GETTING STUDENT’s HANDS WET – Taking advantage of SU’s research boat and unique aquaculture facilities to enhance the learning experience

PRESENTATION

Author(s) Sara Barrento, Ben Whittaker, Rebecca Stringwell,  Paul Howes,  Andre Pires,  Ben Jennings,  Rob Smith and Carlos Garcia de Leaniz

Abstract

Biosciences students benefit from a strong practical component. But, at level 6, modules lack practicals and the assessment is exam based. Here we explore the learning benefits and the challenges of introducing practical classes to level 6 students taking the Fisheries and Aquaculture module. Swansea University has the best recirculation aquaculture system in the country – The Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR). Built in 2003 for research purposes it was only in 2015 that the facility was made accessible to individual undergraduate students working on their dissertations. In 2017 and for the first time, 37 marine biology and zoology undergraduates did a one month practical in CSAR. Feedback from students was obtained using Google forms – an online anonymous questionnaire tool. Students judged the aquaculture practical to be excellent (50%), very good (45%), or good (5%).

Outline

In this presentation we explore the learning benefits and the logistical challenges of introducing practical classes to level 6 students taking the Fisheries and Aquaculture module in a professional immersive learning environment. Session outline The session will consist of a brief introduction and background context about the practical including the learning objectives and assessment. It will include a video – one minute long – where the audience is invited to navigate in this unique learning environment, and reflect on the benefits and challenges about this wet, cold and alive space. The audience will be invited to share their thoughts using slido.com. The session will follow with the student feedback data – this will include the viewing of the Google forms from a learner perspective and the data that the administrator (lecturer) can have access to. At this point, a series of reflections from the lecturers, demonstrators and technicians who delivered the practical will be introduced and compared to the students’ feedback. These reflections will include the design of the practical considering inclusivity and assessment considerations, the delivery and the gaps encountered along the way. There is plenty of scope to improve given the learning outcomes that we have set and which include: the practical classes should enable the students to1) link theoretical principles to real life aquaculture industry applications; 2) facilitate the students to interact with post graduate students, technical and academic staff, and to have a better understanding and appreciation for their roles; 3) develop team work, good professional practice & communication skills. Looking at the feedback most students strongly agreed or agreed that all these objectives were fulfilled. But, from the delivery team perspective there is plenty of scope for improvement. We believe we can specifically improve on issues related to assessment, team work and critical thinking by using technology enhanced learning tools. Finally the authors would like to invite the audience to comment on the practical, the assessment provided and ways to improve it. This session aims to show the difficulties of adapting a research built environment to a learning environment. The strengths of this practical are precisely what makes it weak. To benefit from this space, we will have to adapt as a team of academics, technicians and students. Group work, innovation, and technology enhanced learning tools can strength this practical. We expect that our experience will be useful for delegates engaged in teaching and assessing practical work but who are also interested in creating learning spaces that facilitate and encourage critical thinking, group work, and curiosity. We also wish to benefit from delegates comments and suggestions. The authors believe that teaching excellence is shaped by social, political, economic, environmental and technological factors, and by definition is a work in progress concept which evolves through time and space. We ambition to be constantly on track for teaching excellence.

Key Words

Learning environment, inclusivity, aquaculture, TEL, curiosity

Key Messages

It is hard to adapt a research built environment to a learning environment – but it is possible. Accreditation can create difficulties and restrict creative assessment – but there are ways around it. Student numbers is a constant challenge for time tabling – team work across different members of staff (academics, technicians and demonstrators) becomes crucial. TEL should be used to facilitate and maximize the interaction between students and between the lecturer and the students.

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