Innovations in Pedagogy Summit, UVa – Wednesday 2nd May 2018

A photo of my name badge and the programme for the Innovations In Pedagogy Summit UVa
Innovations In Pedagogy Summit UVa

I attended a conference “Innovations in Pedagogy Summit”  at the University of Virginia as part of an ERASMUS training visit to the University of Virginia. This is an annual conference for UVa staff organised by the Center for Teaching for Teaching Excellence. The theme was “Creating Inclusive Classrooms: Shifting from Thinking to Doing”.  The welcome by Archie Holmes Jr (Vice Provost for Academic Affairs) framed the day by defining ‘Critical Inclusive Teaching’ as “…deliberately cultivating a learning environment where all students are treated equitably, have equal access to learning, and feel welcome, valued and supported in their learning.”

Newcomb Hall - a red brick building against a clear blu esky
Newcomb Hall
A slide titled: Critical Inclusive Teaching
Critical Inclusive Teaching – on the left is Michael Palmer Director of the Centre for Teaching Excellence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The keynote presentation for this was a theatrical performance ” 7 into 15″

by the the University of Michigan’s CRLT Players.

We watched a cast of students actors performing scenarios around experiences of inclusion. This was framed by an excellent facilitator who set groud rules for our participation (see below)  and got us to work through a series of reflective exercises around each piece.

Invitations to Interaction

  • Share responsibility for including all voices in the discussion.
  • Do not ask others to act as a spokesperson. (for a particular group)
  • Listen carefully even if you disagree.
  • You are encouraged to hold each other accountable.
  • Work to be open to feedback.
  • Engage in self-care.

This was really powerful, the students were excellent performers and there was something much more real about watching the scenarios acted out by students who could ‘be’ the characters they are playing.

I felt myself reacting personally to watching the young woman’s contribution being casually belittled by a well meaning professor. ‘Oh’ I thought ‘That’s how is happens’ – I recognise that.

In another sketch – a young man was asked by his German language teacher to say a sentence about who he loved – when he referred to the person loved as ‘he’ – the teacher corrected the gender to ‘she’. But the student hadn’t made a mistake.

I vividly remember the sketch in which an Asian man expresses his inner dialogue when confronted with engaging with the aggressive discussion style of a US tutorial.

It was very moving and thought provoking watching a young Black man reacting to the barrage of ‘microagressions’ – ranging from misplaced humour to outright abuse he received over a period of time.

There was something very different about watching real people perform than there might have been from hearing the scenarios read out or watching videos. Having the student performers in the room was an  important part of this experience.

It was also interesting for me to be an outsider in that event – not knowing the rest of the participants made it a great deal easier, and some of it was uncomfortable. It must have been very intense to be part of for the UVa staff.  I don’t think I’ve attended anything at my own institution that has addressed homophobia, sexism or racism in such a direct way.

 

A circle of people sit across the room as I look down at the Tree of Contemplative Practices
Tree of Contemplative Practices – (see the full image online).

Contemplative Practices for Building Inclusive Classrooms

Juliet Trail, Zaida Villanueva Garcis, Ran Zhao, Fred Maus

I walked into the room to find the chairs arranged in a wide circle – which is a change from many of the front facing sessions that I’ve attended at conferences. At this session we experienced three contemplative practices and discussed how these could be used in teaching. For the first was an activity we were invited to stand up and to pass a coin round a group from the backs of hands in silence. We were asked to be aware of our bodies and to consider how we felt as the coin neared us, during the hand over and as it moved on. (for me: nervous anticipation, fear of embarrassment if I dropped the coin, followed by relief as it moved on).  It was interesting to draw my attention to my feelings (stronger than I’d anticipated for a straightforward activity) and to feel connected to this larger group – particularly relevant as I was a visitor.

We then had a meditation session while listening to music – which was less successful for me as I was very self-conscious (and a wee bit bored – but I do struggle a bit with slowing down). The third activity was about practicing compassion to myself and others – meditating with my hand on my heart being aware of the flow of breath – in for me – out for others.  At the end of the session we were encouraged to write down our reflections about the experience and then to think about how this approach could be used in practice.  This is interesting to me as I personally value contemplative practices like mindful meditation and yoga but have never considered using them in my own teaching context. I left the session feeling grounded and energised so my experience as a participant was good. It leaves me thinking about how and where I could use this technique in my own teaching?

Contemplative Sciences Center University of Virginia 

Rows of Orange lunch boxes lined up on a table
Box Lunches

Excellent “box lunches” were provided in bright orange (UVa colour) boxes. These were both delicious and highly practical, as you could eat them inside or outside in the sunshine.

Writing Across the Disciplines: Reflective Writing Bridges Between Differences

John Alexander, SHANTI, University of Virginia

My final session was also a practical, an interactive writing session with John Alexander who was my host for my visit to UVa. Here is how he described his approach in using reflective writing with his students:

“Reflective writing is transformative for my students, bolstering agency and more holistic and intuitive growth and creativity. And when that writing is done in a blog accessible to everyone in the class, the ferment of the learning community accelerates. Process-oriented writing expands and deepens connections both to self and others, which works effectively for students from all schools and disciplines and in working across differences. This has significant implications for students’ meaning-making and identity formation since it welcomes them where they are in their individual development. This practical approach nurtures authentic presence and deep listening.”

As a group we wrote short reflective pieces of writing to prompts John provided.

We started with a 5 minute writing prompt: Write about something that is currently meaningful to you.  What does it feel like in your body mind and spirit to do that activity?

We then discussed the process of our writing as a group. Highlights of the discussion  for me were:

‘writing is generative – the writing takes you to your ideas’

‘I write to feel – for me it’s part of resilience’ – to be in touch with emotions

The next writing prompt was:

Writing Prompt – How would you apply what you have learned here to your own writing or teaching practice or both?

We then discussed as a group what we had written:

Everyone thought it was important to get people used to writing in the first person (especially in academia).

The prompts used are important,  they are like the focal point of a meditation. A few interesting options:

  • What touched you?
  • What surprised you?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • How do you hope to be different by the end of this session?
  • Prompts that are not task oriented.

Reflection is transformative in several ways, it opens a door for us to be more in touch with ourselves and with others.

Observations

This conferences was really well structured and paced, running from registration at 8 am and closing at 2.30 pm. The sessions I attended were well structured and interactive, and plenty of time was allowed for the the sessions and for networking at registration and lunch. It was a pleasure to take part as I  write this a couple of months after I attended I realise how much of it has stayed with me.

How I plan and record my CPD activity

At the end of January Maren Deepwell invited #CMALT people on twitter to participate in a conversation to think about how we all record and plan our ongoing Continued Professional Development (CPD) activity for the CMALT portfolio reviews which take place every three years.

In February I took part in a really interesting Google Hangout with  Maren Deepwell, Lorna Campbell and David Hopkins, which started with a discussion around how we currently track our CPD activity.  It occurred to me that I’ve never designed what I do, it’s happened organically, so in writing this post will describe what I do, reflect on why I do it and see if this gives me any ideas for improvements.

My approach to recording CPD:

I’m very much a recorder of events. I enjoy taking notes (it helps me focus), photos and making diagrams and use these later when I go to make sense of what the experience has meant for me.

A screen shot of tabs in OneNote - Events Attended, Aurora, How To Do, Intern 2018, Writing, Marketing, Career Ready

At work I use OneNote – I’ve set up a CPD notebook with tabs for each activity, looking at these I see they can be activities I’m currently doing, so under ‘Career Ready‘ I’m making notes of all the activities and training for this activity,  or aspiration, ‘Marketing‘ is something I’m looking to find out more about, so here I’m collecting opportunities and noting articles.

If I need to know how to do something, either by going to Google or asking someone, I make time to record the answer – so I can easily get back to it – that is all in the ‘How To Do‘ tab. 

Over the last couple of years  I’ve moved to digital note taking, before that I had loads of paper notebooks. I take my laptop or a device to use for note taking. (I might at some point write a whole post about digital note taking so I’ll leave this here for now).

Since completing my CMALT and recent review – I’m now much better at collecting evidence of what I do. I take the time to write blog posts because I know I will get the benefit of them later. I collect as I go.

Screen shot of the Outlook to OneNote buttonOne thing I have discovered is that you can copy emails (complete with attachments) from Outlook into OneNote which  is a really easy way to keep stuff together.

 

At work, I am asked to compile a list of training courses for my Annual Development Review (ADR), which can be interesting to look back on, I usually compile this at the last minute by looking back at my diary, notes taken at events, and add in links to anything I blogged about.  At my annual review I take suggestions with me so I can talk through with my line manager what I want to do and opportunities that might help me to get there.  Its worth bearing in mind it can often take a while to actually get accepted on the course you want to go on. I was able to participate in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Educations Aurora programme on the third year I applied – but it was worth the wait.

My approach to planning CPD

In approaching CPD I try to balance what I need to work on with what I’m interested in and the needs of my employer and my current job role. I’m also lucky to have a mentor at work (through the Aurora scheme) who is a great listener and wise advisor and it has been really useful to talk through my development with her.

What do I need?

I try to identify where there are skill or knowledge I need, for example as part of participating in the Aurora programme I identified that I needed to better understand assertiveness – and then went on to find that knowledge and experience. 

What’s out there?

I make a note of opportunities I’m interested in when I see or hear about  them, (usually on Twitter or mailing lists, or by word-of-mouth) even if the time is not right for me:

For example:

BYOD4L BRING YOUR OWN DEVICES FOR LEARNING: AN OPEN LEARNING EVENT FOR STUDENTS & TEACHERS (FACILITATED, STAND-ALONE) – this was on my radar for a couple of years before I managed to take part is some of it earlier this year.

Jisc Digital Leaders Programme – I saw an interesting panel discussion about this at Digifest, so I’ve kept a note of this to look at further.

Senior Fellow of the HEA – I’ve been on a waiting list to take part in our institutional scheme for HEA accreditation for the last year.

My institution has a Lynda.com subscription, I must admit I got very excited about this when I first had access, but have neglected it somewhat lately. There are good courses in there, but there is no social interaction around them and I miss that aspect. They are great if you just need to know about something, then and there. I finished the Learning Path to Become a Manager a while back and I am part way through the Learning Paths to  Become a Content Strategist

Moocs – I’ve completed a few but am always seeing more that look interesting.  Recently I completed an Introduction to Personal Branding on Coursera which was created by the University of Virginia. As a learning technology advisor, I always enjoy these from two angles, both the content and the approaches taken to learning design, content creation and delivery. 

I try to think beyond training courses at other development opportunities to gain skills or experience I need.  Last year to get mentoring experience I became a Career Ready mentor – which has proved to be both a challenging and rewarding learning experience. I’ve also taken on managing a student intern to gain management and recruitment experience. 

What I consider to be CPD:

A photograph of clouds at sunrise
Looking at the possibilities and reflecting

So CPD for me is everything I do to try to develop myself. It is training courses and conferences I attend, as well as those I plan and deliver. It’s the questions I ask myself and then try to seek answers too. It’s the stretch opportunities I take on at work.

I also read a lot of books, I love getting a book recommendation and will often be ploughing through a book months after the reasons for the original recommendations have faded. I did for a while try to take notes of what I thought of books, but that just doesn’t fit with the context of when I read, which is mainly listening to audiobooks while I walk or reading in bed. Part of this is my belief that you don’t always have to actively listen, if something is important or relevant to you, you won’t miss it. I occasionally take a photo of the front cover just as a reminder!

The stuff I want to think about but not to share…

I’ve also found it very useful to use writing to help me to think through something. In our conversation we discussed the ‘personal’ aspect of CPD – not every problem you are working through can be shared in public, or can be fixed by gaining particular knowledge.  I have use google docs as a space for my private reflection.  I’ve got a folder I call ‘Work Pondering’ where I write down things I want to think about, and I find that writing about them and revisiting them on several occasions can really help this process.  

Writing to share…..

I started with private writing but over the years I have built up my confidence to share some of my writing.  I write blog posts for my team blog and participated in an online course run at the University of Edinburgh  called 23Things for Digital Knowledge and now have set up a personal blog on my own domain.

Blogging is teaching me different skills including: writing for an audience, writing with a message, writing to remember, or to connect with other people, or to promote an activity.

What’s for me and what’s for my role?

My work ADR is for here and know opportunities that are clearly role related. There are other things I want to develop that are aspirational, tangential and I can’t really link to work and these I decide to do in my own time. When I wrote my original CMALT portfolio, looking at what I did in relation to the core areas made me think about my own experience at that point and identify where I wanted to gain more – it wasn’t always immediately obvious how that related to my current job, seeing things within the CMALT guidelines gave me more confidence to pursue further development in these related ares. 

Like everyone, sometimes I have to do CPD I’m told to do! For example I’ve completed compulsory training in, Engaging with Change, Understanding Recruitment, Selection and the law and Information Security Essentials some in face to face sessions and others online.

I try to approach this with an open mind. As a trainer myself, I am respectful of the person who is delivering the training (I’ve stood in their shoes, I don’t want to be the tough crowd!). I try to think about what is the underlying  strategic reason why I’ve been sent on this? I try to get something out of every session even if it is ideas on the style or process of delivery.

I have come to accept that life is a work in progress and accept that I need to keep learning and that I often revisit the same subject for several years from several angles…. for example I don’t think I’m every going to be done with, presentation skills, time management, project management or people skills. Not that I’m particularly uninformed about any of these – just  there is always more to learn!

Questions?

Writing this post has been a useful exercise that has left me with these questions:

Am I being efficient in the way I approach planning and recording my CPD? Could I streamline and plan better?

How do other people record their CPD?

What do we all understand to be CPD activity?

I look forward to continuing this conversation.