Developing “Safe” Spaces to discuss Teaching

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I recently attended the second HEA “Beyond Fellowship” Conference (March 13 2017 at Aston University), an event primarily for those supporting accredited routes for gaining HEa Fellowship recognition. I’m going to share some of the topics and issues that arose from that event.


At the conference Keynote, Mandy Asghar, PFHEA at York St. John’s University shared some of the benefits of offering a dialogic route to seeking HEA Fellowship recognition (all categories).  Resources can be found on the York St John website. Mandy presented a substantial range of literature (V3) supporting the value of dialogue.  This was reiterated by rich comments from participants in the research that she and Ruth Pilkington, PFHEA (now an independent consultant) have been conducting.  Dialogue, as opposed to a written submission can greatly enrich and empower the person talking about their teaching and/or support for student learning (all aspects of the UK PSF intertwine), building their self-esteem that their contributions are valued.  However, dialogue needs to be carefully managed, ensuring trust and psychological safety for the individual ‘laying bare’ their practice, and feeling secure that making mistakes and taking risks is acceptable – its all about pushing the boundaries of enhancing practice and your own personal and professional development.  Dialogue is great to slow down, something that we often ironically in our busy lives don’t have time to do!

SALT’s remit is to enhance the value of teaching and promote a community of practice. We do that through a variety of seminars, Case Studies and supporting research. By doing so we aim to promote your CPD (A5 of the UK PSF) and also encourage your use of evidence-informed approaches to your practice (V3).

The value of being able to discuss openly about one’s practice has been greatly recognised through those on the PGCert. Here’s also what they do at Leeds. This also reminded me that the HEA website has blogs about Talking Teaching and why people have applied to get recognition of their practice. A quick Internet search on sharing about learning and teaching revealed this abstract for a Conference about sharing best practice. It recognises that we can be very different in how we access information – Twitter and Tweet Chats, face to face, watching videos, webinars, virtual meetings, reading, but I would argue that as social animals, we do all like to get to meet up eventually- the most effective part of conferences is often the networking and not necessarily the talks themselves (in the case of the HEA BF conference, the talks were however very good and so will be the sessions at this year’s SALT Conference!).

So, how can we develop a “safe space” in which you can come to share your ideas about teaching and supporting learning in a constructive way? Where, how in your busy schedule could we enable this? There’s Hoffi Coffi for Welsh learners. Can we have a “Talk Teaching” regular meeting on each campus? What could encourage you to come along? What can SALT do for you?

[:en]September IT Month 2016 – Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment[:]

[:en]SeptemberITFrom September 8th through to October 7th there’s a comprehensive and exciting array of lunch-time seminars available to help staff at Swansea Make One Change, and have a go at using some technology to enhance your approach to learning, teaching or assessment and supporting student engagement. Have a look at what’s on offer!

The sessions include using Twitter and other tools to enhance student engagement, tools for groupwork, recording lectures, creating TedEd talks, blended learning as well as perhaps more familiar technology – Blackboard, the University’s virtual learning environment. But this isn’t just about covering the minimum requirements in Blackboard – its about using enhanced tools and techniques to engage and enthuse learners. Sessions will be covering what more you can do with Blackboard and some of its features, such as Campus Pack. There will also be Blackboard Drop-in sessions to help you with difficulties during the year.

Some will be delivered by SALT Team members, but others by your peers who’ve had experience of using these technologies in their courses. Come see them use it, listen to them talk through their challenges, discuss what has worked, and in most sessions try out the technology for yourself. Ask them questions!

Have you been reflecting on how you can enhance your teaching and/or support student learning? If you are already a Fellow of the HEA, how can you demonstrate that you are remaining in good standing? Are there any targets in your PDR regarding improving your teaching?

The sessions are being held in our refurbished Training Room on the Top floor of the Taliesin Building.

Finding us can be a challenge, but if you go the main library on the Singleton Campus, turn around to face north, and follow the gap between the Egypt Centre and the Keir Hardie Building you’ll find us! For a visual description, see our website contact details.

You do have to register for these sessions and spaces are limited to the first 20 registrants. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up![:]

HE/FE Show London – Engaged staff a blank Canvas?

Thursday 15th October was the HE/FE Show in London billed as the only show of its kind for HE and FE. Arriving at Earl’s court I was surprised to see that the train was not running and a circuitous route via West Brompton was needed. When I did get to Olympia there seemed to be no sign of the show. Had I got the wrong place? The wrong date? eventually I saw a sign point round the corner onto Earl’s Court Road. Olympia this was but BETT it wasn’t. It’s was just one small room, for a show as it was billed, about twice the size of the refectory in Fulton House. Despite it’s small size there were some interesting things there as well as plenty of not so interesting. I’ll stick with two of the interesting.

Canvas – there has been a lot of talk recently about Canvas, especially since Birmingham University switched completely to Canvas from Blackboard in 4 months last year. They have got nice shiny videos, glowing endorsements etc but as we know anyone can do that. So is it worth the hype? At the moment I don’t know. I had an interesting discussion with two of their team on their busy stand, which was probably the busiest in the show when I was there. They have an event in London on 4th November when the plan to reveal more. Have a look at the video and watch this space.

I was intrigued by the prospect of hearing Professor Peter Slee, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Huddersfield, talk about ‘An Engaged Workforce’. They reputedly have 100% of their teaching staff with HEA fellowship or a teaching qualification and it seems to be a great place to work judging by some of the awards they have won.

The Times Higher Education Best University Workplace 2014
The Times Higher Education Awards – University of the Year
The Guardian Higher Education Awards – Inspiring Leader Award

Professor Slee argued that many interactions drive the success or otherwise of their strategy. Therefore everyone needs to be able to understand and own the strategy. So the Huddersfield strategy is 2 sides of A4 – no preamble, no waffley management speak, no vanity fueled stats, just a simple strategy for all staff. There isn’t a separate document for managers and other staff. They all work from the same document and go in the same direction.

He followed this by saying that –
Bad managers tell people what to do.
People who think they are good managers explain why they want people to do what they want them to do.
Good managers involve people in designing what is best to do.

He then had three questions for teachers and managers –

Why would someone want to be taught by you?
Why would anyone want to be led by you?
If you had to apply for your own job, would you get it?

Tough questions especially the last but I think he was presenting it in a positive career development way. Everyone needs to keep developing their career and from what I can make out Huddersfield intend to empower people so that they are able to do it. CPD as a positive aid and not as a punishment.

Will our new Values based approach lead to a situation like this here at Swansea?

You will find the presentation slides here –

Learning Technology and Innovation

I recently attended a conference run by National Training Resources Limited on the subject of Learning Technology and Innovation.  One of the primary reasons for attending was to try and glean ideas for developing some purely online courses as part of the Work Based Learning Project in Engineering, but also with an additional SALT hat on.

The conference brought together an eclectic mix of people from education, Government and industry, from apprentices to managers and from all four corners of the UK.  That in itself illustrates that innovation is open to all!

I picked out some interesting points and ideas that I feel I can take forward with the Engineering project, but I was struck by how much of this “innovation” we already do here at Swansea University.  Some of the tools and methods were held up as excellent practice in their sector.  Things we do here in Swansea but we don’t think of them as innovative because they are almost commonplace.

A particular favourite presentation of mine from the day’s speakers was that delivered by Mark Griffiths from NESTA.  NESTA is an charity whose main aim is innovation.  They have since launched a project entitled ‘Make Things, Do Stuff’ aimed at getting children and young people people to become digital makers. On the site, you’ll find advice, support and tools to help code a website, create a game or even build a 3D robot.  This may not necessarily be relevant to Higher Education but personally I found the methods used to teach them really good, and with backing from Nominet, Mozilla and the Chancellor, it’s high on the Government’s priority list at the moment.  The video below shows some of the comments from young people as well as the sponsors at the Make Things, Do Stuff launch:

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Dr Andrew Manches led one of the morning keynotes in talking about a report (commissioned by NESTA!) which was the culmination of extensive research into how technology has been used in the UK education systems, as well as lessons from around the world.  This report provides a whistle stop tour of different types of innovative use of technology and provides links to several innovations.

Decoding Learning

Social Media also played a key part throughout the conference, with references dotted in almost every presentation, participants encouraged to Tweet with the conference hashtag #learntechconf as well as being the focus on yet another keynote, this time from Nitin Thakrar, Director of elearning Studios.

The video below shows the impact of Social Media on the world:

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Passion in L&T

Kathy Sierra is an inspirational educator who created the excellent “Head First” series of self-learning books for O’Reilly. She famously ended her public blog “Creating Passionate Users” and stopped appearing in public after receiving death threats back in April 2007 … an incident that made national news at the time.

Thankfully, she’s back and has just presented at the O’Reilly Gov 2.0 conference a keynote entitled Creating Passionate Citizens. The video was published on YouTube and though the cameraman was focussed on the speaker rather than the slides, many of which don’t make the final cut, there’s enough in what was said to start me thinking.

Like Dave Ferguson, who’s blog post drew my attention to Kathy’s talk, I began to wonder what, if anything, we could do to create a community of passionate teachers and, more importantly, generations of passionate students. I went back to Kathy’s blog and a couple of postings on creating and supporting communities struck me as immediately relevant.

And there’s a lot more gold to mine.

Post Script
I highly recommend the Head First books. They are exemplary examples of what learning objects could be and we could learn a lot from them. One of the first head first books that I owned was on Enterprise Java Beans … a hard topic to get passionate about! The Head First explanation of how interactive web servers work from Head First Servlets and JSP is still used in one of my courses. The Headfirst Labs web site is also a fine learning resource. See for example The Learner’s Journey in Practice!

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