“Experts and Novices” up-dated: introducing the mini conference

Anderson, Deborah and Passera, Mark (2015) “Experts and Novices” up-dated: introducing the mini conference. In: Festival of Learning 2015; 12-16 Jan 2015, Kingston Upon Thames, U.K.. (Unpublished)


“Experts and Novices” is a learning and teaching innovation which was introduced in the Faculty of Business and Law in 2009, designed to help students develop the critical analytical and synthesis skills required for a strong literature review. In brief, the approach involves nominating some students as “experts” and some as “novices” during selected sessions. “Experts” are those students who have completed in-depth reading of five journal articles on their chosen topic, whilst “novices” have just read a chapter from the course text. The “experts” are then responsible for briefing the “novices” on the topic during the session. The underlying thinking is that by having to sort out emerging themes from their reading and discussing these with peers, students would gain more confidence in their ability to synthesise different authors’ work critically, in particular by having to decide which research/evidence is most convincing. All of this would be completed in a non-threatening, low-risk environment. The original inspiration for the initiative evolved from the work on communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) although the initiative has since moved away considerably from the thinking in this area and is now much more closely aligned with notions of student-led learning and co-creation of knowledge. Since its introduction, the innovation has been disseminated at several conferences (e.g., HEA Business, Management, Accountancy and Finance Conference, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2010; the Academy of Marketing Conference, 2011 and the European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies, Portugal, 2013). It has been presented at several University workshops and has been adapted by many colleagues with slight changes and re-namings, for example “Masters and Apprentices” and “Taking Part”. The Mini Conference During this academic year, the authors have added another element to the traditional “Experts and Novices” sessions by introducing the Mini Conference: a vehicle for ensuring all ideas presented during the session are exposed to the whole class. This has been possible due to the extra contact time allocated to the 30 credit module as part of the Kingston University Review of the Academic Framework (RAF) introduced in 2013. In brief, following two “Experts and Novices” 20 minute discussions, the “experts” are grouped together in small teams of four or five. Their brief is to develop a conference presentation on “Contemporary Developments” in their expert topic. Teams have an hour to prepare and they are required to produce a logical, coherent presentation of their collective ideas. Meanwhile, the “novices” are tasked with preparing a presentation in which they apply their new learning to a practical business scenario. Presentations can use as much or as little technology as the students choose, and last no more than ten minutes. During the mini conference, “Expert” presentations are alternated with “Novice” ones, giving both theoretical and practical aspects to the Mini Conference. Assessment The overall individual assignment (worth 60% of the module) is an industry briefing paper on the student’s chosen topic. This should combine up to date research (summarised in a literature review) with practical examples and recommendations. The “Experts and Novices” sessions are designed to provide an environment where students can “rehearse” their views, share resources and insights. The three “Experts and Novices” sessions themselves account for 10% of the individual assignment, so a very low amount. In designing the weightings, it was felt that whilst this is enough to ensure attendance and participation, it means there is little pressure on the need for polished presentations. Student Feedback and Next stages After each “Experts and Novices” session, students are asked to complete a contribution sheet. This acts as a record for the marking, but is also an opportunity to gain feedback on the structure of the session. Formal evaluation of the mini conference element of “Experts and Novices” will be carried out once the individual assignment has been submitted in January 2015. In this way, students will be able to reflect on the usefulness of hearing their peers’ contributions when working on the individual briefing paper. During the Festival of Learning, students will present their views of the effectiveness of the Mini Conference. References Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press. Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge University Press.

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