Sharing ideas for Learning and Teaching

Posts By: Giles Martin

Scholarship and Resources: Mathematical Sciences


📥  Briefings

Scholarship and teaching related sources relating to mathematical sciences, recommended by colleagues at the University of Bath. Contributions welcome.


Mathematics Education is an established field with a large amount of research and theoretical work, as well as a large body of case studies, practical tips and advice. On the practical side you can find books and guides written by mathematicians in the context and language of maths. On the research/theory side, there is a body of work providing frameworks and models on mathematical thinking, learning mathematics, and specific issues such as proof.

MSOR Subject Centre: there are a number of good resources from the (now closed) Maths, Stats and OR subject centre (MSOR), written specifically for academics (archived: The MSOR magazine (Connections) contained a large number of case studies of specific teaching topics, technologies, investigations and projects. Most resources are now on the HEA’s resource hub ( (more…)


Early Challenge Essay to tackle Plagiarism

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📥  Case Studies

In order to help tackle some problems with plagiarism on a postgraduate programme in the School of Management, an early essay was introduced. This case study from Dr Bruce Rayton provides the background, information on the essay, and the results and advice.

The issue

There were a surprising number of similar plagiarism cases from the MSc students, with ‘explanations’ along the lines of:

“I didn’t know …”
“I did exactly what I did on my first degree.”
“I passed the Academic Integrity Test at 92%, but ….”

Taught postgraduate (PGT) students in the School come with a good first degree from a good university. However, there is a huge variety in their first degree subject and backgrounds. Approximately 80 percent pay overseas fees, and even though some of these students arrive from UK universities, there is a vast range of national educational backgrounds represented on these degrees. Because of the design of these postgraduate programme, students only have two taught semesters in Bath. There is no ‘pass/fail first year’ during which students can learn our ways: all marks count towards the eventual classification of the degree.

The intervention: Managerial Challenge Essay (MCE)

A short academic essay was introduced for the very beginning of the academic year. The 750 word essay is due in week 2 and is submitted online. Here is an excerpt from the instructions to provide some detail:

Managerial Challenge Essay (MCE)

The Managerial Challenge Essay has been designed to identify gaps in your academic writing skills and/or understanding of how to apply those skills within this university’s expectations regarding academic integrity. A key aim is to give you the earliest possible feedback on your academic writing skills, which will cover a range of areas, but demonstrated mastery of reference technique will be essential to the award of credit for this task.

Identify an important managerial challenge facing organizations today and indicate one academic theory that can help organizations as they attempt to meet this challenge. Support your reasoning with reference to at least two articles listed within the Scopus database.

  • Word limit: 750
  • Deadline: 1400 on 12 Oct 2016
  • Submission via Moodle workshop; Feedback returned via Moodle

Feedback was provided with the following:

  • Similarity report (TurnitIn).
  • Feedback from a PhD student on writing style.
  • Feedback from three peers using the Moodle Workshop activity.
  • Pass/Fail determination by Director of Studies.

The essay was introduced in 2015 and the following figure illustrates a 52 percent the decline in the cases of plagiarism (per 100 students) in the 2015/6 cohort relative to the previous year:

MCE drop in cases


Challenges & Opportunities

From experience over two years of this essay, the following challenges have been identified:

  • Significant amount of work.
  • Required acquiescence of six unit convenors who uniquely covered the target population.
  • Managing student expectations.
  • Impact of late arrivals & registrations.

However there are also several opportunities to consider further for the future:

  • It has been very useful for establishing/deepening bonds between students on different degree cohorts immediately following induction.
  • This approach could be a useful part of a programme-level approach to assessment.
  • With this is mind, the School could now look to remove some essay-based work from assessment portfolios of programmes.
  • In principle, this approach could be useful for the assessment of other skills that are relied upon across the duration of a programme.


Concept bites

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📥  Case Studies

Dr Fiona Dickinson, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, explains her use of concept bite videos in a concept bite video.

This is a recorded version of  a case study presentation at a Director of Studies Forum. To see some actual concept bites, here are links to a few selected ones at different levels


Joint student, practice, and academic conference

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📥  Case Studies

Nick Willsmer, from the Department for Heath at the University of Bath, discusses a funded project initiated by a student to run a conference for the Sports Performance field that involved a range of senior external academics as keynotes and research talks, practitioners from a range of fields, and undergraduate students presenting on dissertation topics. The event was successful and Nick presents the background, what they did and finally some of the lessons learnt.




📥  Briefings

Motivation may be a major factor in the approach taken to learning by students. Changing attitudes within the student body, increasing diversity amongst the student population, widening participation, outreach work, fees, and national policy and debates may all mean that the motivations observed by staff shift over time and context. The study of motivation in education (at all levels) is a large field and so presented here is a short summary of some categorisations regarding student motivation from the literature, along with an example question that we can ask about our own students to help understand their differing motivations better. (more…)


Scholarship of Learning and Teaching: First Steps


📥  Briefings

Collected below are suggested example sources for ideas from the scholarship of learning and teaching. These are not the only sources, but some places to start that might be useful. Included are examples from different types of resources - textbooks, websites, tips/tricks, journals.

General Learning and Teaching Textbooks

booksThese are textbooks for learning and teaching in Higher Education which might be useful if you want a general book covering major aspects of university teaching. They are sometimes used as core texts on HE teaching programmes. All are available in the university library.

A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (3rd Edition)
Fry, Ketteridge and Marshall (2009)
Bath University Library: Level 5 378.125 FRY
This handbook has chapters from a wide range of people covering (part 1) various different parts of teaching in higher education from large group to assessment etc. and also (part 2) chapters on teaching in the disciplines. A familiar textbook on many PGCerts in HE.

Learning to teach in higher education (2nd Edition)
Ramsden (2003)
Bath University Library: Level 5 378.5 RAM
Ramsden’s book presents a scholarly look at learning and teaching in higher education, covering many of the main issues and theories.

Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does (3rd Edition)
John B. Biggs and Catherine Tang (2007)
Bath University Library: Level 5 378.17 BIG
This book sets about introducing constructive alignment in detail and looking at how to actually go about implementing it in practice. (more…)


Peer marking for writing skills

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📥  Case Studies

Prof Andrew Heath, from the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the University of Bath, describes how he uses peer marking in a course to help students develop writing skills as they attempt lab reports:

In this second video, Prof Heath discusses his experience of the practicalities and choices in setting up peer marking for the first time:



Knowing yourself as a teacher

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📥  Reflections

Dr Ainius Lasas, from the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies at the University of Bath, reflects on the importance of knowing yourself as a teacher and where that may be an advantage or a disadvantage.


Different sources of feedback

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📥  Reflections

Dr Ainius Lasas, from the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies at the University of Bath, reflects on the useful and sometimes unexpected little ideas gained from additional feedback from different sources, even when one thinks things are going well.


Cultural contexts and approaches

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📥  Reflections

Dr Ainius Lasas, from the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies at the University of Bath, discusses some ways in which the different cultural and academic backgrounds of his students lead to different approaches, which may be at odds with the required approach in a session.