Students in a million nomination @pgcap #lthejan12

Just wanted to let you know that I submitted the following for the Student(s) in a Million Award

A nation-wide hunt to find and reward the most inspiring students of 2012

I love this cohort, every single student and all of them together! Anne, Ben, Carena, Carlo, Cheryl, Craig, Rania, Gemma, Jason, Jialiang, Jon, Kevin, Liz, Mohan, Oliver, Philip, Becci, Rosie, Sarah and Stanko! These students embraced creativity and innovation, threw themselves into the unknown, took risks, experimented actively and made valuable discoveries during their learning journey which in many cases lead to a shift in thinking, a shift in behaviours, a shift in beliefs and practices. The changes are fundamental and the impact massive! I will put this into context so that you understand.

My name is Chrissi (Nerantzi) and I am the programme leader of the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) at the University of Salford, which is offered to all academics and other professionals who support learning at the university. So all our students who join the programme to develop as teachers in Higher Education (HE) and gain a recognised teaching qualification in HE are actually teachers. Who says teachers are only teachers? We teachers need to model learning –we need to practise what we preach! Learning is not an embarrassment, and being a student is definitely something to be proud of. This group of students who are also teachers inspired me to continue my mission and made me proud, many times during the module. I can’t wait to hear their next success stories.

My nomination for the one in a million is for all my students on cohort 4 who recently completed the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE) module of the PGCAP programme. The whole group showed real commitment to learning, overcame struggles with the theory, battled with the technology, confronted creativity and most importantly, through their engagement, they proved that they truly cared about their own students. They were keen to be experimental, keen to be creative, keen to provide rich and stimulating learning experiences to their students – and they did it all really well!!! My students had a lot of fun learning, played games, and immersed themselves into less common learning and teaching approaches. We were a learning community and developed trust. The students stuck together and they supported each other. They learned with and from each other. Cross-disciplinary partnerships and collaborations were formed. Sharing of ideas and good practice happened organically. These students broke out of their silos, practised thinking and teaching outside-the-box and recognised the value in connecting with colleagues from other disciplines and professional areas. These students have become proper innovators for life! Developing and growing progressively before my eyes. I witnessed it through observing them teaching, through learning conversations we had in and outside the classroom, through their reflections in their electronic portfolios and research they carried out. I can’t stop smiling writing all these wonderful things about my students and feel so proud about what they have achieved.

This group of PGCAP students is a real inspiration for future students on the programme but also for their own students and all students and they deserve a formal recognition from the wider learning community for all their hard, innovative and inspirational work. These students are also an inspiration for me! They gave me the confidence to believe that teacher education can make a real difference, especially if we challenge our own habits and beliefs, if we have an open mind and are willing to take risks and actively experiment.

These teachers who are students on the PGCAP programme drive change and have the will, the commitment and the creative energy to transform learning and teaching in their classrooms into stimulating and valuable experiences. Voting for my students means voting for all students who deserve excellent teachers. My students are definitely one in a million!

Snippets from their journey can be found at

  • Flickr

Cohort 4 in pictures

  • Youtube

Embracing creative teaching

Embracing peer observations

Embracing the value of the eportfolio

Embacing the professional discussion

Portfolio samples

Gemma’s portfolio at

Becci’s portfolio at

Cheryl’s portfolio at

some thoughts and reflections linked to our eAssessment webinar #eass12

eAssessment Scotland webinar

this is my PC which I couldn’t use because of my silly headsets that didn’t want to work…

Yesterday, we, Dr. Chris Smith a former colleague at the University of Salford, Craig Despard, a current student on the PGCAP programme and I shared our social media eportfolio assessment approach at the eAssessment Scotland 12 Conference as part of the online programme.

Further clips about our e-portfolio are available here
It was a real privilige to be involved in such an exciting and innovative conference and we had a rich conversation about using social media to build portfolios with colleagues who asked us loads of interesting and challenging questions that made us think. Which is a great! We had the opportunity to reflect on the finer details of our intervention and identify further opportunities to make it even more effective for future cohorts.

Our webinar was well received and we were 40 participants in total (later we were invited to participate in a RadioEduTalk show in the evening, the recording is available at (our conversation starts 45min into this recording), including us and our conference facilitator. The webinar has been recorded (and I dread the moment when I will watch it…  still feeling very strange when listening to myself and seeing myself and hearing my own voice). I think though that the recording will be a useful resource for our programme and provide some details to future students why we are doing what we are doing and how it is working. We are of course, in constact conversation with our students and have taken their ideas and suggestions on board so far and will continue to do so.

During the webinar we shared some sample e-portfolios and I am including the links here as well for your information.

portfolios from current students on the programme

Craig Despard at

Rebecca Jackson at

Dr. Gemma Lace-Costigan

a complete portfolio from an alumni

Neil Currie (Neil kindly made all his feedback, including summative feedback available to the public. So that you can get a rich flavour of all the feedback and conversations we had throughout the module.

Yes, we are very transparent. Feedback is not locked away. All formative feedback is openly shared and accessible to everybody who has access to the e-portfolio. Actually we never said to anybody that the formative feedback should be private or public. It seemed to be normal that they would keep it public, which is really encouraging for us tutors and of real value for all our students since all students would be able to access tutor and peer feedback provided. So learning through feedback provided to others is also enabled and there is evidence that students do read the feedback tutors and peers provide to their peers. Ok, here is Neil’s e-portfolio

During the webinar questions were asked about

  • why we picked the specific platform
  • privacy
  • how assessment and marking works
  • impact on students’ own practices
  • if the style, organisation and creativity are included in the assessment criteria
  • how feedback works

As soon as the recording is available, it will be added here.

We didn’t really focus very much on the details of our feedback approach but disussed more generally the assessment approach and I am therefore including a link to a clip about the feedback we provide and what I feel is important and why. This can also be found within the list of clips linked to our e-portfolios.

eAssessment Scotland Conference

in full flow, using Cristina’s double screen PC, yeh, the headset worked!!!

Book chapter linked to this work
Smith, C and Nerantzi, C (in print) ePortfolios: Assessment as learning using social media, Waxmann publishers, series ”Gesellschaft for Medien in der Wissenschaft” (Association for Media in Science,

a(nother) visual experiment (draft, comments are very welcome)

Wow, 2 months now without blogging. How did that happen? And while I now feel the need to share some recent reflections, I feel a bit rusty and my thoughts are random and messy. Can I put some kind of order and present them in a way that will help me connect with others and start a conversation about some of the issues I would like to explore here?

I just returned from my holidays in Greece and feel the need to reflect on me sharing my Greece in images using social media through my phone during my stay there. I have been experimenting with images before and created a series of photovoices but also use them regularly in my teaching and learning. I have to say that it wasn’t a planned act, more an idea that popped into my head and when I started, I felt the need to continue until the end. It started feeling like a visual story, so I gave it a beginning, a middle and an end.

I am sharing here my thoughts about this experience and would very much welcome your views on this as well. People who know me will say that I never stop working… and will also say that I worked through my holidays… but if you love what you do, whatever you do, doesn’t feel like work… that is my answer. Also, since I have been active on Facebook and instagram, some might say that I wasn’t really away… not disconnected. And if this is the case, has connectivity made some of us more needy to seek and maintain the connections? Are we hungry for communication, non-stop communication? Do we need this dialogue all the time? Is this something we expect? Is this actually good for us? Have we become more impatient? Do we want everything now? Is it because we can share somethig when it happens, when we feel it, when it is fresh, that we want to share our happiness, sadness or anger with others? These are all fascinating questions and useful to explore in a learning and teaching context but also more widely.

Ok, let’s start. My iPhone was always in my pocket or not far away and the charger too! An extra continental adapter was also with me all the time.

Using the iPhone

  • the phone size is great when travelling. Fits in every pocket in every bag. This can also be a bad thing especially for women who tend to use massive bags… Pleased I have a protective cover on the screen. Still the scratches are there. Not sure if some of them are on the glass too… haven’t replaced the cover… maybe I should to find out especially since I dropped it ones on the tarmac… but it didn’t break. I was lucky!!!
  • the screen feels tiny when you use the phone all the time. Pictures are ok but the text can be a nightmare (I probably also need reading glasses!!! and had to get myself a pair…) :  The letters are harder to read when my eyes are tired and using the iPhone tires them out faster, I think. It would be good if the size of letters could be adjusted! Taking photographs in the sunshine could also be a problem. While I knew what I wanted to take, I could not always see it on the screen because of the bright sunshine! It is a shame that this happens and I am sure the technology is out there to produce a better screne for sunny climates?
  • easy to use: I found it really easy to get into taking photographs with the phone and uploading them through instagram (many of them were forwarded to Facebook too). Even the basic picture editing functions were useful! I took loads more photographs with the phone than with my digital camera. This was a big change for me.
  • double camera: great way to bring the photographer more into the picture! I was used to be behind the camera but now, I can actually take photographs of myself too more easily without relying always on other people. But there is a problem with taking the photographs. A self-timer would help and a tripod too, probably. Not sure if the phone has a self-timer but I couldn’t find one.
  • there were times when I was afraid I would drop the phone. Especially when shooting on the ferry over the water. It would be realy good if a strap could be attached to the phone, just like the cameras have and older phones where you had a little loop for charms. Does this make sense?
  • zooming in and nightshots: couldn’t make that work for me in most cases. The flash didn’t work as I wanted it to! I think the functionalities for such images are still very limited. This was a shame because I had always to have my digital camera with me as well. Too many gadgets??? If the iphone is a multigadget, it could be more reliable… do I ask for too much?
  • battery life: It didn’t even last a full day. I changed all the settings so that I would get more juice out of my phone but even that wasn’t enough! Always had to carry the cable and the adaptor, so I definitely needed a bag! I understand that there are external batteries you can attach when you ran out but there is an obvious solution here, to integrate a mini solar panel on the phone. Why hasn’t this be done yet??? When will we make better use of the resources available to us on the go? On the ferry I had another problem. The sockets were so high (almost on the ceiling!!! see pic). The cable I had was not long enough and I had to be resourceful to make it work. Should I carry an extension cord too??? I also got a car charger… which was useful at times.
without flash

pitch black, without flash

Using the internet in Greece

blending blues

blending blues

Before I left the UK, I investigated what the deal was with using my phone in Greece. My phone is sim free and I have a contract with Three. All-you-can-eat data is part of the deal and I love this. Why can this deal not operate abroad as well? Why do we need to activate our phones so that it works there as well? Don’t get this at all! Is it just so that companies make more money? Why can’t companies not agree among them, so that the contract we have in one country is un-interrupted when travelling to another country? Would this be too easy? Anyway. Three told me that I would have to pay £5 a day to get unlimited internet while in Greece. Hmmm. Didn’t like that number and decided to wait and see what deals I could get in Greece.

So pleased that my phone is sim free!!! Just had to change the micro-sim while there! Easy peasy… well, almost! My nephew directed me towards Vodafone GR. And yest, they had a better deal that Three in the UK! For 1 EUR, I could have the web on a daily basis and unlimited. Wow. After sticking in the new sim and a few hickups (you see I am not technical minded…) I managed with the help of the Vodafone people in Porto Rafti to get it working but the first think I noticed was that while my access was unlimited… the speed that I could access it was reduced as soon as I uploaded a specific number of images and when this happened, I mean when the slow speed kicked in, what still worked well were Twitter and Skype. Google stuff and Facebook were really slow and all instagram uploads failed then. But I did have the internet all the time… well, when the battery wasn’t flat, of course 😉

I say, I had the internet al the time and it probably was almost all the time. Even when on the ferry. But also what I quickly noticed is, that there was free wifi access in loads of public places, not just in Athens but also at the port at Rafina and and on the island of Naxos (even on some of the beaches!!!). Also, many hotels, tavernas and cafes provide also free wifi! I was really impressed by that and started using it more as the days progressed and I realised the limits of my paid internet access. At least with the wifi, I could also update my apps and do all the picture uploading too.


If you know me, you also know that I am a very open person. I love sharing and having conversations with people about ideas and exchange views on things. Sharing using digital media is an extension of my nature, I guess and comes somehow naturally to me… At times, I have been sharing too much, too sensitive and not-processed stuff ;(, I am aware of that and am now trying to manage this a bit more. This is hard for me since what I do and what I feel about what I do and see are interconnected.

I have found it very useful to explore my views and emotions through pictures and melt my visual and emotional world through using captions on images.  My Greece, is definitely my Greece and not everybody will understand the pictures I took, why I took them and what they mean to me. Others might interprete my images in a different way too. But that is fine. Today, I actually showed some of them to Dave, my train friend, and he looked strangly at me when looking at some of the pictures. But looking at something doesn’t necessarily mean seeing. We need to see to discover and that needs engagement! Captions can give a hint. For me, images act as visual memories. They help me look back and reflect and try and make sense of what I noticed and what this means to me. Interpretations will change over time and the further away in time we are the meaning will be alterned… I think. So, do I really create them for myself? Not sure, I don’t think I would share them, if that would be the case. Or is it somehow ‘revealing’ stuff about myself through what I see? I got some re-actions from others, some likes and comments via Facebook and instagram. Mini conversations? Not sure if I would call them conversations… but at least there was some interaction with some of the images and myself. Why do we share? Why do you share? Is there an expectation when we share something with others that moves us?

I shared my favourite pictures on Facebook and a few on Twitter. Why did I do this? It was a conscious decision. Facebook is somehow a  more informal and personal space for me while through Twitter, I connect more with professionals, most of whom I have never met. At times, it is of course hard to distinguish and the boundaries of personal and professional are blurring more and more.

What I have learnt through this experiment

It was definitely worth doing this. I have managed to share my Greece with others and I think some of the images might have revealed a lot about me, what I like and what I don’t like, what is important for me and what isn’t…


  • pocket technology is really easy to use these days, even the non-technical minded, like me, can manage
  • we can easily connect with others through the use of social media available on the go and share our experiences, ideas and thoughts in a variety of formats.
  • expressing creatively on the go in a more visual way
  • capturing special moments as they happen and share them rapidly
  • reflect on experiences through images
  • make sense of your own experiences and understand yourself better?
  • gives you a purpose, something to do and engage creatively on a regular basis
  • free wifi when available is an added bonus and an additional enabler (use it to upload images etc.)


  • a (sim-free) smartphone or tablet is required – these are costly little machines!
  • extra cost to get a new sim and pay for internet access in another country (while paying a proper contract in the home country)
  • uploading images can ‘eat’ all your internet time ;( (didn’t try to upload a video but this would be best done when a  wifi connection is available) – unlimited internet is not always unlimited! Read the small print too and get advice!!!
  • time consuming activity, time needs to be devoted to taking photographs (some editing might be required), creating captions (didn’t always do this…) and uploading but also responding to comments, if you want a dialogue.
  • two-way communication not always obvious. There will be people lurking. The same people seem to comment. This will be your critical mass, which might bring additional people into the conversation at a later stage. Others will comment privately.
  • can easily become an addiction? Yes, it can!
  • setting the technology up in a foreign country can be a nightmare for less technical-minded individuals

Application for Learning and Teaching

I think sharing experiences, thoughts, ideas and emotions in a more visual way in work-based learning contexts to develop reflective skills. A sense of connectidness and community could be created and achieved if the approach I used would be refined further to suit a specific cohort of students and a buddy system might also be useful.

Sharing experiences during a placement via images can be a powerful tool to get started reflecting on own practice and encourage a dialogic approach. But we need to develop our visual literacy.

The big problem I see here is the availability of the technology. Do we expect all students to have a smartphone or a tablet? How can we be more inclusive in our learning and teaching? Could, for example universities provide a smartphone as part of the fees the students pay? Some unis give tablets, I have heard. If students stay in the same country, the cost will be smaller. Wherever students would be, free wifi spots could be identified in advance, as well as internet cafes.

resourceful on ferry

The most important part for me would be that tutors need to know what they want to achieve and how the technology can help them. They need to design learning activities that are meaningful, motivating and empowering. It will be important to define a focus and what is to be achieved through this exercise from the beginning and at the same time enable students to express creatively and have the freedom to take this activity where they feel they benefit most. Tutors and students need to familiarise with the technology in advance so that it doesn’t become a barrier of and for learning.

My plan for the PGCAP and the core module is to trial the development of reflection through images in semester 1.  More to follow about this in the near future.

If this post made you think, I would love to hear from you.

the @pgcap journey continues

same stuff but not exactly the same

same stuff but not exactly the same

I am in the middle of the @pgcap marking storm at the moment (but going really well so far!!!) and I am thinking of the near future and what needs to be done, yes, what needs to be done, to provide an even richer learning and even more valuable learning experience to ALL our students across modules! And this is the important bit. We need to model effective and creative practice in the digital age across the programme and while I don’t like the word ‘consistent’ because it can dain the creative elements out of something, I recognise the importance of  consistence in securing certain thresholds and common characterists across a provision and have been recognised by colleagues as valuable for their learning and teaching and we have already evidence that these have the power to make our colleagues think, re-think and un-think and learn to transformative learning and practices.



Right, ok, let’s share some of my initial thoughts about how we can move the PGCAP forwards. But before I begin, I would like to emphasise that the below are just my ideas at the moment, which will be discussed in collaboration with the programme team but also with current and past students on the programme. We have already secured a collaboration with some students over the summer to participate in the curriculum re-design of specific modules so that we can start fresh in the next academic year. And this is really wonderful, because colleagues are offering their time and see value in playing an active role in the further enhancement of the programme. I am really grateful for that but also extremely pleased.

sharing ideas

sharing ideas

Some ideas at programme level have been listed below

1. Pre-induction: so far this is mainly happening for the LTHE module and even then it doesn’t work really well, since not everybody participates. We need to find a way to engage more during this very important phase of the programme that helps students to familiarise with the programme and a specific module but also start getting to know each other and their tutor(s). Starting forming a community is vital!!! We must think of a more meaningful way to engage students! So, I am proposing a pre-induction for all modules from Sep!

2. Sessions: Up to now, only the LTHE module has been ‘heavier’ on face-to-face sessions. From the feedback we keep receiving, it shows that students value these sessions and miss them when they do the optional modules. So I am suggesting to re-think, how all our modules are delivered and offer more regular face-to-face sessions but also combine them with online synchronous and asynchronous elements.

3. Location, location, location: Learning does happen everywhere and most of it outside the classroom. What stops us from changing locations and offer our sessions in more versatile spaces? We need to make this happen in all modules and be more creative and resourceful across the programme. We might book a specific room but also need to think, do we really need to be there? Does it really matter? Yes, it does and we need to do something about it! So far we have used different spaces on the LTHE module. I am very keen to continue exploring alternative spaces on all modules. The opportunities are endless!!! Let’s be more creative across the programme and make learning exciting again!!!

4. We need to practise what we preach and model active and collaborative learning, creative approaches, enable peer learning and develop a robust support network which should involve peers, tutors, mentors but also the wider learning community at Salford and beyond. There is also a lot of expertise out there and I am very keen to bring more experts into the classroom, physically or remotely, so that they share their good practice with us. This needs to happen across the programme!

5. Just talking about technologies is not good practice: We need to adopt an integrated approach to model their use based on a sound pedagogical rationale. There are a number of technologies which have been utilised during the LTHE module and students have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with these and start thinking how some of them could be used in their own practice with their own students. If after the LTHE these just disappear suddenly, not sure what we are trying to do by introducing them just in one module! These is where we do need to be consistent.

  • I suggest that Twitter (!/pgcap) to be used on all PGCAP modules as a tool to communicate with our students on a regular basis. Not everybody uses Twitter but through embedding the Twitter feed in Blackboard, everybody has access to the communication that is happening there and can engage. I am suggesting using one Twitter account which is @pgcapsalford. At module and cohort level we should then use hashtags, such as #corejan12 for example.
  • The PGCAP news blog ( will be used to share news around the programme. All tutors will start contributing to this (by direct posting and/or aggregating content from their personal online space) but we will also be able to aggregate portfolio work done by our students all in one place. This can be done through using Google Reader and I am at the moment exploring how this can work. Also all current portfolios from all modules can be added as links to the PGCAP news blog and by using module categories  ALT, LTHE, AFL we will be able to keep them all together and access them easily. After a specific cohort has completed a module the links will be replaced with the next cohort. This will make life easier for peers, tutors, moderators and our external examiners as well.
  • We have a Slideshare account ( I suggest that this should be used for all modules to disseminate presentations used by tutors and students if they wish to do so. We need to explore the possibility of creating these as OERs and coming up with some basic formatting and guidelines.
  • Loads of pictures from all LTHE cohorts so far but NONE from any other module. We have a programme Flickr account ( and I see value in showcasing the good work that is happening across all modules. The programme is NOT just the LTHE module. We all need to start using it and also share the account details with our students and encourage them to use it for sharing images. We need, of course permission from our students first before making images available online. Again, I have started making all images available as OER and would like all tutors to do the same.
  • Our YouTube channel ( should also be used across the programme. So far, we have activities, experiences from students on the LTHE module. Why are the other modules not represented? We would like to share success stories, experiences, activities and create resources for all modules. These can be done by tutors in collaboration with students and released as OERs. We have a good selection in our Food for thought series but there are plenty more we can and should do. Also increasing our playlist collection by finding relevant video resources fro individual modules and around specific themes, would also be beneficial.
  • Bookmarking group at diigo is now live ( and I see value in using this together by sharing useful resources we find for specific modules and themes. We need to use tags for specific modules and themes and could make two of our students bookmarking monitors. I would like over the summer to grow our collection and have a set of resources for all modules (LTHE, ALT and AFL) there that can then be enriched by our next cohorts.
  • Portfolio commenting: We will only use the pgcapsalford account for all modules when accessing all portfolios and commenting. Each tutor will add their name and module at the end of each comment or feedback.  This will make accessing portfolios much easier for tutors, moderators and the external examiners. Also, formative feedback should be provided when requested and the tutor need to let the student know by when this will be added to the portfolio.
6. All PGCAP tutors will be observed by a peer from the academic community during one of their PGCAP sessions. This will happen once per semester and could be a face-to-face or online session. The feedback conversation should be shared with the students participating in the session and the tutor is encouraged to reflect on the observed session and capture and share learning. Ideally, we should record these and make available as peer observation resources to others.
7. Pedagogical research to be carried out on the PGCAP programme by all tutors to model an evidence-based approach, evaluate and enhance current practices and disseminate innovations and interventions at conferences and through publications.  Activities to be co-ordinated and collaborative where possible.

These are some initial thoughts. I will probably come back and review and add to the above over the next few weeks. Really looking forward to our meeting next Friday to discuss the above and specific modules to be offered in Sep12. We have now at least 2 students from the CoreJan12 cohort who are going to participate in the curriculum re-design of the ALT module about which I am very pleased.

As the PGCAP Programme Leader, I would like to strengthen and enrich the PGCAP programme as a whole and feel that the above steps will contribute to this but only if all tutors and students see value in these and work together to make it happen!

Please feel free to comment on the above and make further suggestions! Thank you.

I need…

... a haircut

… a haircut

I walk too fast

I move too fast

I can't sit still

I can’t sit still

I flap my arms

I wave my arms around…

I hate my voice

I hate my voice…

I don't like these shoes

I don’t like my shoes

and I look too fat

and I look fat…

… in these videos ;o(

A reflective account of a recent peer observation

These were my first thoughts when I started watching the videos of the observation and the feedback conversation with my observer. I felt extremely uncomfortable and found it hard to watch the clips but in the end I watched them twice and it became easier, I have to admit.

I am currently carrying out research linked to the use of video in the context of peer observations and my own feelings shared above are no different from from comments I have received so far from participants in this study. For example one participant noted:

I really didn’t want to watch myself. I think that you believe you look and sound a certain way and when you see how you ‘really’ are, it can be a shock. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from the process and I would be happy to repeat it again. [core module student]

After trying to forget about all the above and accepting who I am – this was really hard and painful! – I did some valuable discoveries.

First of all, I have to admit that I felt more relaxed during the observation and the discussion that followed than I thought I would. The day before, my heart was racing with 1000 miles per hour up and down a huge and scary roller coaster and there were moments when I felt really sick… On the day, I was nervous initially (how many times did I look through the glass doors?) when Simon arrived a bit late – and hoping that he would have changed his mind maybe? Soon, I felt more relaxed and I was fine. I think there where three main reasons for that.

1. While my history with Simon started stressfully during an intense job interview just over two years ago, he has become a critical friend in recent months and I have shared some of my deeper concerns with him about my role and the programme and he has been very helpful and understanding. I trust him and know that he was wants to support me. Actually this is exactly what Simon said, when I told him in advance of the session how nervous I feel. I wanted the peer observation to help me grow as a teacher (Gosling, 2000) and thought that Simon would be the right person at the time also since he was visiting us anyway for the PGCAP Exam Board and this activity would enable him to gain a better insight of the programme. Usually peer observations happen between colleagues from the same institution but not exclusively as also stated in Bell (2002). These can be in power positions or any colleague, depending on the peer observation model used (Gosling, 2005), which could be managerial, developmental or collaborative . By the way, I got that job when Simon was on the interview panel and I wouldn’t be here today otherwise ;o)

2. I felt comfortable making this feedback conversation in front of the current group because of our special relationship and the openness I have encouraged and the group embraced from the beginning of this module.  Most of us have shared personal stories and have reached out for each other in difficult times. A partnership did grow, in most cases, and we see each other as learning partners now which is wonderful. At least some of the students have become critical friends with each other and I have seen them grow in the weeks that have passed. I trust my students and they trust each other and I think they also trust me, well I hope they do ;o). Shrives and Bond (2003) discuss the role of academic developers and recognise that the way forward is through “building up a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.” (p. 65).  I have seen it many times, the difference relationships can make in what we do and what we can achieve. I also felt that this shared peer observation experience would be of  value for my students since we are asking them to carry out peer observations on the module and were up to now sending them off to carry out peer observation just by talking to them about these. Experiencing one as a participants and informal observer at the same time would be, I thought, more beneficial for them. As Land (2003) suggests “Do as I do” rather than “do as I say” (p. 3) which is indeed more powerful and effective.

3. The session was around assessment and feedback using a Problem-Based Learning approach to maximise engagement and opportunities for self-directed and peer learning. The session has evolved over the last 2 years. This had given me the chance to refine my approach a few times already, not of course that it was perfect, of course. It would be boring to just keep doing the same thing and it is not in my nature to do this anyway. I am too curious about things. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat!!! It took her places! I am confident and comfortable with a variety of assessment and feedback practices and have been using PBL in various settings and engaged in research activities and experimental work around these areas. Knowing what I was doing, sort of, content and process were familiar, helped a lot I think to feel some sort of comfort and confidence that I could do this. But how would I have felt if this would be a brand new session? A brand new topic I knew nothing or very little about? Something that I haven’t taught before? Would it make a difference? What if I was an experienced facilitator without any or very limited subject knowledge? And the question now is, could an experienced facilitator, facilitate any session successfully? And if this is the case, what does this mean for the teachers and the students? Would such a model  be problematic? For whom? And why or why not? I would love to find somebody who would carry out a related experiment with me on this!!! Anybody interested? These are a few of the questions that just popped into my head. Last time, this session was offered, we received really positive feedback and I had been asked by a School to run a similar PBL assessment and feedback workshop for them. This I guess means that the session worked and worked well! This also boosted my confidence a little bit and I believed that it could work again, despite the time constraints – despite the fact that Simon told me during our pre-observation meeting, that my plan “was ambitious”, did he mean “too ambitious”? Time constraints are always there and while I don’t think it is a good idea to remind students that we don’t have enough time… I think I did! You usually say these things and then think, “oh, I shouldn’t have said this” but it is too late because your tongue is quicker than your brain…

The above three reasons  made the peer observation ok in the end and manageable to watch the clips. While I am now writing this, I am listening to the video of the observation in the background. Just hear the noises, the music of learning. The enjoyment, the excitement! I have a big smile on my face because I can really hear the engagement, I can sense the excitement – the classroom sounds like in a busy market place on a Saturday morning. It was definitely a (loud) and collaborative thinking classroom! Pure magic!!! This magic helps me relive some of the special moments and triggers more and deeper reflection and thinking. I am actually now thinking that we could make an mp3 file out of the video recording of the session and share it with everybody. How would my students react? What would they think? Would they find it as fascinating as I do? There is of course the possibility that they wouldn’t… For me, just listening to the voices, the sounds, the music, the laughter enables me to focus, re-focus and re-create my own connections, visual memories and reflections.

What did I notice?

  1. Delay in reflection to kick in (experiencing a reflective blackout?): While I reflect in- and on action and am always confronted with dilemmas which I try and resolve when they occupy my mind, reflecting immediately after the event and being asked questions was challenging and stressful – it didn’t work very well for me, I have to say and I feel that I didn’t answer Simon’s questions properly… Was it too fresh? Was some time in between the observation and the feedback conversation needed? Should I have watched the observation video first? I think the answer to all this questions is YES. However due to the circumstances this was not possible and I am grateful to Simon and the time he spent with the whole group and participating in this experiment. An example of this delay for the reflection to kick in, when Simon asked me the question what happened when I split the class into groups. I just couldn’t remember what exactly I should have noticed. If I had seen the video of the session before he asked me this question, I would definitely have seen that nobody was listening and that the groups did their own thing. For a while I appear to be talking into the black hole. Everybody was ignoring me!!! What could I have done? Obviously the bell doesn’t work anymore. I think next time, what I will try is to sit quiet without saying anything and see what happens. Silence can be very powerful. Another strategy would be to leave the room and see what happens then. I am thinking about options and will try a different approach next time. I am also thinking of getting a different “noise maker”… must check what Argos has… or the Poundshop ;o)
  2. Students defending teacher (ganging up on the observer?): I had seen it before from the other side, when observing teachers in their classrooms and when talking to students afterwards about their teachers. Now my very own students agreed with most of my decisions and disagreed with some of the observers comments. Is this what people naturally do? Was this a defense mechanism? Did my students feel that they had to defend me or did they really feel that I had taken the ‘right’ decisions… if there is such a thing, for example linked to a. break or no break b. how the intended learning outcomes where presented. c. Students also agreed with what I thought they got out of the session. This was all very exciting and I would love to ask them what made them agree with my decision and my rationale. Was it the familiar against the stranger? Was it an in- and out of-group re-action or am I reading too much into this now and start over-analysing situations…
What did the observer say? 
  1. Less is more: I would agree with this as suggested by the observer but I really find it hard to de-touch myself from some of the things I want to do and feel excited about. This is my big problem you see. Too often I also think, that I enjoy the course more than my students… I have too many ideas which do clutter probably some of my sessions and this observation made me even more aware of this, especially now that there is video evidence of this as well… at least not all the clutter is captured  there… I have to say that I am so pleased that one of the PBL groups discovered the feedback sandwich because in the past, in a similar session, I did  bring in bread, ham, and lettuce etc and actually made a real sandwich to demonstrate this. I decided the night before NOT to do this and I am pleased but also sad because I know from comments received from past students that the making of the sandwich stayed in their minds and helped them creative a visual image of feedback and also understand the importance of feedback, how to phrase and frame it in a positive, constructive and sensitive way. I will continue thinking about decluttering, I will try my best and I  recognise that it is vital to help my students on their journey. But then again, while I am writing this, another part of myself thinks, what is wrong with a (short) detour? What if learning and teaching does become a bit messy? Is there any learning that is straightforward? Is there such a thing as linear learning? This is something that I have been thinking about many times. I don’t like boxes. Ok, we need some structure, or better frameworks which, I think need to be not just flexible but elastic and create the environment for messy and experimental learning to happen! I have captured my thinking about this in the photovoices “the messiness of learning”.
  2. PBL groups: I think this was my main challenge. Groups were formed based on specific criteria. My rationale was to stengthen existing relationships, give opportunities for individuals to work with others whom they knew less but also keep certain individuals apart. Looking back now, I think I should have used  the existing action learning set groups. Why? Because in a way, action learning set group members had already opportunities to work closer together in the last 7 weeks, got to know each other a  bit better and had started bonding. Their relationship would have helped enormously with the PBL task, especially if we think about Tuckman’s model of team development. Tuckman suggests that there are four main stages that lead to effective teamwork. Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. I asked the PBL groups to do this rapidly. Did it work? No, it didn’t. Well, it it work in some, but not in all groups. The PBL groups, where at different stages and while some moved more swiftly from the Forming, Storming to the Norming and the Portforming Stage and glued, I think there was evidence that some groups were stuck in the Storming stage while trying to Perform at the same time. If I had kept the action learning sets for the PBL groups, the disadvantage would be that it could potentially increase a silo and in- and out-of group learning approach which I wanted to avoid. So, again, I am not sure I think at this stage… which is confusing, I have to admit! The observer asked me a question linked to the group dynamics in these PBL groups. I had noticed that there were problems in some of them but was unsure how much to intervene. Part of me wanted to step in and maybe I should have done. The other part of me was thinking, let the group work it out. They will learn more this way. Then again there are specific roles in PBL. I could or should have emphasised more on these!  Hmelo-Silver (2002) defines the role of the PBL facilitator as somebody who helps “students construct causal explanations that connect theories, data and proposed solutions.” (p. 10) and I would agree with this, I think I should really  have helped some of the groups more. Perhaps though I expected also a certain level of what Moon (2009, 8) calls academic assertiveness and  defines as “a mix of self awareness and awareness of the behaviour of others, the development of some abilities, some ideas and specific techniques. Being assertive involves also a willingness to apply these ideas to yourself, to learn from them and change where necessary. Being assertive in a group context sets up a mindset to sort things out and we all know that being in groups can be difficult.” Why did this not happen? Is the why related to time and the newness of the group members and goes back to Tuckman? It was a tricky situation and I don’t wanted to be directive but I think it is needed sometimes in PBL especially when working with students who are brand-new to PBL. Facilitators should, I think, move progressive from a push to pull approach and I acted as if we were ready for pull. For the majority of students, this was the first time they experienced PBL and while we had a clear framework, a structure and agreed roles (a chair, a timekeeper and a scribe) I am not sure that all groups made effective use of these roles. If we would use again PBL in the next session, and I would keep the same PBL groups. I think the groups would approach their collaborative task differently the second time. I am sure most, if not all, reflected on how their group performed but also what role they played and have learned something valuable from this experience. The major roles, such as chair, scribe and time keeper were decided from the outset and the groups agreed that they needed to formulate ground rules. What happened? What could I have done? Ask each group to take 5min, discuss accepted working practice and agree the rules of the game. Could Moon’s (2009) checklist on academic assertiveness (see page 9) be a useful guide to formulate ground rules? At a first glance, I think it would be useful. The agreed ground rules could be captured on a piece of paper stuck to the table next to the scenario and the PBL model we used. The chair could then remind everybody of their group agreement, especially if it was felt that things were going out-of-control. I think that would have helped. Why didn’t I think about this?  
  3. Clean start: De-clutter! said Simon. This is definitely something I must address. It is not my intention to confuse anybody. All I want is my students to think and perhaps I am asking them to think about too many different things at the same time… I think, I do. So, all these little activities that were added to the beginning of the session, such as the sharing of the very personal story “The white magic sauce” and the “Ask the students about assessment and feedback” research activity where not used to their full effect. Looking back now, and while I think I agreed with the observer that they need to go! I am now re-thinking and see a potential in using them differently. The story would be much more powerful at the end of the session to bring closure but also extend thinking beyond the classroom. The research activity should really be carried out in advance of the session. I could have asked everybody to ask these 2 questions a student on their way in this morning. Why didn’t I think about these things? But it shows that there is always room for improvement and that sometimes it takes a while to see things clearer and in a different light. When we have such eureka moments it is exciting and revitalising!
Biggs (1999) notes that “a reflection in a mirror is an exact replica of what is in front of it. Reflection in professional practice, however, gives back not what it is, but what might be, an improvement on the original.” (p. 6) So…

What did I learn

  • peer observation is a powerful tool to enhance practice
  • it should be done regularly
  • pick a person you trust from a different discipline or professional area
  • be open
  • involve students
  • record the session if you can, or snippets
  • be brave and watch the video
  • watch the video again
  • give the person who has been observed some time to reflect before meeting
  • take notes during the conversation
  • record the feedback conversation with the observer
  • reflect and share your reflections with the observer and your students
  • take actions to enhance practice based on the observation, the conversation you had with your observer and your students.

Usefulness of the peer observation for my students

After carrying out this open peer observation experiment, I felt the need to find out what my students thought of this, if it was useful and in what ways. Evidence suggests the following:

  • Better understanding: Students agreed that it helped them develop a better understanding of peer observations and what is expected and “what it is about” as one of the students commented.
  • Demystifying peer observations: It enabled them to gain a better insight of peer observations and demystify these. A student noted “You can also see that potentially worrisome things like observations aren’t that bad. […] I bet loads of people on the course really benefited.”
  • Common observations: the feedback conversation that follows these and confirmed, in most cases some of their observations which agreed in most cases with the observer’s feedback. A student noted: “The observers feedback gave me confidence that I am good at giving feedback following observations, as his comments were similar to those I would have made.”
  • Feeling nervous: Seeing their tutor being observed and feeling nervous, just as they do, made the students realise that we all feel very similar when being observed. One student said: “It was helpful to see Chrissi going through the same experience as we go through, and encouraging to see that she wasn’t entirely relaxed either, just as we are when being observed.”
  • Observation resources: Students agreed that these were useful to access in advance and following the observation.


It is over now. Some might think that this was a risky strategy but I am pleased I took this risk. One of my students actually said doing the feedback conversation that followed the observation that “doing this publicly, in front of her students, that was brave!!!” I think it is important to be open and transparent and model learning if we want our students to learn. Engaging in such shared activities with our students and opening our classrooms are vital to further enhance practices. I feel that I learned a lot and most importantly my students benefited as well as it gave one of our External Examiners an insight into the programme, which is an added bonus. As he said:

 “I thoroughly enjoyed observing. It gave me a far greater insight into the work you are doing and a better idea of the excellent stuff. I expect the work will reflect this in the future, so well done. So I should be the one saying thank you for inviting me. You are clearly a very thoughtful and good teacher and I learned a lot from watching yesterday. […] It was my pleasure and I did genuinely learn a lot from being involved both from you and the way you worked with the participants, but also from the participants as well. So all in all, a very worthwhile experience.”

What I am going to do next

  • I feel that I would benefit from reading these reflections again and watching the clips too after maybe a month or so to identify how much my thinking has developed and changed since then.
  • I must identify some very specific enhancement opportunities to this specific session but to my practice more generally!
  • I would like to integrate this open peer observation experiment into the module and carry it out in week 2 or 3 to assist students in the peer observations they have to do.
  • I must remember to arrange a better seating for the group next time for the feedback conversation. A circle would have been much better and I wouldn’t have to talk over my shoulder…
  • I would like to identify a peer observation buddy for the next academic year and engage in regular peer observation.
  • And last but not least, I MUST have a haircut soon! ;o)

Palmer (2007) states “Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” (p. 11) this is something I aspire for.

Final notes: Bell (2002) notes that “the presence of an observer or video may affect the dynamics in a small class” (p.8). This is also documented in Gosling (2002), however others strongly suggest that the use of video in peer observation can be beneficial to aid reflection and further development (Keig and Waggoner, 1994). In this session, we had an external peer observer who also recorded large parts of the session and I don’t think that these factors altered significantly what happened during the session. However, a small minority stated that they behaved differently during the observation because the session was recorded. Generally, I think my students have got used to being filmed on this module. I also take regularly photographs in class, and we have completed video activities together as well, which all helped and made them feel more relaxed. I was probably more nervous than anybody else at the beginning but have to say, that as the session progressed I “forgot” that Simon was there and that he was filming too. This has been a highly useful activity for me and I think for my students too. But I would like to investigate further in what way it was useful for them.

Palmer (2007, 147) states “When we walk into our workplace, the classroom, we close the door on our colleagues. When we emerge, we rarely talk about what happened or what needs to happen next, for we have no shared experience to talk about.” – if we want to change this, we, academic developers, need to open our classrooms as well.

Thank you Simon for being so generous with your time and all my lovely students from CoreJan12 from the PGCAP. A special thank you also to Liz who did a great job recording the feedback conversation, Sarah who took detailed notes, see: notes_from_feedback_conversation and Craig who helped me patiently finding a way to upload these massive videos and showing me the pineapply HandBrake tool. Simon also provided additional written notes referring to before, during and after the observation which can be accessed here SLB_Observation for Chrissi.

"the journey is more important than the arrival" T. S. Eliot

“the journey is more important than the arrival” T. S. Eliot

Access all related posts by clicking here.


Bell, M. (2002) Peer Observation of Teaching in Australia, Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources, University of Wollongong, LTSN Generic Centre, available at [accessed 20 March 12]

Biggs, J. (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Gosling, D. (2000) Guidelines for peer observation of learning and teaching, The Higher Education Academy, Escalate Resource, available at [accessed 17 March 12]

Gosling, D. (2002) Models of Peer Observation of Teaching, LTSN Generic Centre, available at [accessed 20 March 12]

Gosling, D. (2005) Peer Observation of Teaching, SEDA Paper 128, Birmingham: SEDA.

Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2002) Collaborative Ways of Knowing: Issues in Facilitation, Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey in Proceeding CSCL ’02 Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning: Foundations for a CSCL Community, available at  [accessed 17 March 12]

Keig, L. and Waggoner, M. D. (1994) Collaborative Peer Review. The Role of Faculty in Improving College Teaching. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No 2, Washington, DC: The George.

Land, R. (2003) Orientations to Academic Development in Eggins, H. and Macdonald, R. (eds.) The Scholarship of Academic Development, pp. 34-46. The Society for research into higher Education and Open University Press.

Moon, J. (2009) Making groups work. Improving group work through the principles of academic assertiveness in higher education and professional development, Higher Education Academy, Escalate, available at [accessed 17 March 12]

Palmer, P. J. (2007) The courage to teach. Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shrives, L. and Bond C. (2003) Consultancy in educational development, in: Kahn, P. and Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 61-75.

Play ‘n’ learn to spice up teaching in HE – please vote #CMC11 MOOC @pgcap

Celebrating your creativity!

Celebrating your creativity!

Hello and thank you for stopping by,

Stage 3 of our mixed reality game ‘Sell your bargains’ is now officially completed.

First of all I would like to thank all our teachers at the University of Salford who participated in this game with such passion and for their creative energy to spice up their teaching.

Today, we are inviting you to vote for your favourite digital story presented here and created by teachers in Higher Education who are currently studying towards the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice at the University of Salford (UK).

Teachers participated in a mixed-reality game (a mix of problem-based learning, game-based learning and experiential learning to explain threshold concepts using creative problem finding and collaborative creative problem solving techniques and possibility thinking) which took place in real and virtual spaces.

(Stage 1) The task was to think about a session they are going to deliver and try and foresee a difficulty explaining something that students really need to grasp.

The players then worked together in pairs to discuss ideas and possible solutions (Stage 2) and identify a prop while in Manchester City Centre that could be used in their session to make this difficult or threshold concept accessible and understandable to their students.

(Stage 3) Their ideas were then developed further into digital stories (using photographs and videos taken during stage 2 to aid reflection and the further development of their idea) that are now available as Open Educational Resources.

Please access the participating stories by clicking the links below, study them carefully and then vote for your favourite one by ticking the box next to the name of the player. You are also invited to leave your comments in the online spaces where the stories are captured and engage in a conversation about the interventions.

– Innovative use of a prop
– Rich and deep reflection
– Creative digital storytelling

Participating stories
1. Neil at

2. Frances at

3. Fabrizio at (our winner: added on the 27th of November)

4. Kirsty at at

5. Deaglan at

6. John at

7. Fiona at

VOTING IS NOW CLOSED. The winner has been announced.

Thank you very much for providing your comments and voting for your favourite story. The overall winner of the mixed-reality game “Sell your bargains” will be announced on Twitter. The deadline to submit your vote is Wednesday the 2nd of November 11, midnight GMT.

The prize is the wonderful book by David Gauntlett “Making is connecting” ( A complimentary copy was provided free of charge by the publisher Wiley (

Please feel free to forward the link to the form to others.

Chrissi (Nerantzi) the game organiser
Twitter: @pgcap
University of Salford

ps. If you would like to adapt and organise such a mixed-reality CPD game for your programme team to spice up teaching and learning at the University of Salford, please get in touch with Chrissi at c.nerantzi @ (without the spaces)

pps. If you would like to find out more about this game from the organiser and the players, join us on the 8th of December at 4pm (GMT) during a webinar organised by the Creativity and Multicultural Communication MOOC. We have been invited to share our experiences and first findings then with a wider audience. More info about this webinar and the #CMC11 MOOC at Please note, the ‘Sell your bargains’ game will also feature in a game-based learning book published next year.