Isabel and Katharine (Myers-Briggs)

 

I’ve done the ‘Myers-Briggs test’ (AKA the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) three times this year (2017). The first time I came out as INFJ-Turbulent (I wrote about this on my other blog).

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Turbulence (Broadstairs)

The next time, we did the test as part of a team development afternoon, and I came out as ISTJ, which was…odd…as I’ve never been ‘S’ (Sensing or Observant, depending on who you ask) before.

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Sensing (or Observant) (Anna, 6.5 months)

My colleagues and I weren’t totally convinced, so I took the test again at home and came out as INTJ, which was more likely, but still different to the first test!

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Thinking, Judging (also Sensing and Observing) (Willow, our old neighbours’ cat, 2012)

I wonder if the ‘S’ happened because the test I took that time was another version from the other two (actual Myers-Briggs rather than 16 Personalities). Anyhow, perhaps all this just goes to show that you can’t really put people in boxes – although the MBTI is not about doing this; it is more an indicator of tendencies or preferences rather than trying to say that a person is X or Y type and always behaves in such and such ways.

I found the development afternoon interesting, and useful in some ways, although I found it quite difficult to deal with the fact that I didn’t really agree with my test results. I felt like I had done the test wrong, which I realise is irrational, as there is no right or wrong with MBTI. I am a bit odd in that I do tend to categorise things/people and put them in boxes (not always literally), which I know is wrong, but it’s just the way my mind works! I think everyone does this to a certain extent; we just like to think we don’t!

 

Influence Workout

I recently attended the Influence Workout, run by Guy Michaels of Opposite Leg. It was an interesting and tiring day! I think it probably does count as a workout – there wasn’t much ‘sitting down and listening’ time – there was lots of talking and discussion and practising influencing people we’d never met before, which was good because this seems to be what a lot of my job involves at the moment!

It will probably come as no surprise to learn that “truly” listening is the most powerful tool we have when it comes to influencing others. But it’s so hard, isn’t it? I find it very difficult not to spend all the time I should be listening trying to think of the next thing I want to say (or trying not to say it). Also, we did an exercise where we our partner for the task would talk to us about something and we had to keep interrupting them and talking about ourselves in relation to what they were talking about. You know, that thing when you’re talking to someone about you dog with a massive tail (Retriever) and they say “oh yes, I’ve got a Schnauzer and she has massive eyebrows” (or whatever). I do this all the time. I started doing it because I thought it conveyed empathy, but now I think it might just be annoying. Alas.

We did an interesting exercise during which we had to rate our level of influence (a) at home and (b) at work on a scale of one to ten. A lot of people scored themselves more highly for influence at home than at work. I don’t think there was anyone who scored themselves more highly for influence at work; some people weighted both equally. The reason for this exercise was to illustrate the idea of influence being borne out of relationships – we are (unsurprisingly) more likely to be able to influence people we have some sort of prior relationship with; we know how they ‘tick’ and how they are likely to react to things, what their communication preferences are, how they like do get things done, and so on.

Related to this, is the idea of using different styles of communication according to the ‘type’ of person you’re attempting to influence. As we know, there are lots of different ways of categorising people according to personality type (which affects their communication style) (Myers-Briggs, etc.), but for this sessions we used the  following matrix:

OL - Influence Workout A17

We had to decide the personality type we thought we were most like (can you guess what mine is?) and then we went into groups and had to pretend to be the type we were least like. We then had to try to influence the other groups/types of people to agree with us on various ridiculous statements, such as “you shouldn’t go to work if you don’t want to go” and “smoking is good for you”. It was quite tricky! We also looked at the idea of balancing the appeal when speaking to groups, as of course these will probably include people of various different ‘types’ (and mixtures of type).

I think one of the most useful things I learned on the day was the idea of a “competence and character” list. The idea is to make a list of your abilities and good character traits – why people should be influenced by you – and then you can refer back to it during times of self-doubt, or just to remind yourself of what you actually know.

We also talked about assumptions – as someone not so famous used to say “assume makes an ass (donkey) out of  you and me”.

I.e:

don’t make assumptions, because you’ll probably end up looking (or at least feeling) stupid.

I  should point out that I take issue with donkeys being made equivalent with ‘stupid’, but it was a good opportunity for another picture of cute animals. Anyway, you have been warned. I’m always assuming things, and judging people – it’s not a good trait.

Things not to make assumptions about when trying to influence people:

  • levels of knowledge or understanding
  • readiness to communicate about a subject
  • attitude to the subject

Another aspect of influencing is “communicating congruently”, which sounds posh, but actually just means using open body language.  During the part of the workshop we did some physical exercises to change our postures using aspects of the Alexander Technique, which was a lot like exercises we did the next evening at choir rehearsal! I found the techniques really helpful in both contexts: it is really a matter of standing up straight (or your airways are straight, in the case of singing, particularly) [- this made a massive difference at last night’s choir practice – I could easily reach high notes I previously struggled with] and imagining a string on top of your head pulling your head up but tucking your chin in a little bit, so you don’t look too aggressive (!). Also, place your feet about a shoulders’ width apart and relax your shoulders (I always find that hard). It sounds obvious and simple,  because it is, but most of the time we (I) stand really badly in a kind of slumpy position. I have scoliosis, which doesn’t help, but I do (even more so) need to make more effort to stand better, especially when singing and presenting.

The final exercise of the day was to discuss with our partner about a situation where we need to influence someone (or a group of people) and then present about this to the group (if we wanted to), explaining how we would use the techniques we learned during the workshop. We used this slide as a memory aid:

OL - Influence Workout A17a

I volunteered to talk about my ‘influencing situation’, which was basically to try to influence academic staff to engage with Open Access and the repository (actually only one of many situations where I need to influence people, but it was the easiest to talk about!). Talking about this had an side-benefit in that a member of staff attending the workshop learned more about the repository and where to get help using it!

I struggled with quite a lot of the workout/shop because I was distracted and feeling self-conscious – I don’t really know why. I think perhaps I felt like I needed to impress (influence?!) some of the people attending the workshop, because now I’m working ‘out there’ in the university more visibly I need to build up a good reputation…but of course feeling self-conscious doesn’t usually lead to a better performance! However, I did feel better once I’d talked about my ‘influence situation’ at the end because (I suppose) I was back in my weird presenting dis/comfort zone…and people seemed to like it, which always helps.

Solution-focussed conversations: a workshop

Yesterday, I attended an internal development workshop led by Carole Pemberton. A big part of my new role involves meeting and having conversations with people. Sometimes this is just to get to know them and find out what they do and what sorts of research-related things are going on in the faculty/school, but sometimes (quite often) we talk to try and find out how I can help them. Even if the conversation doesn’t start out as a ‘problem-solving’ conversation it can often turn into one, particularly once people start talking about things they don’t like, or would like to change (which happens quite a lot!). I think I’m probably an introvert (no kidding),  so this aspect of my work can be challenging and sometimes scary.

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Image by Joe Wolf via Flickr (CC-BY-ND 2.0)

However, on the whole, it’s very interesting and I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to get out and about on campus and meet new people and feel like I’m becoming more involved and at home in the wider university, if only in small ways for now.

My role is to support people with research/scholarly communications so I need to be solutions-focussed in my conversations with them. There’s always a danger of a lot of complaining about things but not much being done to sort them out – in general, higher education institutions tend to be great at talking about problems but not very good at actually solving them. I learned yesterday that this is because we (HE staff) tend to be content (information)-focussed – we like information and asking questions and gathering more information because it makes us feel clever [idea that knowledge=power?] – because we are clever (apparently).

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And of course it’s often easier to talk about problems than it is to deal with them – information gathering during a conversation is really just another form of procrastination! [Another interesting things I learned yesterday was that people who are grandiose and talk down to people they consider to be ‘beneath’ them are doing this out of anxiety – their place in the (possibly perceived) hierarchy is their safe space.]

So what is a solutions-focussed conversation? Mainly, it comes down to good listening and asking the right questions. These should be ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ questions, but, interestingly, not ‘why’. Again as ‘clever’ people, we like to know why, but knowing why something is happening/has happened doesn’t actually help to find a solution to the problem. In a solutions-focussed conversation it’s not about exploring feelings about the problem, but finding a solution to it. This was quite difficult for me get to grips with, because I’m used to counselling conversations, where people are always asking ‘how does this make you feel’ (which I hate, btw). [Another interesting point, if you want to find out how someone who doesn’t like talking about their feelings feels about something you should ask them what they think about it instead].

Questions should only be asked to help the other person’s thinking not to feed your curiosity

Here are some examples of good questions to use in solutions-focussed conversations:

  • What is important to you in your work right now?
  • How often does this problem happen?
  • What have you done to improve things?
  • What is the biggest obstacle you are facing?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • So what?
  • What would be the most useful thing you/we could do?
  • Who else can help?
  • How have you solved problems like this before?
  • What are you going to do about it in the next week?
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Not Listening by LadyJillybean via Flickr (CC-BY-ND 2.0)

What is good listening? Well, things like good (appropriate) eye contact, making supporting noises/actions so the person knows you’re listening (must be genuine!), repeating information back to make sure you’ve understood it, and also:

  • Using the other person’s language (e.g. if they say it’s a nightmare, say it’s a nightmare, not that it’s bad)
  • Remove distractions
  • Look involved
  • Slow down so you can pay proper attention
  • Be aware of the other person’s changing emotions during the conversation – when do they become more animated/excited/sad/bored
  • Removing yourself – i.e. not thinking about yourself and what you’re going to say next

Good listening is getting yourself out of the way

At the end of the conversation, you should have some sort of plan of how to tackle the problem. You don’t need to have a plan to totally solve it, but you should have at least the first step in mind. As with many things (e.g. cake) it is easier to tackle problems in small stages.

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Cake by Josh Lowesohn via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

For example, you might not be able go straight in to having a conversation with someone you don’t like, but you might be able to go in and say hello or even just try to think about them in a more positive light. One (more) thing I found useful (although thankfully it doesn’t really apply to me) was the idea that if you really can’t get on with someone in any other way you can still agree on some common ground, even if it’s very general (e.g. you want to make things better for students).

As well as the actual conversation part of solution-focussed conversations, we talked about ‘peripheral’ but essential and very relevant things like ‘presence’. It sounds airy-fairy, but how you present yourself in terms of your physical presence can have a big effect on people’s attitudes towards you – and also on how you perceive yourself. Think of peacocks. We discussed this TED talk by Amy Cuddy:

It may not be as scientific as she claims, but we tried it in the workshop and just the fact that it makes you stand up straighter and therefore breathe more easily must be of some benefit, I would have thought. Perhaps it’s just psychosomatic, but I’m not sure that matters if it works for people.

In summary, solution-focussed conversations follow the coaching cycle:

  1. Defining the topic/goal
  2. Listening, asking the right questions, finding options
  3. Agreeing actions (must be willing to actually do them), even very small things.
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A symbolic picture of an acorn by knitsteel via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Copyright is hard: the CILIP Copyright Conference 2017

Yes, it’s official, read all about it, etc.; copyright is hard. Like we didn’t know! But it seems to be one of those things people secretly know but dare not admit, especially not at a copyright conference…until now! I think this was my favourite moment of the conference: when Ronan Deazley said these words. And then lots of people said them! And I realised I was not alone, which was good in one way, and then not so good in others, because I thought everyone else knew what they were doing! It’s OK, they actually do – knowing something is difficult is not the same as not knowing how to deal with it.

My other favourite moments of the conference were during Jane Secker and Chris Morrison’s presentation when (1) we wrote down how copyright makes us feel on a paper aeroplane and flew them across the room (or not, in my case) (2) we had to admit to copyright crimes. I had only committed one (of the ones they asked about). I’d better not tell you what it was.

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The conference mid-confession of copyright crimes

Even apart from these revelations, the conference was much more interesting than I expected it to be. I didn’t understand absolutely everything, but I understood more than I expected to, and learned a lot.

The programme and presentations from the conference are available on the CILIP website.

Does my data look good in this?

…was the title of a conference/workshop on research data management in the creative arts I attended yesterday. We started off with this:

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It was one of several “Curious Items” placed on the tables around the room. Our task was to think of a title for the item, describe it, say what it was made from, decide why the object was created (its context) and decide on the purpose of the object (what we can learn from it). We decided to call our object “Mind Mattress”… The purpose of this exercise was to get us to recognise (if we hadn’t already) the difficulty of assigning specific and accurate information to arts and humanities ‘objects’ – unlike in science, we are not dealing in facts, but in ideas, emotions, concepts, and other ambiguous, unquantifiable things. This was followed by a presentation by Leigh Garrett, Director of the Centre for Digital Scholarship, Library and Student Services at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) on “Stuff and data: an introduction to research data management in the creative arts”, during which we had to answer questions:

  • What is research data in the creative arts?
  • Why do we want to manage research data in the creative arts?
  • What do we need to consider?

Answers to these questions (and more) can be found at in Leigh et al’s article on ARIADNE.  I will add links to the presentations from the day once they are sent out.

Next, we heard from Amanda Couch, a lecturer and artist from UCA. She works with food, in particular offal. She shared various aspects of her research (and her research data) – a case study. I found her comparison of Instagram  to a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ (or Wunderkammer) very interesting, as well as the use of Instagram as a way of capturing research data (as someone who is dyslexic and dyspraxic Amanda has found this visual/’wordless’ way of data collection very useful as a way of making a record of her practice).

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Part of my Wunderkammer (Instagram)

We then moved on to look at “Arts data management in the real world”; two case studies of the use of arts research data. The first was Glasgow School of Art – Dr Robyne Calvert and Nicola Siminson talked about their experiences of implementing research data management and how research data became essential to the rebuilding of the Mackintosh Building following the devastating fire in 2014.

The next case study was about engaging arts researchers with EPrints research repositories, presented by Stephanie Meece (UAL) and Amy Robinson (UCA). They talked about the Kultur project; the aim of which was

to create a transferable and sustainable institutional repository model for research output in the creative and applied arts…

This meant making quite a few changes to the standard EPrints ‘look and feel’ to make it more ‘arts friendly’. For example there is a much improved and increased use of images on the sites created for UCA and UAL; language has been changed to better reflect that used in the creative arts; there are different item types and sub-types available as options when adding items to the repository. We have (relatively) quite a lot of engagement with creative arts staff/researchers, and I wonder whether there are some simple customisations we could make to our repository in order to make it friendlier and easier to use for these folk (and others).

After lunch (yum), Daniela Duca from JISC spoke about current developments in research data management at JISC. She left us with two questions:(1) What should a next-generation research environment look like? (2) What skills do people need to prepare for research practice now and in the future? Perhaps topics for a future LRS Seminar?

We then had a “repository rodeo”. No horses or bulls were present, alas (or perhaps just as well). Instead, there were short presentations from Figshare, Arkivum and Artivity – all of which you can have a look at online instead of me fruitlessly writing about what was said.

We then split into groups again to think about the future of research data in the creative arts. I was in the group looking at service development. Only one person on the table was actually currently doing anything with research data management in their institution, and this was not specifically for creative arts research data. It was very interesting to hear about what they are planning/doing and one question that came out of our discussion was is it really a good thing to have a[n institutional] research data repository? which sounds like a weird question to ask in the context, but is actually a good point. There are plenty of places where people can put their research data that are not actually institutional research data repositories (e.g. subject or funder respositories), so do we really need to have our own research data repository? The answer is probably, ‘it depends’!

Finally, we looked again at our “Curious Items” and found out what they actually were. The name of our object was really “Breathair Hollow”, a “breathable polyester cushion substitute for urethene foam that uses a hollow yarn to reduce weight”. So there we are.

Flipping the classroom

Last week the LRS team plus guests attended a workshop on “The Flipped Classroom”, led by Lynne and Alyson from Learning and Teaching Enhancement. In true ‘flipped classroom’ style, we had to do some work outside of the classroom before the workshop itself – most of which was  watching videos, one of which I will share here (sorry I don’t have links for the others – they’re on BlackBoard). This one was particularly useful for me as I had no idea what flipping the classroom entailed – it actually wasn’t as radical as I had expected! Also, there are penguins (and a walrus):

After I’d watched the first video I had a few questions/statements written down:

  • Learning styles? The other week I attended a presentation during which it was said (by the presenter) that the whole idea of learning styles was being questioned…Anyway…
  • What if the students don’t read/watch the materials in advance of the class?
  • What is students don’t have access to the internet outside of the university environment?
  • I don’t want to participate or be active.
  • I don’t like group or collaborative work.

A few of my questions/concerns had been allayed by the time I’d finished watching the other videos and reading the materials on BlackBoard – I particularly liked the ‘scrambled classroom’ idea; a combination of flipped elements and short ‘lectures’.

In the workshop, we started off by doing a pop quiz about the materials we were supposed to have looked at, using the Socrative app, a free online voting system which we had all downloaded. This was quite a fun way to do things and of course also a good way of testing whether or not we had all prepared for the workshop!

Lynne and Alyson both gave a good overview of what flipping the classroom can mean in practice, and talked about the advantages and disadvantages of teaching in this way. The advantages are:

  • Students can learn at their own pace
  • Students with learning disabilities can revisit the materials
  • Devoting class time to the application of concepts may give instructors a better opportunity to detect errors in students’ thinking and spend time with individual students
  • Students can work collaboratively
  • Technological innovation allows distribution of resources (avoids, e.g. not enough copies of books)

Disadvantages/concerns are:

  • There is a limited amount of scholarly research on the effectiveness of the flipped classroom method
  • It requires careful preparation and time
  • Students need access to technology outside university
  • Will students engage with the flipped classroom method?
  • Putting more content into the curriculum means more work for tutors
  • Does it work for all students?
  • The flipped classroom method has had poor evaluation from students

In the second half of the workshop we looked at how we could use the flipped classroom method in our own teaching. I found the idea of doing this quite challenging because I mainly teach researchers and academic staff and I was worried they would find it patronising, and wouldn’t want to engage with the pre-class activities because they wouldn’t have time (or would say they didn’t have time). It’s often difficult enough to get academic staff to turn up to a booked session, never mind asking them to do work for it ahead of time as well. But perhaps I’m doing them a disservice…

Anyway, we got into two groups and each group made a plan of how they would carry out a flipped classroom session. This was our plan for a session teaching academic staff about our institutional repository:

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As you can see, we talked about the division between the flipped part (tasks to do outside the classroom before the session) and the ‘teaching’ (face to face classroom-based stuff). I think, for academic staff, it’s important not to give people too much to do outside the classroom because they probably won’t do it and it may put some them off attending the session altogether. Also, the

so what?

is really important. No one wants to go to something or do something they feel will be waste of time, so  we need to make sure that students (and staff) know the benefits of taking part for them, personally as well as generally.

Technology, digital capabilities and the language of change

This talk by David Walker, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Sussex, was the first in our series of Learning and Research Support (LRS) Seminars.

The premise of David’s talk was that the language we use to describe, implement and travel through change does not reflect the (difficult) reality of how it feels (and is) to go through change. Therefore, language becomes a barrier to successful change.

Embrace the unruly

(Donna Lanclos)

Alongside this is a long-held belief that (new) systems will make everything better, when actually what we really need is to have difficult, “messy”, conversations and deal with what is already going on.

People are taught to want transformational change, but actually, in the Higher Education (HE) sector, change tends to be developmental rather than transformational [n.b. I don’t think transformational is a word, I think the word should be transformative. WordPress doesn’t think that’s a word either, though].  I.e. a shiny new library management system is not going to make everything better in one fell swoop. Well, we think we know this, but the idea that a new LMS is the answer to everything is still a prevalent myth within the library world  – perpetuated by the producers of such systems, of course.

The next big thing

(Dylan Williams)

Or rather the seductive temptation of the next big thing: we look for this amazing new thing that’s going to fix all our problems but actually we should just be getting on and doing things to improve the situation.

The nature of terms associated with change can breed uncertainty and resistance, says David. Let’s take a look at some of those terms (as we did in the seminar):

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Hands up who gets turned off by those words? *puts up hand*

Resistance is [not] futile

(David Walker)

It’s really not. I’ve been there (and I am there, currently going through a departmental restructure, and I can tell you that resistance to change is always going to be there, whether those in charge believe or know it or not. I sometimes think that the people who are responsible for implementing change (I know everyone is responsible for implementing change to some degree, but you know what I mean) don’t really believe that people are going to be resistant to it. There is still this idea that people will just to what they’re told and when this doesn’t happen the people in charge don’t know what to do. This is probably partly because, as David said, change is a complex process – it is not just about the actual change (which is enough) but also the ‘ripple effect’ of emotions and consequences for people’s lives and the service in the long term; things which will feed in to the resistance. As David also said, there is quite often a  failure to explain the rationale for change [in a way which is helpful to those most affected by it].

Resistance is a primary cause of failure of change. In my experience, it’s not a failure in terms of the change literally not happening, but rather to make the change a positive experience (if that is possible) or to run smoothly. If nothing else, resistance makes the change process longer, which is usually the last thing people need.

Higher education is dominated by

de-humanising language

This was a bit of a shocker (surely HE should be the epitome of liberal, humanistic thought?), but when I heard David say it, I already knew it was true, I just hadn’t thought about it properly before. I’ve thought a lot about how HE is now a market, using the language of the market and business and commerce (e.g. students are now customers), but I hadn’t made that leap to actually seeing it as being de-humanising. But, arguably, by seeing HE as a market is almost automatically envisages those whose lives are involved with HE less than human – currency, transactions – and the philosophy of HE seems to be no longer about education and thought but about the market: Universities don’t seek after truth or knowledge but rather the top ranking on the leader board, to be market-leading, world-beating, transformative, innovative, leading, leading, leading. In what? It’s not really about people, except as numbers or survey results, FTEs, cohorts. I feel tired just thinking about it.

At this point, one of my colleagues made a good point: people are so used to hearing these words [see word cloud above] that we don’t even hear them anymore – we are word blind (deaf?).

Another one of my colleagues also said, (I paraphrase) this is all bit toxic isn’t it?

“Transformative” makes people feel bad

(Brookfield)

Was what we were doing so bad that we have to do something entirely new and never be able to go back to what we did before?

What can we do?

  • Talk about improvement rather than change
  • Promote dialogue – legitimise everyone’s voices
  • Recognise that change impacts on culture and is an emotional process
  • Acknowledge concerns and give feedback
  • Change/improvement should be a sustained process – it takes time and is not a one off event
  • Use partnerships as an approach to engagement, including external partnerships across the HE sector – work with others, share expertise and experience instead of duplicating work and working against one another
  • Share a common language – learn to understand different professional languages (e.g. technical terms). This does not mean everyone has to do “management speak”
  • Gain an HE teaching qualification to improve knowledge of teaching practices and educational theories
  • Gain some other qualifications (e.g. PRINCE2 (project management), IT qualifications) to support meaningful discussion with colleagues in other departments

Myth busting makes me feel good

The idea of ‘digital natives’ is a myth. Just because most young people can operate a mobile phone or send an email or watch dodgy YouTube videos this does not mean they have digital capabilities that are “fit for living, learning and working in a digital society”. The skills they have are not transferable to (e.g.) an educational context – we  can make all the search boxes on our library management systems look like Google but this isn’t going to help people find the resources they really need or learn how to assess them or write a good essay or save their work safely or create a webpage or program something or print something out or turn the computer on (or off).

As David said, we need academic staff who are skilled in using technologies so they can pass these skills on to their students, or at least model them.

An avalanche is coming…

(Barber et al)

…and people generally don’t have the skills to deal with it. David argued that we need to increase focus on “maker pedagogies” – students (and us) as creators and researchers – students as producers. Although I think I understand what he’s trying to say (we need creative people for jobs in creative industries, the idea of students as producers seems again to be part of the language of commerce. Of course it’s good if students (and academics) produce work and research outputs but is it not OK to study for the action/work of studying  and learning and the improvement of knowledge as an end in itself? I think once we lose the idea of ‘study for pleasure’ it’s only a matter of time before reading for pleasure and visiting galleries for pleasure and listening to music for pleasure go out of the window as well. But I may be overreacting.

We do need people to be creative, but I’m not sure that HE is a very creative place anymore. Producing does not necessarily mean being creative in the wider sense of the word.

“Up-skilling” is killing me

Not literally. It just saps my soul every time I hear it. It is meaningless. Just say ‘learning new skills’. It’s a bit like my other pet-hate phrase, “going forward”. What happened to “in the future”?

Moving on…

Support staff are the best

Not surprisingly, support staff are needed to enable technology enhanced learning (TEL), in other words to help people use technology effectively when they’re studying, learning and/or teaching. A good thing which came out of the session with David was that we all recognised the need for us in the library to work together with people in IT and LTEU (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit) to provide effective support to people. At the moment it’s a bit confusing for people – who should they go to for help? It would be good to sit down with colleagues in other department and have a nice chat about what we all do  and how we can help each other (and students and staff) out. I wonder if that’s possible?

Medway Researchers Room opens

Last Friday I attended the opening of the Medway Researchers Room at the Drill Hall Library. This is a dedicated room on the first floor of the library (I didn’t realise how much space is actually up here). There is space for relaxation, group work or individual study, as well as a screen to practice presentations with. It’s a nice space, quite bright and comfy, so I hope it gets used to its full potential. There were a lot of people at the launch – probably about 50 (?), including lots of actual research students!  There is a big white board in the room which researchers were encouraged to write questions and suggestions on. The Drill Hall’s research support team) provided packs for all the researchers attending the opening:

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(There was also a notebook and pen, but a certain toddler took a shine to it!) I think it would be good if we could create something like this pack to give to new researchers – for example, when we deliver sessions as part of the Researcher Development Programme.

The opening of the room was a good opportunity for the researchers to get together over tea and cake – it seemed like a lot of them hadn’t met before and it was good to see everyone chatting and making new friends, and of course it was also useful for them to meet library staff. It was especially good for the researcher from CCCU as she hadn’t met any other research students until that point! The Drill Hall Research Support Team are hoping researchers will use their space for social as well as study purposes – this plan seems to be going well as they’ve already had a request to set up a researchers’ dating site!

Pedagogy and practice

Pedagogy:  The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept. (Oxford Dictionaries)

The Learning and Research Services team (of which I’m now a part) held our first ‘Pedagogy and Practice’ (P & P) session last week. As Sam Gamgee almost said in The Fellowship of the Ring (at least in the film version): “Now, there [was] an eye opener and no mistake!

Although I’ve taught a lot of people a lot of things over the years I’ve never really thought of myself as ‘doing teaching’ – bad syntax I know, sorry. I used to make ‘lesson’ plans, very early on my career when I was young and keen and encouraged to do so; but then my career path took me away from delivering training/information skills sessions and into user services, where, although I did help out with inductions and things this was quite rare, and the actual planning and pedagogy side of it was left to someone else (usually someone from the Academic Services (now LRS) team.

So, to say I was daunted by last week’s session might be an understatement. In the event, of course, it wasn’t that bad, although I did feel that I had a lot less to contribute than the rest of the team. I found the  mini ‘teach meet‘ part of the session particularly difficult, partly because of the subject matter – innovation or good practice in our own work – I couldn’t think of anything to talk about! In the end I talked about the drop-in sessions we’ve been holding (of which more in another post).

I have a lot of catching up to do, in terms of both theoretical knowledge and teaching practice. My’teaching’ at the moment is me standing in front of a PowerPoint telling people things about repositories and Open Access and questions at the end if we have time. Interaction is minimal (unless it’s a hands on session using the repository) – but I think that’s partly due to the nature of the beast – I’m imparting information rather than skills, most of the time…but having said that, I’m sure there must be more interesting ways to go about this, and I’m hoping the  P & P sessions will help me to learn some new techniques in this area. Another issue with the teaching AH and I do is that we’re mainly teaching researchers and academic staff, as opposed to undergraduates who are the majority ‘audience’ for the rest of the LRS team, and sometimes its hard to pitch the session at the right level or sufficiently engage people, among other things. Again, I’m hoping these are subjects we can talk about at a future P & P session.

It was fascinating to listen to everyone else and hear about what innovations they’ve made and their experience and knowledge of both pedagogy and teaching in pratice. I think I learned more about it all in those two hours than in my past 10 years as a librarian! I’m very much looking forward to future sessions and hoping I can contribute more as the time goes on, as well as putting into practice some of what I learn.