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Tag Archives: glasgow

Another packed programme of presentations this year, here are the highlights of some of them:

Ifan Hughes (Durham) spoke about the use of interactive screen experiments and the role of pre-lab tasks to increase the efficacy of the time students spend in laboratories.

Steve Hanson from the Centre revealed some preliminary findings from the soon to be published data on graduate skills in physics, based on detailed interviews with new graduates from around the UK (there will also be corresponding data published on chemistry and forensic science.)

Simon Bates (Edinburgh) reported on the shift there from years of recruiting undergraduates to now being able to select students and the challenges this has brought.

Vijay Tymms (Imperial) looked at whether repeated testing (at school) was leading to a shift from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation in students.

Fredrick Floether (Cambridge), our Student Award winner, spoke about his experiences as an undergraduate. He noted the movement towards documents existing only in electronic form (and the possible advantages of this), more use of animations and use of mobile devices. He noted the increase in online learning, the encouragement of students to take learning into their own hands and increasing interdisciplinary nature of science courses. Also highlighted was the increasing internationalisation of higher education, with students flowing in more directions around the globe in pursuit of their education but also the possible bifucation of students into those who attend a campus and those who teach themselves from online resources.

Dick Bacon from the Centre introduced the new adaptive questions that are now available in Question Bank with a call to try them and perhaps submit more to the collection.

Ross Galloway (Edinburgh) spoke about work with students whose coursework scores were significantly higher than their exam scores. These tended to be students whose qualifications were non-UK and who had taken a gap year, and interviews had shown that they had unrealistic ideas about exam preparation and the time it would take. Interesting, merely interviewing students about this appeared to have the effect of improving their subsequent exam performance, though no other intervention had been made.

Sally Jordan (OU) presented details of work on computer assessment of short-answer questions. She emphasised the importance of modeling answers on the real answers of students, rather than those of staff who answer questions differently. The unintended consequence of this has been the greater understanding of the ways students interpret questions which has been used to improve question.

Ross Galloway (Edinburgh) held a workshop on data handling skills. Discussion amongst the participants revealed the following:  teaching such skills tends to be concentrated in the early years and it is hard to convince  students are they should do some data analysis during the experiment as they would rather do it afterwards once the experiment is complete. At Edinburgh it was found that once teaching data handling skills stopped, improvement stopped also; students appeared not to pick up skills without support.

Robert Francis (NTU) detailed an archeo-astronomy project that was being used with school and university groups. A virtual field trip was built to enable pupils/students to be able to make the most of their field work.

Marialuisa Aliotta (Edinburgh) reported on the use of scoring rubrics, use of which students felt led to reduced variation and fairing marking.

Lynn Moran (Liverpool) spoke about outreach work which had grown from an informal grouping of students and had worked on tackling negative views of science.

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I heard a news item on Radio 4 yesterday about the release of what would be the world’s largest thesaurus, drawing on entries from the Oxford English Dictionary. Seeing a message on Twitter linking to the news story (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8319175.stm) I quickly RTed the good news; well, it is the sort of thing you would want to share isn’t it (humour me here).

I was delighted and somewhat surprised to receive a reply (from someone who’s blushes I shall spare) saying that they had misread the message and thought it was reporting the discovery of a new dinosaur.

Well, on hearing that an image of the creature popped into my head. The mighty and terrible Thesaurus Rex, running amok in the Glasgow Public Library heading for the reference section. Brave librarians try to fend him off with those wooden poles with the hooks on the end you use to open high windows, but to no avail. Now there’s nothing left of their Encyclopedia Britannica but  bits of chewed cover.

The story of the thesaurus is a gem. A project started in 1965 that grew on a diet of good ideas (“I know, why don’t we include this as well?” Ring any bells? Every been involved in a project like this?) At one point almost destroyed by a fire but saved from having being stored in a metal filing cabinet (and you can picture it can’t you, paint singed and blistered but defiant.) And now, after over forty years, it’s finally complete in all its blue cloth and gold-leaved glory. I’d actually quite like a copy but I’m afraid to even look at the price. Plus I don’t know if I can trust it in the same bookcase as my dictionary of physics.