Recent projects

Ask, Answer Assess: Peer learning from student-generated content

The aim of this project was to evaluate the use and educational effectiveness of adaptive comparative judgement (ACJ) for peer assessment of solutions to exam-style problems.  ACJ is based on ‘Thurstone’s Law of Comparative Judgment’, in which pairwise comparisons are used to estimate the relative quality of a set of solutions.  We used an online system which automates the operation of the underlying algorithm and presents student judges with pairs of pieces of work for comparison over iterative cycles.

Undergraduate courses in physics and veterinary science at the Universities of Edinburgh were included in the project.

Ask, Answer, Assess was part-funded by the Higher Education Academy under the pedagogies of partnership programme and ran from October 2014 to July 2015.

The final report and other documentation and resources are available on the project website.

Project website: http://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/ACJP

Fostering Learning Improvements in Physics (FLIP)

The aims of the FLIP project were to investigate how advances in undergraduate physics teaching and learning have been achieved and to make recommendations for stakeholders who seek to improve physics education in UK universities. The project had two major strands:

  • The prevalence and impact of physics education research (PER). Through surveys and interviews of PER practitioners, both in the UK and internationally, we aimed to identify how communities of practice develop and thrive, how PER is funded, what major knowledge contributions have been made and how these have impacted teaching and learning practice.
  • How UK undergraduate physics teaching develops in practice. Through surveys and interviews of teaching staff in UK university physics departments, together with case studies drawn from the published literature, we aimed to characterise the conditions under which innovation and best practice thrive and the challenges and barriers to improvement.

The project outputs included recommendations for UK PER practitioners, university teaching staff & managment and professional & funding bodies, based around 5 key themes:

  • The strategic development of UK PER
  • Funding for UK PER
  • Addressing common teaching challenges
  • Developing teaching practice 
  • Valuing excellent teaching

FLIP was part-funded by the Institute of Physics and ESRC and ran from January 2013 to February 2014.

The final report and recommendations are available on the project website.

Project website: http://www.ph.ed.ac.uk/flip

Student-Generated Content for Learning (SGC4L)

In this project we evaluated the impact and educational effectiveness of using PeerWise, a freely available online tool that permits cohorts of students to create, answer and discuss multiple choice questions that they have created.

Undergraduate courses in physics, chemistry and biological science at the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Nottingham were included in the project.

SGC4L was part-funded by Jisc and ran from September 2011 to September 2012.

The final report and other documentation is also available on the Jisc Design Studio http://jiscdesignstudio.pbworks.com/

For information on PeerWIse see http://peerwise.cs.auckland.ac.nz/

There is also a worldwide community of practice resource for people who are using PeerWise in their teaching, see http://www.peerwise-community.org/

Project website: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/SGC4L/

International Students' Expectations and Experiences of Assessment and Feedback (ISAF)

The aim of this project was to investigate international students' experiences and achievements across a range of assessment tasks during their first year of study at university. The project had a specific focus on the first year of study in science, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This is a critical period of transition for all students, but especially so for international students, who are faced with a range of additional challenges and pressures. 

ISAF was part-funded funded by an HEA and by the University of Edinburgh Principal's Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) and ran from September 2011 to September 2013.

Project website: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/ISAF/

Smart Pens to Capture Student Behaviour

The acquisition of strong problem solving skills is a key component of a physics degree. However, while we know what we teach students about the methods of problem solving, we know comparatively little about the extent to which they adopt these method or the extent to which these methods are actually effective. 

The aim of this project was to obtain insights into authentic student problem solving activities, hence identify archetypal behaviours and correlate these with problem solving success. Interviews and observations of individual students can only provide limited insights. In this project, Smart Pens - conventional ink-and-paper pens with the added ability to electronically record pen strokes and capture sychronised audio - were used together with a 'think-aloud’ protocol to observe student problem solving in the natural environment of everyday course tasks, rather than in an artificial experimental setting.

The project was part-funded funded by PTAS and ran from May 2011 to May 2012.

A Data Handling Diagnostic

The ability to handle and interpret complex quantitative data is one of the key attributes of an undergraduate science degree. These are essential skills for further research study and for a wide variety of graduate careers.  Frequently, the development of such skills takes place in laboratory classes, where the data is gathered during the experimentation process and then analysed as part of an assessed write-up.

In this project we developed a diagnostic test instrument to assess the mastery of these skills, together with creation of learning resources to offer targeted support to address diagnosed shortcomings. 

The project was part-funded by the Higher Education Academy UK Physical Sciences Centre and ran from September 2009 to September 2010.

Conceptual Diagnostic Tests

This is a collection of resources that gather together information about published diagnostic tests or instruments that probe conceptual understanding in various topic areas relating to (but not restricted to) the physical sciences.

It was developed based on published articles and information available online in November 2011, as part of the Concepts in Physics project, funded under the HESTEM initiative and PiCETL, led by Prof. Derek Raine at the University of Leicester.

The resources are available online: Concept tests in the physical sciences

Learners' Experiences across the Disciplines (LEaD)

The LEaD project recorded the student year through students' own voices. It captured the "critical moments"; students' expectations and experiences of using technology as they made the transition to university, and how this changed as they progressed through their first year.

The key questions addressed during the project were:

  • What are students' expectations regarding learning technologies?
  • How do students adapt their approaches to e-learning over their first year at university?
  • What are the key factors that influence students' e-learning strategies?
  • To what extent do students use personal technologies to support their learning?

Students from the Schools of Divinity, Physics & Astronomy and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh took part in the project. To capture the breadth and complexity of their experiences, students recorded their thoughts and reflections in a series of diaries "in the moment", using video, audio or text, and participated in surveys and discussion groups. 

LEaD was part-funded by Jisc and ran from March 2007 to September 2008.

The final report and methodology report are available on the Jisc website http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2009/leadfinalreport.aspx

Project website: http://www2.epcc.ed.ac.uk/~lead

Research-Teaching Linkages: Enhancing Graduate Attributes

The project aimed to identify the breadth of what research-teaching linkages in the Physical Sciences in Scotland map on to in terms of activities at the 'coalface' of undergraduate teaching and learning. Through contact with all deans of undergraduate study and directors of teaching/learning in all physics and chemistry departments throughout Scotland we obtained detailed information about practices within the departments and illustrations of how they forged links between teaching and research in the broadest sense. 

We attempted to identify the breadth of what research-teaching linkages in the Physical Sciences in Scotland map on to in terms of activities at the 'coalface' of undergraduate teaching and learning. Through contact with all deans of undergraduate study and directors of teaching/learning in all physics and chemistry departments throughout Scotland we obtained detailed information about practices within the departments and illustrations of how they forged links between teaching and research in the broadest sense. 

Through a set of case studies and snapshots we illustrated activities across the range of levels of the undergraduate programme, from first-year laboratories to the final-year project. These examples cover the breadth of the discipline, from traditional physics and chemistry programmes to astronomy and forensic sciences. While some are specific to a particular course in a school or department, many have wider applicability.

This project was a collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews. It was a Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Scotland Enhancement Theme Project and ran from 2007-2008.

The final report is available on the QAA Enhancement Theme website at http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/documents/ResearchTeaching/Physcial%20sciences%20-%20PDF.pdf

Project website: https://sites.google.com/site/physcirtl/