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 …

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)

Aaron Porter: The Value of Higher Education in a New Era (@_UOW)

Joy Carter introducing Aaron Porter

Variance of numbers progressing into higher education – NE least likely, SE/London far more likely to (ties into economic value).

Parliamentary Constituencies send everything from 10%-60% to university.

Gender – much more women, but women still earning around 12% less. Also month of birth – September 5% more than August.

More ££, parents read Daily Telegraph – more likely to go.

Tip of a demographic downturn. 10 years of drops in numbers to 2020/21 (4-5%).

Student Numbers: Change over time

Student fees didn’t put numbers off, but there is a tipping point and feels has pretty much reached that point.

Where the money comes from in HE

Oxford/Cambridge could keep going for a couple of years if money stopped coming in today, average looks to hold 3.9% in reserve, but around 12 are in danger (not Winchester).

Some institutions heavily dependent on government funds… Makes them more vulnerable.

Money from research – from 0% to small number get £250k – most because of historical advantage they have. 1 modern university in London has more ethnic minority students than all the Russell Group universities.. Who have most money, etc & therefore could rectify the situation. But these Students – good at getting in to other institutions. Particular problem with white working class boys.

Starting Points: Finish Points

Selection at 11 more likely to ‘succeed’ at 18. Lots of measures of universities on their outcome, but few on the UCAS entry points .. Who is applauding the universities who are getting 200 points to 2:1, whereas 500 points should be a given at first…

Lower socio-economic groups – more likely to stay at home (pre tuition fees), not just cost but not recognising the attainment possibilities.

Most students still attend to get qualifications, get a job, etc a although good number for experience.

Students who want to get into Russell Group not so concerned about subject.. Just want to get in the door. More modern university – more concerned by being at home.

The more likely to vote: the more likely to be in HE

The more participation in elections, more likely to attend uni – not sure what happens first. Government successively cut fees since 1980s…

Choices made much younger e.g. 13 GCSE choices a rules out options at university & therefore late choices.

Graduate Premium by Subject

Graduate premium… Average ££ value after course. Varies by subject etc. figures vary wildly by institution also. Graduate destination data doesn’t vary that much.

Starting salary tends to vary by institution. Interrogate the statistics.. Geography and subject choice makes a big difference (eg arts never pays well).

Consumer Models of Education?

Success in HE – is you making use of the facilities to their best. Gym analogy works – if don’t use equipment won’t get fit (doesn’t matter how much pay) – if don’t take staff advice, use the facilities available – won’t have a good degree experience. Should not be equated with buying a car or a kettle. Lots of debate re cost – but so much more complicated than a simple tuition fee – previous life experience has a much bigger impact.

Important – aspiration & ability – universities CAN take people from all sorts of backgrounds – is still biggest springboard into new world and new opportunities. Bright enough/interested enough – can do what you want…


About 5000 courses being cut because ‘soft’. Definitely thinks universities should consider their portfolio. What is soft/hard is perceptual. Media studies – long derided, but has a great employability record. Media twice as big as pharmaceutical industries in UK.

Statistics = negative. What would say to those re apprenticeships, etc. Stats re happiness, health etc outstrips always. Politicians preach value of apprenticeships but always send own kids to university. Social circles = different world – wider – that apprenticeship can’t offer.

When paying £9k – will employers recognise value of this? In 1960s were saying literacy skills not good. Employers are mostly 80%+ happy with students. If employers want specific skills, should pay on the job. Unis need to be open to what unis can offer re employability… Though not driven by it. Youth un employment Stands at 20%. Graduates at 10% and earnings go up faster, with promotions, etc.

Passion for widening access/opportunities for all – only those universities that are keen to do so. Often written off at an earlier age… So important to continue working with primary/secondary schools to widen access. Important for parents to talk about university (even if not been) & how many books in house – makes a difference. Encouragement at choices at 11 makes a huge difference. Hopefully at 18 student drives the choices. ensure those in state schools get meaningful careers advice (when challenge is getting 5 GCSEs)… Give evidence of data of what university can do for you…

Hard/soft decided at school. Should be encouraged to take those they enjoy, but also good at… Not just those that can get a good grade/economics… Inconsistency in policy – calling for more practical subjects but not giving eg a D&T degree the same power as eg history.

Biggest issue not fees, but the removal of the infrastructure for access – eg Aim Higher = the biggest issue.

What about additional courses for trips, etc. ‘hidden fees’ especially when tuition fee goes up. Becomes less and less acceptable although universities have only same/less money. Need greater transparency around those costs – with a view of removing them. Is cross subsidy goes on – as e.g. Medics costs £17k+, whereas low end subjects £4k – how transparent are unis going to be?

5 years ago not a single care student at Winchester, this year are 18. Don’t sit on hands and say ‘we can’t do anything’.

ALFRED: Launch of Edition 3

You can download Vol 3 of ALFRED here.

Alfred Volume 3

This (just published) volume show cases 17 student papers, including coursework, FYPs and reflection pieces. Topics covered in this edition include a critique of a creative writing degree, paper examining Hindu pilgrimage, a report on the complexity of ADHD, a discussion on the Human Rights Bill, an analysis of Nokia Corporation, a look at Bosnian Theatre in a war zone. The contributors have demonstrated the excellent work produced by Winchester’s undergraduates.

It’s the breadth that matters

I was taught by Nigel Tubbs (years ago) as part of my Education Studies degree.

Liberal arts degrees are appearing in the UK and arousing much interest. Protagonists claim that the wide-ranging education provides more rounded individuals who are better prepared for modern employment. Rebecca Attwood writes

Nigel Tubbs, professor of philosophical and educational thought at the University of Winchester, has encountered a few false impressions when promoting his university’s new degree in modern liberal arts.

One prospective student, confusing liberal arts with creative arts, thought that taking a liberal arts degree must mean that “you dance a lot”.

So, on open days and when visiting sixth forms, Tubbs tries to raise interest in the degree, which imparts general knowledge and develops intellectual skills rather than specialising in one subject. Good tactics, he has found, are asking prospective students if they have found that their own world view doesn’t fit neatly into any of the subjects they are studying; and asserting that degrees that focus on just one subject are “the new kids on the block”.

“We were here in 400BC,” he tells them.

Many of the students’ parents have told Tubbs they wish that they had had the chance to take such a wide-ranging programme, which spans disciplines from art and music to politics, mathematics and cosmology.

University of Winchester at Risk?

Below is University of Winchester’s Senior Management’s response to the Universities at Risk Report which was published yesterday.

The report, titled Universities at Risk, published on 8 December by the University and College Union (UCU) is deeply flawed. The report assesses likely financial difficulty or closure by crudely highlighting the level and proportion of public funding and the numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while crucially ignoring fundamental factors such as profitability, liquidity, student demand and the ability to replace the loss of funding with fees.

It is unacceptable and irresponsible of the UCU to publish this ill-informed report. The University of Winchester, like many of the institutions included on the list, is in strong financial health, is able to demonstrate high quality teaching and research and is continuing to attract high numbers of students. The report has the potential to be deeply damaging to the reputations of the universities identified and therefore their ability to recruit students under next year’s new fee regime.

The University shares UCU’s concern about the removal of HEFCE and TDA funding for large numbers of subjects and the disproportionate effect on particular institutions. However, higher education is about to be transformed by the new fee regime and it will be student demand that will determine the financial health of institutions. The University recognises the scale of the challenges ahead and is well-placed with a strong track record, a distinctive ethos and specialist reputation to compete in the market and ensure its future.

Blended Learning: One Year In

Yesterday, it was 1 year to the day since I started as Blended Learning Fellow at the University of Winchester, and rather than looking at my rather terrifying “to do” list, I thought I’d celebrate what I have done. My contract was 0.2 (1 day per week), until 2 months ago, where I have 12 months at 0.4!

Read my “what I did” list.

Coaching for the PGCLTHE

Later today I will be giving the following presentation, which is an assignment towards my Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching. The event is being filmed as we experiment with possibilities for giving more than text feedback on events..

Once the event is over, I have until 1st April to provide a 1500 write-up, echoing the content in the presentation, but also taking into account questions/responses from the audience, which I anticipate to include most of the LTDU, within which I have my role as Blended Learning Fellow. I will then start work on my conference paper for the Hertfordshire Blended Learning Conference, which will count towards another assignment for the Blended Learning module (which I will be teaching next year). Over the summer I will then complete my portfolio in time for September submission… I can then look out for other personal development courses of interest, including training myself up as a PhD supervisor… I’ve really been enjoying supervising Final Year Projects, so it’s the next natural step, right?

Capture, Alfred, E-Journals at the University of Winchester

Capture and Alfred journals 2009This summer, I was the co-editor of Capture, and on the Editorial Board of Alfred, E-Journals at the University of Winchester. I undertook a number of interviews, re-edited those interviews into workable pieces for submission, re-edited a number of other pieces (including reducing 10,000 word Final Year Projects, to 3,000 word articles, without losing the essential meaning of those articles), and co-wrote an article on Web Accessibility for those with recorded disabilities. These journals have their official launch at the Learning and Teaching Development morning today.

CAPTURE was launched in 2008. It is an e-journal highlighting L&T at the University of Winchester. Material for the journal is collected and edited by staff at the LTDU, and is an important way of the results of L&T funding being disseminated.

See for a PDF of the journal, available to download.

The success of CAPTURE prompted the development of ALFRED which showcases excellent undergraduate student work at the University of Winchester. The HEA have appealed to universities to provide further opportunities for students to engage with the research process, and generate their own research. ALFRED demonstrates how students are undertaking high quality research and gives them the opportunity to have their work published.

See for a PDF of the journal, available to download.

Terry Waite: “Survival in Extreme Situations”

A great talk at the University of Winchester last night by Terry Waite. Terry was in Winchester for a dual purpose for the day, opening a new housing project with Emmaus during the day, and giving an interesting lecture in the evening to a packed-out audience.

I wasn’t taking notes, so this is simply a brief summary of the 4 things that really struck a chord which have remained in mind overnight:

  • In hostage negotiation, Terry Waite would be looking to meet up with the captors, THEN forge a relationship.
  • Waite is very much AGAINST paying money to captors, as he feels this simply encourages further hostage taking, as evidenced since the advent of ‘hostage insurance’.
  • Waite maintained a mantra for his days in captivity “No regrets, no reminiscences, no self-pity”, something which we can all learn from!
  • When asked if his relationship with God had changed over his time in captivity, the answer was “No, God is not an insurance policy”, and at all times Waite had gone into the hostage negotiations aware that he could be captured. (The Christian in me says “yes”, the academic in me says “Discuss” – the two are not incompatible!)

Terry Waite as a speaker.