Live Case Studies

The transformative nature of activities on Tertiary Public Services Students - translating theory into practice through the application of Tuckman’s model

Location: Canterbury College (Public Services)

Description: At the end of October, the first year Public Services undergraduates took part in a long weekend of activities at Skern Lodge in North Devon. The weekend has two objectives: cohesiveness of a group of Freshers into a team and to partake in activities outside their comfort zone. The weekend of activities allows students to reflect on their capabilities and to note the impact on personal achievement. Prior to the trip, students had been presented Tuckman’s Theory relating to team building challenges; Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, before attending the weekend of activities at Skern lodge.

It is not just the application of this theory, of a translation from scholarly activity into practice that is important here; how the activity weekend went on to influence the group throughout their studies on the programme after the weekend is of equal importance and interest. Student feedback already indicates the value of translating theory into practice via Tuckman’s model, but what is of interest is further analysis of how the model was presented and deployed, how the students feel about working collaboratively post-Skern Lodge (particularly in scholarly activity such as individual, group or collaborative research) and whether Tuckman’s model continues to be influential throughout their year of study.

Approaches to assessing the importance and impact of Experiential Learning within Animal Science and Wildlife Conservation

Location: Canterbury College (Animal Science)

The author currently runs an annual educational trip to South Africa in conjunction with ‘African Insight’ an educational excursions tour manager. The trip includes excursions to rescue centres, breeding programmes, a wildlife reserve and Kruger National Park. Students are encouraged to debate daily on what they have seen and compare and contrast the different centres. Throughout their trip, students employ diaries to record their experiences and most students use part of their visit as their dissertation. It is therefore vital to record their experiences robustly.

At the moment, students are awarded certificates for their participation in the trip but the author is aware of the methodological gap in how their experience is measured and recorded. This is particularly important in recognising the link between how they not only put theory into practice during the trip, but how their experiences link with the development of teamworking, survival skills, bushcraft and tracking - contextually vital skills that will be of considerable benefit on graduation and working within these potentially hostile environments. By devising an approach that can connect these experiences with previous and future scholarly activity and the development of valuable ‘soft skills’, this project could provide a framework for future cohorts to benefit from while delivering useful information on the contextualisation of Experiential Learning within the curriculum.

Preparation and publication of a research paper by an undergraduate project student and academic supervisor

Location: Canterbury College (Animal Science)

Description: Publication of scientific research by project students jointly with their academic supervisors is quite common in the case of Masters and Doctorate level programmes in higher education institutions in the UK. Less common is such joint publication by undergraduate research project students, despite the fact that such projects may generate good quality data, contain much useful information (sometimes in neglected areas of research), and be entirely worthy of publication as a short scientific paper, or at least a research note, in a peer-reviewed journal.

During the course of their studies here at Canterbury College students on the HND and BSc (Hons) Applied Animal Sciences and Animal Biology and Wildlife Conservation programmes undertake a Research Project module. Past experience of the author as a supervisor for such projects has shown that several of them generate potentially publishable data. However, the results are necessarily presented in the form of an undergraduate dissertation rather than in a form that could be submitted for publication. This project aims to determine whether by the cooperative efforts of research student and supervisor, such a piece of work could be successfully prepared as a formal research paper/research note, be submitted to a peer-reviewed research journal, and ultimately be published.

Contextualising transferrable skills to career development through student collaboration

Location: Canterbury College (Business Studies)

Description: For business students at Canterbury College, an Employability Skills Survey is used to track student progress using a paper version which may be downloaded from the VLE. The survey tracks academic progress in addition to ‘soft’ skills’ e.g. team working, using initiative, communication skills and literacy and numeracy. The survey has previously been used at the end of the course; however, it could be more widely utilised with regular updates between tutor and student. The current survey focuses on the following: Year 1 – Students identify academic and employability skills which need further development, Year 2 – Review of year 1 and building on what student has learned, and Year 3 – Students put their learning into practice to increase employability.

The aim of the Case Study is to provide a dynamic, two-way process which gives a real understanding of student skills and career development. It should enhance and support student understanding and engagement with their future careers. The survey hopes to engage students with the whole of their programme – not simply the academic content but vital transferable skills, often overlooked or not considered to be of equal value, which will give them real employability. The evidence for this is increasingly powerful from employers themselves across all disciplines.

Strategies to encourage Hourly Paid Lecturer (HPL) engagement with Scholarly Activity

Location: College of North West London (General Curriculum - all students)

Description: Hourly paid lecturers (HPLs) are usually employed on zero hours contracts and, as such, are often resistant to engaging with duties they feel they are not being paid for. Ironically, many HPLs undertake teaching to support their own vocational practices, meaning they are a potentially rich source for the identification and inclusion of scholarly activity. In response to this national problem, the idea is to trial strategies that might encourage HPLs to share their scholarly activity within CNWL, who have a very large proportion of their HE staff employed in this mode.

This trial will operate within CNWL’s observation framework. This project is focussed on a way to sustainably engage HPLs and ensure they feel a part of the scholarly community to benefit learners through developing their teaching practice and sharing this with others through peer review and discussion. There have been many papers on the value of teacher-practitioners, with key aspects revisited in the 2013 edition of Beetham and Sharpe’s ‘Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age’. Virtually all available literature deals with contractually employed staff; they do not include HPLs who bring with them unique issues of engagement. A system of Peer Review to replace the current FE style observations is proposed to develop and share pedagogy across the team of HPLs. This is vital for HPLs to be viewed as distinct from the FE context that they are working in, and truly develop as HE practitioners within an FE context.

Building a Level 4 programme in Early Years with direct industry involvement

Location: East Kent College (Folkestone campus) (Early Years)

Description: The proposed Level 4 in Early Years for launch in 2017-2018 is based on widespread feedback from local employers that previous provision (Level 4 Advanced Diploma in Early Years Practice) is not fit for purpose. Available courses tend to be theory-based rather than skills-based, and are not meeting the needs of local and regional employers. In order to respond to the stated demand for appropriately trained individuals, the author is spearheading the design of an HNC in Early Years but is building in a high level of industry involvement from the very beginning of the validation process. By doing this, it should ensure everything from course content to delivery patterns and assessment criteria are dedicated to employability for potential recruits, creating graduates that are truly ready for the local and regional workplace.

Critically, to attract potential industry partners to be included in course development, the author of this Case Study is offering a suite of short, commercial full-cost courses which have also been created in response to local employer needs. It is the intention to deliver these either on-site for employers or offer them as ‘bolt-ons’ for potential Level 4 applicants, giving a form of optional direction leading to potential employment specialisms. Regardless of the mode of attendance, the author of this project is going to track the communication with stakeholders and record their input to the proposed Level 4 course, all of which will be evaluated by the Scholarship Development Manager on behalf of the Scholarship Project.

Assessing and addressing the gender imbalance within UCAS applications for Level 4 HNC Computing & Systems Development with a view to increasing female recruitment over the next three years at EKC

Location: East Kent College (Broadstairs campus) (Computing)

Description: Since the inception of the Level 4 HNC in Computing & Systems Development programme in September 2012, there has been a clear gender imbalance of UCAS applications to this programme. This has resulted in the perception that this programme is centred within a male-dominated industry of the varying aspects of IT and Computing. The staff involved with this case study have one simple aim - to increase the number of female UCAS applications for the HNC in Computing & Systems Development programme within the next three academic years.

This is a challenging and important project. It is a real issue there are not enough female students in computing or engineering; to analyse why this might be at the micro level and formulate a response to it will bring in a considerable amount of primary research from the staff, but it will all be going to improving the perception of the curriculum area, involvement and engagement with learners through curriculum design, marketing and perception improvement. This is ongoing, with three direct areas of research: current/future applicants internally and externally, graduated students and females employed within the industry.

Scholarship in Action - The Yarrow Hotel at East Kent College and the Interaction between Theory and Practice

Location: East Kent College (Broadstairs campus) (Hospitality and Catering)

Description: Up until 1970, the School of Hotel Management and Catering Trades was housed in a former hospital on the Broadstairs site. Following the construction of a new teaching block in 1970 the building continued in a variety of guises until 2012. When opposition to demolishing this Grade II listed building prevented its destruction, a grant of £9.7m from the Skills Funding Agency was sourced and the building has been converted into a four star 28 room Hotel with restaurant and conference facilities to be used as a training environment by students at the college.

This case study wishes to observe and evaluate how this new environment impacts on learners at all levels of study, how it can be integrated into the curriculum to encourage wider applicants and ensure student retention (and transition from FE to HE) might be positively influenced. It is also hoped to engage with non-traditional students or those involved in the widening participation agenda to enter vocational training on a number of courses. The Yarrow is designed to serve the local community; considerable monitoring and research is being undertaken prior to the launch, and is planned to continue into 2016-2017 to evaluate how effective the plan has been.

Deepening the educational impact of co-location of Business and Education on Discovery Park for the Chemical Industry

Location: East Kent College (Sandwich campus) (Biochemistry/Science)

Description: Based at a major bio-chemical research facility, this project is uniquely focussed on the advantages of its location and access to curriculum-specific employers. The aims and objectives of this study are simple - to develop, encourage and engage with industry to the benefit of learners on the HNC science programmes run by the staff at Discovery Park. In order to do this however, it has taken a considerable time to build up the relationships and trust required to ensure useful engagement by industry in everything from on-site tours to influence on the curriculum.

One of the early results from this case study concerns the significance of networking with local industry and employers, regardless of the curriculum area. This study will extend into 2016-2017 and aims to formalise a number of links with employers. Once this has been fully achieved, the staff will gather data from a questionnaire specially designed to understand the missing elements the industry feels newly graduated students have on entering the workplace. This will then feed into validation/revalidation of programmes, and the relationships with the employers then used to evaluate whether the course redesign has been effective.

HE assignment brief development. Inspiring student ambition in pursuit of higher grades: a systematic approach

Location: East Kent College (Broadstairs campus) (Construction and Engineering)

Description: EKC Construction staff are aware that the formation of assignment briefs and scenarios do not always support the achievement of higher grades in written work, and that questions were sometimes not specific or “sign posted” enough to facilitate this. There still appears to be an assumption that a question and answer formation is sufficient at level four and five but it is difficult to comprehend how this prescriptive practice would develop a more critical or evaluative approach from the student perspective. This project will explore a potential standardised approach to assignment brief creation, for example scenarios that can help develop the student’s ability to create or derive the questions to explore themselves with guidance on how to develop deeper concepts or ideas.

Additionally, this case study, which is ongoing into 2016-2017, will actively engage industry to assuage concerns that some courses lack legitimacy or teach the skills local and regional employers require. By engaging them in the design of programmes, particularly assessments, it is hoped student ambition will be enhanced and employers become actively involved in shaping the way future employees are vocationally trained.

Integrating the European Space Agency’s CanSat Project to extend college-based learning into life and work experience while capturing the learner’s research process

Location: East Kent College (Dover campus) (Computing)

Description: The research mission of the CanSat project, currently run very successfully with FE students, redefines the traditional method of scholarship by synthesizing information across multiple disciplines (Engineering, Maths, and Computing) and topics within the discipline of Computing (Design, implementations, Testing), deployed over a yearly cycle. The plan is to integrate it into the new HE Computing course at the Dover Campus, with the hope the learners’ scholarly activity will influence their lives outside of academia and that this can be captured during 2016-2017.

The staff at Dover have taken the opportunity to integrate CanSat into the newly launched Level 4 HNC in Computing. To this end, relevant modules and assessments have been reworked to include the ESA project, and while this means results will take another year to achieve in relation to HE study, it also leaves the staff plenty of time to set up strategies to capture the impact of CanSat and test assumptions of what effects it will hopefully have on scholarly activity, the learner’s experience and their potentially wider development from social and employability perspectives.

Strategies for enhancing local employer awareness of scholarly activity at North Kent College

Location: North Kent College (General Curriculum - all students)

Description: Following discussions between the SDM and Assistant Principal (HE), a lack of local and regional awareness of the potential for employers and industry to become involved in engagement activities with NKC’s course portfolio has been identified. While previous NKC Case Studies featured links with local employers, they were specific to a subject area. Scholarly activity should be communicated outside the confines of the campus; this short, focussed trial aims to achieve this.

In order to communicate the scholarly activity being undertaken at NKC and outline the ways in which employers would be welcome to engage with managers, tutors and learners, it is proposed to target as many industry-related groups as possible in a short period of time and request they disseminate carefully prepared information with links to a ‘Scholarship in the Community’ web site for further information. As an absolute minimum, two main organisations should be formally contacted: the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and the local Chambers of Commerce (specifically Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and South East London Chamber of Commerce). Once the relevant organisations have been shortlisted, the success of the trial will be evaluated in relation to a number of benchmarks: Has the organisation responded positively to contact? 2. Has the organisation agreed to distribute information via their network? 3. Have any employers contacted NKC for further information or to express interest in engaging with programmes?

Stress Free Study

Location: North Kent College (Creative Writing)

Description: Staff on the Professional Writing course at NKC have been instrumental in developing a resource bank and interactive area on their existing Moodle system to help students experiencing issues related to stress, anxiety and depression. While the staff generally oversee the running of the project and facilitate permissions for use of college servers, all of the resources are created and managed by the students on the Foundation Degree. However, the information is available to all HE students at North Kent College and have been designed for the widest possible use in this market.

The project is ongoing and interactive, meaning some evaluative work by the staff will involve direct research on the usefulness of resource areas to students. The primary aim of the project is to address issues of minor mental health problems before these impact on study; so retention and achievement rates and self-reporting from HE students involved with the project will also be included in ongoing review of impact of project. An important secondary objective concerns the capturing and assessment of the student’s scholarly activity as they research and generate the resources - they are working individually, as a team and collaboratively with the staff, all areas defined by Ernest Boyer as being of scholarly value.