TC Agenda 12th December 2018

Teaching Committee Agenda for 12th December 2018.

Meeting Agenda

Informatics Teaching Committee Agenda

14.00hrs, Appleton Tower room 7.14



19.23 Apologies for absence:  Shay Cohen, DKA Arvind, Sharon Goldwater, Ian Stark, Iain Murray.

19.24 Minutes of Previous Meetings

19.25 Matters Arising

18.04 - Moderation of IPP marks - course co-ordinator to adopt the proposed IPP moderation policy. DoLT has contacted Bjoern Franke, IPP course organizer on this item.


18.29-01 – The Convenor raised the ongoing subject of software options for coursework submission. ACTION: to establish sub-committee to investigate options. DoLT has contacted the RAT unit and Learning Technologist to consider options - see the following document, which is a work in progress:


18.59-02: Course Moderation Guidelines. The BoE Convenors are officially responsible for ensuring that moderation guidelines are available. DoLT has contacted the convenors about this and hopes they will be able to report back for the December meeting of TC.


18.60-01: DoLT to raise the possibility of PhDs “help hours” in a sub-committee. Requests for support should be modified to include an additional section covering this. ACTION: Vicky MacTaggart to look into this with DoLT. RESPONSE: We recommend the following changes to the Teaching Support Bids guidance page:

In particular, we should add two bullet points following the “Time Commitment” bullet:

  • Enabling short interruptions:  In a PhD SSLC the students welcomed a suggestion that they could be employed full-time for one month (or multiple months) in order to let them take on a big task such as marking and TA-ing (one month of full time employment could be refactored into two months of half time work by informal agreement).  The students welcomed this because they can interrupt studies for one month (one month is the minimum period) and so minimize the impact of teaching on their research.
  • More Flexible Roles: thinking about having some more flexible roles in your request might help recruit people.  For example a “Piazza Answerer” role would give students flexibility on where and when they work.  In addition have “Office Hours” or “Help Hours” where students can find them when they need to ask questions could provide flexibility and availability of help.

This has been forwarded to Vicky MacTaggert. OUTSTANDING.


18.60-02: Learning Technologist to produce an overview for the LEARN template. Alex Burford has done so. ACTION: Learning Technologist to provide a report to TC to illustrate how this has been received.   DoLT has contacted the Learning Technologist – the response was:

"We added a question to the end-of-semester course questionnaires asking the following: 'Please add any other comments you have about the presentation of course materials online and their accessibility'. I had requested a specific question about using Learn, but this was rejected by Shay Cohen. Once these have been received, we can analyse and I can report back."


18.63: Teaching Programme Review – DoLT. A meeting should be arranged in with a named TPR team – to be discussed at next Teaching Committee. OUTSTANDING.  DoLT has not yet completed this action – he will complete this for the December meeting.


19.06 Proposal to limit UG/MSc project Report Lengths, S.Goldwater. Implementation of this proposal was approved in November TC. Proposer has been contacted regarding the next steps. ONGOING.


19.09-03: Policy on Late Coursework to be clarified. DoLT has not yet completed this action with ISS. OUTSTANDING.


19.12 Provision of DPMT for CDTs - A. Lopez. (2) R.Mayr to liaise with T.Spink regarding this modification.


19.13 Updated Proposal for Informatics 1B course – P.Anderson, V.Seeker. Tabled at Board of studies, December 6th 2018. COMPLETE.


19.19 MSc Student Numbers – MSc Project Manager. ACTION: Head of School to raise at Strategy Committee.


19.22 AOCB: Grade Inflation – Head of School.  ACTION: Convenors to investigate the relevant courses. RESPONSE: Non-Hons Convenor is holding a meeting with Year 1 & 2 Course Organisers before this TC to discuss. UG3 and UG4/5 Convenors have contacted the co-ordinators of the relevant courses.

From the Non-Honours Convenor: "At first glance this issue might appear to concern  mainly the Honours years - Years 3/4/5 as their marks affect the degree classification.However, the Common Marking Scheme (CMS) should be rigorously applied in the non-Honours years. Students should get used to it, and which will enable us to identify the top-performing "Outstanding"  students and recognise their achievements. This requires the lecturers to adhere strictly to the CMS and advertise in the course descriptions as to what is required to be achieved for each of the CMS band."


19.26  Mandatory Unconscious Bias Training for Tutors/Demonstrators - N.Heatley / B.Fisher

 Comments from S.Goldwater:  "I absolutely agree that we should be training teaching support staff in equality and diversity issues. Are we doing this in any way *other* than a mandatory 15 minute completely generic University video? Mandatory videos with no follow-up smack of a tick-box mentality and I worry that the students will pick up on that and there could be a backlash. I can think of two improvements:

1. Watch the video, followed by guided discussion of how it might apply in Informatics and in tutoring/demonstrating settings. This requires some commitment from Christina (or whoever is doing the training). But to me seems *far* better than the immediate proposal, and would indicate that we have some buy-in.

2. Develop our own training on E&D issues and how teaching support staff can help make a positive difference. There are a lot of good materials out there about creating an inclusive environment in computer science educational settings, and we should be using them. This obviously takes a much bigger time commitment but arguably is worth developing as part of a longer-term strategy, especially as we get more and more students involved with teaching support. (I apologize if we are actually already doing 2 - one issue here is that there's a big disconnect between the tutor training and course lecturers, so I actually have very little idea what training the tutors get.)"

19.27 Exam Marking Policy - DIrector of Learning and Teaching

This refers to the policy on the security of exam scripts during marking.

19.28  Student Surveys - Feedback Officer.

In a recent staff-student committee, the issue of low participation in student surveys was brought up. There was a discussion on how to increase the participation of students in these surveys. One of the proposals was to give "participation marks" for filling in the surveys. As the Feedback Officer, I generally believe such a proposal is not a good idea, for several reasons: 1. It will bias the process of filling in these surveys, as it might attract students for whom these marks are more important than filling in the survey. This would give a skewed picture of a course. While I generally think that criticism of a course is valued, even when harsh, I also believe that a skewed picture could cause the lecturers and staff to take actions which would actually damage the level of the course. 2. I tend to believe that marks should be equated with academic performance, and not anything else. There are already various factors that significantly bias the process of mark giving, and we do not want to add new factors to these existing ones. 3. Survey-participation marks sound like a slippery slope, where marks would be given for other tasks as well, which are again not related to academic performance. As such, I tend to believe that survey-participation marks are a wrong direction, especially for reason 2. I will keep my mind open about this idea, if other participants in the teaching committee have strong conviction that this is a good idea.


Comments from S.Goldwater: "The paper fails to acknowledge what I feel are the two most obvious reasons for low participation in surveys: 1. Students are over-surveyed. 2. They see little if any response from most lecturers and/or School to previous surveys. My sense is that in courses that have good communication between students and lecturers, and where lecturers are responsive, we do get much higher survey response rate. (This may also be because the lecturers actively encourage it). I am completely opposed to the idea of giving extra marks for filling in surveys. Doing so has nothing to do with the learning outcomes of the course, it will promote a transactional view of our relationship with students, and many students will resent it. I am not completely happy about the other two either, because again, getting more responses just for the sake of it is not a good idea. Are we actually doing anything with these surveys? Can the students see that we are? Until we answer those questions, I worry that we are treating the symptom rather than the disease."


Comments from I.Stark: "I think this proposal leads in entirely the wrong direction and perpetuates confusion about the role of feedback and assessment across our teaching.

The end-of-course questionnaires ensure every student has a clear opportunity on all courses to provide feedback that can help improve teaching.  That's a good thing.  But there's no requirement on students to do this, especially if they have already acted as students reps, given their feedback mid-semester, or met to discuss with the course organiser after a lecture.

Participation in form-filling just isn't a sensible performance measure for either students or staff --- the instinct here to maximise something simply because it can be measured is entirely wrong.

It's not even as if low participation affects the statistical reliability of the survey tick-boxes --- those already have no scientific validity for evaluating anything.

Beyond this, offering rewards for form-filling is actively detrimental to students' education.  At the extreme, providing marks for survey completion obviously violates university regulations that require assessment to have a valid basis in academic performance.  More corrosively, though, this approach reinforces expectations that university study is about performing unrelated and arbitrary minor tasks on demand.  Even when it works it's demeaning to students and an abuse of authority --- coaching them to perform tricks for scraps.

We need to make sure students have opportunities to provide feedback, and that this reliably reaches the relevant staff: but there's nothing here to suggest any problem with access to the surveys or of students lacking routes to provide feedback.

What students have complained about with surveys, and I think we might wish to act on, are the following:

 - The university provides students' personal mobile numbers to Ipsos-MORI, who then make repeat unsolicited calls about the NSS.  There is no way students can opt out of having their number passed on like this.

 - The number of different surveys which students are being pressured to complete.  Now that course-specific feedback is gathered mid-semester, with the opportunity for immediate response, we should consider whether there is any need to continue with end-of-course surveys."

19.29 Recruitment Report 

19.30 Date of next Teaching Committee - Wed 13th February 2019 (no January TC because of January Boards)

19.31 AOCB