to flip? or reflections on week 5 #lthesep12 @pgcap

The idea was to flip the classroom this week, but not in the sense that I would ‘deliver content’ in advance of the session. I try to avoid this as I know this is not an effective way of teaching and might encourage (probably not the right word) passive learning if learning can ever be passive. Is it actually possible to ‘deliver content’? We do hear about delivering content and absorbing knowledge. Absorbing knowledge as if knowledge is some sort of magic cream that soaks into our skin and then reaches our brain and makes us more knowledgeable? What is knowledge and how do we get it if not through absorption?

Also, just ‘flipping the classroom‘ where the teacher ‘delivers content’ ahead of a session – I am not sure how radical this is from the more common model where the teacher ‘delivers content’ during a session.  I do understand that the ‘flipped classroom’ frees up classroom time for active learning and this is really good and valuable and enables more student-centred learning in the classroom. At the same time, however, I am wondering if the flipped classroom is not not just changing the order of when things happen and using available technologies to do this? Is this still not tutor-led and tutor-centred teaching? Is this moving the instruction to the pre-session phase? Could something more disruptive trigger real engagement and active and profound learning before, during and after our sessions driven by the students? These are questions I have in my head when designing the week 5 task which I am sharing here hoping to discuss with others.

My approach is collaborative and we co-construct meaning through conversations, experimental activities and immersion that help us make sense of practices, ideas, concepts and make new discoveries and re-discoveries through uncovering experiences, existing collective and individual knowledge and digesting known and unknown in our professional context. In a way the approach is inquiry-based.

So, while the term ‘flipped classroom’ was used, I am at the moment unsure that this is what we actually did. Of course, language changes over time and terms are used in different ways. Many times words also change their original meaning, well people do. So if we used a version of the ‘flipped classroom’ that was different from how others use it at the moment, does this mean we need a new term or could it just be a different version of the ‘flipped classroom’ as others define and use it? I was thinking of how I could label the approach I used but also wasn’t sure if a new label or term is needed.

In preparation for week 5, students were invited to work in their action learning sets and explore a specific learning theory (behaviourism, social constructivism, experiential learning). A wiki was set up in Blackboard where the instructions about the task were captured. The wiki was used to co-ordinate pre-class collaboration within action learning sets. An inquiry-based learning approach was used. The activity was set-up by me the tutor and while I am writing it now, I think I could have been even more adventurous. Part of the exploration and the research was that the action learning sets carried would be to edit the related wikipedia page and check accuracy, identify gaps and starts filling some if these with valuable additions based on the research they carried out.All that a few days in advance of our face-to-face session. Was this too ambitious?

1. How did I feel?

When I set the task,I wasn’t sure. Actually the original plan was to ask action learning sets to work on this activity throughout the module. Only a week or two in advance of week 5 it suddenly clicked that it could be linked to week 5 around learning theories. As the action learning set didn’t seem to engage with this task from the beginning (was I asking for too much?) I felt suddenly releaved with my new idea on how I could make it work and relate it to a specific session and week. But I wasn’t sure if it would work, so I was anxious but also excited with the possibility that my students would get something out of this. I decided to go ahead with my plan.

meeting the VC 23 Oct 12


The session around learning theories is the one which is undergoing the most changes from cohort to cohort. And we have tried different approaches, including guest speakers in the classroom and remotely, debates, de-constructing literally (we ripped it apart!) and metaphorically a book around learning theories and presenting interpretations etc. The feedback that we have been receiving about the module highlights a special difficulty with the learning theories and for some we do too much and for others too little on learning theories. How can we offer a more balanced approach that would help us maximise engagement with the learning theories and understanding? I keep trying different things and have invited my current students to comment on our current week 5 approach and my reflections captured here so that I can see clearer their perspective and identify how I could refine the approach for future cohorts or come up with a completely new idea. Also very possible 😉

2. What did I learn?

This approach confirmed again that we do need to trust our students. It is important to design learning experiences that foster deep engagement through collaborative and autonomous learning. Students are also able to self-organise and find ways to communicate and co-ordinate learning activities. Some might say that my students are a special case as they teachers and ready for such type of learning. And I would probably agree with them. But are there ways to help all our students? Is scaffolding learning activities needed to help students become autonomous responsible learners and collaborators? If we do need to use a scaffold, do we teachers provide this, or could this emerge from the students themselves, generated by peers, their community?


30min at the beginning of the session to complete the wikipedia task

When my students arrived in class, I was so pleased to discover that they felt relaxed about each other’s presence and have opened up to new learning opportunities. I noticed that some of the pairs from week 4 when we played our mixed-reality game in Manchester City Centre did sit closer together. Was this a coincidence? What effect did last week’s task have on their relationship as learners? I find this fascinating and would also like my student views on this.


putting it all together now, merging low- and high-tech

Too often I have heard that wikipedia is bad for us, that we shouldn’t recommend student to use it. Wikipedia is a digital encyclopedia which is enriched by the global community. I think there was value in visiting specific pages and editing the ones linked to the theories we wanted to explore in the context of this module. I asked my students to critique and identify gaps and enhance existing pages. Is this a bad thing? Isn’t this a form of peer learning and peer review? When we later openly discussed the theories in class and recorded these, they will become learning resources that can be shared with others who perhaps missed the class, students who would like to review their learning and also others from outside the cohort, outside the university. Re-use and re-purposing. The idea is to create a bank of learning theory videos and edit further wikipedia pages, further learning theories. I would also like to use the clips we created with this cohort to become foci for discussion with future cohorts. Writing about it now, sounds good and I would like to try it again with the next cohort but might alter the approach.

I loved the depth of engagement with the literature and how this surfaced through the presentations as well. I was so proud of what my students have learned and as one of my students said “Chrissi didn’t really tell us anything. She could be away and we would still do the task and learn.” What does this mean for teachers? Something to think about.

3. What would I do differently?

I am wondering if this task could be aligned more clearly with the assessment of this module. As it has been done with the game. Perhaps I could emphasise more that this task, if I decide to use it again, is helping students to gain a better understanding of a variety of learning theories and explore how these link to their experiences as a learner and teacher. I actually think that could work. The educational autobiography, for example, which is the first piece my students are writing, should be completed in the first few weeks. I could ask them after week 5 to revisit this and try and analyse some of their experiences in light of the theories we explored and further engage with the literature. I think that could work but I would like my students also to comment on this. Also, I think we could link the learning theories week to the observations we carry out as part of the module and also keep referring back to them in the remaining sessions.

The action learning sets are not all the same size (2 of them are much bigger than the third and this can be problematic!). This week especially, I think this imbalance created a challenge for some and I do need to think more about shaping these in future cohorts. Not sure what I can do when some of the students are not able to attend specific sessions and then some of the action learning sets have less members to carry out this and other activities. But I really should come up with a plan B so that nobody is disadvantaged and feels enabled to engage and contribute in a meaningful way.

The task itself. I would like to refine this week’s task further. Keep the inquiry element and but not ‘sell’ it as the “flipped classroom”. Looking back now, I am no longer sure that this is what we did. As I did design the pre-class activity this time, I would like next time to let the students take ownership of their learning and create a task themselves that would help them learn. I am now excited with this idea!

A big thank you to Mark McGuire who stayed with us and co-facilitated this session with me on Tuesday but also Fred Garnett who prepared an extension activity on our PGCAP News Blog This is an opportunity to start thinking about our own teaching and learning philosophy, law or theory. Please engage in this!


Mark McGuire in our class

Thank you everybody for embracing this experiment. I am looking forward to your comments. 😉

saying yes to learning through play or week 4 reflections #lthesep12 @pgcap

Well, I planned to capture my reflections on Tuesday the day after our face-to-face session and started writing this post a few times in my head but I just now managed to click on create new post. This was Sunday morning. Then a disaster happened… and I had to abandon my half written post and start again on Sunday evening… anyway…

It feels somehow late and my reflections are not fresh anymore in my head. I have already gone through the emotional ups and downs and re-living what happened on Tuesday but also many times before when I used a game approach, so it will be interesting to see where this reflection takes me. My fingers have started hitting the keyboard and finding the words and phrases my mind is telling them. Where should we start?

Ok, I guess I should start from what this week was all about. Creativity, everyday creativity when it becomes an everyday habits can turn our teaching and learning practices into exciting and stimulating experiences. And while I usually use habit as a in bad habit, this time I feel that habit, as in establishing creative habits is actually a good thing for us.

Creativity is important to keep our offer fresh and engaging and make our students think outside the box. Creativity is a necessity and needed in all disciplines, all professional areas, all aspect of our lives. In order to encourage and enable creative thinking and hopefully trigger lasting changes in thinking, we played a mixed-reality game. Playing games in Higher Education? Yes!

This game is not a new idea, but and idea that has evolved semester after semester and changes have been introduced based on own observations and on feedback. I have played previous versions of this game in teacher education in Adult Learning and Further Education but when I took the idea to Higher Education, I was shocked with the resistance I was confronted with. Comments such as “inappropriate”, “childish” and “patronising” still echo in my mind. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe the more critical comments helped me see things from a different angle and push me to think deeper and put my own practice to the test and evaluate the game and get some evidence that the game real works! The criticism also pushed me to refine my idea and underpin what I thought was a useful, worthwhile and fun learning activty with literature. My rationale for playing the game is now more clearly formulated and together with the findings of my research linked to this help me to convince others that there is value in learning through games but I am not convinced that it should be this way. I think there is a lot of value in discovery learning and trying new things, immersing ourselves into different learning experiences, immersing ourselves in the unknown and finding out for ourselves and with peers the value of such activities. The key elements, I think, to make this happen, is trust. Trust in our teacher, trust in our learners, trust in each other but also the will to be open to experimentation.

LTHESep12 week 2


1. How did I feel?

Excited! This week is always my favourite one!!! I was happy to discover that my current students embraced the “Sell your bargains” game. The same happened with the last cohort and I am now seeing much clearer why this is the case!

I was very pleased that they completed Stage 1 and had thought about a threshold concept before meeting in Manchester on Tuesday. I am also very happy that they did their research around threshold concepts despite the fact that we didn’t touch this in class. It shows again, that we can and should trust our students that they are able to study on their own and try and make sense of theories. I think this is easier if coupled with direct link and application to own practice, which we did in the case of the game.

There were some more skeptical students but that is fine. I think as the game progressed, they warmed to the idea and the usefulness of the game. All students who partcipated, worked well with their partner and came up with some really innovative learning and teaching interventions. I don’t think many of these ideas would have been generated in an ordinary classroom. I think we need to get rid of ordinary classrooms anyway. Learning can happen anywhere and most of the learning happens outside the classroom anyway…

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

learning together through sharing problems

I was very pleased how the pairs worked together and I think my rationale for pairing worked well. I had a number of criteria for paring and I would be interested to find out what my students thought about this and what they think the criteria were. Anybody?

2. What did I learn?

I am pleased that I keep pushing myself and my students to actively experiment with ideas and concepts in a more playful way. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We will work on making it work better the next time. We learn so much more when things don’t go according to plan. Difficult situations make us think. They make me think and re-think but also un-think. And if we learnt something from something that didn’t work, it was a great learning opportunity. Too often we focus on the result, but what about the process?

I learned that we do need to do this to discover what is possible and remove misunderstandings and misconceptions about play and games for learning in higher education. I learned that reflection is a vital ingredient of creativity as well, if we want to create something new and of value, something that is alive and dynamic. Something that can evolve and inspire learners and teachers to be resourceful, creative, ask questions, do the unexpected and surprise themselves and others to engage in deep and profound learning that is owned 150% by the learners themselves.

3. What would I do differently?

Loads of things! I think it is now time to change location for Stage 2 when we meet in Manchester City Centre. The Big Wheel used to be there. Now it is gone ;( I am thinking of Bury Market or Salford Quays and will investigate other areas too, with loads if cheap shop for next time. But if we go for a no-money approach, I might be looking for a completely different location…

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

Where did it go???

Also, the £3 spending money to get a resource is too much. I am thinking of NO money or just one pound per person. At the moment, I am thinking to play it with NO spending money next time.

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

Sian’s and Jo’s bargains

Too often we think we need money to get resources for learning and teaching. But there are so many freely available. Stuff that we can re-use and re-purpose or construct from items that are of no use for others. The more I write about it here, the more I am convinced that I will go with the no-money approach next time. So there will be limited time and limited and no money at all! How resourceful and creative can we be? Are we more creative when we have loads of time and loads of money? Hmm…

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

Rob and Helen, one of our pairs

What else? Recording the videos and a location where it is a bit more quiet. I am wondering, if we could run part of Stage 2 at location and then come back into the classroom and create the clips or the players create these within the 1h. This might be another option. Each pair then uploads the clip to our YouTube channel. But how could we then use the time when we come all together? I think we could then have an informal conversation about the process and share ideas and approaches. I think that might be useful instead of doing the filming then and would keep all the group together. So many ideas again to change for next time. This is all very exciting!

Also one of my students suggested to do the filming through images. I understand that some don’t want to be seen in the clips and I need to respect this, as the clips will go on our YouTube channel under a creative commons licence. So, images would be a great alternative and maybe drawings too? We do need to listen to our students’ voices. Many times, they have great ideas that help us move our own thinking and ideas forwards but also into new directions.

Having a second game facilitator really made a difference but if I go with the above option I will be fine, even if a colleague is not available. I just need to make sure that our students have a camcorder, smartphone or tablet on which they could record the mini clip and this might be the tricky part and needs to be checked in advance of the game.

Let’s play more! Let’s create more opportunities for playful learning in Higher Education. Plato said “We can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation”. Just imagine how much we can learn when we combine the two 😉

Voting for our most innovative ideas is still open until Monday the 22nd of October 2012

all our photos on Flickr. Click here to access them

please access our voting form where you will also find links to all participating video clips.

Do you want to find out more about learning with games in Higher Education? Read: Whitton, N (2010) Learning with Digital Games. A Practical Guide to Engaging Students in Higher Education, Oxon: Routledge.

#lthesep12 running out of time, or reflections on week 3@pgcap

Empty train station by night

… how it all started…

The day didn’t start well at all… my train was delayed by 1.5 hours (yes, 1.5 whole hours!!!) which I spent worrying on the platform that I would be late! And it was freeeeeeeeeeeeeeezing cold too. I was wearing clothes for spring weather… silly me!!! I thought I was further South… anyway, at least my brain was operating… sort of, and I tried to find a solution… what could I do??? I was going to be observed that day and could see the time slipping away and be arrving late…

This is of course typical. Whenever you try to be super early and get ready for something special… something goes wrong! I am sure you all have experienced this.


Twitter saved Chrissi too on Tuesday morning 😉

Eureka! I contacted one of my students who has joined us on Twitter (I wish more had so that we could keep in touch easily!!!). After explaining briefly my situation, I asked her for help. I was so pleased that we did co-ordinate some prep activities remotely. Thank you so so much Liz!!! Twitter to the rescue!

#lthesep12 week 3

for a reason

I arrived just on time but with my huge granny wagon full of stuff. Unpacking and sorting everything out was a task I wanted to do much much earlier but now had to do in speed mode. There is a danger doing this, that I would forget things despite the fact that I actually had a checklist… frustrating!!! Very frustrating!!! Yes,  I forgot to hang something on the wall, which I wanted to do, the intended learning outcomes… which was important but I forgot completely that I had this printout!!! Too late now.

On top of all this I was observed by Frances Bell, a dear colleague from the Business School. You know, when you want everything to be perfect and well orchestrated and you realise that it won’t happen? Well that is how I felt. Minute by minute my hopes disappeared on the frozen platform that morning. But then I started thinking. Is a peer observation really about perfection? Of course we want to show our best and do our best, but should we not be doing this all the time???? I think we should, so this problem actually helped me to improvise and sort out things on the spot. I had to think fast and be resourceful to problem solve, which I tried and did with the help of my student. It would be wonderful to find out how the student felt when I called her to the rescue. Perhaps she will read this and comment. I think, she will 😉

1. How did I feel?

I felt frustrated that I didn’t get there earlier. Frustrated that the trains didn’t run that morning. Happy that I did manage to contact one of my students. Very happy that she helped me remotely. At least Iknew that somebody would be there to start the session in time. This was very important for me and I am pleased that my student was so helpful. When the session started I relaxed and tried to get into the rhythm of the session that I had planned. It was hard because I was just not yet in tune and somehow, some parts of the session felt a bit disconnected for me. Our focus was planning a session – yes, what an irony!!!

I have to admit that I didn’t feel that nervous when Frances arrived and started filming too. Maybe because I know Frances, maybe because I felt that she would be constructive and would focus on how I could develop further as a teacher. I do believe that if we know the observer and have a good working relationship with this person, it does help the peer observation to be more useful, honest and constructive as it is not about performance but rather development. Frances made me feel relaxed and I could just be myself. Of course, it can’t be exactly the same as when I am just with my students but my students are teachers too so in effect I am un-officially peer observed all the time. My practice is under the microscope constantly 😉 This is something else, I would really like to investigate further and I think it would be a great project to do with one or two students of this cohort. I must find out who would be interested to explore this type or peer observation from the double student-teacher perspective.

2. What did I learn?

Connecting with our students outside the classroom can be very handy not just for supporting their learning but also supporting our teaching. I reached out to my students to help me in this difficult situation and it worked. For me that was a sign of partnership and shared ownership in teaching and learning and I think social media do allow us to create these links and strengthen them too. Social media are not one way channels. We support our network and our network supports us. It is a genuine camaraderie. I like that! Too often we focus on what can I get instead of focusing on what can I give! And we all can give so much! And should be more giving. It is wonderful to experience this.

Working in groups, sharing experiences is definitely effective. I tried to use the expertise of the group and enable them to lead parts of the session. I think that worked well. I learned that my students love sharing their experiences and feel comfortable in contributing in smaller groups. Some are quieter than others and I need to be careful and make sure that they also are able to fully participate. I would like a thinking classroom and create throughout opportunities for thinking, reflection, action through sharing but there also needs to be a quiet time for individual thinking and learning.

#lthesep12 week 3

Do we need to plan?

The session planning activity was also ok. Was it? I saw everybody engaging and contributing. Was this useful for my students? Some might say no. But I hope they will recognise the value of contextualising their sessions to a specific situation and more importantly to their students context. No longer is it about what we do, but how we do it. No longer is it about what the teacher does, but what the students are doing. No longer should teacher talk non-stop! Let the students lead! We need to learn to be silent as well and let our students drive learning and why not teaching too. We learn loads and loads through teaching! I always say: teaching is learning.

#lthesep12 week 3

using students’ expertise

3. What would I do differently?

I think I was overly ambitious. I had too much stuff to go through with my students and while I make the stuff available in advance, I don’t really know how many look at the resources… My plan for change is to do less in class and provide opportunities to deepen our dialogue and conversation around specific issues students might have. So, thinking now already about week 5, as week 4 is our game ;), I decided to change the action learning set activity and turn into into a flipped classroom activity in preparation for week 5. So the wiki in Blackboard has been updated and I am going to warn my students next week what they need to do in preparation for our week 5 session. We are ready to edit wikipedia!!! PGCAP username and password now available too. This will be interesting, I think and I would like to capture their thoughts on this experience. So, the plan is also to invite them to reflect in their portfolios about week 5, before, during and after. But, I am already now running away with my thoughts from week 3… is this because I want to forget, or is this because I have processed my thoughts about week 3 and am ready to move on?

Snippets from my feedback conversation with Frances

Immediately after everybody left the classroom, we had a relaxed conversation about the observed part of the session. I was really interested to find out what Frances thought and was happy that she recognised that specific aspects of the session worked really well. I was pleased that she found that the introduction to the concept of constructive alignment through an activity worked really well and I would agree with this.

#lthesep12 week 3

explaining constructive alignment through Penny’s experience

Constructive alignment when introduced on a slide disconnected from practice, completely de-contextualised can be tricky to understand. I have seen this happening in previous cohorts and students do struggle with this. However, I tried a different approach this time and I think it did work well as the theory was constructed through a practice-based activity. As constructive alignment is one of these fundamental concepts we need to crap as teachers to that we can truly make sense of teaching and learning and help our students to learn, this is a ………………  …………….. and I am leaving the blanks here, hoping that one of my students who will read this is able to recognise about what I am talking and fill the cap.

#lthesep12 week 3

constructing, de-constructing theory

Frances also noted that I gave my students to differ and co-construct their own theory. However, she noticed that they were reluctant to do so. I feel that it is indeed very important to be critical of what we read and not think that what is in a book must be right! What is right and what is wrong? Is there such a thing? A book, a theory will focus on a specific perspective. We will add our perspective. Of course in order to crtique something, we need to be able to understand first (but what does understanding really mean????) but we also need to make sense of our own thoughts and feel that it is ok to disagree with something and somebody. This is what I am trying to achieve and perhaps it didn’t work. I will keep trying and I will try different approaches. I think in week 5 we will have an opportunity to critique learning theories and perhaps create our own personalised learning theory. I am going to give this a go.

It was also very interesting that Frances noticed that some of the students might have been tired and this is something my previous peer observer also noticed. The session lasts for 3 hours and a lot of action and interaction are happening. Are my students really tired? Well, they could be, as they are the ones doing all the hard work. But what can I do? I guess, I could shorten the session and make it last for 2 hours and the remaining hour, students could focus on working in a more organic way with their students. I am actually going to ask them if this is something they would like to trial.

Overall, I felt that Frances’ comments were contructive and very helpful. I am pleased she could make it and also recorded some snippets, which I need to watch again and identify if any of them could be useful for others. It still feels hard to watch myself teaching. I don’t like my voice, how I move etc. etc. but I am  not going to repeat myself… these thoughts have all been captured in my previous observation.

Thank you Frances for making the time to observe me and your valuable feedback! A big thank you to my students who helped me in the early hours of Tuesday morning and put together a plan B and thank you of course to all my students who experimented with me during this session 😉

Ok, that is it for now. As mentioned before, all my sessions are open. If anybody would like to observe me teaching, get in touch and come along.

Next week it will be about creativity in learning and teaching. The concepts are introduced through playing a game that has elements of experiential and problem-based learning. Remember to bring your £3 spending money with you, ok? See you in Manchester City Centre on Tuesday at 9am. Can’t wait!

OMG or starting a PhD in open learning #phdchat cc @smythkrs

What am I doing? Isn’t my life already full? Where on earth will I find the time needed for this? Will my family forget about me completely? Will my kids forget that they have a mummy? Will I feel guilty all the time? How will I manage? How will we manage?

Under a Tall Mountain


All I see is this massive mountain in front of me. Will I ever get there? I am afraid of heights… my inner passion and determination have always been my drive to move forwards, despite the difficulties. I picked myself up again and again, but will I be able to do this? There is a shadow hanging over me… an unfinished PhD and 80,000 words under my bed. Long and painful story. Let’s move on!

Yes, a few days ago, I finally received confirmation that I can start this PhD project.

I have been flirting with the idea for some years now while doing my second Masters qualification in Blended and Online Education at Edinburgh Napier University. Ok, I better say now what it will be about. Well, the plan is to investigate open learning in the context of Academic Development and identify how we can enhance the learner experience, increase motivation and successful completion. I have been a learner myself on the CMC11 and the MOOCMOOC, both MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and I ran my own little pilot as an open course organiser about 2 years ago. The experience I gained and the lessons learned from being a MOOC learner and an open course organiser enabled me to experience learning from different perspectives. I soon realised the potential but also came face-to-face with the problems and while, I am sure I won’t be able to solve them all, I would like to hope that I will be able to make a small contribution in the area of open learning.

Not sure how much or how little I could say here and if it is appropriate to make my proposal available. I guess, this is something I need to discuss with my supervisor.


is it ok to share it all from the beginning…

Already thinking about the thesis. Too early? Thinking about creating a template, so that I am organised from the beginning. Also I must do something about a referencing system. Not used Endnote but people keep mentioning it. Must check! 80,000 words, words that I will put together bit by bit, day by day, night by night… OMG – this sounds a lot and is a lot! 200 a day? 80,000 divided by 200 equals 400 days. I am borrowing this approach from one of my previous lives when I used to be a translator for publishing houses. Setting a realistic some goal that is achievable, gives us satisfacion and the will to do a bit more. This is exactly what happens when I was translating books, some of them quite massive! Three pages a day and when I felt that I still had some energy in my batteries, I kept going. When I was tired and my brain stopped working I stopped and returned fresh the following day while I was still pleased that I had reached my daily target. So, if I follow this simplistic strategy now doing a PhD, it will only take me 400 days to write it. I did my calculations you see. But is is not about the writing is it? It is about the discoveries I will be making along the Way, I hope. The unwriting and rewriting, the messiness, the chaos, making sense of my own ideas and these of others. The experimentation! The fun part? But also literature, some probably extremely complicated and complex etc. etc.

The questions that zoom around in my head at the moment are: Can I do this? Can I do this well and create something new and of value? There is only one way to find out!


is my passion for open learning strong enough…

I would like to start blogging about this PhD project. But I have no idea if I really will be able to reflect regularly… I think blogging will help me capture some of my reflections and share them with others. Hopefully, this way, I won’t feel that lonely and lost in my research. Hopefully, somebody will read what I write and comment. Hopefully, I will find other researchers to connect with. To connect thinking and ideas. Hopefully, I will still love open learning when I finish this project… hopefully.

#lthesep12 week 2 second go @pgcap

Well, I am not sure this is the right time and it actually somehow feels wrong but I am going to give it another go as my previous reflection on week 2 was a bit messy as I found it difficult to keep my mind focused when I was putting it together. Would it have been best not to reflect at all then and wait? I am not sure as I did feel that I wanted to capture my thoughts and emotions at the time, so it didn’t feel forced… and while I am starting fresh here, I had a quick look at my previous reflection linked to week 2 and can now more clearly see how different thoughts, disconnected, melted into one. As I feel that I have left the reflection about week 2 session incomplete, I would like to try and focus one more time here. Looking at the pictures we took last week helped me remember which does proove that images can trigger memories and bring experiences back to life.

Ok, let’s give it another go. Week 2 was about Good teaching in HE, developing reflective skills and peer observations. I have to say that I was really proud of all my students and their current knowledge and understanding of how good teaching looks like. I am pleased that the activity we did around identifying good teaching features worked really well and enabled all students to contribute their ideas and collectively create the bigger picture. The idea at the beginning was to group students in their action learning sets… I forgot that completely and was reminded by my slides… oops. it was however too late and I left the groups as they had been formed organically. I think it worked but I do need to remember next week to give students the opportunity to work with their learning set members too.

1. How did I feel?

Pleased and proud with what we have achieved already as a group thanks to the openness of my students.Also very pleased with the progress we are making and how students engage in the collaborative tasks. The exchanges are rich and learning is happening in the classroom as well. IT was lovely to see how students embraced the activity around Good teaching practice in HE and putting Top Tips for Peer Observarions together.

Observation tips

LTHESep12 Top Peer Observation Tips

Also concerned that some are behind with their portfolios. I think I mentioned that last week as well. Well, after offering another 2 sets of portfolio workshops, I think there are still about 50% of students with no portfolios… this is what worries me… still, our colleagues from TMC are not on Blackboard. I understand that they have  been registered and I have tried to add them to Blackboard but the system does not find their names yet. This is extremely frustrating as I am trying to offer an inclusive learning experience for all and this is impossible at the moment. Calls to follow @pgcap on Twitter and the PGCAP news blog have not brought colleagues closer, which is also a shame.

2. What did I learn?

I learnt that learning in collaboration can be very powerful. Also, when students get to know each other, they do open up. Stydents are all interested in personal stories and sharing these when they feel safe. Opening up happened as the session progressed and this was especially evident during the “Open your heart” activity.

LTHESep12 week 2

opening our hearts

While initially I asked everybody to capture their reflections and not share them with anybody else, when I finished the questions, I asked everybody to stick their heart at the back of the door for everybody to see. Nobody did! Nobody was ready for this. The door was the world. However, what students said and did is that they would feel ok to share with others around their table. This was wonderful and the first step towards opening up in a safe environment. Not everybody contributed their stories to start with but progressively, as some made a start, others felt also keen to share their stories. It was wonderful to experience the interest students had in listening to each other stories and providing help, support and commenting. Peer support in action. Why can we not do this when we reflect on our teaching practice? Why is it so hard to find somebody who would love to hear our stories we experience in the classroom and share ideas? It can’t be that hard!

LTHESep12 week 2

it is developing in our classroom as well

3. What would I do differently?

The ballgame around the module guide (I have to admit that I forgot all about it until I saw the pictures again!) didn’t really work this time, as I understood that not many had read the module guide… maybe my instructions were not clear what this game was all about… also possible. I feel that it is important that students read the module guide carefully before the start of a module or at the start of a module and come to class with questions they have. I have now to assume that students…

  • understood everything and have no questions
  • didn’t want to ask any questions
  • didn’t read the module guide
  • felt embarassed to ask questions or
  • didn’t understand what they had to do

Too many slides. I felt that they got in a way a lot during this session and were not really needed, at least some of them.  Pleased that I ignored them when we discussed peer observations and I think it actually worked much better without them.

So, I think actually next time I offer this session, I would try less is more or no slides at all. Maybe just some bright pictures with a message that would help me remember the plan? Also possible.

Looking ahead
I will be observed by Frances Bell on Tuesday. I have to say that I am nervous and as the day comes closer, I feel even more nervous and at the moment I can’t even think what my plan is and what I will be doing with my class. I am ready but as everybody else who is observed, I want to do a good job. But I don’t just want to do a good job because I am observed. Teachers should do a good job all the time and not just because they are observed. So, I will just be me, do the things I do and hopefully it will work. There will be some improvisation in there too, there usually ise… Well, some of it might not work so well but we will see and find out after the observation. Usually teachers also know what works and what doesn’t.

I have given Frances access to my pre-observation info and hope that I will feel relaxed when she is there… wish me good luck. Week 3 looking at planning sessions, modules and programmes.

#lthesep12 week 2 reflections or not @pgcap


sit down and reflect, not on your own

don't play hide and seek with yourself

why hide?


taste, feel, see, listen, smell – experience!


the world is not going to fall on you


love what you do and do what you love – learn to love and love learning


Open your window! Open your eyes! Open your mind!


Don’t give up! Go for it!

Warning! When I started this photostory, I was thinking about our LTHE session. Then something happened and thoughts about the session started mixing up with other recent events, episodes and conversations and my story started taking me to different places. My messy thoughts were guiding me to capture what you see here and the messages that I try to express through the images and captions. Looking at it now, I am not sure if this is even remotely connected with our session and will try at the end of the week again to put something more focused together. In a way, I think the story works at different levels for me. How about you? What are you taking away from this story? Can you see anything that is somehow linked to our Tuesday session?

pre-observation data for #LTHESep12 week 3 to be observed by Frances Bell @francesbell

Pre-observation Form

Observer’s Name Frances Bell

 Date & Time
9 November, approx arriving at 11am

Pankhurst Room, Faraday House, University of Salford

 Module & Session title Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE module) /
introduction to designing sessions, modules, courses

 Number of learners  17


This is week 3 of the LTHE module. This group is really diverse. We have colleagues from around the university and from The Manchester College. Among the students are colleagues who have some teaching experience and others who are completely new to teaching. One thing I would like to add is that we have students from different disciplines in this cohort. Many are from Media this time. All are lovely people and seem, so far, positive, about the module. There are some issues still with accessing Blackboard, especially for our colleagues from TMC, which is very unfortunately. However, I am providing resources and opportunities to engage using social media (our PGCAP news blog and Twitter). These have not been used widely… unfortunately. Also, there seem to be issues with time tables and finding time to do the module. I have noticed that some ‘disappear’ before the end of the session and this is worrying me. Also a number of students haven’t created their portfolios yet. I worry a lot about this, as the assessment of this modules is based on the portfolio which should be developed during the module. A number of portfolio sessions have been organised, unfortunately the uptake was small. Never had that problem before… everybody seems busy with other things…

Learning outcomes to be achieved during the session

 By the end of the session, students attending and engaging in the session will have had the opportunity to:

•discuss and critically evaluate own design process and approaches used

•explore innovative student-centred methods and active learning approaches when planning lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials to maximise engagement
•develop a better understanding of technology-enhanced curriculum design processes and explore applications in own context

Session outline

This session will be highly participatory (like all my sessions ;). A draft plan is ready. We will start exploring the learning environment first through an activity which I don’t want to reveal here for obvious reasons. The activity should make students think about being a student and how it feels to learn in a specific environment and what we teachers can do to make this environment more welcoming and effective for learning. 

We will then progress into finding out how everybody plans sessions at the moment. We will be able to identify current strengths and areas for development and shift-priorities (hopefully!). We will capture our ideas using a mindmapping tool to which everybody will contribute. This will be lead by two students.

Intended Learning Outcomes, what these are and how they help us shape our sessions/modules as well as constructive alignment will be discussed and debated and experiences shared before having a short break.

In the second part students will work in action learning sets (I must remember to re-arrange everybody!) and create a session plan for a specific cookery session based on a series of parameters. Findings will be shared and evaluated by other groups.

Now writing all this, feels already too much… am I over planning? I might but I prefer to have planned for more and use activities depending on how it goes in class. I might therefore skip one or the other activity to move on to what the class finds useful and stimulating.

We will progress to module and course design but will only skim the surface… if time allows. Students will be asked to bring in a module guide and/or programme handbook to critique in action learning sets. And also have a conversation around Quality Assurance and Enhancement of modules and programmes and related processes as well as threshold concepts.


Modelling collaborative learning. Challenging existing ideas and enable students to re-think practices. Working in groups throughout. Using low-tech and digital resources, including an electronic mindmap at the beginning of the session. Nobody will be able to hide and not participate 😉 Active and activity based learning in groups. Also opportunities for individual tasks and reflection as well as peer learning. The plan is to facilitate learning and take into account what students already know (this is very important to me). I would like to bring their current knowledge and understandig to the table and help them extend this further, through questioning and challenging current beliefs and approaches. Feedback will be provided throughout, probably verbally bit it won’t just come from me. Peer-to-peer feedback will be a feature of this session.

Are there any aspects of the session you would like the observer to focus on?

  • Group work
  • Use of resources
  • Providing feedback and stretching students through questioning

Message to observer

Hi Frances,

I am looking forward to seeing you in class on Tuesday. There will be a chair for you when you arrive and a camcorder. Please record short snippets that I can use to reflect on the session afterwards and share with my students. Also, it would be useful to organise a feedback session to discuss the observation. Last semester we did this in class immediately after the observation. There were a lots of benefits for the students to do this. However, I felt that I needed some time first to reflect on what happened. I am happy to go with what you suggest and what the students would find useful. We could also record our feedback conversation and then make available to all.

Students have been informed about your visit and I will introduce you when you arrive.

Further info about the LTHESep12 group so far are available at

The presentation will be added to this form as soon as possible.

If you need anything else in advance of the session, please let me know.

Thanks again and see you on Tuesday.


ps. A bit nervous now… ;(((