Students Staff


16 June 2016

Higher Education Academy Hosting Professional Development Event at Essex

Inputs, outputs, outcomes and impact: rethinking CPD







With the Teaching Excellence Framework imminent, Essex welcomes representatives from the HEA on Wednesday 22 June (2pm-4pm) to lead a workshop exploring fresh approaches to professional learning and CPD.

The workshop will consider some fundamental questions about your own professional practice and how you would like to develop; think about how you identify your own development aspirations; consider the range of activities you might undertake as part of your own commitment to enhancing your education practice; and reflect on your personal motivations and professional values, allowing you to explore how you might achieve greater impact from the activities you undertake in the context of your specific academic specialism, institutional context and career aspirations.

If you are planning on applying for HEA recognition in the near future or have responsibilities for managing and leading development activities in your area, do consider coming along to this event, which will be held in the HR training room 4SA.6.19.

Booking is open on HR Organiser here.

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24 March 2016

Support for Autistic Students in HE – three new guides

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — rcwind @ 12.30 pm

The European-funded Autism&Uni initiative has published three new guides for those teaching and supporting autistic students in higher education. Autism&Uni pic


GUIDE 1: For HEI managers and senior academics Providing you with information and evidence to help you develop policies and practices that will benefit autistic students and improve the student experience at your institution.


GUIDE 2: For HE lecturers and tutors

We share with you practical tips based on evidence from our research to enable you to make your learning and teaching practices more accessible and support you to build better relationships with autistic students.


GUIDE 3: For professionals supporting autistic students within or outside HE Institutions For specialists directly supporting autistic students. This may be as part of a disability support team within a HEI, or for an independent organisation that provides services to HE. We share insights from our research and from good practice across Europe that will help you improve student experiences and engagement with your information and services, and to develop your expertise.


These guides are free and can be downloaded from Versions in Finnish, Dutch, Polish and Spanish will be available shortly.


Through our research we found that knowledge of how best to support autistic students is not consistent across Europe and often varies within a country. Pockets of best practice exist, and our Best Practice Guides highlight and promote these in order to improve the prospects and number of HE students on the autism spectrum.


We recognised that one size does not fit all, so we have created three guides aimed at specific groups. The guides were created with the help of autistic students, their parents, university tutors, school teachers, and autism support staff.


For more information visit


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11 March 2016

New Work-Based Learning resources

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — rcwind @ 11.55 am

Dr Steve McMellor, Learning and Development Adviser, discusses UoE’s commitment to Work-Based Learning and updates us on some exciting new resources to support WBL at Essex

What is Work-Based Learning at Essex?

Work-Based Learning (WBL) is defined at Essex as learning outside the classroom – through placements, visits or projects for an employer or client – that is also connected to the curriculum. It is increasingly becoming an essential part of modern higher education. It has long been recognised that both students and the institutions at which they study benefit from these new forms of practice-oriented learning at the workplace: increased collaboration with industry and the public sector, more relevant degree schemes, better skilled students with clear career outlooks and higher employability.

WBL and Enhancing the Student Experience

WBL should have clear relevance to the learning outcomes of students’ academic programmes, be appropriate to the level of study, and promote a deeper engagement with their disciplines (through using and reflecting on the subject knowledge and/or transferable skills). It should be owned by students, valued and promoted by academic departments, and form part of an active engagement with external organisations and communities. WBL is a shared responsibility. It should enrich the student experience and broaden individual students’ career horizons. It should also make students more confident in their abilities, and make them more ambitious in their aspirations. WBL should be open to all students, and not just a few. WBL should be beneficial to the organisation offering the opportunities as well as the student and the University.

The University of Essex’s Commitment to WBL

The University of Essex’s Education strategy aims to ensure that “all students have the opportunity to undertake community/work-based learning and to develop a framework that allows credit/recognition for student employment or community/work-based placement”. The University aspires to achieving 10% of UG students undertaking a substantial period of WBL as part of their degree by 2019, and for WBL to be an increasing feature of PGT provision.

The Work-Based Learning Hub at Essex

To support this aspiration, the Work-Based Learning Hub has been developed to support staff in considering the availability of WBL to their students through their own modules and courses. The WBL Hub has been developed in collaboration between the Employability and Careers Centre and Learning and Development and consists of two parts: (i) The Knowledge Bank and (ii) The Work-Based Learning Toolkit.

The Knowledge Bank

The Knowledge Bank provides a repository of information resources, documents and academic articles on Work-Based Learning. It is directed at academic staff wishing to investigate, create and promote new WBL and work placement opportunities for their students. It is also a tool for staff involved with the provision and administration of placements to share resources and ideas, as well as providing access to information across faculties.

The Knowledge Bank covers a range of WBL definitions, good practice guides, examples of successful placements, materials for students, academics and employers, examples from other universities and links to pedagogic literature and web-links; all really valuable resources if you wish to explore WBL in more depth.

The Work-Based Learning Toolkit provides a suite of summary information about Work-Based Learning at Essex. We introduce three models for WBL at the University of Essex, along with details of what you need to do to establish them on your courses. There is information on Health & Safety issues and further guidance links and FAQs to help you decide which type of WBL is best for your students and, most importantly, what you need to do to make it happen.EE-Essex Way

There are a number of tools and downloads that will help with your Curriculum Review work and aid your on-going reflections on the current level of employer engagement that your courses offer.

The WBL opportunities which we have introduced are divided into full placement years; SK701, the E&CC generic placement year module; and a wide range of short-term projects and collaborative research placements.

Existing provision of the range of different types of WBL across all faculties is described in a number of short videos.

There is an extensive FAQs section that covers a wide range of questions in relation to the processes and procedures for developing WBL opportunities for your own students, as well as examples of paperwork.

How to Access Your New Resources…

The Work-Based Learning resources can be found by searching for ‘WBL Toolkit’ or ‘Knowledge Bank’ on Moodle or directly at

For further information and support in developing WBL opportunities please contact your relevant Faculty Placements team;

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9 March 2016

Creating Space to Know: upcoming day workshop on contemplative approaches to and in Higher Education


Last few places available…

On Friday 18 March, Learning and Development will be running a day-long workshop, led by Dr Caroline Barratt of the School of Health and Human Sciences, exploring contemplative approaches to teaching and learning in Higher Education.

This workshop has been introduced in light of increasing interest in the potential of contemplative and meditative techniques to enhance student performance, increase student wellbeing and deepen students’ understanding of their subject. Through short lectures, group work and experiential exercises, including mindfulness meditation, participants will be introduced to a range of pedagogical techniques and concepts that will complement their current teaching or learning support work, adding variety and depth to the student learning experience.

Furthermore there will also be space to explore the implications of contemplative approaches to learning for us all as educators or supporters of learning and to develop a sense of why we teach and support students and how it connects with our personal values. We hope that participants will leave the day with fresh insight into their teaching / support role as well as new teaching techniques and an understanding of contemplative pedagogy. All staff involved in teaching and/or supporting learning (academic or professional services) will be very welcome to come – just book via HR Organiser

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27 January 2016

Enhancing the learning experience of IA-EBS international pathway students: ‘reversed mentoring’ on support, feedback and assessment

In 2013-14, Dr Ilaria Boncori, Senior Lecturer in the University of Essex’s International Academy (IA), and Bev Jackson, Student Services Manager at Essex Business School (EBS), won TALIF funding to investigate the learning experience of international students who transitioned into EBS from the IA business pathway. The project was designed to contribute to the improvement of retention rates, progression and degree outcomes for both departments. This summary is based on their project report, to which Dr Dan Shen (EBS/IA) also contributed.

International Students: the challenges of entering UK HEStudents in class

Being a foreign student in the UK can be challenging, especially when your country of origin is far, far away both geographically and culturally. After the initial culture shock and adjustment period, foreign students tend to get used to living and learning in a different environment. However, in some cases the learning curve is steeper as pathway students have additional hurdles to overcome. Sometimes they are unable to get entry to first year courses because of their academic or language level, or – in some cases – because of a different schooling system, they have to put in extra work and extra effort. In the International Academy (IA) at the University of Essex, students can attend many pathway courses, one of which is called the International Diploma in Business. This is run as an intensive year-one undergraduate course, equivalent to the one taught in Essex Business School (EBS). Students study more hours every week for a longer time in order to complete the course, after which they get direct access to second year degrees in EBS.

Asking International Academy Business students about transitionanishia-davis-876169_1920

The transition between the two departments can be challenging, so we decided to ask students a number of questions, both via a survey and focus groups, in order to understand their experience and how we could make our courses better in each department. Although not willing to participate formally in reverse mentoring with staff, students gave us a lot of information and tips on changes to implement in order to provide them with the best possible learning experience. They told us that teaching is the most important aspect of their experience and that they value personal support and individualised feedback. But, as members of the University community, students don’t just learn in class, so we asked about their social life and the overall satisfaction with their study life at Essex. Reponses showed that students considered that communicating with students from other cultures or nationalities, and working in groups in classes, were both extremely important to their learning experience. Likewise, a high proportion noted practising English outside class was central to a positive experience of learning. Our academics will now work together to review the courses based on our students’ comments and continue to improve our excellent teaching provision.

Please contact Dr Boncori if you wish to know more about her and her colleagues’ investigations.

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11 January 2016

Excellence in Teaching Award: Invitation to apply…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — rcwind @ 10.31 am

Are you an excellent teacher?

The Excellence in Teaching Award 2015/16 is now open for applications

The University of Essex Excellence in Teaching Award (ETA) exists to recognize and celebrate the achievements of all full- and part-time staff and Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) who can demonstrate excellence in supporting the student learning experience.

Each year there are up to four individual awards of £1000 made to staff in the following categories: ‘Early Career’ (up to five years full-time teaching experience or part-time equivalent) and ‘Experienced’ (more than five years full-time teaching experience or part-time equivalent), and up to four awards of £250 to GTAs.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 4 March 2016.


Awards are made to staff who can demonstrate excellence in the following areas:

  • individual excellence (evidence of promoting and enhancing the student learning experience);
  • raising the profile of excellence (evidence of supporting colleagues and influencing support for student learning in their department and the institution – it is acknowledged that GTAs’ responsibilities are likely to allow only limited fulfilment of this criterion); and
  • developing excellence (commitment to their ongoing professional development).

Application / Nomination process

Applicants can self-nominate (with department/school/section approval). Departments/schools/sections are positively encouraged to nominate their excellent teachers and learning support staff. All nominees for the ETA – whether self-nominated or put forward by their departments – are required to fill out an application form (available on the ETA webpage). Applicants in the ‘Early Career’ and ‘Experienced’ categories are also asked to supply at least one written endorsement from their department/school/section to support their claims.
Full information about the Excellence in Teaching Award, including the list of last year’s winners, can be found on the Learning and Development website (click above link).


We have scheduled a drop-in session for those interested in finding out more about ETA on Wednesday 10 February 2016 from 12.30-2pm in 3.105. Please book via HR Organiser if you would like to come along.

ETA: Recognising and celebrating excellence in education

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17 November 2015

Teaching and Learning Conference, Thursday 7th and 8th January 2016

University of Essex is holding its annual Teaching and Learning Conference on 7th and 8th January 2016

All welcome!Grandmother teaches granddaughter to sew


Our two-day teaching and learning event is always a great opportunity for all members of Essex’s community who deliver and support our education  to get together and share good practice, listen to insights from invited external speakers and find inspiration for their continued work.

This year’s conference takes for its theme ‘Embedding Equality and Diversity in Essex Education‘.

This year we are delighted to have Professor Penny Jane Burke as our keynote speaker. Penny is Professor of Education at the University of Roehampton, London; Global Innovation Chair of Equity & Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia; and Director of the Paulo Freire Institute-UK (PFI-UK) . She will take ‘Teaching inclusively’ as the topic for her keynote lecture. She will then lead a seminar on ‘Creating inclusive curricula’. Day 1 will continue with a session focusing on enhancing the student experience and close with a roundtable discussion focusing on the opportunities and challenges that face us as we seek to embed values and practices aligned with equality and diversity into our teaching and learning support.

Day 2 will feature sessions on teaching first year students and reviewing our first-year curricula in the morning, and the afternoon will form an induction for this year’s cohort of participants for our Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice (PG CHEP).

If you would like to attend any part of the conference, please visit HR Organiser to book. If you have any questions or would like to get involved in this event, then please contact Learning and Development.

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9 October 2015

It’s not only new students arriving at Essex

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Steve McMellor @ 2.36 pm

It is that busy time of year again with the squares packed with new faces as students arrive and find their feet at University. Learning and Development staff have also been busy over the last few weeks organising and hosting a wide range of induction events and training for new staff arriving at the University. These events are both a welcome to our new staff arrivals and also a primer to ensure they are prepared to deliver the excellent student experience that Essex is known for.


Professor Aletta Norval (PVC Education) introduces the education strategy to new academic staff

Over the last two weeks we have had 85 new academic and research staff attend an induction event where they were introduced to the University’s mission and strategic plan by the VC and our research and education strategies from the relevant PVC’s. They were introduced to the support services available to staff and students offered by Student Support, Learning and Teaching Technologies, Learning and Development, the Students Union and HR.

At the same time, in the Ivor Crewe lecture hall, postgraduate students preparing to work as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) attended a two day event made up of a wide range of professional development sessions. 78 students received a welcome from Dr Luis Vasconcelos, Director of Research Training and attended a range of sessions with expert guest speakers. Professor Alan Mortiboys provided sessions on active learning, reflective professional practice and dealing with difficult situations, while renowned voice coach Stewart Theobold ran sessions on the effective use of the voice and pronunciation for non-native speakers. Postgraduate students also attended sessions on preparing to teach for the first time as well as having the opportunity to complete mandatory training such as the University’s equality and diversity and basic fire safety training. The new GTA’s also had the opportunity to question a panel of experienced GTA’s across a range of Schools and Departments about the detail of their roles.

In the same week, 25 postgraduate students attended a one day programme for Graduate Laboratory Assistants (GLA) and Graduate Demonstrators (GD) to better prepare them to demonstrate in practical sessions. Attendees were introduced to the challenges of teaching in labs and practical sessions with sessions with Dr Louise Beard from Biological Sciences and Professor Tracy Robinson from Psychology, as well as staff from Learning and Development. Students from Biological Sciences then go on to have a practical training session in the Biology Teaching Labs with a particular emphasis on lab safety.

This past week saw induction events for 90 new PhD students with a wide range of events to welcome them to Essex and prepare them for the rigors of an Essex PhD and introduce them to the Proficio professional development scheme for postgraduate students, unique to Essex. Two more events are scheduled for the next two weeks, ‘Progressing with your PhD’ and ‘Completing your PhD’ for similar numbers of 2nd and 3rd year PhD students respectively.

CADENZA iconAs part of all of these induction events staff and postgraduate students are introduced to CADENZA, the University’s professional development framework to foster teaching excellence for all staff who teach and/or support learning. The CADENZA pathway is accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and mapped to the UK Professional Standards Framework. Successful completion of CADENZA leads to four levels of HEA professional recognition through Fellowship. Over the last academic year 132 staff have gained HEA recognition through CADENZA. 57 as Associate Fellow, 58 as Fellow, 14 as Senior Fellow and three at Principal Fellow. Learning and Development will be supporting another 139 staff achieve Fellowship over their probationary period.

This professional recognition is becoming increasingly important with talk of a ‘TEF‘, a teaching excellence version of the REF. With the government committing to the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework in England, the HE sector has been asked by Government to improve the quality of information available to students about the teaching expertise of their teaching staff at all levels. As such HEFCE will be working with partners like the QAA and the HEA to collect data at institutional level through the staff record. In light of this you may have received an email from either the PVC for Education (staff) or the Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education (GTAs) asking you to check that your HESA details are correct with respect to your teaching qualifications or professional recognition. One of our main aims here is to reduce the proportion of ‘Don’t knows’ from our record which has been highlighted as an issue across the sector. You can access and edit your own details via HR Organiser under the ‘Update my HESA Details’ tab.

Hopefully you are also aware that you can now use HR Organiser to book all your professional development activities at Essex
via the ‘Book a new Learning Activity’ tab. Details of upcoming workshops for the next academic year can be found on the CADENZA webpages and downloaded as pdfs for GTA’s, PG CHEP participants and general Academic and Research staff. There are also workshops for Professional Services staff and we also have a range of writing workshops coming up to support more experienced academic staff who are required to gain HEA recognition via the CADENZA process.workshops

So with almost 300 new staff and postgraduates officially welcomed to the University over the last few weeks, it is time to start preparing for the January induction events for new Academic and Research staff, new GTA’s, new GLA’s and the annual teaching and learning conference, also held in January. Alongside this and the ongoing programme of professional development workshops, Learning and Development are also working on new online resources to streamline induction, mandatory training and our professional development provision.

You can find out more about the staff development offer at Essex through the Learning and Development web pages, including details of how to find and book workshops using HR Organiser. Alternately you can contact us about any workshops, development activities or professional recognition at


Dr Steve McMellor

Learning and Development Adviser


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28 September 2015

Spotlight on Teaching Quality

Teaching quality: the debate intensifies…

The last few months has — once again — seen increased attention directed towards how Higher Education institutions survey, record and encourage teaching quality amongst their academic staff. In the wake of the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to partner the existing Research Excellence Framework (REF), much ink has been spilled speculating on what basis and by what means teaching excellence ought to be judged (Grove, 2015a). Particular attention has been given to the (enhanced) role the Higher Education Academy might play (as the body presently responsible for granting individuals and institutions recognition against the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education (UKPSF, 2012). The potential for utilising the statistics relating to teaching qualifications amongst HE staff that the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) already collects has been debated. And opinions differ on what weight should be accorded to the results of student surveys – such as National Student Survey – when appraising teaching quality.

Plenty of attention has been drawn to the potential problems involved in using any of the existing institutional structures and metrics. Discussion of the HEA’s future role has already raised the possibility of it becoming a type of education institute which would charge individual fellows – as well as institutions, as it currently does – for membership and monitor their ‘good standing’ in some way (Havergal, 2015). Prospective overreliance on student surveys has drawn the accusation that teaching quality would be unhelpfully and unrevealingly elided with teacher popularity and individuals’ ability to entertain students (Grove, 2015a). Furthermore, the utility of HESA statistics has been questioned by the recent statement (5 August 2015) made by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which revealed that – in 2013-14 — English universities were not able to submit data on teaching qualifications for 40.8 per cent of their academic staff, preventing HEFCE from making any meaningful comparisons at an institutional level (Grove, 2015b).

How institutions are being proactive

With so many open questions, divergent viewpoints and on-going debates, it is no surprise that more and more individual institutions are being proactive and deciding for themselves what standards they want their staff with teaching responsibilities to reach. For new academic staff at Essex it is clear: if you have education (teaching and learning support) as part of your contract, you are asked to have gained HEA recognition at Fellowship (D2) level by the end of your probationary period (usually three years). This can be done by following a demonstrative, direct application route via the University’s CADENZA process (accredited by the HEA), which is particularly helpful for more experienced teachers. Alternatively, two HEA-accredited developmental pathways are also available: Module 1 of the University’s Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice (PG CHEP) (ideal for any new appointee with little or no teaching experience), and the first part of the Medical and Clinical Education programme (for qualifying member of Health and Human Sciences staff only). If you are thinking of or have recently applied for promotion, you may also find that the University asks you to gain HEA Fellowship (D2) within a couple of years of promotion being granted.

How can you get information, advice and support?

If you are a new member of academic staff with education responsibilities there is a wide range of support available to you. As well as your academic induction to the University, Learning and Development provides a series of ‘Pathways to Fellowship’ workshops which run throughout each autumn term. These help orientate new staff with the University’s probationary requirements relating to professional development, introduce the routes staff can follow to fulfil these and provide opportunities to practise reflective writing and professional log keeping for colleagues who haven’t come across these approaches to CPD before. A wide range of workshops relating to both CADENZA and PG CHEP are run throughout the academic year.

For staff who would like more in-depth advice about how to fulfil probationary requirements (or professional development conditions relating to promotion applications), our Learning and Development Advisers are available for one-to-one consultations (email us to arrange).

What else can you do?

One of the ways in which you can clarify your own status is to make sure the information the University holds about you is up-to-date and accurate. You can update your HESA record at any time via HR Organiser. There is no replacement – of course – for talking with departmental colleagues and your mentor about how to plan appropriate development activities to support your education responsibilities. Such engagement with your disciplinary community at Essex will help you take full account of your current workload and other employment or research-related requirements that you have to fulfil.

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18 September 2015

Leverhulme International Academic Fellowships include call for innovators in teaching

The Leverhulme Trust have issued calls for their Research Fellowships and International Academic Fellowships schemes.

We’d like to draw your attention in particular to the International Academic Fellowships scheme, which includes a call to those who might have an idea for developing innovations in teaching in an international research centre.

International Academic Fellowships provide established researchers with a concentrated period based in one or more research centres outside the UK. The intention of the scheme is to provide opportunities to develop new knowledge, skills and ideas, and may for example be used for the following:

• observing and learning ground-breaking techniques or practices
• developing new lines of research through overseas collaboration
• making “discipline-hopping excursions” into new areas of research
developing innovations in teaching
• exchanging ideas

Fellowships are for between 3 and 12 months and worth up to £40k for replacement costs, travel and subsistence and essential research costs.

Further details are available at:

Deadline for applications is 12 November at 4:00 p.m.

If you would like to discuss an application please just get in touch with Dr Gary Williams, Funding Development Manager (Social Sciences) at the Research and Enterprise Office.

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