Innovation for Assessment

Dr Marco Pinna – Principal Lecturer/ Programme Leader – School of Mathematics and Physics – College of Science – Staff Profile

The Advanced Topics in Physics was taught for the first time in 2017/18 to final year students. The 15-credit module was run over the academic year. During a recent Institute of Physics (IoP) accreditation the module was highly commended for its innovations, content and student feedback.

Our aim was to expose final year students to a wide variety of physics-related content delivered by world-class experts in selected topics of industrial and academic relevance. In addition, we wanted students to experience what it is like working in top research institutes, NHS and industry.

The large spectrum of topics enabled us to innovate in assessment as well by asking the students to create blog posts and/or vlogs targeting a non-specialist audience for each topic being delivered; thus preparing them to communicate their work to a variety of audiences.

Diverse, innovative and rigorous content was created and delivered by top technical experts in their respective fields on important topics in physics currently in practice. Sixteen lectures were delivered in Lincoln on a range of topics including:

Exoplanetary Ring, Dr Phil Sutton, University of Lincoln

Scanning Tunneling Microscope, Prof Lev Kantorovich, Kings College London.

Cellular Graphene and its Applications, Dr. Yarjan Abdul Samad, Cambridge Graphene Centre.

Forensic Physics, Dr David Wilkinson, Institute of Physics (IOP).

Manufacturing using Nanomaterials, Dr Martin Birkett, University of Northumbria.

Imaging from the electromagnetic spectrum, Dr David Platten, Lincolnshire Royal Hospital.

Anatomy of a linear accelerator, Dr Mohamed Metwaly, Lincolnshire Royal Hospital.

Assessments were carried out in an innovative way with students writing blog posts using language suitable for non-specialist audience. Video blogs (vlogs) were also created and filmed by students and submitted for marking. These assessment methods developed communication skills via written media and videos to enhance impact on the audience. These assessment modes have never been used in the school previously and, according to feedback, provided valuable and enjoyable experience despite the new challenges.

A 4-week minicourse in Laser Physics delivered by Dr Asad Hussein from the University of Cambridge Graphene Centre which provided the theoretical framework and practical ways of making lasers based on noble prize winning, 2D material, graphene. Examination of student knowledge and understanding of the topic was done using a conventional written assignment with a computer programming component.

The core strengths of the school include leading experts in computational physics and nano-science. Hence, two scientific papers were selected by the module coordinator on research carried out by academics at Lincoln. One of the papers selected was theoretical and the other on practical applications of nanotechnology in bio-materials. These were reviewed by the students and assessed by a panel of experts via PowerPoint presentations. The assessment included a strong element of critical and constructive review of the work carried out in the papers. This element developed student skills in critical evaluation of research papers, appraisal and review and developed and strengthened their presentation skills.

A unique component of the module was to provide students with a glimpse of their potential future by organising visits to world leading research centres and industry. The students were addressed by distinctive hosts and shown the work being carried out with ample opportunity for questions. The academic visits included trips to the Cambridge Graphene Centre, Liverpool Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy inaugurated by Prof Sir David King FRS and former chief scientific advisor to the government and a champion for renewable energy future. The students visited a local company working on manufacturing using lasers, Micrometrics Ltd. These events were well received by students and provided an opportunity to network and develop relationships. For next year two industrial and two top research visits are planned to provide a balanced perspective.