Moving to the next stage of the project

Our next stage is relating to pedagogy, refinement of the materials into a finished resource pack.  It’s time to welcome our 3rd team member, Rob Farmer, who is going to help us make the materials into an open-access resource pack. Yesterday we had our first meeting to discuss the details , such as options of resource pack format, creating extra supporting materials. Here are what we need to do:

  •  Finalise the materials and prepare extra supporting materials, eg. session notes to guide potential users how to use the materials (Qian & Dave)
  •  Polish and prepare the materials to meet the publishing standard. Ensure the materials are accessible to all, including people with disabilities who cannot hear audio or see video (Dave)
  • The project team will follow the University of Northampton data management policy and principles.

We are looking forward to sharing what we’ve done so far at the T & L conference.

Pilot teaching

We have successfully completed our 5-week pilot teaching with the materials we produced using our alumni’s accounts of their current employment. Two groups and 15 students in total attended the pilot sessions. I will share some our observations and reflection.


  • limited time. We only had 75mins each week to the session which ideally would be two hours. That means we had to cut out some activities.
  • quality of the video clips.  Alumni used different recording devices, so the quality is not consistent.
  • Designing attractive materials. For the pilot study, we mainly used PPTs.

What’s next?

  • We are in the process of collecting feedback to evaluate our sessions
  • Based on the evaluation, we will adapt our materials
  • Work with Rob to design course material package
  • Submit a conference paper for BAAL 2018

Material development

We had a long meeting at the beginning of this term and it was very productive. 

  • We decided the main session topics based on our research and the analysis of video clips
  • We agreed on general principles of activities design
  • We divided materials development tasks
  • I have received confirmation from the Pre-sessional course leader that we can pilot our materials with our current pre-sessional students 

One of the advantages of working in a small project team (at moment just Dave and I. Rob will join us at next stage) is being flexible and be able to respond quickly. We don’t have to spend a lot of time on organising meetings. For example, this morning we had a quick telephone conversation about our progress and more important we shared a couple of ideas we came up since we met last week. Sometimes it is easy to talk about things rather than writing an email. Dave is very good at sharing ideas. 

We plan to meet up next week and go through the materials we have developed. So I will update after our next meeting.

Update of our data collection

We are so happy that we have received some participates’ video clips and we are expecting a few more. It has been challenging to recruit participants. First, we tried to invite participates by using email and there was hardly any response. Then we changed it to WeChat, which is the most popular social media channel used in China. It is working and we start to receive responses. We are looking forward to more videos.

‘Transitions and Tensions’ – Thoughts for Continuous Professional Development (by Dr Dave Burnapp)

A few years ago I published an article relating to running an educational research project concerning the internationalisation of Higher Education: ‘Transitions and tensions: getting a project off the ground’ (there is a link to the full article at the end of this blog entry). The context was a HEA-funded three-year project under the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS). In it I reflected on the changes I had experienced to get to that position – the transitions – and also recognised the ongoing unresolved issues – the tensions – that I would need to address in order to complete the project.

Such reflective thinking is an essential feature of continuing professional development, of any interventions which claim to be innovative, and of action research in general. This blog entry is therefore an update to that original article.

Concerning transitions, in the first article I described a trajectory from being a teacher, to becoming a National Teaching Fellow, then a researcher. To connect this to the current project, I think that our innovation is linked to changes which have occurred, firstly in the specific area of working with international contexts/partners/students, and secondly to more general changes within Higher Education.

For the area of working in international contexts, my concern ten years ago was with the prevalent focus on what could be described as a ‘deficit’ model of international students: for example I doubted the effectiveness of well-intended attempts to fill in what were thought of as missing student competences. My own emerging cultural approach was to focus instead on seeing any educational setting as a culture with its own assumed ideas of what constitutes knowledge and learning: 

to teach an EAP course component about the language of discussion will not of itself bring students to participate in seminars if they have not had the opportunity to explore why, in these situations, discussion is seen as a route to learning, particularly so if their previous education journeys have taken them on radically different routes. Their previous experiences will have equipped them for other tasks; competences which are expected, accepted, and respected elsewhere but not in their new setting.  

The transition in fundamental assumptions underpinning our new research project goes beyond this cultural approach and is based on research which recognizes people (migrants, international students) as being agentive, of actively imagining their future identities, and hence keen to invest time and effort into realising that imagined self.  

For the area of more general changes within Higher Education, our new project is based on ideas of collaboration with students in research/development activities, specifically in this case by the use of alumni as partners to enable us to offer models which new students can integrate into their own imaginations.

Concerning tensions, it is possible to amend the three tensions identified in the first article to describe our current situation. The first tension concerns the competing demands relating to time as both of the researchers have many other tasks which cannot be put off (although the project does provide some remission), and this is perhaps exacerbated at a time of massive institutional change relating to moves to a new campus and redesigning methods and approaches to learning. Note, this form of tension is not something that can be resolved, it relates to going the extra mile.

The second tension concerns the demands we make on other people, and in this project this relates to getting the alumni to supply us with their reflections, for they too are busy professionals, which is precisely why their reflections are so useful to new students. We will need to keep up the patient contact with these volunteer participants as the project continues and they are consulted at each stage.

The third tension, or set of tensions, concerns competences. This new project is heavily reliant on self-produced video materials and social-media based technologies, and our task over the next two months is to ensure that we manage the technology to produce tasks which exploit these possibilities successfully and are conducive to assisting new students in their own transitions. 


Link to original article: file:///C:/Users/David/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/M39NID31/Transitions%20and%20tensions.pdf

What’s the ‘Narrative to Transition’ project?

Dave and I are really pleased that we have won the University of Northampton Learning Enhancement and Innovation Bids 2017-18.

What is the ‘Narrtives for Transition’ project?

This project explores a new way of improving the engagement of international students with pre-sessional English and Study Skills courses. Narratives from recent graduates now in the world of work will be video-recorded to collect accounts of their current employment, their uses of English, and examples of critical incidents they encountered along the way. These teaching materials will be generated to show links between L&T methods in UK universities and employability. These will improve students’ motivation and support them to navigate the transition from the learning situations they were familiar with, to the expectations of their new situation.