20 September 2015

CELT conference

I have been induced; from here I have to make my own way through what CELT throws at me. Celt? People with torques and a funny language? Well, no, the Centre for Enhanced Learning and teaching. Slightly less glamorous but more appropriate in the context. If a person desirous of acquiring their PGCertHE has been through the three-day induction they have to complete a portfolio, and part of that portfolio consists of reflective accounts of a number of CELT workshops. They have such on a range of topics; from the practical, such as how to work the Blackboard website; to the psychological, such as how to deal with distressed students. But one day was coming up which hosted a whole range of topics: the annual CELT conference. I decided to go.

This year, they had decided to focus on three different topics, and run three parallel sessions on these topics. They were: student engagement, technology, and inspiring teaching. You could pop in and out of these sessions as you wished.

I went to two technology sessions and a student engagement one. The technology sessions provided a wealth of further ideas; one lady, for instance, presented an elaborate excel sheet she had made that helps her quickly mark a student's work and add personal feedback. It has all the standard remarks in there that make you not want to provide hand-written feedback; in my case, this sheet would certainly have "back up your statements with references" and "break up the text into sections" in it. When you're done, excel burps out a PDF version of the personalised sheet and sends it to the student. Brilliant! She was willing to send the file to anyone who wanted it; I'll be sure to email her.

Something that didn't quicken my pulse was a lady who had been experimenting with sending students reminders of upcoming lectures. You rarely get your full cohort, and well, you stand there to add something to the students' education, so one assumes there's a merit in high attendance. Do they fail to show up because they forget? I doubt it. The lady didn't have her full results in, but I think I'll let that suggestion go. This sounds like Big Brother meets the Nanny State. Bad idea! If the students don't want to come you can't make them, and if you could; those that don't want to come won't be particularly engaged. But it was interesting to hear about it.

The last session, about student engagement, was not as engaging as I had hopes; some of the presentations fell flat, which is a bit painful in a session like that. Luckily there was a lady from Psychology who had a brilliant way of guiding the freshers into the curriculum. She said many, many students came to university to study psychology with a distorted view of what to expect; they thought they'd be doing clinical psychology pretty much all the time. You could not tell them too soon they don't get much of that unless and until they specialise in that field, and that they have to get through a fair bit of statistics. Ideas of contact hours vs self study were unrealistic too. She sends everybody an interactive questionnaire that dispels all the myths, and discusses the results with all students, so also the one that couldn't be bothered with the questionnaire are brought up to speed. And she had more of these things! Leave that to the psychologists.

It had been worth sitting in lecture rooms on a sunny day for this. Was the day over after the sessions? Heck no. But read about the rest here. And once I manage to find time beside my day job, Welsh attempts and underground pursuits I can go and write up that conference for my portfolio!

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