• Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: Ten Years of Improving Student Learning Symposia: where has it got us?

    Author(s): Barry Jackson
    Institution: Middlesex University
    Session: Research seminar  

    The Improving Student Learning Symposia have been an important part of the landscape of educational development since the first symposium held in Oxford in 1992. To a large extent the symposia have been successful in drawing together researchers into student learning with those teachers and developers who were interested in using research to inform their practice. Many of the contributors to the symposia are regular, while others have contributed only to a few or to a single symposium. Almost all contributions have been based on reports of research or development activities undertaken by the contributor. Some of these are seen to have continued in subsequent years, but many are not reported further. What happened to these? Did the activities continue, unreported at ISL, or did they change direction, or wind up? What factors influence the continuation of activities?

    This paper is a study of the symposia themselves and their relation to the context which they reflect and report upon . The questions can be summarised as: to what extent have the activities reported at ISL reflected a sustained approach to improving student learning over the period? What are the factors that contribute to a sustained approach, or disrupt it?

    The paper reports a research survey, which attempts to discover the extent to which the projects, case studies and innovations reported at ISL have been carried forward. The survey is intended to throw light on what factors might have a bearing on whether activities continue to progress or whether they wither. The survey will attempt to provide some quantitative indication of the extent to which activities continued after reporting, and the relative importance of reported reasons for failure to progress, but this does not set out to be a robust quantitative study. The survey methodology aims to provide a qualitative view of these factors, and will gather data from a selected sample of contributors to ISL over the ten year period, and from a self-selecting set of respondents on the ISL jiscmail discussion list.

    In discussing the results of the survey and of the categories of concerns, the paper aims to highlight possible patterns, with a view to identifying those contextual features which are likely to encourage, or discourage, the continuation of research or development activities beyond initial reporting.

    The session will start with a presentation of the main features of the research outcomes. In the following discussion period, participants will be invited to discuss the features which relate to their own situation, in encouraging or discouraging sustained research or development activity. Discussion will also ask the question: is it important to have sustained activity, and if so, are there any ways in which events like ISL can encourage it?