#Take5 #59 Building a Study Community through Podcasts at the University of Glasgow

This month’s #Take5 post is brought to you by Dr Micky Ross and Dr Julia Bohlmann at the University of Glasgow. We asked them to contribute because we were blown away by their ScotHELD session on the way they had used podcasting as part of their repertoire of responses to Covid-19 and the rapid change that we all went through adjusting to online delivery of our provision.

Who we are and why we embraced the pod

We are Dr Micky Ross and Dr Julia Bohlmann – the International Team at the University of Glasgow’s Learning Enhancement and Academic Development Service (LEADS). We work with international students from all subject areas, so there is always a lot to do. Until last year we never quite got around to expanding our online provision. But the enforced transition to remote learning, while initially a challenge, gave us an opportunity to try out new ways of teaching. We decided to embrace the challenge and created podcasts that ran alongside our academic writing classes.

First: Find your microphone

Why podcasts?

Maintaining a learning community

There are so many reasons to introduce podcasting to your teaching and learning practice. For us, the first reason was to maintain the learning community that we had established in the months before remote learning started due to lockdown in Scotland. A big concern for us was how we were going to keep our students engaged (Kahn et. al., 2017; Nordman et.al., 2020). We knew that the casual conversations that we had with students after lectures and workshops were important:

  • to get to know and keeping in touch with our students, and
  • informally provide solutions for students’ learning problems.

When we started podcasting, we did so with little idea about how it would go or what success we would have. It turned out to be a big success for us. And now that we have had a chance to reflect on the experience, we can see why. Podcasting as part of teaching and learning engages students because it brings a typically formal discourse into an informal setting. By doing this it brings a sense of authenticity to the content and this in turn works really well to reinforce key learning points after a week of provision.

Engaging with relevant pedagogy

We recorded our podcasts with a live and participating student audience. This meant that learners could bring questions and respond directly to the content. This participation allowed learners to direct the flow of the podcast, which, for us, spoke to so much of the fundamentals of what we are trying to achieve in terms of pedagogy. For example, our sessions are active and democratic (Dewey, 1916. 1939) and dialogic and problem-posing (Freire, 1993). Letting students take part in the podcasts was key as it underlined those principles.

To encourage students to take part, we created options to:

  • simply listen,
  • contribute by unmuting,
  • contribute by posting a question publicly in the chat, or
  • by contributing with a high level of anonymity by messaging us directly, during the live podcast.

Creating synchronous and asynchronous content

After the live podcast, we posted the recording of the session, with an audio-transcript, to our virtual learning environment, creating provision with synchronous and asynchronous content.

Enjoying our teaching practice

Another reason to start podcasting was that we really enjoyed it. In our experience, it was fun, informal, and collaborative. There were no slides dictating the direction of travel. The dialogue mirrored an academic debate and had the added benefit of decreasing the power distance between the students and us as teachers, something that is crucial in familiarising international students with the active and participatory academic culture in the UK.

The podcasts were not standalone events, but closely embedded into our provision in that they rounded up a week’s classes. As our provision typically lasts for 5 consecutive weeks at a time, we created a series of five podcasts. They aired on Zoom once a week on Thursdays and were 50-60 minutes long. We then posted the recording as audio or video file onto the relevant Moodle course. The podcast format itself combined scripted with unscripted conversation. Aiming for a good flow was important to us because we wanted the podcast to be relatively informal. The podcasts worked best when we had a guest speaker as it added variety and brought the debate to life.

While we aimed for flow, we created a rough plan for each episode. For instance, we decided who would chair the episode. That person would keep an eye on time and decide what questions to ask and when. We would start each episode with a brief reminder of the themes we had covered during the week and planned to discuss in the podcast. We then introduced our guest speaker and invited students to post questions in the chat. As we moved through the themes, we would pick up on related student questions and integrate them into the debate. Towards the end the main speakers would be asked to provide take home messages, summing up what has been said and the chair would announce the classes for the upcoming week.

We would definitely recommend that you book a guest speaker early on, ideally before the semester starts. We all know how quickly our diaries fill up. Make sure to plan out the session, but not too much. Write a short intro script if you need it. Identify the key themes that should be talked about. Add some visuals to your plan such as screenshots of slides. Think about how you might transition from one theme to the next.

Could there be a natural way to connect two themes, for example, when discussing literature reviews? It’s quite common to look for literature first before moving on to think about how you might structure the review. Or when discussing methods there is probably some overlap between gathering and analysing data which can provide a bridge into the conversation.

Note down some questions that you might want to ask, just in case the conversation isn’t flowing as well as you had hoped. Share your plan with the podcast contributors so they know what to expect. They might want to add some questions or points they definitely want to address. See below for an example plan:

An extract from our podcast plan

The feedback we received from students was really encouraging and heart-warming:

  • ‘I wanted to personally say I value your hard work and personal effort to keep the academic community together while delivering the sessions.’
  • ‘Thank you so much for guiding and accompanying my journey.’
  • ‘I just wanted to drop a line to say hello and thank you and Micky for the workshops. I find them not only helpful but caring and providing good company in the way you address them.’
  • ‘Very enlightening stuff.’
  • ‘It [the podcast] is the best part of my day.’

What the comments express is what we aimed to achieve with the podcast: to give students the feeling that they still belonged to our learning community at the University of Glasgow and for us all to come out of our prescribed roles as teachers and students, instead coming together simply as people having an informal conversation about learning.

The feedback that we received from guest speakers was very positive and underscored how enjoyable the teaching experience had been.

  • “Doing the podcast with Micky and Julia was a really positive way of connecting with colleagues and sharing knowledge about a specific area we were interested in whilst, at the same time, passing on our shared knowledge to students. I didn’t know most of the participants before I started but, by the end, I felt like I had met new people in my field, learned from them and established connections which I feel I could maintain and develop.  I’d never done podcasting before, but I would really recommend it. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.”
  • “The Podcasts are such a great way to revisit topics in an informal way.  The conversation-style lends itself to sharing organic stories about experiences with the topic instead of a prepared slide.  The students enjoy the banter and benefit from multiple perspectives about each topic and question.”

The comments may also give an indication of how important coming together was during the lockdowns and teaching completely online.

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Screenshot from one of our first podcasts

The podcasts were a great way to build and maintain a learning and teaching community online and as the student feedback suggests, it had its desired effect. It was also great for us as teachers as they brought something fresh to our teaching practice. They also helped us to engage with the relevant pedagogy in a new way and in doing so, bringing a fresh perspective to ‘old’ ideas.

Going forward we are going to reflect on how to hone their delivery. We also want to ensure the podcasts continuity beyond lockdown. So, we need to think about now, how we blend this new (for us) online format with face-to-face classes, so we are prepared to bring the podcasts into a future on and not just off campus.

References

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Macmillan.

Dewey, J. (1939). Freedom and culture. New York: Kappa Delta Pi.

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed (revised). New York: Continuum.

Kahn, P., Everington, L., Kelm, K., Reid, I. & Watkins, F. (2017). ‘Understanding student engagement in online learning environments: the role of reflexivity’, Educational technology research and development, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 203-218.

Nordmann, E., Horlin, C., Hutchison, J., Murray, J., Robson, L., Seery, M.K. & MacKay, J.R.D. (2020). ‘Ten simple rules for supporting a temporary online pivot in higher education’, PLoS Computational Biology, vol. 16, no. 10, pp. e1008242-e1008242.

Bios

Micky Ross is a Learning Developer at the University of Glasgow where he teaches critical thinking, student academic citizenship, effective essay writing, effective reading and intercultural communication. He has a PhD in Education and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He is committed to holistic approaches to learning and teaching, education for empowerment and social change, and innovative practice.

Julia Bohlmann is a Learning Developer at the University of Glasgow where she teaches effective reading and writing practices, exam techniques, plagiarism prevention, group work and intercultural communication. She has a PhD in Film Studies and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Julia has presented her work at conferences and written about international student development in the Journal of Academic Writing: https://publications.coventry.ac.uk/index.php/joaw/article/view/618.

#Take5 #58 From ‘Text’ to ‘Teapot’ to ‘Tinkerbell’ – Supporting Students in their Subjects

This #Take5 post is brought to you from Kendall Richards and NIck Pilcher of Edinburgh Napier University – who presented on this topic at the fabulous ScotHELD Winter 2021 Conference.

Who we are – and why we wrote this blog

We are Kendall Richards and Nick Pilcher. We are lecturers at Edinburgh Napier University. Kendall is in the School of Computing and Nick is in the Business School. Kendall has worked in Australia and the UK in Academic Advice roles, Nick has worked in Scotland in EAP and support roles. We have a recent paper entitled ‘Study Skills: neoliberalism’s perfect Tinkerbell’ which we spoke about at a recent Scottish Higher Education Learning Developers event, and wanted to write a bit more about it here.

In this blog we critique ‘one size fits all’ models of ‘study skills’ support which are ‘embedded’ into the curriculum – you know the sort of thing: “Can you come and run a session on the essay?”. We argue that not only is this a reductive and overly ‘universaling’ approach, it serves to reinforce unhelpful neoliberal models of HE, of widening participation and of widening participation students.

As we wrestled with this model of ‘skills’ work in our own practice, we decided to work with discipline staff to uncover what ‘language work’ they felt was necessary in their subjects – and with their students. The answers that we got were surprising – and served to transform our approach to supporting students in the subject – and to the type of curriculum-based support that we offered. Below we describe how we got to where we are now in our approach to Learning Development – and suggest ways that others can do the same. But first – why ‘Tinkerbell’?

Tinkerbell

Study Skills as neoliberalism’s Tinkerbell

For us, ‘Study Skills’ is a Tinkerbell, a nostrum that people believe in as providing a magic cure for all ‘student ills’ (sic) but which only exists if people believe in it. Why do we argue this?

Firstly, we find a range of definitions of what this nebulous field of ‘study skills’ or Learning Development is: Academic Skills, Academic Advice, Study Support etc. The very range and subliminal quality making it universal: fit for everyone but specific to no one.

Secondly, we posit that each subject requires unique skills – they don’t transfer (see the excellent Hyland and Johnson noted below). In other words, the skills you need as a Nurse might not save you if you have to choose which wire to cut on a fuse box. What do you really need? You need subject knowledge.

Thirdly, ‘Study Skills’ can’t be embedded, whether it’s ‘generic’ or ‘specific’ it is still a magical Tinkerbell we argue. Why? Because where we read papers that say ‘embedded’ skills support works, it only does so with subject lecturers on hand to help – and the students say what they find the least helpful aspects of such support are the ‘Study Skills’ aspects. What they find the most helpful is – you can guess what we’ll write by now we think – subject content.

Fourthly, it’s not ‘Study Skills’ that enables you to present or write well – it’s subject knowledge. Essays are different for different subjects and lecturers – and so are reports (of which there are a vast range of types). If Nick talks about the Battle of Smolensk in the Second World War you may think to yourself – ‘Wow, he has great presentation skills!’, but if Nick talks about Game Theory’s application to HE decision-making you may think, ‘Oh my, he needs work on his presentation skills!’ And yet, the key factor in both cases is subject knowledge, not any ‘Study Skills’.

How on earth did we get here?

So who, or what, do we argue, does Study Skills serve? We argue it serves perfectly the goals of neoliberal ideology and political economy – it is universal, can be delivered by anyone, can be virtualised, represents a light touch ‘state’ delivered from a central source, and students are ‘responsibilised’ to go and find it for themselves.

It supports reductive arguments for massification: the help is there – so if you (lecturers and students) don’t go for it – then it is only your own fault – it’s not a problem of massification or large numbers you have to deal with – the help is there.

How did this system come about? We argue through a combination of what Giddens calls structuration (whereby structures exist already and are then reinforced by people following them) and what Lukes calls the third dimension of power: the power to get people to act (or to remain passive and not rebel) against their own best interests.

So that’s us describing our current thinking – we now want to describe how we arrived here, and suggest how others can adapt our strategies to their own contexts.

Text and Textual Analysis

As noted above – our backgrounds are from EAP and Academic Support. We’ve both taught English and then moved into Academic Advice and support. We were thus schooled in, and for many years operated in, a world of pure ‘Text’: Textual analytical techniques (genre analysis; corpus linguistics) will tell us what we need to know to help students.

And yet … on the back of seeing that different subjects seemed to focus on different criteria when they used the term ‘discuss’, Kendall had an idea for a project: of asking lecturers and students what they understood key assessment words to mean. This led us to question the solidity of any dictionary definitions.

We next went further to ask lecturers in a range of subjects the very base question of: ‘What ‘English’ do students need to succeed?’

They said some don’t need English; they said some needed Visual abilities; some needed Emotional abilities; some could express themselves using Mathematics.

We were confused – how do we help these students with ‘Text’ and with ‘Text-based’ techniques? The answer arrived at was simple: ‘we don’t’ and ‘we can’t’.

The frozen rock after the language had erupted

What we had found at the time, although we didn’t realise it, was what Wittgenstein notes as being ‘the language itself as the thought’ and ‘the language itself as the activity’ – and we had found it because we had seen it and asked about it in the context of the subject.

And yet – we hadn’t found actual examples of it – we’d only found statements of what Valentin Voloshinov describes as the key underpinning ‘psychological and ideological elements’ of the language beneath the ‘hard crust’ of frozen rock after the language had erupted.

We know we hadn’t realised ‘perfectly’, because we still felt we could ask about the language students needed using spoken ‘Text’ techniques – focus groups in our case.

We ran five very lengthy, very logistically challenging, and very demanding-to-transcribe focus groups with lecturers from different subjects. We had about five to six members in each, biscuits, coffee, tea, we asked them all about:

‘Did they agree there were these underlying elements in their subjects?’

‘Yes’ they all said.

And then we asked them:

‘Could they give us some examples of language students would use?’

‘No’, they said.

Well, we lie slightly, as out of a total of over seven hours of painstakingly transcribed focus group data, we gathered a total of ‘four words’. However, what we did gather was their confusion (‘I don’t know what the question is Nick?’) and the knowledge that if we wanted to access the language students needed in the subject, then this wasn’t the way.

From ‘Text’ to ‘Teapot’

We had reached an impasse. Then, it dawned on Kendall that when he had taken in a brightly coloured teapot to Design students they had very animatedly discussed it, passed it to one another and spoken of it in Design terms, critiquing its Design and describing its Design.

Our teapot

What would happen, Kendall wondered, if we took this teapot and gave it to lecturers and asked them to describe it and critique it from their own subject perspectives?

What happened was that in very short interviews we gained immediate access to the subject world and learned more about what students needed in those brief moments than we had in countless hours spent trying to see through the use of ‘Text’.

For Nurses the teapot was unhygienic, dangerous. For Designers it was Memphis school. For Engineers it was a porous non-mass producible item.

What we came to realise we had done was – we’d provided a context, we’d given lecturers a direct opportunity to provide what Wittgenstein describes as seeing ‘the language itself’ ‘as the thought’.

So what do we do now? In support classes where we have mixed subject groups we take in a physical object to describe the importance of writing in the subject context and talk about how different subjects would critique the object in their own ways – and in their own words. Nick uses a water bottle or a pen, anything can be used. What we don’t use though, is ‘Study Skills’.

What we suggest

It won’t surprise you to know that what we suggest is that students are supported in the subject. And yet we realise this isn’t easy. The systems as they are today are built to promote generic centralized support – collaboration in the disciplines is hard to do.

What we ultimately suggest is that we/you promote more the value of what Academic Advisors and those working in Study Skills units do. Big it up. Tell people through formal and informal channels what it is that we/you do – and what you can accomplish together. Where possible work with individual lecturers on particular small projects and interventions. If you can and are allowed to. (A big tip would then be to write up with that discipline academic a case study of what you achieved together and get it published.)

Draw on the arguments above (and below) to make the case for support in the subject. Ask the National Students Association (NSA) to make the case that it is this sort of help in the subject that students need. Make arguments with department heads that they need school based Academic Advice for their students, get the NSA to make these arguments.

We know this is easier said than done, and we fear that unless systemic change happens at a governmental level, that our situations and the systems that perpetuate them are unlikely to greatly change. However, we hope that the above and the below can be used to underline the value of what Academic Advisors and those working in Study Skills units do, so it is recognised and valued and accorded academic roles, and fundamentally, that student support is better delivered to, for and with students to give them what they need.

Papers referred or alluded to:

Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2020). Study Skills: neoliberalism’s perfect Tinkerbell. Teaching in Higher Education, 1-17.

Hyland, T., & Johnson, S. (1998). Of cabbages and key skills: Exploding the mythology of core transferable skills in post‐school education. Journal of Further and Higher Education22(2), 163-172.

Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2014). Contextualising higher education assessment task words with an ‘anti-glossary’approach. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education27(5), 604-625.

Pilcher, N., & Richards, K. (2016). The paradigmatic hearts of subjects which their ‘English’ flows through. Higher Education Research & Development35(5), 997-1010.

Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2020). Using physical objects as a portal to reveal academic subject identity and thought. The Qualitative Report25(1), 127-144.

Bios and Blurbs

Kendall Richards is a lecturer with the role of academic support adviser in the school of Computing supporting the schools of Engineering and the Built Environment and Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University (UK). His research interests include pedagogy, academic support, education as social justice and Neoliberalism’s impact on Higher Education. He has contributed to a number of journals including the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Higher Education Research and Development, Teaching in Higher Education, Maritime Business Review and Power and Education.

Nick Pilcher is a lecturer in The Business School at Edinburgh Napier University. He teaches a range of areas including supporting students with their academic work. His research interests centre around education, language and qualitative research methods. He has published and contributed to work published in journals such as Qualitative Research, Psychology of Music, the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education and the International Journal of Shipping and Transport Logistics.

Twitter: We don’t have twitter ourselves but the journal has a twitter feed – it is @TeachinginHE

#Take5 #57 Using the jigsaw technique for collaborative online learning

Puzzling the pieces

This #Take5 is brought to you from Katharine Stapleford who has solved this year’s Covid-19 problem – how to get students working (and reading) collaboratively when studying online and at a distance. Here’s Katharine:

Background

I teach on the MA Digital Education programme at Leeds University. The programme is 100% online distance learning and recruits students from all over the world. The programme adopts a flipped learning* design, whereby each weekly unit centres around an interactive student-led synchronous seminar with some asynchronous pre- and post-seminar tasks.

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Why the jigsaw technique?

The underlying principle of the jigsaw technique, is that it’s an ‘information gap’ activity; in other words whilst each student becomes an ‘expert’ in their field, each only has a piece of information – they don’t see the whole picture until they work together to combine their individual pieces. So it’s very much based on an active and dialogic theory of learning. For this reason, it’s used a lot in language teaching, and that’s the context I first encountered it.

Active learning

I used it in week 7 of a 12-week module, by which point, the students were familiar with the format and the environment. The topic was conversational and dialogic learning with reference to social media. I felt that this topic lent itself to a more active learning strategy and I wanted the students to learn about this theory by experiencing it, rather than by passively reading or viewing a recorded lecture (Figure 1).

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Figure 1: Introducing the task in week 7

Time for a change

I wanted to shake things up a bit, the flipped learning model works well, but I felt it was becoming a bit samey and formulaic and I wanted to liven it up.

Personalised

Students on the programme have varying levels of prior knowledge; some are trained and experienced teachers while others and have no pedagogic training at all. I felt that this task would allow students to work at their own pace and from their own starting point.

A reason to contribute

The students are split between those who are used to taking an active role in their learning and embrace the social and dialogic learning model, while others are less confident with this approach and take more passive role. I wanted to address this by ensuring that all students had something meaningful to contribute.

Flipping the jigsaw

Normally, a jigsaw activity would happen within the course of one teaching session, whereas I adapted it for the distance context so, it spanned the ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ elements of the flipped model (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: The flipped jigsaw procedure

The procedure

Before

The students are in small groups of 8 – 9 students for asynchronous interactive tasks, and have been since the start of the module. I wanted students to become familiar with 4 theories, so within each group, I allocated 2 – 3 students to each theory (Figure 3). The students then researched their allocated theory, either individually or working collaboratively with their partners, and then contributed their findings to a group Wiki that I had set up in advance (Figure 4). At this point, each student is an ‘expert’ on at least one theory.

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Figure 3: The wiki with instructions

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Figure 4: An example completed wiki page

During

During the seminar, students are divided into breakout groups so that each group had at least one ‘expert’ on each theory. They share their expertise. Students then discuss the relevance of the theories to their own practice.

After

The follow-up entails some tutor feedback on the wikis, some tutor-produced content to fill in any gaps and an asynchronous interactive task (e.g. using Tricider, students select their preferred theory and justify their choice).

Some academic underpinning

Clearly, the jigsaw technique aligns to a social constructivist pedagogy and as such complements the flipped model, which has at its core, the principles of active and social learning (Brewer & Movahedazarhouligh, 2016; Flipped Learning Network, 2014). The technique also aligns to the four elements of the ARCS model of instructional design: attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction (Keller, 1984).

A few caveats

Firstly, these students are enrolled on a digital education masters, so I could assume a level of interest and competence in using the technology. 

Secondly, the grouping can be a challenge. For example, we offer the seminar at two different times to cater for different time zones and professional commitments so I’m never quite sure who is going to turn up at which seminar. It was a case of waiting and hoping that there’d be enough ‘experts’ for each theory. 

Finally, the quality of contributions varied quite a bit so there is some need for tutor produced content as a follow-up generally to fill in any gaps and also to cater for students who do feel they need that tutor input.

Find out more

Brewer, R. and Movahedazarhouligh, S. (2018). Successful stories and conflicts: A literature review on the effectiveness of flipped learning in higher education. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 34(4), pp.409-416.

British Council. (n.d.). Jigsaw. [Online article]. Available from https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/jigsaw

Cult of Pedagogy. (2015). The Jigsaw Method. [Online video]. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euhtXUgBEts

Keller, J. M. (1983). Use of the ARCS Model of Motivation in Teacher Training. IDD&E Working Paper No. 10. Available from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED288520

Pozzi, F. (2010). Using Jigsaw and Case Study for supporting online collaborative learning. Computers & Education, 55(1), 67–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2009.12.003

Biography

I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the University of Leeds, where I lead the MA Digital Education. My background is in English language teaching and teacher education. I am currently a PhD student at Lancaster University where I have recently submitted my thesis on the lived experiences of online distance learners.  

#Take5 #56 Delivering Social Justice; a collaborative strategic approach

 This #Take5 post is brought to you from Neelam Thapar, Head of Careers and Employability at London Metropolitan University and Vanessa Airth who is Head of Work Based Learning, Policy and Practice at London Metropolitan University. Both are interested in Education for Social Justice… and this is a re-blog from: https://careerguidancesocialjustice.wordpress.com/

Employability and Education for Social Justice

Neelam Thapar is Head of Careers and Employability at London Metropolitan University. Vanessa Airth is Head of Work Based Learning, Policy and Practice at London Metropolitan University.

In this blog post, we will be sharing the journey we have taken in Careers and Work based learning at London Metropolitan University over the last ten months (during the pandemic). This has led to new collaborative models of strategic working across the university in the delivery of social justice.

London Metropolitan University is in the top eight socially inclusive universities (Times 2020) and   committed to fostering an equitable and inclusive community. It is central to the ethos of the University that every person deserves a chance to transform his or her life and the lives of others through higher education.  Our demographics include 80% of students who are mature, 63% from Black and minority ethnic communities and 17% with a known disability. Our students have hugely complex lives and  London Metropolitan University  has built itself on working with communities, closing opportunity gaps,   raising aspirations and transforming lives.  It is this ethos that is embedded in our new strategy, which was launched in November 2019

Just before the pandemic, a cross-institutional group of 30 staff, students and Students’ Union representatives came together to develop our Education for Social Justice Framework which had been inspired by the success of HEFCE funded-research which  demonstrated the impact of an inclusive curriculum in narrowing the awarding gaps for Black, Asian and ethnic minority students.   The work for our Education for Social Justice Framework was in its infancy as the first Lockdown happened and grew momentum. It now forms part of the learning and teaching strategy developing a values-led framework, which combines principles of inclusive pedagogy to embed strategies that enable the university to be a bigger agent of social change reflecting the mission of London Metropolitan University. 

London Metropolitan University Education for Social Justice Framework

The Framework is ensuring our curricula and practice (including preparing students for employment and life), align with the principles of equity, and that students can see themselves reflected in what they learn, and we are responsive to the challenges facing London and its communities.  Integral to careers and employability has been the Inclusive Leadership part of the framework, which seeks to mobilise students to become ambassadors of inclusion so that in their future careers, they have a deeper understanding of progressing equality within their industries and are critically aware where the invisible barriers are.  Both of us have been involved in the roll out of training our  teams on pilot courses and creating resources to help embed into their courses.

Careers Education Framework

In March 2020, nobody could have predicted the impact of a pandemic  and the changes that were going to be needed ranging from staff not used to delivering on line, students experiencing digital poverty and changes in the labour market that affected our student demographics disproportionately such as working part time in the very industries that were experiencing such turbulence. When the first lockdown happened, we had to revamp our careers and work based learning provision totally and we were commissioned by the deputy vice chancellor to create a new working model for Careers Education that had accountability.

This led to our new Careers Education Framework based on good practice in the University and  the sector that would provide a holistic approach to embedding employability. This is delivered by a collaboration between, Careers and Employability and Work Based Learning Teams, Schools, employers and students. The emphasis has been  to  provide inclusive opportunities to  develop knowledge, skills, experiences that enable our students to move on to successful transitions and graduate outcomes.  It can be complicated to build careers education into each course proposition from the start of the student lifecycle and the Framework gave us the opportunity to work with courses in an incremental sign-posted journey, at each level, using careers and employability support to scaffold work based learning.

Crucially, academics, students and employers informed the framework and this was coupled with resources to help course teams to embed it according to their discipline.  Already in the first term, through the Careers Education Framework, this has seen a 23% increase in the amount of careers education curriculum talks that careers consultants have delivered in the curriculum. The usage of employability online resources has changed dramatically in the six months compared to the same timeframe  with a 357% increase which has been a sign of the impact of collaboration across the university.

Work Based Learning

The new Strategic plan and the inclusion of Work Bearning Learning (WBL) within the Careers Education Framework, provided an opportunity to refresh the WBL offering. A key consideration was how WBL can incorporate social justice in relation to both students and employers. The scaffolding the Framework provides, leads students to consider their career aspirations and values and to practise recruitment skills early in their course to apply for work placements. It aims to help those who may be inclined to leave their career planning until much later and for students to participate in real-world activities that seek to address injustice and disadvantage.

WBL (accredited work experience) modules were initially introduced as a compulsory element within the undergraduate curriculum in 2016. The purpose was to provide time-poor students, who have many life demands and/or are without access to professional networks, to gain exposure to a relevant workplace environment. The assessment process encourages them to build self-efficacy via self-reflection, to recognise their personal development and employability gains and articulate these to progress towards their career goals. Evidence shows students from lower socio-economic and other marginalised cultural, social or political groups often have barriers to engaging with beneficial work experience (Moores et al 2013, NCUB 2016). Furthermore, work placement experience has been shown to positively improve degree outcomes for BAME students (Moores et al 2013). 

The explicit introduction of social justice into the WBL agenda has a twofold nature. One, through consideration of our students’ diverse lifestyles. Examples include nine different categories of work based learning (all adhering to the national HE classification of WBL), including ‘traditional’ work placements, student advisory clinics, and live, client briefs. In relation to social justice focused placements, in the last year, we have cemented a partnership with a fledgling social enterprise who are proactive in our local London boroughs to improve the lives of residents. This year, they have provided over 90 remote working placements focussing on fostering a fair society.

Secondly, students are encouraged to undertake work experience which has social benefit. A new WBL module was launched as part of the new London Met Lab: Empowering London strategy. The Lab aims to tackle inequalities facing London, improve people’s lives and deliver social justice by using the expertise of staff and students working in partnership with the local community. The initiative has identified Six ‘Challenges’: Social Wealth, Poverty and Deprivation, Discrimination, Health Improvement, The Environment and Crime. The module, Empowering London: Working within the Community, provides students with an initial grounding in these Six Challenges, an understanding of what it means to be a values driven individual and leader and to consider inclusivity in all their employment (and wider) relationships. For the second part of the academic year, students undertake up to 70 hours with a not-for-profit organisation which positively impacts one or more of the Challenges.

When reflecting back over the last 12 months, we are struck by how quickly we have been able to move so many strategic and operational initiatives forward in the midst of a pandemic. Through collaboration and collective action across the University and externally, we have been able to implement an approach that encourages students through careers education to consider how their lived experiences, knowledge and transferable skills can have a positive impact on society.

Neelam Thapar is Head of Careers and Employability at London Metropolitan University. She has 28 years’ experience in HE in placements, careers guidance, embedding employability and employer engagement. She has an MSc in Education and Training, and Diplomas in CEIAG, Coaching and NLP.  She has been a trustee of the health charity; UK Thalassaemia Society and is now an Ambassador for the charity.

Vanessa Airth is Head of Work Based Learning, Policy and Practice at London Metropolitan University. She has worked in Higher Education since 2001 and has 16 years’ experience of developing and delivering work based learning/employability programmes. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and holds a Master’s Degree in Learning and Teaching in HE.

You can connect with us on Twitter @LondonMetCareer, @vanessalouisea, @Neelamthapar

Career guidance for social justice

In this post, Neelam Thapar and Vanessa Airth reflect upon social justice as a strategic imperative at their university. I found out about their work at the AGCAS Heads of Service Conference (UK) and was really struck with what they are doing. It is a rare example of a UK university explicitly addressing social justice in their strategy and this directly impacting Careers and Work-based Learning.

Neelam Thapar is Head of Careers and Employability at London Metropolitan University. Vanessa Airth is Head of Work Based Learning, Policy and Practice at London Metropolitan University.

In this blog post, we will be sharing the journey we have taken in Careers and Work based learning at London Metropolitan University over the last ten months (during the pandemic). This has led to new collaborative models of strategic working across the university in the delivery of social justice.

London Metropolitan University is in the top…

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#Take5 #55 Beyond Our Ken: A Farewell to Ken Robinson

This #Take5 post is brought to you from Tim Hinchcliffe. Previously of Keele and the ALDinHE Steering and Comms Groups, Tim now works with AdvanceHE.

The consequence is that many brilliant people think that they are not: An obituary to Sir Ken Robinson

“His work was my call to arms, his work still is my call to arms. Ken’s focus may have been compulsory education but his intent was universal.”

Education does not have many popular culture icons but Sir Ken Robinson, the educator who was passionate about the creativity of children, was one of them. Learning Developers help students decode the system as is, to make sense of it, and to unleash their potential. I believe that this professional philosophy is attuned to Robinson’s core beliefs about education.

12 minutes of your time

Perhaps Robinson’s most well-known piece of work is the TEDx talk “Do schools kill creativity?”. It has been viewed more than 69 million times; that’s enough for every single one of the 66 million people in the UK to have seen it once, and I wish that they had. But if I really could get everyone to watch just one video about education it would be another of Ken’s talks, an RSA animate “Changing Educational Paradigms”. In just shy of 12 minutes Robinson charismatically slaloms through a whole host of issues with our education system. Working alongside students, Learning Developers – and all lecturers – tackle the consequences of these issues every day.

Our education system makes massive assumptions about social capacity, and this includes higher education. Your capacity for deductive reasoning or ability to retain and recall a catalogue of facts or ‘knowledge’ have traditionally been seen as indicators of intelligence, or at least academic intelligence. This division between academic and non-academic (now where have we heard that before?!) means that “many brilliant people think that they are not”. Learning Developers know that it is not what you know but what you can do with what you know that matters, and we work alongside students to help them understand this.

The Conformity Conundrum OR The Robinson Orthodoxy

As Robinson points out, our children are bombarded with a whole range of stimuli and then penalised for being distracted. We numb them to their environment in order to get them through education, as though it were something to be endured, rather than encouraging learners to embrace this stimuli-laden world as their classroom.

When I first watched the RSA animate as a new educator this point gave me pause for thought. Do Learning Developers reinforce this numbness, for example by painstakingly helping students navigate disjointed and uninspiring assignment briefs? How might we act as emancipatory agents from the very system in which we are sited? This tension between facilitating short term ‘success’ – i.e. attainment and conformity – vs instilling a love for leaning and of love of thy self is a key tension between successive waves of learning development.

In my consciousness I’m stuck in the immediacy of today; dealing with the issues as they manifest before me, each screaming for attention. But in my subconscious I am off with Ken and the students redrawing education as it should be. That is the power of Ken Robinson, he connects with the principled educator deep within us all.

Every time I hear one of his talks my mind gurgles before settling into a slow rumination, whilst my heart thuds with excitement about all the positive change that I might make happen. Yes, the day-to-day grind pulls you back in eventually but once your conscience catches onto this state-of-mind then that is the time for another shot of Robinson; only this shot is not to dull your senses, it is to awaken them! The Robinson Orthodoxy is what education desperately needed, but despite a 243 page government commission the lack of political will from successive government education ministers meant that it never stood a chance.

This way Eden?

I suspect like many working in learning development, I had rejected the notion of belonging to a single academic discipline – regardless of the harm it might cause to my career – and so it was only natural that when I did step into the disciplinary fray I was drawn to teaching sustainability. A nomadic or transdisciplinary endeavour (depending on my mood) that allowed me to occupy some of the traditional space of an academic without having to strictly conform to tribal mentalities. So imagine my delight when it was Sir Ken who fronted and wrote the “world’s largest lesson”, a way to teach children (and frankly everybody) about the UN Sustainability Goals. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise; Ken was an ambassador for the Eden Project “an educational charity [that] connects us with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future”. I was fortunate enough to visit the Eden Project in August of last year, less than a week before his passing.

Eden Project

You see, connections to Sir Ken Robinson have a habit of popping up in my life and I am a better person for it. His work was my call to arms, his work still is my call to arms. Ken’s focus may have been compulsory education but his intent was universal.

Kenneth Robinson, born 4 March 1950, died 21 August 2020.

Bio/Blurb: Tim Hinchcliffe is a Senior Adviser in Learning and Teaching at Advance HE, where he specialises in curriculum design, high impact pedagogies and inclusive practice. Prior to this he was Head of Curriculum Development and Head of Student Learning (LD in other words), and a Fellow in Sustainability at Keele University.

#Take5 #54 Digital learning: pivoting to creativity

This #Take5 is brought to you from Debbie Holley – with guest bloggers Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield from LondonMet’s Centre for Professional and Educational Development (CPED) (see also their student studyhub).

Debbie is reflecting on her move to Bournemouth’s Department of Nursing where she is Professor of Digital Innovation. Whilst Debbie has always researched digitally enhanced teaching and learning – the challenge of the last year was adapting that to a Nursing focus – and in a time of pandemic. Don’t panic!

‘Mere jelly’ – Student image reproduced with permission from ‘Facilitating Student Learning’ Unit, London Metropolitan University

In my year with the Department of Nursing, I have been privileged to observe the embodiment of the humanising curriculum (Todres et al 2009), and seen the ways in which the nursing team, in a wide range of contexts, support students to bond with each other, build cohort identity and help student nurses develop that sense of belonging to the academic discipline of Nursing. This is challenging enough, but studying and learning are also embodied activities. How can we get our students ready to bring their whole embodied selves into their learning experience when they are working from home and online?

Sian Bayne, Professor of Digital Education, Edinburgh University, talks about embodiment in her paper ‘Mere Jelly’ in which she outlines the proposition that cyberstudents can create and colonise spaces in their own choosing (Moravec 1988: 117):

[my] essence [is defined by] the pattern and the process going on in my head and body, not the machinery supporting that process. If the process is preserved, I am preserved. The rest is mere jelly.

For staff, she draws upon Dreyfus, and for online learning suggests that thinking beyond the cognitive, considering the duality of the mind/body split. In health, this is clear in terms of the physicality of the disciplines (Dreyfus 2001: 48):

Only emotional, involved, embodied human beings can become proficient and expert and only they can become masters. So, while they are teaching specific skills, teachers must also be incarnating and encouraging involvement.

The pressure of delivery of content is pressing. In a face-to-face classroom we can struggle to weave in those student spaces to talk and learn from each other – creating what Bakhtin would call dialogic learning spaces – those where students engage with content by engaging with each other; and with ideas in both embodied and intellectual ways of working.

Clarifying the expectations of the digital is a clear requirement in our new learning spaces, as our students (and indeed we ourselves) become less able to pick up on visual and body language cues. Nordman et al (2020) suggest 10 ways of facilitating this in their recent paper, highlighting the importance of signposting and building online communities.

Creativity is an evidence based method for supporting our students with dialogic and collaborative learning. The ‘Visual Learning’ CETL, based at the University of Brighton, have an extensive range of resources, and the ‘Draw to learn’ booklets include Sciences, Health, Humanities and Business.

Dreyfus (2001 p 173) went on to pose the question:

“we finally run up against the most important question a philosopher can ask those who believe in the educational promise of the World Wide Web: can the bodily presence required for acquiring skills in various domains and for acquiring mastery of one’s culture be delivered by means of the Internet?”

We have been exploring visual practices as ways of enhancing and reinforcing learning for many years now – and enjoyed the challenge of wrestling these into our new online and at a distance spaces. We share three of them below and invite you to select an activity from the three options below to use with your own students.

Tip: Creative activities can prove a challenge for time poor students – who wonder why we are wasting their time in these frivolous ways. Hence, always conclude a creative activity with some form of dialogic ‘de-brief’ so that the students can come to realise and appreciate the power of the activity for themselves.

And as what works for student learning works for us as well – you might like to de-brief yourself at the end of a session – perhaps asking yourself:

  • What has surprised the students in their own/ others creations?
  • Has the activity challenged my own ideas of study in the discipline?
  • What can students take from the activity to enrich their own learning going forward?
  • Do the activities we have offered our students start to offer insights and links between theory and practice? We would welcome thought pieces, feedback and ideas as a response to create a further Londonmet/AldinHE #Take 5 national blogpost.

Embodiment and ‘Being there’: three different ways of engaging students with study: for reuse, repurpose or adaptation across the disciplines

The study ready apron: an example of ‘reuse’

Create a ‘study apron’, perhaps referencing ‘study skills’. This activity is suitable for students of any discipline, but works really well for health professionals as it promotes fine motor skills and physical dexterity.

Ask the students to design their apron ready for their discipline modules to come – so a good tip would be to scout module handbooks:

  • Is there a specific requirement in a module for such a journal to be kept? Do we need a pocket for this?
  • Do we need a pocket to keep a small notebook in for real time and creative notes?
  • Do you need a pocket or not (for an Iphone)?

Resource:

Start by watching Simones’ video – Simone is a lecturer in an Arts Department, and prepared this stopframe video for her own students in the first instance: https://youtu.be/ty_ztNPoEp4

Materials:

They will need a large old pair of jeans/ shirt/item – and transform the pair of jeans or similar into a study apron. To capture digitally, you could set up a twitter hashtag, ask the students to send you a photo, which you can then incorporate into a powerpoint display and upload onto the VLE, or organise them into breakout rooms to debrief.

The reflection on the process of making is the key learning… some questions you can use as a debrief in a generic study context:

  • Did I find it fruitful to make and think?
  • What is the best part of my apron?
  • If I made a second apron, what would I do differently?
  • Having made this, do I feel differently about entering uni?
  • Do I feel like a ‘proper’ student yet?

The drawing journal: an example of repurposing

Ask students to keep a visual learning journal or sketchbook.

Why Journal? Why notes? What are creative notes?

Keeping a journal encourages active reflection on learning – and without reflection there is no learning! Asking for visual reflections encourages the growth of understanding – for it is difficult to represent what you do not yet understand. The drawings themselves also act as powerful mnemonics or memory aids.

Moreover, keeping a reflective journal encourages research, forward thinking and promotes engagement.

Suggest your students draw an image a day that represents either their study journey, or an image that represents one aspect of learning about their discipline. This is the process of repurposing one medium for another, and helps promote idea generation, reflection and creativity.

Resources:

how to make a sketchbook and why you should do this’.

Brighton’s Site about the evidence base re drawing.

Paper by Paul McIntosh, introducing drawing to a cohort of nurses and health professionals.

Debrief in a health context:

  • What did I select as my study for make/think?
  • What is the best part of my sketchbook ?
  • If I choose a second set of images, what would I choose and why?
  • Having made this, do I feel differently about Nursing/ my discipline?
  • Do I feel like a ‘proper’ student now?

Collage: an example of adaptation

The Aim is for the students to source clean recyclables, items in cupboard, fruit bowl, buttonbox, lego if available, plasticine if available, and to make a representation of learning, of University experience thus far, what they think their course is like.

Staff self portrait from Abegglen, Burns and Sinfield (2020)

Students share via social media as above, send images to tutor to be collated, post onto class padlet (a padlet is an interactive board for sharing information in a visually appealing format – you can set up 3 for free)

Debrief in a reflective practice/ interdisciplinary context

  • What did I make/think?
  • What is the best part of my creation?
  • If I was to recreate my representation, would it be the same/ different and why?
  • Having made this, do I feel differently about Nursing/ my discipline?
  • Do I feel like a ‘proper’ student now?

Evidence base:

English, F., 2011. Student writing and genre: Reconfiguring academic knowledge. A&C Black.

James, A. and Nerantzi, C. eds., 2019. The power of play in higher education: Creativity in tertiary learning. Springer.

Abegglen, S. Burns, T. and Sinfield, S. (forthcoming 2020) ‘Dada, Montage and the Dalek: The Game of Meaning in Higher Education’ in International Journal of Management and Applied Research

Further reading:

Abegglen, S. Burns, T. and Sinfield, S. (2020) ‘Dada, Montage and the Dalek: The Game of Meaning in Higher Education’ in International Journal of Management and Applied Research [online]: http://www.ijmar.org/v7n3/20-016.html

Bayne, S., 2004, April. ‘Mere jelly’: the bodies of networked learners. In Networked Learning 2004: proceedings of the fourth International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 372-379).

Dreyfus, H., 2001. How far is distance learning from education?. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 21(3), pp.165-174.

McIntosh, P., Webb, C. and Walk, R., 2006, July. Creativity and reflection: An approach to reflexivity in practice. In Fifth International Conference on Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices Leeds, UK. Retrieved October (Vol. 26, p. 2005).

Moravec, H., 1988. Mind children: The future of robot and human intelligence. Harvard University Press.

Nordmann E, Horlin C, Hutchison J, Murray J-A, Robson L, Seery MK, and MacKay JRD. 2020. 10 simple rules for supporting a temporary online pivot in higher education. PsyArXiv Preprints.https://psyarxiv.com/qdh25

Todres, L., Galvin, K.T. and Holloway, I., 2009. The humanization of healthcare: A value framework for qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 4(2), pp.68-77.

Waight, S. and Holley, D. (2020) ‘Digital Competence Frameworks: their role in enhancing digital wellbeing in Nursing Curricula’ in Humanising Higher Education: A positive approach to enhancing wellbeing (Clarke, S and Devis-Rozental, C eds) Palgrave 2020

Additional resources for creative working:

The Pomodoro Technique® – proudly developed by Francesco Cirillo | Cirillo Consulting GmbH

Time Management Tips for Troubled Times: Working in short bursts | Academic Skills and Writing Development

How to write an assignment fast (6-min video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZlGmOazg_k&t=1s

BLURBS

Debbie Holley is Professor of Learning Innovation in the Department of Nursing Sciences at Bournemouth University. A passionate educator, she is a National Teaching Fellow; a Principal Fellow of AdvanceHE and served for six years on the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education (ALDinHE) national Steering Group. She is a long standing member of the JISC Student Experience Experts panel; and has recently worked with as part of an international consortium to identify the next Augmented/Virtual/Mixed Reality trends in education. Follow Debbie on twitter @debbieholley1

Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield are Teaching Fellows and Seniors Lecturers in LondonMet’s Centre for Professional and Educational Development. Together they have produced the 4th edition of Essential Study Skills,  the Study Hub for students and the #Take5 for staff. They are both interested in harnessing creative and emancipatory practice in student learning and staff development.

#Take5 #53 The best way to get your students to engage…

This #Take5 post is brought to you from Dr Carina Buckley of Solent University – and is in dialogue with her #Take5 on students and camera use in online teaching and learning from a few weeks ago.

The Evil DrB herself

Should your students turn their cameras on? A rebuttal

A few weeks ago, I argued in this blog that students should be free to choose whether or not to turn their cameras on during live online sessions, and that there were other ways for students to participate. While I still support this approach, particularly from a student-centred, theoretical point of view, I find myself compelled to also argue against it, from the perspective of a learning developer in practice.

Is anybody there?

How many of us have talked to a screen of initials, wondering if anyone will answer our increasingly desperate questions in the chat, wondering indeed if anyone is there at all?

There is an array of literature available on developing learning communities, building cohort identities, establishing a learning environment of trust and participation, and it all shares a common belief in the essential centrality of these activities to creating and strengthening an effective group of peers mutually engaged in co-constructing knowledge. One of the values of ALDinHE itself is to work side by side with students in making sense of higher education practices.

The value is in the conversation (photo courtesy http://www.pixabay.com CC)

Now let us leave Utopia, and travel to the less affirming scenario of a drop-in workshop with students you’ve never met before and who don’t know each other, and who are all sat anonymously behind a darkened computer screen. Suddenly the supportive attitude towards cameras-off seems more difficult to maintain.

Let’s say you have a group of ten, all waiting (you assume) to hear what you have to say about, for example, academic writing. Seven of them respond to your Mentimeter poll; four of them share suggestions in the chat. What of the others? There’s no way of telling, because you can’t see them, and have no sense of feedback on how the session is going, either written or gestural.

Is anybody there? (photo courtesy www.pixabay.com CC)

Building community

Visual cues are vital, not just for us as teachers and facilitators but for the students themselves. How can they feel like part of a community when they can’t see that community? One thing I would make mandatory would be a photo on a profile page, so we could see at least a representation of who we are talking to. However, not having that power, I content myself with recommendation.

Being on camera for hours every day is tiring; cameras and bandwidth remain real issues for some. But there has to be scope for compromise, and being forced to follow compromise rather than dictate rules, I suggest the following:

  • Have your students turn their cameras on at least for the first two minutes as they arrive, to say hello to everyone. Keep repeating the message as new class members arrive.
  • Have your students turn on their cameras in breakout rooms. Most students seem to be fine with this, anecdotally, and you can always demonstrate what it’s like to have a disembodied voice talking to you by turning your own camera off for a bit.
  • Set a rationale and expectations for camera use that are student-focussed.
  • Show your students how to set alternative backgrounds and encourage them to upload favourite holiday photos (for example) to use.
  • Don’t talk so much. Ensure the majority of the session, where possible, is activity- or discussion-based, thereby avoiding the whole issue of you talking to a screen of blank squares.

Building a vibrant, online community (photo courtesy www.pixabay.com CC)

Any suggestions?

What are your suggestions? We are all learning together right now how we do this well, so it would be great to share practice and open up the conversation more widely. How have your students responded?

Blurb

Dr Carina Buckley is the Instructional Design Manager at Solent University, where she is responsible for ensuring the VLE functions as an immersive and interactive learning space, and where she is therefore always occupied. She has worked in Learning Development since 2006 and been Co-Chair of ALDinHE since 2015, thanks to which she gained Principal Fellowship of the HEA earlier this year. She is also an ALDinHE-Certified Leading Practitioner, and keen to see more Learning Developers recognised with these two qualifications.

#Take5 #52: The best way to … generate ideas?

Using superheroes for structured problem solving and ideas generation

The week’s #Take5 blog is brought to you from Dr Katharine Jewitt, a Learning Designer at Heriot-Watt University. The Superheroes ideas generation techniques were designed by Grossman and Catlin to provide a playful group atmosphere during idea generation. Students work in groups and assume the identity of different Superhero characters and then use the characters as stimuli for sparking ideas and problem solving. ‘Superheroes’ produces unique ideas because of its use of unrelated stimuli. This activity also works well in a diverse classroom because students can adopt a superhero of their choice and discuss the qualities of superheroes. This offers opportunities for students to share among themselves about culture, origins, backgrounds, values and unique differences. It’s an effective way to demonstrate respect for cultural diversity and makes for rich discussion. (Hopefully the superhero pictures below will appear in the blog – and be reassured – the author has a license to use them.)

Picture: The Black Panther

Using Superheroes for Ideas Generation Techniques

If students possess a playful attitude, the Superheroes problem solving and ideas generation techniques can work well. It has a built-in mechanism for generating ideas and helps ensure all atmospheres conducive to creative thinking. Discussing the various characters often is sufficient for loosening up the group. As a result, the ideas may flow easily. Superheroes also is likely to produce unique ideas because of its use of unrelated stimuli. In addition to the usual weaknesses of any brainstorming approach, Superheroes has one major disadvantage. The playful attitude required may not exist in all groups and some members may be reluctant to participate. On the other hand, requiring students to assume different roles may be just the thing needed to liven up some groups.

Five Steps to running the activity

The steps are as follows:

1. Descriptions of various Superhero characters are distributed to group members.

2. Group members select one of the characters and assume its identity. If desired, costumes can be used to elaborate upon the characterisation. As a minimum, ask students to wear a sign (a sticky label or post-it note stuck on their forehead is an easy way for students to state the name of the hero they selected. Students can be more creative and create a paper mask or a crown / party hat with their superhero name on.

3. Each group member, in turn, describes his or her character in as much detail as possible. This description should include such things as special powers, strengths, weaknesses, and habits.

4. After each hero is described, group members use the information as stimuli for ideas generation techniques and problem solving.

For example, Spiderman’s web might suggest a network concept for solving some problem.

5. Group members ask the Superhero concerned how they might use their super powers and abilities to help the problem/opportunity owner address their situation. The problem owner needs to record, verbatim, what the superhero might say so that the suggestions can be interpreted later in the session. The point being that the initial response may be intuitive and, initially, have no direct obvious meaning/application if the person playing the superhero has really got into role. It is only after a second analysis of the response in the form “how can this suggestion help me” that a more orthodox interpretation can be extracted.

Any number and type of Superheroes can be used for this technique. If possible, there should be more characters than group members to select from.

Some common heroes and their major characteristics.

Superman

superman
Picture: Superman

Superman has X-ray vision, super hearing, can fly, and is the strongest man on earth. When not on duty, he is disguised as mild-mannered newspaper reporter, Clark Kent. He can be weakened only by Kryptonite, a leftover rock from his birth planet, Krypton. Superman is faster than a speeding bullet and is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He can fly, he has heat vision, super breath that can be used to freeze things as well as blow them! He can’t see through lead with his X-ray vision though.

Batman and Robin

Batman and Robin
Picture: Batman and Robin

Batman and his sidekick Robin, The Boy Wonder, are first-rate detectives who always manage to outwit the most sinister criminals. They have at their disposal an assortment of “Bat” paraphernalia, such as a Batmobile, Batplane, Batcycle, Batrollerskates, and Batrope. Barman’s alter ego is millionaire Bruce Wayne. He and Robin live in the Wayne Mansion that is built over the Bat Cave.

Wonder Woman

Picture: Wonderwoman

Wonder Woman is a truly liberated woman. With extraordinary strength, agility, and all-around athletic ability, she easily can overpower the most powerful person. With her magic bracelets, she even can deflect bullets shot at her. And, with her magic lasso, she can rope almost anything. When wrapped around someone, her lasso always causes that person to tell the truth. On occasion, she flies her own airplane, which is invisible.

Captain America

Captain America
Picture: Captain America

Captain America represents the ultimate in All-American ideals (truth, justice, apple pie, and mom). With his winning personality he usually has no trouble persuading others to see his viewpoint. The captain also is known for his positive outlook on life and his great strength and athletic skills. If all of these attributes are not enough protection, he also has a Captain America shield that can protect him from any harm.

Dr Strange

Dr Strange
Picture: Dr Strange

Dr. Strange tries to live up to his name. As a skilled magician and sorcerer, he can create numerous illusions. He also is able to cure sicknesses, control people and situations, and change one thing into something else. Another strange thing about Dr. Strange is that he is afflicted with temporary lapses of concentration.

E.Man

E.Man, whose most distinctive feature is his unlimited supply of energy, can take on any form he wishes. However, once he assumes a form, he is affected by its weaknesses. His favourite sleeping place is a toaster.

Nova Kane

Nova Kane is the female counterpart to E-Man. She previously worked as an exotic dancer.

Spiderman

Spiderman
Picture: Spiderman

Spiderman, or “Spidey” as he is affectionately known by his fans, can walk on ceilings and walls. With his ever-present web, he can swing through the air as well as capture bad guys. Spiderman also has a unique ability to detect any dangerous situation before it affects him.

Mr Fantastic

Mr. Fantastic is the smartest man in the world and, although no logical correlation is involved, he can stretch his body to any length. He is a very flexible person.

Invisible Girl

Invisible Girl, as her name implies, can make herself and other people and things invisible. She also can make people and things reappear. When in danger, she creates an invisible shield which protects her from all harm.

The Human Torch

Picture: The Human Torch

The Human Torch is said to be a short-tempered hothead. He has the power to emit and control fire. Heat never bothers him. He also can fly whenever the mood strikes.

(The problem solving and ideas generation techniques have been adapted and expanded upon from the book Techniques of structured problem solving by Arthur B. VanGundy ISBN-13 : 978-0442288471)

Picture: Avengers Assemble

Six Lessons to learn from superheroes

There are many lessons we can learn from superheroes and they can be used as discussion prompts when supporting students in their learning and skills development.

Lesson 1. Embrace who you are

We are all different. Be a superhero and embrace who you are and be proud of it. If you’ve made mistakes, forgive yourself. Treat yourself kindly. Acknowledge your successes and how far you’ve come. Be grateful for what is happening in your own world. Don’t criticise yourself and practice self-compassion. Research shows people who associate themselves with positive traits, have a healthier outlook and are more successful.

Lesson 2. Be different, Be powerful

Just like a superhero, being different is powerful. Encourage students to think about what makes them stand out from the crowd and what they excel at. Ask them to consider their key strengths and celebrate their talents from specific technical and personal skills to knowledge about their subject field. Ask them to think about what they have achieved and their behaviours to handle problems and manage stressful situations. We all have something we are good at.

Lesson 3. Overcome adversity

It may not seem it at the time, when experiencing adverse events, but there is purpose behind each one. Adversity can be overcome. Superheroes surround themselves with positive people who will be supportive and encouraging. Encourage students to practice a daily journal and write down their thoughts. It’s important to invest time, just for themselves, doing something they enjoy.

Lesson 4. Help others to be their best

We become stronger by helping others to be strong and find their strengths. Students might want to consider mentoring someone who could benefit from their skills and knowledge or offering peer-to-peer support.

Lesson 5. Superheroes’ superpowers are not required

Students can be a hero without any superpowers. Everyone has something to offer.

Lesson 6. Change starts with you

Superheroes make the change. Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” If you want change, start with yourself.

Photo: Dr Katharine Jewitt, Learning Designer at Heriot-Watt University

About Katharine:

Dr Katharine Jewitt (@KatharineJewitt) is a Learning Designer at Heriot-Watt University, where she works in partnership with academics and colleagues from across the University to facilitate the design and subsequent evaluation of Heriot-Watt Online qualifications and modules. She has worked in HE since 2003 and is a Lecturer and Research Fellow at The Open University. Katharine’s research interests are in the fields of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), technology enhanced learning (TEL) and learning in three-dimensional and mobile environments. Her PhD research was in the use of virtual reality for work-based learning.

 

#Take5 #51 The best way to develop a compassionate pedagogy?

“I was asked to deliver a ‘skills’ session to a group of second years. I went into the room – the students were dotted about in ones, occasionally twos. They all had their coats on. They did not know each other’s names. These students had not arrived in that classroom. Arguably, they had not arrived on the course.” (Member of staff)

Why is this an important area to cover?

Not only is it important ethically to develop humane and compassionate teaching spaces, it is vital to the notion of facilitating the dialogic co-construction of knowledge; for active, deep and meaningful learning; and to create communities of practice where the students are engaged as actors and agents in their own learning.

Our institution is perhaps a better fit for a more caring sort of teaching and learning – the diverse working class students that we tend to attract typically come from more collectivist or communitarian spaces. At the same time, given the rhetoric about ‘standards’ and individual effort that permeates HE narratives, we have to work to continually prove the worth of a more humane and dialogic academy. At our university, we are committed to the theory and practice of an education for social justice; making our classrooms engaging and our practice holistic. We seek to celebrate our students for who they are as we facilitate a process where they can become academic more on their own terms – and without losing themselves in the process.

Picture: Image from Education for Social Justice Framework – colourful hands raised.

Building a compassionate pedagogy

One overarching approach is to share with students that we are operating a compassionate pedagogy (https://compassioninhe.wordpress.com/) as a conscious strategy in the classroom. A compassionate pedagogy is designed to create that humane space that welcomes and sustains students and their whole identities; it is committed to valuing the individual and building personal relationships. When we share that this is our approach with students, we draw them into a conversation about how the classroom can be developed in the interest of all the students. Whereas the typical HE classroom might be driven by competitive individualism, which ignites fear and increases threat, the compassionate classroom is one that fosters altruism and cooperative growth. The ideal is to work together with the students to develop the whole class as a developmental and sustaining space. Thus together, tutor and students, agree to use language and tone that reach the most people – they agree to be interested in each other – that no one will dominate the dialogue – that everybody will work to draw-in the quieter person – that they will address each other compassionately and by name – and work together to achieve common goals.

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Picture: Disrupt – work from James Hunting

What does this mean in practice?

Celebrating the diverse classroom. There is always some common ground around student values – they are all on the same course for a reason – they have something in common! (Member of staff)

At its most basic, it begins with welcoming every student into the classroom and valuing them for exactly who they are right then – at the very start of the course. Not greeting them with a raft of study and digital skills checklists which implicitly and often explicitly further reinforces their own internalised notions that they are not good enough. If these things are important – our teaching and assessment practices should develop them. It then means embracing a teaching and learning strategy that builds on the initial welcome by foregrounding student bonding, belonging and communication – and the development of a cohort identity through active and interactive teaching, learning and assessment strategies. Not only does this better ‘hold’ students when times get tough, it starts to develop self-efficacy and well being so that challenges are embraced and transcended.

Valuing identity involves creating a secure space in the class for students to express their thoughts and ideas and to develop new skills without changing the personality.

Creating a comfortable environment for students not only to be who they are but also being valued and appreciated, feeling safe to discuss and argue the viewpoints without any restrictions; but with consideration of ethics and respecting the diversity of opinions, backgrounds, experiences…

Exploring the variety of thoughts in the room and all students being empowered to speak and to develop courage to try new things – for example, never did a presentation or podcast, being camera shy, nervous of debating in the class… this is the safe space to take that risk

Giving students the chance and opportunity to follow their passion; e,g, having a week when students can “govern” and bring their own examples, cases, experiences to discuss and lead a seminar.

It’s also to recognise who they are outside the student identity – we have multiple identities that need to be acknowledged – and also to value the ‘student’ identity within them all. To ensure that the cohort can find, and sustain, ways of acknowledging the group cohesion and peer support where appropriate.

“Today was such an amazing day as we all worked together to produce a poster exhibition based on our DigitalMe projects. My poster was created as a collage; I cut out pieces from magazines and newspapers. The words and phrases meant a lot to me and took me a few days to put together. While I was putting my poster together I couldn’t help but reflect on how it made me feel as an individual, a student, a parent and a person in society. I had doubts in preparing the DigitalMe project but now I had the ability to prepare a poster about it, it was a great feeling. This was the first time any person or institution cared about who I was and how I felt before starting university” (Student on Becoming An Educationist module – week 12 – the Digital Showcase)

How we build relationships between our students

“From my time working with students in a support role, I often discuss what their values are for undertaking their degree rather than goals. Goals are often very finite e.g. I want a good job, I want to earn more money whereas values allow the student to share what is important to them e.g. I want a job where I can give back to the community because they supported me to get here; I want to earn more money so I can travel and learn more about other cultures. Being values driven helps to create a more personal connection. This could be adapted so the students discuss this with each other, understand what drives each other and what they have and do not have in common.” (Member of staff)

This needs to be addressed not just in induction or the first week of a course, but throughout the whole teaching and learning process. Active and interactive learning promotes bonding and belonging between students – especially in fun, low stakes group work. See our #Take5: https://lmutake5.wordpress.com/2020/10/14/take5-50-the-best-way-to-bring-the-human-into-virtual-space/.

Use lots of ‘getting to know you’ activities – especially in the first few weeks of a course – sharing pictures on a padlet with a few words about oneself.

Now teaching is online – ask students to make something before the class. This year we set the making of a study apron: https://youtu.be/ty_ztNPoEp4 . Pictures of the aprons were shared on the class padlet – then discussed in our Breakout rooms.

F2F: Students to make collage of self to facilitate introductions in the first weeks.

F2F or online: Students to make representation of what ‘university’ is – this can be a group activity – though online – probably not! Representations shared. Discussion of implications for approachability and inclusiveness of the different HE models. Discussion of how those different ‘selves’ can make the models fit them. (Member of staff)

We build our relationships with students – and work to help them build their relationships with each other – through communication and discussion – and by peer exchange: ‘Has anybody else had the same issues? Would they be able to suggest …’:

Giving students an opportunity to discuss their differences and what is unique about them and their experiences in life.

Sharing something about their background, culture and interests.

Debating topics and giving their views whilst being encouraged to consider others’ views.

Students create agreements early on in class as to how they want to conduct the classes, their input and what they expect from each other.

Discussing examples of how classes or other groups in any environment may sometimes divide (e.g. staying safely with people they know or feel they have something in common with).

Considering why differences in people can enrich their experiences. Link to the inclusive teamwork/leadership or the university (linking to the strategic plan) and their current jobs or future careers.

Address the issues of fear and comfort zones. Get them to think of times when they have built a relationship with people who they didn’t think they initially had anything in common with, but the relationship evolved into a learning experience and/or a positive friendship. This can be related to age, background, authority, class etc.

Make the classes about communicating with others as a collective to learn together and from each other – whatever the subject. Move the focus away from the tutor. (Member of staff)

Tips and Tricks

First: Listen.

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Picture: Disruptive embroidery

Lots and lots of active and interactive teaching with ‘by stealth’ group work – so that people have to get to work together and know each other – and learn that by doing so, they are each other’s best assets.

F2F: Arranging the room so that people sit with each other – horseshoe if class small enough, tables grouped into ‘islands’ if a large class – so people work with others on their table – to make this fun – cover table with sugar paper – and put chalk or felt tips down so that they can scribble and draw ideas – add a handful of sweets – so that the session feel special.

Use discursive role plays where students have to work together to solve problems. We did build those sugar paper covered islands. When the student groups had to report back, they could all use their drawings to facilitate their arguments. They had all successfully completed a group presentation, year one, week one. The feeling of collective achievement was enormous. (We are experimenting with conducting role plays in an online space…)

Tackle assignments from a place of where the student is – who the student is and how the student is – so that assessments come from the student perspective.

Where students are typically engaged in more creative making tasks as part of their learning, set short writing tasks or some other unfamiliar activity – to challenge, differently.

Virtual alternatives:

Student led breakout rooms, small groups and get a volunteer to lead each and come back to the main room.

Encourage students to use the Chat function – copy and use to help them reflect on the class. (NB: Can need to team teach here – so that one person keeps an eye on the Chat.)

Give students a task which helps build relationships – why not try collaborative writing in a shared google doc.

Get students to find a food item that represents an idea or concept you are discussing and hold it up in front of the camera.

Ask students to hold up before the camera something they have created, such as a spider diagram.

Instead of a collage made in class – find an object in their homes that represents who they are – show and tell objects.

Object Based Learning: Find an object – write what they know – write what they don’t know. Research – then change the object in the light of new knowledge – and present.

Slow learning: To student: Find a piece of art that represents the course that you are studying – or an assignment that you are working on. Sit with the artwork for one whole hour. You can make notes and sketch pictures – but not talk with anyone or go online. After one hour write exactly 300-words on how that picture represents your subject – or helps you to answer your assignment.

Resources

#Take5: https://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/take5/index.html

Especially: https://lmutake5.wordpress.com/2020/10/14/take5-50-the-best-way-to-bring-the-human-into-virtual-space/

Oliver Herring’s TASK: https://oliverherringtask.wordpress.com/

Leeds: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRYvJfYIkG8kFTKBhOFR3Xw

Scavenger hunts built into online teaching can replicate some of what we might do F2F: http://www.spencerauthor.com/scavenger-hunts/

Blurb

This has been written by Vanessa Airth, Tom Burns, Jonathan Dempsey, Ruzanna Gevorgyan, James Hunting and Sandra Sinfield. Together we wanted to explore through collaborative writing our approaches to developing an Education for Social Justice.

#Take5 #50 The best way to bring the human into virtual space?

This #Take5 post is brought to you from Sandra Abegglen (University of Calgary), Emma Gillaspy (University of Central Lancashire), and Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield (London Metropolitan University) – all are members of ALDinHE and are involved in the #creativeHE community.

There will be a follow up to this blog in November, where we will run the first #creativeHE event of this academic year: Game on: playful practice for online environments – 18th November 14.00-16.00 – and where we will also call for the community to say what sort of creative activities they want support with across this challenging year. Information and Registration: https://creativehecommunity.wordpress.com/2020/10/13/join-us-for-the-first-online-meetup-of-2020-21/

Photo: Making a fortune teller with Emma Gillaspy at last year’s #creativeHE Jam: https://twitter.com/HannahSeat5/status/1271416548687822850

Virtually Impossible: Embodiment and ‘Being There’ in online space

For most of us the majority of our teaching, if not all, has shifted online for the foreseeable future. Whilst at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the ‘pivot’ was a temporary emergency measure, this academic year the move to remote education is all too real – the expectations are higher – and the pressure to get this ‘right’ more intense.

A key concern of ours is the facilitation of connection with students new to university – and perhaps even newer to online teaching and learning. How can we connect at a distance and virtually with students from day one? How can we enable them to connect meaningfully with us, as instructors, and with each other to develop bonding, belonging and cohort identity? How do we bring the human into the digital?

Such connection is challenging enough, but studying and learning are also embodied. How can we get students ‘ready’ to bring their whole embodied selves into their learning experience when they are working from home and online? We have developed a few ideas of how to connect with students and foster an embodied, active student self at a distance, but we hope blog readers will contribute their own ideas and experiences.

To Share Your Ideas Contact: Sandra Sinfield (s.sinfield@londonmet.ac.uk) and Tom Burns (t.burns@londonmet.ac.uk) or TALON https://taloncloud.ca Facilitator Sandra Abegglen (sandra.abegglen@ucalgary.ca) #creativeHE https://creativehecommunity.wordpress.com/ (egillaspy@uclan.ac.uk)

Photo: Lego people demonstrating academics at work: https://twitter.com/5fingerTyler/status/1272814003274813445

Bonding and Belonging: Engaging Students Actively and Creatively

The activities listed below are not exhaustive but give a flavour of the sort of activities that would be of use to students, helping them to connect meaningfully and creatively with you, as their instructor, and other students as they engage with their learning. Well planned authentic activities foster belonging and bonding. They also de facto develop complementary practices – like digital literacies and active, critical thinking for example – but without engaging in reductive ‘checklists’ that can position students as ‘deficit’ before they even start.

The activities below invite students to start thinking about who they are – and what they want to say about themselves to you, their tutor, and to their new friends and colleagues; and they position the students to engage actively with university study. They help them transition playfully but powerfully into academia and their epistemic communities – to get to know others and their university.

It is important that these activities are framed positively. They are not just the ‘fun’ bit to get out of the way before the teaching starts. So, tell your students why you are doing what you are doing. Explain that creative, playful social practice is part of active and meaningful learning that will improve and deepen their understanding of content. Have a de-brief discussion after a playful activity to make the learning conscious.

Introductory Activities for Students to do at a Distance

Make a Top Trumps card of yourself and post it to the class social media space – LIKE and say ‘Hello’ to other students in the class.

Create a study space in your home – take a picture and post it to the class social media space – with a brief commentary. Get inspired – and respond to posts from classmates (and adapt and extend your own study space).

Make a study apron – see video: https://youtu.be/ty_ztNPoEp4 – find a large old pair of jeans – transform the pair of jeans or similar into a study apron – share the process in the social media space. NB: #DS106 set our task as a challenge recently – and this is what they got: https://daily.ds106.us/tdc3184/

If asking students to make the apron – extend and set an additional reflective task: Think about the process of making the apron: Did I find it fruitful to make and think?What is the best part of my apron? If I made a second apron, what would I do similar/differently? Having made this, do I feel differently about entering uni? Do you feel like a ‘proper’ student yet?

Make a representation of yourself – out of clean recyclables, plasticine, wood/fabric. Give this some time and thought. Try to lose yourself in the making. Take a picture and post. What’s an interesting fact you could add to introduce your creation/yourself

If you are making a creative self representation – make a study partner/buddy for it – out of materials you have at home. Take that partner/buddy out for a trip/exploration: show what study space they have; where and what they ‘learn’; read them something that you have been using to help you succeed as a student; tell them something that you have enjoyed or found surprising about being a student; introduce them to useful books and resources. Take pictures or short video clips of all these activities as they happen. Share visuals on the social media space. Start a study blog for your study partner/buddy – put pictures up and write about their experiences of studying, week by week.

Make a university – out of buttons, wool, sticks, Lego… Take a picture and post. (Tips: Use this to start a discussion about the nature of teaching and learning at University – of how you value what the students bring… and how they may find their feet in academia. Set up a discussion where the students change the universities to better fit who they are).

Introduce yourself via a meme, gif or emoji – (Tip: Images often enable non-verbal ways of knowing to emerge, leading to increased human connection. Encourage learners to share in an online space a meme, gif or emoji that says something about them, then in a live session they can share more about their choices, deepening the connection further.

Photo: Cartooning an academic life during Lockdown https://twitter.com/researchercoach/status/1273680266163294208

Active Learning Strategies to be Built Into any Class, Any Time

Virtual escape room or quest: Where students are put into social groups to solve a series of questions, the solving of which will help them discover more about the course you are teaching or the assignment that you have set (see https://blogs.city.ac.uk/learningatcity/2018/12/12/educational-escape-rooms/#.X39DEOhKg2w).  

Ideas from ImaginED (http://www.educationthatinspires.ca/): To seed engagement with a topic being studied: Twenty pictures: Go out, take 20 pictures – reduce to three – write anything from a caption to a poem – share the pictures and the writing. Acrostics – produce a short poem using a keyword from your subject – illustrate – share acrostic and illustration; Be like Andy Goldsworthy: Go out and build an installation that comments on the subject you are studying – take a picture of the installation – perhaps take pictures of people engaging with your installation – and share. Ideas from: In Praise of Idle Time: Taking LiD Outdoors

Scavenger Hunts: Using Scavenger Hunts to Get Students Moving in Virtual Learning – scavenger hunts can be built into any theoretical session – to seed student thinking or reflection on a topic. A scavenger hunt is pretty much what it sounds like. Staff give students specific clues or items that they have to find from their homes or around the larger community – to create an artefact or build a ‘picture’ of something that is being studied. This works well as a video-conference activity, but it can also work as a series of photos that students take and upload to a shared file. Students can work in teams using the breakout room function, or they can work independently. Useful apps to explore: https://www.goosechase.com/ and https://en.actionbound.com/.

Think of a song: When starting a new topic of study – ask students to think of a song or poem that represents that topic and post it to the class social media space – giving a reason for their choice. Read and respond to posts from classmates.

Class curators: Each week ask a different group of students to ‘curate’ the session. Expect them to creatively capture the key ideas in any lecture or discussion. They can draw, knit, dance… Alternatively they can make animations or a video diary of the session. Share with the whole group.

Motivation board: There will be moments during a course when motivation dips so why not invite your learners to create a collective board (Miro, Padlet, Jamboard and Lino are useful tools for this) to get them through these difficult moments. Ask them to share motivational quotes, images, music.

Thinking about Studying

We cannot assume that students will know how to best organise themselves for study online – but the activities that we have suggested will help them to become more active in their virtual classrooms – and will help them learn how to appreciate each other and work together – and if well discussed and ‘de-briefed’ will foreground the active learning that is taking place.

Similarly, many of our students have entered university from very transactional and disempowering pre-tertiary education spaces – hence they may not know just how active and engaged they will have to be to make their studies come alive for them. They may not know how to ‘study’ and actually learn that which they want and need to learn. You might want to share the tips below with your students to encourage them.

Try:

Before you start: take a deep breath, go for a walk, meditate:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL-FiMYY_34

Work in short bursts: Try the Pomodoro technique: The Pomodoro Technique® – proudly developed by Francesco Cirillo | Cirillo Consulting GmbH and Time Management Tips for Troubled Times: Working in short bursts | Academic Skills and Writing Development

Work fast: How to write an assignment fast (6-min video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZlGmOazg_k&t=1s

Work Slow: And in Partnership: https://theslowacademic.com/2017/02/16/writing-differently/ 

Draw your learning: To help understand and remember what is being studied, use some form of visual thinking to organise thoughts and develop ideas: https://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/studyhub/drawing.html

Make active notes: https://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/studyhub/note.html

Reward your progress: Decide how you are going to reward yourself when you achieve each mini-goal (you may have identified during your pomodoro-ing) and make sure you do it! Rewarding yourself will improve your intrinsic motivation and lead to more progress https://debut.careers/insight/12-ways-reward-your-studying/ 

Further help: Study Hub – LondonMet’s study tips website: https://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/studyhub/index.html

Share: However, your students may have experience with particular online tools and approaches. Ask them to share with you – and their peers. Utilise the opportunity for discussion, exchange – and shared learning.

And finally, be kind. A reminder that staff and students will need to be even kinder to each other in online space. Any one of us may lose connectivity or suffer a technical hitch or breakdown at just that very moment when we need that camera or mic to work. Neither staff nor students suffering technical hitches are incompetent or unskilled – but oh boy – it can certainly feel that way… Support each other on the way!

Bios:

Sandra Sinfield, Sandra Abegglen and Tom Burns have worked and taught together at LondonMet for many years. Sandra A left LondonMet in 2018 and is now based at the University of Calgary (Canada) where she works on a research project that looks at design studio practice. Emma Gillaspy is the Northern interloper of the group, being a born and bred Mancunian now working at the University of Central Lancashire. Their connection is through creative education via communities such as #creativeHE. They all research emancipatory practice in HE and/or teach on PGcert, MALTHE and other academic development courses, with a special focus on praxes that ignite curiosity, harness creativity, and develop power and voice. Tom and Sandra S have co-authored Teaching, Learning and Study Skills: a guide for tutors and Essential Study Skills: the complete guide to success at university (4th Edition, 2016), two books that support academic learning and teaching across disciplines. Sandra A has recently co-edited a book on education and economics: Understanding Education and Economics: key debates and critical perspectives (2020) whilst Emma is currently editing a journal special issue exploring the creative self of educators.

Sandra Abegglen (@sandra_abegglen);  Tom Burns (@LevellerB); Emma Gillaspy (@egillaspy); Sandra Sinfield (@Danceswithcloud)