Saturday, June 30, 2012

In previous years

Le Tour De France ...I've tried to avoid finding out the result of the Tour de France stage until I was able to watch the highlights in the evening. Even during today's Prologue, it has become obvious that I will not be able to do that this year. The Tour is now so prominent across all realtime media channels that I won't be able to avoid it without totally cutting myself off from the resources I need to work. I guess that means this is the first true realtime Tour for me. Whether that will add to or detract from my enjoyment of the event ... time will tell.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Searching for the Grail

For the past year I've been searching for the Grail, the R textbook that students need. Note, not an R textbook that students need, the. Here are two contenders.

Discovering Statistics Using R
Andy Field's Discovering Statistics Using SPSS was a great textbook (read the reviews at Amazon) with only one problem - SPSS. He has now fixed that problem by publishing Discovering Statistics Using R. You can get the general idea by watching his online statistics lectures.

This is a great book, probably the best single book on R I've read, and I know I'm going to be using it a lot. I will be recommending it to students next year, but as a background reference as it goes far beyond the needs of the courses I teach. And I also have some niggles with it. For example, chapter 4 on graphs concentrates almost exclusively on ggplot2, which was very useful for me, but I feel it would be better if the simpler examples at the later in the chapter came before the complicated Facebook example.
Also an obvious problem that should have been picked up at the editorial stage: colour="Red" doesn't work with two colour printing when everything is blue! In general, I love the irreverent writing style, but I felt that the musical analogies were overdone, and probably inaccessible to younger (sorry Andy) and overseas students. The writing is a bit lumpy too - e.g. the sudden swerve from the "I'm just one of the lads" style into the intricacies of multiple regression models. I'm delighted to have an R-based textbook with both in, but the writing could do with a bit of smoothing out. R Commander seems to appear from nowhere at regular intervals with insufficient explanation. Personally, I avoid external shells when I'm teaching using R, but if I was going to use one, it would be R Studio these days. Something for the next edition I hope. It would also be nice to have functions listed in the index, e.g. to be able to quickly find out where lm(), glm(), etc, occur in the text.

Getting Started With R Our second contender is Getting Started With R, An Introduction for Biologists. This is a different kettle of fish, a slim 100 pages (at a not so slim price). Again, I learned some useful tips from this book (especially regarding plotting error bars), which (usefully) concentrates on generating graphs in R. The big downside is a devastating sentence in chapter 5, the only general statistics chapter, which says "If you have never actually used these statistics before, or never taken a course in statistics ... now is a good time to go and do this".

Right. Not suitable for a statistics course then.

Still searching for the Grail.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reflections on #ST101 - first 24 hours

Introduction to Statistics (ST101) I plan to post occasional reflections on ST101 here as the course progresses.

After a slightly late start, we're off. I'm already getting what I wanted - the feeling of what it's like to be a student again. On consequence of this is immediate dumbing down when I know the answers, not wanting to come across as a smart arse. My maths is clunky, pragmatic and empirical. It soars like an anvil. That's not new, I already knew that :-)

The website is slick, the YouTube format with built-in formative questions particularly so:

Introduction to Statistics (ST101)

I'm using the exercises as a way of noodling around with R, and this is already having benefits. I feel the decision to use Python on this course is wrong, and have commented to that effect on the forum (although if I find time I will have a go at the optional Python units). How great would it be if Udacity threw its resources behind open source software such as R and RStudio and contributed to their evolution?

I'm dealing with time management - still my biggest worry - by scheduling blocks in Google Calendar.

There are badges! (although somewhat peripheral to the progress menu and only for the "social" aspects of the course, i.e. the forums).

Another update next week.

Why it doesn't pay to be creative

"If critical creativity and radical innovation are to occupy a strategic focus in higher education (rather than merely something to which lip service is paid), then policy, structures and management processes should be cognisant of research findings. Such research, as we have shown, highlights the potentially destructive impact of current and emerging practices. Much is made of the need for ‘evidence based’ policy, yet much of the available evidence in this domain is being ignored. High levels of stress, micro-management, short-term contracts, reduced investment and heightened competition will be counter-productive and lead to a relative decline in the sector’s capacity to innovate, to reframe and to play a transformative role for students and wider society."

Iain MacLaren. The contradictions of policy and practice: creativity in higher education. London Review of Education 10(2) 25 Jun 2012
Whilst much of the rhetoric of current educational policy champions creativity and innovation, structural reforms and new management practices in higher education run counter to the known conditions under which creativity flourishes. As a review of recent literature suggests, surveillance, performativity, the end of tenure and rising levels of workplace stress are all closing off the space for real creative endeavour, characterised as it is by risk-taking, collaborative exploration and autonomy. Innovation, as conceived in this policy context (i.e., that of the UK and Ireland), is narrow in scope and leaves little room for critical re-examination of the nature of education itself or radical reconceptions of curriculum, raising the question as to whether such are more likely to arise extra mural, from new forms of organisation.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Today's the day #ST101

Introduction to Statistics (ST101) I start my first MOOC.

Why am I doing this? Because I want to be a better statistician (and you can never have enough practice). Also because I feel I should have the experience of participating in a MOOC.

What are the risks? I teach statistics. I'm supposed to be an "expert". Do I want to expose myself in this way? Should I be spending time doing other things? There is genuine jeopardy here. I care about the outcome. What if I "fail"?

Will I finish the course? We'll see. This is my big problem. The seven week curriculum runs into my annual vacation so I'll have problems completing the final exam. These is no good time of year for me to participate in a course of this length, only slightly less bad ones. Evenings and weekends are not an option for me. I'm a morning person. But mornings (pre-work) are exercise and livestock. Which will get priority?

All these questions, and more, will be answered over the next seven weeks.

Introduction to Statistics (ST101)

Update: ST101 finally arrives, 24 hours late. No explanation from Udacity. Not a great start.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


This blog: I just passed a quarter of a million pageviews.

Google+: I just passed 5,000 followers.

Social media is an awesome responsibility.

Thinking about feedback

I've been thinking about feedback quite a lot recently (more about that later, as circumstances permit). Two papers just published in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education set me pondering. The first paper is purely theoretical, but I found it quite stimulating:

Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 2012, 1-15
Student feedback is a contentious and confusing issue throughout higher education institutions. This paper develops and analyses two models of feedback: the first is based on the origins of the term in the disciplines of engineering and biology. It positions teachers as the drivers of feedback. The second draws on ideas of sustainable assessment. This positions learners as having a key role in driving learning, and thus generating and soliciting their own feedback. It suggests that the second model equips students beyond the immediate task and does not lead to false expectations that courses cannot deliver. It identifies the importance of curriculum design in creating opportunities for students to develop the capabilities to operate as judges of their own learning.

Unfortunately from this, although I agree completely with the principles espoused, it's not easy to see how to achieve this in practice. The second paper is an actual case study:

Feedforward strategies in the first-year experience of online and distributed learning environments. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 2012, 1-11
Feedforward is an educational strategy focusing on providing students with prior exposure to, and prior practise with assessment in order to clarify expectations and standards. Current research into feedforward has yet to fully consider the specificity of online and distributed learning environments. We have developed a feedforward-based approach to teaching a large first year prerequisite course in screen history involving the modified and critical use of exemplars and assessment guidance in ways designed to stimulate self and peer assessment throughout the course. Our focus is the improvement of task compliance, quality and criteria in order to stimulate meaningful engagement with assessment and enhanced student performance in the unit.

"Unfortunately it has also been our experience that the provision of ‘model’ assessment items seems to encourage ‘rote’ imitation and – in the worst cases – outright plagiarism."

I read this, but the lack of detail left me none the wiser how to actually implement what the authors are describing - frustrating.

Why is feedback so hard?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Constructivism, Roberts, and Susans

We can do this the hard way:
John Biggs (1996) Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education 32(3): 347-364

or the easy way:

SOLO taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome):
  1. Prestructural. The task is not attacked appropriately; the student hasn't understood the point.
  2. Unistructural. One or a few aspects of the task are picked up and used (understanding as nominal).
  3. Multistructural. Several aspects of the task are learned but are treated separately (understanding as knowing about).
  4. Relational. The components are integrated into a coherent whole, with each part contributing to the overall meaning (understanding as appreciating relationships).
  5. Extended abstract. The integrated whole at the relational level is reconceptualised at a higher level of abstraction, which enables generalisation to a new topic or area, or is turned reflexively on oneself (understanding as far transfer, and as involving metacognition).


A) Most desirable (extended abstract): metacognitive understanding, students able to use the taught content in order to reflect on their own teaching, evaluate their decisions made in the classroom in terms of theory, and thereby improve their decision-making and practice. Other outcomes: formulating a personal theory of teaching that demonstrably drives decision-making and practice, generating new approaches to teaching on the basis of taught principles and content.
B) Very satisfactory (relational): students can apply course content, and recognise good and poor applications of principles. They "understand" in that course content is used as a theory of teaching that drives action.
C) Moderately satisfactory (multistructural): students understand declaratively, in that they can discuss content meaningfully, they know about a reasonable amount of content, but don't transfer or apply it easily.
D) Barely satisfactory (unistructural): sparse understandings, evidence of some effort in the acquisition of terminology; higher level understanding offset by some misunderstandings.
F) Unsatisfactory outcomes: fundamental misunderstandings, lack of effort/involvement in the unit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education: Reflections from Practice

Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education Reflections from Practice As Google Scholar continues to improve (just need those bookmarking/tagging functions to arrive now) it increasingly slides serendipitous discoveries into my attention stream. This morning, it tossed me Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education: Reflections from Practice, with chapters from two of my friends:

A framework for technological intervention Integrating OER into Open Educational Practices by Gráinne Conole, describing the carrot approach of the OPAL project,


Teaching with Technology: A Personal Journey by Edward P. Rybicki:
"The path is still a rather lonely one, as no one else in my department shares my interest in providing original teaching and learning material, for free, on the Internet. However, and to my pleasant surprise, an entire community of like-minded souls in the university seems to have discovered me — and I have been enriched thereby."

Education research in PeerJ?

From: Alan Cann To: 12 June 2012
What is the scope of PeerJ - will it provide peer review for articles in education?
Thanks, -- AJ Cann, Leicester, UK.

From: Peter Binfield To: Alan Cann 12 June 2012
The scope initially is restricted to Research Articles in the Biomedical and Medical sciences. So we aren’t setting out to publish education (or other ‘social’ sciences for example) but if it were an article with direct relevance to medical education for example, then I could see it being in scope. It is a similar problem that I had at PLoS ONE – there are large grey areas around the core scope of a journal like this which have to be considered on a case by case basis
Does that help?
-- Peter Binfield, PhD Co-Founder and Publisher, PeerJ

From: Alan Cann 09:03 To: Peter Binfield 13 June 2012
Hi Peter, thanks for the prompt reply.
I've been campaigning for the past couple of years for an arXiv-like system for education research papers, and I'd rather not try to set up something free standing now that we have PeerJ (or soon will have). I completely understand the focus on biomedical research, but freed from the constraints of print journals, I wonder if there's not room for PeerJ to cover a number of areas, just as arXiv now does?
Would you mind if I made this discussion public when I blog about PeerJ? No problem if you'd rather I didn't.
Thanks, -- AJ Cann, Leicester, UK.

From: Peter Binfield To: Alan Cann 17 June 2012 04:41
Apologies for the delayed reply (it has been busy!) - by all means feel free to blog about this.
There are a few possible options for the articles you are talking about though - SAGE Open; the Social Sciences Directory ( and the SSRN. Any of these might be worth a look.
-- Peter Binfield, PhD Co-Founder and Publisher, PeerJ

Friday, June 15, 2012

Presenting via a Google+ Hangout #GEUG12

Spinnaker Tower Portsmouth Portsmouth's a very nice place, but having recently come back from Estonia, it was good not to have to schlep all the way down there to speak at the Google Apps for Education European User Group meeting (#GEUG12). So I gave a talk via a Google+ Hangout, and here it is (talk starts at 05:00):

It all went very smoothly, but presenting via a Hangout in this way was a bit disconcerting. I presented with my slides (as a Google Presentation) on full screen view to max out the quality of the text, and the moderator turned their microphone off during the talk to improve sound quality, so I got no feedback from the room while speaking, which felt odd.  Overall though it seemed to go OK. I'll certainly be doing more of these in the future in preference to excessive planes, trains and automobiles. Sustainably green conferences are GO, and I'm very smug about my carbon footprint. Apart from that flight to Estonia.

Google Apps for Education European User Group meeting #GEUG12

GEUG12 Today is the Google Apps for Education European User Group meeting (#GEUG12). The programme is here (I'm on at 1.30: "Mapping Student Attitudes to Academic Use of Google+" ;-)

The meeting is taking place in Portsmouth, but all being well, the sessions should be live streamed as Google+ Hangouts, so follow GEUG12 or #GEUG12 on Google+ and you'll get all the Googly goodness you can handle. Or your money back.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hangouts are the spice of life?

Hangouts I've written here before about attempting to build a professional learning community to engage my colleagues in pedagogical research. I've also written about video Hangouts as the killer app of Google+. So maybe a judicious blend of video to spice up the online community with face to face events such as the one we ran recently will be worth considering.

Virtual Professional Learning Communities: Teachers’ Perceptions of Virtual Versus Face-to-Face Professional Development. JSET 04 June 2012 doi: 10.1007/s10956-012-9391-y
Research suggests that professional development that engages teachers in instructional inquiry over an extended time through collaborative professional learning communities (PLCs) is effective in improving instruction and student achievement. Still, most professional development is offered as short-duration workshops that are not effective in changing practice. Barriers to the implementation of PLCs include lack of shared meeting time and a shortage of teachers who share the same subject areas or common goals and interests. Convening teachers from multiple districts can alleviate this problem, but teachers are reluctant to travel for meetings due to time and cost restraints. Video-conferencing software offers a solution to these barriers while serving to foster the sense of community needed for PLCs to be effective. The researchers describe the use of Virtual PLCs in which two groups of teachers met monthly for one school year to collaboratively analyze evidence collected as part of their teacher inquiry plans. With help from a facilitator, these groups developed a relationship similar to other groups meeting face-to-face as part of the same professional development program. Analysis of the reflections of teacher-participants and facilitators revealed that teachers prefer face-to-face meetings, but that the virtual and face-to-face meetings provided teachers with similar social interactions in the PLC experience. The findings suggest that teachers perceive videoconferencing as an effective tool for facilitating PLCs when distance and time are practical barriers to face-to-face meetings. Practical considerations for developing and facilitating virtual PLCs are also discussed.

Reflection on how far we've come

When I started e-learning research some 15 years ago my talks used to show a pie chart on my research into student's attitudes to computers. This was a circle divided in three equal parts: philes (like computers), phobes (hate computers), and neutrals (don't care).

Looking at recent work involving the technology acceptance model for ICT (Edmunds, R., Thorpe, M. And Conole, G., 2012. Student attitudes towards and use of ICT in course study, work and social activity: A technology acceptance model approach. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), pp. 71-84), I'm struck by two things.

First how far "we" have come in the last 15 years, and second, how we now need to turn the ownership-inspired over-reliance on technology around. I'm getting dangerously close to mentioning the flipped classroom here, so I'd best stop.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Google Analytics - so cool, sooo complicated :-)

Update: See: Social media and Google Analytics - who's interested in botany?

I just wish I knew what it meant :-)

Learning styles: where’s the evidence?

"Whereas modern medicine owes much of its success to its reliance upon evidence-based treatments, most popular techniques of instruction have not been subjected to thorough empirical scrutiny. A particularly glaring and costly result of this, we argue, is the wide acceptance of the idea that instruction should be tailored to a student’s so-called learning style. For example, students might be divided into visual learners and verbal learners (on the basis of a learning style test given to each student) and then provided with instruction that emphasises pictures or words, respectively. The visual–verbal distinction is only one simple example of the many proposed taxonomies; a recent review described 71 different schemes. Given this advocacy by academics and the ensuing heartfelt praise of educators, tailoring instruction to students’ style is now a prevalent and profitable enterprise. However, as we and others have pointed out, a thoughtful review of the data provides no support for style-based instruction."

"Our search of the literature on learning styles revealed that the appropriate design was used in only a handful of studies."

"There exist a smattering of positive findings with unknown effect sizes that are eclipsed by a much greater number of published failures."

"There presently is no empirical justification for tailoring instruction to students’ supposedly different learning styles."

Learning styles: where's the evidence? Med.Educ., 2012, 46, 7, 634-635

Altmetric It. Maybe.

OK, revised opinion. Just tested it on: which received huge media attention (BBC News front page, etc). says:

It sucks. (Update: Please read the comments below)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A failed experiment

"The overall conclusion of this study must be that the hybrid experiment, at least in the case of the major publishers and with the current price level, has failed as a way of significantly adding to the volumes of OA articles, and that hybrid OA will remain a very marginal phenomenon in the scholarly publishing landscape."

Björk, B.-C. (2012), The hybrid model for open access publication of scholarly articles: A failed experiment?. J. Am. Soc. Inf. Sci.. doi: 10.1002/asi.22709
Since 2004, mainstream scholarly publishers have been offering authors publishing in their subscription journals the option to free their individual articles from access barriers against a payment (hybrid OA). This has been marketed as a possible gradual transition path between subscription and open access to the scholarly journal literature, and the publishers have pledged to decrease their subscription prices in proportion to the uptake of the hybrid option. The number of hybrid journals has doubled in the past couple of years and is now over 4,300; the number of such articles was around 12,000 in 2011. On average only 1–2% of eligible authors utilize the OA option, due mainly to the generally high price level of typically 3,000 USD. There are, however, a few publishers and individual journals with a much higher uptake. This article takes a closer look at the development of hybrid OA and discusses, from an author-centric viewpoint, the possible reasons for the lack of success of this business model.

Inherently fuzzy

"Rather than aiming to produce a framework of digital literacies, we are working with the notion of 'genres of participation', an approach first used to define aspects of digital youth culture but which, using VandR as genres, translates well into more academic contexts. The strength of taking this approach is that the notion of genres is inherently fuzzy edged, reflecting the increasingly blurred boundaries between roles and behaviours online – between the personal and the institutional. Unlike many competency frameworks, VandR doesn't imply that there is a linear progression in developing digital literacies. In fact our data indicate that individuals evolve their forms of engagement online in a fairly ad hoc, try-it-and-see manner, based on their immediate needs."

David White, Using the web for learning and teaching – a new understanding, The Guardian 8 June 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Any good blogger has to know what their readers want

I think I've got the measure of you lot:


What can you get for $1000?

"If we take the approximately $10B currently paid as cash costs to recompense publishers for their work in facilitating scholarly communications neither the incumbent subscription publishers nor their current library customers believe that the value added by publishers justifies the current cost, absent artificial restrictions to access to the non-value added version."

Cameron Neylon, Added value in publishing: I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean. LSE Impact Blog, 11 Jun 2012

Gems from #EASEconference

I wasn't sure what to expect from the EASE conference, but whatever that was, it definitely exceeded my fuzzy expectations.  It's quite difficult to sum up the event succinctly, so I've settled for this highly selective overview:

Actually, that's true about nearly everything to do with Estonia.

Is everyone a publisher now? If not, what value do publishers add?

Academic publishing is currently a high risk business.

Some great thoughts on writing and editing at this meeting and I simply didn't have time to take them all in. What a shame some of the great contributors don't blog.

My unerring ability to pick the "wrong" parallel session means I missed this one. it sounded "interesting".

Of course, it wasn't all work ;-)

This meeting was so successful that the plan is to reduce the interval from three years to two years. There'll certainly be a lot to discuss in two years time!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Gimme some love

Google Scholar Citations A lot of people are worried that Google Scholar isn't receiving enough love from Google. Clearly Google doesn't see Scholar as central to its global masterplan, but does the lack of activity imply that it's on the way out?

In this context, any development, even a little one like this one, has to be welcome. Google Scholar is my favourite bibliographic tool, bar none. I hope it doesn't go away.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Social Tools and Academic Publishing

I'm off to Tallinn, Estonia, tomorrow to give a keynote address at the "Editing in the Digital World" meeting, the 11th European Association of Science Editors General Assembly and Conference. Here's my talk:

I recorded this a few days ago using a Google+ Hangout On Air as a screen capture application and an alternative to Slideshare slidecasts. For a straight PowerPoint presentation, I prefer making a slidecast (pre-record the audio, upload and sync), but if you have a multimodal presentation (i.e. more than PowerPoint - live web demos, etc, such as this) or multiple presenters, Hangouts are far superior. I think what this proves is the devastating effect PowerPoint has had on suffocating the life out of live presentations, from conferences to lectures. Faced with a decent tool like Hangouts we can't think what to do this it. The other value to hangouts is creating a sense of occasion around a live event (even if that's only student Office Hours) as opposed to the passive experience of watching a recording.

You can now make comments here, on the original Google+ thread or on the YouTube page. This could be problematic, but I could turn any of these comment streams off as needed. At the time, I had an audience of one (hopefully there'll be a few more listening in Tallinn). Many more people will watch the video subsequently - it'll be interesting to watch the YouTube Insights to see how many. More than go the the conference, I'm sure.

I still think hangouts are the potential killer app for Google+, I just haven't figured out how to use their full potential yet.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Plum Analytics dodgy data

A tweet from Martin last night alerted me to the fact that I featured in Plum Analytics recent presentation (skip to 8:10):

The problem with this approach is that it seems to be based on impact factor, comparing my ancient and outdated HIV papers in high impact factor biology journals with recent and topical work published in channels where comparable metrics do not exist. This is a flawed approach to altmetrics, but what it does clarify is that "impact" really has no meaning, beyond being a buzzword for marketeers.

I'm happy to feature in Plum Analytics PR material without being informed. If they would like to correct their flawed approach to altmetrics and improve their product, I'd be happy to work with them on a consultancy basis.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Edu-bloggers survey

Blog Alice Bell writes:
I’m currently working with colleagues at the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology on a small research project exploring communities of education blogging. The first stage of this is a survey of people who blog about education. Questions and some further explanation here -

So here's my response:

Blog URL:

What do you blog about?
Higher education, educational technology, social media.

Are you paid to blog?

What do you do professionally (other than blog)?
I'm currently a Senior Lecturer at at UK University.

How long have you been blogging at this site?
Six years.

Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?)
I publish academic papers and also blog at:
MicrobiologyBytes: (public understanding of science/microbiology education)
AoB Blog: (public understanding of science/journal public relations)

Can you remember why you started blogging?
I've written about reflective practice for many years and participating in a blogging community seemed to be the best contemporary way to put this into practice. Of late my focus for reflection has moved more towards social networks and this site has become more archival in nature, more of a document of record and a shop window.

What keeps you blogging?
Discipline! And the satisfaction of facing my ignorance and confusion.

Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How?
Mostly people involved in higher education, a few scientists who teach. This site gets around 5,000 unique viewers per month (Google Analytics).

What’s your attitude to/relationship with people who comment on your blog?
These days most people who comment here tend to be personal friends. Most of the discussion on what I write here now happens on Google+ and to a lesser extent on Twitter.

Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology)
(Higher) education. To a lesser extent, STEM education.

If so, what does that community give you?
I like to think I have a mutual relationship with my regular readers, taking from their work and giving back in equal measure. In reality, I'm sure I get a net gain on this transaction.

What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations?
I don't have the discipline to write a private journal so having a public audience imposes the pressure I need to reflect regularly.
Some of the disadvantages I can't discuss publicly but would be happy to do so in private correspondence.

Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)
My close family know I blog but don't care. I can't ever recall telling anyone else I blog other than in the context of a workshop on blogging or social media. My employer knows I blog and hates it (loss of institutional control). Read the disclaimer on this blog.
I blog for my own benefit and am delighted if anyone else reads it. But unless I published, it just wouldn't happen.

Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked?

I've written a lot about my attitude to blogging, it's all here:

And now over to my readers - anything you'd like to add about this blog?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Effective Group Work

Venn diagrams Alex is just back from the HEA Arts and Humanities conference 2012 and among the nuggets I gleaned from his writeup was this:
all group-produced material was assessed formatively, by peers; only individual (reflective) material was assessed summatively – thus removing the usual complaints that some group members weren’t pulling their weight.
I have constantly struggled to get group work to be worth the trouble it causes. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I think that group work is unimportant, but if it's not assessed they don't do it, and if it is, all the bickering takes so much of mine and their time that it's better not to bother. I like this halfway house approach, allowing the freeloaders to miss out on formative assessment.

Friday, June 01, 2012

HEA STEM: Qualitative Approaches to Pedagogical Research in the Biosciences

Comference Date: 18 Jun 2012, University of Leicester

Bioscientists are typically very well acquainted with quantitative approaches to research through their subject-based experience. Pedagogical research, however, employs both quantitative and qualitative techniques and the latter often represent unfamiliar territory for researchers in the biosciences, both in terms of utilising the techniques and appreciating the research literature based on these approaches. The aim of this workshop is to provide guidance on using some of the key qualitative techniques. The workshop will take the form of two plenary sessions from researchers with a qualitative background exploring approaches to using these techniques followed by some short case studies from the Biosciences to provide the subject context. There will also be a session to allow colleagues to engage in discussion about developing potential research projects with guided support from the presenters.

Draft programme:

10:00 – 10:20 Registration and Coffee
10:20 – 10:30 Welcome – Jon Scott
10:30 – 11:20 Mark Lemon (DMU) Research in a complex world - towards an integrative approach.
11:20 – 11:50 Neil Morris (Leeds) Bioscientists and educational research - what are we trying to prove?
12:00 – 13:00 Case Studies:
- Anne Tierney (Glasgow) Combining Theory and Practice in Course Design.
- Nick Freestone (Kingston) Semi-structured interviews as a qualitative research method in PedR.
- Helen MacKenzie (Leicester) The use of vignettes in the qualitative interview to visualise the student experience.
- Julian Park (Reading) Interviews as conversations: reflections on fieldwork research
13:00 – 13:40 Lunch and Networking.
13:40 – 14:40 Case Studies:
- Jon Scott (Leicester) Video diaries as an insight into the student experience.
- Hazel Corradi (Bath) Focus groups versus questionnaires for learning resource evaluation.
- Viv Rolfe (DMU) Title to be confirmed.
- Alan Cann (Leicester) An analytical framework for student use of social media.
14:40 – 15:30 Project Discussions.
15:30 – 16:00 Tea and Feedback.
16:00 Close