I recently took possession of “Gaslands: Refuelled”, the revised and expanded version of the cult post-apocalyptic wargame (and excuse to play around with toy cars). I have played it at my library games club before, but with only basic rules. I set up a game using some of the new content, a one-vs-many scenario, where the others were attacking my war rig and its defenders. The game built on their existing knowledge and consolidated that, while introducing newer elements incrementally. By the end of the session, they were more comfortable with advanced rules and options, and looking at how they might build teams using the new content.
Everything’s about learning. Even playing with toy cars.
On my commute yesterday I bumped into the head of insessional English and study skills where I work. WE had an interesting chat comparing our experiences working outside programme teams to support new adult learners. Lots of common ground, and good to understand what we each do and how our teaching complements the other. I’ll be working with some of the students he has sessions with shortly.
Have been discussing the increased use of portfolio assessment at my institution. Two years ago, I would have known little about the practicalities of that. Now, I am a portfolio old hand, having put my own together for the PGCert modules. Hopefully that will help me give guidance to the students and to my team helping them.
“Your final marks have now gone to board and you will be sent your transcripts next week. I just wanted to say congratulations for your successful completion of the PGCPHE, we understand that the study and commitment required alongside full-time jobs and other life pressures is not an easy process and you should be very proud of your achievements, as we are.”
PGCPHE results confirmed – transcripts to be sent next week. Also an invitation as qualified FHEA, to be a mentor for others going through the PGCert programme. Nice recognition in itself – the idea that I have something to give back to others.
I received my provisional marks and feedback for my last PGCPHE module recently. A good mark. Provisionally. I think I may be getting the hang of this portfolio assessment thing. There’s a strange uncertainty when you’ve submitted a piece of work. You’ve done what you can, you’ve tried to do a good job, you’re as satisfied with it as it can be – but you don’t know for certain how it will be received. My first portfolio was nervous, hesitant, discussing and rife with impostor syndrome. This one was confident, it had my voice, but it understood its context better too. A reflection on my journey as a learner – and a teacher? Perhaps – provisionally.
One of our students came into the library yesterday. He’d recently received his results. He excitedly told me his grades. A pass – a low pass in absolute terms, but to him an achievement. He shook my hand. He had, he reckoned, spent every weekend for a year working in our library, and wanted to say thank you “for all your care”. Which was a nice way of putting it, and a message I am proud to pass on to our team.
I discovered on the weekend that my friend and sometime collaborator Chris Rowell‘s book Social media in higher education has now been published. Including my chapter, on my personal journey and use of social media in my continuous professional development. It was almost two years ago that Chris invited me to contribute, and since then I’ve updated my draft, helped out with proof reading and referencing, and discussed the book’s progress with Chris over beers and at football matches. I certainly learned a lot about scholarly publishing as a process. There are lots of great contributions and interesting chapters in the work, and it’s something Chris can be proud of.
I had the final PGCPHE submission last Friday. As I worked to finish it, I worked my way through my record collection. That’s a study habit from university, and probably my schooldays before that. Build up a pile of music listened to, never repeating an album, as I revise or study or write. Vinyl’s especially good for this – it’s tactile, and appealing, and you have to get up from your desk regularly to turn the music over. By the end, I was down to the last four or five unplayed records.
Four portfolios compiled over almost two years. So many hours reading, reflecting. Aspects of the course I never expected – I knew there would be theory, but did not anticipate how useful it would be to ground my practice. Practical changes in how I teach and think about teaching. Greater confidence to teach, and to talk about my own teaching context with others.
And a lot of records listened to.
It was recently confirmed that following my completion of the first three parts of my PGCPHE I have been awarded full fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. What does that mean? A few letters after my name? Something to put on a CV? Maybe more. I’m first librarian at the institution to achieve this. In my youth, I was first of my family to go to university. As a child, it was something to aspire to from outside. Now, after it’s been my career for so long, I have an insider’s perspective. And the FHEA which took a lot of work and reflection to reach, is a reminder to me of my role – as librarian, but as teacher too. Of how I have learned on this course how I teach, but more importantly how my students learn. And how I can help them, as part of that community of teachers. My fellows.
In a discussion with a friend over on Twitter following my last post, the subject turned to what our research and information-seeking skills sessions are called. Timetables listing skills sessions as “refresher” or “drop-in” definitely hurts take-up. In part, we discussed, because students’ self-image can reject such. In a competitive area like law, attending a “refresher” session can imply to a student that they need additional support – something it is easy to reject. Needing or seeking training or support can seem to be a sign of weakness, even. How to reach past this barrier? My friend told me about a colleague who had taken to calling their sessions “research surgeries” with success. I myself run a short session for returning level five students which is essentially a refresher, or even a remedial skills class. It is timetabled as “Advanced Legal Research”. A white lie? Or sensitivity to the needs and motivations of adult learners?