Melanie is a Professor of Psychology and Head of school at Ulster University with over 26 years experience of teaching in Higher Education. Engaging students through partnership is critical to her teaching philosophy. She has introduced a variety of interactive pedagogic approaches with a particular focus on peer mentoring.
Melanie has transformed the delivery of her own teaching by adopting the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environments for Undergraduate Students) approach which involves activity-based instruction in place of the traditional lecture format. In 2010, she introduced the PASS peer-mentoring programme to Ulster. Recognising the benefits of peer-mentoring, she has adapted the scheme in a number of significant ways. For example, she has developed several programmes of activity to assist in graduate skill development and has worked in partnership with her students to develop a range of learning resources. The decision to expand the scheme across Ulster to support the widening access agenda reinforces the success of her innovations.
Impact of work
A consistent approach to research and evaluation has not only enabled Melanie to ensure the effective delivery of these initiatives thereby improving practice in real time but has provided her with a platform to raise the profile of excellence and inform and develop practice at a national level. For example, she has helped other institutions develop their own peer learning programmes, mentored staff and designed resources to facilitate the research and evaluation process. In addition, she has created several communities of practice and delivered workshops both locally and for the national peer-learning community to support the development of teaching.
Plans for the future
Recognising that the absence of a consistent approach to evaluation is preventing the introduction of new peer mentoring programmes and the development of existing ones, Melanie will continue to use her networks to steer the research and evaluation agenda at a national level. Currently, she chairs the Research and Evaluation Special Interest Group of the International Academic Peer Learning Network (IAPL) of which she is a founding member. This is striving to share good practice across institutions and create a research culture in the context of peer learning.
Professor of Psychology