Gary Clapton

  • The enhancement of the integration of learning: student experiences of the where, the when and with whom

    Gary Clapton and Ruth Forbes, University of Edinburgh

    Research seminar

    Themes: teaching methods, supporting learners, faculty development methods and/or strategies

    Wednesday 9 September 2009, 09.00 - 10.00 in room 122

    The student learning experience is high on the policy and practice agenda e.g. the Higher Education Academy has published the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning in Higher Education, mandating that higher education staff understand, support and promote the “student learning experience” (HEA 2006).  The enhancement of students’ integration of learning lies within this broad field and specific mention of the value of student - faculty relationships has been made in a recent comprehensive literature review of the student learning experience in higher education. This review called for ‘more studies which take into account affect (students’ subjective feelings about and experience of relationships with their tutors, colleagues, their learning environment) as a key factor in the student learning experience’ (Ertl et al, 2008: 37).  Elsewhere, one commentator on the most recent National Student Survey in the UK has remarked on the relative strength of further education colleges in relation to student feedback, general support and ‘the more personalised attention in colleges than they might do at university’ (Times Higher Education Supplement, 5 February 2009).

    We have known for some time that frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is one of the most important factors in student motivation and involvement (Chickering and Gamson, 1987) yet it seems the issue of the educational value and potential of the relationship between student and academic tutor remains neglected. This issue has added urgency given that the quality of existing contact between students and faculty is under threat because of factors such as increasing student numbers and pressure on academics to meet research and publication demands.  

    In social work, especially in field work education, new ways of relating to students and developing integration of learning are emerging (Clapton et al 2006 and 2008; Clapton and Daly 2008; Dent and Tourville, 2001; Leung et al, 2001; Ku et al 2005).  Our work in this field, primarily focussed on deepening academic tutor -student involvement and relationship during the placement period, has developed to an interest in the wider place and role of academics in the enhancement of student learning, especially the academic tutor – student relationship.

    We have begun by seeking to map the population, processes and experiences involved in student integration of learning across the span of both academia and fieldwork experience. Our method has been to obtain the views of two consecutive cohorts of students that have completed a two year Masters in Social Work programme. We have enquired as to the most helpful people, moments and processes in the enhancement of their learning. 

    We will present preliminary results and observations from this study.