Kirsten Farrell

Find out about the Faculty of Science showcase event from Kirsten Farrell

Kirsten Farrell

9 minute read

Every year, the Faculty of Science and Health runs a Faculty showcase event to highlight areas of good practice. It offers an opportunity for staff to come together, socialise and network, both before and after the main event. 

The theme of the event

Each showcase has a theme related to that year’s‘ big ticket item. In the past, there's been, powering through Covid, the strategic imperatives, and most recently the B3 metrics (the Office for Students baseline for student outcome indicators). Staff from across the Faculty, both professional services and academic, were invited to submit a summary of their proposed talk. It was so important to us that we captured the great practice from all staff as we know we all contribute to an excellent student experience.

Starting with the medical school

The first session started with an update on the Medical School project by Dr Theresa Martin. Theresa spoke about the vision for a graduate entry medical school that is student centric, has a civic responsibility, and truly embeds inter-professionalism and innovations in technology into its learning and teaching strategy. Theresa highlighted the huge amount of stakeholder engagement that had already taken place on the project with a clinical advisory group, GP practices in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas, military, public health and the city council, in addition to the public, patients and students.

Building important partnerships

Next, a talk was provided at the showcase by Helen Ford, who took on the role of Faculty Student and Academic Administration Manager in the Department of Student & Academic Administration last year (DSAA). This strategic relationship management and advocacy role works as the link between the Faculty and the DSAA, building important partnerships that assist with the successful running of student and academic administration and the betterment of student experience. Helen is responsible for the DSAA MyPort ULC Hub, working alongside her management team to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of service and process to support academic colleagues and students. 

Talks on mental health awareness

Students are increasingly suffering from mental health concerns and often lack the resilience needed to continue with their studies; the Covid years haven’t helped of course. Lauren Cummings (Faculty Support Manager) and Holly Seaton-Wood (Lead Faculty Administrator) have worked hard over the last academic year to source and coordinate student resilience and Mental Health Aware courses. Lauren explained that one of their initiatives was to invite an expert speaker to talk on mental health resilience, allowing students to understand resilience and ‘normal’ stress, while providing them with personal mental health toolkits. 

In addition, multiple half-day Mental Health Awareness courses certified by MHFA England were arranged to increase graduate employability, help improve students’ confidence to have conversations around mental health, and raise awareness of their own personal mental health and how they can recognise any negative changes. They added that a two-day Mental Health First Aid course was available to all staff which allows staff to gain the knowledge and skills to spot signs of people experiencing poor mental health, and promote early intervention and recovery. All staff who completed the full two-day training have access to CPD and a support app to help them in future. The hope is to incorporate mental health training into future student and staff calendars, and both Holly and Lauren are in discussions with the Staff Development team to open MHFA out further across the University.

An increase of international students

In the Faculty of Science and Health, we have seen a significant increase in the number of international students registering. That said, these students understandably often struggle with social and language barriers, financial and accommodation issues, a lack of belonging, and, in some cases,  ‘academic culture shock’. All of these not only significantly impact the student experience, but also contribute to attainment gaps and retention or continuation rates. 

Due to higher rates of international students on several of their MSc courses, Dr Toby Scott-Ward (Learning Support Tutor) worked closely with colleagues in the School of Environment, Geography and Geosciences to help create an intensive early intervention workshop for these students. The two-day workshop was held at the end of October, allowing time for late arrivals, whilst also ensuring that it was ahead of any early assessment deadlines. This was formally timetabled via a shared tutorial module, to promote attendance and allow students from multiple courses to attend and meet. The sessions covered course-specific aspects, as well as study-related and core skills, using course-specific examples and activities, where appropriate, to promote engagement and learning. 

In feedback, students felt that sessions were “well informed” and that they were “really going to help [them]”. While resource intensive, suggestions for future iterations included more ‘hands-on’ activities on topics such as plagiarism, time management, assignment planning, international food options for lunch, and a longer duration. 

Global opportunities on the rise

With global opportunities on the increase for our students, Kate Brown (Faculty Global Engagement Administrator) worked together with Hannah Tarrant (Learning Technologist) to create a Faculty Global Opportunities Moodle site. Kate outlined the importance of our students becoming global citizens and demonstrated how this site helped staff and students interested in overseas mobility find answers to many common questions, including how to apply, insurance, required documentation, funding, and more. The site also includes an interactive map listing the overseas partners that students can travel to as well as links to documents, support services and contacts.

Simex Series Disaster and Emergency Response Exercise (SIMEX)

Mel Tanner, Laura Knight, and Lucy Dobson presented on the immersion of student healthcare professionals within the Simex Series Disaster and Emergency Response Exercise (SIMEX). SIMEX is a simulated event run across three days, and brought together highly-skilled technical staff, student nurses, radiographers and operating department practitioners from the University, and the Emergency Department team from the Queen Alexandra Hospital. The most recent event involved the collapse of the Spinnaker Tower, with all parties needing to work together to help manage those injured. The team highlighted the role of the exercise in interpersonal and de-escalation skills, and increasing confidence to coordinate and effectively work with others in a high-pressured situation. 

Placements hub update 

Lexy Rees and Tracey Tomkins provided an update from the Faculty team on their newly-formed Health Placements Hub aimed at supporting students, staff and employers with optional placements. The team offer tailored support and advice with discussing placement options, searching and applying for placements, CVs, covering letters and application forms, and preparing for interviews and assessment centres. They also provide students with pre-placement briefings and support whilst on placement. 

Lexy went on to explain that the team provides help in identifying business needs, recommending suitable recruitment options, and the placement process. They also provide free advertising of placement opportunities and promotion of the business to students, as well as a free recruitment service for local SMEs (subject to eligibility criteria). In teaching block one alone, the team advertised 223 placements, registered 325 students and held 181 appointments. They are even looking at a summer bootcamp for level 4 students in the future.

Dr Isobel Ryder and Lisa Hyatt presented on their use of simulated practice-based learning weeks to enhance student preparedness for placement, following a successful funding bid from Health Education England. Nursing students, and indeed other health and care students, often say that they wish they had more placement time. This funding allowed the team to become one of just 15 universities approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to deliver up to 600 hours of practice in simulation. The funding aims to help identify whether simulated practice-based learning help increase self-efficacy and competence. The simulated placement lasted for ten days, with a variety of immersive simulations to help prepare students for clinical placement and make mistakes or try new techniques in a safe, supportive environment.

REF in learning and teaching

People often dread holding the last spot on the bill but Dr Daniel Brown did the Faculty proud with his really interesting presentation entitled 'REFin' research papers: teaching students about originality, significance, and rigour”. Dan outlined his approach to supporting students to develop their research skills, starting at level 4. He uses the Research Excellence Framework (REF) as it provides a clear structure for scaffolding students’ learning, taking into consideration the originality, significance and rigour of research. At level 5, Dan uses a four-part seminar series and annotated bibliography assessment to enable students to summarise key findings, appraise the literature and consider the unique contribution of the sources. 

We are now busy planning for the next Faculty of Science and Health Showcase, where once again we will bring staff together to share best practice from learning and teaching, research, innovation and wider student support. 

Author: Kirsten Farrell is Associate Dean (Students) for the Faculty of Science and Health and co-organiser of the Faculty Showcase.


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