Imperial College London

Learning and teaching experts gather for Education Day 2019


Academics in conversation

Education Day is Imperial's annual conference for those involved in learning and teaching. This year, the event focused on opportunities and risks.

The conference (9 May) was held as the College concludes a comprehensive review and redesign of its curriculum, delivering on one of the key aims of the Learning and Teaching Strategy.

At this year’s event delegates explored the possible risks associated with changing longstanding approaches to teaching, and how to make sure that new approaches are successful.

"You can't achieve powerful change without student engagement. It's important that we move beyond simply consuming knowledge toward a model where both students and teachers co-produce knowledge." Professor Colin Bryson

Martyn Kingbsury, Imperial's first Professor of Education, welcomed delegates and recalled his feelings from the previous day: "I was onstage at Graduation Ceremony yesterday and realised that among all the pomp, what I actually felt most proud of was seeing just how many colleagues I'd worked with in innovating teaching at the College."

The keynote speaker for the conference was Professor Colin Bryson. As the Director of the Combined Studies Centre at Newcastle University, and a National Teaching Fellow, Professor Bryson has been instrumental in developing research on student engagement, by placing students at the centre of learning and teaching. His work in this field has provided an evidence base for student engagement and partnership. 

Professor Bryson said: "You can't achieve powerful change without student engagement. It's important that we move beyond simply consuming knowledge toward a model where both students and teachers co-produce knowledge."

Alejandro LuyDelegates were also joined by Deputy President (Education) at Imperial College Union, Alejandro Luy, who gave the perspective of students at the university: "Being authentic in the way you deliver teaching and assess students almost always leads to some kind of risk - students may feel sceptical about untested ideas. However, I strongly believe that a  collaborative culture is more effective than a competitive one.

"Adopting this model will 'supercharge' Imperial's efforts to ensure graduates leave the College with the professional development skills that will set them up for a successful future."

The day continued with a series of workshops focusing on a range of different challenging areas.

What makes a good staff-student partnership?

Caroline Clewley workshopDr Caroline Clewley, Principal Teaching Fellow, Department of Physics, led a session on staff-student partnerships. Dr Clewley has experience of this with her own 'Imperial Visualisations' project which aims to enhance students’ conceptual understanding of abstract concepts through online interactive visualisations.

In this workshop, delegates explored the definition of a partnership as opposed to a student-supervisor relationship, and how to create a welcoming work environment. They also considered how to translate educational theory into the practical process of working in staff-student partnerships to create innovative learning and teaching materials.

The flipped classroom

Ana Costa Periera workshopA second workshop was led by Dr Ana Costa-Pereira, Senior Lecturer, Department of Surgery & Cancer. Dr Costa-Pereira reflected on how hard it was to re-design her undergraduate programme.

Not only did she carry out a redesign but she also embarked on changing learning and teaching methodologies, redefining the curriculum, developing a new virtual learning platform, and introducing new technologies. And, yet, the BSc Medical Biosciences is widely considered one of the College's most successful examples of how to move to a teaching style that focuses on the needs of the student.

Authentic learning and assessment

Billy Wu workshop Delegates also explored the challenges of introducing new methods of assessment with Dr Billy Wu, Senior Lecturer, Dyson School of Design Engineering. The workshop centred upon a question Dr Wu recently posed to himself - 'How do we get 1st year students interested and engaged in materials and manufacturing?'.

He described a lab he's established where students form an engineering consultancy team with the aim of taking apart, analysing and ultimately redesigning a consumer product for a different purpose. This allows students to apply their materials and manufacturing knowledge. The intentionally vague brief introduces students to issues around how to handle ambiguity and critical thinking.

With each student group receiving a different item and redesign brief, this lab encourages unique solutions as students share interesting design features of their own items.


Murray MacKay

Murray MacKay
Communications and Public Affairs


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