The T50 Flotilla

At the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching annual conference on 4 July, we asked delegates to spend some time thinking about what would be different at MMU if we were recognised for excellent teaching. This aspiration has been articulated as ‘getting into the Top 50 for teaching’, or T50 for short*.

Whilst we appreciate the vital role of Post-It™ notes in educational development, we wanted to create a more visual metaphor for cultural change. The old analogy of turning round a supertanker is often used to illustrate the difficulty of changing large and complex organisations like universities; we wondered if it would be more useful to try to look at MMU as a flotilla, rather than a supertanker. Is a large and diverse organisation actually more like a collection of vessels of different shapes and sizes, ages, experiences, and starting points, which we would like to encourage to move in the same direction?

The CELT team spent several lunch breaks making paper boats (this proved extremely therapeutic – we don’t often get to engage in a finite task).

CELT Conference July 2014 (29)

At the conference, delegates were asked to discuss what they think characterises being in the Top 50 for teaching, and then to write down their individual thoughts about one of the boats.

The boats were then displayed in the main conference area, for people to read and contribute to.

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CELT Conference July 2014 (106)

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There was always the potential for this to be treated rather flippantly, but our confidence in colleagues was more than repaid. The comments will all be typed up and shared on our website, together with some suggested actions, but here is a selection of comments from the boats currently at the top of a box in our office:

  • Make students believe that they are an individual and that they have a personal relationship with their lecturer/nominated person
  • Happy students, happy lecturers
  • Supporting student learning through personal engagement and encouragement
  • Feedback points built into learning
  • Sufficient staffing: academic and administrative to allow staff to put great ideas into practice, to support students and to free up academic staff from administrative work so that they can concentrate on teaching and research that will get us into the top 50
  • More innovation in teaching and learning strategies – particularly problem-based learning
  • Continue being enthused
  • Inclusion, Pride
  • Making students feel welcome and part of the learning community from day 1

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I definitely read one which said “More sartorial elegance” – surely also a definite indicator of our commitment to top teaching.

Speaking of which, we were lucky enough to have MMU illustration graduate Michael and his sketchbook with us for the day, capturing ideas for some further visual representations. These will also be published soon.

CELT Conference July 2014 (41)

Thanks are due to Chrissi Nerantzi for thinking of the activity and showing us how to make the boats, and to Ellie Livermore for capturing them into a flotilla,and to both of them for the photos of the day.

*Because we prefer to use acronyms wherever possible.

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