Learning Development
with Plymouth University
WrAssE fish

Writing for Assignments E-library (WrAssE)
A resource which includes examples of real student writing from a number of subject areas with comments from lecturers about why the writing is good - or how it could be improved.

Even Older News

August 2012

'Crisis' "Tina Pepler's gripping drama about the volatile world of international aid work" was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 20th August, 2012.

Tina is Plymouth University's Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow.

Scripts from the drama are available from these links:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Epispde 5

Older News

May 2012

PALS at Plymouth (Peer Assisted Learning Scheme) has been successfully recruiting leaders (more experienced students) from 7 University programmes to work in groups to support less experienced students on their course. Training is scheduled to start in September 2012 and the PALS sessions will run throughout the Autumn and Spring terms.

Research from other UK institutions shows that similar schemes can be very beneficial for students, leaders and programme staff. Furthermore there is evidence to show that participation in the scheme can improve grades. Data gathered from our pilot scheme this year shows that the majority of students and leaders enjoyed being part of the scheme and benefitted in many different ways. A report on the PALS@Plymouth pilot evaluation will be available later this summer.

February 2012

PALS event 2012

On 31 January 2012 Plymouth hosted a STEM South West Peer Assisted Learning Seminar for staff from across the region interested in implementing a PASS/PALS scheme to support their students. Marcia Ody, from the National Centre for PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) came to talk about the work of the national centre in supporting the on-going development of PALS/PASS in the UK. The Learning Development PALS coordinator in Plymouth, Carolyn Gentle, provided an update on our PALS pilot and introduced four PALS leaders who spoke about their experiences and answered numerous questions. The day was informative and encouraging for all who attended.

Go to PALS@plymouth or email pals@plymouth.ac.uk for further information on the Plymouth scheme. To find out more about the support available nationally visit the National Centre website.

September 2011

A pilot peer assisted learning scheme called PALS@Plymouth was launched in Sept 2011. The scheme is centrally coordinated by Learning Development (LD) and is broadly modelled on an accepted approach already well established in a number of UK HE Institutions. Peer Assisted Learning involves regular discipline-specific group sessions run by experienced students (PALS Leaders) for new or less experienced students. The PALS@Plymouth pilot allows for second or third year students from within four programmes to provide discipline-specific support to first and second year students. For further details go to PALS@plymouth or email pals@plymouth.ac.uk

LearnHigher news

The LearnHigher partnership, initially between sixteen universities, arose from the HE learning development community. When HEFCE funding came to an end in 2010, LearnHigher became part of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE). The partners (old and new) remain committed to developing and evaluating learning resources for staff and students across the HE sector. The team at the University of Plymouth are working with staff across disciplines to improve and further develop materials and approaches for Critical Thinking and Reflection.

Click here for the LearnHigher website

Click here for the ALDinHE website

A book written by the LearnHigher CETL partners entitled Learning Development in Higher Education published in November 2010 by Palgrave Macmillan. Click here for further details

Plymouth's external LearnHigher CETL and WrAssE event held in September 2009

In September 2009 Plymouth hosted an event to promote the LearnHigher CETL (Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning) resources and WrAssE. The day was successful with over 30 participants from eight UK institutions attending. Participants kept a log of their experiences of the day and this useful and constructive feedback is available in the event report. As the CETL's five year funding draws to an end in 2010 LearnHigher will join with ALDinHE (the Association of Learning Development in Higher Education) and preparations for this move are underway. The website is currently being re-designed and feedback such as this is instrumental in improving the navigation and clarity of the site and the resources. For further details please see the September event report.


Feedback from the Plymouth internal WrAssE event held in June 2009

WrAssE is a prototype online learning resource which has been developed with support from the LearnHigher . Academics and students are welcome to use WrAssE and we would be grateful for any comments or suggestions for improving it. The feedback below was recieved at the initial launch event held in Plymouth. (Click to see the June 2009 event report which includes details on the Key characteristics of WrAssE).

Participants were asked to give their opinions and to make suggestions for improvements based on their experiences of using the prototype. The key points made were as follows:

  1. A sentence about plagiarism on the front page would act as a useful warning to all students and to staff in other institutions: Something along the lines of ‘This remains the property of the University of Plymouth and anti plagiarism software is in use’.

  2. The full assignment and the assignment briefs could be in pdf format. This would enable quicker download speeds and may deter plagiarism.

  3. Dates should be remove from assignment briefs to avoid the out-of-date feel.

  4. There could be a template for assignment briefs which could include copyright/ownership statements.

  5. The QAA levels used in the resource are not commonly used by staff and students. Including a more commonly used terminology may help eg.: level 5 (University 2nd year).

  6. Enable easier access to the level descriptions on the help page by making the word ‘level’ live or hover-over description.

  7. It would be useful to have a ‘new search’ button/list once you’ve gone into the assignment extract.

  8. Those with colour-blindness may have difficulty witht the colour-coded items. Consult with Disability Services and see how staff and students respond during the pilot phase.

  9. If examples of good writing from international students were included it would broaden the usefulness of the resource. These examples may not necessarily be from students with perfect English, but could demonstrate that it is still possible to get a good mark even when English is not your first language.

  10. It should be clear to users that it is the extract which is of a good standard, not necessarily the whole assignment.

  11. It is not just making the resource available which is important, but also offering ways and processes for using the resource effectively. How can it be used in the classroom or built into the curriculum or how can it effectively be promoted to students for independent use? For example, the texts could be given out in class with the WrAssE framework of functions and qualities of writing; students could then try marking them and give feedback. They would then be provided with the tutor feedback for comparison and discussion.

  12. When students receive marked work they could be directed to specific functions and qualities of the WrAssE extracts to support and give meaning to the feedback they have received. For example, comments such as ‘too much description and not enough analysis’ could be clarified for the student by directing them to an extract which illustrates the difference.

  13. At least one in-class session for students would be needed to explain to them the WrAssE 'functions and qualities' framework.

  14. The tutor comments on the extracts offer in-depth feedback. Is there a danger that students will expect this depth to be provided on their own marked work? Will it raise their expectations? Perhaps it needs to be made clear that these are exceptional examples of feedback, written especially for this project, they are not the norm.

  15. Encouraging publicity on the site might be a way to generate funding for the future development of the project..

  16. Student evaluation of the resource is very important, but staff need to start using it first in order to promote and direct students.

  17. The use of such good examples may make students feel it's too difficult to achieve the standard. A sister' site of WrAssE might be ‘Red Herring’ which could include 'bad' examples of writing, and then show how these could be re-drafted to become good examples.

  18. The resource should include what is good about the writing, but also what could be done better. Providing some constructive feedback.

  19. For first year and transition students some examples of plain simple writing may be encouraging. In-depth academic writing might put them off.

  20. Provide a link to the e-journal resource ‘The Plymouth Student E Scientist’.

  21. WrAssE might be a tool for use in staff training programmes, such as Plymouth's Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE) and/GTA programmes. Staff could be encouraged to collect examples of writing and get permission from their students to use it to show to future students.

  22. As the project develops, discipline specialists may wish to develop examples for use by the HEA subject centres. It would be a useful tool within the disciplines.

  23. It would be useful to consider a' browse all' button. Currently users can just search 'all' and 'all' but it's not quite so obvious how to use that function.

Any comments or suggestions about these pages are welcome. Email learn@plymouth.ac.uk
Learning Development Advisors: John Hilsdon, Joe Allison, Eloïse Sentito, Julia Dawson and Babs Horton (Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow)