Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching

CELT Grad Intern Projects

Graduate Intern – Charlotte Rowlands.

During 2017/18 the University undertook a research project as part of the Transformative Learning Spaces (TLS) strand of the Student Experience Plan.

The research was carried out in 3 phases – phase 1 of the project took place between September – December 2017, with Phases 2 and 3 taking place between January – July 2018.

Phase 1 of the TLS Research project aimed to evaluate the impact of furniture-based solutions on classroom interactions using the following research question. ‘What happens when furniture and decoration-based adjustments are made to flat-floor teaching rooms?’ A USW graduate intern, supported by a research group comprising staff from across USW, have operationalised the data collection aspect of this phase, and key findings have been highlighted in three areas:

Student based

Research indicated that students enjoy sharing devices (laptops, phones, tablets) for group work and will often look at another student’s device on a neighbouring table.

Student voice interviews specifically picked up on the benefits of having tables positioned as islands for interaction and group work instead of a traditional set up in rows. Students commented that ‘it doesn’t feel like a classroom when you come in here’.

Students felt more comfortable in their learning environment, and the use of informal breakout rooms encouraged them to stay on campus during non-contact time. Being present in a flexible and adaptable environment that promotes learning, empowers students and gives them the focus needed to apply themselves to tasks. They become active participants in the learning process, reinforcing the ‘Students as Partners’ theme.

Student-Centred Learning

Observations indicated that particular features of the pilot classrooms (e.g. layout, furniture) are conducive to creating a more student-centred approach to learning. The portable whiteboards were used frequently, with students writing on both sides of the board in groups simultaneously, discussing their answers and assessing the responses of other groups.

By establishing ground rules and building confidence, students started to feel they were able to change the furniture configuration to suit their needs. The learning space consequently becomes an environment that encourages learning, respectful discussion and empowerment.

Staff based

Staff often sit at tables with students to facilitate a discussion or provide targeted assistance to individuals or groups of students. Adjacent breakout rooms are well used during both contact and non-contact time.

For our research, staff were invited to film a short video log after each of their sessions in the pilot classroom, to observe changes in practice, confidence and thought processes over time. Their reflections suggest that those who have engaged with the project are starting to change their practice and consider the learning environment when planning learning.

Staff confidence has increased and users are taking advantage of the flexibility afforded by the classrooms to facilitate student discussion and engagement. They are also thinking about how they can translate their new practices into other classrooms across the University.

Space based

Our observations demonstrate that the use of inspiring learning spaces facilitates social interaction and collaboration, encouraging a ‘learn anywhere’ approach.

Graduate Intern - Sophie Meace. 

What is Digital Literacy?

JISC define Digital Literacies as ‘those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society’ (JISC, 2015). Digital Literacy levels of University of South Wales (USW) staff and students are often assumed and this project aims to eliminate the assumptions and create a bigger picture of what ‘Digital Literacy’ means and looks like for staff and students at USW.

The Project

The Digital Literacy Project derived from an introductory study completed in August 2016, which was originally designed to facilitate a greater understanding of individuals’ digital skills, experiences and expectations across the University of South Wales (USW). In September 2016, USW took part in the JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker and the project continued to help establish current levels of digital literacy across the University.
The outcomes from the project were intended to provide an initial platform for developing staff and student digital literacy at USW. The wide-spread dissemination from the findings of the project across the institution enabled a better understanding of individuals’ experiences and expectations of the use of technology for teaching and learning.

What CELT are doing

CELT are currently supporting and working with faculties to develop staff digital literacy skills to enhance pedagogy and using Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) to facilitate active and experiential approaches, simulation and immersion at course level to move pedagogy away from transmission of information to dialogue (e.g. through flipped classroom learning) and to create resilience to staff changes through access to quality online resources with reference to the objectives S07.3 and S02.8 in the Student Experience Plan.

For further information about the project or to access the full project report please contact Sophie Meace.

(Higher Education Academy Vice Chancellors Strategic Excellence Initiative). 
Graduate Intern/Project Officer - Rozalind Green-Innes. 

The aim of the project was to develop and mainstream immersive learning for all new undergraduate students at the University. The University has a highly applied curriculum, and the development of an active approach to immersive learning does two key things; it gives the learner the opportunity to interact with fellow learners in teams – building identity and belonging – and it allows the ability to develop active learning strategies in a low risk environment.

The project focused on the start of the learning journey – the first six weeks of term – which is known to be a risk period for retention. The project aimed to build engagement and belonging through the development of effective relationships with other students and staff – both academic and support teams. This six week period also included an element of summative assessment so that all students received early feedback on their learning.

The project was a pan university initiative which aimed to enable the University to enhance its strategic leadership in learning and teaching. The outcomes from the project were intended to be used to plan further immersive learning provision for learners who join the University in year 3 having studied Foundation Degrees in College-based HE.

For more information on this project, please contact celt@southwales.ac.uk