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UK Centre for Materials Education
Working with you to enhance the student experience
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One of 24 subject centres within the Higher Education Academy, the UK Centre for Materials Education supports teaching and learning in materials and related disciplines. We work with individual academics, departments, professional bodies, employers and students to develop and share excellent practice that will enhance the learning experience.

More specifically we aim to:

  • Be the primary source of information and advice on learning, teaching and assessment in materials science, and on broader educational issues;
  • Promote and support the discovery, development and sharing of innovative practice in materials education;
  • Support individual and departmental activity addressing the development of curricula and teaching practice;
  • Raise public awareness of materials as a discipline and promote it as an attractive option for university study;
  • Engage with national political agendas in Higher Education: ensuring that the materials community has an input to policy development, and is informed of the relevant issues.

We recognise that academic staff are working under enormous time pressure. We offer a blend of support and services designed to help you develop your teaching practice, whilst preserving valuable time to focus on other work areas. Our ambition is to work in close partnership with the academic community to progress towards excellence in materials education that matches our excellence in research. The information below is intended to give a flavour of our work. If you have any questions, or would like to take advantage of our support, then please contact one of our staff.

Departmental Support

  • Supported Change Programmes:
    • A broad package of support for departmental teaching development programmes
  • Departmental visits:
    • to update you on recent developments and forthcoming activity; to explore how we can best support your needs
  • Departmental workshops:
    • on themes in materials education of interest to your department; delivered by Centre staff and materials lecturers with experience relevant to the chosen theme

Information and Resources

Our website is a rich source of news and information relevant to anyone teaching materials science. It provides details of funding opportunities, forthcoming events, teaching development projects, and links to other useful web sites. Visitors can also download, or read online, a variety of good practice guides, quick guides and casestudies as well as the recent National Materials Subject Profile.

Our Database of Resources can also be accessed through our web site. This fully searchable catalogue contains over 2000 resources on various topics in materials science and materials education. Our database services over 800 searches per week from lecturers wishing to develop their teaching, and students seeking to supplement their learning. The following examples give a flavour of the resources available:

  • e-tutorials including An Introduction to Dislocations and Atomic Structure of Materials
  • CD-ROMs including Atomic Diffusion in Alloys and Beam-Specimen Interactions
  • Videos including Ductile and Brittle Fractures and Heat Treatment of Alloy Steels
  • Industrial case studies including Joining Methods and Materials Selection for Artificial Hip Joints
  • Good practice guides on key issues in learning and teaching including Assessment and Teaching Mathematics

We produce and/or distribute a range of Publications such as our boxed-set of booklets Materials Education: 12 Guides for Lecturers, the Higher Education Academy briefings on Assessment, Enhancing Graduate Employability, and E-Learning, as well as recent case studies; 'Working in Partnership with Students: The Summer School at Cambridge' and 'Employer-College Partnerships: Developing a Materials Foundations Degree'.

We also publish regular Electronic Bulletins to ensure our community is kept up to date with the full range of our activity.

Project Funding

UKCME provides grants (typically £5000) to individual academics wishing to develop, implement and evaluate new approaches to their teaching. Since 2001, Teaching Development Grants have funded 58 projects, and 27 institutions and organizations have benefited from this scheme. A number of projects initially funded through this scheme have developed further so as to be incorporated under the more comprehensive and wide-ranging Supported Change Programme.

The Teaching Development Grants have addressed Learning and Teaching projects in four broad areas:

  • Resource development
  • Curriculum enhancement
  • Outreach projects
  • Skills and Employability issues

We are currently undertaking a historic review and analysis of the Teaching Development Grants Scheme as part of the Centre’s continuing evaluation process.

Workshops, Courses and Conferences

Each year we hold a number of national workshops on key themes in materials education. These workshops have addressed a diverse range of subjects including Teaching Materials Using Problem Based Learning, Enhancing Creativity in Science and Engineering, Ethical Materials Selection and Effective Schools Liaison.

We hold an annual Recently Appointed Lecturers Course (2-day residential) that introduces new Materials lecturers to various teaching and assessment methods as well as issues such as course design, planning learning outcomes and how to evaluate their teaching.

We also hold an annual Student Representatives Course (2-day residential) for students who serve on staff-student committees. The aim of this course is to give students an insight into the world of learning and teaching from the lecturer’s perspective, and to help them develop personal skills that equip them to better represent their peers and provide more useful feedback to staff.

We co-host two biannual conferences on learning, teaching and assessment: the Science Learning and Teaching Conference (in partnership with the subject centres for Physical Science and Bioscience); and the Innovation and Good Practice in Engineering Education Conference (in partnership with the subject centre for Engineering). These are held on alternate years with the next Science conference in June 2009 and the next Engineering conference in July 2010.

Supporting Student Recruitment

UKCME is working to raise public awareness of the discipline of Materials Science and to promote it as an attractive option for study. Examples of our activity include:

  • Installing and part-funding a full time Materials Science teacher at the Tower of London: 12,000 school children per year are now exposed to our subject and participate in a range of educational activities
  • Producing the Why Study Materials CD-ROM that promotes the subject and illustrates the employment opportunities available to a materials graduate. This is designed to be used by university departments and schools careers services, and will soon be distributed across the sector
  • Developing the 'Why Study Materials?' website for schools. The website builds on the CD-ROM to include teaching resources for schools, links to university departments and notification of open days, summer schools etc.

Educational Development Projects

We collaborate with a wide range of organisations within the HE sector to develop approaches and resources to help departments address issues such as:

  • Teaching mathematics
  • Integrating sustainable development teaching
  • Implementing computer based learning
  • Supporting disabled students
  • Supporting cultural and religious diversity
  • Supporting external examiners
  • Widening participation
  • Enhancing graduate employability