As former student representatives in bioCEED, Mari and I attended the ISSOTL (International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) 2018 conference: “Toward a learning culture”. Several other students affiliated with the University of Bergen and bioCEED also participated as volunteers and attended the conference. Here is a short glimpse of our impressions of the conference.
On the first day of the conference, we, together with student representatives Endre Lygre and Sondre Olai Spjeld, held the workshop “Challenges and Benefits in Involving Students as Partners to Improve Teaching and Learning Culture”. Here we presented the bioCEED student-coordinated projects: biORAKEL and bioSPIRE held at UiB, and bioBREAKFAST at UNIS, before we let the participants discuss questions concerning student involvement. Being totally fresh in the workshop-game, I think we all were quite pleased with how it went. Not only did we have a full room of participants, but the discussions seemed to run smoothly, and a lot of interesting perspectives were given. For instance, discussions about the differences between countries and cultures regarding student partnership were raised, and consequently how each country and university need to find different ways to motivate the students to become partners.
From what we observed during the other conference days, students from elsewhere attending the conference were mainly PhD-students. From the University of Bergen and UNIS, however, both bachelor and master students attended and volunteered (and hosted a workshop). Students also participated in the keynote speech on the opening night, which is not a usual sight on ISSOTL-conferences. This certainly sends a message that students here are engaged and want to be more involved as partners in their own education.
As a master student in marine biology, studying copepods in Svalbard waters, it was fascinating seeing this completely different world of people working to improve higher education. Not only was it interesting observing all the conference participants taking up their phones to take pictures of presentation slides with models and figures, rather than of zooplankton seen through a microscope, but also getting an impression of all that’s happening “behind the scenes” at the university. Through attending the conference, we both got an impression of how lecturers think when they teach and how “bad” lecturers can improve, in additions to getting tips on how to teach for ourselves as a teaching assistant or future teacher. All in all, combined with the limitless supply of cake in the coffee breaks, made this a very good conference to attend as students!
Mari Vold Bjordal and Margot Ulfsdatter Nyeggen