Oct 30 2014

Ideas for LSE’s new academic year structure

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As LSE moves towards the implementation of its new academic year structure from 2015/16, and departments are considering how they might best use the additional weeks available in Michaelmas and Lent terms, we thought it would be useful to share some ideas. It is likely that different terms, courses and levels will prompt different ideas - a Lent Term week, for instance, might usefully have an ‘assessment preparation’ element while a Michaelmas Term week could focus more on coursework completion and research projects - but all of these are intended to be flexible starting points, all of them adaptable to different disciplines and all designed to support the overarching purpose of developing student learning.

Marking week. One option is to set coursework deadlines for the Friday of Week 5 and use the extra week (Week 6) for marking. This would ensure timely return of work and more time to focus on written feedback comments, and/or face to face feedback to take place either at the end of the extra week or in Week 7 office hours.

Coursework week. The extra week could also be a time when students complete coursework assignments. This could involve simply moving the deadline for existing coursework to the Monday of Week 7. However, the extra week could be used to introduce more creative forms of assessment, for instance:

  • Group task: Students could be grouped and asked to complete a collaborative task. This might relate to the coming weeks of the course, or be an application of the input so far, such as through a case study task applying a theoretical lens to a given situation.
  • Jigsaw task: Students could work on overlapping tasks, the cumulative results of which could be combined to map an area of study or an overview of a reading list.
  • Research task: Students could complete a short study (individually or in groups). This might best be a directed task, for instance documentary analysis, a web-based search or analysis conducted with a given dataset. Alternatively, students could design a research study in the extra Michaelmas Term week and conduct the investigation in the extra Lent Term week, with a write up to follow during Easter.
  • Guidance on academic study: Events or resources could be used to guide students on how to research topic areas, search and read academic literature or complete coursework tasks.

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Oct 27 2014

Resource of the week

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The change to LSE’s academic year structure from 2015/16 is intended to offer departments flexibility in planning how students will study and learn on their degree programmes. Interesting opportunities, several of which will be featured in Thursday’s post, will be opened up to departments by the availability of extra term-time weeks, and today’s resource focuses on one such – the use of research projects to develop undergraduates’ experience and learning. The Essential Features of Undergraduate Research (PDF) by David Lopatto is an appraisal of institutional evaluations of undergraduate research projects at three US colleges that enabled the author to identify what features and benefits faculty believed were essential to the undergraduate research experience and whether students shared those views.

There are already many examples of undergraduate research at LSE – see our Undergraduate research opportunities at LSE: the teachers’ view post earlier this year, with Professor Mary Morgan, Dr Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra and Dr Cristiana Olcese talking about the course-based research projects they convene – and the Teaching and Learning Centre’s LSE GROUPS is an illustration of how interdisciplinary and group-based research projects can work. If you would like to discuss the introduction of research projects into your department, please contact your Teaching and Learning Centre departmental adviser.

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Oct 23 2014

Student conferences as assessment: a case study from LSE’s Gender Institute

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As mentioned in Monday’s resource of the week, student conferences represent an alternative and innovative form of assessment, either formative or summative, that departments at LSE may want to consider. This week’s post outlines the student conference that was organised in the Gender Institute last academic year for its GI422 ‘Sexuality, gender and globalisation’ course.

The ‘Sexuality, gender and globalisation student conference’ was the first of its kind in the Gender Institute. Organised by Professor Clare Hemmings, its starting point was to ask the 15 students registered on GI422 to write an abstract on the topic they had chosen for the summative essay associated with the course and to present their initial findings in front of other students during a ‘mock’ academic conference.

Despite taking place on the last day of Lent Term, the conference was well attended, with more than 40 other students attending the event, including six PhD students from the Gender Institute and several students from other departments who had heard about the conference and wanted input into related dissertation projects. Observers agreed on the professionalism of the participants, their critical perspective on the material they were using, and their ability to develop and deliver what came across as a real academic paper worthy of any conference.

A key factor behind the successful outcome of the conference was the support students received throughout Lent Term. Students were encouraged to come and see the course convenor during her office hours in the first few weeks of term to narrow down their topic Continue reading

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Oct 20 2014

Resource of the week

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With assessment a key theme at LSE this year, our feature post on Thursday will discuss how student conferences are being used as an innovative method of assessment, and a key builder of disciplinary skills, in two LSE departments. In advance of it, we have two resources of the week. First, Student Conference as Assessment (PDF), a transcript of an interview with Nick Lund, a senior lecturer in psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, who has used student conferences for summative assessment. Second, an article by Anna Jones, from the University of Melbourne – Redisciplining generic attributes: the disciplinary context in focus (Studies in Higher Education, vol. 34, no. 1, pp.85-100) – in which she makes clear “the importance of disciplinary epistemology in shaping generic skills and attributes”.

 

 

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Oct 16 2014

Resource of the week

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Closing our ‘mini-series’ on building rapport in the classroom, this week’s resource is Student views of instructor-student rapport in the college classroom by Nathan Webb and Laura Obrycki Barrett. The article builds on the research that shows rapport to be linked with positive learning outcomes by examining specific teacher behaviours defined by students as rapport building – such as attentive, grounding and information sharing – and in so doing provides practical advice for teachers wishing to enhance the classroom learning environment.

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