What drives innovators? #hefcecatalyst event 4th of April 2017 cc @drhelenking #pin

A brief summary linked to the pedagogic innovators workshop as part of the HEFCE Catalyst projects day on the 4th of April 2017 in Birmingham

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,
  • metrics,
  • 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.

#pin project now live

This Friday the 5th of February 16 we are organising our very first #pin focus group at Manchester Metropolitan University during which study participants will share their thoughts around pedagogic innovators through a wet felt making process.

I can’t wait to see Gail Spencer and Mike Lowe from Crewe, who will introduce us to wet felt making as well as Barbara Thomas, HE consultant, who is supporting the #pin project. If you are working at MMU you are very welcome to join us. See further details here. We are meeting in the All Saints Building, First Floor, Room 105 at 12pm 😉


This could be you on the 5 Feb 2016

It is wonderful that the following colleagues from other institutions in the UK have joined #pin as co-researchers. I am really looking forward to what data will be gathered in their institutions and what insights we will gain within and beyond institutions around the people behind pedagogic innovations.

A big thank you to

Dr Alison James, London College of Fashion
Neil Withnell, University of Salford
Chris Rowell, Regent’s University London
Barbara Thomas, HE consultant
Prof. Norman Jackson, Creative Academic

who have joined the #pin project. We have also connected to the programme of work being coordinated by Creative Academic for World Creativity and Innovation Week.

I am really looking forward to working together. If further colleagues and their institutions are interested to join the #pin team, please get in touch with me.

We willpin_NEW be gathering data in different ways. Some of these will be visual data. We have also created on line survey. This is now live and you are  very welcome to complete this if you would like to contribute your thoughts around pedagogic innovators in higher education wherever you are in the world.

Please remember to read the research information sheet and the consent form. These can be found through direct links from the survey which is here.


If you have any questions, please get in touch.

See you soon,


ps. If you can’t make it to our felt making workshop, feel free to watch the following. We will share the key question we used as a trigger to create the visual response after the workshop so that you can use this also to create your visual response. The final product will be a collage, some bits will be made of felt. Further techniques and materials will be used to finalise it. The plan is to share the visual data during the Learning and Teaching Festival which will take place at MMU in June.

Link to the survey is here, if you would like to participate in the #pin project

The Pedagogic Innovators (#pin) project is born

pin_NEWI am extremely excited about my new project around pedagogic innovators in higher education or short #pin as part of my National Teaching Fellowship award.

The logo… (as you can see, this was important for me)… when I was searching for a concept to visualise what pedagogic innovators mean to me personally, I came up with the image you see here which I plan to use as the project logo. This image says a lot to me and perhaps I will analyse this in a later post but even the colours and shape, every curve and point, have a meaning. In a way I used the research method I plan to collect data in the context of #pin to create a visual identity for the project. Now I need a few badges 😉 and just writing this here gave me another idea. Ok, let’s briefly introduce the project:

Colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University as well as colleagues from other institutions nationally and internationally will be invited over three academic years to participate in this study. I am therefore very interested in collaborating with further researchers in other institutions, organisations and countries who are interested in exploring with me pedagogic innovators.

This study will investigate

  • 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

Visual data collection methods will be used, such as drawings and models.  These methods have been shown to enable a wider spectrum of expression and reflection (Gauntlett, 2007, 2011; Cousin, 2009). No judgement will be  made about the artistic value of these. It is definitely about what the drawings and artefacts represent and not how they look like. There will also  be a survey to provide an alternative way to participate and the plan to organise focus groups as well to collect some of the data.

What will the drawings, photos, the survey and the transcript be used for?

The drawings, photos, survey and transcript will be analysed to identify key themes related to the study aims  objectives and research questions. A visual gallery of contributions will be created, anonymised, unless contributions have come via social media channels. The data will assist the researcher in gaining an insight into conceptions of pedagogic innovation as well as the pedagogic innovators, the people, as expressed and visualised by the participants themselves. Any areas of development will be included within an action plan how an institution and the sector can nurture, support and maximise on pedagogic innovators.

There will be opportunities to participate via social media as well. See such an opportunity a bit further down.

The findings of the project will be valuable because

  1. The findings will be used to create knowledge assets to better understand and support pedagogic innovators in the future and maximise on their contribution within an institution and the sector.
  2. In an increasingly complex and challenging world, there is an urgent need to understand how higher education can better promote and support pedagogic innovation. The findings will be used in anonymised reports to enhance our collective understanding of academics’ perceptions of pedagogic innovation in the context of teaching and learning in higher education, and contribute to open access literature so that the wider community of professionals can benefit.
  1. The results at MMU will be compared and combined with data sets from other universities, nationally and internationally, so that comparisons can be made across the higher education sector and the overall generalisations from results will be more secure.

4 November 2015

At 8pm UK time,  an #LTHEchat will be offered in collaboration with #BETTchat to discuss pedagogic innovators in higher education. This will signalise tha launch of my project and I am really looking forward to make a start discussing pedagogic innovators with colleagues. I have the pleasure to work with my dear colleague Sue Beckingham @suebecks on this chat.

The storify of this #LTHEchat is available here. I will be analysing this in NVivo soon. Thanks to the #LTHEchat, six colleagues from other institutions in the UK have expressed interest in joining this project as co-researchers.

This research project has ethical approval and the information sheet and statement of consent can be found at


Participating in the #pin activities during this #LTHEchat #BETTchat means that you have read the information sheet and the consent statement included in the above document carefully and are giving me your consent to participate in this study. The online open survey can be accessed at htt

If you are interested in becoming a #pin research collaborator, please get in touch! 

See you on the 4th at 8pm UK time.


Jan 2016:

— The following collaborators have joined

Dr Alison James, London College of Fashion
Neil Withnell, University of Salford
Chris Rowell, Regent’s University London
Barbara Thomas, HE consultant
Prof. Norman Jackson, Creative Academic

— The #pin project has been connected to the programme of work being coordinated by Prof. Norman Jackson and Creative Academic for World Creativity and Innovation Week.

If you would like to complete the survey linked to the #pin project please click here.

Feb 2016:

5 Feb 16 MMU focus group workshop using wet feltmaking, see info here



ps. And then I just found an excellent example of how #pin drawings could be showcased in a gallery. See the below! How many drawings and artefacts can we collect? And who would be willing to host these?


Cousin, G. (2009) Researching Learning in Higher Education. An introduction to contemporary methods and approaches, Oxon: Routledge.

Gauntlett, D. (2007) Creative Explorations. New approaches to identities and audiences, Oxon: Routledge

Gauntlett D. (2011) Making is Connecting. The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web2.0, Cambridge: Polity Press.