UKIERI Study India – A participant remembers ten years on

The Summer Programmes team at King’s College London project managed the UKIERI Study India programme from 2009-2012, initially with the University of Birmingham. During each year, the innovative scheme took 200 students from across the UK for up to one month to India. The programme included an intensive schedule of learning interventions, a high degree of daily mobility and short work experiences. Eleanor Salt, now Partnerships Manager (Europe, Middle East, Africa) in Global Engagement, and Dr Alexander Heinz, now Senior Associate Director in Summer Programmes, were working with other colleagues on the programme and in their current roles continue their contributions to shaping the future of international work at King’s College London.

We interviewed Alexander Gerritsen (* 1992), a participant in 2012, in summer 2022.

In 2012, was your international outlook before you joined the King’s College London managed UKIERI Study India programme?

I am originally from South Africa and was quite well travelled prior to the Study India trip. In secondary school I had participated in an exchange program in China. I had to travel to places in Europe. I had a passion for history and politics in a global context and so I was aware of some of the major pressure points in the world, such territorial disputes in the South China sea and of course between India and Pakistan.

Why did you apply?

The opportunity was brought to my attention by my course leader Dr Rachel Utley from Leeds University. We had recently been studying India and evaluating whether it is or would become a Great Power in the 21st century. I had also been learning about the British Raj and in particular the Indian mutiny of 1857. I used this all in my application for the course and I was successful.

The programme sparked my career path. Without it, I would not have been aware of the opportunities available to working abroad and the excitement of being exposed to different cultures.

What are your favourite memories of being in Mumbai?

Mumbai is a great city with such a rich history and an overwhelmingly vibrant present. I loved walking along the seafront or to the Gateway of India but my favourite memories were just walking around in any part of the city as well as exploring the markets. It was helpful to have locals with us to guide us to all the best places and try all the street food.

What do you remember doing there?

All the learning activities organised by King’s and the Indian partners – we did we start with a Mumbai treasure hunt walk, which took us to the major destinations. We also had visits to the Dharavi slums and the Bombay Stock Exchange. We attended lectures on economics, history, culture and religion which was fascinating. We would also have lots of group activities on the roof of our host college, including Bollywood dances to attend. We also had local student buddies so we got to visit their house. I was even taken by my buddy Aman to the country clubs where his family had membership – which had a clear postcolonial taste. We had two free weekends so for the first one we took the train to a nearby hill station- buying a ticket was a mission. On the second weekend I organised with a few people to visit New Delhi and Agra to see the Taj. It was an adventure.

What stands out most in your memory?

For me the internship with Unmeed really stands out. This was a NGO for vulnerable children who have learning disabilities. The NGO dealt with a cross section of society and really provided support to these people. A doctor told one set of parents that their little girl would be unlikely to ever go to university. The father was defiant at first and then began to cry. It hit home how incredibly competitive education is in India. Our student buddies told us stories about it and I remember seeing the billboards with the student grades. On a slight side note, this point was also illustrated in a movie we went to watch at the cinema which was called the ‘Three Idiots’ and featured three engineering students. I remember the film clearly. It was an absolute emotional rollercoaster.

Alexander Gerritsen with friends in Mumbai 2012

Have you been back to India since?

I have sadly not yet had the chance. I was actually supposed to attend an educational event in New Delhi in April 2020 but the trip had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

What has your career been since?

The programme was instrumental for my career as it brought me into contact with the British Council. I was able to take advantage of all the opportunities that they offer. I was selected to participate in the British Council teacher assistant course in Wuxi, China for a year and that was an incredible opportunity. I taught at a local school and had the opportunity to get to know my Chinese colleagues, learn Chinese. I then saw an opportunity in Lima, Peru, and I was offered the job to become a full time History teacher. This was brilliant and I stayed in Peru from 2015 to 2021. I travelled extensively around all of the Americas. I even swam with Great White sharks in Mexico. I did everything I could. Professionally, I advanced to teaching IGCSE and IB history and I even became a Head of department for the Theory of Knowledge. I started organising my own overseas programming, leading groups to South Africa and I participated in the Amazon raft race.

Alexander Gerritsen ten years on

What has the UKIERI Study India programme given you in hindsight?

The programme sparked my career path. Without it, I would not have been aware of the opportunities available to working abroad and the excitement of being exposed to different cultures. I fell in love with India and continue to follow their politics. On a practical note, to this day the programme allows me to have an immediate connection with Indians who I meet. We have many things to talk about!

Did you keep in touch with other participants for some time?

Yes, I certainly did for the first few years. We had reunions in London and were all involved in presenting about our experiences in UK schools. I am still connected with my friends on Facebook and Instagram. Many have been doing masters courses, either in the UK or Singapore. Some are in the United States. We occasionally catch up that way.

What are your plans now?

During COVID, I moved from Peru to Barcelona to undertake a masters in Diplomacy and International Organisations. Luckily, I am starting as a Blue Book Trainee at the Secretariat General of the EU Commission, with the duty of reporting directly to the Director General. I will be undertaking this traineeship until the end of February 2023 with the hope of finding a position in the EU afterwards.

Five steps to successful summer school online teaching

Kat is a research student in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s College London.

A photo of Kat

In 2019, when I taught the Media, Gender and Culture module for the first time, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenging yet rewarding time as a summer school tutor. Teaching the course again in 2020 and 2021, in the context of the pandemic, was inevitably a very different experience. Sessions needed to be redesigned to work effectively online, and there were practical barriers to address as well, from students’ Internet connections to the availability of teaching resources in different countries. However, through testing different approaches and carefully revising the course material, I was able to create an engaging online summer school experience for the students on the course. Below are my top five tips for course design and online teaching practice in the summer context:

  1. Don’t try to replicate a face-to-face module in an online context. Online learning is an experience in itself and works best if approached as such. For instance, simply throwing in some discussion questions, as we may do in offline seminars, may not work in an online setting where engagement levels can vary (Zoom fatigue has become a term we are all too familiar with by now). Instead, I developed shorter, simpler tasks and activities that involved students actively doing something, such as watching a brief video clip and then conducting an analysis in groups.
  1. Find alternative channels for student participation and interaction. With the majority of summer school students being non-native speakers and in some cases having experienced educational systems in which speaking up in class is not always encouraged, a reticence to participate can be intensified in the online classroom – especially when students are unable to turn their cameras on due to connectivity problems. Thus, it was crucial to find other ways to enable student participation. One way was to invite my students to actively contribute via the chat. While this often meant that students wrote much shorter comments than they would when speaking out loud, I found that it benefitted especially those students who otherwise would not speak in class. Students organically started commenting and ‘liking’ their peers’ contributions, which helped foster a sense of community among a diverse group which had never met in person.
  1. Using emoji reactions, such as thumbs up or clapping hands, can be an extremely useful communication tool. Given the lack of non-verbal communication and body language, I regularly asked my students to “send me an emoji” to indicate their agreement to simple yes/no questions. For example, when working on a task individually, I would ask students to indicate via emoji if they needed more time to work on said task. Emojis can also be useful as an icebreaker activity, when inviting students to choose an emoji that expresses how they felt that day. Emojis were a shared form of communication which felt fresh, low stakes and spontaneous to students, and helped build a welcoming atmosphere in the class.
  1. Vary your platforms. Being in the same online meeting room every day, even if just for an hour, can be quite tiring. Therefore I incorporated activities on other platforms, such as Padlet, Mentimeter, or within Teams channels. The latter also meant that students would often continue discussions held during class after the live sessions had ended, including posting links to additional material. And again, these non-verbal activities were a great way for quieter students to still actively contribute to class!
  1. Be patient and flexible. There will always be unforeseen technical complications when running a course online, from students having microphone issues to breakout rooms not working as intended. As such, it is important not to overload a session with activities and to be prepared to improvise. The same is true for the asynchronous online learning that summer school students are asked to do in their own time. With most people reading everything on screen nowadays, it is important to choose short yet engaging readings (these do not always have to be academic, or could even be a website), but also include other activities, such as watching short video lectures, conducting independent research or brainstorming, or contributing to a Padlet.

Overall, my experiences showed me that King’s Undergraduate Summer School does not have to physically take place in London in order to be a unique experience. While the London location is undoubtedly an asset, there are many other contributing factors to the success of a module. As a colleague has elaborated on this blog before, we the tutors play a huge role in personifying the King’s experience. The above-mentioned steps, particularly the use of various channels of communication, as well as the general feeling of ‘we are all together in this online learning experience’, meant that I was still able to bond with my students over the course of the three weeks.

Creative experiential learning is still very much a possibility online. For example, the students and I visited Tate Modern virtually, exploring and engaging with their artwork on feminism which is accessible on their website. Even more importantly, the module benefited from a large number of brilliant guest speakers, both researchers at King’s lecturing on their areas of expertise, as well as journalists based in India and Paraguay – many of whom would not have been able to join us without online technology. As such, students got to experience London and the research community at King’s, as well as forming connections across a diverse group and participating in stimulating discussions. Whether online or not, this is what makes a great summer school experience.

Summertime for new thinking

Dr Sarah Williamson is Executive Director of King’s Summer Programmes.

Sarah Williamson

What a time we have all experienced in the past 18 months. The extent to which Covid-19 has changed our personal and professional lives is nothing short of a revelation.

Daily activities, including a wider range of jobs that anyone would have initially thought possible, have all been taking place online. We have gone from being rooted in our homes via national lockdowns to leaping into new ways of living via our electronic devices. Now, as we begin our second year of online summer teaching we are taking a moment to reflect on how far the world has come despite being forced to stand still geographically.

When Covid-19 began to affect our lives, we decided very early on that we would not let it curtail our summer learning programmes and summoned up all our ideas and energy to launch the King’s Summer Online programmes. The Summer team worked tirelessly to find the best ways to connect with you all via virtual means last year and this year they have taken those good beginnings and enhanced each aspect further. Digital inequalities have become a pronounced strand to our often uneven world and here at King’s Summer it has become an important consideration for our thinking and research plans. But as our lives have progressed, we have all experienced first hand some of the incredible value and ability that moving in an online education sphere enables and it is now clear that our future educational experiences will be all the better for seizing the opportunity to make use of the best of e-learning alongside the best of face-to-face learning. Why choose, when we can work a bit harder and have the best of both worlds?

Of course we all wish that we could come together in this great city of London – the original think space! – and share its dynamism and beauty in real life, but we are certain that though our connection this year may be digital, there is nothing virtual about the very real experience you will have with King’s this summer. And as soon as we all can, we want to welcome you in person to campus. #summerisreallife #summeristheonlyseason

Moments from a summer

Michael Salmon is Associate Director – Curriculum Renewal for Summer Programmes at King’s College London.

Having taken the decision to move our summer schools online this year, rather than cancelling outright in the face of Covid-19 uncertainties, it is safe to say that the last few months have been much eventful than they might otherwise have been! Dr Alexander Heinz, Chair of the Summer Executive, will suggest in a forthcoming article that one of the defining features of summer schools is their ephemerality: by nature and by design, they play out a constant tension between having only just begun and shortly to conclude, and indeed this contributes to make them special, memorable, educationally exciting.  

I would also argue that for these short summer weeks, it is easier to identify key moments that stick in the mind and reveal something about the communal experience that tutors and students shared in (compared to a degree programme, of course, or a full year abroad). Further, identifying these key moments is an important act of both reflective pedagogy and forward planning, a moment of stillness and consideration that enables momentum to be conserved. In this post I am going to describe a handful of such moments from the last few months. 

Seeing collaboration happen 

There were a number of ‘Aha!’ moments for me this summer which all involved seeing students conduct online discussions with one another. The practicalities around teamworking were a concern as we headed into the teaching period, especially as collaboration is such a fundamental part of all our courses. However, I repeatedly saw students either working together in very similar ways to how they would in a classroom or, in some cases, even more effectively. 

For example, one offhand comment a student made within a discussion channel (“wcould have a meeting here later – I think this room should be free after class”) really brought home to me the resilience of the students vis-à-vis the move online: they were able to conceptualise the digital spaces which our e-learning platforms provided as something very close to a physical classroom. I also greatly appreciated seeing students with the same mother tongue holding chats in English at a very high level of sophistication – the fact that they were able to type asynchronously rather than having to answer in real time paid dividends here. Although we had not taken student digital literacy for granted by any means, I was impressed seeing students able to navigate and negotiate the choppy waters of online group work with a great deal of flair. 

Our team found that through hosting and moderating various online platforms and working with students to ensure that collaboration was as effective as possible, we had a phenomenal insight into who students were and how they were experiencing the courses. This would not have been possible in the same way with students placed in distinct classrooms, and was an unexpected pleasure. 

Hearing the positives 

Perhaps the aspect of the course we were most unsure about, more than how we would support our tutors, more than how online social activities could be conducted, more even than how online teaching would be received, was how well we would be able to deal with student issues. Those working in summer schools of any shape or form will be familiar with the queues at helpdesks and urgent phonecalls which are an inevitable part of in-country delivery, and which need to be dealt with professionally and efficiently by a skilled team. Doing this online with students spread all across the world would be a new experience for us, and we dedicated a lot of our planning time to implementing new triage procedures, new contact methods, new communication channels, and much more. 

Running a summer school at a distance can also mean that it is harder to judge how students are experiencing the course. Despite confidence in our procedures and a strange sense of calm as the course began, everyone on the team was somewhat nervous to see student feedback, both in first impression surveys and end-of-course feedback. In particular, the two items ‘I felt welcomed and supported on the first day of the programme’ and ‘I felt sufficiently supported throughout the programme occupied prime position in my mind, for the reasons stated above.

As it turned out, the feedback received for these two questions was incredibly positive, and I think I speak for all of the team in saying that seeing these responses arrive was something that will stick in the mind when looking back at the summer. These moments when we were able to see for ourselves that essentially every student felt supported were extremely valuable.

Connecting in spite of it all 

The Summer Community of Practice has long been a fundamental part of the Summer Education Programme. It brings together tutors from varied disciplines in a collegiate network, allowing for best practice to be shared and for much informal support.

Moving online was of course no barrier to holding regular Community of Practice meet-ups, but to begin with we did find that there was so much to discuss in terms of new procedures, new class types, new digital tools and all the other new uncertainties which have characterized 2020 since March at least. For this reason, it was the final session which really sticks in my mind as a memorable demonstration of the best aspects of the summer.  

This session was held around the halfway point of the course, and the idea was for those tutors already teaching to share experiences with those yet to teach. The conversation flowed freely, with some fantastic suggestions about managing group work online or getting the best out of taciturn students, and I was able to sit back and absorb, or add thoughts drawn from my own teaching practice, rather than sticking to an agenda. It was a wonderful session, over too soon, and really demonstrated to me how a summer school can enable connectivity among staff all around the university, driving student experience forward beyond the summer into ideas for quality learning all year round, even against a background of the most unprecedented disruptions to business as usual.

Into the next phase 

These, then, were some out of many more moments that I felt worthwhile to reflect upon, and which brought a degree of sunshine to the work of the past few months. Now, the work of consolidation must begin, as we look forward to making these unexpected moments into part of the new normal 

Summer Teaching: A Professional Crossroads

Stefan Mandelbaum

Dr Stefan Mandelbaum taught International Commercial Law on King’s Undergraduate Summer School in 2012 and 2013. He is now a Senior Lecturer in International Law at Anglia Ruskin University and a member of the Senate at his institution. 

Teaching for King’s Summer Programmes as a doctoral researcher turned out to be an important crossroad in my academic career. Coming from a strong legal-philosophical background and responding to a 2012 call from the Summer School for module suggestions, I initially proposed a course on “dispute settlement in international investment law”, simply because my doctoral work already focused on this subject matter. During the interview, Summer Programmes put to me that a course on International Commercial Law would give me the opportunity to merge different aspects of international law into one course. While the course development and delivery turned out to be as challenging as preparing a fairly new subject for HE teaching naturally is, the course, with me as a lead tutor in 2012 and 2013, eventually ranked among the most popular courses in the Summer School curriculum. The in-class, organisational and pedagogic challenges which only a summer course poses, together with being involved in considering an audience even before their application  became experiences which have shaped my lecturing style ever since. In the following, I would like to give two examples of the impact my summer school teaching had on my career as a teacher in HE, one concerning the acquired pedagogic skills when dealing with an array of educational and cultural backgrounds in class, the other addressing the direct link between the subject of teaching and my current position.

Peer learning

In both years, the summer module on International Commercial Law cohort consisted of students of very different backgrounds, ranging from first year UG students and Masters students of various subjects to judges and business people. Overcoming this welcomed but also challenging mix of sometimes very different abilities led me to develop an in-class tutoring scheme in which I prescribed an overall task (e.g. case study, moot problem) for all students while appointing the most senior class members as group leaders. This method enabled a study atmosphere where the junior class mates were learning from me and their peers whilst the more advanced students were recognized as leaders and had to learn how to teach what they already knew. While this model of hierarchical participation originated in the diverse composition of an international summer school class, it developed over time into a critical pedagogic method which I have continued using ever since. From good student feedback in my previous years to a 100 percent satisfaction rate in both my King’s summer courses, the facilitation of such an integrative learning environment had led my last semester’s course on “International Commercial Arbitration” to be among the 10 top-scoring classes out of 2.500 at my present institution, Anglia Ruskin University.

Shaping my career

Learning how to cater for the varying abilities and expectations of summer school participants, however, is only one of the pedagogic upshots for my career. The subject of “International Commercial Law”, rather peripheral at the time to my research expertise, has been pivotal in getting the lectureship that I am holding now. My teaching orbits not so much the very specific doctoral topic I was working on (the market for such a position is rather thin) and my first appointment outside King’s College London as well as the leeway to my permanent post now was via a “visiting lectureship” on “Transnational Commercial Law”. I can honestly say that if it would not have been for King’s decision to opt for the ‘commercial side’ of international affairs, I would not teach and do research in this field, and I would not be able to now expand my research collaborations to the business aspects of international sports law or management studies, both of which emerging into cutting edge fields of scholarship.

EAIE 2019 in Helsinki: Summer as a Creative Space

In the coming week, members of King’s Summer Programmes team will be attending the EAIE Annual Conference in Helsinki. In a schedule packed with encounters with partners new and old, King’s Summer Education Programme will form a key part of the wider conference programme.

Dr Alexander Heinz, Associate Director (Research & Innovation), will be speaking on summer schools as a creative space for education; sharing a platform with Nita Kapoor, Director of the University of Oslo Summer School, and Jason Kinnear, Assistant Dean for Study Abroad at UNC Chapel Hill.

As Vice-Chair of the EAIE Summer Schools Expert Community, Dr Heinz will speak at and co-host a summer school health clinic, as well as a large reception for sector professionals.  He will also lead a campfire session for peers from around the world.Together with Lorraine Ishmael-Byers, King’s Associate Director for Disability Support and Inclusion, Dr Heinz endeavours to whet the appetite of other institutions to follow into the footsteps of Dialogues on Disability, a sector-leading programme by King’s, the University of Delhi, Humboldt-University, the Autonomous University of Mexico and others, and to encourage colleagues to think beyond national boundaries about mobility for and policy discussions among disabled students.

Fahema Ettoubi, Academic Services Manager, and Emma Carlile, Assistant Programme Development Manager, will attend EAIE for the first time and will be available to meet with partners and members of the wider international education community.  Both look forward to showcasing King’s Summer Programmes portfolio to current partners but also new institutions, enabling us to stand out from the crowd.

Ten Years of Summer at King’s: A Pivotal Space

Professor Soelve I. Curdts, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, and Visiting Lecturer at King’s in July 2010, reflects on the value of transitionality.

Incredibly, almost a decade has passed since I taught at King’s Undergraduate Summer School in 2010. The experience turned out to be pivotal in ways I could not have foreseen at the time, and its layers grow more multifarious with each passing year. In fact, such layering over time is one of the things we – hopefully – share with our students beyond the subjects we happen to be teaching.

Arrivals and Departures

For me, 2010-2011 was a time of transition. I had studied and taught in Germany, France, and the United States, and was in the process of contemplating where to go next, both literally and metaphorically. The world was all before me – a prospect that filled me with a sense of uncertainty, to be sure, but also of exhilaration. The latter was fostered both by London as a pivotal space, and by the Summer School at King’s College London as a place that brought together scholars, teachers, and students who reflected on (their) transitionality in intellectually stimulating and productive ways. In a world where we increasingly discover states of transition as the norm they have perhaps always been, such reflection, which the summer school at King’s College London is uniquely positioned to enable by creating rare constellations of international students and teachers, is of crucial significance. In my own teaching and scholarship, I try to sustain a sense of those very moments of transition which, precisely as they claim neither origin nor end point, are constitutive of thought.

“The summer school offered a privileged space, where students could explore areas of inquiry they would not otherwise have engaged in.” Soelve Curdts

Thinking between arrivals and departures happened quite literally that summer at King’s, as a community of scholars and students gathered for a brief period of time. Our students came from—and would go back to—not only different parts of the world, but often entirely different fields of study. In this, too, the summer school offered a privileged space, where students could explore areas of inquiry they would not otherwise have engaged in. I would like to think that the occasional business student reading a work of literature, or the English major tackling the intricacies of a physics problem can make – has made – some kind of difference.

King’s College London welcomed me (back) to Europe after a long absence with a preciously open and heterogeneous vibrancy which spoke – to quote one of the poets I taught there – of something evermore about to be.

Spring conferences: what matters next

This spring King’s Summer Programmes are meeting with International Education leaders from across the world to discuss exciting innovations in the summer school sector. King’s Summer Education Programme contributes to and shapes the international debate on best practice and innovation in the field of summer learning and teaching.

At this year’s APAIE, the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education conference hosted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dr Sarah Williamson and Mina Chakmagi spoke about ‘Improving Inclusion: Short Courses as an Opportunity for International Education’.

This week we are attending NAFSA, the large annual conference of the Association of International Educators in Washington DC, USA. Dr Alexander Heinz, Head of the Summer Education Programme, will be presenting together with Lorraine Ishmael-Byers, King’s Associate Director (Disability Support and Inclusion) on ‘Students Shape Policy Internationally: Dialogues on Disability’.

On campus in London, our Community of Practice which brings together summer tutors from all disciplines and programmes at King’s met last week to share best practice and their enthusiasm of welcoming students this summer. We have invited Dr Debbie Lock from Lincoln University who shared with the community her research into living and teaching for Chinese student cohorts.

Earlier in May Dr Heinz presented at the Going Global conference in Berlin, Germany, organised by the British Council, on ‘A Diplomatic Approach – Constructing the Academy from Flying Faculty and Online Learning‘.

Along with Katie Constanza from University North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Dr Heinz led a well-attended session at the Forum on Education Abroad in Denver, USA, on ‘Strategies for Building Student Resilience Through Integrative Global Learning‘.

The Impact of Preparatory University Programmes on School Students’ academic development will be at the centre of a plenary session at UCAS Annual International Teachers’ and Advisers’ Conference in Glasgow on 4th June. Dr Heinz will be joined by Dr Matt Edwards, Head of Sixth Form, Sevenoaks School and Lynette Peine, UCAS Lead and EAP Tutor at English Language Centre.

It is a privilege to share best practice and debate ideas with colleagues from across the world, working every day to provide students an enriching education experience.

The way we learn on summer schools

Thais Russomano, MD, is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre of Human & Applied Physiological Sciences, part of the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine’s School of Basic & Medical Biosciences.
Thais teaches summer school students about body systems and how humans adapt when exposed to hostile environments.

 

If asked at the age of 16 what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’, the answer university professor would never have crossed my mind. I knew what I wanted to be, it was simple – for as long as I could remember I dreamt of becoming an astronaut. This would be a difficult career path for anyone to follow, however, coming from a country (Brazil) that didn’t at that time even have a Space Agency made the task as difficult as climbing Mount Everest blindfolded! I wish at that stage of my life I’d had the opportunity to experience a course like the King’s Summer programme.

Exposure to material taught by an international professor in a ‘university-type’ form would certainly have given my confidence a boost and allayed many of the doubts I had about studying abroad and at a higher level. Nonetheless, I planned my journey, completing medicine in Brazil, then facing my fears and going oversees for a 2-year MSc in Aerospace Medicine in the US, and a PhD in Space Physiology at King’s College London, before working at the German Space Agency (DLR).

My academic career began at a university in Brazil, where I established the Microgravity Centre, a pioneering Space Life Sciences Research Centre, but my links with King’s always remained strong, and I eventually became the Deputy Course Director/Senior Lecturer of the Space Physiology & Health MSc course. Another constant in my life was dedicating spare time to teaching school-aged students about the life and works of astronauts during space missions.

Therefore, when asked to participate in teaching for the King’s College Summer Programmes, I was delighted to accept, as, from my own student experience, I knew the benefit this kind of interaction brings – I see it as a two-way win-win situation for both students and professors, both of whom encounter different learning styles and gain from an exchange of cultural values, which broadens perspectives and adds to personal and professional growth.

The design of the Summer Courses fosters this interaction of tutors/students and provides an enriching learning environment. Students gain a great insight into what life would be like studying at university level, and possibly experiencing for the first time a British way of delivering knowledge. This opportunity also gives a special experience to us as professors, entering a highly multicultural environment, bringing with it challenges as to how best to engage these young minds, but at the same time making the teaching-learning process more stimulating and special.

Given the short length of the courses, they can be no more than simply ‘taster’ experiences for both sides, however, the enthusiasm and curiosity of the students is evident from their willingness to participate in activities, and from their questions, which become more probing and frequent as the week progresses and confidence grows. And it is exactly this growth in confidence, this exposure to professors of a different culture, and this opportunity to mix with a different way of doings things that is the most invaluable lesson of the week for students, opening their eyes to potential new horizons.

Likewise, teaching pre-university students, and especially those from a culture for whom English is not their native-tongue, provides lecturers with a reminder that sometimes we must adapt our skills to better communicate the content of our classes, making the language we use more accessible, building on logical reasoning and employing good analogies that help in the understanding of more complex ideas. I am reminded that these skills are important within our practice at King’s, which is by its very nature, a very international university, with more than 40% of its student population drawn from 160 countries.

For me, the experience of teaching young students on King’s Summer Programmes is gratifying and enriching; something new to add to my lifelong learning portfolio. For the students, I hope they find their pre-university programmes inspiring and motivational experiences, bolstering their self-belief and turning the first page of their academic journey.

Personifying the King’s experience

The teacher’s role in summer business education

Dr Andrew McFaull is a Teaching Fellow in Accounting and Finance in the King’s Business School. In the Summer, Dr McFaull teaches Business Management, International  Business, Accounting and Finance in London and Hong Kong.

Over the past few years of delivering summer schools here at King’s, it has become clear to me that the role of the tutor is much more than just teaching and is about delivering a memorable learning experience. The challenge for us as tutors and those who support us as we seek to offer a great summer school is to be aware of what kind of learning experience we want to offer.

To answer this question, I believe we need to view it from our students’ perspective and ask ourselves why would someone be willing to travel great distances, often at considerable expense to enrol for only two to three weeks in one of our short summer courses? As a business tutor, I would put this in business speak and term it our value proposition. Yet, what is it? In essence, why do large numbers of students come from across the world to our summer schools each year? It seems to me the only way to deliver the best possible programme of summer learning is to exceed our students expectations and to do that, we must first understand why they enrol on a summer school course.

It’s clearly not us personally as tutors that attracts the students. Regardless of our doctorates and other various learned credentials, it is safe to assume that none of our students will have heard about our teaching and/or research prior to enrolling upon our courses. Instead, it is almost certainly the opportunity to gain an education from an esteemed institution with a global reputation that attracts students in their hundreds year upon year. Therefore, we can perhaps conclude that the role of a summer school tutor is to personify the anticipated experiences and related expectations that comes with receiving an education from somewhere like King’s College London.

“I notice how much more heterogeneous the expectations of our summer students are.”

What complicates this process further is that this personification of a King’s education is not the same for all students and this is something I have increasingly observed of as I have been delivering summer schools on behalf of the business school. When I contrast my summer school teaching with our conventional undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, which I also teach upon, I notice how much more heterogeneous the expectations of our students are and we only have two or three weeks to fulfil and
hopefully exceed these expectations.

“Helping achieve long-term personal and professional goals”

As a broad generalisation, some enrol on our summer school programmes to advance their CVs and ultimately their future careers. Others are visiting us to be challenged intellectually and want a scholarly experience from one of the world’s leading universities. Then there are those enrolled on our summer school programmes who might be termed educational tourists, who are attracted by studying in different city or country for a few weeks. All these expectations are perfectly reasonable. Yet, the predicament we face when seeking to meet students’ expectations and hopefully exceed them to deliver a good summer school, is how do you deliver one course which meets many expectations?

The answer hopefully lies in the fact that each of these expectations mentioned before are not directly in conflict with each other and therefore by delivering in one area, we are precluded from delivering in another. Ultimately, in my mind, our goal in the summer school is to build a programmes of learning which is intellectually challenging, but simultaneously brings in both the King ’s and wider London experience and allows students to achieve their long-term personal and professional goals.

This brings me back to my original point that the role of summer school tutor is much more than teaching, it’s about cultivating a memorable learning experience both inside and outside of the classroom and this needs to be co-produced with the student, because ultimately it’s their learning experience.