By biology students Renate Alling and Marie Hauso
The ISSoTL conferance this year was held in Los Angeles, with the theme stories of teaching and learning. This year ISSoTL put away some money to fund the conference fee for students to allow them to join the conference, and we were one of the lucky students that were granted this emeriging scholar fund. This was a unique opportunity to join in on the discussion on teaching and learning, as well get an insight in the latest research on that topic. They had a very varied and interesting program with something for everyone interested in teaching and learning. There was a total of three keynotes and at the end of the conference a panel, where everyone showed up. Other than that we were split into different rooms depending on our interest where one could choose from many different papers, panels, workshops and spotlights. To promote collaboration between students we had our own agenda for a few hours on the second day, where we discussed aspects and influences we hoped and had gotten from ISSoTL.
For me, Renate, as a student representative for bioCEED (Centre of Excellence in Biology Education) and also as a student at The University Centre in Svalbard, it was particularly interesting to compare what was talked about in the conference and the techniques my own professors are using. There was a lot of talk about flipped classroom, also research presenting its benefits. I myself have experienced this kind of teaching, and found it gave me increased learning outcome compared to normal lectures. Different ways to go about flipped classrooms were presented, some were adapted to specific subjects and others could be applied to several subjects.
Other alternative topics were also discussed, like making videos instead of writing reports, online classes and how to successfully motivate students without the direct interaction, improving reading skills, benefits of referee reports, using students to develop curricula etc.
Finding a general way that is the most ideal teaching method may be difficult, but that’s why we have organizations like bioCEED and ISSoTL.
My (Marie) experience on this conference was excellent, I felt I learned a lot and achieved a better understanding than I had before. It also inspired many ideas. I had written a small paper dealing with student stories. To my big surprise they accepted the paper, and then October came and we were on our way. During my talk I was incredible nervous, and spoke way to quickly (I apologize about that), however awful that felt, I loved doing it and hope I one day will be able to do it again. It was a great deal of talking about which impressions we as students had from the conference and I only have good memories from this. My experience on this conference was great, I felt I learned a lot and achieved a better understanding than I had before. It also inspired many ideas. One of the interest groups they have was about undergraduate research and I noticed several ideas they had was being done in the course BIO299 (UiB), but they also had ideas I hope to further. Most of all I appreciated the warm welcome I got from everyone on the interest group since everyone seemed genuinely interested in student thoughts, experiences and ideas.
Another thing that was mentioned a lot in the conference was the definition of teaching and learning. It seems like many members are quite the philosophers, and an answer to those kinds of questions will not be found easily. We don’t know if it is even important to have a definition for these terms, if everyone has the general idea. But having that many people thinking in an alternative way, allowing themselves to discuss well established terms like that is a good starting point to develop new and improved ways in teaching and learning.
The conference was very inspiring for us, and we want to further convey this information and motivation to other instances that might have use for it. We wish to be a part of the change and improvement of teaching and learning in higher education by bringing in our own experiences as well as the information we have assessed.
One of the panel speakers said an interesting quote on the last day: Is SoTL doing things better or doing better things. And as in the correct world it is most likely the lovely grey area between both. Sometimes a new great idea occurs, and ends up as “doing better things”. However, its working together thorough collaboration to achieve greater learning and understanding in “doing things better”. Improving upon ideas across the world.
The stories you are introduced to and the ones you create for yourself and others shape the learning experience. We wish more people took an interest in their own learning process instead of just thinking about the straightforward information they are given. For information can turn to knowledge and deeper understanding, that way it will be easier used and remembered.
In higher education there is often focus on what students are supposed to learn, but not necessarily the methods used to teach. We need to be able to adapt with the changes that are happening in the world and always try to improve our methods and curricula. There will perhaps never be a perfect end result, so this will require a lot of hard work and collaboration from everyone included, which we know the members of ISSoTL are ready to do.