Learning and Teaching

Focusing on the key developments in learning and teaching at Derby during 2018-19

At Derby, we are committed to providing ‘best in class’ learning and teaching for our students – putting high quality, inspirational teaching and educational innovation at the heart of the student experience.

We have established a Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) to ensure that we maintain this high standard and provide students with the best-possible education.

This commitment was recognised earlier this year with Derby being placed joint third out of 121 institutions for the number of students satisfied with teaching quality – a jump of 18 places in the Guardian University Guide 2020 for the metric.

“Our teaching strategy encourages our academic teaching staff to be innovative in their approach to teaching and to be flexible enough to support the learning needs of individual students.”

Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor

Derby becomes first in the country to sign up to Advance HE’s Student Success Framework

Professor Kathryn Mitchell and Advance HE CEO Alison Johns sign the memorandum of understanding
Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby (left), signs the Memorandum of Understanding with Alison Johns, CEO of Advance HE.

In November, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Advance HE, making Derby the first higher education institution in the country to commit to embedding the agency’s best practice framework into all its programmes.

By adopting the Student Success Framework, we are working to create a more consistent and integrated approach to curriculum design, as well as enhancing its digital offering.

Derby will adopt seven principles which will put students at the heart of the learning experience, including supporting student attainment, developing their skills as independent learners, connecting across disciplines and enabling them to become ‘game changers’.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell, ViceChancellor, said: “We are delighted to formalise this relationship between the University of Derby and Advance HE. Our commitment to high quality learning and teaching is paramount to our students and staff alike. We look forward to working closely together to deliver on our commitment to an outstanding student experience.”

Alison Johns, Chief Executive of Advance HE, added: “Our Student Success Framework aims to help HEIs deliver practical solutions to improving teaching and enhancing learning. Working with the University of Derby is an important opportunity to foster collaboration so that we can share and learn from best practice.”

University team wins award for inclusive education

Claire Gardener at the Blackboard Catalyst Awards
Claire Gardener (centre) receives the Blackboard Catalyst Award for Inclusive Education.

A team from the University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) scooped the Blackboard Catalyst Award for Inclusive Education, which honours institutions whose teaching, content, technology and educational services are fully inclusive and supportive of learners with disabilities.

The team impressed judges with the focused effort Derby has made to ensure that the learning environment is inclusive and equitable for all students.

This institutional commitment and approach to inclusive practice, and the implementation of Blackboard Ally (a product designed to make digital content more accessible) in the past 18 months, highlights outstanding inclusive education.

Claire Gardener, Senior Learning Technologist at the  University, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this award. It recognises our progression towards creating an inclusive learning experience for our students.”

The University team was honoured alongside other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners during TLC Europe 2019, Blackboard’s user conference held in Newcastle.

Festival of Learning

Audience members with hands raised in the air
Audience members at the Festival of Learning

This year, our annual Learning and Teaching Conference evolved to embody a festival spirit, where diverse approaches to learning and teaching brilliance were captured in a celebratory and inspirational event, the Festival of Learning, modelling excellent practice across our University.

The festival was held at our Buxton Campus at the Devonshire Dome, offering colleagues the opportunity to demonstrate, celebrate and share evidence of their pedagogic practice, research and ongoing professional development in learning and teaching.
More than 250 people attended the event, which included live entertainment from students, staff and local performers, and 40 activities that took place over nine themed stages.

The bold changes to the annual conference were led by the CELT team, and facilitated by collaboration and co-operation with a wide range of University colleagues and local suppliers.

Derby’s Dean of Students receives prestigious National Teaching Fellowship

Fiona Shelton, Dean of Students at the University of Derby, delivering a lecture
Fiona Shelton, Dean of Students at the University of Derby

Fiona Shelton, the University’s Dean of Students, is to receive a National Teaching Fellowship – the most prestigious individual award in higher education.

Fiona, who began her career in higher education in 2003, has been awarded the accolade in recognition of her contribution to teaching excellence at the University.

The Advance HE National Teaching Fellowship scheme has been running since 2000. On gaining the award, fellows play an ongoing role in enhancing teaching and learning within their institution, the higher education sector and further afield.

Fiona, who is also Head of the University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), joins five of her University colleagues who already hold National Teaching Fellowships.

Fiona joined Derby as a senior lecturer in Initial Teacher Education (ITE), having spent 10 years as a primary school teacher in the city.

She went on to lead the ITE programme during which time Ofsted rated it as Outstanding for its primary and further education provision.

During her time as Head of CELT, Fiona has led the development of Derby’s Student Experience Framework and introduced initiatives such as the International Travel Awards, which enable students to apply for fully-funded trips to places such as New York, Budapest and Iceland to help broaden their horizons.

Fiona said: “I am absolutely delighted to receive the Fellowship in recognition of my commitment to education, but also of how the University encourages and promotes teaching excellence and how it is improving the educational experience for all of our students.”

University awarded contract to help challenging schools recruit and retain teachers

The University is being supported by the Department for Education (DfE) to help increase the supply of trainee teachers to schools with poor recruitment and retention in the Midlands.

Funding from the DfE will be used to support a new initial teacher training pilot initiative, led by the Institute of Education at the University, which aims to improve the supply of newly qualified teachers to schools in challenging areas, promote career progression, and remove obstacles to social mobility. 

The Partners for Progress project will be delivered over three years, and will involve implementing an extensive outreach programme in a number of diverse category 3 and 4 primary schools across the Midlands region.

As well as offering work experience for trainee teachers at the University within these schools, there will also be in-school taster days, and recruitment and information events within local communities.

Dr Mohammed Jakhara, Head of the Institute of Education at the University, said: “Our Primary Education provision at Derby is one of high quality and we want to develop that further. We already  work with many schools and this extra funding from the DfE will enable us to extend our partnerships and support important additional developments.”

In October 2016, Derby was identified as an Opportunity Area – an area where the DfE is prioritising resources, and bringing local and national partners together, to address challenges of social mobility and ensure all children can reach their full potential.

As part of the government’s national social mobility action plan, the DfE intends to incentivise Outstanding Initial Teacher Training providers to expand their provision in challenging areas for teacher recruitment. 

Derby, which is rated Outstanding for teaching training by Ofsted, was invited to apply for the funding and was successful.

Project focusing on inclusive teaching practice completed

The University has completed a project to help close the attainment gap in higher education.

The first Student Attainment Project at the University, which began in 2012, had the objective to close the Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) attainment gap and demonstrated an encouraging reduction in it over a number of years.

In February 2017, the Student Attainment Project 2 (SAP2), was awarded Catalyst Funding by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, now the Office for Students (OfS), to scale up the existing student attainment approach in collaboration with partners.

Working with Southampton Solent University and the University of West London, the Student Attainment Project 2 was designed to further close the BAME attainment gap.

In April 2019, the latest project was completed, and a report detailing the results was issued to the OfS.

Each institution introduced a series of interventions designed to close the gap. The findings showed that the interventions had a positive impact on student attendance and engagement.

The OfS has set a target for the higher education sector to eliminate the unexplained gap in degree outcomes by 2024-25. Following on from this project, plans are underway to introduce an Attainment Policy, which will work towards ensuring success for all students.