Can students learn study skills?

Prof Graham Gibbs

Prof Graham Gibbs

Interesting. I got to meet Graham a couple of times before I left Winchester, and he’s producing some really interesting content (as is the FASTECH project):

So what does “improving ­students” actually consist of? “How to” guides on study skills – how to take notes, how to structure an essay and so on – contain what appears to be sound enough advice (although the similarity between them is both striking and s­uspicious).

However, attempts to back up this consensus with evidence of the effectiveness of the techniques described have had little success. Students’ scores on “study habits inventories” – questionnaires made up of lists of the kinds of things contained in these books – hardly correlate with examination performance at all. An exception is how to be organised (by managing one’s time, for example). “Organisation” predicts performance where the use of most “skills” does not.

Read full story.

Large Class Sizes Affecting NSS/Assessment Grades?

Lecture Theatre

Professor Graham Gibbs, who I worked with whilst working on the FASTECH project at Winchester – writing a series of pieces for Times Higher Education – this one on class sizes – worth reading:

Average school class sizes are used in international league tables as indicators of national commitment to education. And school classes of a similar size to those in UK higher education are rarely found outside developing countries.

The effects of class size are greatest for younger pupils and are least, but still substantial, for those aged 18 or over. Studies of what goes on in higher education discussion classes as they get bigger still reveal a predictable pattern of fewer students saying anything, and the little they do say being at a lower cognitive level (checking facts, for example, rather than discussing ideas).

Students in larger classes have been found to take a surface approach (attempting to memorise) to a greater extent and a deep approach (attempting to make sense) to a lesser extent. Higher education students judge teaching to be less good in large classes – even those led by teachers who gain good ratings when they teach smaller classes. So if managers hope to improve National Student Survey scores by rationalising course provision, they have their work cut out.

Read full article. Makes me think about the increased personalisation expected in education – and technology – often touted as enabling larger numbers, but actually allowing greater personalisation! I’m looking forward to reading more, as the situation is clearly not hopeless.

Promotion: Senior Fellow in Learning & Teaching

I have just received a letter confirming that as from 1st July I will be ‘Senior Fellow in Learning & Teaching’ at the University of Winchester, having proved my value. No change in job, but (good) change in salary.

The application I submitted is here. This has surprisingly posed me an interesting dilemma that I need to pray about/resolve in the next 24 hours …

#JISCDigLit Storify


Knowledge Exchange Day for JISC Digital Literacies Programme

Storified by Dr Bex Lewis · Wed, May 16 2012 05:32:42

This is the formal page for the project
Developing digital literacies : JISCOverview Many learners enter further and higher education lacking the skills needed to apply digital technologies to education. As 90% of…
Videos from the range of projects:
Programme Meeting (May 2012)YouTube
This is the particular project that I’m involved in:
The Design Studio / ODHE DLThe ODHE brings together HE practitioners with responsibilities for supporting organisational-level development within their institutions…
ODHE & Digital Literacydrbexl
Baselining report across the projects & associations
The Design Studio / Baselining digital literacy provisionThis page collates resources for conducting a baseline review of digital literacy at an institutional level, as carried out by the 12 ins…
Suggestions being put forward that professional associations should offer to a ‘marketplace’ to the projects … #jiscdiglitDigital Fingerprint
At #jiscdiglit Bex Lewis
Great to see colleagues from HE development professional associations at a JISC knowledge sharing event in Birmingham #jiscdiglitCarole Baume
At #jiscdiglit Knowledgr Sharing Event in Birmingham today.Doug Belshaw
RT @sheilmcn: great point being made – "digital" a transitory word – we don’t talk about "analogue literacies" #jiscdiglitScott Hibberson
In Birmingham today for the #jiscdiglit DDL projects Knowledge Exchange.Sue Beckingham
20 ways of thinking about digital literacy in higher education via @guardian #jiscdiglitMarianne Sheppard
Quick storify from today’s #jiscdiglit programme meeting MacNeill
For #jiscdiglit the top users, links, phrases & usage according to #tweetlevel is MacNeill

Application for Senior Fellow in Learning & Teaching

I think this knowledge is already in the public domain (this would be a promotion with my current University of Winchester role), so let’s give the work of the past few days a wider audience: 

Supporting Statement Dr Bex Lewis: 9th May 2012

Person Specification

I have studied and worked in the HE sector for 18 years, in the position of lecturer for 14 of those, undertaking my first lectures alongside my PhD: ‘The planning, design and reception of British Home Front propaganda posters of the Second World War’. I have worked across a range of disciplines, largely in the Arts and Humanities, including two years with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts at the University of Manchester. I have particular expertise in History and Media Studies, with Education Studies in my first degree informing my continued thinking about learning and teaching. In 2011 I completed the PGCLTHE, and am awaiting confirmation of my HEA Fellowship.

My training as a life coach and mentor has equipped me with a set of skills and theoretical tools about change, encompassing a theory of change stemming from an action research model “that for change to be effective it… must be a participative and collaborative process that involves all those concerned.”[1] I am a regular reader of Times Higher Education, posting relevant story links on Digital Fingerprint since 2009.[2] All of the above has helped me to understand the range of responses to technology among colleagues, and to have credibility as an education developer in the growing field of Technology Enhanced Learning. For more detail check:

University of Winchester Community

As outlined in an assignment for the PgCLTHE, I have developed a strong Community of Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Winchester,[3] in a role which I have expanded from 0.2 to 0.5. In discussions with Keith Mildenhall, I have recently restructured information on the Learning Network,[4] where we have over 170 participants, which we can redirect people to in other communications. I have developed relationships with staff through committees: Learning & Teaching Committee, Technology Enhanced Learning Working Group, and Learning Network Working Group, one-to-one meetings, and at events including Learning Lunches and L&T Days.[5] In 2010 I initiated a successful pilot of a ‘Drop-In-Day’, which has led to Faculty opportunities this year. I developed and undertook a significant CPD programme focused upon the pedagogic use of e-tools, built for staff, but adapted for students, including sessions through Student Services and an increasing number at programme level (Business, TRS, Art Management MA, Research Supervisors).[6] Sessions given so far have caused a good level of debate and discussion surrounding key issues, and I am regularly contacted by staff regarding technology options, especially the use of blogging for reflective practice assignments. I am working with the LTDU Team to enhance our communications strategy, raising the profile of the work that we are doing, internally and externally.

I continue to teach at an undergraduate level on ‘Manipulating Media’, a media studies module that emerged from TESTA, informing the innovative technology enhanced elements of the course, to positive student feedback. I have led the PGCLTHE module on ‘Innovation in IT’ since 2011, providing a mix of pedagogic theory and practical advice, encouraging staff to use appropriate technologies to enhance their teaching. I have worked with Kris Spellman-Miller and the Student Services team to develop SkillsNet, which allows students of all abilities access to skills materials 24/7. I work within a social constructivist model of learning and teaching, which emphasises participation, collaboration, democratisation, transparency, and student-centred activities. I have a particular interest in ‘the 21st century learner’, their experience of technology, ensuring that they are equipped with appropriate tools for employability, which requires being at the forefront of technology developments.

The Wider National Community

I have developed a strong external Community of Practice with the e-learning community through social networking and conferences, both efficient ways to gain insight into the latest findings in the sector, but also spaces in which I contribute. I have raised the profile of the University through conference papers at significant E-Learning events, including the Association of Learning Technologists Conference 2011. I have extensive engagement with JISC, with whom I attend workshops, webinars, and was invited to become a member of the JISC Learning & Teaching Experts Group, and to be a regular super-delegate for its international online conferences. I was on the International Review Board for the Plymouth E-Learning Conference 2011.

I have editing rights to 10 Twitter accounts, with a potential reach of 10,000 followers across those accounts, including over 1600 on @digitalfprint, which consists largely of e-learning specialists, as evidenced in research undertaken with Dr David Rush,[7] I am known for my ability to create ‘buzz’ at events, including e-learning conferences, where it can be hard to stand out, and am attempting to do similar for Winchester events.[8] I am the author of a number of blogs, with combined visitor numbers over the past two years of 450,000, attracting invitations to guest blog, and a search for ‘Bex Lewis’ on Google links to my work for at least two pages. My (Winchester) PhD research alone has had over 300,000 visitors, which has drawn attention across the press, including the New York Times, the Independent and the Daily Mail, the BBC and speaker invitations on UCB Media and Premier Christian Media.[9]

In roles beyond the University, I am the Director of Digital Fingerprint, a social media consultancy that works particularly within the HE and Christian sectors, including digital literacy workshops for the Church of England. I run The Big Bible Project for the University of Durham on a contract basis, encouraging ‘bigger Bible conversations’, promoting digital literacy amongst Christians, a project extended to its third year because of the demonstrable impact on the Christian community. I have a growing profile as a speaker, including invitations to speak in Europe, at which my work at the University of Winchester is often mentioned. For more detail see:

Funding and Publications

I wrote the bid, and am the project lead on a £10,000 JISC project to promote and embed digital literacies with the group ‘Organisational Development in HE’ (ODHE). I am also the Learning with Technology Specialist responsible for the implementation of programme-wide technology enhancements for assessment and feedback as part of the £190,000 JISC project, FASTECH. Previous funding has included L&T funding for SkillsNet, and co-leadership of the JISC funded BODGIT project with the ODHE which investigated institutional change, with a particular focus upon the issues we were having with the implementation of Wimba.

I have both populist and peer-reviewed publications. Specific to learning and teaching, I have two articles in Capture, a journal article on Twitter in Higher Education in the submission process, and have been commissioned to write a chapter ‘Programming Collaborative Learning’, in Marcus Leaning ‘Exploring Collaborative Learning’ (HEA). For more detail see:

Future Plans

With the continuing interest in ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. I am working on converting my PhD thesis to a monograph, tackling that tricky ‘popular-academic’ text. My time within the LTDU is defined by the JISC projects until 2013, and continuing to develop internal resources, opportunities to share practice, working towards further publication opportunities, and contributing to the teamwork of the LTDU. I am in discussions with Stella McKnight with regards to offering social-media focused CPD to local Winchester businesses, on a consultancy basis. If awarded the Senior Fellowship, I would be happy to do this as a part of this role.

[1] Cheung-Judge, M. & Holbeche, L. Organization Development: A Practitioner’s Guide for OD and HR, London: KoganPage, 2011, p35

[5] Giving the L&T Day a wider reach:

[7] Lewis, B and Rush, D.,(2012) ‘Experience of Developing Twitter-based Communities of Practice in Higher Education’ (submitted for review)