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How students helped me to review my teaching: Geraldine Brodie

Through UCL Arena's Peer Dialogue Option C, staff can request students to review their teaching.

3 December 2018

Staff who teach or support teaching can get a student perspective on their practice through UCL Arena's Peer Dialogue scheme. 

Two students team up with the staff member to build a reflective dialogue about their teaching practice and the learning experience of students on the module or programme.

Dr Geraldine Brodie, UCL Centre for Translation Studies, explains how she worked with students to review her teaching. 

What did you personally gain from taking part?

I gained a different (and current) view of teaching from the perspective of students. 

I got to know two students who I would not otherwise have met, and had the benefit of hearing about their learning experiences in different disciplines.

It gave me confidence in my teaching practice.

How did the students help you develop your teaching? 

The students helped me with the development of a new module. As a result of the project, I made some changes, and I am also adjusting the module assessment and teaching plans for next year.

What benefits did you gain from discussing your teaching with a student rather than a peer?

I participated in this initiative because I was hoping to gain a neutral student perspective on a new module that I had developed.

What I had not expected was to discover the extent to which students reflect on their own learning: not only what they learn but also how.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak frankly about my teaching aims and objectives, especially those areas where I was unsure how my plans would be received. The students came up with some helpful ideas that I will use in future teaching in this and other modules.

How did the group work together to build up a dialogue around teaching?

We initially met to discuss documents that I circulated in advance (lesson plans, the GPC, reading lists, etc) and to agree our schedule for the project :

  • when the students would attend sessions
  • when they would hold a focus group, and;
  • when they would conduct questionnaires with the students attending the module.

We then held regular meetings to discuss the progress of the module and we would all contribute questions in advance for discussion.

We also corresponded regularly by email.

Were there any challenges and how did you overcome them?

Finding time when all three of us could meet. 

The students worked very well as a team, and if one could not attend a meeting, the other would represent both of them. They were both very good at keeping each other informed. 

Another challenge was persuading the module students to engage in the focus group. I introduced the students during the first teaching session, and also allowed some time for the students to speak to the students on the module when I was not present.

The students were still disappointed by the small number of focus group attendees. I had predicted that this might be an issue, and recommended that they organised a paper evaluation questionnaire during a teaching session, during which time I stayed away from the room, so this enabled them to obtain a more complete set of data.

If I did this again, I would need to find a way of persuading the students on the module that they were also stakeholders in the process.

What further support would have been useful?

I thought this initiative was well supported by UCL Arena Centre.

Would you recommend this to other staff?

I would highly recommend this initiative to other staff looking for ways to reassess their teaching and also to students wanting to have an inside view of the teaching process.

It is a very positive and enjoyable learning experience.

Any other comments?

I really enjoyed working with students on this initiative. It made me reflect on my own practice because I wanted to explain why I had made certain teaching and assessment decisions, but I think the most valuable aspect for me was to be discussing teaching and learning on a collaborative basis with students as my peers.

I felt that we all were able to make significant contributions to our discussions and to the teaching and learning process, demonstrating that we are all stakeholders in that process.

Top tips for working with students to review your teaching

  1. Think about what aspects of the course you would most benefit from getting a students’ perspective on
  2. Schedule in time for your meetings with the students as early as possible
  3. Consider how you can build a trusting relationship with the students – where you can all learn effectively from.