23rd Annual SEDA Conference (2018)
On the 15/16 November, 2018, the 23rd annual SEDA Conference took place in Birmingham. CIE's Kate Evans was in attendance and provided this report.
What was the event?
The 23rd annual SEDA Conference (Staff and Educational Development Association, 15/16 November, 2018) was a 2 day event in Birmingham, focused on ‘Supporting staff to meet increasing challenges in Higher and Further Education’.
An overview of the day:
The 2 day programme was packed with sessions covering different aspects of educational development, plus some really interesting keynote speakers.
What did you get out of the conference?
The conference keynote from Professor Julie Hall of Solent University Southampton highlighted the role of educational developer and the tension between implementing TEF/policy and supporting staff in curriculum development. Within CIE we operate as critical friends, but Julie sees the following opportunities for educational developers caught between these two positions: flexibility to decide on our priorities, the ability to understand change, disrupt norms, build communities of practice (something we are beginning to do at CIE), and energise our institutions with regard to diversity and inclusion (like our C2021 global citizenship graduate attribute). She also highlighted the importance of assessment, student-centred education, and formal recognition of our role.
It was really pleasing to see the importance of diversity and inclusion present in keynotes and in workshops offered, and I went to two sessions which specifically related to this. One (‘Supporting staff to meet current and future challenges around inclusive curriculum design and leadership’, delivered by Sarah Wilson-Medhurst) was based around a matrix-type document outlining statements of inclusivity, and encouraged us to map our curriculum against these. I found this a very useful approach. Sarah’s position is that accessibility should be our baseline, with everyone practising inclusive behaviours (I agree), and she produced a diagram (below) to illustrate steps towards achieving this:
Diagram of pyramid representing progress towards inclusion in 5 upward steps: ‘Subject and teaching competence’, ‘Safe, respectful environment’, ‘Continually working at being inclusive: people and activities’, ‘Positive experiences reinforce confidence (subject, career)’, and at the top: ‘Everyone ‘practices’ inclusive behaviours = innovation’.
The other (by Sarah Rhodes, entitled ‘Spotlight on inclusive practice – raising the achievement of all Higher Education learners’) approached inclusion via project case studies. This was excellent, and proposed, amongst other things, adoption of a Universal Design for Learning (UDL = the concept that if we design to suit everyone, we are, by nature, inclusive). This session was thought-provoking, and led to constructive discussion.
The pdf of Sarah’s session is here: Spotlight on inclusive practice.
I was also really interested to learn how other institutions have engaged with their students regarding curriculum change – Tansy Jessop and Claire Saunders shared their experience of this, and also (very helpfully) the slides to their presentation, which you can see here: Curriculum as counter narrative.
Their approach included student-facing curriculum cafes, collecting individual reflections which graduate interns then typed up as ethnographic field notes, and curriculum development boards asking for student feedback. This workshop in particular signposted me to some really relevant research in this area, particularly surrounding learning and confidence, and the need to provide support for those going through changes to their curriculum and pedagogies.
Another very relevant student-facing point came in a keynote by Pauline Kneale, PVC for Teaching and Learning at Plymouth University. Pauline recommended explaining pedagogic approaches to students in every session, so students have a better way of understanding their own learning. This fits with our C2021 curriculum strategy at Liverpool in terms of encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning (active learning).
Finally - SEDA awarded its first Educational Development Initiative of the Year (new award) to a fascinating project presented at the conference. Naomi Winston and Emma Medland from the University of Surrey have designed a system (The Feedback Engagement and Tracking System (FEATS)) which supports student engagement with feedback as a process and has already had significant success. Keep a watching eye on that one!
I learned a lot from colleagues across the UK both in scheduled sessions and in conversation, made new connections, picked up new ideas and identified new practice which we might usefully implement at Liverpool. I was also signposted towards relevant research, and I enjoyed myself - it was a really friendly conference. I’d now like to investigate what structures are already in place with regard to inclusive practice in teaching and learning at UoL and identify any necessary support needs.