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Developing a strategy for an LGBT+ inclusive STEM Faculty

Project leader(s): 
Clem Herman
Faculty: 
STEM
Body: 

The project aims to address an area of equality, diversity and inclusion that has received little attention within the STEM Faculty to date, namely identifying and addressing the needs of LGBT students. This is being designed as an Action Research project in partnership with OU Plexus, the OU’s LGBT student association. Thus the initial phase of the project will be to scope out exactly what are the issues and problems to be addressed and how we will investigate these. Some indicative areas of work are outlined below, but these may evolve following our initial scoping meeting. The impact of the work is likely to be a strategy for LGBT inclusion that can be adopted by the STEM Faculty, including perhaps training and awareness raising for staff. Ultimately the intention is to ensure that LGBT students are able to enjoy a positive learning environment that enables them to achieve their study goals.  

Theme: 

Evaluation of service management simulation activities

Project leader(s): 
David Bowers
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

The aim of the study is to understand the effectiveness in developing communication skills of two activities in a new module TM254 that use gamification to simulate a service management challenge. 

In the first simulation, students are assigned, arbitrarily, a role within a group of 5 “managers”.  All students in the group receive one email a day, over a period of 2-3 weeks, which may be a “noise” message addressed to everybody, or may be directed specifically to their role.  In the latter case, they can choose one of four responses.  To cater for students who cannot access email on any particular day, there is a default response of “do nothing”, triggered overnight if there is no other response.

The second activity is an online simulation in which only role-specific messages are seen. Participants see all messages sent to each role and the possible responses, and choose how each role responds.

Both simulations are designed to demonstrate the importance of engagement with the underlying scenario and prompt communication (responses) to the specific messages.

All students will be able to access the second activity, and run it several times; a TMA question will ask them to comment on what they see as the important factors in the simulation, that can help avoid – or promote – disaster, and thence, on the importance of effective communication within an organisation.

The first, email-based, simulation is optional for the first (18J) presentation of.  This study seeks to understand the benefits and challenges of the two simulations and, in particular, whether the, more realistic, email-based simulation helps students to understand better the challenge of picking out important messages from background “noise”. 

The outcomes from this study will inform refinements of the activities for future presentations of TM254 and other modules with requirements to develop effective communication.

David Bowers and Matthew Nelson presentation

Theme: 

Student development and perceptions of employability skills in stage 1 science

Project leader(s): 
Fiona Aiken and Chris Hutton
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

Radar diagrams are used on S112 for students to self-assess and reflect upon their skills development – every TMA contains a task on this. Students complete the radar diagrams by self-assessing their skill level on a number of parameters on a scale between 1 (low) and 10 (confident)– this is then automatically converted to a radar diagram, where skills are grouped onto a radar according to the learning outcome they are associated with. The aim of this proposal is to use two of these diagrams as proxies for student awareness and development of employability skills: PPS2 (commenting on others’ work, contributing to discussions, working in a team, sharing digital content, business/customer awareness) and PPS3 (time management, PDP, reflecting on feedback, reflecting on practice).  The importance of employability skills is well documented in the current HE landscape (Wakeham, 2016,2017), and this project sets out to assess how students on S112 develop and perceive a subset of skills pertaining to employability. The research questions addressed are:

  1. To what extent do S112 students demonstrate development of employability skills through S112? (Determined from TMA submissions)
  2. What are S112 students’ perceptions of their employability skills development through S112? (Determined from student radar diagrams)

We will recruit four S112 tutors to track and collate their students’ responses to the radar diagram questions on TMAs 1-6 for their student groups; after obtaining expressions of interest from S112 tutors on the Esteem register, they will be asked to poll their group to contain student consent – only tutors with groups showing a minimum of 50 % (10 / 20 students) will be eligible for selection to take part in the project. This data collection will involve the ALs completing an anonymous pro-forma of the responses of their students to the radar diagrams being used in the TMA. This will involve the four ALs collating their students’ answers to the relevant TMA question from each TMA, recording their marks, and also providing summary data (response rate to the question, and any overarching comments.) They will also be asked to log their own responses to their students’ perceptions of the radar diagrams.  This will allow the capture of students’ perception of their improvement in their employability skills throughout the module.  At the end of the 18J presentation, the participating student groups will be asked to complete a questionnaire and be invited to a focus group in order to enrich the findings. The same questionnaire will be sent to a control group of students from TGs which have not participated in the project – this is to control for implicit / conformation bias in the TGs participating (e.g. tutors participating will be likely to have presented radar diagrams very positively to their students). The tutors will also be asked to participate in a focus group to add their perspective and triangulate evidence; finally, tutors will be asked to each contribute a short evaluative report. 

It is intended that the findings of this project will help inform future use of radar diagrams for skills development, both on S112 and potentially more widely in STEM. It is anticipated this could be both making recommendations for how they are used in a module / assessment, and how they are presented to students. There is also the potential to develop radar diagrams as a means of supporting student progression to their first level 2 module, by enabling a skills audit with the next tutor. The research findings will be shared in the Faculty (e.g. with the Stage 1 Module Chairs group; the STEM Boards of Studies; at the eSTEeM conference) and more widely (e.g. with the Scholarship series, in addition to externally HEA STEM conference / Horizons in STEM).


Wakeham, W. (2016) Wakeham review of STEM degree provision and graduate employability [Online],HM UK Government. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/518582/ind-16-6-wakeham-review-stem-graduate-employability.pdf  (Accessed Aug 2018).

Wakeham, W. (2017) Keynote presented at HEA STEM Conference 2017: Achieving Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Manchester, UK, 1-2 Feb [Online]. Available at https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/downloads/prof_sir_william_wakeham_hea_stem_conference_presentation.pdf (Accessed  Aug 2018).

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