Venue/Time: 21 June 2023, University of Manchester
Network: AdvanceHE_GTA Developers Network
Who: Dangeni, Professional Development Adviser, LTDS
In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, Postgraduates who teach, including Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) play a crucial role in shaping the academic experience of countless students. These passionate educators form the backbone of university classrooms, bringing fresh perspectives and knowledge to enhance the learning environment. My role as a Professional Development Adviser at LTDS involves delivering workshops to postgraduates who teach at Newcastle University, supporting their professional development through the various modules and pathways we offer, e.g. ILTHE and ELTS.
I had the opportunity to attend the Graduate Teaching Assistants Network event at the University of Manchester in June, which brought together researchers and practitioners from different UK universities to share insights and support each other in promoting and developing GTA support. This blog post summarises the highlights and reflections from this enriching experience.
Prior to the event, the organisers facilitated the sharing of materials, resources, ideas and approaches related to GTA development from across the institutions, which can be widely disseminated to various key stakeholders working with GTAs. For example, a practical guide New to Teaching Geography, which oﬀers a starting point for graduate teaching assistants, teaching fellows and demonstrators. Another great example is around measuring the effective teaching through designing a Teaching Observation Form based on undergraduate feedback. These resources already and will benefit GTAs by unpacking the hidden curriculum of teaching and providing practical suggestions for GTAs to take away and implement in their own contexts; it’s also valuable for practitioners like me to reflect on and embed the effective and good practice in our current provision.
What happened on the day
The session began by reflecting on our roles and perspectives, e.g. where we work centrally or in a department, in an academic contract or as professional service staff, is supporting GTAs a core element of our role or something we do in addition to our day-to-day work, understanding that institutional differences and the different roles we play in supporting PgRs with teaching responsibilities require more in-depth discussion and frequent communication to share effective practices and reflect together on potential challenges.
We had key themes running through the day-long programme, such as:
Supporting GTAs within departments, faculties and disciplines across institutions.
The new PSF and its implications for accredited programmes.
D1.1. Use of appropriate Professional Values, including at least V1 and V3
D1.2 Application of appropriate Core Knowledge, including at least K1, K2 and K3
D1.3 Effective and inclusive practice in at least two of the five Areas of Activity
Inclusion and EDI were mentioned, highlighted and discussed throughout the day, including a workshop on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion by colleagues from the University of Sheffield. This training material is a practical tool for GTAs and us to explore prejudice and discrimination and describe how it can occur in everyday teaching and learning contexts.
I presented and shared how we support GTAs through formal programmes and a recently established informal community building event at Newcastle University. In running ILTHE and ELTS and gathering feedback from participants, we found that workshop participants wanted the opportunity to continue to engage with teaching practice and develop their teaching skills after the workshops. This online community has been created based on my teaching experiences as an international GTA and my previous research projects, which looked at GTA, peer-mentoring and researcher development.
What did I think of the day?
The day was packed with insightful, exciting and innovative presentations from colleagues and GTAs from different institutions. I also had many useful resources to take away and great discussions with colleagues to reflect on. Thank you for taking the time to read this GTA-themed blog post. Please get in touch at email@example.com if you’d like to chat about our pathways and your practice!
If you are interested in finding out more about the modules and pathways we offer here at Newcastle, check out the following links:
I am a Professional Development Adviser in the Academic Practice Team at LTDS. My teaching and research focus broadly on the teaching and learning provision in the wider context of the internationalisation of higher education.
I am particularly interested in research and practices around international students’ access, engagement and success in postgraduate taught (PGT) and postgraduate research (PGR) settings.
As the new 2023-24 academic year begins, we’d like to introduce the Digital Exams Team here in LTDS, who lead on the University’s Digital Exams via Inspera. A team of Learning Enhancement and Technology Advisers work together to facilitate digital exams through Inspera Assessment. Inspera Assessment is the University’s Digital Exam system used for present-in-person secure online assessments.
Meet the Team
First up we’ve got Maddie Kinnair who is one of our two Inspera Co-Leads. Maddie joined the team in September 2022 and has worked within the area of Learning and Teaching for 6 years. Maddie first joined HE in 2014 and has previously worked in the School of Computing, HaSS Faculty and within Central Services.
Maddie is also the lead for our peer assessment and feedback tool Buddycheck.
Next up, we’ve got Kimberly May-O’Brien, our second Inspera Co-Lead. Kimberly joined the team in July 2023, having worked at the University since 2019. Kimberly previously worked in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, as well as the central Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team.
Finally, we have Susan Barfield who started working at the University 13 years ago, initially in NUIT as part of the ReCap team, she then joined LTDS in 2019 as lead on online marking and feedback using Canvas and Turnitin, whilst also supporting digital exams.
You can find out more about Inspera and the training webinars and videos available to colleagues via the LTDS website.
LTDS are running an online workshop Evidencing Teaching Excellence for Promotion on 7th September from 2-3pm.
This workshop is for any member of academic staff thinking of applying for promotion in whole, or in part on the basis of their teaching (whether they are on Teaching and Research or Teaching and Scholarship contracts).
The workshop is likely to be of particular interest to academic staff who are, or may be, intending to make an application to the 2023-24 or 2025-26 promotion rounds.
Following a period of evaluation and testing by colleagues from across the University, Vevox is replacing Ombea as the University’s centrally supported audience interaction system from 1 September 2023. Vevox was selected as the preferred replacement for Ombea as it provides additional functionality and an improved user experience.
Some of the benefits of Vevox:
Integration with PowerPoint or standalone web-based software – choose what works best for you
‘Convert to poll’ button in the PowerPoint add-in enabling easy conversion of Ombea slides to Vevox polls
Integration with single-sign-on (SSO) technology to avoid the need for a separate username and password
Integrations with Canvas and Teams
From September 2023, Ombea will no longer be centrally supported by LTDS and NUIT and the software will no longer function in teaching spaces.
Training is available for colleagues who are new to Vevox and audience interaction systems. Initial training sessions will be delivered by Vevox and will begin on 12th September. An additional session is also scheduled for current users of Ombea who need to convert their Ombea slides to the new Vevox format (please note: existing Ombea presentations are not compatible with Vevox). Please click on the links below to sign up to a session:
Yulia Dzenkovska is a Lecturer in Marketing (NUBS) specialising in services marketing and service innovation. Her interest in design thinking dates from her time here as a PhD student when she took part in a careers service design thinking event (EIT Health Innovation Competition) and won first prize! Since then, she has developed her interest in this approach and incorporated it into her module “New Product and Service Development” with great success. She is also the Employability Lead for her Subject Group.
Lucy Hatt is a Senior Lecturer in Leadership Development and Entrepreneurship (NUBS), with a particular interest in the value of the threshold concept approach for entrepreneurship, enterprise and employability educators. She is the DPD for the MBA and leads modules on Innovation, Change and Enterprise which incorporate Design Thinking approaches.
The call for nominations for the 2024 National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) and Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) is now open and the deadline for nominations is 12 noon on Friday 3 November 2023.
The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) is a highly prestigious award which celebrates excellent practice and outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education.
The awards support individuals’ professional development in learning and teaching and provides a national focus for institutional teaching and learning excellence schemes.
The Collaborative Awards for Teaching Excellence (CATE) celebrate collaborative work that has had a demonstrable impact on teaching and learning.
For more information about the awards, including eligibility and the application criteria, please visit the information pages on the Learning and Teaching website:
Digital Exam Support Assistants (DESAs) are PGR students who support invigilators in digital exam venues to help students troubleshoot any technical issues using the safe exam browser software. Safe Exam Browser is software which works alongside Inspera offering a secure ‘locked down’ digital exam. Inspera Assessment is the University’s Digital Exam system used for present-in-person, secure online assessments.
How do DESAs support exam invigilators in digital exams?
DESAs are on-hand to support students and invigilators to troubleshoot issues faced when accessing Inspera for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) exams. Exam invigilators have reported that the presence of DESAs makes them feel more confident in digital exam venues. Feedback has stated that DESAs have been a ‘confidence booster’ and that invigilators ‘couldn’t do it without them’. Invigilators reported that the DESAs were responding to queries quickly which has also been stated by students who had DESA support.
How do students find the DESA support?
39 students submitted their feedback on their Semester 1 22/23 BYOD exam. When asked how satisfied they were with the technical support available in their exam, two thirds of students (67%) reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied.
Students reported that ‘those who requested support were dealt with quickly and there was little hassle.’
How did the DESAs find their experience?
We asked some of our DESAs how they found their experience in the role this year. Check out some of the quotes below:
“I had a wonderful experience with the team. Enough training was given to staff. Would like to work with the team again. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”
“Regarding my experience in the DESA role this academic year, it provided me with a valuable opportunity to contribute to the Digital Assessment Office and engage with fellow students. The role not only enhanced my understanding of digital assessment practices but also allowed me to develop essential skills in communication and collaboration. I am grateful for the experience and the chance to be a part of improving the assessment process at Newcastle University.”
We are pleased to report that the DESA role will be returning in the 2023/24 academic year. This support provision has been crucial in supporting our students with any troubleshooting during their BYOD digital exams. For more information you can email the Digital Assessment Team.
In a recent presentation at the Three Rivers Conference, Learning and Teaching Development Service (LTDS) advisers Gosia Rabenda Derman and Michelle Black shared their learning on collaborative approaches to curriculum redesign from a project they have been working on with academic and professional colleagues in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences (SNES). Read the summary of the presentation, and learn more about the project.