The story continues: An interview with Dr Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer

Summary

3 years on from our Student-led teaching and content creation case study with Dr Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer from the Department of Psychology, we catch up with her to find out what she’s up to.

Keywords: interactive lectures, formative tasks, group work, aligning tasks to learning outcomes

Students working as a group

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Can you summarise the technique you used for us?

I re-designed a module so that students were grouped and assigned a different activity each week that all contributed to the same goal. The groups cycled through the activities and used a different skill each week.They created a shared resource that helped them to relate topics together.

What was your motivation for changing your teaching practice at the time?

I was keen to do something more active than to lecture for 2 hours! It’s difficult for anyone to attend to a long lecture, and I personally always learn better if I’m forced to actively engage with the content I’m trying to learn.

I wanted to use a technique that was hands-on in some way. It can be difficult with content-heavy modules to use hands-on methods but I broke things down into smaller components and then everything built up into one (Google) site. I heard about this way of working through ELDT who had seen similar approaches in other departments.

How did the students respond to the module design?

The students loved it. I made sure I gave them time in class to start work on the weekly tasks. Each week’s task was planned to take no more than 30 minutes and I booked a computer lab to carve out the time and place for the tasks to be completed.

Did you change any activities over time?

I adapted some of the activities that I felt didn’t work as well – the MCQ exercise didn’t help them to prepare for the exam as I thought it might. The students didn’t put good effort into writing their distractors so the MCQs weren’t helpful in their revision. They didn’t get MCQ in their exams anyway so I changed the task.

Are you still using this technique with your students?

Unfortunately, the module is no longer on offer but it could be offered again in the future and I would deliver it in a similar way.

Can’t this technique be used with all student groups?

The technique was more suited to a small group (up to 50) on a content-heavy module. It also aligned with the assessment requirements of that undergraduate module – For the written exam, they needed to be able to recall with confidence the topics covered in the module. The activities ensured they were engaging with the material at a deeper level than if they had received it just as a lecture. It’s not manageable for something like 200 students and it’s not worth the organisational effort for a 10-credit module. It does take a substantial amount of work to organise and a few tasks have contingencies (group A can’t write the open question and then answer it the following week, for instance), so you have to be super-organised.

It sounds like a lot of work to set up!

It was set up over summer to run in autumn term. It was initially a big jump to learn the technology to make the re-design work, but I now use the technology (Google Sites, Google Docs etc) on all levels in all areas of my work.

What further impact has this had?

post-it notes

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Other people in my department have heard about what I do and have asked me for specific ideas.I’m teaching a Masters programme now and I’ve adopted some of the exercises for those students, getting them to generate the open question (not necessarily on vle or using technology).
In the lecture, I hand out sticky notes so students can write their open question. I pick 3 and each week, one group gives a mini-lecture that answers one of these open questions. This technique aligns with their assessment method (they have coursework) and it helps them with their research skills.

What? No other technology-enhanced learning?

Well, the whole department uses clickers all the time. We don’t even think twice about it.

What would you say to a lecturer who is still lecturing for 2 hours?

Try to introduce short hands-on tasks that you can use in class to break things up and keep students engaged.

Next Steps

Published Dec 2017