Archive for the ‘My Learning Journey’ Category

Radio active 101 – Young people speak out!

August 15th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

radioactiveRadioActive 101 Press Release 15.08.13

Dragon Hall, in association with UEL, presents its latest broadcast on RadioActive 101, airing live from 7pm (BST) on Thursday 15th August 2013.

That’s today!!

Hosted by resident presenters Sam & Danni, this broadcast sees Education put in the spotlight.

Contributions on this topic come from show regulars The Squad, Young People for Inclusion & Dragon Hall, joined this month by young people from The Chinese Community Centre in Soho and special guests Ecolonias, all the way from Buenos Aires in Argentina.

In addition to their main theme, there is the usual focus on music made by young people, as well as inner city life with The Urban Show.

Highlights for this show include-

  • A discussion with young people from Argentina about their experiences of London
  • A review of Dragon Hall’s Summer Scheme & their ‘Come Dine with Us’ Competition
  • Young People for Inclusion discussing the levels of support on offer at school for disabled children

Check here for details and recording of the previous show

So, if you want to hear the voice, interests, needs and concerns of young people from across London, then tune in this Thursday from 7pm BST. Use the following link:



twitter-          @radioactive101

Peer review, open access, and transparency. The way it should be…!?

August 15th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

A couple of months ago David Walker asked me to review a paper for a new Academic Journal of which he is one of the editors. He told me it was an open access journal focused on practice and I immediately said yes! I just cannot say no to open access or perspectives on practice. I just can’t! So I became a reviewer of the Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice.

As I started going through the first paper I had to review, I noticed that the author’s name was disclosed. There was even a short biography about his academic career. I was intrigued, almost shocked, I must confess. I immediately emailed David reporting the “tragedy” of having learnt the name and background of the author whose article I was about to review. David’s answer was something like this:

You didn’t read the guidelines, did you?! :-)

"Autoretrato" Photo by Flickr ID Sebastian Delmont  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Autoretrato” Photo by Flickr ID Sebastian Delmont (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cough… well, actually I did, but I went directly to “conducting the review” section, ignoring the opening paragraph of the Reviewers Guidelines. How scholastic of me. So here it is:

Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice (JPAAP) journal uses open peer review process, meaning that the identities of the authors and those of the reviewers will be made known to each other during the review process in the following way: the reviewers will be fully aware of the name, position and institution of the authors of the manuscript they currently review, and the authors will be given a signed review with the name, position and institution of the reviewer.


I got the shock of my life at first, but then I decided to give it a go. This was the first time I got involved in open peer reviewing and, as I think it’s important to put into practice what we preach, I went for it. Here are some reflective points about the process of conducting an open peer review. I aimed to:

  • be on my best behaviour – I made sure I allocated plenty of time to read and digest the paper. I read it several times. I tried to understand and deconstruct it the best way I could, before I submitted the review
  • give thorough feedback  - I tried to justify every point I made (I think I achieved that better in the second paper I reviewed)
  • provide constructive and also friendly feedback – Nothing annoys me more than reviews  that are dry and harsh in their comments. I tried to use language that aimed to provide suggestions and stimulate new thinking. I think I still have some work to do in this area, but I hope I’m getting there
  • read the paper as it is written, not as I would write it – I think that’s a crucial point in any type of review, but one that is often forgotten. I have felt many times that reviews were made on the assumption that the article should be written in the style and perspective of the reviewer rather than that of the author’s

You may think that this doesn’t differ at all from any review process, and in fact it should not. But the feelings and the thoughts that go through your mind as you disclose your identity to the author are both of vulnerability and commitment to do a good job. [Not much different from the feelings of the author of the article who submits his/her work to you, hey?! So we are on the same boat!]

There is something about the open peer review process. With transparency comes visibility, a more acute sense of responsibility of your role as reviewer and maybe the fact that your reputation is on the line matters too!  And that can only be good.

However, I still have unanswered questions that in a sense do show my vulnerability as a reviewer.

  • would I feel the same if I knew/have worked with the author whose paper I was reviewing?
    • Would I feel comfortable giving them my feedback?
    • Would I be influenced or even intimidated by my knowledge of their practice/research?
    • Would I be too tough, or too soft, on them?

I guess you can always refuse to review someone’s paper if those feelings arise and you are not comfortable with it… but these questions did come to mind.

As we move towards more open peer reviewing processes, and I hope more initiatives like this start to emerge, I’d like to see more dialogue between the reviewer and the author. So far it’s still a monologue, and since we disclosed identities, could we also open up the discussion? ~ just a thought.

  • Search

    News Bites

    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information

    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.

    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time

    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”

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