Welcome to the third edition of the National Forum ezine where we present voices, experiences and stories from across the higher education sector.
Many thanks to those colleagues who have contributed the articles in this edition. Their inputs are professional and authentic, as well as being informal and utterly engaging.
Do contact us with comments about the ezine; we’d be delighted to hear from you not least if you are interested in writing for the next edition.
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
National Forum Team
PD Prompts // Jim O’Mahony
Teaching for me is like …
an extension of life. You never know what the day might bring but experience teaches me that the harder I try and the more prepared I am, the better the chance of things going my way.
One of the things I most enjoy about teaching is …
the content creation. The quest to find the right material to deliver which will inform, engage, educate and challenge the students is one of the many enjoyable components of teaching.
I know a class has gone well when …
no one has involuntarily closed their laptop or lecture notes at “10 to the hour”. Keeping students engaged throughout, where they are slow to leave, is a sure sign that the class has gone well.
If I could research one area of my students’ learning, it would be …
their motivation for being there and how that changes over time. Whether they want to be there or feel compelled to be there is important and how we as lecturers can re-ignite or re-direct that motivation is interesting to me.
Writing connects with teaching best when …
there is a direct synergy between the two. Whatever medium is used to communicate with the students should be consistent and informative.
The social nature of teaching and learning means …
everything. Teaching and learning only works well when it reinforces the social connection between everyone involved. We are social beings who thrive in inclusive environments.
I prefer my learning environment to be …
open, informal, challenging and productive.
is a necessary evil which is part of a formal education process. It needs to be re-imagined however, particularly in third level where the opportunities for creating diverse thought-provoking assessment modes are more possible.
When I use technology, I feel …
less ancient. It challenges me to feel more connected to the students who are relying more on technology to communicate and function on a day-to-day basis.
Technology for students is …
embedded into their lives and should be embraced carefully and responsibly in teaching environments.
Teaching matters to me because …
it gives my life experiences purpose and value. We know that every generation influences the next. To be entrusted with impacting another generation through teaching and learning is a very profound and noble occupation.
If I could change one thing in Irish higher education, I would …
stop seeing students as commodities to be attracted and retained in environments that may not be suited to them. College is not for everyone, yet the pressure to attend and complete a degree for many is overwhelming. Valuing occupations that do not require a four-year degree should be encouraged as is the case in many parts of Europe.
Higher education is about …
making people think. Socrates said it best: “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”.
Our Teaching & Learning Space // Marta Giralt & Liam Murray
Marta Giralt is a Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and Spanish at University of Limerick.
Liam Murray is a Senior Lecturer in French and Language Technologies at the University of Limerick.
[Image – left]
Bright spaces for bright people.
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras/Faculty of Arts
Universidad de Málaga/University of Malaga
Marta and Liam visited the University of Malaga on an Erasmus + DELTA award. In this short article they talk about this experience.
The ERASMUS space for us on this visit was physically situated in the south of Spain, at the University of Malaga. It was a sunny day when we arrived and when we left. Like our own university, this Spanish HE institution is relatively young, with modern air conditioned buildings revealing well-equipped and bright teaching spaces as well as other academic facilities.
We had an informal and intense initial meeting with our excellent hosts, Maria Mercedes Enriquez Aranda and Francisca Garcia Luque over a few caffeine-fuelled libations in order to finalise our agenda and actual activities. We immediately established a good working relationship with our fellow teachers and researchers. We shared a lot of information about our teaching experiences and practices. We learned from each other. We confirmed, confounded and challenged our pedagogical beliefs and practices. It felt great to be there. It was re-animating and energising to exchange ideas and experiences; we knew that this was important.
During the formal meetings with our hosts and their colleagues, they outlined the structure of their academic modules and programmes where – and here’s our subject area – audio-visual translation teaching methods are integrated and employed. Inevitably, there were many questions asked about curriculum development in order to gain a fuller understanding and vision of their approaches and pedagogical philosophies. This was enlightening and engaging. And it made us a little envious, truth be told. One of our hosts had the excellent idea of organising a hands-on workshop where we were presented with all of the tools and software utilised in their various programmes. We received training and a thorough briefing on the (mainly) free software that our hosts currently use on all their programmes related to audio-visual translation.
What we liked about the place, were the people. Just like us. In a spirit of mutual collaboration, we learned a lot and we hope our hosts learned from us too. We disliked nothing about the place! We made some new professional friends and colleagues and we fully enjoyed this bright place and bright people. We intend to reciprocate the visit and host our new colleagues in the sunny Irish Spring of 2020.
Further information about the Erasmus + DELTA Award is available here.
Stop, Start, Continue // Callaghan Commons
- Stop thinking of students in colleges as consumers rather than partners in their learning experience.
- Stop the competitive nature that arises from grades in exams. A 2.2 may be just as much of a success to one student as a 1.1 is to another.
- Stop assuming students are on the same level when it comes to learning. Different students have different speeds and abilities of learning so lecturers need to be aware of this.
- Stop overloading students with assessments. Lectures can be unaware of times when other assessments are scheduled for students in a course and this can result in everything falling at the same time of the semester.
- Stop to think if there are new and more creative ways to engage students with the lecture material other than just notes on a slide.
- Start engaging students with the design and delivery of assignments that best suits the class’s needs.
- Start to encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities in the college so that their learning isn’t just based in the lecture hall.
- Start to listen and to try to understand problems that students may be having in their lives that may be affecting their education.
- Start to give students fair, constructive and time–appropriate feedback to ensure that they can improve and learn from their work in order to do better.
- Start practising healthy lectures. The average concentration span is only 20 minutes so a 2 minute break to allow students to stand up and stretch would make for a more beneficial learning environment.
- Continue to create a collaborative environment in the classroom so that students can learn from one another.
- Continue to give students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in their fields through placements in their courses.
- Continue making notes and resources available online so that students who may have to miss a lecture for various reasons aren’t disadvantaged by this.
- Continue to ensure that there is a high quality of teaching from lecturers who are experts in their field.
- Continue to support and motivate students to be the best that they can be so that they can achieve their full potential.
Technology Tenses // Jane Burns
Academic Articles – Pathways to Discovery
I am older than the internet so I remember what it was like to walk into my University Library and feel completely overwhelmed by all of the books, the card catalogue and the quiet. The Librarian didn’t look too happy to see me either!
My first assignment was to find and review three articles about the lesser known pilgrims from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I was comfortable using books but academic journals were an unknown entity for me. I had a vague understanding they were like magazines for smart people. My own experiences with magazines was reading TigerBeat and Seventeen – so while they prepared me for teen fashion I was at a loss for academic applications.
Before I even handled a journal I had to consult a voluminous reference guide to recently published articles called The Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, established in 1901. Using the guide, all I had to do was fill in a million tiny forms in triplicate (which I never did right) and then wait to be called to the issue desk where I would be given the journals and eyeballed from a distance to be sure they didn’t slip into my backpack.
I found these journals fascinating and still do. Once an older student explained to me how they were put together like a LP album (another relic reference).
All of the notes and references from the journals had to be taken down by hand; photocopying was new-age then too. The limits were what was available physically in my library, what I could find in the Readers’ Guide or the bibliography of papers that I had. A big benefit of only being able to use what the library had was that when I had exhausted the physical material there was a sense of relief.
Now I often feel like there is too much information as almost everything is online. I am overwhelmed with content from databases, journal alerts, abstracts and full text articles. I always have the feeling that I have missed out on something – that if I did just another search I could find more, the elusive perfect paper that would answer all the questions for me. Online journals are organised in the same way they were historically by volume, issue, page. The abstract and the full text are designed to work as complements to each other. The reader reviews the abstract before deciding to move to the full text. In print this association is obvious, in online format it is not. There are challenges in this retrieval. I am sure I am not alone in searching for a topic and then reading the abstract only to find the full text article doesn’t seem to relate to what I have been looking for.
The range of access to journal articles spans from what my library has available, to Open Access publications to grey literature and other interesting forms of online publications in a range of languages that I can translate to English via Google Translate. The world of information is literally at my fingertips but it is accompanied with the feeling of missing out, of not being thorough enough.
As academic journal articles continue to develop at exponential rates and will probably soon be accessible from chips in my head or fingertips I am hoping that the original concepts of organising this information resource will be re-adapted to make the information retrieved relevant and accessible.
This change will come from consumers and producers of academic publications, where there is a gradual movement from a giant bucket of resources to a more customisable, manageable delivery method, where my research questions can be stored and the results delivered in a manageable way to my access point, thus using the technology to band information and resources in a more useful way.
I’d like the technology to let me know I’ve exhausted my search, that I have been thorough and complete in my quest. Ideally, I like the Librarian to be at the centre of these new technologies and developments, given our unique position as bridges of content to people.
A Typical Teaching & Learning Day // Aisling Reast
“Quality is generally transparent when present, but easily recognized in its absence.”
As Registrar, my role brings me into contact with nearly every aspect of College life, which means that, for me, every day is a learning day. My responsibilities include overseeing effective quality assurance of the College, ensuring the integrity and security of all academic records and facilitating student enrolment and awards. In undertaking those roles, my goal is to support and facilitate my colleagues and our students so that their engagement with the College meets, and where possible exceeds, the standards that they should expect. How I pursue this goal each day, is as varied and colourful as the beautiful seascape that I’m greeted with every morning as I arrive at Hibernia College.
Though my days vary widely, my mornings are always set aside to plan and prepare for the day, week and months ahead. I oversee the admissions, quality, data and records, and assessment and awards departments and so, on a typical day, this planning will include a meeting with an expert member of my team who is responsible for one of these areas. Within each area, we have important milestones to plan for, such as admissions interviews, exam boards, policy review or programme validation. Students are central to all of these processes. At a college-level, we ensure that student voices are always heard including through their engagement in our academic governance committees and their inclusion in our policy development process.
In addition, every area of the Registrar’s department also responds to the daily needs that arise and the queries generated by our students, academic and administrative colleagues and external stakeholders. This could include applications for mitigation of extenuating circumstances, appeals, requests for deferral, queries regarding admissions requirements or requests for transcripts. Each of these cases is unique, with a student at the centre of each decision; although I work closely with the Admissions or Assessments and Awards Managers on these cases, collaboration with our Student Support services and academic colleagues is critical to ensuring an equitable and student-centred approach.
Quality of teaching, learning and the student experience is everyone’s business at Hibernia College, and we pride ourselves on a culture of providing innovative blended learning programmes to the highest quality standards. Our quality improvement is underpinned by using data to enable all our team members to identify areas for enhancement in their roles and so I work closely with our Data and Records Manager in this area. Listening is critical to successful engagement and much of my day is spent in both planned and impromptu conversation with staff, students and other stakeholders. Our Quality Assurance Officer is currently spearheading our quality framework enhancement project and so, most days, we will catch up regarding how her critical stakeholder engagement is progressing in this area.
Engagement with our external stakeholders is vital to ensuring that the College is at the forefront in excellence in teaching and learning and so, most weeks, I find myself attending external events to learn from colleagues in the teaching and learning community. These days are critical for reflection and learning from the expertise of students, academic staff, HEI leaders, regulators and educational leadership bodies. Other days are spent planning and executing our formal engagement with regulatory and professional bodies so that the public and our students can have the utmost confidence in the quality of teaching and learning provided at Hibernia College.
Each day is packed with planned projects, emerging issues, cups of tea and laughter. However, I’m lucky to spend every day working with committed and talented colleagues and supported by a College leadership team with a profound commitment to quality.
NF News // National Forum Team
National Forum News – ‘Twas the week before Christmas
‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the Forum
Not a creature was resting, and not one colleague snoring.
The team all looked back on the work that had been
In October, November and December ’19.
In student success two reports were produced –
An October symposium explored what they’d deduced;
An understanding of student success had been shared
In which students and staff showed they listened and cared.
T&L in a Digital World led the way
With the first ever national INDEx survey.
Nearly 25,000 students logged in day-by-day
With over four thousand staff having their say.
While the Disciplines priority assumed the assignment
And National Fellowships launched in December
Were new to the sector and one to remember.
But looking past this year to the year 2020
There are projects reviews and seminars aplenty.
Further insights are planned and on impact, more sharing
And consulting on recognition for which there’s preparing.
So for now to our colleagues and to students we say
How grateful we are and our thanks we must pay.
For the help and support, we wish with all our might
A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
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