UAS Newsletter – November 2007

UAS Newsletter – November 2007

Dear Colleague

Welcome to the November edition of the UAS Newsletter.

The new academic year sees continued growth in the number of departments offering a UAS module bringing the total number at present to 103 departments from 40 universities throughout the UK. We are pleased to welcome the department of Biology, Chemistry and Health Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University as our most recent recruit. For a full list of departments now involved in UAS please click here.

St Andrews launches UAS

The University of St Andrews has recently launched the largest UAS module in Scotland. The module is coordinated by Dr Alyson Tobin, Reader in Plant Science at the School of Biology and to date 33 undergraduates from the Schools of Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Physics and Astronomy have signed up to take the module. The module launch included an afternoon’s session attended by undergraduates and school teachers, with an introductory speech from Professor Jack Jackson, a former HMI with experience in science education at national level. The Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme recently featured on the Radio 4 programme ‘The Learning Curve’ in an interview of Dr Tobin by Libby Purves. You can listen to the whole programme here.

UAS at Southampton ‘grows like Topsy’

At the University of Southampton UAS just seems to grow and grow. The disciplines covered to date include Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biological Science, Electronics and Computer Science, Environmental Sciences, Oceanography, Geography, Music and Modern Languages. There is also an interest currently in extending the scheme to Engineering Sciences, Sports Studies and English. Originally the scheme was introduced in Mathematics and was run as a Mathematics module for the various contributing departments. Two years ago the School of Ocean and Earth Science shadowed the scheme and last year they ran it for themselves. This year the two Schools (Departments) of Electronics and Computer Science and Geography are running UAS for themselves. In addition the Schools of Chemistry, Engineering Sciences and Education (Sports Studies) are shadowing UAS, again with the aim of running it themselves the following academic year. Southampton was one of the pilot universities which ran UAS in 2002/3 for 12 mathematics and 1 chemistry student. Of those original 13 students, 12 eventually went on into the teaching profession. The growth of UAS at Southampton has continued despite the fact that the original UAS Module Coordinator, Professor Ray d’Inverno, has left to become the UAS National Director, although the co_Coordinator Dr Paul Cooper is still centrally involved. As an indication of that growth, over 100 students were placed in some 35 partner schools last academic year, and the total of students selected to take the module could well reach 120 this year.

It is interesting to note that the scheme runs successfully alongside the SAS (Students Associates Scheme) which pays undergraduates to mentor pupils in schools, principally again in STEM subjects. Whereas SAS is focused on second year undergraduates at Southampton, UAS is directed at final year (third and fourth year) undergraduates as its reflective nature really requires the maturity of a final year student. Some undergraduates take SAS in the second year and UAS in their final year, and there does not appear to be any conflict. Southampton has recently set up an Advisory Group to oversee UAS developments across the University. The group comprises Module Coordinators, potential Module Coordinators from the shadowing schools, a UAS Coordinator, a Faculty Employability Officer and several Learning and Teaching Coordinators (LTCs). The LTCs have played a crucial role in moving the scheme forward, since they help with the training, support Module Coordinators (particularly those who are new to the module), spark interest in the scheme in new Schools, ensure that standards are maintained across the University and are involved both with the assessment and in running tutorials. The UAS Coordinator is a new post, part of whose role is to develop links with partner schools in the locality and set up placements for both SAS and UAS undergraduates. The Coordinator is this year running a joint half day training session for both the 100 plus SAS students and the 100 plus UAS students. The half day is largely instructional in character and covers Behaviour Management, Child Protection and Health and Safety, Routes into Teacher Training, Reflective Practice and Evaluation, Being a Classroom Teaching Assistant and Presentations and Communication Skills. The UAS undergraduates will be required to attend an additional half day session to look at other issues more specific to that scheme where the half day is based more on small group work

The introduction of the UAS Coordinator has the advantage of shifting much of the administrative burden to do with training and placements from academics onto an Outreach and Partnership Assistant and, in particular, provides a more coherent image of the University to the participating schools – something which was definitely lacking previously. The other area which creates a significant burden on Module Coordinators, given the large number of students involved, is that of assessment and work is underway in the Group to look at streamlining assessment and moderation practices. The University has signalled the success of the scheme in that three staff involved in running UAS have received prestigious Vice Chancellor Awards in three different years, awarded in part for their involvement in the scheme. The Advisory Group is also planning some sort of celebration of the success of UAS later in the year to which the press and local politicians will be invited.

Why has UAS grown to the extent it has at Southampton? The expansion likely stems, at least in part, from the enthusiasm of the students taking this module. The students see at first hand the benefit of developing a whole range of skills including particularly communication, presentation and group work skills but, above all, it is the manner in which their personal confidence grows as a result of taking this module which is probably its most impressive attribute. These skills are clearly of benefit when it comes to their general employability, whether or not they decide to enter the teaching profession, and they are skills which are sometimes difficult to foster is some STEM subjects. The way UAS helps to tackle the employability agenda is no doubt another reason why it has been welcomed so widely at Southampton. The enthusiasm of the students in turn communicates itself to the Module Coordinator which can lead to them acting as an ambassador for the scheme, advocating its introduction in other disciplines. Moreover, the word gets out about the benefits to the participating students and then students from other disciplines ask “Why can’t we take a module like this?” The point would seem to be that, in principle, there is no reason why they should not. Although UAS was initially set up address the “shortage” STEM subjects, and indeed the funding flowed from this need, the scheme can work just as effectively in non-STEM subjects. At present there are participating Schools from all of the three Faculties at Southampton. There is evidence that the University is gearing itself up for the day when UAS is available pretty much across the whole institution.

We end this newsletter with a question to UAS Module Coordinators in other institutions: “If UAS works well for your discipline, could it not work well in other disciplines in your institution (or indeed other institutions) – in which case might you consider taking the initiative to contact some of your colleagues and tell them about the benefits of the scheme, and, if they wish, maybe even help them to get started?” Perhaps in this way you might help to get UAS to grow like “Topsy” in your institution?

We hope you have found the information provided in this newsletter of interest. For further information about UAS, or if you have any information to contribute for the next newsletter please contact Ray.dInverno@uas.ac.uk or Brian.Lockwood@uas.ac.uk or please see www.uas.ac.uk

Inspiring Education and Communication