International day of action against Contract Cheating

Today has been  designated as the International Day of Action against Contract Cheating, with the aim of raising awareness about the issue among all members of the higher education community. Contract cheating is a phrase coined to describe the action of a student getting someone to complete a piece of academic work on their behalf, and then submitting it as if they had done it themselves (I more or less copied that from the Contract Cheating website since I couldn’t think of a better paraphrase – full credit to them). The most commonly used approach is custom essay-writing services, which advertise widely among the student population (Newton and Lang, 2016). In the UK, the QAA published a sobering report on this in August, and has made various suggestions about appropriate actions:

Universities, colleges and sector organisations should work in partnership to tackle custom essay writing services. Ÿ

The possibility of legislative approaches should be investigated. Ÿ

Companies selling advertising space should reject approaches by sites selling custom essays, and search engines should limit access to these sites. (QAA, 2016)

At programme level, colleagues can help to work against this kind of activity by emphasising the ethical and moral implications, reminding students of the penalties of academic misconduct, and encouraging students to seek the support provided by the university for them to do their own work. You can check out our plagiarism resource or contact your faculty link for more detailed support.

Newton, P. M. and Lang, C. (2016). “Custom Essay Writers, Freelancers, and Other Paid Third Parties.” Handbook of Academic Integrity: 249–271.

QAA (2016). Plagiarism in Higher Education – Custom essay writing services: an exploration and next steps for the UK higher education sector. Gloucester. http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/Plagiarism-in-Higher-Education-2016.pdf

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Integrating strategic goals in the 21st century curriculum’ – creating a new resource

To help HE academic staff work with the ideas of Internationalising the Curriculum, the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) published a framework in 2014. As some have said, this is an ‘elusive concept’ that can be difficult to make concrete. At MMU we have been fortunate to secure a small funding grant from the HEA to help to build a repository of examples of good practice in internationalising the curriculum and in integrating other strategic priorities (such as Education for Sustainable Development and Employability ). The MMU team, led by Pro-Vice Chancellor for Students Penny Renwick and including staff from CELT (Alicia Prowse), Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care (Neil Carey), Science and Engineering, (Konstantin Tzoulas) and MMU Cheshire (Jason Woolley) are aiming to find at least 8 examples within MMU to begin this, and to invite contributions from other HEIs to further populate this resource.

We would love to hear from any member of staff, or any student, who feels that they may have an example of how their curriculum (in its widest sense, anything from a session, an assessment, a unit, an entire programme or a range of extra-curricular activities) is internationalised. Sometimes this can be quite obvious, but in other cases this could be more subtle.
Examples might include:

• a group of students in Manchester work with a group of students in Uganda by Skype to discuss educational values;
• student discussions of how perceptions of sporting prowess differ depending on the cultural context;
• unit re-design following staff reflection on how students from different cultural backgrounds perceive their courses.

Please do get in contact with any team members or for general queries contact Alicia Prowse a.prowse@mmu.ac.uk

Post contributed by Alicia Prowse, Principal Lecturer in CELT.

Learning to Facilitate Problem Based Learning

David Wright 1David Wright is a Lecturer in Exercise and Sports Science at MMU. When he started lecturing a few years ago, he was introduced to Problem Based Learning (PBL) by a colleague and has since gone onto to learn and use it in his teaching. One of the challenges of implementing PBL is the step change for the teacher. The term teacher in PBL, in fact, is a misnomer (Food for thought (22): Learning through problems with Dr Leslie Robinson) with the traditional teacher role being replaced with a facilitator role.

Here, David writes about how he learned Problem Based Learning and gives advice for those just starting to use it.

See Good Practice Video featuring David Wright and Damian Keil on PBL Continue reading

Preparing your students for Problem Based Learning

Damian Keil - 1

Damian Keil, Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sports Science at MMU, has been using Problem Based Learning, or PBL, for a number of years. We recently made a film with Damian for the Good Practice Exchange, featuring interviews and thoughts of students and staff involved with the initiative to make learning active. Implementing PBL can be challenging, as it requires a step change for staff, but also major shift in the the expectations of students of their educational experience. Here, Damian writes about his methods for preparing students to get the most of of Problem Based learning.

See Damian Keil in action in his Good Practice Video Continue reading

Creative Teaching: Poetry for Reflection

Dr Kirsten Jack recently featured in a film for our Good Practice Exchange in which we focused on her creative use of poetry for nurse education. As many people find out, creative teaching can be quite a risky business and encouraging students to engage in activities outside of their comfort zones can be challenging. Here, Kirsten has answered four extra questions looking into issues of engagement and class management as well as looking ahead at what lies ahead for poetry in her teaching.

1. Do you have trouble engaging students in the challenging task of writing and reading out a poem?
“I think there can be students who are resistant to the process and some students do need more encouragement. I think a lot of students focus on the end product, which is the poem. And it is hard to get the message across that it isn’t about the end product at all, it is about the stages that they go through to write that end product. We know, and our students have told us that it is the drafting and redrafting of the poem that is the important bit, so it is the thinking and the stepping back and the thinking about it rather than the actual poem. We try to reinforce that and keep telling the students that.
I think another way to encourage students to take part is how we write our own poem and when we read our poem too, so we are exposing something of ourselves as well. I think that is very important to promote the fact that we all feel vulnerable and we all have experiences in practice that may be upsetting, that we feel sad about or, indeed, feel particularly happy about, but it is the sharing and the understanding bit that is important.
The other method I use is to say ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Have a go, write something and have a go at reading it out and then tell that you don’t like it, but just try and do your best.’ And I think if you set the scene and encourage the students over a period of weeks, they start to feel more comfortable with you and with their colleagues in the classroom, I think that is really helpful.”

2. Student often talk about very sensitive subjects, how do you manage this?
“Our students tell us that sitting and thinking about how they felt about an experience, writing the poem and redrafting and the rethinking and the rewording helps them to think and revisit an incident in a very meaningful way. I think that is particularly important for the incidents where students talk about something, which may involve a death of somebody, and it may involve the death of a patient that they have maybe got quite close to. So, going over the incident and going over the death and how they felt can be a very cathartic experience for them. They are in a group when they read the poems out, they are with their friends, they are with me, so it is safe environment and it is a way of them understanding that what they are feeling is normal and that other people feel the same. Very often, students will get upset when they are reading the poem out or they are talking about what happened, and they will cry and other students will cry. Sometimes I cry too, but I think that is OK because then the students think ‘well, it is not just me! I’m alright. I don’t need to be any tougher. It is alright to feel these things’, so I think it normalises the situation for them.

3. What do you most enjoy about doing poetry for reflection?
I think the best think about this session and this way of teaching is the meaningful discussions that we have after the poems have been read out and the way in which this style of teaching develops confidence. There is nothing like writing a poem and then reading it out to develop a student’s confidence and a lot of them feel very uncomfortable about it, but once they have done it, usually they are very glad they have done it and they feel better about themselves for having done it.

4. Are there any developments on the horizon?
“I think a way of developing this activity, and this has come from the students, a group of students, about five of them , from the last group that we ran the session with, they wanted to have their poems recorded. So we’ve recorded the poems and what we are going to do is put some animation over the top of that, and they are going to own all of that. Hopefully then we are going to use that as a way of spreading the word amongst nursing that writing poems is a really good way to share experiences about our practice.”


The Good Practice Exchange is an online resource created by CELT MMU to celebrate and share good practice in learning, teaching and assessment by our colleagues across the university. If you or your colleagues have a teaching initiative or aspect of good practice you think would be valuable to share, contact Eleanor Livermore on e.livermore@mmu.ac.uk. Thank you.

Trading Theory for Practice

Last term, we filmed Gavin Brown from the Business School doing one of his Economics lectures. In these lectures, Gavin introduces various theories for stocks and shares prices and movements. However, keen that his students don’t just get a good book knowledge of his subject, he has introduced a way of applying their theory in practice. Here, Gavin expands on some of the points he discusses in his Good practice film, focusing particularly on ethics and research. Continue reading

New resources for Programme Leaders

For a little while, programme leaders have been asking for extended provision from CELT. We have produced quite a lot of resources related to programme design, but we didn’t have too much on programme management. Once we started asking people what should be in the resources, we were bombarded with ideas. We knew programme leaders had a lot to do, but seeing the list of expectations was quite sobering. We’ve tried to work with this list to develop a set of courses and resources which will help.

During the autumn term, we ran workshops for programme leaders and talked to a range of central and faculty support services. As a result of this,  we have developed some new resources which aim to provide guidance on a variety of procedural aspects of programme leadership. These are still under development but it would be really helpful if you would have a look at them and give us some feedback. You can look at the tasks by term, by category or by A-Z.

In addition to this, we’ve almost finished drafting some overarching materials which aim to help programme leaders at a more strategic level. For example, can you actually plan your marking and moderation schedule without having an overview of what you want assessment to achieve? How do you set targets for progression on your programme? What’s the best induction strategy for your typical mix of students? How can you delegate tasks to members of the team if there isn’t a clear approach at departmental level?  We’ll be discussing these at the next set of T50 workshops on 27, 28 and 29 January. Please do come along and contribute to the discussion and development of these programme strategies. Please note that the same workshop is being repeated twice. You can register for these via MyHR; search for T50@MMU – Programme Leaders 2 in the catalogue.

We have also recently updated our resources on programme development, including the sections on writing the learning, teaching and assessment aspects of a programme specification.

And finally, we’re starting a free, open, online course starts next Friday, 16 January for programme leaders and link tutors. It’s open to colleagues at MMU or elsewhere, and you don’t actually need to be a programme leader – insight into programme leadership may also make you a more effective part of a programme team. You can register here or just join in online. There will be weekly webinars at 1pm on Fridays; you don’t need to commit to the whole  course.