#ILTA192 week 4… inclusion and trust

This was a high energy session, with unlimited laughter, a plethora of diverse ideas and questions, yes, more questions, loads of them, explorations but also discoveries.

After we closed the feedback loop from last week and I used the image I created and added to week 3 about how I see things in learning and teaching, linking to theories, I think we had a few eureka moments that helped us get over some of the challenges we may have experienced in the previous weeks. I think colleagues have now a better understanding why I do things the way I do them but also got a better flavour of how some of the learning theories and teaching theories link to what I do and why.


All noted. Digesting and making informed changes, as discussed together. Image source

We were in the fresh air, colleagues had the opportunity to focus in on how to make their forthcoming microteach session more inclusive and make it stick. It was about inclusion this week. Colleagues were invited to read the Moodle resources, and explore further the work of Prof. Christine Hockings and Prof. Jutta Treviranus in this area (you may find the following interview with Jutta useful. Click here). Two colleagues were invited to create a quiz that we could use at the beginning of the session to recap the basics about inclusion. Again, modelling what students could be doing as they would have the opportunity to learn so much more through putting the quiz together themselves > Learning through making in action.

Working with one of their peers from another discipline seemed to work well as it increased diversity in perspectives but also helped identify commonalities and support each other in coming up with a creative idea that would be used.

Organising the task and seeing colleagues engage is always such a privilege. And the ideas are always original and surprising. Colleagues were asked at the end to vote for their favourite ideas based on specific criteria they had to formulate. After the task… exactly, I know. But I wanted them to experience exactly that and link to our next session too which is about assessment and feedback… But also what was useful is to experience creating the criteria as students and then carrying out peer-to-peer assessment using an approach they put together, with dots and stars. I didn’t get involved at all. Just provided the opportunity and some stickers (stickers have become popular, I think, and they are always fun, versatile and reliable).

Below, I am capturing my learning from this activity using photographs and captions.


It does open. We can look outside and also be outside. Learning happens everywhere. Image source


Ups and down but being with somebody can make a real difference, also help us create new tracks… move beyond the known… what we see. Image source

What is in your teaching basket? Is empty an option? Image source


Taking off… together. Image source


Is anything possible without it? Image source

See you next time for our last session. You will be in the driving seat.


#ILTA192 week 3 Questions?

I just knew this would be a challenging session and I didn’t listen to my own suggestion. I think I failed to bring clarity which I hoped would come through engaging everybody through questioning and a variety of activities. It was too much and perhaps disorientated some. The mid term term feedback may also indicate this as so far, I have been avoiding to give answers but use questioning to get responses from the class. Even if they are ambiguous, I was hoping that these would generate an appetite for further exploration outside the classroom depending on own questions and interests. I hope this can still happen.
The mid-term feedback, not all managed to provide a response as we did this at the end of the session and some had to leave, generated the below. Additional comments were added at the beginning of week 4.

I thought to use Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development…


Responses from week 3 and 4

And then also the stop, start, continue strategy…


with additions in week 4

I ask so many questions. I didn’t know what to think about this initially and started blaming myself that I do use far too many questions in my teaching. But then I wanted to come to the root of this approach and perhaps I should have shared this in week one. I think I should have done this together with my creativity manifesto,when I invited my colleagues to think about their educational autobiography and their learning and teaching philosophy as who we are defines what we do, how and why. But the comment doesn’t say I ask “too many questions”…

As I said earlier, I wanted to better understand after the session my own position and why I do things the way I do them. I reached out to some basic concepts within a range of learning theories which I feel provide some insights into what I do, how and why. While there are many many learning theories, older and newer ones, what does help do some kind of sorting depending on relevance or usability depending on what type of teaching approaches we are using in a particular situation. I also linked back to key theories of teaching to illustrate the links see that directly relate to my practice. I am adding below my visual representation. I can see now, how something like this would be useful to share at the beginning of a programme like ours. This would provide a clearer explanation and the rationale for why I do things the way we I do them and help our colleagues to get taste of how some of the theories live within us and define who we are, what we do and why. It would help also help them to start synthesising their own visualisation around learning and teaching.

cn_pic_learning and teaching theories

A quick visualisation of my learning and teaching world… dynamic and evolving

We were lucky. The sun was shining. It was too nice and too warm to stay in the room so we went in the park. We could have gone much earlier, maybe even spent the whole session there. It could have been more productive and focused as the activities we did to model Problem-Based Learning would have worked better if used for longer. Looking back now, I do feel that this activity could form the basis of the whole session and I didn’t really need much else. It is definitely something to consider for next week. All I needed would a link from reflection and learning theories to approach to teaching and then invite colleagues to explore some of these using the scenarios. What I feel would help is a longer unit. The team is planning to address this in the near future and I hope that there will be more time and space to engage colleagues in a wider range of experiences and approaches and in more depth so that they can consider some of these for their own practice.

Looking forward to week 4 in the centre of Manchester.

#ILTA192 week 2 Reflective habits and theories?


Theories… where do  they come from? Image source

There are no guarantees when we try something different that it will work, but we do need to trust the process and others but also ourselves. I did and voila. Our padlet filled with a wide range of contributions (see post linked to week 1). The responses may have come in last minute, most of them, and created a challenge to read these in advance of the session (yes, it was a challenge), but they did come in. When I saw all the responses my face lid up and I was so so happy that I felt the need to share my happiness with a colleague. And I did. The experiment did work and as a group we decided, well it was my students idea, to swap papers and read another one from the same issue. This time discussing it face-to-face just before we start our session three. Amazing! Who said we can’t engage our colleagues in academic literature around learning and teaching? I think the appetite is there. We just need to find a hook to make this work. There will be multiple hooks, I am sure. And different things will work for different people.the “ripping the journal approach” seemed to have worked in this case.

This week we explored reflection and learning theories. Well, we did spent most of the time discussing and critiquing reflection and much less on learning theories. Always tricky… always. As theories themselves are decontextualised. My attempt to contextualise them was through the use of images, visual triggers, but also an activity to start working on the microteach session plan. While the groups did make some progress, I felt the activity did not work well. Maybe it didn’t work at all. It required students to have some knowledge already of the key learning theories. And while most of these were in Moodle and we provide related resources, I wasn’t sure how many had engaged with these in advance of the class. Perhaps I should really be more explicit in how the resources in Moodle could be used in preparation for a class. So there was a gap with the learning theories that I think did not let us progress as much or as deeply as I wished. Looking back now, I could have modeled more the key approaches or theories and turn them into a role play asking students to identify the theory used each time, or the theories that underpinned a specific approach as it is a mix, not a clear cut. Why didn’t I think about this earlier? In the past, I have done all kinds of different things, even editing specific Wikipedia pages, entries linked to specific learning theories, and we write about it in a paper published with a colleague on that course (Nerantzi, C. and Hannaford, L. (2016) Flipping the classroom using teams. A case study from Academic Development, in: Whatley, J. and Nerantzi, C. (eds.) (2016) Teaching with Team Projects in Higher Education, Santa Rosa, CA: Informing Science Press, pp. 119-130).

My plan now is to develop a new activity that could be used in a future class and maybe there is an opportunity to build elements of this into the remaining sessions. I think that would be good and useful. Maybe next time round I could model in each session at least two different approaches. I will need to think about it more to come up with a plan that would work. For now, in session 3 I will integrate an element about two contrasting learning theories using related teaching and learning approaches. Let’s see what happens.

Everybody says they want creativity and innovation but when we get it we often regret it as it is messy, experimental and will generate resistance. It is also often stopped before it happens. Are innovation and creativity just buzzwords? Within a community, there is trust. Trust in each other, trust in self, trust in the process and we are more tolerant and open to alternative approaches, alternative viewpoints, alternative ideas and processes. If there is no trust,there is very little we can do… by coincidence I just read the following article linked to recent research about engagement. And while it is not linked to learning and teaching, I can see parallels and a study like this in our context would be extremely useful. My own research with Barbara Thomas, into pedagogic innovation (#pin), paper forthcoming, does show that the individual is the driver for innovation, that the individuals is seeking the collaboration with others and welcomes and seeks the support of their institution.

Hopefully my colleagues and students understood that reflection is something we do naturally and continuously. It is not an add-on or a bold-on at the end… the true value of reflection is that we can step back and step outside our own experiences, critique these and engage in conversation with others to make sense of our experiences and identify a good way forward for us and others. Reflection is not a deficit model for learning and development. It gives us rich opportunities to interrogate practice, celebrate achievements and be positive about the future. Nothing and nobody is perfect.

See you all very soon for our week 3 session. I think I have overplanned (again) and I may ask you to help me to decide what to do in class and what to leave out. Yes, I will give you some choice and will decide what we do 😉 Are you ready for this?

I hope the sun will be shining tomorrow…

#ILTA192 week 1 can we make learning sticky…


The fireworks of learning and teaching! Source

I always feel nervous when I start working with a new group. Is there anybody who doesn’t? It is, I think worse, at the beginning of the academic year, because of the longer gap. I often ask myself then “Can I still do this? Can I still do this well and with passion?” We are in term three now so these feelings were not as strong as they would have been after a summer break… I have to admit and I have been teaching in the previous terms. Looking back at the last almost six years, I have been teaching every term, providing feedback, assessing work and marking.  Every term? Do I feel exhausted? I don’t think so. Teaching gives me fresh energy. During the last term I was also team-teaching on a postgraduate unit with a colleague in Nutritional Sciences with my colleague Haleh Moravej. Not my specialism at all. I actually know very little about nutrition and only from an healthy eater perspective. I have to say that I loved that experience as it was a completely new area for me. It was so exciting and I had the opportunity to work very closely with a peer in the faculty and our students. Yes, they were our students. This is how we both felt and we are currently writing this team-teaching experience up to be shared more widely, hoping others will consider this approach of teaching. Teaching students in the faculty is important for us academic developers. We don’t always have that opportunity. We often create it ourselves. For example, when I was at Salford, I used to teach German. It was so refreshing and useful. Especially as when teaching on our PGCAP I could more fully participate in the discussions about students with my peers and also share my own first hand experiences with them.

Ok, back to the now. ILTA is our first unit on the PgCert. It stands for Introduction to Learning, Teaching and Assessment. A very important unit for me. If not the most important one. We get colleagues from across the university in different role, academic and professional services and sometimes colleagues from other institutions as well. Many are new to teaching in HE, others have been doing it for a while or a bit longer even, others have to do the unit and the PgCert as it is part of their probation requirements, others come on their own as they want the qualification and the learning and development that comes with it.  It is that diversity of people who come together that can make it a rich experience and can create lasting relationships. I have been teaching this unit since arriving at ManMet in Oct 13 and every time it is a unique experience with its ups and downs, of course. Often I have wished it to be longer… When I was working at Salford (ok, going back in time again), I was the PGCAP programme leader there working with a small team of academic developers and learning technologists. I was known as the PGCAP lady… and my students were the disruptive troops in a nice way and we often worked directly with the then PVC Academic and the VC. We really did disrupt practices but with a purpose. We had a 30 credit core unit and that really worked well in creating a sense of community. I felt hat it made a real difference to how colleagues engaged, the experimentation that we did together (even some research! and disseminated further through conferences and publications). Here at ManMet, we are planning for changes in this direction now, which is very encouraging.

So, in our first session, I think I was upbeat (music always helps and I like playing music when students enter the room but also for me while I set up). I felt excited. It was a fresh start for all of us and I was looking forward to meeting everybody. Colleagues, who are now also my students, were smiling when they arrived and many were there early. That was a good sign, I thought 😉

I think I did manage to draw (at least some of) my colleagues in, to create an atmosphere to open up and to start thinking about learning and teaching in different ways. We introduced the unit, talked a lot of about learning outcomes and constructive alignment and the assessment requirements. I had far too many slides!!! Far too many. Will I ever learn? I just get excited with things I can do in the classroom but then I do often run out of time. Anyway.

Having an open mind in such courses, PgCert courses, is really important but also to trust in the process, what we do and how. But also trust each other. If my colleagues don’t trust the process, the group and don’t trust me, I am not sure we can go far. There will be resistance, of course, there will be (not always, of course) as some of the approaches  modeled are less frequently used… but if we are in this together, we do become more tolerant and open to new ideas, a course does this much better than a workshop, and a longer course does this better than a short course. My own experience and research has shown this.

So, the plan was to help colleagues feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time and engage with perhaps less used learning and teaching approaches that hopefully would stimulate some new thinking, unthinking and re-thinking but also action.  Yes, from the very first session. There is no point waiting for it to happen later. The best time is now! Professor Phil Race talks about In at the deep end. I just love that phrase! BTW, I learnt to swim, not by watching videos or following  instructions, I actually had to jump into the deep end of the pool literary… the whole class did. I have to admit that it was a scary experience and I did go at the back of the queue. But in the end I did it. Everybody did.

For me it is important to help my colleagues to immerse themselves into something that is different. Something they don’t do already. Something that makes them think more deeply about what they do, could do and may do in the future in their teaching and supporting students’ learning. I want to help them boost their confidence in teaching and be more aware of learning itself, the process and their learners and how to create varied, inclusive stimulating and exciting learning opportunities. Otherwise what would be the point of academic development? I often ask myself that question. And yes, while it is also about benchmarking and effective practice and raising the quality of teaching across the institution and getting more colleagues qualified, our courses also provide a fantastic opportunity to go beyond the minimum expectations. Nurturing creativity and innovation in teaching is so important and have a real potential to lead to transformation, of practitioners, their practice but also lead to transformative learning within and beyond students’ time at university and beyond! But I am not a bystander. I am part of the process, I am also immersed in it and I am learning with and from my colleagues too. I challenge and am challenged. And I am exposed. I practise at the edge and this is often forgotten… I don’t play it safe and yes, there are risks. I am far to curious to explore, to have adventures and make surprising discoveries with my colleagues that will all help us move forward… to not practise this way…

We got a wide range of experiences in the group and the discussions and debates started from very early on. What is often missing from these courses (and external examiners often comment on this) is the critical engagement with the literature. I wanted to change this. I have tried all kinds of approaches in the past… I had no idea if it (it= I will come to this in a moment) would work but I wanted to give it a go. I had used a variation of this approach in another PgCert course and in workshops. The idea came from Steve  Outram. At the time we were both working on an HEA Change Academy project at Lincoln University and he mentioned it in one of the sessions he led. Ok, but what did I do? I ripped an academic journal apart, a physical copy of it and shared an article with each colleague in the group. But why on earth did I rip a journal apart? I suspect that some of my colleagues were shocked when it happened in front of their eyes. I thought that the act of ripping a journal apart in itself will be memorable. But then also everybody had that article in their possession. No need to read an email, download it, print it etc. Could this help colleagues engage with it? To read it, to start immersing themselves into the academic literature around learning and teaching in HE, to start familiarising themselves with a new subject area and its terminology? However, there was no guarantee that it would work. But the potential that it would was huge, for me at least so I experimented with this approach.

Final notes: I still have that curiosity to experiment, play with ideas, surprise others and do the unexpected. I need to stay more focused but how can I do this with all that excitement that feeds my imagination and my actions? I am opening this up to my colleagues and students and hope we can engage in a conversation around our shared experiences.

I can only be me. I only want to be me. Read here what is important to me.

Let’s see what happens in week 2.