Dissertations: What *are* you doing?!

#becomingeducational W30 plus one – are we there yet?

So we’re heading into the summer vacation…

Some of you are leaving – your three years already over (we SAID they’d go by so quickly – and you laughed!). We will miss you – and we wish you well.

Some of you are heading into your second or third years – and for both of these groups, your Dissertation should be looming large:
– heading into the second year you might be toying with some ideas for that final year project
– heading into the third year that dissertation is a reality biting!

Here are some really useful questions to help settle your direction …

Good luck all!

Sandra & Tom

rattus scholasticus

I wrote recently about using questions to think about writing as a dialogue rather than a monologue and make the reader more present in the writer’s mind. We’re getting towards the summer now, and therefore dissertations, and I’ve been coming back to the use of questions in my teaching to help students get a handle on their dissertation.

Dissertations are a one-off assignment. Students may do many essays over the course of a degree, which allows them to get a feel for them, within the predefined constraints of the task, and feed forward their learning into future essays. Not so with the dissertation. It’s often the longest thing they have written to date, and moreover the most open-ended, as its one of the few opportunities they will have to generate their own question. If writing assessment questions is hard enough for those of us with some teacher training, how much…

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Introductions: What’s this all about then?

#becomingeducational W30 You’re thinking of endings – but what about those beginnings – what about your Introductions?
It’s nearly the end of the year: first year students are wrapping up those final final coursework pieces – second years may be tidying up that Project proposal, the thing that’s going to lead them into that third and final year – and third years may be sitting there right now polishing up that Dissertation…

Whichever description above best fits you – spare just five minutes to read THIS cool re-blogged post.

ANSWER the questions that it poses – and you will find that that essay, that proposal and, yes, that Dissertation will take a much clearer shape in your mind… And you will introduce it/them better too.
Good luck with those final pieces of work for this year!!
Sandra & Tom

rattus scholasticus

I think the point when I started to become a learning developer rather than a subject teacher was when I realised that I didn’t have to have the answers, only the questions. It was very liberating! Since then, I’ve used questions a lot in my work, but one of the most useful ways is in teaching students how to structure their work. Thinking of writing as a dialogue, not a monologue, anticipating what the reader’s questions will be, almost like an interview rather than an essay, helps them think of their audience and create this mysterious thing called ‘flow’ which writing is supposed to have.

It’s a particularly useful approach when teaching introductions. Introductions can be a pain to write – not the essay proper yet, none of the ‘real’ meat of the writing, but a necessary formality to get out of the way before you can get on with…

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#LTHEchat 85: The wicked problem of creative teaching and assessment #creativeHE

#becomingeducational W29 It’s not over till it’s over!
As HE becomes ever more marketised, commodified – measured – as the TEF looms with all its surveillance and regulation flaws… how can we chase the joy – the creativity – the optimism and the potential of having three years to think – study – experiment?
How can we develop a creative HE?
Here’s a brilliant post on the potential of creativity for developing positive HE practice…
AND – Wednesday 24th May – there will be a #LTHEChat on this starting 8pm BST – on Twitter.
Do join in!
AND – Don’t forget – this week there is a #creativeHE running here:
You are more than welcome to join this also!
All the best,
Sandra & Tom


This week we have Professor Paul Kleiman providng the questions on the topic of ‘the wicked problem of creative teaching and assessment’. This chat is linked to the open course #creativeHE which is offered this week.  On Wednesday, please use #LTHEchat and #creativeHE during the chat. Thank you.

Paul has the story of D, over to Paul.

The Story of D.

“Arts education is a seriously funny business. We demand that students conform to the formalities of the university and yet we secretly hope they will practise wild, if subtle rebellion. We require them to be versed in inherited theoretical vocabularies, but need them to energise us with some previously unseen thing. Besides, these days their lecturers are generally up to something even more weird, spending day after day away from the studios in interminable admin meetings. The very fact that so many students survive the contradictions is in itself wonderfully…

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A Contrary View: Critiquing Discourses of Resilience in Education

#becomingeducational Don’t get resilient – get even!!
This is a fascinating post on resilience – which is becoming a new buzzword in HE…
Of course we all need the ability to bounce back from errors – to learn from mistakes – and not let ‘failure’ destroy us – BUT…
That is surely not what the resilience narrative is all about – and if it is not about that – what is it trying to do – why – and to whom?
check out this blog post – and then think of how to use it in framing your own attitudes to education – to teaching/learning/assessment…
And if you are heading for Exams – or for the submission of that final piece of coursework – more power to your elbow!!
All the best,
Sandra & Tom

Fruits of the pedagogic life

Sat at the Association of National Teaching Fellows one-day event in sunny Birmingham, I found myself engaging in passive-aggressive tweeting about bloody neo‘resilience’. On my return, I complained about my disquiet with the way the term, and what it has come to stand for, have become pervasive in some parts of education. With great relief, I discovered that my office-mate Dr Nicola Rivers, shares some of my views. Out of our conversation, we have tried to capture the core of what, in a Higher Education context, is so problematic about the narratives on resilience, grit, Millennials, ‘snowflakes’ and academic buoyancy that seem so omnipresent.

There are things we leave out, such as the place of Mindfulness practice, discussions around ‘trigger warnings’, and free-speech on campus; and we hope to write a fuller version of this post, which includes them, possibly for publication elsewhere, but this is an…

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Learning Live

#becomingeducational W27: Transformative Learning – are we there yet?
This re-blogged post speaks to the heart of the Becoming an Educationalist module.
Becoming was designed to create a space for our own transformations…
Becoming was full of role play, simulations, collage, artwork… all designed to help us see education and learning processes ‘differently’ – for it is only when we can ‘de-school’ ourselves away from our previous educational experiences – that we can work out what education can and could be – and thus decide the sort of education we want to enable – and the sort of educationalist we want to be.
This re-blogged post shares the experiences of another tutor who has just that sort of approach to her own practice.



By Raka Tavashmi

Seven years ago as a young psychologist I walked away from academia; my work felt lifeless, dry words and data, no feeling or soul. As if I had left some hearty parts of myself somewhere secret and couldn’t bring it in to work, what a shame. I then started learning about health and the arts and how to be more real… and to recover from my education somewhat.

Now I find myself working with university students, teaching them about connection, caring and creativity, sharing life-skills I learnt from my own explorations and from outside the university walls. I’ve become the strange person who carries around her Box of Random Objects and makes people doodle and play to learn about listening, imagining and creating.

On 24 April I attended a conference on Transformative Learning, and here I found that my practice has more links to scholarly work than…

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reGenring conference 2 – who’ll be there

#becomingeducational W24: It’s the end of term… Fancy a free conference?

Nick Sousanis – he who produced his PhD as a comic book: http://spinweaveandcut.com/comics/ – will be presenting at this one day event on reGenring at Nottingham Trent University.

We have long been convinced by the power of re-genring – it takes deep thought, careful structuring and editing to turn information that is presented in one form into that ‘same’ information – but presented in another form. This is why we set our first year students (yes – that mans you #becomingeducational!!) the task of exploring the university and its learning spaces – and then to present their findings NOT as a Poster Presentation – but as knitting, poetry, jigsaw puzzle, 3D artefact, comic book, animation, video, collage: https://becomingeducational.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/mentees-multi-modal-exhibition/

We argue that this challenging re-genring of what they see brings about powerful engagement with their observations – and provides moments of meta-analysis…

AND – that is what this event is all about… See you on the 21st June?

Tactile Academia

Cover of Unflattening

I am happy to announce that Dr Nick Sousanis, author of the wonderful Unflattening, is going to be one of our invited speakers in the morning of the ReGenring conference at Nottingham Trent (see here for the Call for Practice). The title of his talk will be ‘Unflattening: reimagining scholarship through comics’ . Instead of an abstract, have a look at this page of Unflattening

Page 64 of Unflattening by Nick Sousanis

Also joining us will be Dr Fiona English, author of Student Writing and Genre, who will facilitate the end of day discussion. There have been some really interesting responses to the Call for Practice, and we can expect examples of genred and regenred work in form of comic books, radio plays, posters, poems, blogs, exhibitions, magazines and videos – don’t forget to let me know if you want to…

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What is a Learning Developer?

#becomingeducational W23 Becoming learning developers

What is a learning developer?

Can a discipline academic create a learning development space in their curriculum or classes – to facilitate emancptory education – that allows the student to become the professional that they want to be?

Or does the fact of assessment – and the judgement and power that that confers obviate learning development in the curriculum?

Great questions – I hope – and many thanks to Helen Webster for posing them on her blog in the first place!!

rattus scholasticus

‘I’m a Learning Developer’.

It’s not easy explaining what you do. Friends and acquaintances will gain only a hazy idea from this term, teachers and lecturers may feel that they, too, develop learning, don’t they? and colleagues in other student services such as English for Academic Purposes or Librarians may be on the defensive, as you describe in more detail what you offer: ‘but we teach that!’.

I’m fascinated by and enjoy interprofessional working – I love finding out how other colleagues work and how they conceptualise what they do – those glimpses into the arcane knowledge of another profession. Since Learning Development in large part arose from those professions – counselling, disability support, English for Academic Purposes, librarian information literacy teaching, subject teaching – it’s hard to situate what we do as distinct, which can muddy waters for staff and students, and lead to tensions in interprofessional working.

But I…

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