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Evaluating community-focussed Informal Workshop Sessions as improvement to the tuition strategy on a core Level 2 Physics module (S217)

  • Project leader(s): Adam FreemanAnne-Katrin Klehe
  • Theme: Supporting students
  • Faculty: STEM
  • Status: Current
  • Dates: May 2023 to September 2025

The purpose of this project is to investigate how offering informal workshop sessions can improve a sense of community within tutor groups on S217, with the goal of improving student grades and retention on the module. S217 covers a large amount of content with which students sometimes find difficult to keep up, and a large proportion of student deferrals occur in the first three months.

The practice of ring-fencing time for discussion and study in advance of early TMAs may help students plan and manage their weekly reading and tasks more effectively. Additionally allowing for informal discussion about the module topics can be beneficial for the students’ sense of community (Klehe, 2022).

Sessions will comprise of informal discussion about the course content and related subjects and group-building activities (approx. 30 minutes), followed by an online writing retreat to ring-fence student study time (approx. 60 minutes). The design of these new workshops is based on a combination of previous workshop discussion activities piloted by Klehe (2022) and writing retreats informally piloted by Adam Freeman. Should the new combined approach prove effective, this activity could be promoted as a low-cost example of good practice to for ALs to offer their tutor groups.

Selected tutors would host study sessions for their tutorial cluster, for 1.5-2 hours, with 2 sessions held in the weeks preceding TMAs (with TMA01, TMA02 and TMA04 targeted as particularly important for student retention). ALs would run the sessions for students across a cluster of S217. While community within tutor groups is sought, it is recognised that students across different tutor groups may know each other from interactions on previous modules and forums. We aim to pilot this across the whole module. The delivery of the sessions will come from the module budget. Funding for this project from eSTEeM is only expected for aspects of the evaluation and dissemination. Due to limited resources and tutor time, sessions will be timed in advance of early TMAs to have the most effect.

The hypothesis being tested is that workshop and study sessions improve students’ sense of community and perceive them as improving their chances of succeeding. The proposal falls under the Continuation and completion priority area.

The effectiveness of the intervention will be evaluated in the following ways:

  • Qualitative analysis of students’ perceptions of community will be done on two surveys to all S217 students. First survey will be early on (between October-December) and to ask about students’ existing experience of community and their study habits. Second survey will be towards the end of the module; it will assess if students’ experience of community and their study habits have changed, and for those who didn’t engage/find sessions useful, will ask why.
  • TMA submission rates by students attending sessions will be compared with those within the tutorial cluster who self-select not to attend. Care should be taken to compare students who are previously similarly performing, to avoid false comparisons (e.g., comparing naturally ‘keen’ students with less-engaged students).
  • Numbers of withdrawals will be compared.
  • Following the second survey, we will run student-led focus groups to get a deeper understanding of how students felt about the sessions.
  • Reflections of the sessions written by the ALs will be analysed. Reflections can be free-text responses (based on some guiding questions around student enthusiasm, chat between students, positive and negative comments, whether session was more student-led or tutor-led). Anecdotal student comments, while not necessarily representative, may be useful to record.
Related Resources: 
File Adam-Freeman-Anne-Katrin-Klehe.pptx163.53 KB

Project poster.