Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 12 - the one with the Mushrooms

Posted on: 14 October 2021 by Dr Tunde Varga-Atkins in General

Host and Guests in Online Meeting
(Host and Guests in Online Meeting)

In Episode 12, in addition to lightbulb moments, treasure island pedagogies, props and luxury items, our discussion rowed forwards, backwards, in full circles and spirals. We touched upon student-centred learning, authentic assessment, the concept of expansive learning, respect, the idea of learning with and from our students. We also observed that sharing knitting patterns as a communal activity is akin to the act of sharing and comparing our individual teaching practice.

Speakers: Dr Celia Popovic, Dr Phillip Moffitt and Dr Richard Osborne

Date: 04 October 2021

Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 12 podcast

(Treasure Island Pedagogies Episode 12 - Podcast Transcript)

Read or listen to find out our guests’ lightbulb moments, teaching props, pedagogies and luxury items that they would take to their Treasure Islands for precious contact time with students.

Dr Celia Popovic

York University, Canada


  • Original discipline(s): English Literature
  • Current role: Associate Professor, Faculty of Education
  • Lightbulb moment:  I suspect many might share my light bulb moment: when I was teaching at an FE college and was undertaking a course on adult learning, I came across the idea of student-centred learning. It made me reflect, ‘what have I been doing so far?’ and completely turned my approach to teaching round.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: having spent far too much time on reams and reams of students’ written coursework, grading them, which then was the end of their work, I started to question the way we assess, how do we know what the students have learnt? Assessment should be about creating meaning for students to engage with their learning - it is respectful towards the student. So to me, the notion of authentic assessment makes a lot of sense: whether that’s encouraging students to produce portfolios or getting students to produce book reviews (in a literature course).
  • Luxury item: knitting wool and needles - I set up a knitting group for SEDA and EDC – every week we do crafting together.

Dr Phillip Moffitt

MKC Training at the Royal School of Military Engineering


  • Original discipline(s): building services engineering and facilities management.
  • Current role: Senior Lecturer (teaching focused) at the Professional Engineering Wing, the Royal School of Military Engineering in the UK. This academic role is actually my second career; I was a practitioner engineer in defence for my first career.
  • Lightbulb moment: realising that I can learn so much from students themselves. If I need to demonstrate some important engineering threshold concepts, such as Bernoulli’s principle about the stagnation pressure of fluids and velocity, it starts with students’ outright and visceral rejection of things that are counter intuitive. To help them, I often make the mistake of imagining there’ll be some need for ostentatious, flashy, never-before-seen learning technology, but then they’ll surprise me with something ‘powerfully banal’, to use Vincent Mosco’s phrase. They’ll show me that technology enhanced learning can be something like blowing across a piece of paper to demonstrate lift, a bendy straw for thrust, a bike pump for laws of thermodynamics. The way they share their realisation of threshold concepts then transforms the “what” and the “how” of learning for all of us. We’ll first refuse to accept, and then we’ll argue, and then we’ll laugh as it dawns on us what’s happening, it’s messy and life changing, and I’ve got the best job in the world!
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: I’d like to take expansive learning as a pedagogy, described by Yrjö Engeström as “learning what is not yet there” – where we are invited and encouraged to be free to question and criticise our culturally and historically embedded practices. We can then move towards analysing, modeling, testing, implementing and consolidating change, in iterative cycles, as we confront unforeseen problems in work and learning. Expansive learning helps us move away from the pretence of managerial consensus; the notion that everyone must pretend to agree with something, for it to succeed. In HE we miss out on so many lucrative opportunities for change that are masked, because we gloss over tensions and contradictions and dissenting voices.
  • Luxury item: I was going to grab a clever academic book to take to our Treasure Island, maybe something by Michael Cole because I cite it a lot but always find some gold dust when I open it again, “Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline”, but then I’m torn, I’d love to take Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds – the first album I ever bought, preferably on vinyl with a solar-charged player.

Dr Richard Osborne

University College London, UK


  • Original discipline(s): Psychology at UCL
  • Current role: Faculty Learning Technology Lead (Mathematics and Physical Sciences) at UCL - so back at my alma mater full circle.
  • Lightbulb moment:  when you get to that point of teaching where you feel ‘It’s worked!’, when all students are engaged and there is a buzz and hum of the working classroom. It's a lovely moment.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: I’d be nice to take formative assessment tools that I use in my teaching, e.g., Kahoot. Each technology has its niche purpose. Socrative can be good for tracking individual performance, plickers can be good when students do not need devices and so on.
  • Luxury item: the woods. I like foraging for mushrooms. I am fascinated by the structure of mushrooms and taught myself to distinguish between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. I love the idea that foraging for mushrooms is something you could never fully master, so I can keep on learning.

Any sparks? How might our joined-up Treasure Islands look like?

A common theme from today’s discussion seemed to be the idea of co-learning with students where everybody can contribute their own approach and experiences. We also discussed the idea of respect we should pay to our learners by engaging them in meaningful and constructive activities. Sometimes this might start with getting them to zoom in on tensions, question and critique. ‘Sulking’ and ‘enlightenment’ can be very neighbourly reactions – for instance when instructors or students come together from different disciplines, challenges and confusion may arise from the fact that we might use the same language to describe different concepts, and we might not even realise it until later. One might understand the meaning of individual words but not intended meaning of the whole sentence when those words are put together. It is when we recognise and take it upon us to resolve this to arrive at a shared understanding: this is when learning happens.

Links / resources

Facilitated by Dr Tünde Varga-Atkins, Sound: Chris Loxham, Web design: Dennis Wong, @LivUniCIE