As ‘Enhancing the STEM Student Journey’ was the theme for our third STEM annual learning and teaching conference, it therefore seemed fitting to ask students who attended the conference, either as delegates or as presenters, to contribute to this blog with their own words sharing their experiences of the event and its relevance for themselves. A big ‘thank you’ from all of the HEA STEM team to these students, to all presenters and to everyone who was involved in the conference which was a tremendous success.
I am writing this as I am returning from the HEA Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) 2014 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was s a great honour to be asked by my supervisor Dr. Annie Hughes to attend the conference and to experience an academic conference, as well as meet other students and academics in my area of academic interest. The event, which was my first professional conference, was well organized and well attended by knowledgeable academics from various disciplines. It was an opportunity for students like me who are interested in research to gain early mentorship towards reaching my goal of academic development.
The atmosphere was welcoming, student oriented and encouraged my participation even more as an aspiring researcher. It is worth noting that the keynote speech by Dr. Helen Walkington was inspiring, and encouraging when she stated that “publication should be easy for students”, and that final year dissertations can (and should) be published on websites, Wikipedia and blogs. This to me was new, as I have always known such work to be published on academic journals only.
As second year student studying for a BSc (Hons) in Geographic Information Systems the conference helped me think about my final year independent research dissertation. While attending some presentations and discussion forums I gained insights into how I can better tackle my dissertation work. Some presentations and discussion forums, for example; encouraged me to share information with peers through the use of technology.
Finally, I am already looking forward to the next STEM conference in 2015, where I again hope to interact with aspiring researchers, as well as gain more skills in presenting scientific papers.
by Anastacia Makati, Kingston University London
Hi everyone! I’m Beatrice Bretherton, a final year psychology student from the University of Stirling. My colleagues and I presented at the HEA 2014 conference about the peer-led statistics teaching that is happening at Stirling. I was kindly invited to write a piece about my reflections on the conference, so I hope you enjoy what follows.
Attending the HEA 2014 conference was a fantastic experience! The conference really opened my eyes to the role the HEA is playing in championing the continual improvement of student-oriented learning. As a student this is great news because we now realise that academics are investing a great deal of time and effort to enhance student development. The conference was very effective at encouraging attendees to share, discuss and stimulate new ideas about maximising student progression and employability across all STEM disciplines. It was very interesting to learn about other teaching methods and learning resources that academics from the other disciplines are designing, developing and implementing. In turn, this has prompted a great deal of reflection about best practice.
All of the presentations and workshops were really interesting and thought-provoking. Although the Pecha-Kucha style challenged presenters to convey their ideas and research findings in a concise manner, it was lots of fun and everyone did brilliantly! This style of presentation lends itself to conference and educational settings because it generates a relaxed atmosphere; captures and retains the audiences’ attention and encourages the dynamic communication of ideas and research findings.
Over the course of the conference I learned a great deal. For instance, I discovered that presentations are like statistics. At first, they are aversive, frightening, overwhelming and baffling. But by encouraging and rewarding students to keep on trying in a supportive, open and honest relationship, presentations can become pleasant and exciting. In turn, this may lead to the establishment of collaborative relationships in facilitative learning contexts. This would allow students to share knowledge and experiences, and produce students who are confidently competent at giving presentations.
I also learned that university is a journey of being and becoming. Through persevering, engaging with challenges and self-reflecting, students can discover and pursue their life values and aspirations. This idea is really important because as a student concerned with exams, coursework and grades, it is easy to forget to reflect and apply ones knowledge, skills and experience in real-life. I really enjoyed the HEA 2014 conference and thank everyone involved for making it such a worthwhile, interesting and flawless event.
by Beatrice Bretherton, University of Stirling
Next month: Julie Hulme, Discipline Lead for Psychology discusses ‘The STEM graduate in the real world’