Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 16 - the one with the knots

Posted on: 26 January 2022 by Dr Tunde Varga-Atkins in General

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

In Episode 16, in addition to lightbulb moments, treasure island pedagogies/props and luxury items, we talked about being responsive to our students’ needs, and going back to basics if need be, the pedagogy of kindness, the role of lectures and the importance of listening as part of the learning process.

Speakers: Dr Dawne Irving-Bell, Dr Gary Brown, Sue Beckingham & Dr Tania Dias Fonseca

Date: 10 January 2022

Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 16 podcast

(Treasure Island Pedagogies Episode 16 - 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 Dawne Irving-Bell

Edge Hill University, UK


  • Original discipline(s): Technology and Design Education
  • Current role: Reader and Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow, The Centre for Learning and Teaching, Edge Hill University
  • Lightbulb moment: I’ll try to condense the story. While working with a lovely group of students, we were making small wooden boxes. Noticing that one student had a large, unsightly knot on an outside facing panel I suggested turning the wood, so the knot would be on the inside of the box, making it easier to sand and varnish and it would look better. The student’s frustration was palpable “Why have you bought this? I would send it back”. Confused I asked what the student meant. "These knots, why do you buy it with these knots in". As I explained wood has knots, because it is where the branch comes out of the trunk of the tree. The student (and almost everyone in the class) stopped to look at me quizzically, "What? …you mean this comes off trees?" Their lightbulb moment was that wood comes from trees, my take away, and one I'll never ever forget, never ever assume your learners' levels of understanding. Always take a minute or two to ensure the foundations are firm before you start to build!
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: Long before they were available commercially, using laminating pieces of thin A4 card I used to make mini whiteboards for my students to use during lessons. They are so useful to help engage every student. You can ask students to write or draw, then hold their work up so that you, as the teacher, can see the results – but not necessarily allowing time for the students to see each other’s work, which is brilliant for those perhaps worried about the quality of their writing, drawing, or spelling. You can use them for collaborative group work, and they are awesome for assessment, for example quick fire quizzes. It helped everyone to get engaged. So, a set of mini whiteboards, pens, and those mini erasers please!
  • Luxury item:  Some clay? so I can make us some lovely earthenware to make our communal mealtimes extra-special, and if I’m allowed anything else crafty like paper, pencils, and glue to help while away the hours.

Dr Gary Brown

University of Liverpool, UK

Twitter? What’s that? 😉 

  • Original discipline(s): Management (particularly people management/HR)
  • Current role: Director of Online and Innovation (since 2018); previously at Liverpool: Director of Studies for BA Business Management (2012-16), and Director of Education in the Work, Organization and Management Subject Group (2016-18). 
  • Lightbulb moment: teaching the Friday afternoon graveyard shift on leadership theory and skills in my very first teaching to sports studies students. I prepared a detailed lesson plan and was determined to stick with it despite students telling me otherwise in the coming weeks. The moment of great realisation was that rather than teach to a predetermined lesson plan, I should teach to the students and the cohort in front of me. I still remember this moment of learning from 20 years ago as if it was yesterday.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: I will go old school: for me, it is the lecture. I get some of my best feedback from students on my lectures. For me, the lecture provides the opportunity to converse with students, keeping them engaged. There is energy in the room, and the challenge of needing to engage students is so enjoyable. I love being responsive to your audience and thinking on your feet to react to the student dynamics.
  • Luxury item: I like to practice with my guitar, keep active by cycling, or if I can’t bring my bike, it’d be baking bread to relax. 

Sue Beckingham

Sheffield Hallam University, UK


  • Original discipline(s): MA in Communication and Media and MSc in Technology Enhanced Learning Innovation and Change, but I didn’t attain these until I was in my 40s. My career trajectory is a whole other story!
  • Current role: Principal Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and my current role is Teaching and Learning Portfolio Lead for the Department of Computing. I'm also a National Teaching Fellow.
  • Lightbulb moment: I find that when students are faced with real clients, they produce some of the best assessments. In my digital marketing module students work on a project for local businesses, but they used to hand in their assessments, and then they got feedback on how they could do it better from the clients but it was too late for them to change it. So now, I have brought the formative feedback forward. Students create a screencast presentation (an executive summary of their assessed report) as formative activity and present this to the client a few weeks before the assessment deadline. The client then offers feedback to the students and they have two weeks to improve on the final submission. This means that students have a real purpose for doing well on this task – and every single group delivers!
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: I am a certified Lego Serious Play trainer and have used Lego in many teaching contexts from L3 to L7. It’s great when learners can create and build with their hands, talk to a model – whether it’s undergraduate students or postgraduate IT professionals.
  • Luxury item: I love growing herbs, vegetables and flowers, so would take secateurs, a trowel, and packs of seeds to grow for our communal cooking area.

Dr Tania Dias Fonseca

Kingston University, UK


  • Original discipline(s): Physics and Chemistry Education
  • Current role: Senior Lecturer in Learning and Teaching, Learning and Teaching Enhancement Centre, Kingston University 
  • Lightbulb moment: So many and difficult to choose. When a student was playing in the classroom with a razor, I asked why he had it and knew of the danger of playing with it. I asked him if things went wrong one day, and he replied that it would be fine if he ended up in the hospital. I replied: No, if it goes wrong? He realised I was referring to him hurting or killing someone. I still remember his expression. He put the razor in his backpack, and he never brought it again to school. I think both of us had a lightbulb moment, we realised the power of dialogue and compassion.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: Hum… the pedagogy of kindness. Some of our students might not have a reference point of what it is like to study at university, everything is new to them, and it can be overwhelming. Learning how to be with others and in a new context can be difficult for some. We need to be kind to ourselves and to others.
  • Luxury item: trying to work out how to go for a sustainable way of listening to music – but would love to have music on the island to switch off and just dance.

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

We might have prepared elaborate lesson plans and learning designs for students, but upon arriving to the classroom we may find that our students are somewhere else – whether that’s cognitively, emotionally or in other ways. We talked about various ways and approaches as to how we can respond to where our students are, and through kindness and compassion our teaching can respond to meet our students there and then, re-energising the classroom. Our luxury items were very complementary – growing vegetables and wheat, making clay pots and bowls to eat in, kneading bread, playing music and dancing – not a bad way to co-habit our island!

Links / resources 

From Tania:

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