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Category: Teaching

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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Post Boxing Day Dreaming – integrating technology into the laboratory properly ?>

Post Boxing Day Dreaming – integrating technology into the laboratory properly

I was contemplating purchasing an Amazon Echo this morning. Well I was working out what one was then thinking about what I would do with it, and I was reading some very entertaining reviews of the product that were simultaneously illuminating and distressing. Let me clarify that I haven’t bought one, and probably wont. Yet. If you don’t know what one is, go look it up. You need the context for the rest. Or one of the other major brands…

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7 days of 12 Apps of Christmas #12AoC ?>

7 days of 12 Apps of Christmas #12AoC

I spotted the 12 Apps of Christmas course being advertised in various ways back in November and immediately thought ‘ooooh shiny I want to play’. You can find out more here: Actually I thought it had some potential to keep me out of trouble for an hour or so a day, and also to introduce me to some new cool shiny stuff that might be useful. I finally gave in about a month ago and bought an iPhone 5. This…

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And A Blog Idea Becomes An Assessment ?>

And A Blog Idea Becomes An Assessment

You may remember the ‘What Am I?’ series of blog posts where I posted the chemical structures of molecules found in some product and the goal was to guess the product. It’s a while back but the posts were a lot of fun. This year I turned the idea into an assessment for my 1st years. As part of our first semester module we have 15% of the marks allocated to information retrieval exercises. The goal of these is to…

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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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Assessing the Assessment Criteria ?>

Assessing the Assessment Criteria

Following on from my musings on word counts (, 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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Metrics Metrics Everywhere and not a drop to drink ?>

Metrics Metrics Everywhere and not a drop to drink

Yeah, this isn’t going to be a rant about the types of metrics that ‘engaged’ me somewhat at a meeting yesterday. Rather, it’s about the metrics we use in setting assessment that seem to cause fairly significant damage to student learning: word counts and hours of effort. Firstly let’s establish one thing: there are occasions where strict adherence to a word count is an authentic twist in an assessment that mirrors many real scenarios. I have no contest with those,…

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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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