Conference · Maths Support

Trip to Belfast

by Shazia Ahmed

Back in December, Lorna and I were at the Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network (IMLSN) annual meeting at Queens University Belfast.

Prof Sarah Moore from the University of Limerick gave an excellent keynote address: Engagement, progression, retention, student effort and learner support – key principles for performance in higher education.  She pointed out that students on any programme are more likely to succeed in institutions where:

  • There is a stated and public commitment to retention
  • Students have had effective pre-entry advice and guidance
  • Information on retention is collected and used
  • Student support is available through integrated skills development, proactive advice and tutoring, and access to student services
  • Good practice is evaluated and shared.

The transition to university can be overwhelming and Limerick runs an extended induction programme which supports students during their first seven weeks at university

  1. In the first week, the focus is on welcoming students, helping them to settle in and find their way round. To this end, there are ‘guides’ everywhere in distinctive orange t-shirts directing students around campus, answering queries etc.
  2. In the second week, the focus is on study skills and time management.
  3. Week 3 is Health and Wellbeing week.
  4. The fourth week is ‘Meet the Advisor’ week – couldn’t agree more!
  5. The Learning Centre Roadshow takes place in week 5, where students have the opportunity to take part in taster sessions with the various learner centres.
  6. Week 6 focuses on Career development & planning, including a volunteering fair.
  7. And finally, the topic for week 7 is ‘Critical Thinking and Longer-Term Planning’.

The issues of pre-entry, induction and transition are of huge interest and relevance to me. The way that all these issues were brought together in this talk was brilliant.

There was an interesting talk about student engagement with mathematics support by Julie O’Donovan from Cork and Jonathan Cole from QUB talked about supporting non-traditional entry students in engineering. Maria Meehan from UCD and Olivia Fitzmaurice from Limerick both talked about using tablet technology to create videos for supporting mathematics learning – it inspired me to make more use of my Smart Pen. And Sue Milne’s talk reminded me that I should be getting on with more QTI work.

Lorna and I gave a presentation about using Facebook to implement Virtual Peer Assisted Learning (VPAL) for Maths and Computing students at Glasgow University.


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