March 2019

Short article

A reflection on the efficacy of pre-defined outcomes for lesson preparation, delivery and monitoring student progress on university pre-sessional English courses

Helen Taylor and Don Jack
University Pre-sessional English (PSE) courses are designed to help students improve their English language and academic skills prior to joining their degree course. These courses are often intense and pressured working environments, where teachers have a limited time to complete all the necessary course administration, preparation and assessment. In order to assist teachers with these areas of the Pre-sessional courses offered by CU Services at Coventry University, we felt that specifying pre-defined outcomes for each lesson would help teachers to (1) narrow the focus of their lessons; (2) stage their lessons effectively in order to allow time for practice and production activities; (3) monitor student engagement and attainment in class time; (4) record student attainment more effectively and meaningfully. The idea of specifying pre-defined outcomes emerges from constructive alignment, a principle of course design in which “all components – intended learning outcomes, teaching/learning activities, assessment tasks and their grading – support each other, so the learner is enveloped within a supportive learning system” (Biggs and Tang 2011: 109). The outcomes-based approach is used to support course design in Higher Education but is not often explicitly adopted within PSE courses. Rather than specifying outcomes for the whole course only, we devised outcomes for each lesson using Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Anderson and Krathwohl 2001) to help phrase them. After teachers had the opportunity to use the explicit, pre-defined outcomes in their lessons, we held focus groups and found that the pre-defined outcomes helped teachers to narrow the focus their lesson, plan their lessons more efficiently and stage their lessons more effectively. However, the efficacy of outcomes to monitor and record student engagement and attainment was less clear, with some teachers highlighting the fact that the complex nature of in-class monitoring involves more than simply noticing student attainment. Though we recognise the criticisms of the outcome-based approach (see Richards 1990:4 and Thornbury 2011), for intensive courses, such as PSE courses, this approach was a welcome and generally effective adaptation.

Short article

Co-Creating a Digital Research Skills Guide: A Staff-Student Collaboration in Geography

Dr Chris Satow, Dr Ingrid A. Medby and Professor Helen Walkington
With an aim to foster transferable skills and employability, the geography team at Oxford Brookes University is collaborating with students on the development of a digital research skills guide. Facilitated by a Teaching Innovation Award, the project includes a peer-mentoring scheme between second and third-year students and the co-production of published material to support the development of geographical skills. The project is embedded in two modules as well as an extra-curricular scheme, thereby ensuring both a high density of participation and longevity of the scheme. From the early design of the project to its eventual dissemination, the idea of staff-student partnership lies at the heart of the project.

Research paper

The Integration of Research in the Higher Education Curriculum: A Systematic Review

Professor Didi Griffioen, Aron Groen and Jason Nak
The support for connections between research and education is widespread. This connection yields the promise of educating students for the knowledge society. With the curriculum as the most important carrier of planned higher education, the lack of systematic insight in how research can be integrated into the curriculum is an important omission. This systematic review considers how empirical studies provide input for the integration of research in the higher education curriculum. Moreover, it provides a structured insight into the current body of knowledge on research in the curriculum. Based on a first set of 5815 journal articles, 121 articles were selected for further analysis. The model of Curriculum Aspects by Van den Akker (2003) was used to categorise the articles, which shows a body of knowledge on research in the curriculum with the largest focus on learning aims and learning activities. Furthermore, this review shows how few studies consider the effects of curriculum design on student learning, which calls for more empirical studies to benefit student learning.