In this blog, we spoke to Chair and Founder of the Teaching Interest Group and Education Research Rachel O’Callaghan to find out more about the group’s founding and activities.
How did the TIGER group start?
The TIGER group was created in March 2015. The main reason I started the group was because I wanted to improve communication with regards to teaching and teaching activities and set up a platform, which would allow people to share best practice and allow people to share opinions on how we can teach more effectively.
Originally, I spoke to people I felt were very enthusiastic about teaching and who I thought might be interested in being involved. Everyone I told about the idea seemed very excited which was hugely heartening and the committee formed as a group that was well represented across the school including staff from each academic department, professional services and the E-Learning Unit (ELU). I kept the committee to a reasonably small number of 9-10 people to ensure that it was manageable.
What kind of activities does TIGER run?
We’ve had a regular seminar series in place for a while now. We invite internal as well as external speakers to give seminars centred on interesting and innovative ideas that relate to teaching and learning such as the transition for students between school and the first year of university.
To begin with, the workshop topics were chosen based on feedback from staff to ensure we were addressing areas that needed attention. We always try to plan activities that are tailored specifically to the needs of SBCS staff. We’ve run internal workshops on QMPlus quizzes, during which lecturers could learn about how to use quizzes effectively as a means of consolidating knowledge taught in lectures and seminars. We’ve also had a very popular workshop on Clickers, a form of electronic voting system that can be used in the classroom to improve interactivity, that has been run a few times.
After each event, I usually write a short blog and we do our best to QReview the talks so that we can post the videos on the SBCS website. On occasions, where appropriate, I have also created a guide to help our teaching staff understand how to use specific software and technology.
At the TIGER meetings, we speak about various teaching related topics such as coursework coversheets, teaching assessments, the peer observation scheme, the Teaching Excellence Framework, the introduction of new activities and workshops and other areas where we feel we as a committee can improve and change things.
What activities do you have planned for the new academic year?
We will have our 2nd Educational Research Forum on Improving Graduate Outcomes in September and we plan to have another Clicker session before the start of the new academic year. In addition, we have Mark Roberts from SMD coming to talk about automated practical marking in October and an external speaker, Glenn Hurst coming to give a talk in February. Glenn recently won a JISC Higher Education Social Media Superstar award for his use of social media in teaching.
Why and how should people get involved in TIGER?
The committee is evolving all the time and I’ve found that TIGER has really energised and inspired my teaching; it has encouraged me to continuously look for areas where I can improve my teaching and try new things.
Our undergraduates pay a significant amount of money to attend university and we need to take teaching seriously, strive to teach to the best of our ability and be open-minded to trying new things. It’s very easy to do the same thing year on year and I know that we are all hugely busy but even small changes can have a real impact.
You can now self-enrol on our QMPlus page to see what activities and events are coming up and see how to get involved. The events we run are open to all SBCS staff. We’re also very happy to receive feedback on specific challenges in teaching and ideas for workshops and seminars so staff should feel free to get in touch with me or any other member of the committee.