SPLASH has collaborated with staff in schools and departments across all faculties to drive best practice in learning development.
Collaboration is the key
Much of our staff-facing website will focus on exploring opportunities for collaborative projects with faculty teaching staff. We are firm advocates of locating, as far as possible, student learning development activities within the curriculum in bespoke and subject-relevant ways.
If you are interested in exploring possibilities here, we’d be really happy to discuss with you ways in which we may be able to assist in developing your students’ learning. In the meantime, please email SPLASH@surrey.ac.uk for more information about how we may help.
Nursing, Midwifery, Paramedic and ODP students represent the highest proportion of student requests for support from SPLASH – 30 per cent of all drop in requests and over 25% of all one-to-one appointments across the University – both for advice from our team of Learning Advisers and our team of Information Skills Librarians.
Health science students here at Surrey reflect a student population from diverse, non-traditional academic backgrounds, including mature students returning to education, students from under-represented groups, and a large number of non-native speakers of English. These factors mean that the cohorts can, and do, have wide-ranging and widely differing academic development needs.
The team in SPLASH have been working closely and collaboratively for a number of years with faculty teaching staff and module leaders across a number of HSC modules. One example is a level 4 core module, Concepts of Caring, where we have worked to develop meaningful teaching interventions to address those academic needs which prove, year on year, the most challenging to the students. These sessions, which are both timely for assessments and focused on the needs of the particular cohort, are timetabled, embedded learning development opportunities which prove more effective in terms of student success than bolt-on generic study skills teaching. This is because these workshop sessions are appropriate for the level they are working at and help the students to understand what is expected of them in their written work. Regular collaborative review of both the content and the delivery style is undertaken by SPLASH and the faculty staff and feedback shared.
“Collaborative working with Library and Learning Support Services has been of central importance in the development of our programmes, for example in the introductory undergraduate module Concepts of Caring. This module is undertaken by over 400 students each year and we have drawn on the expertise of the SPLASH Learning Development team to strengthen its content on academic skills as well as personal development, through both the delivery of interactive workshops and the design of the assessment. These changes have been well-evaluated by students who have appreciated the focus on how to manage both the academic and professional challenges of the programme.
It has also been very helpful to have dedicated Faculty Engagement and Information Skills librarians, who are very approachable and have supported staff in the development of resources to support modules. They have also helped students develop information literacy through lectures, individual meetings and provision of online learning opportunities. Additional Learning Support are also well evaluated by students and staff. We have, for example, developed our assessments drawing on advice from the team.”
Jane Leng, Lead for Student Support / Disability Representative - Health Sciences
Students are continually developing their cognitive and practical aptitude in response to the requirements university places on them. The ways in which opportunities to hone a wide complement of these evolving abilities and the ways to recognise them are often quite different across the University. On some programmes no explicit attention is given to many of the skills being developed by the students undertaking the programme and only the most wherewithal students may take time to analyse their development and record progress. In other programmes very explicit opportunities are created to develop, reflect and document development of a variety of skills. In these programmes valuable opportunities for students to acquire feedback on many dimensions of their development are offered.
In Mathematics an entire module was conceived to foster the development, record progress and receive feedback on a variety of these cognitive and practical abilities, aswell as afford structured opportunities for personal and group analysis. Like other first year undergraduates, mathematics students, come to university with differing levels of refinement of the skills that will allow them to tap more of their potential in university and the professional situations they will encounter thereafter. By offering a good grounding to the students in their first year their experiences of the second, placement and final years have capacity to be more fruitful.
The department, under the lead of John Rayman, decided to generate deliberate experiences combined in a credit bearing module to foster the development of some of the key skills the students would benefit from during their academic and professional careers. These ‘professional skills’ include working in groups, project planning, managing meetings, programming, data analysis, report writing and giving technical talks. The team in SPLASH were invited to work with the Department to develop the module collaboratively and have shared the planning, development and review of this Professional Skills module since 2015. The collaboration took the form of discussing the content and assessment, as well as allocated development of certain sessions (and associated materials). Both parties offered feedback on the emerging module artefacts through email communication and timely face to face meetings. Facilitation of some sessions are shared by the SPLASH Team and regular collaborative review of both the content and the delivery mechanisms is undertaken together in a cycle of continuous module development aimed to improve the student experience.
Fully integrated learning development opportunities with a module’s purpose, content and methods of assessment are proven more effective in terms of student success in refining the desired skills than bolt-on generic skills teaching where students are expected to make too many links themselves to their personal context. The Professional Skills module in Mathematics generates explicit and structure skills development opportunities blended together in various assessed tasks and activities that evoke deep cognitive and practical skills development that help to set students up to succeed with us here at Surrey and into their futures.