RESEARCH SPEED DATING!

Today was the Centre of Higher Education & Research Practice (CHERP) ‘Festival of Innovative Practice’ held at (the very sunny) University of Ulster, Magee campus. The day was rammed full of colleagues showcasing their practices and research and the keynote address by Professor David Nicol, Visiting Professor to CHEP, was particularly inspiring. The latter half of the morning was filled with ‘Pecha Kucha’ style presentations from those who had received CHERP Development Funding and/or Higher Education Academy Individual Development Awards in this academic year – the research speed dating begins!

Since I have received both HEA and CHEP funding (see http://intorducingassessmentandfeedback.com) it was an intense session, making two presentations, but the feedback was really supportive from colleagues and a few new ideas for future collaborations born!

Image featured taken by Louise O’Boyle, 7th June 2013 @ University of Ulster, Belfast Campus

‘STORYVILLE’ HEA ARTS & HUMANITIES CONFERENCE 2013

The 2nd HEA Arts & Humanities Conference in Brighton took place from 29-30 May. The event was packed with colleagues narrating stories about learning and teaching: the how, what, where and when. The scope and diversity of the presentations and how they related to the conference themes (stories, creating, telling and sharing) was really intriguing. Stories evoke memories and nostalgia, then can engage and inspire. The process of storytelling and constructing narratives is/can be used to relay the relevancy and accuracy of information and grow knowledge. The strength of much of the work presented was the passion and innovation demonstrated by those involved.

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CHANGING THE LEARNING LANDSCAPE

Today I attended ‘Power in your pocket: the creative use of mobile technologies to enhance learning and teaching in the performing and visual arts’ at The Old Fire Station, University of Salford, Manchester. This workshop was part of Changing the Learning Landscape Professional Development Programme and through a series of presentations, activities and discussions, led by academics in the Arts disciplines, participants were introduced to new mobile learning approaches and discipline focused exemplars applied to practice.

Central to all the presentations made at this workshop was the belief that technology, used at the centre of learning can be both motivational and transformative to both teaching approaches and students learning. The key ideas I took away from the day centred on the use of technology as a means or vehicle by which learning and understanding may be deepened. Mary Oliver’s presentation introduced the call to encourage the use of mobile technologies to push inventiveness, innovation and independence. Presentations by Third Angel and Helen Keegan detailed many ways in which the use of collaboration can foster new ways of seeing and modes of presenting. Niki Woods and Dr Tracey Crossley’s practical workshop was inspiring in its use of approaches to engage students in deeper learning. The variety of practices presented and discussions with colleagues throughout the day sparked many new ideas of how a more substantial and sustainable approach to using technologies can be developed.

GLAD 2013 – START, SUSTAIN, SUCCEED: ART & DESIGN EDUCATION IN THE NEW POLICY LANDSCAPE

At the University of the Creative Arts, Epsom, Surrey today, GLAD (Group for Learning in Art and Design) Conference 2013 took place. The programme focused on the following themes:

1. Starting. Changes to the school art and design curriculum and how the new English Baccalaureate and the demands it places on school timetables might crowd out of the curriculum offer in the arts. How we might engage to redress this?

2. Sustaining. How we should evolve our working with students to support their learning and to address the data-led climate for student choice?

3. Succeeding. What are institutions doing to support employability?

My paper presentation was included in the Sustainingthemed session and alongside presentations by Francisco Sousa Lobo (Goldsmiths) and Richenda Gwilt (University for the Creative Arts) the discussions raised interesting points of view and accounts of personal experiences on approaches to student engagement and supporting their learning. These were echoed in the keynotes and the panel session. The conference challenged and inspired.

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RESEARCH TEACHING NEXUS

Thanks to a Higher Education Academy Travel Award I was able to travel to Leeds College of Art today to attend their “Research, Scholarship and Pedagogy: Working with students to develop undergraduate research in Art & Design” event.

The workshop included presentations from both staff and students on their experiences and approaches to research and scholarship in art and design. By attending, I was keen to hear and discuss with colleagues where in the art and design curriculum the key principles and methodologies associated with practice-based research were taught or facilitated. More specifically I was interested in hearing directly from students about their experiences and perspectives as a result of participation. A strong thread throughout all of the presentations was the passion and commitment by all in developing mutually beneficial and respectful partnerships: something that was discussed further and at length in the afternoon group session.

Some presentations detailed collaborations and engagements with external organisations and bodies, and, interdisciplinary and inter-level working relationships on projects. Others detailed the impact on student experience when staff had used innovative and collaborative approaches with them in the delivery of teaching. While the presentations ranged widely in discipline, level and approaches the commonalities were clearly evident. The meaningful involvement of students as partners in exploring notions of research and scholarship within the curriculum can not only resonate in innovative outcomes, but also serve to break down barriers between student and teacher. This was further evident in the presentations themselves (which I feel had the greatest impact) when students talked about their preconceptions of staff, learning, their role and how these had been altered by their involvement with staff on projects.

There was much discussion both over lunch and in the afternoon group discussion session as to what were the key components for successful and meaningful engagements. Collectively, and maybe not that surprisingly the foundation of the ‘relationship’ was agreed as key. Three main components were common across all discourses: 1. Building and re/defining boundaries and roles were essential – recognizing what each stakeholder required and needed was vital. 2. Flexible Environment – the ability to arrange or alter environments, and / or create opportunities to facilitate interactions. (Effectively demonstrated during one of the presentations were all attendees had to alter the room – inclusive of re-carpeting it!). 3. Language – communication to build sharing, shared understanding and consensus. Confidence and trust, building a sense of belonging and that students felt valued were also listed as key components.

It is important to encourage debate and discussion, in particular with relation to involving students as key partners in learning innovations and research based approaches to both discipline specific and pedagogic strategies.  Sharing information on the impact this approach has had on staff and student experiences within and across institutions will hopefully open discussions about future approaches and innovations possible.

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