Hello everyone, I sincerely hope that all is going well with your study and with life beyond the books.
It’s a great feeling to be writing my first blog as Deputy President (Education). In all honesty, there is so much I could be writing about, yet I feel honing in on the titled topic really illuminates the fruits of the work that we have put in thus far as a Union. I feel it is also necessary to make you aware of the exciting implications of this topic for you as a current and future Imperial member.
So I’m sure at some stage and in some form your eyes or ears have met with the recent introduction of the ‘Learning and Teaching Strategy’. Superficially, it might not sound like anything interesting. With a packed out Imperial schedule and with little time to engage in anything other than your usual routine, it may seem preposterous for you to give it any level of consideration. Let me assure you that the development and implementation of this strategy concerns and involves you (as a student) as much as myself or any member of staff in this institution.
Why should the strategy matter to you and I?
To answer that question, we have to rewind a little. Without sounding like I’m patronising you with a bedtime story, it all started with an adverse set of results which Imperial received in the National Student Survey (NSS). It would be inaccurate for me to claim that the creation of the strategy originated solely from the NSS results, yet this was certainly the educational wake-up call which led to the right conversation(s).
Now the optimists among you would agree that adversity has the potential to yield opportunity. The drop in NSS student satisfaction scores across the majority of departments sent shockwaves across all levels of the institution. Many individuals began to realise that the era of complacency and reputational reliance may have come to a sharp halt for Imperial. A level of reflection was clearly needed.
As an optimist, I saw a real opportunity to embed the Union in Imperial’s recovery process. The best way to do this was to put together a solid NSS Response with sound recommendations to College. I recognised a need to engage not only the strengths of our amazing Education and Welfare team (Sky, Nayab, Andrew, Emily-Jane), but to also focus efforts on engaging a number of different students. Students are the people who ultimately know the reasons for dissatisfaction because they are the ones on the receiving end of the education (not staff)!
So I guess you’re still asking yourself why this all matters to you? To quote myself just now: “Students are the people who ultimately know the reasons”. It just so happens that this seemingly insignificant statement formed the spine of our NSS Response theme this year. In the world of Higher Education, it is technically phrased ‘Students as Partners’. This concept envisages a harmonious partnership where staff and students work together with a common mission of improving all elements of education.
Many sceptics argue that the concept is dysfunctional in reality. However, alongside many case studies found in Higher Education Academy research literature that is often derived from an array of educational institutional practises, I really have to disagree with that scepticism. In fact, the results of such a partnership are overwhelmingly successful. Nas and I have witnessed that success with our own eyes having worked with Simone (recently appointed Vice-Provost Education) and other staff to shape the Learning and Teaching strategy. Ironically, the strategy itself desires a change in culture whereby students feel empowered to identify problems with their courses and to then work with staff to arrive at solutions.
Every recommendation put forward in our NSS Response this year was endorsed by Provost’s Board. This means that the College are supportive in adopting the Students as Partners approach and are increasingly looking to students for the answers to their questions.
I hope by now you’re realising the opportunity which awaits you as a student. Applying your solution-focussed mindset to your own educational and learning experience has a plethora of personal and professional benefits. The capacity for you to have a respected voice in your department and institution will be greater than ever before. I’d encourage you to make the most of that. Be creative and critical.
What else does the strategy entail?
The core of the strategy aims to innovate teaching and education at Imperial. What innovation will look like at this stage is an uncertainty – that is partially the purpose of the ongoing strategy consultation to learn about what staff and students at Imperial feel is needed. There is certainly scope for Imperial to be more outward-looking when identifying best practise globally.
Having had the privilege of attending the AACU Transforming STEM Education Conference in Boston recently, it was enlightening to compare aspects of STEM education in the US to approaches here at Imperial. Nas would agree when I say that we are doing many things very well. However, it is clear that there is space to innovate. There are extraordinary ways in which one can deliver information (teach), aside from the conventional lecture style. We just need to change the attitude adopted by certain profesors: ‘it’s easier to continue this way as I always have’. So an institutional cultural change is imperative, and that has to start with you and I.
If you want to interact tangibly with the strategy, there are pop-up consultation stands around College in the coming weeks where you can offer your thoughts:
Bessemer Building- Thurs 24 Nov 11.30- 14.30
College Main Entrance- Monday 28 Nov 11.30 -14.30
SAF Reception- Tuesday 29 Nov 11.30-14.30
JCR- Wednesday 30 Nov 11.30-14.30
Sherfield Foyer- Friday 2 Dec 11.30- 14.30
If you want to learn more, come along to the Town Hall meeting on 8th December at 12:00-13:00 in SAF G34. Nas, Simone and I will be presenting on various topics, followed by an opportunity for discussion and questions. Come along and say hi!
You may also want to peruse the College's angle on the strategy via their website...
So the strategy is a real opportunity for Imperial to rise as a world leader in education. The exciting part is that you as a student can have profound contributions to that.
I personally look forward to experiencing the positive impact of the strategy on all members of Imperial. I also look forward to seeing the strategy build momentum and to delivering further updates in future where I can.