In July, Sara Marsham and I travelled to the Enhancing student learning through innovative scholarship conference in Sheffield to deliver a workshop on “The future of teaching and learning”.  Not much to cover in 50 minutes!  The idea for this workshop came out of discussions we had as part of the Learning Spaces Working Group that Sara chairs and I am a member of.  This group was set up as part of the SAgE Faculty’s Science and Engineering Excellence Project Learning and Teaching Review.  The Learning Spaces Working Group was tasked with reviewing our learning and teaching facilities and considering how we can maximise student and staff satisfaction, inspire learning and teaching, and optimise our facilities.

The Edge

The idea behind the workshop was to see whether we could predict how students in HE will learn in the next five to ten years.  We wanted to consider which practices are currently embedded along with those which have been tried but did not become embedded, only become partially embedded or have not yet become embedded.  Then follow this by asking whether the practices that did become embedded had any common features that would enable us to predict which practices are likely to become embedded in the future – useful to know when designing new learning and teaching spaces that we want to last!

We introduced the workshop by explaining our rationale and gave two examples of practices we believe to be embedded (audience response systems and employability) and two which are not, at least not yet (flipped classrooms and game-enhanced learning).  We asked participants to think about upcoming or existing developments or trends in their institution and indicate on a timeline when they were introduced into learning and teaching practice in their institutions.  This led to a very varied set of suggestions from chalk and talk to social media, lecture capture, electronic marking, and virtual reality fieldwork.  It was also interesting that different groups showed similar innovations on the timelines at different points, possibly reflecting the interests of the group members or their institutional priorities at different times.

The second task we put to participants was to identify similarities between those activities that have become widely embedded.  Student demand, ease of use and inclusivity were all highlighted as features of activities that have stuck around.  Lack of appropriate spaces and time to train staff in new technologies were identified as possible barriers.  Behind the scenes support like timetabling was also mentioned as being key.  Something as simple as half an hour to move the furniture in a room can make all the difference to how a session is run.  We were also challenged on our definition of “embedded” in this context – but we left that open for participants to interpret however they liked!

We brought everything together with a final discussion led by Sara.  A final message that came over strongly was that a bottom-up approach, either from students or staff or both, may have more longevity that a top-down push.  You can access all of our slides including the notes from the discussion from either or

What are your thoughts on future approaches to L&T in HE? – leave a comment to let us know of any other activities that have become embedded in our practice at Newcastle, and your thoughts on why these have longevity.

Alison Graham, August 2017