All posts by john

New visual learning website

My colleague Pauline Ridley has launched a new Visual Learning website.

As well as the content itself, the thing I like best about this website is that it extends the life of materials Pauline and others developed at the Learn Higher Centre of Excellence in Teaching (CETL) funded in the late 2000s. Sadly, many of the great resources developed by these centres have disappeared entirely  from the internet, or are archived on websites not updated since their funding ended. Pauline has done (and is doing) a great job to reinvigorate this important work.

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Who decides if I am a qualified teacher in UK Higher Education?

Disclaimer: This post outlines my personal thoughts on the issues discussed.

In October 2015 I wrote the post ‘Am I a qualified teacher in UK Higher Education?’. The focus of that post was on the inconsistencies of the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) categories of ‘qualified teachers’. Everything I wrote in that post is still applicable and the ‘percentage of qualified teachers’ (based on the HESA statistics) is used by universities to set internal targets and to benchmark themselves in the sector. Although not a metric in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) it was widely cited in university narratives concerning the quality of  teaching.

The more fundamental question however is who decides who is a qualified teacher in higher education? (I’ll avoid any distinction between ‘qualified’ and ‘recognised’ here). At one level the HESA categories are accepted by the sector simply because universities have to supply this data. However, anyone on the inside understands that not all the qualifying categories are created equal; in my view this entirely reasonable—after all why should someone who trained to teach 3-year olds in France (for example) be considered as much a qualified teacher in UK higher education as someone who has completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in HE? Eventually, the comparisons get more problematic; we estimate that it is about 30 hours work for an experienced teacher to put together an application for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), whereas the PGCert in Learning and Teaching in HE for our ‘inexperienced’ lecturers is 600 hours work (3 x 20 credits at Level 7), but both qualifications tick the ‘yes’ box on the HESA return. Although the FHEA (experienced teacher routes) are focused on higher education, is it a more appropriate qualification for teaching in HE than a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) for teaching in a secondary school which is 600 hours work (if 60 credits at Level 7)? It is clear the secondary school teacher must have evidenced a greater understanding of teaching and how students learn than the experienced HE lecturer, albeit for a younger age group.

Part of the reason this discussion takes place is simply that there is no authority on the subject. University senior managers can (and do) make different judgements about what teaching qualifications a university lecturer ought to have. Some will insist on the HEA Fellowship and others will be satisfied at anything that ticks the HESA qualified box. The degree to which such requirements are enforced varies too.

In some respects ambiguity on the subject might be welcome. After all, why should the Higher Education Academy (now Advance HE though the FHEA nomenclature will remain for the time being at least), have a monopoly on HE teaching qualifications? Why shouldn’t other agencies set up alternative schemes which have an official stamp of approval as HE teaching qualifications? Some professional bodies already require teachers to have professional certification in the teaching of their subject (can be recorded in HESA under 08: Accredited as a teacher of their subject by a professional UK body.)

In other areas of life qualification is straightforward. I have a full UK driving licence issued by the DVLA in Swansea following a practical examination. Nobody else is permitted to issue licences in the UK. I can’t set up my own vehicle licensing agency or look for an agency with lower fees or easier standards. I can’t self-declare than I am a qualified driver on the grounds I have experience of driving a car unlicensed, or that driving a go-kart at a karting centre is the equivalent of being a licensed driver. Should I wish to drive a lorry or a bus I’ll have to take further tests –I can’t make a case that driving a 40 tonne articulated lorry is basically the same as driving a family hatchback. If I am caught abusing the the privilege of my licence , e.g. through speeding or dangerous driving my license (and thereby my qualification) can be taken away. A similar fate would await me if I’m caught driving a bus or riding a motorbike as I don’t have any right to these vehicles.

In some professions a list of qualified practitioners is publicly available. For example I can go to the General Dental Council website and look up my dentist. I can see his GDC number, the job he is licensed to do (dentist), where he trained and when he qualified. If he is found negligent or unfit to practice dentistry at at any time in the future he will no longer be allowed to practice.

So where does this leave HE teaching qualifications? Will we continue in the current ambiguity of the HESA categories? Will we have a licensing system where there will be a definite judgements or who ‘is’ and ‘is not’ qualified? Will we end up with a system of rival organisations offering their own licensing and accreditation as has happened in boxing over the past 60 years? 

Irrespective of the way forward a number of issues remain:

1. Most universities (though not all) require new inexperienced teaching staff to undertake a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in HE. At some point in the distance future, we may reach a point where most teachers in HE have this qualification.

2. ‘Grandfathering’ of unqualified experienced staff. Not everyone will agree with me here, but in a sense the FHEA regularises staff who do not otherwise have a qualification. Some (probably not anyone who does a job like mine) might argue that those in post before a certain date should be automatically regularised in some way, but I think it is completely reasonable to expect all teaching in HE to undertake an HEA Fellowship. Could the HEA Fellowship for experienced staff eventually disappear as it ceases to be needed? Will it remain, but cease to be a ‘normal’ route in about 20 years time?

3. Good standing in HE Teaching-- at present there is no mechanism or requirement for demonstrating continued ‘good standing’ in HE Teaching. Similarly it is not possible to be stripped of an HEA Fellowship for misconduct, incompetence, criminal behaviour or other misdemeanours.

4. Does there need to be a sector wide agreement about who is and who is not qualified teacher? It might be argued that the HESA categories already do this, albeit in an inconsistent way. However, while HEA Fellows can be readily checked, there is no systematic way to check the validity of other things colleagues might claim to be teaching qualifications. These vary from the ‘a PhD in my subject makes me a qualified teacher’ argument to ‘I took a 2 day course in 1990 and wrote an essay about my lecturing’. Do we need to have ‘uncertain qualifications committees’ which rule on individual cases?

5. How can HE teaching qualifications be monitored and regulated to maintain standards in the longer term?

6. What is the exact nature of the relationship between teaching qualifications and student learning experience? What does it mean for a student to be taught by qualified as opposed to unqualified teachers? This question needs substantial treatment and I’ve just noticed this is just the second time in this post I’ve mentioned ‘students’!

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The perils of pie charts

NB: This post is about the problems of pie charts and is not a criticism of the hard-working people at Hailsham Town Council.

A few years ago I came across Stephen Few’s Save the Pies for Dessert article on the perils (and general pointlessness of most pie charts).

My local town council has just provided a gift illustration for the useless pie chart in a recent newsletter.

I’ll just outline some of the numerous problems with the chart:

1. There is no indication of how much money will be spent in each category, so we don’t know the overall size of the pie (perhaps they don’t know yet).

2. There are 29 categories. This means that 29 different colours are needed in the key. For example, four shades of light blue look to same to me. I don’t know which slice refers to Hailsham Revitalization, which to Election Costs, which to Outdoor maintenance and which to Hellingly PC subsidy. I am not colour-blind, but I cannot tell the difference.

3. Some the categories are so small they can barely be seen.

4. The main thing I can decipher is most money is spent on something green, something blue and something yellow.

So what is the alternative?

In this case it would be preferable just to list the amount of money (or percentage of the budget) being allocated to each category. If a visual representation is really needed a bar chart would be preferable.

Are there any real reasons for using pie charts?

1. Some readers might understand the budget better visually, but with 29 categories they would need an incredible eyesight and and superb ability to distinguish colours.

2. They might be useful where there are a small number (<5) of categories. However, the data would probably be still be better presented as a table.

3. They can be very pretty and use up some space.

Can it done worse?

Yes:

1. In black and white/ greyscale.

2. Using spreadsheet's 3D pie chart feature (It looks nice but the perspective distorts the proportions.)

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Toby Young: Why do we expect so little of leaders in education?

Warning: This post contains words I don’t usually employ in my writing.

It is part of my job to write about higher education. Other than being a governor I have no experience of working in schools and I have tended to lay off discussions about actual teaching in schools. By and large this is out of professional courtesy. On the other hand I have been vocal about the academisation of schools to a point where which a fellow parent on Facebook called me ‘boring’ or something to that effect. To me this is a justice issue-- others may regard an interest in school governance with about as much enthusiasm as I have about manhole covers, telegraph poles and Strictly Come Dancing.

One person who has never had professional courtesy qualms is journalist Toby Young. Until last week Toby Young was little more a controversial sideshow as far as I was concerned. I do follow him on Twitter and have been irritated from time to time and was not impressed when he was appointed to the Board of the new Office for Students. However, I regarded it as nothing more than the usual cronyism that I’ve come to expect, not just from the current administration but previous ones as well. However, some of things that Young has written over the years has come to my attention.

I seek to keep my children out of things, but this quote struck to heart my own situation.

I am a white man. My wife is black. Our children are therefore mixed-race and one is autistic. I don’t have the privileged background of Toby Young, but I’m having to come to the terms with the realisation that my children will (possibly already have) experience discrimination for the colour of their skin. As a naive 18 year-old growing up in (mostly-white) rural Gloucestershire I thought racism was mostly a thing of the past; now it seems more prevalent than ever, though perhaps it was all too easy to be complacent there.

Toby Young gave me my first break in television

An even harder thing to stomach is when bad attitudes come from ‘professionals’. As (former) CEO of the West London Free School Toby Young is one of those people I expect more of, not less. I don’t know what parents of children at West London Free School think or even know about Toby Young, but I hope that anyone at my children’s schools wouldn’t last five minutes after publishing the above. Young is what the previous would have called incontinent. He tweets about women’s cleavage, porn films he’s been watching and there’s even a joke (presumably) about masturbating over footage of starving children during a Comic Relief feature (He really did say that though he used an alternative word).

Another thing hard to stomach is the double standards.

In 2013 17-year old Paris Brown was forced to resign from her role as Kent Youth PCC over comments she’d made on Twitter in the past. Jack Manyard (he’s a youtube star apparently) was forced to leave ‘I’m a Celebrity 2017’ over sexist, racist and homophobic tweets he’s wrote between the ages of 16 and 19. I’m not excusing the behaviour of these younger people (I dread to think what I might have written had Twitter been around when I was 16), but they have not been given a second chance when their indiscretions came to light. Toby Young doesn’t have have the ‘excuse’ of youth. His comments were made in his 40s and 50s. Instead he is a champion of ‘free speech’ and ‘caustic wit’ (to quote Boris Johnson). Have we reached the point where the standards set by an entertainment show exceed those expected of those who run schools? MP’s including the HE Minister and the Prime Minister herself have rushed to Young’s defence pointing to his past achievements - I’ll leave aside the question of whether his achievements somehow outweigh his opinions though if Young can use that defence it must be available to Jack Manyard, Paris Brown and everyone else as well.

There are many sorry lessons from this ongoing debacle. The first is that privilege of birth does not evaporate over time. The second is that a right contacts to attain positions of influence over much better qualified and accomplished individuals. A third lesson is that the right friends can exempt a person from the need for good character. Fourthly, and probably most frightening this is a man who runs schools. He should be the right sort of a role model for young people.

A friend once sent me birthday which read, 'Blessed are those who expect nothing. They shall never be disappointed'. The final question: Why do we expect so little from our educational leaders?

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Reflections on career and realisation of privilege through building with LEGO®

A couple months ago I wrote a short post on drawing following a session on visual research methods led by my colleague Pauline Ridley. A couple of weeks ago I attended a session led by Professor Alison James from the University of Winchester who is, among other things, an accredited facilitator of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

Visual methods offer the opportunity to convey concepts that are difficult to communicate in written or oral forms. As I indicated in my last post, it is not the purpose of visual methods to interpret artefacts that participants have produced but to enable participants to use their artefacts alongside other methods.

In the session Professor James set the brief along the lines of building a Lego® model of our professional lives and the (not great)  picture shows what I produced.

 

I am the character at the edge of the room, which is dominated by an elephant. I didn’t have a any particular views of what the ‘elephant is the room’ represents, but there always seems to be some elephant in any room I happen to occupy. ‘I’ am waving some Lego piece which seeks to represent a distance communication device trying to communicate over long and short distances. All, but one of the Lego® people have their backs to me. There is Baudrillardian sense of my trying to communicate while no else wants to listen. My audience, whether students, colleagues or potential readers of my research don’t seem to want listen while I am communicate things I think are important. They are interested in, or distracted by things like giraffes or giant penguins.

On reflection this representation is a highly egotistical one. I have set myself as the one with message to communicate while everyone else is just supposed to listen. I’m saying “Hey, look at me! Look at me!”, but no one is really interested in looking at me. There are more interesting (and possibly more attractive) things to be looking at. My audience is either distracted by more entertaining pursuits or, more probably, trying not to get eaten by the sharks that circle academia. In ‘real life’ everyone else is trying to communicate too, and perhaps to them I’m the one who is distracted either by the trivialities of my research interested or fighting my own sharks. Although wheelbarrow and sink unit represent my home DIY projects,  the model is notable for the absence of any meaning outside academia. I can feel like a marginal voice in academia, but academia is itself invisible to wider word whether for seemingly legitimate reasons such as major economic and political events or the outrage about Zoella’s £50 advent calendar (now half price + 100 Boots Advantage points) .

There are those with no voice at all and no means to communicate. I sometimes get a persecution complex, but as a university educated white straight male I have my back turned to a lot more people than I am facing. The model clearly fails to convey my own privilege. Perhaps a fairer model would have millions of Lego® people standing behind me.

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Please ensure that all furniture is returned to the original position

Please ensure that all furniture is returned to the original position.
Please ensure that all furniture is returned to the original position.

Please ensure that all furniture is returned to the original position

Instructions such as this are very common in my own institution and many others I visit. I have been pondering this for a while and have been trying to think of the rationales for doing so. In the example shown the tables are on wheels and are easy to move, so the assumption exists that there will be some sort of furniture movement. But why does the furniture need to be moved back into the original position in time for the next class.

Possible rationales for putting the furniture back to the original position.

  1.  May make it easier to move furniture into a wider variety of configurations for the next class
  2. May make it easier for cleaning staff (though this rationale would only make sense for the last class of the day).
  3. Maybe the default position the most versatile for effective teaching if you don’t have the time/ inclination to start moving furniture around.
  4. It restore orders to the untidiness of furniture all over the place.
  5. It ensures that furniture is not left in places where health and safety will be compromised.

Issues raised by the ‘original position’ directive:

  1. Is it possible that the default position is seen by someone as the ‘ideal’ layout for using the classroom effectively?
  2. Might some teachers presume that the original layout is somehow pedagogically researched as appropriate for the type of teaching than will occur in that learning space?
  3. In some cases the original position is different in each classroom. In some classrooms of quite similar sizes and capacity the ‘original position’ is in groups as in the photo. In others the original position is in rows. For others still users are requested to restore the tables and chairs to a horseshoe position.

Why does this matter?
I suppose one of my questions is ‘Does it matter? I must admit I don’t particularly like to come into classroom  where tables and chairs are strewed all over the place, often making it difficult to get to the front of the class. On the other hand if the original position is seen as the way the furniture is ‘supposed’ to be used is this suppressing creativity on the part of teachers and students?

Most of our universities building where built before the age of PowerPoint and smartboards, some before slide projectors and Overhead projectors (OHPs), (see below), but I've only started noticing the instructions about the correct position in the last few years.

Saw this today on campus. An overhead projector. Looks new. Crazy.

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Representing learning visually

I’ve been running workshops on research methods for some years now, but have done very little on visual research methods. My colleague Pauline Ridley recently ran a session on visual methods for our PGCert participants which I rather enjoyed. Visual methods can be useful in representing hard to verbalise experiences, visually abstract concepts and representing processes. Pauline was very keen to point out that the purpose of visual research methods is not for the researcher ‘to interpret’ visuals produced by others, but to use visual methods alongside methods focused on written or spoken language.

My two attempts to draw the concept of ‘learning’ (as challenged by Pauline) appears below. (A discussion of my drawing abilities would require a more substantial blog post).

Representing learning visually
Representing learning visually

The first image represents a very traditional image of teaching and learning. A teacher (on the left) talks and ‘transfers knowledge’ to the seated student who makes notes. It is interesting that this was the first things that came to mind as I has spent many years emphasising the need to escape didactic knowledge-transfer approaches to learning and teaching.

The second image was inspired by a remark made by Mark Goodwin who was my personal tutor during the second year of my geography degree at Aberystwyth. He said something to the effect, “It’s called reading for a degree for a reason... you are supposed to read”. (The image is supposed to be of a person reading a book). That utterance took less than 10 seconds to pass his lips, but it is something I’ve never forgotten and pass onto others.

Further Reading
Pauline Ridley and Angela Rogers(2010) Drawing to learning series (Open Access)

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Degree programmes for the future: Inter-galatic Communication, Space Tourism or Hoverboard Design?

What do you get if you put together a group of academics from various disciplines who’ve never met before than ask them to design a degree course for the future? Not a degree in space tourism, intergalactic communication or hoverboard design, but a course which addresses a very immediate concern – that of the global ageing population. That was the challenge for our multidisciplinary group at the recent University Alliance ‘sandpit’ event at Nottingham Trent University.

Hoverskull - Jonas Bødtker

Not for the course we designed!

I will not get into a discussion about whether our present degree courses, bound largely in ‘disciplines’ which emerged in the latter quartile of the nineteenth century are fit for the present, let alone the future. Our brief was to cast off our collective baggage and come up with a degree programme which would somehow address a present challenge –namely that people are living longer and an increasing proportion of the world’s population consists of older people.

The only real rule in our brief was that the programme had to be at undergraduate level degree. We didn’t have to worry about whether the programme fitted in with any existing (real or imagined) institutional regulations.

The degree my group designed was called ‘BA (Hons) Lifelong Learning and Consultancy’ – I’m sure that given more than a two days, we would have been able to come with a catchier title for the programme. The proposed programme is aimed at older learners, possibly those who have recently retired from the police or armed forces, have been made redundant from ‘traditional’ industries or are just wanting a new challenge. Is was envisaged that learners would use their existing skills and experience to assist younger students on ‘traditional’ degrees and to work with community groups. The assessments would be largely project-based and by the end of the programme graduates would be able to facilitate learning and change in range of organisations as well as being able ‘deliver consultancy at a professional level’ (a direct quote from our programme proposal form!).

Module grid for BA (Hons) Lifelong Learning and Consultancy

At the end of the two days the facilitators expressed excitement that each group had managed to produce a plausible degree programme. The question then arose about why these things take so long in real practice. On this occasion we had the advantage that we had all allocated two days to this exercise, and by our very attendance at the event we were sufficiently open-minded to believe that something could be achieved. Unbound by the fetters of our institutions’ rules and regulations, no ideas were rejected on the grounds that our plans would be unacceptable to some committee or would violate institutional rules about contact time or assessment regulations and there was no reason to concern ourselves with the requirements of a professional body.

After attending the event and speaking to others afterwards here are a few thoughts / observations:

1. Is quality assurance (in all its local and national forms) inhibiting innovation in the design of courses, modules etc.? Too many conversations in universities revolve around what is allowed, rather than what is good.
2. Can more be achieved, faster, if we simply had the time and inclination to all get together for a day or two and focus on a particular task?
3. As a group we were unburdened by hierarchies, disciplinary traditions and a desire to preserve ‘our bit’ of the curriculum. I had not met any of my fellow group members before and did not know their ‘rank’ or standing in their disciplines.
4. This might be controversial, but would higher education be better served if everybody in academia was as open minded as the people who attended the sandpit?
5. A conversation which arose at a subsequent meeting considered issues of agility. Are our courses too slow to change to meet new challenges and the development of new technologies? Are our graduates equipped for the future or merely for the recent past? We sometimes moan about companies only seeking ‘oven ready graduates’, but does our lack of agility mean that we are serving graduates who have been the oven and are now going stale?

Tram in Nottingham
Trams are coming back. Skills and knowledge of the past needed again.

The idea of passing on skills from one generation to another is one which I think is very important and formed a key idea in our planned degree scheme. I’m not thinking solely about passing on the skills of a dying local craft, but broader skills which seem to be disappearing like the ability to put up shelves or a saw a piece of wood in a straight line. I’ve learned some of these skills from books and from YouTube, but a lot of people my age have never felt the need to acquire these skills. It would be a shame if they were to become restricted to a small group of professionals.

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HEA Fellowships: Cutting down your wordcount

Colleagues preparing their HEA fellowships often complain that the 3000 word maximum (for Fellowship) is not enough words to say what they want to with the depth and detail required. While academics face this challenge when writing journal articles or books I’m going to concentrate here on the writing aspects of the HEA Fellowship. At Brighton we have an absolute limit for our fellowship application.

This is only a guide and though it may seem that each example only saves a few words, these savings mount up considerably over 3000 words. I am not an expert on pithy writing, but some colleagues may find this helpful.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

John Canning, September 2017

  1. Use adjectives, adverbs and modifiers sparingly. They do not add as much to your writing as you may think.
Instead of...

Try...

“The students were very satisfied with the course” (8 words). “The students were satisfied with the course” (7 words).
“The students were really successful on the professional exam.” (9 words) “The students were successful on the professional exam.” (8 words)
“The students put their samples in a cold freezer.” (9 words) “The students put their samples in a freezer.” (8 words)
  1. Remove words that have do not add really add anything to meaning. Some examples include:
Instead of...

Try..

Appropriate”
e.g. “Students are assessed using the appropriate rubric” (7 words)

Students are assessed using the rubric. (6 words)

“students analyse their data with the appropriate software. (8 words)

“students analyse their data with [software/name/ type] (5 words)

Going forward”

“We are exploring studentfolio going forward”. (6 words)

“We are exploring studentfolio” (4 words)

As a matter of fact”

As a matter of fact the number of students on the module has increased by 20% since 2014.” (18 words)

“The number of students on the module has increased by 20% since 2014.”(13 words).

Different”

“The students examine three different species of toad.”(8 words)

“The students examine three species of toad.”(7 words)

  1. Short, pithy statements usually have more impact than longer statements.
Instead of...

Try

“In 2015 I began to get my students to use Blackboard”. (11 words)

In 2015 I started using Blackboard [with my students]. (5-8 words)

I do this in order to try to make my students understand the software”. (16 words)

“I do this so my students understand the software” (8 words)

 

  1. Unnecessary words also creep in when using hedging language. It can tempting to use this language where we don’t want to sound overconfident.
Instead of...

Try...

“In this module I attempt to teach my students how to use SPSS”. (13 words)

“In this module I teach students to use SPSS” (8 words).

“In this seminar I try to get the students to think critically about Jane Austen’s use of language”. (18 words)

“In this seminar students explore Jane Austen’s use of language”. (11 words)

or if the context is clear

“In this seminar students explore Austen’s use of language” (9 words).

On the request of my Head of Department I became the Level 4 tutor in 2016.” (16 words) “I became the Level 4 tutor in 2016.” (8 words).

5. Although application of scholarship is important in Fellowship applications beware of using every possible reference after making a point.

“Assessment and feedback are key problem areas identified by the National Student Survey (NSS) (see Race 2015, Ramsden 2002, Carless 2015, Yorke et al 2015, Higher Education Academy 2013).”

6. Beware the pleonasm (using more than words than necessary to describe one thing).

Instead of…

Try...

“The students dissect a tuna fish” (6 words)

“The students dissect [a] tuna”. (4-5 words).

“During fieldwork the students go scuba diving underwater”. (7 words).

“During fieldwork the students go scuba diving ”. (6 words).

(Presumably they don’t go scuba diving anywhere other than underwater).

“The students work together in groups.”

The students work in groups.

7. Multiple words which can be replaced by one word.

Instead of…

Try...

“There were not a sufficient number of students to run the course.” (12 words) “There were not enough students to run the course.” (9 words)
“Students are able to choose literature or language” (8 words) “Students can choose literature or language” (6 words)

8. Unnecessary clarifications

While it is correct to assume the assessor is not familiar with your discipline, there is no need to clarify terms which are widely understood.

Instead of...

Try...

“ZZ404, ‘Introduction to amphibians’ (frogs, toads, newts, salamanders etc.), is...” (10 words)

“ZZ404, ‘Introduction to amphibians’ is...” (6 words)

“TV soaps (programmes such as EastEnders, Coronation Street, Neighbours) … “ (9 words)

“TV soaps… “(2 words)

9. Unnecessary background

Instead of...

Try...

“I first started teaching at the then Brighton Polytechnic in 1985 when degrees were validated by the UK Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA). This was prior to the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act when the polytechnics became universities and were able to award their own degrees.” (48 words)

“I started teaching at the University of Brighton (then Brighton Polytechnic ) in 1985.” (14 words)

Though I wouldn’t imagine assessors would get hung up over:

“I started teaching at the University of Brighton in 1985.” (10 words)

 

10. Unnecessary and usually unhelpful filler:

Listing courses taught:

Instead of...

Try

I teach on the following modules:

ZZ 401 Clinical basketmaking 1

ZZ 406 Clinical basketmaking 2

ZZ 514 Forensic baskets

ZZ 516 Computational basketmaking

ZZ 621 Advanced clinical basketmaking

ZZ 723 Sussex Trug making (34 words)

I teach undergraduate and postgraduate modules on clinical, forensic, local and computational basketmaking. (13 words)

11. that

The word ‘that’ is often unnecessary in a sentence.

Instead of...

Try...

“When I started teaching this module I found that the content was out of date”. (15 words)

“When I started teaching this module I found the content was out of date” (14 words)

12, Names

a) Using people’s full titles can be nice, but they can be dispensed of here:

Instead of...

Try...

I co-teach this module with Professor Bill Badger and Dr Freddy Fox. (12 words).

I co-teach this module with Bill Badger and Freddy Fox. (10 words).

b) First/ given names are not required when using references.

Instead of...

Try...

“ As John Biggs and Catherine Tang (2011) note, … “ (11 words)

“ As Biggs and Tang (2011) note, … “ (9 words).

Further reading

Fowler, H. W. 1908. The King’s English, 2nd Edition.” Accessed September 7, 2017. http://www.bartleby.com/116/

Strunk W., E. B. White, and Roger Angell. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. Edited by Test Editor. 4th edition. Boston: Pearson, 1999.

IoE writing Centre http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe-writing-centre/develop-academic-voice/reducing-word-count

Plainlanguage.gov http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/FederalPLGuidelines/writeOmitUnnecc.cfm

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