Sep 9 2014

A warm welcome …

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… to all those participating in LSE’s New Academic Induction Programme this week. We hope you enjoy it and look forward to working with you over the coming academic year.

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Jul 7 2014

A farewell from Liz Barnett

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Liz BarnettDr Liz Barnett is leaving LSE this month, after sixteen years as director of its Teaching and Learning Centre. She reflects here on the changes she has seen over those years to teaching and learning at the School.

 

 

 

I left LSE first time round in 1982, when I completed my PhD in Social Psychology. I returned in 1998 as the School’s first Teaching and Learning Development Officer. Much seemed the same – including some staff who have out-stayed me second time round! LSE’s motto, “understanding the cause of things”, remains fundamental. LSE is, as it was, a truly international space to learn. The School retains a strong sense of self, and a determination to set its own agenda, rather than follow others, or bow to external expectations. And despite occasional thoughts of moving, it is now firmly ensconced and growing (it often feels almost daily!) between parliament and city. But where we had an “intellectual slum”, we now have (and increasingly look forward to) spaces that are designed with education and learning in mind, so much of its strength is retained.

But I also see real change – and more to come. It comes in three key forms: a move from a “one size fits all” to an expanding diversity of approach in promoting and supporting learning; a change from a “sink or swim” culture to much more active development and support; and finally a shift in our educational provision being a remarkably private process (albeit often between one lecturer and several hundred students) to a much more shared, public and visible process.

An expanding diversity of approach

It was intriguing to return to LSE in 1998. Technology had barely touched the School’s educational provision, even though millions of pounds of investment had been available countrywide. This was one of the first major initiatives I was involved in, working closely with colleagues in the then Information Systems Department, Library and IT. Today, the Centre for Learning Technology is thriving and Moodle and other software options provide students with much improved access to resources in multiple forms, space to share their learning, and an ever increasing array of ways to communicate with each other, with faculty and with burgeoning resources worldwide. This will continue to be a space for development and new opportunity.

What happens face to face has developed massively too. Lectures, even very large ones, are increasingly participatory. Case based teaching is growing. In classes new ideas are constantly being developed and shared amongst those doing the teaching – see for example the annual Teaching Symposium and the many posts on this blog about internal projects. LSE100 has been a particularly strong space for innovation in delivery. More undergraduates are being actively involved in research – an important development for a leading research intensive institution. And much more is being made of London and beyond with student field visits as well as many courses bringing in visiting specialists and professionals to contribute.

Assessment diversity has proved more challenging. Exams remain central to many undergraduate programmes. But experiments, including assessing class participation, field based projects, blog posts, online quizzes, shared presentations and Capstone projects, are increasingly common, providing students with new ways of demonstrating their learning.

Teaching Task Force II is continuing to encourage this diversity. It is emphasizing departmental discretion in approach, based on pedagogic principles, and encouraging a move away from “standard” School-wide expectations.

More active development and support

For academics, there are ever higher expectations around excellence in teaching. To support this, there is now a growing culture of training and development. Initial training through central and departmental events is well established and generally appreciated. Different forms of teaching observation (peer/mentor/specialist) bring ideas and new ways of thinking to bear directly on teaching in context. This development is timely, focused and tailored – three important elements of effective feedback! This autumn, the Teaching and Learning Centre will launch a new Academic Development Scheme open to faculty at all levels, that will support colleagues throughout their careers, in line with the expectations of the New Academic Contract.

For students, the partnership between the Teaching and Learning Centre, the Language Centre, Careers and, more recently, LSE100 has worked to support and extend student learning. There are also many new projects in departments that work with students on academic writing and problem solving – see for example LAWS, AC100 and more … And alongside these, a growth in direct support through counselling, disability provision, much improved connections between School and residential life, and significant developments to how student progress is reviewed and supported. The challenge now will be to improve faculty contact with students to stretch student learning further.

Making teaching “public”

Teaching and learning is increasingly publicly shared. Lectures are no longer one off events, but frequently captured, if not via lecture capture then on smart phones and laptops. The classical “circus” courses that were a feature of many core master’s courses early on have been re-worked and now regularly have a “master or mistress of ceremonies” who provides linkage and continuity between the individual elements. Teaching ideas are much more actively shared: the Teaching and Learning Centre has funded the development of several departmental handbooks as well as online resources that class teachers can share and reuse. Student feedback is shared, considered, and used both for course development and in decisions about promotion and reward. This year, we celebrated the excellence of over 70 faculty, graduate teaching assistants, guest teachers and other staff involved in working with and supporting students. A sign that teaching is important and is being taken seriously by many.

 

LSE has much to celebrate in the education it provides. It is changing. It is building on its strengths, and seeing where change will bring real benefits to both teachers and students.

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Jun 30 2014

Resource of the week

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To celebrate the end of term, we asked several of this year’s teaching prize winners what they’d be packing to read over the summer break.

Alice Evans photoThis summer I am really excited about reading Women, Work and Gender Justice in the Global Economy, by Professor Ruth Pearson (a leader in this field). Routledge, the publisher, promises us a wide-ranging exploration of global changes in paid and unpaid work. Meanwhile, on my Kindle, I am currently enjoying Economics: a User’s Guide by Ha Joon Chang. Although I learnt more about economics and economic history by reading his previous texts (the magnificent Bad Samaritans and the incredibly popular 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism), his latest opus is still brilliant. What I most admire about his writing is his public engagement, his persistent endeavour to improve popular understanding of social science – something we should all aim for perhaps. The final book in my trilogy is a Christmas present from my mother: Brilliant Bread by James Morton. I have yet to attempt let alone master all the delicious recipes included. Thank goodness for the summer break.  Alice Evans, Department of Geography and Environment/LSE100

Francesco Nava photo

 

My first choice is Economic Fables by Ariel Rubinstein – a provocative view on economics and social science by an academic economist. And of course the most discussed economics book of the year – Capital in the twenty-first century by Thomas Piketty – will also be on my list.  Francesco Nava, Department of Economics

 

Solene Rowan photo cropped

I’m under no illusion, my children won’t give me much time to read this summer! But I’ll take with me Lean in: women, work and the will to lead by Sheryl Sandberg, who’s the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook – a book which I am being told addresses the issues that women who want to achieve both their professional and personal goals face.  Solene Rowan, Department of Law

 

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Jun 26 2014

LSE’s Health Economics, Policy and Management executive master’s programme

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As Monday’s ‘Blended learning and learning communities’ resource suggested, executive master’s degrees, such as the Health Economics, Policy and Management (HEPM) offered by the Department of Social Policy at LSE, have become increasingly popular over recent years and this trend is likely to continue for some time. Today’s post looks in some detail at HEPM and examines some of the challenges and opportunities faced by the programme.

The HEPM programme was set up five years ago by Professor Elias Mossialos and Professor Alistair McGuire, with the assistance of Dr Caroline Rudisill. It was originally conceived as a programme for people working in health services (pharmaceuticals, hospitals, etc.) but who did not necessarily have a background in economics, policy or management. Another objective was to offer a programme that would fit around professional workers’ lifestyles. The initial cohort comprised approximately 30 students but this number has now gone up to approximately 50.

Now run by Dr Grace Lordan and Dr Irene Papanicolas, the programme is delivered over two years through four teaching blocks of two weeks each. In between residential sessions, students are encouraged to stay in touch with their teachers, through Skype, email, even sometimes by phone. While the four courses that comprise the first two sessions are compulsory, students can select four half-unit courses of a more specific interest to them in the second year. The programme relies on a variety of assessment tools, from traditional essay-based exams and take-home exams in the first year to more innovative forms of assessment in the second year. For instance, SA4F2 – Principles of evidence-based medicine and clinical trials – is assessed through a combination of a PowerPoint slide deck Continue reading

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Jun 23 2014

Resource of the week

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Interest in executive master’s degrees has grown significantly at LSE over the last few years. There are now eight such programmes with more on the drawing board and our post on Thursday will look at one of them, the Executive MSc Health Economics, Policy and Management, in greater detail.

With this in mind, today’s resource, Blended learning and learning communities by James Fleck, looks at the opportunities and challenges offered by blended learning in the context of management and business education. While the combination of face-to-face interactions with other pedagogical tools, in particular online-based activity, has become a normal feature of teaching in higher education, the article’s focus on how these tools can be leveraged to develop and nurture learning communities should prove of interest to directors of executive programmes.

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