Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 21 - the one with the clown
In Episode 21, in addition to lightbulb moments, treasure island pedagogies/props and luxury items, our islands included student-organised conferences, starting learning NOT at the start, getting students to practise assessment of exemplars, authentic learning, branching scenarios, discussion around in-class polling and the importance of having fun whilst learning.
Speakers: Rachel Crookes, Dr Stephany Veuger, Dr. Gustavo Espinoza-Ramos & Matthew Tickle
Date: 27 June 2022
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.
SAGE Publishing, England
- Original discipline(s): English and Creative Writing
- Current role: Head of SAGE Campus, SAGE Publishing, overseeing online course development and learning design
- Lightbulb moment: That the starting point for learning doesn’t always have to be the beginning. When I worked as a textbook Editor, authors would typically start ‘the history of X’ or the dry, theoretical foundations for Chapter 1, when actually that was not often the most engaging place to start. I encouraged them to instead try something more unusual or sparky to kick things off and get learners engaged, rather than taking such a linear approach. Learning is actually an emotional process, and everyone comes to learning with different backgrounds, levels of knowledge, expectations etc. If you bring people into a subject in a way they do not expect, it can make their learning experience more interesting. Realising you have choices about how and where you start teaching a topic, was a real light bulb moment for me.
- Teaching prop or pedagogy: Branching scenarios! Who didn’t love a book when they were growing up where you got to choose your own adventure? Whether it’s a video that you pause and answer questions or a multiple question that follows a scenario, branching scenarios are my favourite pedagogical tool and I will always try and use them in whatever I’m working on.
- Luxury item: I’d bring an endless supply of plants and gardening equipment to give us some hope for our future as well as a way to wind down. I also think that as educators we are a bit like gardeners: creating an environment in which learners can thrive, rather than filling them with knowledge or trying to recreate them in our own image.
Dr Stephany Veuger
Drug design and development, Northumbria University, England
- Original discipline(s): Biomedical sciences
- Current role: Senior Lecturer
- Lightbulb moment: I had researched into the experiences and expectations of the UG research project for both students and supervisors with a view to supporting the process through a toolkit of resources. Out of this came the suggestion for student led project conferences where L6 (final year) students who had just completed their projects organised and presented to L4 and 5 (first and second year) students about their research and their key top tips for success. This was a lightbulb moment for the L6 students as they realised they could articulate their achievements well and this would help with employability and their graduate attributes. It was a lightbulb moment for L4 and 5 students who were now looking forward to rather than dreading their project through a lens of ‘I can do this and enjoy it’. It was a lightbulb moment for me as I realised the power of working with students-as-partners and agents of change. This work has now fed into many other projects and supports staff nationally as they use the resources produced.
- Teaching prop or pedagogy: Students as partners is the pedagogy I use which has fed into authentic learning inquiry – developing a community of practice which encourages collaborative learning and sustained active inquiry. Real life stories and case studies/examples that relate to learning and inspire curiosity are key to developing critical thinkers.
- Luxury item: I’d make sure we have plenty of pens and paper with me, clear writing is clear thinking, or “writing to learn”.
Dr. Gustavo Espinoza-Ramos
Sustainability and Business Strategy, University of Westminster, England
- Original discipline(s): Sustainable Business and Business Strategy
- Current role: Module leader / Lecturer
- Lightbulb moment: I was the module leader of a strategy module for final year undergraduates. The final assessment included a presentation handout. With some doubts, I shared up to three different exemplars (one bad, one average and one very good) of some sections of past handouts (2-3 paragraphs per section). I dedicated a two-hour seminar to explain the assessment rubric. In pairs, students had to mark the exemplars using the rubric and then, there was a discussion in the plenary session. I noticed how well students engaged in the activity and how harsh markers some of them could be, as they became agents of their own performance. At the beginning, I was very concerned that sharing exemplars would reduce creativity as students could copy them. However, during the plenary it became clear that students noticed that none of the exemplars were perfect, so they ended up using them as a guide for structure, striving to improve upon it. Now I follow this practice in the other modules that I lead.
- Teaching prop or pedagogy: The pedagogy that I have been using is problem-based learning in a module related to sustainable business. It involves setting authentic activities and assessment, where the students have to identify a problem, its causes and subsequently, having to come up with solutions. I could apply this pedagogy to find solutions to issues that occur on the island, and everyone would benefit from it.
- Luxury item:I used to train as a clown. So I’d bring my clown’s hat and nose as I realised that clowning is a way to reconnect with my inner child, remove ego, play, and interact with my audience. Some clowning techniques helped me when teaching and I am sure I will entertain all the islanders.
Operations and Supply Chain Management, University of Liverpool, England
- Original discipline(s): Operations and Supply Chain Management
- Current role: Lecturer and Director of Studies
- Lightbulb moment: I teach Project Management, which is obviously a very practical subject. In the lectures I teach the “facts” (i.e. the “theory” on managing projects and people as well as the tools that are used to manage projects and people). The lightbulb moment comes when the students are given an example project, and they must create a project plan for this project (using the software package Microsoft Project). They are given some exercises that help them to build the project plan step by step. I walk around the room to answer their queries, and check the progress of their plans. Once they have finished all of the exercises, they have a completed project plan. Then I tell them: “Look, you’ve just made a completed project plan – this is what a Project Manager does!” You can see that they “get it” - they now understand what Project Managers do (and most of them are very proud of themselves!).
- Teaching prop or pedagogy: Mine’s a fairly obvious one - it's Poll Everywhere, and in-class polling tool. I use it to create a Project Management Quiz; at the end of each lecture, I ask students to compete in a quiz. In terms of how it works: Students open Poll Everywhere on their phones, and the question comes up on the big screen. There are multiple answers, and they have to choose the right answer (using their phones). Students receive “points” based on how quickly they answer the question (the quicker they answer, the more points they get). The answer is then revealed, and a Leaderboard appears on the big screen in the lecture theatre. This Leaderboard shows the "Top 10 Students" (i.e. the top 10 students with most points). The students are given anonymised names and only they know what their anonymised name is - this is important as some students won’t participate if their real name goes on the screen. We then move on to the next question, and after each question points are awarded and the Leaderboard is updated. At the end of the quiz the student with highest score is the winner. I was amazed at how competitive students got about this!
- Luxury item: Mine is my Nintendo, just for the pure escapism (we've all needed this during the lockdowns...). It just lets you switch off. It distracts you from any stress and outside negativity (especially useful when you have someone else to play with). I think there’s a real need for games in education now. Learning should be fun and games offer the possibility for learning to be fun for both the students, and us!
Any sparks? How might our joined-up Treasure Islands look like?
We agreed that all our lightbulb moments, teaching props and pedagogies would complement well with each other. We had lots of discussions and ideas about making learning relevant to what the student brings, helping students make connections that are real to their experiences, and most importantly, having fun as a way to really engage our students in their learning. We hope you join us on our island. Goodbye and adios!
Links / resources
- When designing a module (learning activities and assessment) I follow the SEEC descriptors.
- Some documents provided by Advance HE such as the ‘Education for Sustainable Development Guidance’ and practice guides.
- Article about clowning and personal growth: Looking for your clown and finding yourself.
- CLOWNING 101: an online 'book' centralizing Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno's research, and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper's experience, on the subject of clowning.
- Tomas Carreno is a Peruvian actor, clown and entrepreneur who organises clowning workshops. In June 2022, I attended one of his clowning workshops. It was a very nice experience: Talleres de clown.
- Patch Adams and the Gesundheit Institute, a NGO that provides health care and education using the healing power of laughter. In 1998, there was a movie about him on which Robin Williams was in the lead role.
- Veuger, S. and Racey, S. (2019). Students as partners: on developing a student led conference to enhance the skills of UG project students International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences. pp 173-192.
- S., Gallagher. S., Creighton, H., Robson, I., Ridley, M. and Cookson, L., (2018). Uncovering expectations and perceptions of the final year UG dissertation - supporting the student research journey and enhancing their graduate attributes, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences pp.76-100
- How to create branching scenarios (without spiraling!)
- This talk by Carl Wieman on Active Learning really captures a lot of the ‘start somewhere unexpected’ approach: Don't Lecture Me!
Facilitated by Dr Tünde Varga-Atkins, Sound: Chris Loxham/Sandra Samaca, Web design: Dennis Wong, @LivUniCIE