAs this was the final forum for this academic year we discussed how we would like to develop it in future. The focus of the forum will remain firmly on exchanging and discussing practice. Alongside this, however, there could be a number of strands that could frame these exchanges. Drawing on issues that had emerged both from the HEA’s strategic projects and from discussions with colleagues at two HEA conferences that focused on teaching research methods I outlined a number of possible strands:

  • The role of assessment for learning and of learning
  • Embedding research methods in discipline focused courses
  • Using open access resources
  • Gamification and simulations
  • Specific issues in qualitative/quantitative/mixed methods
  • Students as researchers (including public engagement and pedagogic research)
  • Ethical considerations

If you are interested in joining the forum next year it would be useful if you could feed back on the following questions:

  • Are any of the strands outlined above of particular interest to you?
  • Do you have any additional suggestions for topics?

You can feed back either via the “leave a reply” facility below or via email to tlc.academicdevelopment@lse.ac.uk

Look forward to seeing you next year!


Monday’s resource of the week – resources from an HEA project led by Helen Walkington designed to support staff who want to encourage more active engagement among students in research.

Reflections on research methods learning and teaching – discussions with HEA project leaders on the value of teaching research methods in the social sciences, with links to reports and resources.

Teaching research methods in the Social Sciences: funded projects 2014-15 – outlines of further projects funded by the HEA with contact details to contact project leaders for access to outputs.


‘Search’ image by Pleuntje (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleuntje/), licenced under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 ‘Question everything!’ image by Henry Bloomfield (https://www.flickr.com/photos/henrybloomfield/), licenced under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


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Jun 6 2016

Resource of the week

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In advance of our feature post on Thursday which reports on a research methods teaching practice exchange forum held at LSE last week, our resource today comes from a Higher Education Academy project led by Helen Walkington designed to support staff who want to encourage more active engagement among students in research.

By way of background to the conceptualisation of more active student engagement in research, the teaching-research nexus model by Healey and Jenkins (at p. 7 of their Developing undergraduate research and inquiry) offers a useful framework for the sort of calibrated approach that might be considered for students:

  • research-led: learning about current research in the discipline
  • research-oriented: developing research skills and techniques
  • research-based: undertaking research and inquiry
  • research-tutored: engaging in research discussions

Helen Walkington’s work builds on this to support such a calibrated approach. Her Pedagogical approaches to developing students as researchers, within the curriculum and beyond factsheet summarises key issues and provides helpful advice on scaffolding students as researchers throughout their time in HE. Additionally, there are resources that include teacher focused activities ideal for use by programme teams or departments who would like to develop a ‘students as researchers’ approach:

  • Engaging students in research enables teachers to map their practice against a research skills development framework and suggests strategies for enhancing students’ engagement with research.
  • Students as researchers outlines ten dimensions for framing the context of undergraduate research that you can use for mapping existing practice and action-planning for the future.
  • Levels of student participation in research offers a framework for exploring the levels of student engagement and participation that you currently support, and how that might be developed further.
  • Disseminating student research findings suggests activities focusing on how students might share the outcomes of their research and inquiry.


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Jun 2 2016

LSE GROUPS 2016 gets underway

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David Faggiani cropped for blogLSE’s flagship undergraduate research opportunity, LSE GROUPS, is now in its sixth year. A great illustration of research informed education in action, it makes a fitting end to the year in which the School’s Education Strategy 2015-2020 was launched. David Faggiani, from LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre, went along as the students gathered for the first time on Tuesday, to observe them being introduced to their supervisors, the task ahead, and each other

There was a palpable sense of excitement, curiosity and trepidation before LSE GROUPs 2016 kicked off on Tuesday morning. When you get 70+ undergraduates together, and give them almost complete autonomy to research anything they want, under the broad umbrella of ‘Poverty and inequality in London’, you never quite know what you’re going to get. Previous years of GROUPS have seen students lead investigations into topics as diverse as British public perception of ex-offenders, gentrification in South London boroughs, non-monogamous relationship networks, and rehabilitation for homeless communities. This diversity and unpredictability is one of the main attractions of GROUPS for the students who take part.

Mingling in the NAB lobby on Tuesday morning, many of the new researchers lost no time in making their interests known. The participants come from across the various disciplines at LSE, and so Economists debated with Social Policy students while International History experts discussed research approaches with their Statistics counterparts, and they all found time to indulge in the plentiful breakfast. Thought needs food, after all! The researchers are assigned to work in groups with four or five other students, with balance maintained in discipline, year and gender. In short, many of these students were meeting each other for the first time, and intellectual sparks were flying. This is where many of the projects begin – out of these initial conversations.

LSE GROUPS 2016 welcome pic 1 for blog

LSE GROUPS 2016 welcome pic 4 for blog





The students were welcomed formally by Professor Paul Kelly, Pro-Director Teaching and Learning, and introduced to their routine for the next fortnight by Dr Claire Gordon of the Teaching and Learning Centre. The GROUPS recruits were then addressed by experts on the field of social inequality, to give them some ideas for potential topics, and were given some basic pointers on research ethics, particularly in relation to fieldwork which many of them will be doing over the next two weeks.

By the time they broke for lunch, the students seemed energised and engaged with the tasks ahead. After the short break, they re-assembled in their groups in breakout rooms, where they were properly introduced to their supervisors. Supervisors play a key role in the projects: they are each assigned to one or two groups and are there to help the researchers organise their field trips, seek out helpful sources of data and deal with any problems that come up during the intensive process. Many of the supervisors have participated in GROUPS for several years now, and have an almost parental relationship with their group charges – as well as a healthy sense of competition with the other supervisors!

The groups now have barely 48 hours to finalise their research questions. They will gather again on Friday to present their initial progress to each other, and then continue their projects with daily updates to their supervisors. Some of them will be doing field trips into London to conduct surveys and interviews, others will analysing large data sets and mining source material, yet others will be drafting abstracts and papers. Much of this will be documented for a short film commissioned by the Teaching and Learning Centre.

LSE GROUPS climaxes on Friday 10 June with a conference, where the students’ finished research papers will be presented. A panel of LSE academics will be judging the awards for Best Research Paper and Best Presentation, and a further prize, the Popular Prize, will be decided upon by the students themselves. If this opening day was anything to go by, it will be a fascinating and informative day for all involved.

The LSE GROUPS conference on 10 June (11:00-16:00) is open to everyone at LSE. If you would like to join us, for any or all of the event, please contact us on tlc.groups@lse.ac.uk to reserve your place.

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