Upcoming events

Tools and strategies for engaging online learners in Mainland China

Webinar, Friday 18th Sep, 3:00pm-4:00pm (GMT)

Facilitated by Zhuo Li, School of Foreign Languages, Guangdong University of Technology

Book Now (limited spaces)

How do we engage students online? What tools and strategies are best suited to students in Mainland China? How do we promote active communication in distance learning?

In this interactive online session, we will look at tools and strategies for engaging online learners, with a particular focus on students in Mainland China. The situation with COVID-19 has pushed many universities into emergency online teaching and learning. Schools and universities have struggled to engage students in online learning; moreover, knowledge of specific learning contexts has become even more important now that many learners are studying from their own countries. The increasing ubiquity of free learning technologies  provides both opportunities and challenges for facilitating this kind of online learning. Drawing on Zhuo Li’s experience teaching university students in Mainland China, we will explore how to design teaching activities in which learning is enhanced by technology. Finally, we will discuss the design of assessments which can inspire students to communicate despite studying at a distance.

Past events

Cryptic Crosswords in Higher Education: Getting to Grips with Puzzling Terminology

Webinar, Monday 18th May 11:00am (GMT)

Facilitated by Liza Weber, Centre for German Jewish Studies, University of Sussex

This masterclass in the art of cryptic crosswords applies to all disciplines, from the sciences to the humanities and everything in-between. At its core is a valuable tool for teachers who would like to help their students not only get to grips with specialist terminology (which any given module inevitably throws up), but also their conceptual frameworks. Indeed, it is about getting close-up and creative with words and their meanings, and at both ends of the classroom spectrum. Where studies have mapped a positive relationship between students mastering vocabulary and their use of “vocabulary orientated activities”, such as crossword puzzles (Morris, 1990), they are said to inspire “a unique sense of motivation in students”, as well as encourage them to engage in both “lateral and longitudinal thinking” (Goh and Hooper, 2007). Catering for different learning styles, cryptic crosswords are enjoyed by visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners alike, who can bring to bear their strong problem-solving skills, stepwise reasoning and multi-task strategies to puzzles respectively. That said, few people take to them, often finding them intellectually impenetrable and/or socially exclusive. But what if they were to learn how to decode the clues and, better yet, in a group setting? During this masterclass, participants will learn the different ‘codes’ of cryptic crosswords—namely, The Anagram, The Double Meaning and The Hidden Word—which they will then apply to a short quiz that serves to recap their understanding, and ultimately application, of key terminology and concepts covered in their own teacher training.

Large Group Teaching: Making Active Learning & Dialogue Possible

Webinar, Thursday 14th May 11am – 12.15pm

Facilitated by Joanna Richardson, Lecturer in Biochemistry

Book now

Many classes still take the form of traditional lectures, often with large groups that can make active learning a challenge. I will describe some simple techniques, which can be used both remotely or face-to-face, on how to make lectures more interactive, focussing on how to use Poll Everywhere to gather real-time student feedback on their own learning, using the ‘Muddiest Point’ metacognitive approach. Running these interactive polls over several lectures creates a classroom dialogue around topics that are interesting or challenging, even in a large cohort in which students are otherwise intimidated from asking questions. Additionally, it can be used to feed forward to later lectures, and ask students questions which test their prior learning. I will also describe the use of Padlet to set clinical case studies for students and provide feedback to stimulate class discussion.

Design, Development and Implementation of ICT-based resources using Pedagogic Pillars

Webinar, Wed 22nd April 2020, 11:00am-12:00pm (GMT)

Facilitated by Bindu Thirumalai, Centre for Education Innovation & Action Research, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.

ICT-based student resources and professional development programme for teachers have been designed, developed and implemented through theConnected Learning Initiative (CLIx).  The initiative aims to improve the education of high school students in English, mathematics and science leveraging technological innovations. The Connected Learning programme adopted a design-based research methodology to conceptualise, develop and implement each of the CLIx modules. The design and development of the modules involved iterative cycles of design, prototyping, peer review, implementing in natural settings to test its quality, relevance and validity. The design of all educational resources is informed by a pedagogic framework referred to as the “Pedagogic Pillars” to support an interactive and learner-centred learning environment. The three pillars are peer learning or collaboration, risk-taking and learning from mistakes and relevance and authenticity of learning.

In this webinar, I will demonstrate how the pedagogic pillars were integrated into the design, development and implementation of the ICT-based student resources and teacher’s professional development. I will use the example of a Geometry Educational Game,Police Quad, to discuss the experiences of implementing the programme in rural schools in India.

Peer assessment: developing a communal epistemic virtue among students

Webinar, Friday 3rd April 12pm – 1pm

Facilitated by Nimi Hoffman,Lecturer in Education

Book now

In this session, I’ll talk about my experience of implementing peer assessment in a postgraduate module. There are several pedagogic reasons for using peer assessment, including internalising assessment criteria, strengthening formative assessment, and students’ learning to take a step back from their work in order to appraise it more carefully. However, to my mind these are all functions of a deeper purpose – developing an epistemic orientation orientated towards communal knowledge production.  

I’ll discuss the notion of epistemic virtues and why the ethos of communal knowledge production is an important epistemic virtue. I’ll then discuss how I structured peer assessment, how students experienced it and the mistakes I made along the way.

Online Distance Learning – How to transition from Face-to-Face Instruction

Webinar, Wed 25th March 2020, 11:00am-12:00pm (GMT)

Facilitated by: Florent Zwiers, Curriculum Advisor, Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia

Given recent events surrounding COVID-19 and the requirements for physical distancing, many institutions around the world now have to suddenly switch to working remotely and from face-to-face instruction to online distance learning. This requires us to think differently and more flexibly about the way that we facilitate learning. For example, online distance learning does not have to be passive and indeed should not be if it is to replace face-to-face learning; online distance learning can be interactive and collaborative.

In this session, we will explore the differences between face-to-face learning and learning online at a distance. Particular questions we will consider are: Is collaborative learning possible in online settings? How does assessment work in an asynchronous setting?

In addition, we will discuss some challenges surrounding online distance learning.

Using Video Assessment: Linking Personal Experience to Theory 

The Quiet Room, Meeting House, Friday 6th March 12 – 1.30pm

Robert James‎, Teaching Fellow in Social Work and Irene Dallaway-Gonzalez, Teaching Fellow Mathematics Education

This session will be about our experience of using video assessments for students on an elective.  Rather than a stand up presentation the students were asked to produce a 10 minute video presentation.  The module involved theory and practice including a volunteer placement in a local community group. They needed to demonstrate reflexivity and link their own experiences and learning to the theoretical parts of the module in the self-made video.

We will discuss the good and bad aspects of this, the technological skills required by students and staff, and some pedagogical aspects of this method as an assessment.

Online Masterclass in Teaching and Supporting International Students

Wed 26th Feb 2020, 11:00am-12:00pm (GMT)


Do you want to understand more about how to create a positive learning environment for overseas students? In many countries, the number of international students has increased dramatically in recent years. For example, in 2017-18, around 36% of all postgraduate students in UK universities were overseas students and this number has continued to increase. Moreover, these students are not evenly distributed from different nations: for example, almost 1/4 of the 458,490 total overseas students in the UK come from China. This provides a range of amazing opportunities as well as a number of challenges. How can we make the most of these opportunities and create an educational environment in which people from all international backgrounds feel welcome? What are some of the challenges which students face and how can we mitigate or address these challenges? In this online masterclass we will discuss research findings and strategies which can help to create an inclusive environment for international students. The session will begin with a short presentation, and then move into interactive tasks in which participants work in small groups to share ideas and experiences, before feeding back to the whole group. A handout with tips for teaching or supporting international students will be provided. Students, teachers, student support staff and everyone in between welcome.

 Inclusive Teaching & Research Methods

The Quiet Room, Meeting House, Friday 7th February 12 – 1.30pm

Led by the Active learning team with participation from Dr Anna Laing,Lecturer in International Development and Dr Ben Fincham, Lecturer in Sociology

This session will cover what works well in inclusive teaching of research methods and what doesn’t work so well. It will include an overview from Dr Anna Laing (International Development and Geography) and Dr Ben Fincham (Sociology) on teaching research methods in their disciplines.

Anna will describe how she used pre-recorded Panopto films with quizzes to teach the ‘how to’ of research methods on a second year module. She wanted to make better use of the face-to-face workshops for practical group-based activities, but also to facilitate an environment of inclusive learning for a range of students with different educational needs.

Ben will discuss a problem he faces with teaching quantitative research to his students. The majority of undergraduates have not realised that the discipline is reliant on quantitative research when they first arrive at university. Indeed many report that one reason that they did sociology is that they assumed it was different from the natural sciences and mathematics. Whilst social science statistics are not similar to either maths or natural sciences this assumption creates high levels of concern in the cohorts of sociology students that are then expected to engage with quantitative methods. In this session will briefly talk about how I engage students that are not comfortable with the technical aspects of this area of their study, but also about my perceptions and more Luddite instincts when it comes to deploying technology in my own pedagogic practice.

Creating an inclusive environment for discussion in large groups

The Quiet Room, Meeting House, Friday 6th December 12 – 1.30pm

Professor Alison Sinclair, School of Life Sciences

Facilitating discussions in large groups is difficult. Whatever the background of the group – students, faculty, professional services – both gauging the level of engagement with the topic and encouraging participation from all members pose challenges for the session leader. It is easy for a single voice or view to predominate and for the rich diversity of opinion and interpretation to be lost. I will provide examples of the value of a simple tool that allows for all opinions to be expressed and collected. We will explore the creative uses of the tool as we work in small groups to analyse the content and impact of a simple document leading to a period of reflection on all of the views.

Digital tools for Learning & Teaching: Open Mic

Wednesday 6th November 10:30 – 12:00, Room 76, Falmer Bar

Come along to our collaborative forum for those who have an interest in the use of technology to support teaching and enrich student learning. If you have something to share you can take the mic, or just learn from others – it’s an opportunity to get involved in conversations around the use of learning technologies at Sussex, network with colleagues and share ideas and practice. Coffee & tea will be provided.

Outdoor learning: Walk on the wildside (with wild technology)

Theme: Small group teaching

The Quiet Room, Meeting House, Friday 8th November 12 – 1.30pm

Dr Paolo Oprandi & Dr Wendy Garnham, Technology-Enhanced Learning & School of Psychology

How can seminars be more engaging and fulfilling for students and tutors alike? This meeting will have the great outdoors as its focus. We will share some ideas and thoughts from academic teaching staff at a range of other institutions both in the UK and internationally that focus on how to make the most of the outdoor environment in our teaching. Smart phone and mobile technology makes activities and discussion possible from remote locations. In this session we will look at the rise of identification apps that have become available . You will be introduced to different types of identification apps which will include audio and visual identification, and music, birds, plants and insects. We will then go on a to use the apps and see what you can identify

Using boundary objects to engage students with challenging conceptual contexts

Theme: Small group teaching

TEL Training Room 133 in Essex House, Friday 11th October 12 – 1.30pm 12 – 1.30pm

David Eggleton, Science Policy Research Unit

Students, like many of us, often have challenges with engaging with extremely conceptual course material. Boundary objects can be used to ease the diffusion from literature to mind. We will briefly look at some of the underlying theory of boundary objects. However the bulk of this talk will be experiential and we will look at two potential tools incorporating boundary objects into teaching. The first is the use of playing cards as a tool for teaching machine learning algorithms to non-technical students. The second, which will form the exercise, is Lego serious play™ as a modular tool for visualising concepts.

Step to Learn: Embodied representation for Learning in Organisations

Theme: Risk-taking in teaching

Friday 3rd May, 12-1pm, The Quiet Room, The Meeting House, University of Sussex

Margarita Steinberg, leadership Coach with a specialism in Psychosynthesis psychology, and Argentine Tango teacher. Margarita’s innovative work with embodied learning is included in ‘Disrupting traditional pedagogy: Active Learning in Practice’, to be published by Sussex University Press in June 2019.

See details

Organisations get stuck, trapped in unproductive patterns, as easily as people do.

How do we promote learning in organisations such as Sussex?

And how do you, as an individual, galvanise the eco-system of your organisation to shift what no longer works?

The risk in organisations is doing WHAT or HOW has not been done before. Safety is (apparently) in keeping to the known: precedent, tradition, existing procedures. What can people in organisations draw on for courage to act differently?

I am not expecting to bestow ready-made answers. Instead, this embodied learning workshop brings you a format for individual-within-collective learning.

That means: Your presence matters.

The version of this workshop presented at last year’s AL Conference focused on learning about situations between two people. This year, we’re going BIGGER!

We will be looking at larger patterns playing out at Sussex, and how you can play a part in adjusting what is stuck.

Bring yourself (+ a friend), your knowledge of Sussex, and your willingness to play and have fun with it!

Tutors, risk-taking and good-practice teaching

Theme: Risk-taking in teaching

Thursday 11th April, 12-1pm, Bramber House room 235, University of Sussex

Dr Chowdhury Shabab: Tasks in teaching can be nerve wracking, but can help students experience deep learning by providing a better example of the ways in which we learn

Active Essay Writing: Risk taking and specialism based learning

Theme: Risk-taking in teaching

Friday 8th March 2pm-3pm, Essex House 133, University of Sussex

Wendy Garnham & Heather Taylor: how do we get students to move beyond mere regurgitation of the lecture or the readings, to develop independent, well researched essays? In the active learning network meeting this month, Heather Taylor and myself will be presenting the active essay writing project that we have been running with Foundation Year students. The project aims to encourage students to take risks in their writing using an approach known as specialism based learning. In the meeting, we will be giving you a chance to experience some of the activities we used with our students and would love to hear your feedback and ideas on this to help us develop the project further.

Enjoying risk-taking and not knowing: Practical ideas to inspire a lifelong love of learning from an early age

Theme: Risk-taking in teaching

Friday 8th February, 12-1pm, Meeting House Quiet Room, University of Sussex

Dr Marcelo Staricoff, Associate tutor, School of Education and Social work University of Sussex, Creator of ‘The joy of not knowing (JONK)’, author ‘Start thinking’ and recent headteacher

See details

The session will share a wide of range of practical examples, illustrated with children’s work, of how learning environments and routines can be established to inspire students to enjoy ‘not knowing’, to embrace uncertainty and confusion, to explore alternative methods of solving problems and to equip students with the lifelong learning dispositions and behaviours that enable them to relish taking risks with their learning.

How can we equip students with the tools, resources, dispositions and freedoms that enable them to feel intrinsically motivated to want to take risks with their learning and with their thinking?

How can students be equipped to enjoy launching into their learning with equal enthusiasm when they feel clear of the outcome and process, they are following, as well as when they have little idea of what their exploration will lead to or know how to start?

How can we equip students with the resources that enable them to enjoy getting to the same end point but after trying out many different avenues to get there? How can we encourage them to venture into the unknown, speculate about the findings along the way and develop their creative and innovative thinking skills?

How can we establish classrooms learning environments in which the teacher feels able to confidently model risk-taking as an integral part of their teaching and learning process?

How can philosophy as a distinct lesson and a philosophical approach to the curriculum and to learning objectives be used to nurture a risk-taking culture in the classroom, beyond the classroom and at home? The talk will illustrate how to use philosophy to create classrooms as communities of inquiry in which students are able to share and discuss their thinking in a safe and respectful environment. Examples will be presented of occasions in which children and teachers changed their minds after considering the thoughts, views and opinions of others!

The talk will show how establishing a  risk-taking culture, helps to develop all the values, dispositions and behaviours in learners that enables them to develop the critical thinking skills that are so invaluable if they are to succeed in and contribute to the sustainability of our world as successful, caring, versatile, and responsible citizens from an early age.

Inclusive Learning
Friday 7th December, 12-1pm, Meeting House Quiet Room, University of Sussex

How can we create environments where people feel comfortable to voice their own ideas and ask questions?

Shared summary of the event can be found on our interactive cork board (Padlet) here. Feel free to contribute helpful links and thoughts on the subject.

The Use of Visual Media in Learning

Friday 9th November, 12-1pm, Meeting House Quiet Room, University of Sussex

Using visual media to help ourselves and others learn

In association with Digital Discovery Week at the University of Sussex

Shared summary of the event can be found on our interactive cork board (Padlet) here. Feel free to contribute helpful links and thoughts on the subject.