The 5th HE Advances (HEAd'19) Conference: a hotbed of inspiration

Emma Coonan

Category: Centre for Innovation in Higher Education

22 July 2019

The 5th International Conference on Higher Education Advances (HEAd’19), held at the Universitat Politècnica de València 25-28 June 2019, was a place of sizzling hot ideas (and streets).

The conference is a lively international forum for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences, opinions and research results relating to higher education teaching and learning. It offered a phenomenal range of presentations, which brought the usual trauma of seeing tweets from other sessions and wishing it was possible time-travel to attend them all. I was extremely lucky to have two excellent papers scheduled in my parallel slot, so I was able to hear about an inspiring service learning programme at an American university in Luxembourg and an innovative outreach project for schools in Valencia that brings together the sciences and arts under the banner of 'scientific travellers'.

I also picked up some very valuable insights into how learning and learning gain are perceived and measured across Europe, including the TECO project from Italy, which aims to measure students' competencies development; an insightful use of self-efficacy scales in Mondragon University, Spain; the development of a work-integrated learning programme for South African Business students; and a project to create learning communities at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

My own presentation was a short paper on research being carried out by the Centre for Innovation in Higher Education (CIHE) and Mark Warnes of Anglia Learning & Teaching into the longitudinal impact of writing retreats on participants’ writing habits, attitudes, and identities. It was well received, and I was thrilled that lots of other delegates came to chat afterwards about writing retreats, publishing, and academic writing generally.

Photograph of the PALAU DE LES ARTS REINA SOFÍA, Valencia, Spain in the sunshine

I missed the first day of the conference through attending ARU’s own excellent Engage conference, but still got to hear two stimulating keynotes, on holistic graduate competences and creating experiential learning opportunities through gamification and reflection.

Surprisingly, the heat was no barrier either to learning, networking, socialising or even sight-seeing. The organisers had thoughtfully given us all hats and sunscreen in our conference goody bags, and Valencia is full of trees, parks and little gardens full of birds. I was enchanted by the city even before I arrived at the venue for the conference dinner, the spectacularly beautiful Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia ;(pictured). And indeed the 32-35-degree temperatures turned out to be good practice for the UK’s heatwave a few weeks later!

The HEAd’19 conference was a fantastic experience and I’ve brought back many teaching and learning ideas to feed into the work of CIHE. Looking forward to HEAd’ 20!

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