Teaching & Learning


Q&A with Dr Paul Greening

16 April 2015

Dr Paul Greening

Dr Paul Greening (UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering) discusses the newly created Centre for Engineering Education and his thoughts on teaching and Higher Education.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am the Co-Director of a new joint enterprise with the Institute of Education – the Centre for Engineering Education. The idea was actually born before the talk of the merger but has gained strength as a result. Our aim is to try and understand why and how people become engineers (and why they don’t!)

More widely, we’d like to better understand how we engage young people across different levels – from primary school right up until they reach university – and what their routes in to the discipline might be. We need to find out how we can tap in to that early interest. We work in partnership with schools and colleges across London but, with the ideal timing of the IOE merger, we will have the expertise and opportunity to expand these ambitions further.

It’s important that we bring engineers and educators into the Centre and that this informs our research. There will be a Master’s programme for engineering educators which will look at how students learn and engage in the subject – it will all prove very useful in understanding how and why people choose engineering.

What advice would you give to someone looking to develop the way they teach?

To take a real interest and real pride in the way you teach.

Teaching should be a part of your research – hopefully the centre will become an example of that – and the more this happens, the more the value of teaching becomes recognised.

What piece of technology do you find invaluable in your teaching?

I enjoy trialling new technology; most recently this has been through flipped lectures, Google Forms and electronic voting systems which have proved quite successful.

I’ve been using a tablet PC for years which encourages some interaction, particularly with flipped lectures where the emphasis is on the student and the preparation they have done beforehand.

It’s interesting to see how things have changed as most students now have their own technology with them during lectures in the form of laptops and tablets and this has changed their expectations about what a lecture should involve. I think that technology will increasingly allow students to be able to learn at their own pace and in their own way.

How do you expect higher education to change in the next five years?

I think that we will see some deregulation of the HE market with increased input into teaching and learning from external suppliers. Universities will need to continue to put lots of effort into the student experience and may benefit from building new partnerships to get results.

I think we may see different models for studying. Perhaps short degrees will make a return as a way of offering better value for money.

What achievement are you most proud of?

The fact that during my time at UCL (as Admissions Tutor and then Director of Studies) our Civil Engineering department has established a strong reputation for its radically updated degree programmes and now attracts the very brightest students.

Marie Fournier, SELCS (Student teaching choice award winner) asks “what approach are you taking to assessment – what do you think new technologies can add to the way we are assessing our students?"

I think some students are over-assessed and can become confused and dissatisfied about summative and formative assessments. They may not see the point in certain assessments or understand the feedback or grade given and this is not helpful to them or staff.

Moving towards a mix of both - as well as being clear about what assessments are and what feedback means would be more effective. Couple this with using different, faster technologies and I can see both students and staff benefiting.

What questions would you like to pose to the next interviewee?

Is it possible to get students to engage with formative assessment?