Flipping Evidence and a Student Designed Representative System

23 April 2018

In April, the Centre for Innovation in Pedagogy (CIP) held its 3rd workshop, where we began by reflecting back over the last two years on our mission of collaboration and innovation in teaching and learning between the ‘non-obvious’ partnerships; between students and academics, and academics and learning technologists. This year we ran a theme that coincided with our first fully-fledged research project on a student-designed representative system; early results from which are now under submission for publication and have been presented to the Association for Learning Technology Conference (2018) at the University of Manchester and Pedagogical Research Conference (2019) at the University of Liverpool.

We heard presentations from Huw Morgan of Alliance Manchester Business School, from the student innovation teams and Elsa Lee, our resident learning technologist. The presenting student innovation teams were led by Michael Liu, Siyu Ren, Minju Lee and Mollie Bird. Also in attendance was Rebecca Gilbertson, who had plenty to contribute from the perspective of a recently graduated student, being a key member of our student team in the past. We welcomed a new member: Minju Lee and gave a big thank you to our outgoing students; Weika Tan, Jun Gao and Vanessa Mbamalu for their outstanding contribution to the centre.

This year Huw Morgan, the awarding winning and outstanding lecturer from Alliance Manchester Business School acted as our keynote speaker. Huw shared his expertise in the design of instruction for those thinking of experimenting in the cutting-edge pedagogy of lecture flipping. Whilst this teaching method is still in its relative infancy, Huw was able to share his experience from inverting the classroom by breaking down the learning process into three stages of a learning-cycle; students develop their knowledge in a process of graduating difficulty. Support is withdrawn in stages to develop a student’s ability to ‘learn how to learn’ more independently. The ultimate goal of lecture flipping is to use student-lecturer contact more productively, students are required to view videos and receive material that they would normally receive in the lecture ‘beforehand’, so that face to face contact can be used for higher learning objectives.

Opening for the students was Siyu Ren and Minju Lee, in what proved to be a very professional presentation on the perspective of the student representative system. After providing us with a background to the project, Siyu and Minju when on to highlight the problems associated with the current representative system, which has been in place since the 1960s and remains relatively unchanged since. Minju and Siyu claimed that modernization of the student rep system is long overdue; and suggested improvements centred around the three themes of student rep recognition, modernization of process, and the life cycle of feedback provided by students. One of the most notable points given in the presentation was the perspective of a senior rep figure on the BA (Econ) degree programme; now termed ‘Laetitia’s Vicious Cycle’, where feedback from students ends up in an endless cycle, with the same points being repeated every year.

After the break, and with such an excellent performance from the students, it was time for some contribution from our resident learning technologist, Elsa Lee, who took the opportunity to launch a new project which concerns itself with the student perspective of the virtual learning environment. A key question arises: how confusing does the student find the heterogeneous nature of course websites? Is it a good idea to give all course Blackboard websites a familiar feel?. Simon Rudkin, attending from Swansea University, thought that a ‘halfway house’, where some key areas are fixed in design, but the convenor keep some facility to differentiate individual courses, might be a good idea.

For our last presentation, it was the turn of our seasoned and senior member, Mollie Bird, to provide another excellent presentation on some of the evidence that the student teams had gathered. The data included the general student perspective on the representative system with some surprising results. Students thought that the contribution that reps make to university life, should indeed be better recognized, but not necessarily at significant expense. Improvements suggested, included formal certification, recognition on the university website for past reps, better visibility amongst peers, help with data collection and events to show gratitude. It is good to let you know, that since this workshop, some of the recommendations have already been put in place on the BA Econ degree programme at Manchester for the academic year 2018/19.

Many thanks to the staff who took part in the delivery and organization of the workshop and especially the student innovation team that worked so hard on the run-up to the event.

Paul Middleditch, Director for SOSS Centre for Innovation in Pedagogy