Solstice Conference Edge Hill University - 5th-6th June 2019. Who are you and who do you want to be?

Posted on: 16 August 2019 by Rachelle O’Brien in Conference & Event Reports

Professor Sally Brown Poses
Professor Sally Brown poses with her leg held in the air wearing a tutu, doctoral hat and NTF sash in front of her presentation.

I attended Edge Hill’s Solstice Conference on 5th June 2019 in Ormskirk. It was a productive and fast paced day filled with great practice and inspirational talks. A real highlight of the conference was witnessing Phil Race’s semi-retirement ‘This is Your Life’ presentation and celebration.

This blog will focus on Professor Sally Brown’s workshop entitled ‘Who are you and what do you want to be?’ – a highly interactive play-based workshop that provided an opportunity to reflect on professional identity whilst creating a t-shirt.

The learning outcomes of the session included: 

  • Participants being able to make informed choices about the kinds of professional identity that work best in different contexts
  • Strategies for positive self-identification in relation to professional competencies
  • Developing personal strategies for working lives, that are not just manageable but are also enjoyable and affirming

Reflecting on professional identity as not being a fixed entity and something that is likely to evolve while people explore a number of different identities across a career. The intention of the session was to work towards understanding how these identities can be managed to maintain a balance in our lives. During the workshop, Sally drew on Dweck (2000) work on fostering self-efficacy and Boyer (1990) concept of enabling scholarship.

We started with instructions select a t-shirt or flip chart paper and to listen for cues in order to know when we needed to stop what we were doing and pay attention. Following this, we were instructed to draw images that we considered emblematic of us on our t-shirt and to label them with key words whilst listening to Sally present.

Some of the main points covered during this time included:

  • The importance of being empowered as individuals to share and direct our perceptions purposefully and positively
  • Being able to avoid self-doubt and reject succumbing to imposter syndrome
  • Reflecting on capabilities, not what can’t be done
  • Affirming and integrating values into practice
  • Challenging ourselves to stretch beyond safe and comfortable zones of endeavour
  • Collating liveable and mutually supportive identities for ourselves rather than having these imposed on us by other people’s expectations

We paused at times during the workshop to reflect as a whole group and also with those on our table. Some of the question prompts explored included the following:

  • How do you see yourself?
  • How do you look in your professional world?
  • How do you want to be perceived?
  • What do you want to be more like?

“Everybody close your eyes. Without looking, put up your hand if you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome. Put your hand down and open your eyes. I can tell you, that the majority of people in this room raised their hand.”

This workshop was a real stand out experience. Sally shared some of her own stories and experiences whilst giving the audience the space and encouragement to reflect and draw, considering; who you are, how you think, how you might be perceived and how you want to be perceived. There was encouragement through this task to foster self-efficacy. Being in control drawing and notating your own ideas and reflecting on them as a group fostered feelings of empowerment and opportunities to share with others and consider their perspectives. Also, it was affirming to discover that imposter syndrome is something many people have encountered and found ways to overcome.

Rachelle's T-shirt

Rachelle’s t-shirt from the who are you and who do you want to be session that notates in pictures and words in bright colours key elements of her identity. This includes; family, Luna the dog, being an educational developer, gardening, Disney, scholarship and learning, education and technology, cooking and baking, playing with Lego (representative of games and play).

Some take away reflection activity from the session included:

  • What advice would you give to your early career self, based on your thinking during the activities today?
  • How can you help the next generation coming up the ladder behind you to avoid some of the false steps and discomfort you have experienced yourself?

So, Who are you today? Who do you want to be?


Brown, S. (2019), Who are you and who do you want to be? Solstice conference Edge Hill University June 5th-6th 2019.

Boyer, E. L. (1990, reprinted 1997), Scholarship reconsidered: priorities of the professoriate, San Francisco: Jossey Bass, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Dweck, C. S. (2000) Self Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality and Development, Lillington, NC: Taylor & Francis.