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5 teaching tips from five UCL CALT Fellows

17 September 2015

teaching tips calt

Get inspired with five pieces of advice on how to get the most out of your teaching from five UCL Centre for Advancing Learning and Teaching (CALT) Fellows.

Dr Nicolas Grindle, Senior Teaching Fellow: “Give quicker feedback”

“Timely feedback is a vital way to help students learn effectively. Here are five methods I have used to make sure that my students get feedback promptly:

  1. Ask students to nominate two areas where they would like specific feedback. I have found this suggestion from Graham Gibbs and Clare Simpson (2004) very useful as a way of checking that a student has an adequate conception of the task and ensuring that I’m spending my time efficiently.
  2. Write less! (and explain why you’re doing so). I have found this invaluable. Brief and timely feedback accompanied by an invitation to contact you if they want to discuss it in more detail may well be just what a student needs.
  3. Give feedback to the whole group, and then individual feedback for more specific points.
  4. Automated assessment provides instant feedback, and can save you a lot of time once you've set it up. Software such as Peermark has proved a big hit with students at UCL, and on a less sophisticated level Moodle allows you to set up quizzes and other small assessment tasks that can sustain interest and test learning throughout a course. Why not add some spice to a quiz, and use confidence-based marking?
  5. Use shorter tasks! Short writing tasks are good motivational and formative tasks. The resource I’ve used most frequently is QMUL’s priceless Thinking Writing site.

UCL Arena Essentials sessions offer practical advice and insights on a range of issues such as giving quicker feedback.  

Dr Teresa McConlogue, Senior Teaching Fellow: “Try guided Marking”

“I want students to be autonomous learners, able to self-evaluate and improve their own work. To do this, they need a good understanding of teacher expectations and the standard of work they need to produce. It is not enough to give students a set of assessment criteria; interpretations of criteria vary and students’ understandings of ‘critical thinking’ may be very different from the teachers’. So it’s important to engage in discussions about expectations and standards. This can be done through guided marking.

In guided marking, students read a range of peers’ assignments (anonymised and from a previous year with authors’ permission) at the beginning of the module, comment on the assignments and agree a grade. The assignment is similar to the module assignment and helps students understand what they need to do to be successful. Guided marking can be done online or in a seminar or lecture. Students discuss comments and grades and have an opportunity to question the teacher. This helps students to clarify expectations, self-evaluate and ‘benchmark’ their own work, developing an understanding of how to improve.”

Dr Brent Carnell, Senior Teaching Fellow: “Make it enjoyable and relevant”

Taken from his Q&A when asked ‘what advice would you give to someone looking to develop the way they teach?'

“Make it enjoyable and relevant – not just for your students but also for you, the teacher. Separate to my work on Connected Curriculum, I coordinate a third year dissertation module at The Bartlett School of Architecture. In that module I implemented peer feedback into all draft formative feedback sessions. The students found it so rewarding. Indeed it really made the year much more fun. The other thing I’d recommend is to get rewarded with a fellowship from the Higher Education Academy. UCL Arena, which I also teach on, is really quite an enjoyable and creative way to gain recognition.” 

Dr Alex Standen, Senior Teaching Fellow: “Gain recognition through UCL Arena”

UCL Arena Fellowships are an opportunity for UCL staff to gain recognition for their work teaching or supporting students’ learning, in any context. Arena One is for postgraduate teaching assistants and Arena Two is for staff on probation (lecturers and teaching fellows). Arena Open is for all other staff; it offers a flexible programme of events and a supportive application process. With the launch of our new mentoring scheme for applicants we are hoping to welcome more colleagues than ever into the Arena community.

Awards are made on the basis of your successful experience of teaching, supporting students’ learning, or leading on an aspect of education at UCL. Recognition through UCL Arena also confers the corresponding Higher Education Academy Fellowship and is recognized fully as a qualification by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. It can be advantageous for career development, with many higher education institutions now recognizing their value.

Since the scheme’s launch in April 2014, 192 individuals have been awarded fellowships. They have been positive about the self-affirming experience of reviewing their teaching role and writing about their achievements. They have also appreciated the support they get with their applications. We look forward to many more colleagues joining our UCL Arena pathways to fellowship in 2015-16.”

Dr Mina Sotiriou, Senior Teaching Fellow: “Learning design and how to do it well”

“Developing a module that truly engages your students is like devising a recipe that uses the perfect combination of ingredients.

You have a variety of learning types to choose from i.e. collaboration, acquisition, investigation, production, discussion, practice, but which combination to use or how much or how little of each type to use can be challenging.

The ABC curriculum design method that has been developed by colleagues in the E-Learning Environments team in collaboration with CALT is like using a cookbook. You can use any ingredient you want as long as the end result focuses on the students' learning experience and activity. For a quick and effective result, let us be your Jamie Oliver!”

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