Instructor: Dr Charlotte Haberstroh, Learning Developer, King’s Academy and Teresa Arias, Lecturer in Midwifery Education, NMPC
Assessment Activity: Students (3rd year Midwifery BSc) were asked to prepare and deliver a 15-minute presentation as the summative assessment to their “Learning in Practice 3” module, in which they reflect on their experience of some of the core concepts of midwifery literature in their own clinical practice. This authentic assessment task combined their depth of knowledge and critical analysis with the development and application of communication skills that are so central to their profession. To support their development, Teresa (the module lead) and I co-developed an academic literacies workshop for the whole cohort. This was part of a new programme-level approach to embedding academic literacies in the curriculum, facilitated by the King’s Academy Learning Development team. We split the cohort (total of 65 students) into two groups, and I delivered the same 90 minutes session to each group. A member of the module’s teaching team was present to answer content-related questions.
What were the aims of the workshop?
Inclusive education scholarship shows the benefits associated with embedding the learning of academic literacies into the curriculum as it allows students to develop higher-order skills within their disciplinary context which educators often assume they already possess (Wingate 2006; Ghorbannejad 2023). This enhances student engagement with the content as it fosters their confidence that they can apply what they learn to their context.
The session’s learning outcomes focused on unpacking the expectations of an effective academic presentation at Level 6 and on providing concrete tools for students to reach these expectations by scaffolding their preparation activities. One of the module’s learning outcomes centered on the ability to communicate one’s critical reflections with confidence and authority. We wanted to highlight that such competence is not “natural” but that it can be the result of an effective approach to preparing a presentation (e.g. in-depth research and time to practice), that the best approach of preparing for a presentation is not necessarily straightforward but that it can be learned.
How did your activities respond to the session’s learning outcomes?
We started with a presentation of the marking rubric. We walked through each of the sections together, and, as we wanted to ensure everyone feels included, we focused on the clarification of descriptors for the “B” grade, weaving any differences between A and B grade into the discussion. I encouraged students to ask clarification questions, which led to an engaging discussion on the notion of “critical analysis” and how to communicate it orally and visually.
We then moved on to the “Four P’s of Presentation Preparation” an activity which scaffolds the work that goes into preparing presentations. I had adapted this activity from Burns and Sinfield (2004, Chapter 10) who advise educators not to underestimate the amount of preparation required for a polished and well-researched presentation. I briefly outlined the four steps (Planning, Preparing, Practising and Presenting), then asked students to choose one of them and in pairs discuss what activities they would associate with it. I encouraged each pair to share one point which I noted down on the board. A summary of those activities was included in the session handout for future reference. I summarised the key messages on a slide (4 Ps of effective presentation preparation – key messages CH).
In the last activity, students worked on a checklist of ten features of a successful presentation, which was closely linked to language of the marking rubric. The list outlined standards for content, structure, visual aids, and delivery. Students were invited to review this individually and self-assess their confidence in their ability to apply this to their own presentation. In groups, they then discussed the elements that they were least confident about, developed advice for each other and noted it on a post it, which we collected on a poster and shared on KEATS.
Were there any challenges and how did you address them?
The students came with quite different questions and priorities. For example, some students wanted to focus on the content, and we had a very in-depth discussion on critical analysis, which I had not expected to feature so prominently in this context. Having an assignment-specific exemplar at hand would have been helpful to illustrate this further. Other students hoped to develop their competence in public speaking. We were not able to provide an opportunity to practice within the framework of this session, and a consideration for the future could be to embed regular, low-stakes opportunities for practicing public speaking into the module. To address this divergence in priorities during the session, I remained open to any kind of questions and made sure that my answers included signposts to relevant resources for students to engage with in their own time. For the activities, I offered students a maximum of choice so they could focus on the content that was relevant for them.
What benefits did you see?
Whilst we do not yet know how it might have affected the quality and experience of the assessment, the evaluation of the session itself was very positive. I was struck by the high level of participation and engagement throughout the session. The midwifery educators participating in the sessions agreed with this assessment. In Teresa’s words, it provided “a safe space to invite questions and the activities […] were practical and tailored towards this assignment.” Teresa added that she thought the students particularly appreciated the opportunity “to revisit concepts such as ‘critical analysis’ and use the students own understanding of what this is to bring it alive.”
The anonymous evaluation questionnaire I circulated at the end showed an overwhelmingly positive response (with a 30% response rate, 16 out of the 18 respondents agreed that they would apply something they had learned during the workshop to their studies). The majority of respondents plan to apply an element of the “Four P’s” activity and a third of respondents identified this activity as the most useful content of the workshop. Other key take-aways were the importance of practicing and a better understanding of the expectations. They felt they had benefited from the Q&A and from their peers’ questions. The module lead received informal student feedback which confirmed these benefits.
Do you have any advice for colleagues who are considering trying this?
I would advise to consider the timing of such a session and where it fits within the curriculum. We delivered our session three months prior to the assessment, and before the tutorials and formative assessment had taken place. This gave students plenty of time to implement their learning into their preparation activities for the assessment but came with the caveat that they had not yet engaged with the assessment task in much depth.
I would also advise to make space for questions and actively encourage students to ask questions throughout the session as this allows to tackle tacit knowledge and make it explicit. We had a very thorough and enjoyable discussion about the meanings of “critical analysis” and how students could ensure they would meet this expectation in their own work.
Burns, Tom, and Sandra Sinfield. Teaching, Learning and Study Skills : A Guide for Tutors, SAGE Publications, Limited, 2004, pages 113-131. (e-book available at King’s Libraries)
Ghorbannejad, Mariam (2023) Group synthesis task in a workshop on academic writing (case study) ; https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/activelearning/2023/01/16/academic-writing-workshop-case-study/
Ursula Wingate (2006) Doing away with ‘study skills’, Teaching in Higher Education, 11:4, 457-469, DOI: 10.1080/13562510600874268