Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 27, the one with the kiss of blood

Posted on: 6 December 2023 by Dr Tunde Varga-Atkins in General

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

In Episode 27, in addition to lightbulb moments, treasure island pedagogies/props and luxury items, our discussion evoked an environment where students exercise agency and confidence to explore new ideas through experiments, metaphorical imagery, gamification and where students are guided through complex threshold concepts with a range of exciting and fun pedagogies drawing on active learning, collaboration and peer learning. …

Speakers: Jen McBride, Tim Hinchcliffe, David Roberts

Date: 06 December 2023

Treasure Island Pedagogies: Episode 27 podcast

(Treasure Island Pedagogies Episode 27 - 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. 

Jen McBride

University of Manchester, UK


  • Original discipline(s): Cognitive Neuroscience & Psychology.
  • Current role: I’m a Senior Lecturer and Associate Dean for Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes in the Faculty of Biology Medicine & Health, and University Academic Theme Lead for Teaching Excellence & Quality.
  • Lightbulb moment: I find that when students can make predictions, I know the penny has dropped and we’ve achieved a step-change in their understanding :) One of the best examples of this comes from one of my Level 6 (first-year) seminars. The seminar tasks students to use some inexpensive props (rubber gloves stuffed with cotton wool!) to recreate the rubber-hand illusion, and then use this to design a novel experiment to answer a question of their choosing related to the content that week. Students had great fun playing with the illusion and designing an experiment, but when I then asked them what they would predict for the results of that experiment given their understanding of the theories... there was a pause... before students’ eyes lit up as they realised they could! They could make predictions about novel situations that push the boundaries of our understanding. Watching students’ confidence grow as they realised they can do this was such a lightbulb moment for me – creating a space where students can safely stretch their wings, and develop the confidence to try, is key.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: If I can really choose only one(!), then I’d choose a chat-box. When the Covid-19 hit I trialed a “watch party” format for teaching, and I’ve never had such positive student feedback. As a cognitive psychologist, my over-trained inclination was to run some controlled experiments to work out what the causal factors were that made this format so effective/popular, and such experiments (co-created with my final-year project students) have shown that the chatbox improves (1) students’ learning; and (2) sense of belonging/community, even when other factors are held constant. I now include a live chatbox in my teaching everywhere that it makes sense to do so, including in-person classes.
  • Luxury item: Aside from my family and two young children, I’d take my knitting needles and yarn, please! I taught myself to knit a couple of years ago, and now typically knit for 30 mins or so for a few evenings a week. I find it helps calm my mind and solve problems that have eluded me during the working day. Something about the rhythmic movements and gentle clicking of the needles (and possibly because it means my hands are occupied and I cannot doom-scroll on my phone!) seems to distract my mind just enough to help me think clearly. Plus having my knitting needles and yarn would mean that I can make blankets and other useful things which might make our desert-island existence more comfortable!

Tim Hinchcliffe

BPP University, UK


  • Original discipline(s): Technically and briefly: medieval history and political science, but always been a ‘Learning and teaching development nomad’.
  • Current role: Principal Lecturer in Learning and Teaching at BPP University which is one of the five private universities in the UK. I describe my role as helping to grow sector-leading professional educators to produce industry relevant courses.
  • Lightbulb moment: Gamification with learners. Not a zealot but an acolyte when used appropriately. Example of a lightbulb: playing a social deduction game called ‘One Night Ultimate Werewolf’ with educators in Thailand. It creates magic in the classroom as they take on different personas. I use this game to challenge educators to consider how can we capture and recreate this experience with our own learners. I get them to not only play but also step back and observe others, then reflect on what happened and why and analyse how this might be harnessed in their context. In course assessments (especially innovation presentations) and course feedback this is overwhelmingly the number #1 thing student educators are positive about.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: It is my own pedagogy Vampiring! Using the motifs or tropes about vampires as a way of collaborating and fostering collegiality. It has been the key to my success in these ‘development’ roles. The three stages are:
    • Invited across the threshold – you as the vampire can only engage with people if they invite you into their space.
    • Seeing yourself in the mirror – change revolves around some sort of reflective activity (but should not be about the vampire, you are only there to support).
    • The kiss of blood – once engaged, others will follow you, the original vampire, in the same change process.
  • Luxury item: I was going to say a chess board but perhaps nobody else might want to play! So instead, I’ll go for a set of juggling balls, a lot more sociable and fun for everyone.

David Roberts

Loughborough University, UK

  • Original discipline(s): International relations
  • Current role: Senior lecturer in peace & conflict studies and international relations, based in a Business School
  • Lightbulb moment: I find metaphorical imagery very powerful for learning. I get students to represent a concept visually that they have found challenging. This is also what I do in my teaching. In international relations the world can be seen as fixed – but I like to challenge students to observe that the world can be dependent on human activity. I used a static image to describe this fluidity to my students, when one student stood up in the middle of my lecture and shouted: “Dr Roberts you just rocked my world!” This created a great discussion amongst students, with one half believing the world to be fixed and grotty, whilst the other half wanted to believe that the world can be fluid and malleable dependent on our actions. This exciting debate unfolded in my classroom prompted by the use of visual imagery.
  • Teaching prop or pedagogy: The world-café method. It is a method that draws from the collective wisdom in the classroom in a way that transcends the teacher/student dichotomy in the room. The class is organised with round tables with participants and a facilitator. After a short intro, each table has a discussion, then one person gets up and moves to other tables and integrates their table’s knowledge into the current table’s. Each table debates an aspect of a topic, which then revolves and is redistributed across all the tables.
  • Luxury item: A solar powered motor-bike to help me ‘meditate with my hair on fire’, into a trans-like peace, a place of calm and tranquillity.

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

In our Treasure Island, we offered a number of ways of creating opportunities where students have their own agency and confidence to test new things. We conjured up various metaphorical journeys through liminal spaces to help our students across threshold concepts through chatboxes, metaphorical imagery and gamification. All these approaches that we have had success with had the commonality of utilising active learning, collaborative/peer learning. We discussed solutions for those moments where students may be reluctant to stop a lecture to interrupting the learning for others, for instance by using back-channels for personalised learning. We had an exclusive reveal of Tim’s use of “Vampiring” as a metaphor for enacting pedagogical change to foster collegiality, and bartered all these ideas away in an energetic combinations, for instance by mixing world cafés with vampiring, then with chat boxes. The opportunities are endless!

Links / resources

From Jen:

  • A Screenshot showing the students’ eye view of the “watch-party” set up using a padlet chatbox to support learning in real-time.
  • The crocheted bee using using my “luxury item” (assuming I can include crochet hooks in with knitting needles!)
  • The knitted rainbow blanket – also using my luxury item – to keep my mind usefully occupied and make our treasure-island existence a bit more comfortable
    Rainbow Blanket
  • See the Rubber Hand Illusion here

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