Teaching Spaces Sandpit

Do you often feel frustrated with rooms which are ill-equipped or badly set up for your teaching?

Do you want to have your say on teaching spaces around campus?

Estates, NUIT and researchers from the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching have come together to offer academics across the University the opportunity to do just that.

The Teaching Sandpit, to be set up in King George VI Building will give academics the opportunity to try out a new kind of teaching space and to feedback to decision-makers in NUIT and in Estates on what sorts of facilities they would like to see rolled out across the University.

Dave Allsopp from NUIT explained: ‘Usually when decisions are made about what sorts of technical equipment available in or even the basic layout of teaching rooms, we don’t have time to consult with teaching staff, the staff who will use those rooms.

‘This will give us the opportunity to find out what people want and to really engage with academics across campus to find out what sorts of technologies they may want to try out, even what sorts of furniture might work in common teaching rooms and what they might expect or need from spaces across campus.’

The idea came out of research conducted by Ulrika Thomas of the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching, who completed a study with colleague Pam Woolner looking at how students and staff perceived teaching rooms across campus and what the expected from them.

Ulrika explained: ‘Our study was really well-received and its findings have now been referred to the Executive, who want to act on our findings.

‘The sandpit is one idea which has come out of this research, giving staff an opportunity to see what might be available to them, to try it and to feedback on what works.’

The idea of a sandpit came, as Dave explains, from a similar exercise undertaken at Wolverhampton University, in which staff were given the opportunity to feedback based on their use of a sandpit space in which new technologies and layouts could be trialed.

Here at Newcastle the project is looking for:

  • Academic colleagues to deliver one-off small group teaching sessions and road test new ways of teaching using different styles and new technology
  • Professional Support Services to deliver specific training to colleagues in use of new and existing technology
  • Professional support teams to evaluate new technology and furniture engaging with academic colleagues and students to understand how it could be used in the successful design and provision of teaching and learning spaces in the future

Staff can volunteer by filling out this online form, and can discuss requirement with the project team.

Support will be provided by NUIT on technologies offered within the space and all users will have the opportunity to feedback on the experience.

It is expected that the space will not be utilised for normal teaching but perhaps for one-off sessions with 10-15 students.

Colin Fahey of NUIT, who in leading on the project, said: ‘The most important thing is to get academics into the space and get their feedback.

The whole project depends on the engagement of teaching staff, we need them to come along and use the space and to tell us what they found.’

Staff are encouraged to get in touch if they:

  1. Have any proposals or suggestions around innovative technology or furniture that you are aware of and may wish to see considered for inclusion in the space?
  2. Would be interested in trialing the space once it becomes bookable?

The space will be made available for use shortly after Easter 2017 so interested parties should  web-form by Friday 24th February 2017 and the team will contact them with further information.




Peer Mentoring Thank You Event

Peer mentors from across the University gathered at the Great North Museum: Hancock last Monday to celebrate another successful year of the scheme.

Mentors and staff coordinators enjoyed drinks, food and an array of Christmas tunes as awards were given out for the best mentor from each Faculty and for the best Co-ordinator across the University.

PVC for Learning and Teaching Suzanne Cholerton introduces the awards
PVC for Learning and Teaching Suzanne Cholerton introduces the awards

Student mentors were nominated by the students they were mentoring and comments made were displayed on tables around to room:

‘My mentor was always positive and put 100% effort into helping every individual in our group.’

‘It is often more helpful to have a student’s perspective on an issue rather than just a staff perspective.’

peer-mentoring-quotationThe winners were Sachin Anand from Dental Sciences, Anjuli Chatterjee from Newcastle Law School and James Fortune from School of Biology.

The Coordinator of the Year was Alison Graham from the School of Biology.

Peer Mentoring Coordinator Winner Alison Graham, James Fortune Student Peer Mentor Winner and peer mentors from the School of Biology

The festive celebrations aimed to thank all students and staff for the time and effort they put into making the scheme such a success.

Well done everyone!

If you would like to get involved in Peer Mentoring at Newcastle, or you would like to find out more email us.

ULTSEC Innovation Fund Workshop Reminder

LTDS are running an ULTSEC Innovation Fund workshop on December 12th 2-3pm in KGVI 1.36C. You will be given an overview of the fund as well as guidance from the Careers Service about how to employ students for your project. There will also be presentations from successful project teams from previous years who will share details of their project and the application process.

To sign up to this workshop please do so via the following link: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ltds/about/training/ultsecinnovation/workshops/. We would love to see you there.

Further information including key dates and application forms and guidance can be found on the Innovation Fund section of the LTDS website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ltds/funding/teaching/

ULTSEC Innovation Fund Dates Announced


The submission dates for ULTSEC Innovation Fund have been announced for 2016/17.


Autumn – Monday 7th November 2016

Spring – Monday 10th April 2017

Summer – Friday 26th May 2017


Semester 1 – Friday 20th January 2017

Semester 2 – Friday 26th May 2017

We will be running some webinars and workshops which will be available to book on to via the ULTSEC Innovation Fund webpage shortly.

There will also be training workshops giving useful advice on preparing submissions. Please see our website for details.

Meet The Archaeologist: an interview with Prof Ian Haynes

Each year we open up Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier to thousands of new learners.

While we know Prof Ian Haynes as the architect and lead Educator of Hadrian’s Wall, this is only a small facet of his life as an archaeologist!

Ian spoke to Archaeosoup Productions as part of their “Meet the Archaeologist” series – you can find out more about Ian’s interests and projects from this YouTube video:

Ian has made much of his scholarly work available on academia.edu – this can be accessed by creating a free account.

View Ian’s papers on Academia.edu

Find out about the next scheduled dates for Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

Peer Mentoring: Helping Our New Students to Settle In

APL-Induction Pasta
Students Parents meet their Mentees in Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Peer parenting, or mentoring, inductions have taken place across campus.

The university’s mentoring scheme is gearing up for another busy year of supporting first year students through the first term of University here at Newcastle.

The scheme involves recruiting second year students to act as mentors, or parents, to first years offering advice on academic work as well as on other aspects of University experience.

In the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (APL), Caroline Armstrong,  Student Recruitment and Wellbeing Manager, organises the scheme, and the new “families” are all set for the new year.

Caroline said: ‘We call them parents in this school, rather than mentors.

‘We’ve been doing this for years now.

‘I just think that it’s such a good way of helping students to settle in.

‘I pick out the groups as soon as the firm offers are confirmed and students are contacted before they start by their new university “parents”.’

Caroline thinks the scheme is invaluable for new students in the School.

‘Just having someone there, who was in your position last year, to say “it gets better” makes all the difference.

‘Our students, like many others from across the University, are used to being real shining stars at School and when they get to University can struggle as they adjust to new subjects and new ways of thinking.

‘The have a social room, like a Common Room in the School and knowing and socialising with the second and third years can help them to feel comfortable and relaxed in these public spaces.’

The School have recently run their induction event, at which mentors meet their mentees for the first time.

‘We just get them together and they get a tour of the School and then have lunch with their new “families”.

‘To break the ice we gave them spaghetti, marshmallows and fruit pastels and told each “family” [a group formed of two mentors and a number of mentees] to build a structure.’

The scheme is so popular that the “parents” now have “grandparents”, third year students to help initiate them into their parental duties.

‘We might try brightly coloured jackets, to make the mentors really easy to spot in freshers week and to help promote the scheme to our other students.’

Caroline is currently planning feedback meetings, where students will be able to raise any pitfalls or benefits of the scheme.

‘Then it’s already looking forward to January, where we will start contacting this year’s first years to see if they want to parent next year’s students.’

Do you need help or advice about Peer Mentoring? Contact ltds@ncl.ac.uk.

Thinking of applying for promotion based on teaching?

There is a new collection of resources on the LTDS website designed to help you navigate your way through the process and help you assemble a case for promotion based on excellent or exceptional teaching.

As well as collecting together all the useful links from Human Resources, you will find pointers to case studies from people here at Newcastle University who have done it already,  supporting materials such video clips which describe the pitfalls and common mistakes, workshop materials and links off to supporting literature and resources. We hope you will find this collection useful.