Dr Yvonne Davila and Neela Griffiths, learning.futures award winners
Please tell us a little about what you won the award for…
We won the award for our work on developing and embedding discipline specific academic and professional communication (APC) practices into the first year Science curriculum. Since 2013, we have worked on a series of First Year Experience grants using the learning.futures approach in combination with first year transition pedagogy to support student learning of the APC practices they need at university and in their future careers.
What’s something new you are hoping to try or explore in learning and teaching in 2017?
This year we have teamed up with Dr Maurizio Labbate (coordinator of General Microbiology) on a FYE grant to design and implement flipped learning resources targeting writing scientifically for a broad audience. Students write a magazine-style article for the general public for their assessment task. The student cohort is very diverse; for about 20% of students this is a first year transition subject and for students in the standard course program it is a second year subject. So the challenge is to find the balance to ensure that all students are equally prepared for the assignment, and to continue developing students’ critical analysis and writing skills in a different genre. We are really excited about our project outcomes so far, but you’ll have to wait until the T&L forum to find out more!
What’s been your most memorable learning and teaching moment – as a teacher, or as a student?
Working as part of a cross-disciplinary team is very rewarding. We each bring our strengths and expertise, Yvonne’s science background and Neela’s academic language and learning one, to develop our new flipped learning materials. And along the way, Neela has learnt about Archaea and Yvonne has learnt about verb tenses! So we have been teachers and students in the process! It has been great collaborating with subject coordinators Alison Beavis and Scott Chadwick in Principles of Scientific Practice and Andy Leigh in Biocomplexity to improve the first year student experience. Each project has been a lot of work and so rewarding when we see the improvements in student learning.
What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in universities today?
Supporting the learning of such a diverse group of students means that our learning design must be accessible, targeted and inclusive. Also, we have to remember that we are teaching students who will work in an ever-changing workplace.
Do you think teaching practices in your discipline area have changed a lot with the introduction of new technologies?
Absolutely! We use the new technologies to enhance student learning through our flipped learning design of interactive online modules and face-to-face workshops. Using these technologies, such as Adobe Captivate, enables us to integrate key APC skills into core content. Students really like being able to review the online modules as many times as they want and at their own pace and then apply their learning in the collaborative workshops. We have noticed that by presenting the students with APC skills in this embedded way in the first few semesters of their degree, they assume that this is how science is always taught.
Watch the video below for a visual explainer on the weekly modules for APC skills in Science.