Since joining Loughborough Chemistry Department, I was asked to teach the Learning and Communication Skills module for the Science and Engineering Foundation Course (SEFs). This module aims to prepare students for learning in a Higher Education setting. The issues of teaching these skills independently rather than integrated will not be discussed here.

One objective was to introduce the concept of reflection and critical evaluation – a key transferable skill. Typical methods employed usually involve the keeping of a reflective journal  as an aid to critical evaluation. For those of you who have tried to embed this into a skills module, I am sure you have found resistance from your students. A common response to such teaching material is ‘what is the point?’

It is only when students progress through their education and embark on a career that they may begin to understand the positive impact that effective reflection can have. I myself had to complete a reflective journal as part of my academic probation period and although I did understand the importance of such a task, I did feel that the time required to keep an effective journal could have been better spent elsewhere. If an academic has this viewpoint, then I am sure students do too.

So my quest over the last couple of years was to look at how we can develop these skills within a Higher Education environment. Over the coming posts I shall give an account of various approaches I have used in this quest from flipped lecturing, alternatives to reflective journals, peer instruction and review, and debates.