Internationalisation is a key item on the agenda of numerous universities around the world, having significant impact on external visibility, collaborative research articles and projects, on student mobility, satisfaction or employability, as well as on student recruitment.
The University of Derby has numerous collaborations with international partners. In this article we present the collaboration with “Haci Bektas Veli” University of Nevsehir in Turkey. Originating from common research in the area of Maths Anxiety, the cooperation evolved through Erasmus mobilities, mutual visits and workshops, gaining national and international visibility and producing impact for the students and staff in the two institutions and for the wider community.
Nevsehir University profile
“Haci Bektas” is a relatively new University in Cappadocia, Turkey. It was established in 2008, and has 20,000 students, 34 departments, seven centres and three colleges. The University is currently expanding rapidly, building new technology centres, accommodation and supermarkets for the students living on campus. The University has modern sports facilities and a conference centre with auditoriums holding over 1000 participants.
Establishing the collaboration
The institutional link was initiated by Dr Thomas Hunt from the University of Derby (Psychology), who had collaborated with Dr Mehmet Sari on research into anxiety primary school teachers experience when teaching maths. Involving Dr Ovidiu Bagdasar from the College of Engineering and Technology (Mathematics), an Erasmus link was signed in April 2018, to facilitate the exchange of staff visits in the areas of Psychology, Mathematics, Education and Political Science.
First visit to Nevsehir – October 2018
The first visit of UoD staff to Nevsehir took place in October 2018, which involved visiting local schools and talking to teachers about the issue of maths anxiety in the classroom, as well as ways to make maths more accessible. Drs Hunt and Bagdasar met the University Rector to discuss common goals and strengthen relations between the Universities. The success of the visit was picked up by local and national newspapers in Turkey.
Inspired by this first visit, Dr Bagdasar and Dr Hunt organised a workshop, titled “Effective mathematical education: Improving accessibility, reducing anxiety” in collaboration with Professor Graham Orpwood from Vretta Inc. Supported by colleagues from Psychology, Mathematics, Education, Engineering, CELT and TEL, as well as teachers from primary and secondary schools (including a pupil referral unit) we presented research on and discussed the prevalence and impact of maths anxiety within primary, secondary and higher education, as well as in teacher training. The primary aim of the workshop was to share best practice in the teaching and assessment of mathematics, including the use of modern technology platforms, developed in partnership by researchers and education experts.
First visit from Nevsehir to Derby – February 2019
In February 2019, Nesen Erturgul and Mehmet Sari from Nevsehir Haci Bektas Veli University completed the first Erasmus visit to Derby, being invited by Dr Hunt and Dr Bagdasar.
Our guests were involved in various activities. Nesen delivered two workshops on “Intercultural Competencies” for students and staff from across the UoD, highlighting the role of intercultural skills when dealing with people from various countries, ethnicities or social or economic backgrounds. Mehmet delivered a guest lecture entitled “Number Sense” as part of Human Sciences Research Centre seminar series, which was endorsed by HR as a staff development opportunity.
Our guests met staff in CELT and from various other Colleges. They also visited local attractions in Derby and surrounds, placing UoD in the context of its local area and providing an opportunity for our visitors to experience British culture.
The exchange was a success, contributing to the development of the collaboration between our universities and to the formulation of a research proposal dedicated to improving mathematics success through technological innovation, together with partners from Romania, Turkey, Sweden and the technology company Vretta Inc.
Despite our relationship being less than a years’ old, much was achieved.
First, mutual Erasmus exchanges have taken places. Identifying other common interests, we have also explored further collaboration opportunities between the Universities of Derby and Nevsehir, including an extension of the current Erasmus agreement to other subject areas.
We have also planned the next visit of UoD staff to Nevsehir, which aims to include staff from other subject areas.
The exchange meant there was an opportunity for student and staff training in the form of workshops and guest lectures, facilitating face-to-face interaction.
Our visit to Turkey in particular has resulted in immediate civic engagement in local schools, whereby teachers have already changed their teaching practices in the context of maths education.
The development of a strong link also contributed to a follow-up visit by Dr Hunt in early February 2019, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund pump priming money provided by the UoD Knowledge Exchange Team. This meant further school visits could take place, this time with a focus on teaching strategies to reduce maths anxiety in the classroom. Pilot work is already underway to assess the effectiveness of such interventions.
The exchanges enabled greater discussion of our current Erasmsus Key Action 2 application in which UoD are the lead institution, focusing on using technology to enhance maths education. Further joint research opportunities have arisen as a result of the exchanges, including UoD as a partner in an Erasmus Key Action 2 bid in which Nevsehir University is the lead institution. Other project proposals have already been drafted with a focus on maths education.
The exchanges have had good visibility, including regular updates on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and reporting in the UoD internal news communications. Our initial visit to Turkey was recognised nationally through several newspaper articles, highlighting the UoD as “one of the most important Universities in the U.K.”.
The exchanges developed our own intercultural competence, emphasising the need to ask questions about host institutions and to not make any assumptions, not matter how small or seemingly trivial.
Delivering teaching sessions and conversing with colleagues in a country or region where very little English is spoken is a challenge. The visits highlighted the need to consider the need for interpreters and also the need to potentially minimise content and deliver key messages, sometimes with ad hoc sign-language!
The College of Life and Natural Sciences is to hold a conference on Internationalisation in February 2019, and this will involve a workshop on increasing staff and student mobility, with a focus on Erasmus. Our recent experiences will support this endeavour.
Our work has given us greater understanding of the commonalities in the objectives and values of the two universities, particularly in the context of applied research and building relationships with local and national regions, especially within the field of maths education. Both the U.K and Turkey have similar challenges, for example concerning an achievement gap for disadvantaged children. Through such ventures as the Derby Opportunity Area and the Global Challenges Research Fund we can work collaboratively to tackle such issues.
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For More Information:
Authors: Dr Ovidiu Bagdasar (Lecturer in Electronics and Mathematics) and
Dr Thomas Hunt (Lecturer in Psychology)
Press releases by Nevsehir University about the visit of Derby Academics
Article in Fibhaber: https://bit.ly/2IozDU4
Article in Lalehaber: https://bit.ly/2U4FLSR
Inform Issue 239, 28 November 2018 on our visit: https://bit.ly/2NfhFC8
Inform Issue 241, 12 December 2018 on our visit: https://bit.ly/2QvRwnu