University of Strathclyde

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    Using Technology in the Classroom to Enhance Participation

    I have used Kahoot, a game-based digital learning platform  (freely available online)  

    Kahoot has allowed me to create questions which all students see on the board. Then, they all get a set amount of time to reply through their mobile or other electronic device and then get instant feedback on their answer. This means that all students engage in the exercise actively making decisions and answering questions and at the same time, the lecturer gets a very accurate picture of the level of understanding of a particular topic and also gets to see (and address the most common) mistakes on the spot.

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    Quizzing Students During the Class for Immediate Feedback. — Multiple choice questions with timing in some cases and 3 most important things of the lecture were incorporated in each class.
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    Video Feedback for Assignments
    MBA students received video feedback for their group and individual assignments
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    Treasure Hunt Assessment A new assessment was added to the final year of the MPharm where students were given a clinical problem at 5pm and the solution had to be submitted by 5pm the following day in the form of a letter to a consultant
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    Video Assessments
    The end of semester group presentation was replaced with a 3-minute video.
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    Peer Evaluation in Groupwork
    The fourth year CPE students spend the second semester on a project.  Working in groups of 5 or 6 students, they have to design a chemical plant and produce a report.  Each group is supervised by an academic, who meets the group every week and makes sure that the group is progressing.  At the end of the project the students receive an individual mark assigned by their supervisor.  To enhance the group work experience, peer evaluation was introduced.  The peer evaluation had to be submitted half-way through the project.  The results and the peers’ comments were reported to each student, in an anonymous way, so that each student could reflet on the peers’ comments and improve their own performance.  As this was a trial run, the peer assessment had no weight on the final mark given to each student.
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    Use of Personal Response Systems for Assessment Personal Response System (PRS) handsets were used during normal lectures for students to answer multiple choice topics on the material being presented.
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    Feedback for Coursework in Digital Form Feedback is given to students directly in the submitted document in digital format (either Microsoft Word or pdf files). This way, students can relate the feedback to particular sections of their report, allowing them to act on it more effectively. It also enables a very high level of detail in the feedback, ranging from generic comments to even typing and syntax errors.
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    Peer evaluation of essays Students read, discuss and write constructive feedback on essays drawn from a sample submitted by the previous year’s cohort. This provides students with the opportunity to engage with the assessment criteria and discuss the characteristics of strong, good and weaker answers, before they prepare and submit their own work. The session is also beneficial in helping them understand how to frame, and learn from, constructive feedback.
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    Reorganising teaching lab structure to manage student perceptions of fairness

    Reorganisation of 3rd year teaching lab including changes to assessment and feedback practise and allocation of student experiments.

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    Use of Myplace quiz as a revision tool for a final honours class

    Use of Myplace quiz as a revision tool for a final honours class.

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    Facilitating Children’s Philosophical Dialogue — The Postgraduate Certificate in Philosophy with Children comprises three modules. The final module, Philosophy with Children: Facilitation, requires students to facilitate two separate philosophical dialogues with their class peers as part of their assessment. The students are observed facilitating the sessions by the tutor.

    Each student, in advance of their facilitation, must meet with the tutor to discuss the session they will lead. During this meeting the students will discuss the stimulus they will use in the session and will be able to provide a rationale for this stimulus while also being able to identify the philosophical themes embedded in the stimulus. Students are also able to raise any concerns or questions about facilitation at this meeting.

    Throughout the observed session the tutor makes notes relating to the content of the dialogue and to the facilitation of the dialogue. Immediately following the observed session the student and tutor engage in a de-brief/evaluation session. The tutor writes up the extensive formative feedback more fully and sends this to the student within a couple of days. The feedback highlights key areas for development in the second observed session.

    Prior to the second session, the student and tutor meet to discuss the areas for development and the stimulus to be used. The focus for the second observed session is the points identified from the first session. A further de-brief/evaluation is held after the second session and more written feedback is provided to the student, this relates to the identified development areas.

    The final piece of summative assessment accompanying the observed sessions, is a written critical evaluation on the two sessions that must take into account the feedback given. Students then receive a final piece of written feedback in light of this.

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    One minute papers for student feedback

    One Minute Papers provide a cheap and easy instrument for students to give teachers feedback on each lecture (or other encounter), on top of a basic attendance check. A generic form is issued to the class at the start of each lecture, asking students to identify themselves and then fill in free text responses to “What have you learned in this lecture?” and “What should I try harder to explain?”, as well as quiz questions if appropriate. The students return completed forms as they leave the room. The teacher can then reflect on this feedback and respond to it (without naming names) at the beginning of the next lecture.

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    Pre-lab quizzes and videos to support preparation for practical work I implemented a series of pre-lab quizzes, which are low/no stakes exercises completed by students before attending a practical working environment, in this case a first year undergraduate chemistry teaching laboratory. Pre-labs can be supported by video demonstrations, resources which I have also created.
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    Newspaper Coursework for 1st year Civil Engineering Students
    This paper discusses a coursework initiative that required 1st year civil engineering students (n=162) to undertake regular reading of UK newspapers as a means to find articles that they believed were relevant to their studies. In small groups (4-5) the students were tasked to produce a collage from their newspaper cuttings and a fictitious front page newspaper poster. The results show that ‘on large’ the students found the coursework to be interesting and enjoyable and that it allowed them to demonstrate initiative and creative thinking. Consultation of broadsheet newspapers was most prevalent and 67% agreed/ strongly-agreed that the articles that they found enhanced the image of civil engineering and 82% agreed/ strongly-agreed that weekday newspapers should carry more stories about this industry sector. The results suggest that the initiative can be easily replicated and that it can act as a catalyst to encourage engineering students to become more regular and critical readers of news media throughout their studies.

    Newspaper image by Silke Remmery, Flickr CC-BY-2.0

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    Introducing Fresher Civil Engineers to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) — This case study examines the data (coursework’s and questionnaires) collated from an innovative undergraduate (n=428) assessment (2010-2015). The first-year students were required to select and read six inaugural addresses by former ICE presidents (2 from the 19th century; 2 from the 20th century and 2 from the 21st century) and use these as a catalyst for writing their own ICE student president address (circa 2000 words) whilst keeping an eye towards 2050.

    The coursework required the students to write in first person and to consider the relationship between civil engineering and society. Emphasis was put on looking backwards and forwards to enable the students to speculate on the role of civil engineering in the UK and abroad towards 2050.

    The students who receive the top five grades for their coursework are invited to present (now 2nd year students) an abridged version (10mins each) of their address to the new first-year students during the following academic session. These new fresher students are asked to vote on their preferred candidate to become the Strathclyde ICE Student President. The voters are informed that their selection criteria should be based on (1) confidence in delivery / communication (2) visionary ideas towards 2050 (3) quality of information on the slides used.

    The winner receives a trip to London (sponsored to £300 by an engineering company) to visit the ICE HQ and a prestigious civil engineering project and for the past three years we have also toured landmark Scottish bridges.

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    Using a Weekly Trade Magazine (New Civil Engineer) for Learning & Assessment.

    This case study presents evidence from an initiative employing a weekly industry magazine - New Civil Engineer (NCE) - as a vehicle for introducing construction technology to first year students (N=153).

    Using one or more hard copy editions of the magazine (from inaugural edition in 1972 onward) available in the university library, and following guidance regarding the definition of construction technology, the students were required to select six technological themes from any section (news, projects, adverts, etc.) of the NCE magazine.

    Students were required to produce six drawings/sketches on either A3 or A4 paper and annotate each sketch and provide further notes indicating evidence of further research (i.e. consultation with text books/scholarly journals/ manufacturer’s websites etc.)

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    Using Graduate Engineers (Alumni) to Mentor Undergraduate Students — This case study discusses the results from a graduate mentoring initiative (2010-2018 sessions) involving third year (n=621) civil & environmental engineering (CEE) student mentees, graduate mentors (n=139) and employers (n=34).

    In self-selected groups (n=3-5) the student mentees visited a graduate engineer (a mentor) either in a design office or in a construction project setting. The requirement was for the mentors to provide their mentee group with a minimum of two visits per semester with each visits being at least 2 hours in duration. The mentors and mentees were also encouraged to develop informal communications between the visits.

    The mentee role is akin to that of a non-participant observer, whereby the mentor dispenses knowledge, guidance and advice and the mentees listen, observe, reflect, question and respond. These activities could be considered a partial fulfilment of the experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) theory designed to help individuals identify the way they learn from experience.

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    “Reading for a Degree”: A Compulsory Book Reading Coursework and Associated Book Club

    A compulsory book reading coursework for all 1st year civil engineers. Each year, the freshers are required to read one book from four that have been selected by the tutor (see the attached document for the 24 books used since the 2009-10 session).

    The books selected for reading are chosen on the basis that they provide knowledge about the history and heritage of civil engineering including biographical text and / or contemporary accounts of inspirational civil engineering projects.

    A department book club was established to run in parallel with the coursework and throughout the academic session so as to encourage students to discuss their book reading with peers, and to provide a platform to invite book authors to the department.

    Book Club meetings to date have been:

    • December 2014-Dr Ian Stewart, Alumni, and co-author of How to Read Bridges: A Crash Course Spanning the Centuries, visited the department on the 18th December 2014. Ian is a Chartered Engineer and an Associate at Blyth & Blyth. He has a BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering (2000) and a PhD in Structural Dynamics (2003)
    • March 2013- Forth Bridge: Restoring an Icon by Ann Glen, Craig Bowman, John Andrews, Kieran Dobbs, Lily Publications. Book Club meeting in the Hawes Inn, South Queensferry.
    • December 2011-Creation of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, Joint ICE Glasgow & West of Scotland Graduates & Student and Panel for Historic Engineering Works Meeting with Emeritus Professor (Heriot Watt) Roland Paxton reading from his book Dynasty of Engineers: the Stevensons & the Bell Rock, The Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust
    • March 2011-Dr Ann Glen Reading from her book Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link: Reconnecting Communities & Hugh Wark (Senior Project Engineer, Network Rail)
    • November 2010-A Celebration of Gustave Eiffel with guest author David Harvie, reading from his book, Eiffel, the Genius Who Reinvented Himself, The History Press Ltd
    • December 2009-Emeritus Professor Roland Paxton (Heriot Watt) & Vice Chairman ICE Panel of Historical Engineering Works (PHEW) attends Book Club meeting. Author of several books on civil engineering.
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    Social Learning in Tutorial — The Department looked at two new tutorial models which can be thought of as a form of social learning.

    Case 1: PH 352 Quantum Physics and Electromagnetism – In this class the students were split into four groups of approximately 30 students. In the electromagnetism tutorials the students were then sub-divided into groups of 5 to 6 students and then allocated problems to work through together. At the end of the tutorial the students worked through one of the solutions in front of all students explaining the key physics rather than going through the mathematical steps.

    Case 2: PH 358 Condensed Matter Physics – In this class the lecturer allocated 10% of the class mark to the tutorials. Again the students were split into four groups of approximately 30 students The students were set homework questions which were to be completed outside of the tutorial. At each tutorial the students would tick a sheet indicating which questions they had done and a portion of the 10 % mark would be awarded to the student irrespective of whether the student had achieved the correct answer or not.  The idea was to encourage the students to attempt the questions without worrying about the correct answer. At the tutorial any student who had ticked that they had completed a question could be asked by the tutor to explain his or her solution to the rest of the group (this was an honesty check) and then the tutor would lead a discussion about the student’s approach and the physics behind the problem.

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    Using Flipped Classes to Enhance Face to Face Discussion in Engineering Labs This case study describes the introduction of an online lesson in experimental engineering laboratory classes to facilitate the face-to-face discussion prior to the experimental activity.
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    ‘Speed dating’ – As An Innovative Learning Method — One of the Honours Classes for the Human Resource Management degree is HR402 ‘Perspectives on Work and Employment’. Professor Taylor took over co-ordination of the class for academic year 2014-5. As the class content and modes of assessment had not changed for several years, it was decided to undertake a thorough revision. While maintaining the theoretical emphasis that had characterised the module and was an undoubted strength, innovation involved a lecture programme more focused on the application of theory to the empirical domain. For example, in the first section of the course on the theme of ‘The Global and the Local’, lectures on globalisation and the varieties of capitalism were accompanied by case study examples of Transnational Corporations’ (TNCs’) activities and HR and employment relations policies and practices in a number of different countries.

    Another example of this inter-relationship of theory and practice forms the subject of this particular ‘Sharing Effective Practice’ case study. In the last section of the class on ‘Trade Unions and Employee Representation’, change consisted first of a reconfiguration of the lecture programme, and second of innovation in respect of the related assignment. A formal lecture on ‘Trade Unions and Representation’ was followed by a session entitled ‘What Do Trade Union Reps Actually Do?’. At this session, six trade union officers and reps were invited to attend. The idea was that each of the reps/officers sit at a desk and students in turn, for a set time, sit opposite the rep and ask questions of them. Students then visit another table and so on. On the basis of the notes taken, students were obliged to complete a report which answered that general question. This report constituted the final assessed assignment of the class. 

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    Use of MyPlace Rubrics for Assignment Marking in Large Engineering Classes — MyPlace Rubrics were used to mark written technical report assignments in three separate large classes (4 separate assignments, over 120 students for each).
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    Use of Online Submissions and Feedback Tools

    The coursework submission method was changed from hard copy to electronic submission via online learning portal (MyPlace). Provision of both assessment and feedback was delivered via online tools (TURNITIN). This allowed students to see assessment against the rubric, relevant comments and content, issues of originality and to keep a long term record of feedback to refer to later. It also allows the academic to also keep a copy to refer to as required and use as examples of future work. This intervention was taken first in 2014-15 and each year I have built on the successes.

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    Pharmacology Essay Enhancement Tool

    A 1-hour essay exercise on a previously announced topic written under exam conditions. Individual written feedback was given on each paper, but not a formal mark which would contribute to their final grade. In a follow up tutorial, strengths and weaknesses of essay writing and exam preparation were explored, with time for individuals to discuss their personal performance afterwards. Having explained these points, an essay enhancement tool was provided which enables students to critically self-evaluate their own attempts at essay writing and thereby improve their performance. The tool enables them to do this independently, or with peers in small study groups if that is their preference. This innovation has been tried in both final year and second year students.

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    Rich Pictures for Creative and Imaginative Learning
    1. A themed report (2000 words / 60% weighting) coursework required the students’ to select one topic from six  different lecture (CL437 Project Analysis) topics and to critique the topic and where possible link their discussion to professional practice
    2. The rich picture assessment (20% weighting) required students to form self-selected pairs with a peer who had researched a different topic to their own. Each pair peer review the other’s “themed” coursework report and  the students’ were encouraged to engage in constructive dialogue that would ideally be the catalyst for reflective thinking, leading to synergy, unexpected learning, and providing links between what may have initially appeared to be disparate topics.
    3. The rich picture task required the students to represent this new knowledge in a pictorial format. The students were sent links to guidance (1,2,3) explaining the concept and purpose of rich pictures and were required to construct a rich picture during a 2 hour class session. The students were informed that coloured pens and flip chart paper would be made available and that they could bring along any other art materials that they may like to use. It was envisaged that this activity would offer a fun environment for practicing sketching / doodling and challenge students’ to be intuitive & creative in the representation of their combined knowledge.
    4. The students’ were informed that they would have 90 minutes to complete their rich pictures and that on completion all of the posters would be displayed for viewing. As an incentive to encourage the students to view the posters in an active manner a competitive element was introduced whereby the students were asked to make one vote for their favourite rich picture poster.  A small cash prize for the two authors of the most popular poster was offered. Given that the viewing window was time bound the students were not issued with objective guidance on how to assess the quality of the posters and were left to make their own personal value judgements.
    5. The smaller part of the assessment (5% weighting) required the students’ to submit an anonymous one-page reflective report to MyPlace. The students’ were informed that this part of the assessment would not be graded and that they would receive 100% for recoding their honest opinions concerning their participation in the rich picture Afl. The purpose of this part of the Afl was twofold, (1) to encourage the students to develop metacognition skills through reflecting on their own practice of acquiring explicit and tacit knowledge, and (2) to assist my own understanding of employing rich pictures as a pedagogical intervention and to evaluate its effectiveness in conjunction with my assessment of their posters.


    (1)           The Open University (2016) Diagramming for development 1 - Bounding realities, Rich Pictures,

    (2)           What is Rich Picturing? 6 Tips to Get Started with Rich Picturing

    (3)           Bell, S and Morse, S (2013) How People Use Rich Pictures to Help Them Think and Act, Syst Pract Action Res. 26:331–348.

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