Category: Teaching

The world is flat, and all the best universities are at the top edge

“The recognition of institutions of higher learning in the global South as equally desirable as those in the North would be a positive first step in redressing imbalances”

The world is flat, and all the best universities are at the top edge. Between virtually every university prospectus promising to prepare students for a “globalised, interconnected” world, and any recent international league tables, this – intentionally or not – is the message being produced in many quarters of higher education.

As a Canadian who went to Tanzania for a Masters degree, I can happily report that neither of these is the case. The world we live in today is not inevitably converging into a single reality whose ways can be learned at any one institution, and some of the very best educational experiences are to be had at the universities of the global South.

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Feedback matters: how can universities truly capture the student voice?

“For too long student evaluation data has been underutilised”

Policy changes mean that universities around the world are having to take a more robust and strategic approach to course and module evaluation. 

I have been helping universities to improve teaching and learning through the way they capture, analyse and respond to student feedback for the past 10 years. At Explorance we find that what UK universities really value is an insight into how other countries are approaching the issues, challenges and opportunities around capturing student feedback. Working in Australia, Canada, China, Spain, Mexico, UAE and USA give us a compelling insight into what ‘good’ student engagement looks like.

But the UK is also an interesting case study for international universities. Here, the National Student Survey (NSS) poses questions on how students have the opportunity to give feedback and how their feedback is acted on – and the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), which provides a resource for students to judge teaching quality in universities, draws on data from the NSS. All this points to student engagement rising higher up UK universities’ priority list than ever before.

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Germany Meets the Limits of Apprenticeship

“With a population about 25% the size of the United States, Germany has nearly 3x as many apprentices”

 

Question: How many Germans does it take to change a lightbulb at one of our apprenticeship programs? Answer: None. We leave it to the visiting American politicians.

I’ve begun telling this joke to my friends in German’s tech community. American senators, governors, even mayors (most recently the Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama) are a near-constant presence at Germany’s famous apprenticeship programs, visiting, touring – and yes, enjoying our wonderful food and wine – in search of a pathway to good jobs that don’t require a traditional university education.

We Germans are rightly proud of our apprenticeship system, which provides training on not only the technical skills workers need to succeed, but also on “how work works” i.e., training workers on the basics, like how meetings work, and showing up on time. The system dates back to craft guilds from the Middle Ages and involves federally-mandated collaboration between these associations, unions, educational institutions, and government.

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What’s new in EAL delivery for both teachers and pupils?

“The proliferation of online learning courses is well known, but finding a course that is well presented on a high-quality Learning Management System is important”

It is estimated that over 1 billion people are currently learning English worldwide and there have never been so many ways to learn it. We asked industry insiders for their views on the best new advances in technology and delivery to support teachers of EAL and their pupils, both inside and outside the classroom.

For teachers, FutureLearn’s Head of Client Services, Fiona Reay, highlights The British Council’s online program: Teaching for Success: Practices for English Language Teaching. The program helps EAL teachers understand and plan their professional development as an English language teacher. “Taken in any order, the three courses equip any English language teacher with the tools they need to take responsibility for their own CPD. Each course looks at four professional practices and in doing so explains their importance to the continuously developing teacher; offering a range of practical advice and suggestions, as well as providing the opportunity to interact with fellow teachers around the world”, says Fiona.

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The benefit of ‘joined up’ thinking when teaching EAL

“EAL departments need to be seen less as stand-alone departments and more as departments encompassing and integrating all aspects of a school’s academic life”

 It seems common sense, but how often in schools and colleges across the country is EAL development held back due to a lack of communication between EAL teachers and their colleagues teaching other subjects?

As Pete Collier, Head of EAL at Kings College St Michael’s says, “if a student is performing a science practical it seems logical that in the preceding (EAL) support lesson they should receive vocabulary related to common laboratory equipment. Although a seemingly simple and obvious philosophy the lack of communication between departments often causes this approach to be neglected”.
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The big IP question: How well do students understand intellectual property?

“Without IP knowledge, it is likely that interns and graduates will miss opportunities to protect valuable ideas”

University students are constantly encouraged to be creative and to come up with new and innovative ideas, but are they being taught the value of their ideas and how to protect them?

Intellectual property (IP) knowledge is important not only for law students learning how to inform others about the value and management of IP but for individuals studying business, engineering and technology.
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“Thanks MAC, but we should go further”

“Taking students out of the net migration target is not about fiddling the figures”

In light of the recent and long-awaited MAC report, director of Universities UK International Vivienne Stern says that the UK’s stagnant growth in international student enrolments has been an “active policy choice” and highlights the need for a clear, compelling and competitive post-study work offer.

Last week’s report by the Migration Advisory Committee confirmed what many of us in the university sector have long argued – that the benefits international students bring to the UK are enormous. The MAC team should be congratulated on some excellent analysis. But their conclusions were disappointing.

Now, attention has turned to the government response, and I believe there is a live debate between departments about whether to accept the MAC recommendations or go further.

The government should have the courage to do so.
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Finland: A view on one of the best university systems in the world

“Despite being a small nation, Finnish universities keep topping the world polls. So, what is it that they get so right?”

Finland is well-known for thinking outside the box in education, and its universities are no exception. The region’s focus on innovation appears to yield results, with Finnish universities recently ranked as the highest performing in the world. So, what exactly is it that they do so well? In my opinion, this can be roughly broken down into three broad categories.

  1. Strong support for quality teaching

Teaching is a respected profession in Finland, one that is extremely competitive to break into. Typically, fewer than 10% of applicants are accepted into the teacher training programme, five-year Master’s degree programmes are compulsory, and subject teachers are expected to carry out advanced academic studies in their field.

Finland’s teachers and lecturers are given great flexibility and freedom in their teaching styles too.

Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) embraces state-of-the-art teaching methods, for example, but teachers have autonomy for deciding how they are incorporated.  Mika Pulkkinen, an educational technology designer at LUT, says: “We offer a number of complex courses so we’re always looking for ways to help students cement their knowledge. We don’t want to insist on any single method of teaching, but we do make sure staff feel confident to use technology if they want to.”
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The benefits of studying the International Baccalaureate

“What has inspired me the most about the IB is its ability to encourage students to become internationally minded”

As students start to plan their future, choosing the right upper school curriculum is often a difficult decision to make. Faced with so many options, from A-levels to the International Baccalaureate (IB) or even the American Advanced Placement (AP) or high school diploma, the question is which one is the best fit for their abilities? And which one will more likely lead to a good degree?

I wish there was a simple answer, but it just depends on what type of student they are. Whether a good all-rounder who enjoys studying a wide range of subjects and rises to the challenge of investigative projects and exams like in the IB, or perhaps they are a more analytical mindset who prefers time to ponder their work with a curriculum focused on fewer subjects and graded more equally on coursework and exams like some A levels and the AP or whether no exams at all like the high school diploma.

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Inventor’s life could inspire business schools worldwide

“His passion for education and inspiring future generations to take a chance was legendary”

Trevor Baylis left school without any qualifications but went on to become one of Britain’s most renowned inventors. Kamal Bechkoum, head of business and technology at the University of Gloucestershire reflects on the mark that Baylis left on the world and what higher education institutions can learn from his genius.

I was tremendously saddened to hear of the recent death of Trevor Baylis OBE, creator of the wind-up radio that helped millions in the developing world access essential and life-saving information.

His passing marks not just the loss of a great inventor; it also offers an impressive life story that business, science and technology schools across the globe can learn from when encouraging their students to fulfil a need, doggedly protect one’s own intellectual property, or face down the seemingly impossible. 

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