Archive for category Teaching

Leverhulme Writing Week

A sunny week in May away in the Peak District with most of the Leverhulme-funded PhD students in open world learning and many of their supervisors. Lots of writing was done, but also a lot of community building.

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LAK17: doctoral consortium

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 09.19.17A very busy week in Vancouver at the LAK17 (learning analytics and knowledge) conference kicked off with the all-day doctoral consortium on 14 March (funded by SoLAR and the NSF). I joined Bodong Chen and Ani Aghababyan as an organiser this year and we enjoyed working with the ten talented doctoral students from across the world who gained a place in the consortium.

  1. Alexander Whitelock-Wainwright: Students’ intentions to use technology in their learning: The effects of internal and external conditions
  2. Alisa Acosta: The design of learning analytics to support a knowledge community and inquiry approach to secondary science
  3. Daniele Di Mitri: Digital learning shadow: digital projection, state estimation and cognitive inference for the learning self
  4. Danielle Hagood: Learning analytics in non-cognitive domains
  5. Justian Knobbout: Designing a learning analytics capabilities model
  6. Leif Nelson: The purpose of higher education in the discourse of learning analytics
  7. Quan Nguyen: Unravelling the dynamics of learning design within and between disciplines in higher education using learning analytics
  8. Stijn Van Laer: Design guidelines for blended learning environments to support self-regulation: event sequence analysis for investigating learners’ self-regulatory behavior
  9. Tracie Farrell Frey: Seeking relevance: affordances of learning analytics for self-regulated learning
  10. Ye Xiong: Write-and-learn: promoting meaningful learning through concept map-based formative feedback on writing assignments

The intention of the doctoral consortium was to support and inspire doctoral students in their ongoing research efforts. The objectives were to:

  • Provide a setting for mutual feedback on participants’ current research and guidance on future research directions from a mentor panel
  • Create a forum for engaging in dialogue aimed at building capacity in the field with respect to current issues in learning analytics ranging from methods of gathering analytics, interpreting analytics with respect to learning issues, considering ethical issues, relaying the meaning of analytics to impact teaching and learning, etc.
  • Develop a supportive, multidisciplinary community of learning analytics scholars
  • Foster a spirit of collaborative research across countries, institutions and disciplinary background
  • Enhance participating students’ conference experience by connecting participants to other LAK attendees

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Dr Bektik: Duygu’s viva

duygu-vivaOn 14th December, Duygu Bektik defended her thesis successfully, and now only minor corrections stand between her and her doctorate.

Learning Analytics for Academic Writing through Automatic Identification of Meta-Discourse

When assessing student writing, tutors look for ability to present well-reasoned arguments, signalled by elements of meta-discourse. Some natural language processing systems can detect rhetorical moves in scholarly texts, but no previous work has investigated whether these tools can analyse student writing reliably. Duygu’s thesis evaluates the Xerox Incremental Parser (XIP), sets out ways in which it could be changed to support the analysis of student writing and proposes how its output could be delivered to tutors. It also investigates how tutors define the quality of undergraduate writing and identifies key elements that can be used to identify good student writing in the social sciences.

Duygu was supervised by me and by Denise Whitelock, Anna De Liddo and Simon Buckingham Shum (now at .

Her viva examiners were Paul Mulholland and Gary Wills (University of Southampton). The viva was chaired by John Richardson.

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Validating qualifications

Durham publicity shot of graduating studentsOn 22 June, I travelled up to Durham with a team from the Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships at The Open University in order to carry out a validation review at New College.

We had been asked to validate the Cert ED and the Professional Graduate Certificate in Education courses run by the college, which does not currently have the authority to award qualifications at this level. Like many other colleges in England, it asked the OU to validate its courses, so that students completing those courses could receive certificates from The Open University.

Through its Royal Charter, the OU is able to validate the programmes of institutions that do not have their own degree-awarding powers or that wish to offer OU awards. Validation is an iterative process, carried out over a period of time, culminating in an event that brings together participants. The process covers ten areas:

  1. Rationale, aims and intended learning outcomes of the programme of study
  2. Curriculum and structure of the programme of study
  3. Teaching and learning
  4. Admissions and transfer
  5. Assessment
  6. Staffing, staff development and research
  7. Teaching and learning resources
  8. Other resources for students
  9. Programme management and monitoring
  10. Programme specification and handbook

The process requires close scrutiny of relevant documentation, discussions with staff and students involved with the programmes, and tours of the facilities. A very interesting day, and a chance to get a detailed overview of how two qualifications work in practice.

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Rhetorical analysis and tutors’ grades

Duygu presenting at LAK16One of my doctoral students, Duygu Simsek (now Duygu Bektik), presented on her work at LAK15.

Simsek, Duygu; Sandor, Ágnes; Buckingham Shum, Simon; Ferguson, Rebecca; De Liddo, Anna and Whitelock, Denise (2015). Correlations between automated rhetorical analysis and tutors’ grades on student essays. In: 5th International Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference (LAK15), 16-20 March 2015, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA, ACM.

When assessing student essays, educators look for the students’ ability to present and pursue well-reasoned and strong arguments. Such scholarly argumentation is often articulated by rhetorical metadiscourse. Educators will be necessarily examining metadiscourse in students’ writing as signals of the intellectual moves that make their reasoning visible. Therefore students and educators could benefit from available powerful automated textual analysis that is able to detect rhetorical metadiscourse. However, there is a need to validate such technologies in higher education contexts, since they were originally developed in non-educational applications. This paper describes an evaluation study of a particular language analysis tool, the Xerox Incremental Parser (XIP), on undergraduate social science student essays, using the mark awarded as a measure of the quality of the writing. As part of this exploration, the study presented in this paper seeks to assess the quality of the XIP through correlational studies and multiple regression analysis.

Duygu’s slides

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Funded studentship opportunity – researching MOOCs at the OU

MOOC educator poster

The Open University is advertising six Leverhulme doctoral scholarships in open world learning with a closing date for applications of Monday 9 March 2015. These are full-time, fully funded studentships, leading to a PhD.

One of the named topics is ‘Educator roles in open online courses‘ and the description is:

“What roles do educators play in massive open online courses (MOOCs)? How can they be most effective in supporting learners to achieve their learning goals? In these open online settings, teaching is carried out by a team of educators, including academic lead, course presenter, moderator, facilitator and the learners themselves. These roles are still being developed, and there is a pressing need to identify evidence-based good practice. The successful candidate will use data from a range of MOOCs to answer the questions above, and will have opportunities to work with the FutureLearn Academic Network, an international team of MOOC researchers.”

If you are interested in applying, you need to provide a short research proposal explaining how this area fits the overall theme of Open World Learning and how you intend to conduct research on the topic selected. See the website for more specific details about applying.

When putting together an application, you may find it useful to take a look at these two papers: Taking on different roles: how educators position themselves in MOOCs and Innovative pedagogy at massive scale: teaching and learning in MOOCs.

 

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Digital Historians in Italy: a doctoral success

Claudia and I, with examiners Martin Weller and Tim Hitchcock

Claudia and I, with examiners Martin Weller and Tim Hitchcock

My EdD student Claudia Favero (co-supervised by Jan Parker) successfully completed her viva on 9 June. Claudia’s thesis was on ‘Developing digital historians in Italy’, a country where she has taught at university level for many years.

Claudia’s thesis showed that the training of future digital historians is an investment that the whole profession can and should make, not only for its future inside and outside academia but also for the future of the discipline itself.

Her study highlighted the need, and the marked absence in Italy, of a supportive, enabling professional and institutional environment. An environment like this makes digital history research and the education and training of future historians in digital tools and methodologies not only possible, but also effective and sustainable.

Claudia’s study contrasted the situation in Italy with the situation in the UK where there is a professional role specifically associated with digital history, where digital historians have access to funds/resources and incentives/rewards and where dialogue is pursued and valued with the adjoining field of digital humanities. In this environment, it is possible for digital historians to build sustainable educational and research frameworks.

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