We recently provided curriculum consultancy for the BSc Global Health, meeting with Dr Mariam Sbaiti, Senior Teaching Fellow and course co-ordinator. We reviewed the core curriculum, the logistics of teaching and learning on the BSc, methods of delivery and the teaching provision. In particular we discussed the difficulties of introducing active learning into a heavily content-based course with established lecturers.
We looked at ways to introduce more active learning whilst retaining control of student workload, such as restructuring long teaching days into symposium style sessions with opportunities for integration of content and free interaction with the expert lecturers following shorter presentations. We talked about implementing change in established teaching teams – reviewing how to break down innovation and development of teaching and learning practices into small steps. In particular we reviewed ways to minimise the perceived impact of the changes on teaching teams – such as targeting key sessions for major change and introducing low impact changes elsewhere. For example, we discussed the use of the ‘flipped’ classroom and developed a spectrum of flipping and interactivity going from low impact innovation (such as using previous Panopto lecture capture to provide the content and introducing a structured Q+A during the live session) to more time consuming and higher impact measures such as providing blended learning packages and specially designed activities to encourage integration and synthesis of knowledge during the sessions.
In addition we discussed some ways to help students integrate learning from independent study blocks that introduce different types of material – in particular using informal mind mapping, or a soft systems methodology approach.
Finally we looked at developing study skills and resilience in learning using a spiral approach, and identified ways of building time for these elements into the overall curriculum.
I first met Elizabeth on my PG Certificate at the Education Development Unit 4 years ago. When she described her teaching approaches during our small group discussions, I was immediately intrigued. What does entirely student-centered learning with no curriculum look like? The Global Health BSc has undergone incremental changes and year-on-year improvements. Whilst we cannot get rid of our curriculum yet (we have written examinations which require a relatively defined curriculum), we have now reached a stage where we feel the need to shift the balance towards active learning sessions. Yet one of the strengths of the course currently, in the eyes of students and staff, is the exposure students get to lots of different experts in the field. So our dilemma was: how do we maintain this strength without it hindering our ability to transition towards active learning?
The consultancy session with Elizabeth gave us some real examples of how this could work incrementally. It was particularly useful to talk about the intermediate steps we could take to ensure the transition isn’t too demanding on teaching colleagues. We also discussed the “framing” of the teaching including how we can get students more aware of their rights and responsibilities on the course through the use of a student contract. Elizabeth taught our students a couple of years ago and received excellent feedback for her session so I trusted that she knew our needs and the course aims. She has given us very specific and informative references to start planning our new teaching approach including key texts and methods such as the use of rich pictures.
The consultancy session has given us confidence in initiating a gradual transition towards more active learning and inspired us to deepen our dialogue with students.