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JET Issue 2 - April 2019

I am delighted to welcome you to the second issue of Brunel’s Journal for Education and Teaching (JET), the aim of which is to share the work that is being done across campus to enhance the educational experience of our students.

The articles in this edition have a common theme to them – the use of alternative approaches to teaching in the classroom to engage students actively in their learning.  This is also the theme for the 2019 Learning and Teaching Symposium being held on Thursday 9 May, reflecting the importance that we are now placing on teaching our students in ways that equip them better for the worlds of work and further study and make learning more interactive.

The article by Charlotte Thackeray from the Academic Skills Team in BEEC, reflects on the use of LEGO® as a tool for engaging students actively in their transition to university and facilitating what could be otherwise difficult conversations around their expectations of higher education and student life.  Charlotte emphasises that enabling students to build models and to be creative helps to direct conversations that might otherwise be problematic if more traditional techniques that depend on good academic writing skills were to be used.  Whilst LEGO® might not be available to everyone who teaches, I have seen similar techniques used in classes with items such as postcards (i.e. asking students to pick a picture that reflects something you want to discuss and then explain why).  Although Charlotte identifies some students as being reluctant to show off their LEGO® models in front of the rest of the class, these techniques apply well when putting students into small groups within the large classes and encouraging them to talk to each other.  It would be good to hear of other such examples from colleagues at Brunel!

The article by Nadarajah Manivannan, Mina Nasiri and Numan Celik from three divisions within CEDPS reveals the results of a TeachBrunel funded project where they experimented in using MATLAB® maths software to teaching electronics to BA Design students.  In a particularly interesting project, Mani and colleagues were challenged by the lack of engineering / physics / maths backgrounds of BA Design students and elected to find ways in which electronics could be taught in order to enhance the future employability of these students.  They faced the additional problem that traditional methods of teaching electronics can sometimes be too frustrating for the students due to the level of maths and / or physics required and set about trying to find a more accessible way of encouraging engagement through the use of MATLAB®.  Although the numbers of students they worked with on this project were very small, there is sufficient interest in taking this approach forwards with larger cohorts in the future and I’m sure the team would be happy to talk to anyone else interested in doing something similar. 

At a time when the higher education sector is sometimes seen as being a challenging place to be teaching I very much hope that these two articles and the Learning and Teaching Symposium will help colleagues to feel more agency in finding interesting ways to support student learning.  As ever, support is available through BEEC to help you with this so please do get in touch with us at BEEC@brunel.ac.uk if you would like to talk to someone about moving away from lecturing and into more interactive teaching methods.  I do hope that you will feel better equipped to try new ways of teaching and working with students and staff and that you might then want to reflect on your own teaching experiences and write articles for future editions of this journal.  It is important that we all continue to contribute to the growing knowledge base to support educational enhancement at Brunel. 

Professor Fiona Denney, Director, Brunel Educational Excellence Centre

April 2019


Supporting University transition for new undergraduate students using LEGO®

Supporting University transition for new undergraduate students using LEGO® By Charlotte Thackeray Academic Skills Team, Brunel Educational Excellence Centre

Download the full article here.


The Teach Brunel Project: Learning electronics with the use of MATLAB®

The Teach Brunel Project: Learning electronics with the use of MATLAB® by Nadarajah Manivannan, Mina Nasiri and Numan Celik Design / Mechanical Engineering / Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department.

Download the full article here.