On the 4th of April, I had the opportunity to join the HEFCE Catalyst projects workshop day in the Cube in Birmingham and be among many innovators from different institutions in England. It was truly fascinating to be among so many passionate individuals and teams committed to pushing the boundaries and making a real difference to the student experience using creative approaches to innovate.
It was refreshing to hear Dr Helen King from HEFCE emphasise on the importance of experimental innovation. Let innovators experiment, let them play! Support them in this process and see them grow and their teams and institutions too! I noted down “experimental innovation” as I feel that it is really important to foster experimentation, risk taking, making mistakes. Innovation means going against the grain, so it is not easy. Often innovations are born out of obstacles.
Helen at some point acknowledged that “We don’t really understand what innovation is”.
The pedagogic innovators project or short #pin, initiated with my colleague Barbara Thomas and supported by Prof. Norman Jackson, aims to contribute new insights into this important area. Furthermore, working with Helen and her team at HEFCE will help us synthesise what we know about pedagogic innovation and innovators. We are investigating…
- The beliefs, attitudes and values of higher education teachers as pedagogic innovators.
- Conceptions of pedagogic innovation in the context of their practice, their curricular design and students’ development.
- Enabling and prohibiting factors of becoming pedagogic innovators for academics and other professionals who teach or support learning in HE.
Helen kindly invited me to join this exciting day where project teams had the opportunity to mingle, network and find out about each other’s projects too. Furthermore, Dr Pauline Hanesworth from the HEA talked about the multifaceted role inclusivity plays as access, engagement and contribution, and Sarah Knight from JISC, discussed the vital role students can play in the process of innovation. As part of the day, I had the opportunity to facilitate a #pin workshop to help individuals and project teams reflect on what pedagogic innovation is. Participants were invited to join the #pin study and I collected valuable visual data which we will start analysing.
During the #pin workshop, colleagues participated in a series of activities that helped us explore their conceptions of innovation, possible enablers and barriers for pedagogic innovators, as well as their needs and strategies that will help them for their projects. All this in 30mins and we used activities that involved drawing, sticky notes and speed-dating. It was an ambitious plan but I think the fast pace kept individuals alert and active. The bell might have helped a little bit too. There was a buzz in the room and it was hard to stop when discussions where in full flow and ideas were shared and debated. I am sharing below some extracts of contributions that were collected.
Conceptions of innovation
A range of visualisations were collected that capture participants’ conceptions of “innovation”. Some examples have been included to help us all further reflect on innovation and perhaps revisit at a later stage.
Barriers and enablers for pedagogic innovators
After the sticky notes were typed up
- the pink (barriers),
- the green (enablers) and
- the blue (enablers that could also be barriers),
we can see some first patterns emerging… Below are visual representations of the responses with some preliminary observations.
Responses from this workshop suggest that the key barriers for innovators as expressed by participants appear to be
- organisational cultures,
- lack of time,
- working in isolation and
- being risk-averse probably as a result of the previous items in this list.
Lack of funding only seems to be a limited barrier for innovators.
Responses linked to enablers for innovators highlight the
- Importance of passion for innovation with a purpose,
- belonging to wider support networks,
- collaborating with others but also
- the need for time and space
- and funding.
While institutional support does feature among the enablers, the responses around support more generally suggest that support networks that stretch beyond discipline and include students and others beyond institutional boundaries play a significant role in breaking free from potential isolation within their own institution as noted in the barriers.
On the blue sticky notes that referred to enablers that could also be barriers, the following were captured: colleagues, students, resources and funding.
Helen highlighted the fact that generally not all innovations succeed but there is a lot to learn from every idea. Being honest and open about it is really important and will help us move forward. These observations gave me an idea for another workshop that could be offered when the projects are near completion.
Something to think about…
At the beginning of the enablers and barriers activity, I invited colleagues to suggest which colour sticky notes we should use. I asked one person who said pink for enablers but then I sought confirmation from others in the room. Many had another view and their view changed the decision I took. In the end we used pink for barriers and green for enablers. Thinking about this situation and linking it to diverse voices that are less common and often not heard, what could be the potential implications for innovation?
The #pin project team will put the data collected in our data pot and we will start analysing these in the summer. Our survey will remain open until the end of June. If you would like to complete this, please go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdHLaXOs4xW55hFktGCu225x3LvcR_e-KcHQWaKGTWYIxBwYQ/viewform
140 responses so far! Help us to get more. Thank you.
Thank you Helen for this kind invitation to collaborate and all for this insightful day!
We wish all project teams an exciting journey and can’t wait to find out what you will discover along the way.
Chrissi on behalf of the #pin team
ps. Ethical approval for the #pin study has been granted by MMU (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m5yQYyEEQ4rHlEs3urN-B_MgXNtZCjUB01Bc-ljM8rc/edit
pps. The wordles have been created using http://tagcrowd.com
ppps. Photographs are taken by Chrissi and are available under CC-BY.