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  • Academic Best Practice Workshops

    By John E Mitchell, on 23 August 2013

    This year we’ve rebranded the teaching and learning workshops as academic best practice workshops to better reflect the range of activities they cover. We propose to have a range of lunch time workshops and two longer sessions covering specific activities as well as training events.

    First Session

    Using lecturecast and video in teaching – Monday 7th October, 1pm in Roberts 508

    The session will look at how to get the best out of the lecturecast system when capturing lectures both in the lecture theatre as well as through desk top capture. All staff are welcome to attend whether they are new to lecturecast or not.

    Lunch Time Workshops

    Dates are just being confirmed but proposed sessions include:

    • Interactive Teaching Material in Chemical Engineering
    • Case study of lecturetools.
    • Summer studentships

    Training Session

    • Personal Tutoring in engineering
    • Using e-learning tools

    Other opportunities

    As part of the IEP we are proposing to increase the use of problem based techniques across all departments. There are a number of examples of where such techniques are already used in the faculty. To help others develop these techniques in their own teaching we are arranging opportunities for staff to shadow colleagues in other department during these activities. Examples include:

    • Scenario weeks in CEGE and E&EE
    • Programming Robots and Computer Architectures in CS
    • Fluid Flow in Biochem Eng
    • Engineering Thinking and Engineering Design on the BASc
    • Peer Marking in Chem Eng and CEGE

    If there are other examples of good practice that should be shared or you would like to be involved in the scheme please let me know. 

    Teaching in a Promotion case

    By John E Mitchell, on 22 August 2013

    It is vital that any university that wishes to have an outstanding teaching programme appropriately recognises achievement from all grades of staff. Awards and prizes are great for the CV and always welcome, but it is through career progression that real motivation to excel can be produced.

    Within UCL there is a clear route to apply for promotion predominately based on teaching achievement for academic, teaching and research staff. The guidance sets out a wide variety of evidence of teaching achievement that could be used. Despite this, those that have reached senior positions (in Engineering at least) still seem, to many, like mythical creatures, only a few acknowledge their existence, and virtually no one has ever seen one.

    I have met some. All have very different stories to tell as to how they came to this route. It seems that we have a good feel of what a typical research case looks like (we have much more experience and more case studies here), but the range and particularly the depth of activities that could constitute a teaching case are much less well understood. To try and encourage more staff to consider applying through this route, we are organising, with UCL HR, a workshop to look at the specific procedure and draw advice on what a successful case might look like from those that have sat on promotion panels and those that have successfully applied. The workshop is open to all staff.


    Workshop on using Teaching in a Promotion case.
    20th September 2013
    12.00 noon  – Roberts 421, Robert’s Building.

    Eligible academic, teaching or research staff may apply for promotion to Principal Teaching Fellow or Professor on the basis of teaching achievement. This workshop aims to look at the type of evidence that is required to support such a case and to give examples of the broad range of activities that may be used.

    • Overview of Promotion Process
    • Advice on teaching achievement
    • Case Studies of successful cases
    • Q&A Session

    Useful Information

    Anthony Smith: What do we mean by ‘excellence in teaching’ and how can it be measured?


    HEA Best Practice and Guide on evidence of teaching for promotion

    Teaching and Learning Events in March

    By John E Mitchell, on 21 February 2013

    Engineering Teaching and Learning Workshop – Scenario and Problem Based Learning

    Thursday 7th March, 1pm, Roberts Room 422

    Active learning techniques such problem based learning have been shown to be very effective in engaging student,  helping them conceptualise engineering principles as well as encouraging a range of team work and communications skills. This is one teaching technique which the IEP will be looking to make further use of across the faculty, particularly scenario based learning which was pioneered in UCL CEGE and successfully adopted in UCL E&EE. This month the workshop will look at three case studies of this these learning styles from different departments with the aim of leaving plenty of time for discussion and debate.

    Problem based learning approaches to Apps development – Dean Mohamedally, Computer Science
    What we’ve learnt from 7 years of scenarios – Paul Greening, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
    Scenarios: Learning by doing – Benn Thomsen, Electronic and Electrical Engineering

    Please feel free to bring lunch, soft drinks will be provided. Videos from previous talks are now available at:

    Wednesday 13th March, – Social media for academic purposes

    (Denys Holland LT, 13.05-13.55)
    • Nick Dawe (Communications, Museums & Collections) Social media strategies.
    • Anthony Finkelstein (Engineering), on how to use blogs effectively.
    • Claire Warwick (Information Science), Twitter and digital identity.

    Friday 15th March 2013
     – “Perspectives” on Learning and Teaching Virtual & Visible: Blended Learning

    from 2pm-3pm, Rockefeller 337 David Sacks, Please register via STBS

    Using NI LabView in teaching – Thursday 21st March – Roberts Room 422
    EARLY NOTICE – Incorporating Computational Techniques into the Curricula with MATLAB
    Tuesday April 9th from 2-4pm – Room TBC by Loren Shure of MATHWORKS
    Loren is a principal MATLAB developer and has worked at MathWorks for over 25 years. She has co-authored several MathWorks products in addition to adding core functionality to MATLAB. Loren currently works on the design of the MATLAB language. She graduated from MIT with a B.Sc. in physics and has a Ph.D. in marine geophysics from the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Loren writes about MATLAB on her blog, The Art of MATLAB.

    Teaching and Learning Events in January – February 2013

    By John E Mitchell, on 21 January 2013

    There is a lot going on in the next month or so:

    UCL CALT and ELE are launching a new series of lunchtime e-learning workshops, UCL Engineering holds the third Teaching and Learning workshop on assessment, and CALT begin a series of Perspectives on Learning and Teaching.

    Wednesday 23 January ‘Beyond lecture recording’,  from 1.05-1.55pm in the Denys Holland Lecture Theatre, 1-2 Endsleigh Street.

    Thursday 31st January, ‘Efficient and Effective Assessment’ 1pm, Roberts Room 422

    • How to mark 100 assignments and give feedback in an hour – Seb Savory, Electronic and Electrical Engineering
    • Experiences of using peer assessment in a 4th year design module – Eva Sorensen, Chemical Engineering
    • Automating the generation of mathematical questions banks – Tristan Robinson, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
    • Acknowledging learner perspective in higher education: the importance of assessment for course design – Nihal Bayir, Chemical Engineering

    Videos from the last set of talks are now available at:

    Face to face with mobile technologies

    Wednesday 20th February – Face to face with mobile technologies
    (Denys Holland LT,13.05-13.55)

    Paul Burt (ELE), Technology in face to face learning environments.
    Christian Spielmann (Economics), iPads for lectures.

    Thursday 21st February, ‘“Perspectives” on Learning and Teaching: Student-Centred Assessment’ from 2pm-3pm, Foster Court Room 130, Please register here via STBS


    Learning Outcomes

    By John E Mitchell, on 16 January 2013

    In the process of trying to define the content of course, the box on the form marked learning outcomes, is perhaps the one that causes the most frustration and confusion amongst academics. However, if done well they are be a powerful tool that can be used to help students understand what they need to learn within the course and help staff to create assessment that really aligns with what we’d like students to be able to do.

    Here I’ve tried to boil down to a few very basic pointers on what is useful to think about when defining learning outcomes in Engineering. There is a very good guide and rational for their use on the Higher Education Academy website called – Using Learning Outcomes to Design a Course and Assess Learning Outcomes.

    • Learning outcomes are what the student should be able to do as a result of taking the course, ideally something that is measurable. So typically an action rather than a concept.
    • Although understand is the first term that comes to mind this is often too broad a term covering a range of different levels. If a student has the understanding you are looking for what would they be able to do? If it is about knowledge they might be able to describe, define, list, recognise, explain, select, identify or sketch. For application they might choose, apply, determine, solve, use, perform, recognise . Analysis might require student to be able to calculate, measure, criticise, differentiate, evaluate, compute, analyse, conduct and experience to, contract, test or appraise. High level activities would require students to formulate, create, propose, develop construct, assemble and design. There is a much better list in the link above, but hopefully this gives some ideas.
    • Where possible be specific (within reason). If you would only expect the student to be able to solve the problem in 1 dimension or for 1st order problems, say so.

    Even the process of thinking these terms through can be useful, perhaps giving inspiration to set a different sought of coursework, to teach the topic in a different way or to attach a more interesting or engaging sort of lab to the course that really challenges to the student to put into practice the concepts that have been taught.

    Engineering Education: Changing Education, Change the World.

    By John E Mitchell, on 29 March 2012

    Engineers have always driven change and will continue to do so, making life better by advancing transport, healthcare, communications, impacting on all spheres of life. But what tools and skills will current Engineer students need so that they will be changing the world in 20 or 50 years time? Are our current programmes providing the best possible education to enable these world changers? These are big questions which are not easy to answer.

    We know that the world’s big problems don’t respect disciplinary boundaries, we’ve been saying it for a long time. We talk about cross-disciplinary this, interdisciplinary that and trans-disciplinary the other, but how should we equip our graduates to operate in this multi-disciplinary world?

    Although we offer highly regarded, rigorous programmes that are performing well against all the usual metrics, make more connections at a faculty level in the provision of teaching and learning could enhance the student experience and better equip our graduates for their broad range of future roles. Currently, we are reviewing how this can best be achieved. We have a foundation of excellent teaching but from this we want to develop a framework where common elements, discipline mobility and interdisciplinary working are part of the experience.

    It’s clear that any changes must:

    • Provide added value to the graduates produced by the faculty
    • Result in no loss of rigour in the Engineering Science of the degrees offered
    • Improve the student experience
    • Produce a distinctive, UCL educational package
    • Produce graduate Engineering leaders capable of looking at complex engineering problems across multiple disciplines but with a deep rooted understanding of a specialist discipline
    • Be clearly aligned with the areas of research excellence of UCL Engineering
    • Meet the requirements of all appropriate accrediting bodies

    Not much to ask then. But then if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.