Flipping wonderful, or too good to be true?

Flipping – a way to develop student deeper learning and engagement as well as higher quality work or too good to be true?

Speakers and the Art of Flipping workshop showed flipping can be a useful tool to support the development of deep rather than surface learning. This brief look at the workshop organised under a Teaching Innovation Award by Dr. Mark Jepson (Materials), Dr. Simon Hogg (Materials) and Dr. Nicola Jennings (Chemistry) looks at what flipping is, and how it could work for you and more importantly for your students.

What is flipping?

Flipping is part of a process which moves from didactic knowledge transmission in large lectures to use contact time for the lecturer to bring his/her knowledge to bear on those concepts or specifics that students have identified as problematic. Students pre-engage with the transmission of knowledge before the lecture, either by reading, and/or listening to a podcast or video of material. They take ownership of the content by identifying what they find clear and what they do not.

Some academics may already be taking just this approach. However, for those who want to explore the idea the workshop was a great introduction.

Dr. David Dye, Reader in Metallurgy at Imperial College, records 15-minute single-concept videos in his office with a white board (and all-important board rubber). He posts them online and then asks students to complete a short online quiz/test after viewing. The last question asks what they want further explained. He then addresses those areas in the lecture, getting students to peer instruct each other, explaining their own understanding. As they discuss Dye moves round the room, identifying areas of confusion and explanations given before delivering his summation. In this way each student is directly, actively involved in their learning. Continue reading

Using graphical methods to help convey statistical messages to less numerically literate audiences

ELiSSAppearing in Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences (ELiSS), a practice paper entitled “‘A Picture Is Worth 10,000 Words’: A Module to Test the ‘Visualization Hypothesis’ in Quantitative Methods Teaching” has just been published by Paola Signoretta, Marty Chamberlain and John Hillier (School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences, Loughborough University).

The abstract reads: “Inadequate quantitative methods (QM) training provision for undergraduate social science students in the United Kingdom is a well-known problem. This paper reports on the design, implementation and assessment of an induction module created to test the hypothesis that visualization helps students learn key statistical concepts. The induction module is a twelve-week compulsory unit taught to first year social science students at a UK university, which they complete prior to a more traditional statistical, workshop-based QM module. A component of the induction module focuses on the use of visualization through Geographic Information Systems (GIS), to teach the process of hypothesis generation to students while they also are introduced to the basics of QM research design and univariate and bivariate forms of data analysis. Self-reflexive evaluation indicates that visualization could assist students with more advanced QM statistical skills.”

This ELiSS paper considers the use of graphical methods – in this case GIS – to communicate statistical messages to those students who might sometimes be thought of as less numerically literate or who might need a little persuading that they can indeed utilise QM. Aimed at lessening any anxiety they might have towards QM, and aided by step-by-step instructions and readily available members of staff, the students at the heart of this case study were guided through a process that ultimately is aimed at developing ever more statistically numerate and critically informed social science graduates.  By investing in these student skills early in their transition to university, this approach also offers tuition in small groups, an opportunity to develop good working relations with staff members, and the chance for students to develop peer networks; indeed, even if this approach may initially appear to be resource heavy, another benefit is to support the development of more independent students, as well as groups of students, operating effectively in our academic communities.

This is the seventh in our series of posts regarding publications on pedagogical issues by Loughborough University staff; in order to promote the sharing of such research, T&L Blog subscribers are welcome to direct us to similar outputs emanating from across campus. Further details regarding this publication are available online; the full citation reads: Paola Signoretta, John Martyn Chamberlain, & John Hillier, “‘A Picture Is Worth 10,000 Words’: A Module to Test the ‘Visualization Hypothesis’ in Quantitative Methods Teaching”, pp.90-104, in Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, Volume 6 Number 2 2014. DOI: 10.11120/elss.2014.00029

Learning – at the heart of a student's university experience

Student Engagement and Experience JournalThe Student Engagement and Experience Journal (SEEJ), an online peer-reviewed publication by Sheffield Hallam University, has just published an article entitled “‘Involve me and I learn’ – students’ Think BIG learning partnership” by Deena Ingham (Teaching Centre, Loughborough University), Josh Habimana and Paige Walker (both University of Bedfordshire Students Union).

The abstract reads: “Learning is at the heart of the university experience. How students engage with the learning experience within higher education varies from institution to institution, from student to student and from academic to academic. Maximising learning engagement in taught sessions is important to enable students to benefit the most from contact time with academics. Some academics though talk of poor attendance whilst students also express concerns about peers disrupting their learning in taught sessions. Seeking a solution to improve learning engagement in taught sessions is a focus challenging colleagues at both the University of Bedfordshire and Beds Student Union. It is all too easy to view lectures, workshops, seminars and tutorials from the perspective of academics, but learning is a partnership. How can the student perspective promote more effective engagement and learning? This case study of students as educators began with the medium of film involving course representatives, and developed into a collaborative framework to enhance engagement with learning”.

In offering an adaptable framework for future action – including activites centred on (1) expectations, (2) culture shock, (3) teaching practice, and (4) assessment – this SEEJ article questions those arguing for a consumerist approach by students to their education. Indeed, it also challenges what can be seen as a relatively narrow definition and understanding of student engagement. Instead, it demonstrates how all students – not just student representatives – can become true partners in their own learning. This is about sharing responsibilities, effective practice and promoting ownership, it is not just advocating for rights or expectations to be met. The University of Bedfordshire film related to this research, which can be viewed at http://youtu.be/KCBfwBZS0pQ, focused on the roles of student representatives firstly by “identifying … the hurdles they saw impeding student learning” and secondly “exploring how they could support academics and fellow students to enhance learning”. Ultimately, this is all about empowerment and becoming increasingly active partners in the academic community, thereby encouraging the creation of a true community of learners.

This is only the sixth in our series of blog posts regarding publications by Loughborough University staff on pedagogical issues; thus, colleagues should not hesitate to point us to other research outputs like this – we are more than happy to signpost people to the work emanating from across campus on such matters. Further information regarding this particular publication is available online; the full citation reads: Deena Ingham, Josh Habimana & Paige Walker, “‘Involve me and I learn’ – students’ Think BIG learning partnership”, Student Engagement and Experience Journal, Volume 3 Number 1 2014. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7190/seej.v3i1.83

Do diligent students perform better?

Unsurprisingly they do. Research conducted in Belgium has identified a positive correlation between study time and performance in assessment.

The research was conducted by Masui, Broeckmans, Doumen, Groenen and Molenberghs (2014) in the Faculty of Business Economics at Hasselt University, Belgium. It involved 168 participants (104 men and 64 women) across 14 courses. The results demonstrated that for the majority of courses, more study time resulted in higher grades, even after taking prior abilities, study delay, and gender into account. The authors claim that the findings demonstrate that students’ activities and effort matter and that university is not just a mechanism to sort students based on pre-entry characteristics.

However, the authors do recognise that their study focussed on characteristics that were present before the actual educational and learning processes started. They identify the need for further research looking at factors such as students’ experience of the learning environment and qualitative aspects of the actual learning process involved to further identify the significance of study time.

However, they conclude:

“In spite of these limitations, the present study showed that academic performance in higher education is not predetermined by ‘traits’. It is influenced to a large degree by at least one controllable variable, i.e. study time. This, in turn, may be stimulated by increasing the directivity of self-study assignments. In sum, a well-designed learning environment may make a difference.”



Chris Masui, Jan Broeckmans, Sarah Doumen, Anne Groenen & Geert
Molenberghs (2014) Do diligent students perform better? Complex relations between student and
course characteristics, study time, and academic performance in higher education, Studies in
Higher Education, 39:4, 621-643,

Graham Gibbs – 53 Powerful Ideas All Teachers Should Know About

SEDAFollowers of the Teaching and Learning Blog will have seen a number of previous references to the work of Graham Gibbs, but you now have the opportunity to receive weekly postings across the next year regarding his views on teaching, learning and assessment.

Entitled ’53 Powerful Ideas All Teachers Should Know About’ and hosted by thesedablog, the first substantive post argues that Students are trying to get different things out of being at university – each of these posts will be made available as a pdf by the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) with this post constituting Idea Number 1; note that pdfs are already available for the Prologue and the Introduction to this series. It looks like you may well have to source your own binder.

Which seat do you take on the learning tandem?

The tandem takes centre stage in illustrating a key question in the partnership of learning:  which seat do each of us give our learners and which do we take for ourselves?

The analogy formed part of Marcia Baxter Magolda’s talk at a recent Lifewide Learning event in London, where the conference artist illustrated her thoughts.


Professor Magolda asked the question of academics and institutions alike – which seat do you give your learners?

On the tandem, she reminded the audience, the person at the front directs the learning whilst the one at the back gives fuel in terms of supporting power and impetus. It reflects well the partnership of learning and the role of the academic in ‘transformational learning.’ Here the learner is empowered to develop knowledge through employing their own skills to research and reflect.  In this way, through effective learning partnerships, the learner learns how to steer (self-author) their route through life with the support and impetus of the back-seat academic.

Dr Magolda’s longitudinal study following students into and beyond university education over 25 years is one of the most established such research projects. It has led to her developing learning partnership and self-authorship theories.

Taking a back seat is in her view, a powerful position to be in, and not one in which we can coast if we are developing independent, focused graduates.

Academics' teaching innovation takes awards

Supporting dissertation students and improving the ways we use technology to develop learning are at the heart of this year’s 2014 Teaching Innovation Awards winning bids.

The Teaching Centre has invested a total of £18,443.26 in the winning projects to proactively enhance student learning not only in the six departments who won, but across the University. Some of the projects will support students at both Loughborough and Loughborough University in London, whilst others have potentially even wider impact for schools, other universities and in industry.

Dissertation students are a focus of the academics’ attention in two projects, whilst using technologies most effectively also emerged as a strong theme. The technologies in question range from computer aided design, session recording and remote labs to the best effect to support student learning

The 2014 Teaching Innovation Award winners in alphabetical order are:

  • Marcus Collins, Catherine Armstrong, Thoralf Klein, Paul Maddrell in PHIR for a pilot project looking at ways of supporting undergraduate dissertations.
  • Mark Jepson, Nicola Jennings, Simon Hogg for an interdepartmental project between Materials and Chemistry entitled Understanding the Art of Flipping
  • Vicky Lofthouse in Loughborough Design School for a project to create a new teaching tool for carbon footprinting for designers.
  • Jonathan Millett in Geography for a project to develop GUMCOM – the development of teaching resources to enable dissertation students to achieve greater depth and scope.
  • Abby Paterson in Loughborough Design School for a project to support learning of Computer Aided Design software.
  • Sheryl Williams and Richard Blanchard from EESE for work to evaluate student responses to and learning utilising remote, simulation and real labs.

More information from the winners and details of their projects as they emerge will be appearing on the blog in the coming months, together with updates from last year’s winners.

For more about the Awards, visit http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/teachingcentre/procedures-schemes/teachingawards/teachinginnovationawards/

Another award funded by the Teaching Centre to enhance teaching and learning at Loughborough is the Research Informed Teaching  Awards – applications for which close on April 28th. For details see http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/teachingcentre/procedures-schemes/teachingawards/researchinformedteachingawards/

Biting the Bullet: ending Death by PowerPoint (II): images to convey meaning, retention and attention


The heart of my challenge to Death by PowerPoint (DBP) is images. Many others use pictures; most frequently it is an image that accompanies text and is descriptive. It normally is a subset to the slide and the text. My use of images inverts this. I use images as the illustrator and conveyor of complex social relationships, and as the means of generating and retaining attention and engagement. My images fill the entire slide and are accompanied by text in moderation. The Golden Rule is no more than 7 words for any one slide.

Writers in academia (Mayer et al) argue that our brains can process images and words simultaneously, and that this helps our learning and recall. Taking it out of academic research and into the ‘real world’, we find that the top end of the business world, they;re a long way ahead of us. They, and academics, are engaged in similar pursuits: to convey social ideas in visual form. Believing in Mayer’s findings, and seeing how much better good images are than a PPT slide filled with text, I adopted business methods. I read key texts like Presentation Zen and adopted key elements, like ‘less is more’, white space, simplicity and clarity.

So to briefly recap, I use images for 3 reasons

  1. To engage attention
  2. To retain attention
  3. To translate the literal to the figurative (images to communicate social meaning)

The images are very large, by which I man that they cover the whole of the slide, and are also high resolution. File sizes can get a lot bigger. I have been told that I don’t need to use such large images, but I have not found that smaller size images are as clear as larger files. I think it’s important to have crystal clear, high quality, high resolution images. I think anything else looks less professional.

When I have defined in my mind the concept I want to communicate, I look for it using Google’s Advanced Image Search facility. Finding the right slide can be hard and is sometimes down to luck as much as deliberation, but it has become easier and faster the more I do it. However, sometimes I can’t find the right image, and I make my own. I am still an amateur at this, but the School of Arts has been helping me get the basics of Photoshop. My first effort is here; it’s a bit corny, perhaps, but I am using to chart the evolution of my practice

UN flag bullet holes

I wanted to convey the idea that UN peacebuilding was in trouble. It was in the light of a variety of disasters, from Haiti and Somalia to allegations of corruption, sex trafficking and so on. There were hundreds of lovely, compelling images of UN vehicles against a nice sky, or wrecked helicopters, but they didn’t connect for me. Instead, I got a grunge version of the UN flag and made that the slide background in PPT, and then cut some bullet holes from a free image using Photoshop, and pasted them onto the PPT slide.

I wanted to convey the sense that critics were contending that peacebuilding wasn’t building peace and that the UN approach was ontologically flawed, perhaps ruinously for some countries. I wanted the image to tell the students about an issue with the UN. In my view, it’s basic. But I made do and I think it works well enough. This was an early attempt. Looking back, it feels fairly primitive, but it set me on a path I have pursued to the point that I am learning to use Photoshop for the creation of my own digital art. I found a hobby in the process.

As I prepared for one particular lecture, on domestic violence, I wanted to see if I could find or create an image that would convey the idea that violence isn’t usually, or even mostly, physical. I used this image in the first blog, but want to use it again because of its value in explaining what I am talking about, and what I am feeling.

The literature on Domestic Violence, or Intimate Partner Violence as it is sometimes called, suggests that controlling men often use words and threats to manipulate, constrain, dominate and oppress their partners. To students with no experience of this, it isn’t always obvious and it isn’t always easy. I found by chance elsewhere an image that really showed this, without being simple and reductionist, and I was hooked on a process I had connected with.

domestic violence1

I wondered what else there was out there that could convey social complexity with such visual simplicity and clarity. I began to use search terms that expressed the concept, rather than the description, of what I was trying to impart. It’s sometimes easier than others and it’s sometimes time-consuming. But you only have to do it once for each lecture, unless you change the concepts you’re teaching. There are examples of such images in the relevant ReView section, entitled ‘images’.

I also particularly like the way that an aerial image of Chicago, taken by a passenger landing at O’Hare, makes Chicago look as if there is only a small centre to the city, made of skyscrapers; the snow has effectively flattened the rest of the city, disguising the depth of buildings lower than 6 stories and leaving what look like foundations. I use this image to convey to people who have always lived in urban areas, what Amazonian deforestation would look like if it applied to the cityscapes they are normally familiar with.

In another, which featured originally as an advert for the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), a digitally created image shows a giant oil drum spilling its contents into a river through a vibrant, modern city; a beautiful representation of industrial pollution. In yet another, a topless Muslim  woman demonstrating on a public street, being kicked by a passing man, ironically reveals the purpose of the anti-patriarchal violence slogan on her breasts.man kicking muslim topless woman

My favourite (probably because of my connection to Viet Nam) is an image of Le Duc Tho, the chief negotiator between the US and Viet Nam in 1973, relaxing, smiling, a humane foil for the millions of inhumane  ‘enemy images’ that reduced ‘the Viet Namese’ to ‘savages’ and ‘gooks’ or ‘dinks’. For students who have only ever been presented with Viet Nam as a war, such images allow recognition of the human in the alien ‘Other’, sometimes creating empathy and connection with those who have been discursively dismissed from the category of humanity. A smiling, gentle face on a savage enemy challenges conventions and forces critical thinking.

Le Duc Tho

There are some other images that display the capacity for translating the literal to the figurative in the ReView item. I realized I wanted abstract images and came upon DeviantArt. I use a variety of images from there, and copyright has been provided by the artist in question, for limited use in lectures, on writing to them.

The technical side is easier. I use Google Advanced Image Search, which allows me to set parameters like copyright, picture orientation, picture size (in terms of resolution and therefore quality), colour vs. black & white, and so on. I always use ‘larger than 800 x 600’. I’ve found it useful to do two things once I’ve found the slide (apart from carefully noting the copyright provision). First, I change the slide layout to ‘blank’, to remove unwanted placeholders (since I’ll be custom crafting text and text animation).  Second, rather than using the ‘insert’ facility to drop in an image, I embed it in the slide. The reason I do this is because I apply text over the top of the image, and I want to avoid clicking on the image and accidentally moving it when I’m trying to work on a text box. So, I change the layout to BLANK, then RIGHT CLICK on the slide, FORMAT BACKGROUND, PICTURE FILL and then upload your image. The image is then fixed solidly in the slide.

I’m lucky to have spare time to do this; I am finding it is releasing a creative side to me I didn’t know existed and I am enjoying myself. Sure, I’m playing; but the student feedback to date has been extremely encouraging, and I have had the highest number of ‘Firsts’ in my Final Year Option in 20 years. My teaching has never been so well remarked upon, and I want to better understand why, and to develop this further. I’m only just starting to learn this myself, and I’m having a lot of fun and getting pedagogic results too.

I better discuss copyright at this point. There’s a very helpful guide here. It can be complex. And sometimes I can’t find the source of an image and its copyright. Some images are plastered all over the web without any indication of their origin. I can’t use them unless I can trace them, and most of the time I can.

But the safest – and least pedagogically effective in my experience – way is to set the filters in Google’s Advanced Image Search to a Creative Commons license or similar. This means you get the freebies. There are some amazing images out there we can use for free. But the best images are rarely gratis. That’s why I don’t use the filter. I find the best image and then I find a way I can legally use it. Sometimes, I buy the license myself. Often, that’s only a few pounds, and license is then taken care of. The University has image banks but again, they are rarely as good as the best stuff out there. On other occasions, I have identified the creator of the image and emailed them to ask if I can use their image for a lecture, once a year, where the image appears for maybe a few minutes, and is restricted to internal circulation (off-web). Each request I have made has been granted; the artists are often curious to know what the purpose is and we wind up learning from each other – them about what I do, and me about how they did it. I’ve been grated copyright by major news outlets, by radical digital artists and by individual painters. But if I can’t get copyright one way or another, I can’t use it. That’s sometimes a great shame; but there’s nearly always something else that will do the job nearly as well. I find it really stimulating, seeking the images out, heading down one alley only to find a dead-end – that leads me to my perfect image.

Improving the learning experience

There is a major feature in the latest news at lboro (pp.12-13) regarding the Teaching Centre in an article entitled “Improving the learning experience”. Indeed, our work with students, their representatives and colleagues across campus features on the Spring 2014 cover page!

The major focus of the articles are the Teaching Innovation Awards (TIAs), the next iteration of which have an application deadline of March 7th, while attention is also drawn to the Research-informed Teaching Awards (RiTAs), which have their next deadline on April 28th.

The TIAs were established in 2005, and the main pieces in this edition of news at lboro centre on the innovative nature of previous awards, and detail the work undertaken by a number of recent recipients:

  • 2011 – Emma Dresser (Loughborough Students’ Union) & Dr Robert Harland (School of the Arts) – “Feedback: facilitating reflection to promote learning” supported the development of the LSU Feedback resource
  • 2012 – Dr Thomas Jun and Dr Tom Page (Loughborough Design School) – “Lego-based learning initiative for systems design and ergonomics teaching – efficiencies in teaching through the use of technology (Lego Mindstorms NXT: programmable robotics kit)”
  • 2013 – Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold (English and Drama) – “Loughborough University Press: How a student-led teaching press can lead to enterprise and employability” supported the development of Lamplight Press

Meanwhile, the RiTAs are about to enter their second year, and they will be looking to add to a roll of honour that includes Prof Jonathon Chambers (Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering), Prof Barbara Jaworski (Maths Education Centre), Dr Carol Robinson (Maths Education Centre), and Dr Adrian Spencer (Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering). Enjoy your read!

Peer Assisted Learning in Maths

International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and TechnologyThere can be some real pleasure in declaring a professional interest, and this is one of those occasions. Appearing less than a month ago in the International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, three colleagues – namely Francis Duah, Tony Croft and Matthew Inglis – from the Mathematics Education Centre here at Loughborough University have just published an article entited “Can peer assisted learning be effective in undergraduate mathematics?”

The abstract reads: “We report the implementation and evaluation of a ‘peer assisted learning’ (PAL) scheme designed to reduce the so-called ‘cooling off’ phenomenon in undergraduate mathematics. ‘Cooling off’ occurs when mathematics undergraduates lose motivation and interest in their studies, despite having previously actively chosen to study it at higher levels. We found that, despite concerns about the novel didactic contract inherent in PAL schemes, a majority of students chose to engage with the scheme, and that the student leaders of the PAL sessions were generally capable of implementing a student-centred pedagogy. Furthermore, we found that students who attended the PAL sessions had higher achievement in their final examinations, even after controlling for their lecture attendance and prior attainment. We conclude by arguing that PAL may provide a useful mechanism for reducing the prevalence of the ‘cooling off’ phenomenon in some – but not all – groups of mathematics students.”

In advocating peer support as a mechanism to allow students to support other students within and beyond the curriculum, to become active participants and partners in the academic community, and to drive the learning agenda forward, the Teaching Centre is very proud to have been associated with, and to have contributed to, the training and implementation of this PAL scheme. We encourage colleagues and students alike to explore associated resources such as the Learn module entitled SYMBoL – Second Year Mathematics: BeyOnd Lectures, and to get involved in related events such as the HEA STEM: Practices in peer support – exploring alternative approaches to enhance the student experience workshop to be held in the Centre for Design and Engineering Education on 22nd January 2014. Peer support systems such as PAL are an incredibly powerful way to support our students in their transition to university life, to encourage them to own their studies, and to skill them for life beyond their undergraduate experience; go to the Peer Support Directory for more information on past and present related activities at this institution.

This is the fifth in our series of blog posts regarding publications by Loughborough University staff on pedagogical issues. Further information regarding this particular publication is available online; the full citation follows: Francis Duah, Tony Croft & Matthew Inglis, “Can peer assisted learning be effective in undergraduate mathematics”, in International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, online publication 13 November 2013. doi: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0020739X.2013.855329