Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 26, the one with the story/ paper/scissors

Posted on: 20 November 2023 by Dr Tunde Varga-Atkins in General

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

In Episode 26, in addition to lightbulb moments, treasure island pedagogies/props and luxury items, our discussion explored how we can get scientists to engage in less linear, creative thinking, getting students to interact directly with artefacts, engage them in peer-to-peer feedback, reflective learning, and the importance of struggle in the process of learning.

Speakers: Carys Watts, Evan Dickerson, Rebecca Wakelin

Date: 20 November 2023

Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 26 podcast

(Treasure Island Pedagogies Episode 26 - 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. 

Carys Watts

School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences, Newcastle University, UK

  • Original discipline(s): Microbiology, microbial genetics and bioremediation.
  • Current role: Director of Engagement and Senior Lecturer in Enterprise (biosciences)
  • Lightbulb moment: I teach enterprise to bioscientists via a ‘try, fail fast, learn and change direction’ approach. Bioscientists are inherently quantitative and keen to look for immediate logical solutions from hypothesis to testing. Undertaking business enterprise, learning is often not linear, obvious or direct. I encourage the creation of ideas through peer-to-peer feedback, which provides a safe space for students and allows them the experience of giving and receiving constructive feedback on their ideas. Seeing the moment when they realise that they need to change direction or what pieces of their idea ‘puzzle’ is missing is brilliant.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: My box of creativity. Open questioning and divergent thinking can be alien to bioscientists initially. So, I get them to use large sheets of paper and coloured pens/pencils on the floor, disrupting the lecture seating arrangement. Sitting on the floor, mapping out possible directions on large sheets of paper enables their creativity. This also helps them practice eye contact and meaningful discussion without the distraction of a screen - very helpful for their development of networking and public speaking. /li>
  • Luxury item: My running trainers. Getting outside and experiencing new places helps me unwind, take stock and come up with creative ideas. Plus, it brings me new experiences such as seeing an otter on the River Tyne on my last twilight run!

Evan Dickerson

Guildhall School of Music & Drama, UK

  • Original discipline(s): History of Art – lectured for 6 years part time before transitioning to a learning technology career (back in 1999!)
  • Current role: Learning Technologist
  • Lightbulb moment: Giving students a direct experience of objects, artefacts under study. As a history of art and museum studies student, I had classes in front of real paintings or sculptures. After graduating, I replicated this experience by taking groups of students on a 5-week long travelling art history course around Europe and did this every summer for 6 years to provide students with a hands-on flavour of what it was like to work in a restoration or research department. Three former students stick in my mind even now: one changed her major to art history from business studies and is now head of exhibition lighting at Chicago Institute of Art, another is a passionate art provenance researcher and the third is a curator of the art collection for the United Nations.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: Two pedagogies, experiential learning and reflection. In the creative disciplines, you never really stop learning and developing as a practitioner. You are constantly exposed to new sources and stimuli – be it a new play-text, a music score, collaborating with a new set of actors, directors, musicians, conductors etc. Reflecting on your learning helps you bring to the production your identity, what you already know, as well as leads you to challenge your views and abilities.
  • Luxury item: I find writing relaxing. I have been a music critic for over 20 years and just finished a book chapter on the skill-set of a learning technologist on way to completing a spy novel as well.

Rebecca Wakelin

Xi’an Jiatong Liverpool University, China

  • Original discipline(s): History, Political Science, Education
  • Current role:Educational Developer
  • Lightbulb moment: the learning is in the struggle! In political science, students can show resistance to some spiky ideas or concepts. Education is similar, developing educators who have been teaching for years, showing them new ideas or new ways of doings things can be uncomfortable. In the beginning, I would be impatient with my learners when they were struggling with the ideas presented, interrupting me, asking questions --- until someone challenged me: don’t you think this struggle is exactly the sign that they are learning?
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy:I was going to say paper and markers just as Carys said. My other choice is storytelling. I am a big fan of using storytelling in the classroom. We have been doing storytelling from the beginnings to pass down knowledge, to teach. Stories help you connect with your audience. Even if your audience doesn’t connect with the specifics, they can connect with your story through the emotion it evokes, whether it is a sense of joy, frustration, or experiencing failure at points.
  • Luxury item: At work, I constantly read. So outside of work, I find podcasts very relaxing and a great way to get to content whilst resting, cleaning or travelling

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

Bartering on our islands has been fruitful. Sheets of papers have been used to generate ideas for enterprise in small groups. With adding scissors in the mix, we got students to cut out pieces of paper and place concepts into relevant places, then have groups compare their results and argue why ‘I am right, and you are wrong’. There is something about the movement of paper into different places that invites critical thinking, reconfiguring your understanding of a concept, changing your own perspective, as well as plenty of opportunities for peer collaboration and feedback. And of course, we used storytelling to communicate some of these ideas for teaching, modelling the usefulness of stories for helping us connect.

Links / resources

From Carys' – ideas and inspiration resources:

Rebecca’s favourite podcasts right now:

Facilitated by Dr Tünde Varga-Atkins, Sound: Chris Loxham/Sandra Samaca, Web design: Dennis Wong, Neil Murray @LivUniCIE