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Barbara Nicolls

Research Activity

PDP through e-Portfolios: engaging students to enhance their learning and employability 2012

This project aims todevelop a Bucks PDP framework and guidelines which -is integrated with the Bucks Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy to encouragea coherent approach to offering PDP to all Bucks students on all awards

- emphasises the personal, academic and professional development of the individual student

To achieve the aim,PDP will be implemented and supported through a holistic approach which seeks to engage students in PDP through the curriculum, through the personal tutorial system (Bucks Personal Tutor Policy 2008)by the provision of support systems for students to undertake PDP activity independently, using an e-Portfolio system, thus making PDP a valuable and worthwhile experience.

Learning and Teaching 2010Research: Bucks Career File - Pilot project to introduce the e-Portfolio concept to a wide range of disciplines within the UniversityCase study Research:e-Portfolio thinking in Bucks PGCLTHE 2010

Research grants

Learning Enhancement Project Scheme 2007-08

Research topic - e-Support4U: a blended learning approach to the academic skills development of nursing students on placement

Learning Enhancement Project Scheme 2008-09

Research topic - My e-Career File: nursing students' perceptions on creating an e-Portfolio using PowerPoint

Publications"e-Support4U: a blended learning approach to the academic skills development of nursing students on placement" published in the Nurse Education in Practice Journal (March 2010) . The research was conducted in collaboration with the then Portfolio Leader - Nursing Practice.


As a Senior Lecturer of Academic and Study Skills at Bucks Learning Development Unit, I work closely with students in small groups and on a 1:1 basis - delivering courses in Academic Writing and Study Skills. I also work with academic staff providing pedagogic advice and support in developing learning activities to promote technology-enhanced learning in their programmes.

I am an innovative, conscientious and self-motivated professional with proven curriculum design, instruction and research skills in the field of language teaching at tertiary level. My effective administrative, communication and interpersonal skills and knowledge of work processes have been demonstrated in managing teams of language tutors and Programme Administrators resulting in an efficient workforce who responded in a timely manner to demands by academics and students in the HE sector. I am confident that these skills combined with my education (MSc in technology-enhanced Learning, MA  Education Management and MA in Education - Applied Linguistics) will be assets to any academic and professional activities which seek improvements in the student learning experience.

I am specifically interested in teaching English as a Foreign Language and English for Academic Purposes deploying technology to enhance both my working practices as well as the student's learning experiences As a practioner-researcher, I tend to compare my practical classroom experiences with the theories of pedagogy through Action Research leading to more questions and answers possibly culminating in enhanced student learning.


Developing IT skills more specifically in the area of pedagogy to enhance student learning

Action Research

Italian language and culture

Sports - badminton, cycling, hiking

My lesson sites


  1. Associate Member of the Institute for Learning (IfL) since 2007
  2. Member of the Italian Institute for Culture since 2007
  3. Member of the World Language s Editorial Board of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) since 2009
  4. Member of Association for Learning Technology since 2010

Work History

Member-World Languages Editorial Board of MERLOT


As a MERLOT World Languages Editorial Board Member, my responsibilities include:

1. Participation in the development of the Board annual goals and plans,

2. Complete five (5) peer reviews each year,

3. Contribute five (5) resources to MERLOT as submitter,

4. Participate in the community development process,

5. Participate in MERLOT meetings and teleconferences when able, and

6. Participate in the selection of the MERLOT Classics Award.

Sep 2006Present

Senior Lecturer (Academic & Study Skills)

Bucks New University

As a member of the Learning Development Unit, I

  •  provide academic advice, guidance and resources both online and via lectures, workshops, small group and one to one tutorials to any student whatever their ability, year or course, to help ensure they achievetheir maximum potential
  • support tutors through resources and the sharing of good practice around curriculum planning, delivery and assessment in their aim to give students a successful learning experience
  • take a proactive part in fostering an enthusiastic community of learning within the University as a whole
Sep 2000Present

Italian Language Tutor

Buckinghamshire Adult Learning

I design, develop, deliver and evaluate the Italian Language courses from Beginners 1 to Intermediate 1 levels through the face to face and blended learning modes. The target group is generally english native speakers with O levels or GCSEs. For blended learning, the organisations VLE - Moodle  is used to make content available as well as make use of the communication tools - Blog, Wikis, Chat, email to enhance student learning. Blogs and Wikis have been used as assessment tools as well.

I keep my own language skills and italian culture knowledge up to date by visiting Italy 3 times a year, one of which is exclusively for study at the University for Foreigners in Siena. I have been fortunate enough to be offered an annual scholarship by the Italian Government and since 2007, August has been my month of study in Siena.  

As a tutor of languages in Bucks Adult Learning, I am an affiliate member of the Institute for Learning and use the IfL's ReFLECT facility to record my CPD and summit my annual developments in July.

Apr 2008Jul 2010

Learning and Teaching Projects Assistant

Bucks New University

As the Learning and Teaching Projects Assistant, I was involved mainly with the populating of the Learning and Teaching webpages ( since 1 April 2008. I used to work 2 days/week but now I am allocating 3 hours/week of my teaching time to this role. I also provide pedagogic support in developing and implementing Teaching Quality Enhancement Funded projects and the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy 2008-12.In addition, I undertook a range of academic and research related activities designed to enhance the pedagogic research culture throughout Buckinghamshire New University. I am contintuing my Action Research projectis everytime I have a programme to deliver.

My excellent time management, organising skills combined with my IT skills contributed to the timely and high standard delivery of all the tasks and services mentioned above.

Due to organisational restructuring L and T was subsumed by the new Student Experience Directorate in July 2010 and I was redeployed as a Senior Lecturer - part time and continue to support L and T on a part-time basis as a member of the Learning Dvelopment Unit.

Feb 1999Mar 2008

Senior Programme Administrator

Bucks New University

I managed a team of 8 Programme administrators, created and implemented the Programme Administration annual calendar of events and deadlines to ensure that all tasks are completed in a timely and efficient manner. This calendar was a source of information not only for my team but also for the academic staff who could access the interactive, current and accurate data via a shared drive. Training my team members was the priority in my role, as skills and knowledge to perform effectively is paramount to perform their role efficiently. The work processes I have set up which are available on the shared drive as well as  a hard copy complement the training and regular support meetings.

I led my team and worked closely with academics and other student support units such as the Faculty Registry, Finance office, Enrolment, Careers etc.

My interpersonal skills, organisational and time management skills combined with my knowledge of developments in the FE and HE sectors contributed to the achievements of the departmental as well as the institutional objectives.

I left this post to assist the then Head of Teaching Quality Enhancement now Learning and Teaching in the implementation of the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy 2008-12 and the development of the L and T web pages.

Jul 1988Aug 1998

Senior Lecturer/Deputy Chair Person

Assumption University

I designed, delivered and evaluated multi-level English language courses (EFL/ESL, ESP, EAP) at the Faculty of Humanities both as a Senior Lecturer as well as the Deputy Chairperson of the English Dept. Levels ranged from Basic to Advanced labelled as Intensive English, English 1 to 4 and was delivered during the first 2 years of the academic programme.

I led a team of international academics with a variety of experiences to deliver high specification, customised English for Specific Purposes -e.g. English for Engineers, Nurses, Biologists etc. These ESP courses were developed in collaboraton with staff from other disciplines such as Accounting, Business, Engineering, Marketing and Nursing. Although there was a set Course Outline or Scheme of Work for each course, the resources, materials and method of delivery varied according to the chort's level, motivation and interest. In order to help students with special learning needs, I ensured that every tutor had at least 2 hours of non-teaching time/week scheduled for 1-1 sessions.

I prepared, designed and conducted assessments of different types from MCQ to essay types and compiled useful resources for a textbook on Business Letters while in post to help Thai students and tutors alike. I led interactive Staff Development sessions where IT skills, marking and moderating techniques, teaching methodologies were discussed and shared as good practice and made recommendations to Senior Management for awards and promotions.

As a non-thai teaching in Thailand, I was aware of the need to participate in cultural events organised by the University, not only for my own knowledge but also to share my learning with new tutors within my department.

I resigned from this post to join my husband in the UK in 1998.

Oct 1986May 1988

Technical Aviation English Language Co ordinator

The Civil Aviation Authority of China CAAC)

During the 2 years, I designed, developed, delivered and evaluated the Ab-Initio Technical Aviation English programmes after conducting a needs analysis with the CAAC. As a language expert, I also set up the language lab to help improve the English pronunciation and listening comprehension of the chinese students and teachers. The lab was effectively used to develop language communication skills more specifically in the context of air-ground radio communication achieved through team working and collaboration with professionals such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation experts and employees of CAAC. In addition, I designed reading comprehenion exercises based on authentic aviation-related texts found in the Aviation journals and daily newspapers. Current news seem to increase the interest of the students.

The greatest challenge I faced while working in China was the lack of motivation to learn English on the part of the students training to become pilots and air-traffic controllers. I was aware that background and exposure to the language were the main barriers which I was able to overcome by working collaboratively with the Chinese tutors and organising extra sessions of everyday English classes for small groups allowing me to get to know the students individually and their anxieties.

The contract ended in May 1988.


Sep 2008Sep 2011

MSc in tehnology-enhanced Learning

Bucks New University

The term technology-enhanced Learning is now being widely used to encompass those areas of educational study that would have previously been described as blended-Learning and e-Learning. The technology-enhanced Learning encompasses the embedded use of learning technologies within face-to-face student/teacher environments. The course focused on how we can develop good pedagogical practice to enhance the design and delivery methods for teaching and learning face-to-face, online or work-based using a range of technology augmented methodologies. I have been able to apply theory to practice and have experienced the learning of my students enhanced by the use of Web 2.0 technology - the use of PbWiki and Blogger embedded in Blackboard contributed to the development of Communities of Practice and sharing of academic writing skills in a public environment. This teaching methodology has also prepared the route to supporting nursing students on placement.

The topic of the dissertation was e-Portfolio thinking in Buks PGCLTHE: the perceived benefits and challenges.

 Passed with Distinction

Oct 2009Dec 2010


The Open University

GE022 Classroom research and action developed my skills in investigating teaching and learning in my own classroom. The course centred around my own small scale action research project in my area o teaching at BNU. I started by defining and researching the area of my research project. I then developed my practice in the identified area, implementing a change and – having collected data to give me information about the effect of the change – analysing the results, paying particular attention to the impact on pupil learning and further possible modifications and developments. The work-based activity focused on reporting my investigation to colleagues in your school.

After completing this course I feel, I am now able to:

  • explain the action research cycle and how it can inform me about my teaching and pupil learning in my classroom

  • critically assess different methods for data collection in small-scale action research projects

  • identify how my own practice fits with these approaches

  • devise and implement a realistic plan for a small-scale project in your school, including choosing appropriate data collection methods

  • analyse my data to identify the impact on pupils' learning and further research and developments.

Feb 2010Mar 2010

Certificate in teaching IELTS

London Teacher Training College

This course offered a skeletal outline to enable IELTS teachers to enable serious students to achieve their goal for a high IELTS band score. Teaching IELTS is an intensive and rewarding undertaking. There is no greater privilege than enabling second language English students to savour the richness of the English language.

This course was an added tool in my arsenal as an engaged teacher in effective IELTS preparation classes.

Aug 2008Aug 2008

Certificate (Level B2)

University for Foreigners in Siena

I spent 1 month updating my language skills in Siena where I had the opportunity to be immersed in the language and culture. The sessions were engaging not only in the classroom but also when on field trips. At the B2 level, I refined my knowledge of the Subjunctives and the Conditionals which I have been able to use more confidently back here in the UK.

The knowledege I gained has contributed to more current information about italian affairs in my teaching at Bucks AL.

Apr 2005Oct 2006

Level 4 Certificate in FE Teaching Stage 2

City&Guilds of London Institute

As an HE/FE teacher directly involved in supporting learning, the participation in and completion of the certificate in FE teaching (Level 4) has enhanced my skills to provide high-quality teaching and to create effective opportunities for learning and to enable all learners to achieve to the best of their ability. It has also increased my awareness that teaching at tertiary levels involves working with a wide range of learners, using diverse methods of teaching and learning with constant assessing of learners’ needs and planning to meet those needs. Moreover, it has developed in me the ability to reflect upon my own practice and to employ appropriate methods to record events and improve on weak areas. Reflective practice and scholarship underpins my wider professional role as a practioner in managing the learning process, developing the curriculum and guiding and supporting the learner in partnership with others in the organisation and the local community.

Since every class comprises a multi-level group of students with diverse backgrounds and needs, I have always tried to ensure that I equip myself with a variety of resources and materials to enhance the learning of each individual student at every session.


Oct 2000Dec 2002

MA in Education (Applied Linguistics)

The Open University

Time management was crucial in achieving the award as I was working full time as an Senior Administrator as well as teaching 3 evenings/week. However, it made me more determined and focussed on what I was learning. I even made it to the tutorials held at Milton Keynes. The content of the module ESOL was more relevant and current in my area of teaching and I enjoyed widening my knowledge of pedagogy and tools through literature and online discussions using the OU's VLE.

Oct 1997May 1998


University of Lisbon

I received a scholarship from the Government of Portugal to study Portuguese Language and Culture and to have insight into the portuguese relationship with Burma. I discovered that the language itself was easy to master but the mechanics and syntax were quite difficult. Nonetheless, I was able to achieve my dream of visiting the paternal country and learn about its culture.

Jul 1994Mar 1997

MA (Education Management)

University of Wolverhampton

Whilst working at Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand I travelled to the UK for the summer school in 1994,1995, 1996 and completed my studies in Education Mangement. The work-based learning mode allowed me to apply the theory of Curriculum Management, Strategic Management, Human Resources Management to practice. The Quality Mangement module was my main interest and I applied the theory of Quality Improvement in my dissertation where I used Deming's 14 points to the process of teachnical writing skills. I was able to complete my studies in a timely manner due tomy committment to study, interest in the subject matter and the opportunity to apply my learning in my teaching.


Skills as a teaching practioner
As a teacher and a member of a teaching team, I believe I display the skills of: • analysis • evaluation • monitoring and reviewing • planning and prioritising • setting objectives • managing time • research and study • critical self-reflection • identifying, interpreting and applying specific knowledge to practice • problem-solving • creativity • decision-making • handling conflict • establishing effective working relationships • communicating effectively with groups and individuals with specific reference to: • preparing effective written materials • listening and questioning skills • explaining ideas clearly • providing constructive feedback • contributing to group discussions • working collaboratively with others • networking for CPD •  negotiating • managing themselves • managing change • presenting and delivering information