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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

TIGER Blog - Forum on improving graduate outcomes

The Teaching Interest Group and Educational Research (TIGER) held the second Education Research Forum on September 11th. Forum founder and TIGER member Jayne Dennis talks about the highlights of the event.

Graduate Outcomes Workshop

I thought the second Education Research Forum was a very informative and interesting event, with five talks on the theme of "improving graduate outcomes". The forum was set up to encourage staff engagement with the literature on teaching and learning, either through presentations which summarise published research or presentations of novel findings from projects conducted here at QMUL.

The first talk, by Greg Szulgit and TIGER chair Rachel O’Callaghan, looked at peer marking and generated a lively discussion. Greg quickly found the Achilles heel of pedagogic research: many studies are small and not sufficiently robust to properly address the multivariate nature of teaching and learning. However, he found one well designed study with a decent sample size whose findings were echoed in smaller-scale studies published elsewhere. This study demonstrated that students’ marking correlated with marks awarded by faculty and, overall, students were positive about peer marking. Rachel then spoke about how she and Greg will implement peer marking in their teaching this year. I’m looking forward to hearing about how it went!

Next, Elke Vlemincx, a new member of the TIGER committee, spoke about team-based learning. Elke outlined a wealth of studies that have demonstrated the positive outcomes from team-based learning, such as students’ improved academic performance – especially when learning difficult concepts. Elke also walked us through an example of how team-based learning can be implemented and she outlined four key ingredients to its success – constant teams (i.e. don’t swap people around), qualitative assignments, give students immediate feedback and demonstrate the robustness of marking.

James Wilkinson was the only speaker who was not based in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. His presentation described his current work in Academic Development, where he works with staff to develop interactive and student-centred teaching. James gave a thought-provoking presentation which explored using concept maps (mind maps) to enable students to engage with difficult material and write ideas in their own words. I know that my students often struggle with breaking down complex topics and synthesising ideas across sources so I’ll create opportunities for my students to build mind maps.


Sabita Menon got to the heart of the forum’s theme: how can we support students’ Personal Development Planning (PDP) in order to maximise our graduates’ outcomes? She outlined research on two models of skills development in PDP: embedded within the curriculum versus bolted-on. Sabita drew on her extensive experience of working with international students to argue that a hybrid implementation is ideal because it enables students to “see” the key transferable skills they are developing while they work on assignments relevant to their degree programme.

Finally, I presented results from a research project I conducted here at QMUL. I’m interested in the metacognition academics use in their own research and how they pass on metacognitive skills to their students. Metacognition is broadly defined as “thinking about thinking” and it has about the same impact on students’ academic performance as socioeconomic status. My study used questionnaires and interviews to show that few academics are familiar with metacognition – yet most of us use some metacognitive techniques in our teaching. However these techniques are used in teaching in order to develop students’ skills as scientists, rather than developing students’ general thinking skills which will be invaluable to them as they enter the workplace.

I came away from this forum inspired by the wealth of pedagogic research which we can use to: make our teaching even better; enhance students’ learning experience; develop students’ “soft” and transferable skills; and improve our graduates’ outcomes.

View all the presentations below:


Further Reading

  • Peer Marking

Harris, J.R. (2011) Peer assessment in large undergraduate classes: an evaluation of a procedure for marking laboratory reports and a review of related practices. Advances in Physiology Education, 35, 178-187

Cassidy, S. (2006). Developing employability skills: peer assessment in higher education. Education + Training, 48(7), 508-517.

Moore, C. & Teather, S. (2013) Engaging students in peer review: Feedback as learning. Issues in Educational Research, 23(2), 196-211. 

  • Team-Based Learning

Michaelsen, L.K. & Sweet, M. (2008). The essential elements of team-based learning. New directions for teaching and learning, 116, 7-27.

Kibble, J.D., Bellew, C., Asmar, A., & Barkley, L. (2016). Team-based learning in large enrollment classes. Advances in Physiology Education, 40, 435-442.

Haidet, P., Kubitz, K., & McCormack, W.T. (2014). Analysis of the team-based learning literature. TBL comes of age. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25, 303-333. 

  • Interactive teaching

Gow, L. and Kember, D. (1993) Conceptions of teaching and their relationship to student learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology. 63, 20-33

Ryan, R., and Deci, E. (2000) SDT and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist. 55 (1), 68-78.

Mann, S. (2001) Alternative perspectives on student learning: alienation and engagement, Studies in Higher Education, 26 (1), 7-19.

  • Personal Development Planning

Hulme, C & Lisewski, B (2010) Support structures for facilitators of student personal development planning: Lessons from two departmental case studies. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34(2), 137-148

Baker, K., Perkins, J. and Combe, D. (2014) International students and their experiences of Personal Development Planning. Active Learning in Higher Education 15(2), 129 - 143

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) (2009) A toolkit for enhancing personal development planning strategy, policy and practice in higher education institutions.

  • Metacognition

Rickey, D., & Stacy, A.M. (2000) The role of metacognition in learning chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 77, 915-916

Zohar, A., & Barzilai, S. (2013) A review of research on metacognition in science education: current and future directions. Studies in Science Education, 49, 121-169

Ben-David, A., & Orion, N. (2013) Teachers’ voices on integrating metacognition into science education. International Journal of Science Education, 35, 3161-3193



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