VC Teaching and Learning Conference 2016
VC Teaching and Learning Conference 2016

Plymouth University 14th Vice-Chancellor's Teaching and Learning Conference 2016.

This year the event took place over two days with day one focusing on digital learning followed by the broad ranging themes of teaching and learning taking place on day two.

Digital Learning: Technology, Practice and Policy (29 June 2016)

Day one focused on sharing best practice in digital learning and involve delegates in future decision making, especially in a time of limited resources. 

This event enabled key stakeholders to discuss digital learning, horizon scan and learn and share best practice that will inform policy.

Key themes:

  • art of the possible
  • student expectations
  • alignment of learning - Flipped Classroom
  • strategic opportunities / staff and student ideas
  • policy.
Keynote speakers:
  • Lawrie Phipps Senior, Co-design Manager, JISC 'Perspectives on Digital: Change isn’t coming, it’s here and it’s permanent'
  • David White Head of Technology Enhanced Learning, University of the Arts London 'Becoming Vulnerable: teaching and learning in digital spaces'

Podcasts, vodcasts and powerpoints from this conference are available.

Teaching and Learning: Enhancing the student experience (30 June 2016)

Day two presented high-quality papers, interactive workshops and poster displays showcasing the research of leading academics and practitioners in teaching and learning, covering a broad range of key themes:

  • assessment
  • effective Learning
  • curriculum design 
  • student support and transition 
  • personal tutoring 
  • student voice. 
Keynote speakers:
  • Professor Judith Petts, Vice-Chancellor, Plymouth University 'The Challenge for Student Education and the Student Experience at the University of Plymouth'

  • Associate Professor Dr Suanne Gibson, Plymouth University 'When rights are not enough: what is? - The need for 'politicised' compassion in the quest for social justice'

Keynote abstract (Day 1: Digital Conference): Perspectives on Digital: Change isn't coming, it's here and it's permanent

Lawrie Phipps, Senior CoDesign Manager,JISC Research and Development Directorate.

The use of digital in education is ubiquitous and much energy is expended by both technology vendors and educators guessing at what the future will be. The changing digital landscape is just one layer, underpinned by changing political situations, student expectations, the TEF and REF and a myriad other pressures all combining to present a complex and shifting landscape that staff will be expected to navigate. One thing is certain - staff will need to be digitally capable in order to navigate these landscapes.

Lawrie Phipps' current portfolio contains work in the student experience, digital capabilities and leadership. Previous work as included social media in education, change management and accessibility. He is also an Associate of the LFHE and worked on the multi-agency Changing the Learning Landscape programme which provided support across 58 institutions to make changes to the digital student experience.

Lawrie's blog can be found at and he can be reached at or preferably on twitter @lawrie 

He is also a Plymouth environmental science graduate.

Keynote abstract (Day 1: Digital Conference) 'Becoming Vulnerable: teaching and learning in digital spaces'

David White, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning, University of the Arts London

In this talk David will explore the characteristics of teaching and learning in digital environments. Using the Visitors and Residents paradigm he will map out the various ‘modes of engagement’ we operate in online. Focusing on ‘Resident’ modes David will discuss how we can design pedagogy which takes advantage of the digital to support education as a process of becoming. 

David White is Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the Arts, London. He researches online learning practices in both informal and formal contexts. David has led and been an expert consultant on numerous studies around the use of technology for learning in the UK higher education sector and is the originator of the ‘Visitors and Residents’ paradigm which describes how individuals engage with the Web.

Keynote abstract (Day 2: Teaching and Learning conference): The Challenge for Student Education and the Student Experience at the University of Plymouth

Professor Judith Petts, Vice Chancellor, Plymouth University

The wider political environment for higher education learning is rapidly evolving with the Higher Education Research Bill and the introduction of the Teaching Enhancement Framework. The new regulatory frameworks move Universities into a competitive market environment where funding will be tied to performance which will drive all Universities to improve their metrics to be in the top 50 per cent of the league tables.

In this session, which I hope will enable us to collect ideas in support of sharpening the focus of the University strategies, we need to consider how the classroom and the wider student experience should evolve. This session will start with some background information on our current position.

Key questions include:

  • What needs to change to place all programmes in the upper two quartiles for their discipline in all the NSS metrics?
  • How can students be more active partners in their journey of academic discovery?
  • To deliver on the transforming lives element of the strategy, how do we evolve curriculum so that students feel that they can make an impact on the world’s greatest challenges? 

Keynote abstract (Day 2: Teaching and Learning conference): "When rights are not enough: what is? - The need for 'politicised' compassion in the quest for social justice"

Associate Professor Dr Suanne Gibson, Plymouth University

‘Widening participation’, ‘inclusive pedagogy’, ‘access’, ‘diversity’, ‘raising aspirations’, are widely-occurring policy terms and academic discourses within the international education community. They are drawn on when referring to, or engaging with, questions of social justice and equality within and across international university institutions. What translates into practise is known to be problematic, in many cases unsuccessful, and can reflect misinterpreted notions of inclusion. 

In the past 20 years the world of HE in the UK has experienced many changes, not least those linked to the ubiquitous term: ‘inclusion’. My paper will historically locate this expression, reflecting on why it became such a popular reference in the world of education. Its growth in use, as partly linked to policy’s misuse, its colonisation and various revisioned forms will be articulated. Stemming from the critical disability studies field, a critique of ‘inclusive’ teaching toolboxes or ‘almanacs’ will be made alongside an invitation to re-consider previously held views that the connected discourse of wider access to university is steeped in socially just values. 

I suggest a more contemporary definition of inclusion is needed: ‘a community of diversity becoming a community of equals’. I also argue educators, as learners and with learners, need to become politicised. Universities and education institutions, need to reflect on what they see as their core, their rationale, who it is they are working for. It is in relation to such matters that the question of ‘compassion’ - for both students and faculty – needs to be addressed.

We are living in changing and challenging times, even more so if we openly connect ourselves and our work to that of ‘social justice’. If that is your stance then your journey

is and will be a political one, a difficult one of conflicts and divisions yet also rich in connections and relationships. Giroux (2003, 11) argues any form of education intent on addressing social justice is both ‘a moral and political practice’. The work of Ahmed (2012) moves this on, suggesting such practices involve pushing against the flow of institutionalised, top down misinterpreted forms of inclusive thinking and/or practice.

In my view, a fresh political discourse for inclusion is needed, one that enables HE stakeholders to reflect on and re-consider how ‘other’ is constructed, the problematics of a ‘diverse’ and ‘normal’ binary and the way in which these terms become manifest in our work alongside the impact they have. Published research will be drawn on throughout and the paper will end asserting ‘Inclusion’ is about ‘a community of diversity becoming a community of equals’ as opposed to the current scenario- ‘a community of diversity which reinforces a community of division, of haves and have nots, in the name of ‘wider access’- a ‘just imaginary’ for social inclusion’ (Gale and Hodge 2014).

The presentation will entail some group activity and reflective exercises as well as the traditional lecture. Delegates will be encouraged to critically consider their own work and to reflect on their experiences and insights as they emerge in response to the paper, specifically what they think the outcomes of diversity practices or inclusion policy has been in their work place. We will explore what needs to change along with giving input on the issue of what voices will be valued in this process. We will also spend time thinking about ‘power' and ‘identity' and how these become manifest and impact on our work as educators with the aim that those attending will have something of substance to take back to their centres of learning and places of work.

Three main goals:

  • Delegates to make connections with others. 
  • To challenge previously considered views of inclusion.
  • To add to the group’s academic knowledge base and practical work in Inclusion.