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Category: Academia Nuts

Spherical Students ?>

Spherical Students

This is a follow-up post to Helicopter Lecturers. When talking about how we as lecturers spend our students’ time, or how they spend their time, it would help to consider the case of the ideal student. The ideal student is, naturally, spherical. Ideal students are identical, obey Newton’s laws of motion, and undergo elastic collisions amidst typically random motion.  Of course, ideal students no more exist than ideal gases but it helps to have a model for a thought experiment….

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Helicopter Lecturers ?>

Helicopter Lecturers

I’m sure you’ve heard of helicopter parents. The possibly semi-mythological, ever-present parents who speak for their kids, show up everywhere and are generally an effective means of ensuring their offspring don’t say that much (nor appear to have opinions of their own).  But what of the helicopter lecturers? The academics who simply do not trust their students to plan their work and effort, and devise complex and elaborate assessment regimes to force/trap/coerce/make the students learn the precious content. What happened…

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Once more into the distance ?>

Once more into the distance

My distance learning modules are about to start. Modules – two of them this year – delivered via computer means fair and foul to an institution in China. Last year I delivered our sustainable chemistry module, this year I’m adding half a module on inorganic chemistry to the mix. Last year the module was delivered through a mixture of lecture recordings, directed reading and lecture notes, forums and Turnitin – all done through BlackBoard. This year the courses have been…

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Variable Working Spaces ?>

Variable Working Spaces

This morning on Twitter I’m picking up a lot of tweets from the SEDA conference and many focus on ‘innovative’ campuses and the abolishment of staff office space. Open plan academic office spaces are also being discussed and inevitably working from home. As someone who’s spent the morning setting up a home office because I have to work at home for health reasons for the next few months, this twitter thread is quite thought provoking. Whilst I have a decent…

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Assessing the Assessment Criteria ?>

Assessing the Assessment Criteria

Following on from my musings on word counts (http://wp.me/p3BLsC-pv), I’ve been writing a lot of assessment criteria and guidelines for new assignments in a revised module lately. And I’ve found myself writing: “These are suggestions only. I don’t want to be too specific because I want you to have the flexibility to tailor your report to what your project requires.” And then I’ve found myself struggling greatly to set out assessment criteria beyond general adherence to our institutional rubric. This…

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Undergraduate Projects (again!) This Time: MChem ?>

Undergraduate Projects (again!) This Time: MChem

I wrote back in May about final year projects, meaning BSc final year. http://www.possibilitiesendless.com/2016/05/one-year-out-another-year-in/ It’s a nice aggregation of previous musings on the subject and therefor relevant to the brainfull of thoughts leaping from my fingers. For 2016/17 we have a new type of project: final year MChem projects. I’m yet to see assessment criteria for these projects but one thing I must do is consider my expectations as a supervisor of MChem projects and grapple with the difference between…

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When is a teaching innovation not a teaching innovation? ?>

When is a teaching innovation not a teaching innovation?

Is it when it is not evaluated? Is it when it is not effective? Is it when it causes harm to a small group of students? Is it when the staff members asked to try it hate it? What is the success criteria for a teaching innovation? At the weekend I was attempting to answer a question about why there are so many changes in education. Why haven’t we figured out how to teach in the right way yet? It’s…

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Nothing is worthwhile except that to which we can ascribe a number ?>

Nothing is worthwhile except that to which we can ascribe a number

[warning: Monday ramble ahead] I’ve now got to the point of the semester where I am tired and cranky and grumpy (why yes, some of you might enquire as to how you’d know the difference between now and the rest of the semester). I’m tired of assigning numbers to the work of students, considering numbers ranking our programmes in league tables, rating satisfaction with stuff, and all the other metrics that dictate life in a university. And let’s face it,…

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Safety Compromises ?>

Safety Compromises

Running a practical exam with several staff invigilating highlights, very clearly, the differences in approach to certain lab techniques. For a reaction heated to reflux, do we clamp the flask, the flask and the condenser, or the flask but with a second clamp loose around the condenser for a little stability? Are disposable nitrile gloves good enough for this type of use or that type of use? Can syringes be used, without needles, to measure reasonably accurate quantities? Does the…

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(Im)practical Exams ?>

(Im)practical Exams

On Monday and Tuesday next week our 2nd years will have their practical exam. This consists of 2 x 3 hour sessions, one in a computer lab carrying out data analysis and the other is in the lab carrying out a literature style prep. All of the techniques and methods should be familiar to the students but the specific scenarios are not. This is worth 20% of a 15-credit module and we’ve run mock exams for each to give our…

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