Sunday, 27 September 2015

Vertical Teaching

In response to suggestions from students, a colleague and I have volunteered to run an open class for first and second years together in Term 1.

We are both engaged in teaching research skills - albeit at different levels - and in this session we will be encouraging students to share and develop ideas about possible research projects they are going to do this year. A hoped for by product is a sharing of experiences and developing bonds between the two year groups.

We don't currently have a PAL, PASS or student mentoring system in place - we have tried this in the past with little success, but it is something I'd like to see resurrected - and this open class could be the beginning.

However, being uncertain how to go about such a venture, and wondering if anyone had tried this before, I used the LDHEN email list to solicit ideas, links, advice. Here's what I got back.

Sandra Abegglen (London Met): 
Abegglen, S., Burns, T. & Sinfield, S. (2015). Voices from the margins: Narratives of learning development in a digital age. The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 1(1). Available online:

I am also running a blog that gives insight into the work we are doing:

Sandra Sinfield (London Met): we run a second year module: Peer Mentoring in Practice (PMiP) which wraps around a core first year module: Becoming an Educationalist.
Part of the work of the second year module is to support the first years with their developing sense of belonging - and also to facilitate their various first year projects: blogging to learn; develop a digital me; study & academic skills research project.
We have the modules running concurrently - and specifically the third hour of the PMiP module requires the students to be with the first year students.

Ricardo Eversely (London Met): I teach within the Visual Communication cluster on the BA Graphic Design and Illustration courses. We currently employ this system within our Design School teaching at

It's called the Studio System here at The Cass and works within a framework that sees 2nd and 3rd year students sharing the same workspace for three out of their four modules throughout the year. MY STUDIOS TO DATE

Liz Thomas (Edgehill): There are a range of examples of across year collaboration in the Compendium of Effective Practice in Directed Independent Learning ( which might give you some ideas.

Joan Mahoney (HEA Academy):  Here are some slides I used for a workshop last year.
There’s a few research references in these. The key thing, I think, (its almost impossible!) is finding time to really plan and to think through each step. Be really clear what it is that you are doing. E.g are you providing mentoring? are you providing peer-led learning? (students need to be clear they are not teaching). There are a whole pile of nuts and bolts that need to be considered (noted in the slides).  If everyone is clear what it is they are involved in, and are using the same language, that helps

Nicholas Bowskill (Derby): We've done this for various applications including student induction & transition. The important point for us was to make sessions benefit both Year1 and Year2 students. We ran a student-generated transition session for 2nd year students so they could talk and listen to each other. We then ran a student-generated induction session for Year 1 students so they could do the same. We then had Year2 students respond to the issues raised by Year1 students.
The outcome was a chance to reflect for Year2 students (on previous year and their second year at university). It was a chance for Year 1 students to recognise they weren't alone in having particular concerns. It also provided a 'shape' or structure for the Year 2 students to mentor Year1 students in a socially-contingent manner.
We've done it between academics and students as two interacting cohorts as well. We thought it was valuable to understand the journey from student to academic and vice versa. In that instance, we had students collaborate about reflective practice (what does it mean, how can we work together etc). Then we had academics collaborate as a department on the same issues (what did reflective practice mean to them etc). We then shared and discussed the thinking of both groups and it was very illuminating for all concerned. We're extending that work at the moment (to both sides of the 'partnership' concept).
It was a way of extending the idea of Student As Partner/Producer to intergroup ways of thinking and working. There's also a workshop in London coming up if you want to experience it firsthand. We do bespoke workshops too. Details online at: 

Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas - hope it's been of benefit to others too: I'll be blogging about the set up and outcomes as we go along.

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