Welcome to the Realising Teaching Excellence blog at the University of Worcester, where we hope to keep you informed about teaching and learning developments, create dialogue around developing excellence, and introduce you to examples of interesting practice.
See the “Teaching Excellence” page for the latest news and the “Interesting Practice” page for learning and teaching case studies. See the “Resources” page for the recently added “Busy Lecturer’s Guide to Inclusive Practice”.

Showcasing SAP projects – Supporting Student Transition into Top-Up Programmes

There have been an increasing number of students entering the university at Level 5 and 6 over the past 5 years from a range of partners’ institutions including BMET (Stourbridge), Heart of Worcestershire College, TCAT and transfers from other HEI’s.  There are a number of key transition stages for students within higher education. Transition stages can highlight perplexing times for students, these could be an adjustment in academic activities or a transition within their personal and/or social life. These key transition points could be entry into the first or second year of study or even a top-up into the final year of study (Whittaker, 2008).  It is important to engage early within the transition process in higher education, to establish methods for effective learning and ensure sustained retention throughout undergraduate programmes (Tinto, 2009).

Data collected from focus groups in an OCAP (Online Centre for Achievement and Progression) project reflected a need for further support in this process from the application phase to the formal transition into ISES within the university.  Students during the focus groups alluded to the fact that all the information they received was from their lecturers but was not as detailed as it could have been. Some had not been to the university or met any lecturers and the level 6 entry students did not know that you had to find an independent study supervisor. This was particularly pertinent for direct entry and partner college students.

Change can happen quickly within a student’s academic journey, when confronted with adjustment the transition process takes longer to achieve (QAA, 2015).  Due to a rise in retention, higher education institutions are developing more formalized support mechanisms, one of these being peer mentoring. Student mentoring is not a new phenomenon and has be used extensively within a variety of vocational and educational settings to support and facilitate learning (Level & Mach, 2005).  The overall aim of the project was to begin to understand what mechanisms work for transition students that top-up into a level 5 or 6 undergraduate programme, in particular peer mentoring.

Five Level 6 students studying on a range of undergraduate programmes within ISES were recruited to mentor the ‘transition’ students (n=48).  The mentor was required to support the mentee throughout their transition into a UoW undergraduate programme.  The mentor made initial contact with their mentees via email and arranged to meet as a collective group or on a 1 to 1 basis.  Their role was to support the mentee as another point of contact rather than an academic member of staff.  The mentors also set up a ‘Yammer’ group to support the whole group with FAQ’s.

The findings of the project suggested that 50% of students (mentees) found that the mentor initiative was effective with 33.3% stating no it wasn’t and 16.7% stating it may be effective.  The SAM’s felt that they would have benefitted from a mentor scheme when they transitioned into an undergraduate programme.  Leese (2010) supports this notion as it has been suggested that ‘new students’ within universities are often unable to engage in group networks of support which in turn hinders their transition.

The project has enabled the institute to support the students accordingly for 17/18.  The following recommendations have been made in relation to this project and how as an institute we can support the transition students on their new journey; bespoke welcome week programme, peer mentors, designated PAT and support with module selection process.  All of these have been implemented and further evaluations of their success will be measured at the end of the academic year.

Jaime Guinan, Teaching Fellow in Sport Studies, Coaching & PE


Leese, M. (2010) Bridging the gap: supporting student transitions into higher education, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34 (2), 239-251. doi: 10.1080/03098771003695494

Level, A. V. & Mach, M. (2005) Peer mentoring: one institution’s approach to mentoring academic librarians, Library Management, 26 (6/7), 301–310. doi:10.1108/01435120410609725

Tinto, V. (2009). Taking student retention seriously: Rethinking the first year of university. Paper presented at the FYE Curriculum Design Symposium, Brisbane, Australia.

QAA. (2015)  Transition Models and how student experiences change.  Enhancement Themes.  Available at: http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/pages/docdetail/docs/publications/transition-skills-and-strategies—transition-models-and-how-students-experience-change  (Accessed: 9 June 2017).

Williams, E. (2017) Student Retention and Achievement Annual report 2016-2017. Internal UW report. Unpublished.


Forthcoming Learning & Teaching Conferences

Nov_17_Forthcoming Learning and Teaching Conferences

The list of conferences related to the student experience and learning and teaching in HE, has been updated for the coming year. Information in the listing gives deadlines for proposals for papers where relevant as well as link to conference webpage.

Share and Inspire Seminars Semester 1, 2017/18

Share and Inspire seminars for the next period are aimed at generating discussion and sharing practice in relation to issues of academic practice that we know are challenging to colleagues.

Research inspired teaching and employability are key considerations for any undergraduate or postgraduate curriculum – but how can they be related to provide effective learning?  This session will explore examples and identify ways in which students can develop employability through developing research sills and understanding.

Strategies for engaging student pre-entry
This share and inspire workshop aims to interactively explore a range of strategies used to engage students prior to formally starting their University studies. It will consider strategies used from initial interest in studying at the University and following the offer of a conditional/unconditional place.

Sharing Best Practice in Doctoral Supervision
This Share & Inspire session will share best practice in doctoral level supervision through a series of short talks from experienced supervisors across Institutes.

Further details below.  Please book through the University Staff Development pages.

Subject Date and time
Research Inspired Teaching 

An exploration of ways of enriched student learning and enhancing their employability skills by engaging them with the challenges and excitement of research.

Monday 4 December 2017

12.30 pm to 2.00 pm

Strategies for engaging student pre-entry

This Share and Inspire workshop aims to interactively explore a range of strategies used to engage students prior to formally starting their University studies. It will consider strategies used from initial interest in studying at the University and following the offer of a conditional/unconditional place. It will focus on the use of Taster events and summer/winter schools and how these can introduce students to learning and teaching in Higher Education.  Furthermore, the role of social media as a tool for communicating with applicants will be explored, including its role in allowing important information to be circulated to students, but also facilitating students to get to know each other. These pre-course strategies can provide students with effective support and equip them with the skills and capabilities to be successful in Higher Education, as well as having a positive impact on attrition during the first year.  A case study approach, using BSc Nursing as an example, will be utilised and will review experiences from both the academic and student perspective, with opportunities for participants to critically reflect on the application of these or similar strategies to their own subject area.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

12.30 pm to 2.00 pm

Sharing Best Practice in Doctoral Supervision

This Share & Inspire session will share best practice in doctoral level supervision through a series of short talks from experienced supervisors across Institutes. Talks will focus on: the transforming early PhD proposals, supporting students in developing philosophical foundations for doctoral study, inter-institute supervision, working in supervisory teams, and the role of coaching as an alternative model of doctoral supervision. The session will also highlight some of the developments in the research supervisor training programme at University of Worcester. This session is particularly relevant for colleagues currently supervising doctoral students, or those who may become engaged with doctoral level supervision in the near future.

24th April 2018

12.30 pm to 2.00 pm

Staff guidance for inclusive assessments & making reasonable adjustments

Earlier this year (2017) Professor Geoff Layer, who chairs the Disabled Students Sector Leadership Group, made particular reference to the University of Worcester’s Policy and Procedures on Inclusive Assessment, making reasonable adjustments and providing for alternative assessment arrangements as an example of good practice. The Policy provides real potential to strengthen inclusive learning, teaching and assessment.

Consultation with colleagues, along with follow up professional development activities, have revealed that the Policy will be implemented more successfully when supported through additional guidance and exemplification. As a response, colleagues in Student Services working closely with the Directorate of Quality and Educational Development and the Institute of Education, have developed supportive guidance to further elucidate how to realise inclusive pedagogy and assessment.

The new ‘Staff Guidance for inclusive assessments and making reasonable adjustments October 2017‘ may be used as a springboard for individual or group professional development and/or to enhance inclusive approaches to assessment within module and course design. The Guidance should be seen as formative and evolving and it will certainly be further complemented through the sharing of colleagues’ experiences of how the Policy itself, has been implemented. Please contact the Disability and Dyslexia Service (DDS), Institute Disability Link Tutors or Learning and Teaching Leads should you require further support with inclusive practices, or if you would like to share insights as to how you have implemented the Policy and attendant Guidance, which we are pleased to provide in electronic or hard formats. The Guidance complements additional resource availability, for example the Busy Lecturer’s Guide to Inclusive Practice and Strategies for Creating Inclusive Programmes of Study (SCIPS).

Education for Sustainable Development in HE

Education for Sustainable Development in HE

The QAA define Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as ‘the process of equipping students with the knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic wellbeing, both in present and future generations.’ (QAA ESD Guidance 2014)

ESD means working with students to encourage them to:

  • consider what the concept of global citizenship means in the context of their own discipline and in their future professional and personal lives
  • consider what the concept of environmental stewardship means in the context of their own discipline and in their future professional and personal lives
  • think about issues of social justice, ethics and wellbeing, and how these relate to ecological and economic factors
  • develop a future-facing outlook; learning to think about the consequences of actions, and how systems and societies can be adapted to ensure sustainable futures.

These wider goals to develop ‘sustainability literate’ graduates ready to face the environmental, social and economic challenges of the 21st century are incorporated into the University’s Learning and Teaching Strategy and Principles and Guidance for Undergraduate Course Design which seek to foster excellent teaching and curriculum design at Worcester.

Here, Dr Heather Barrett, University Academic Lead for ESD, provides an overview of University achievement and developing work on this important topic.

Globally, UNESCO has been promoting ESD since 1992. It led the UN Decade for ESD from 2005 to 2014 and is now spearheading its follow-up, the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD.  On 25 September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  At the core of the 2030 Agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The universal, transformational and inclusive SDGs describe major development challenges for humanity.



Realising Teaching Excellence in Teacher Training

The fifteen PGCE Modern Languages trainee teachers at the University of Worcester have made a great start to the teacher training course. On 29th September 2017, they celebrated the European Day of Languages at the Lacon Childe School in Cleobury Mortimer by teaching French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish to Year 9 pupils. Lessons focused on aspects of culture. Pupils found out about the Oktoberfest in Munich, the festival of lights in Lyon, the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, Italian landmarks, Brazilian and Spanish food and how All Saints Day is celebrated in Mexico.

Trainee teachers team-taught the same lesson three times so that all the year 9 groups could experience learning about six different aspects of culture. It was for some trainee teachers their first teaching experience in England, either because they are native speakers or because they taught in France, Germany or Spain on their year abroad. The initiative gave them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the English education system before the start of the school placement. It gave them an insight into the importance of working collaboratively with each other, building effective working relationships with pupils and contextualising their teaching to engage pupils.

Here is what some trainee teachers said:


‘I really enjoyed my day at Lacon Childe. I felt that the lessons we taught went really well overall and I really enjoyed creating a rapport with the pupils.  l can see just how much I have learned in only three weeks.’


‘This week I gained confidence through teaching at Lacon Childe and learnt a lot about the school system and teaching in general. It was a great introduction to teaching and I now feel more confident to start placement one. As a group I feel that we delivered the lesson to the best of our ability.’


‘I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the 4 groups of Year 9 today and I found that when I started teaching I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and passion for languages which I hope I managed to convey to the students. It was one of the best days of the course for me so far and gave me yet another opportunity to realise how much I will love a career in teaching.’

Isabelle Schafer

Modern Languages PGCE Subject Tutor, Institute of Education



Student information and study skills; a learner journey from pre-entry to level 6 – what can we expect and how do we support students in completing the journey to independence?

This is a report of a project undertaken by Dr Sarah Pittaway from Library Services.  She explores:

  • What is reasonable to expect of level 4 students in terms of study skills when they arrive at University?  The project found that there are wide variations in expectations of the study skills of students before they come to University:  ‘students lack basic academic writing skills’ vs ‘students are expected to have a basic understanding of academic writing’; ‘student lack research skills, including searching for material’ and ‘students are expected to be reasonably internet savvy and able to search’.
  • What study skills are students expected to develop through level 4 and what are the most effective ways of developing this? Some courses focus on textbooks, others on Resource Lists, there is variation in introducing journal articles and making this explicit in marking matrices.
  • What should we expect of students at level 5 in terms of referencing?  Should they be more or less ‘perfect’?
  • General agreement that at level 6, students should demonstrate ‘independence’ but some students struggle with this.  How can independence be taught and facilitated?

Read the full report