Creative Teaching: Poetry for Reflection

Dr Kirsten Jack recently featured in a film for our Good Practice Exchange in which we focused on her creative use of poetry for nurse education. As many people find out, creative teaching can be quite a risky business and encouraging students to engage in activities outside of their comfort zones can be challenging. Here, Kirsten has answered four extra questions looking into issues of engagement and class management as well as looking ahead at what lies ahead for poetry in her teaching.

1. Do you have trouble engaging students in the challenging task of writing and reading out a poem?
“I think there can be students who are resistant to the process and some students do need more encouragement. I think a lot of students focus on the end product, which is the poem. And it is hard to get the message across that it isn’t about the end product at all, it is about the stages that they go through to write that end product. We know, and our students have told us that it is the drafting and redrafting of the poem that is the important bit, so it is the thinking and the stepping back and the thinking about it rather than the actual poem. We try to reinforce that and keep telling the students that.
I think another way to encourage students to take part is how we write our own poem and when we read our poem too, so we are exposing something of ourselves as well. I think that is very important to promote the fact that we all feel vulnerable and we all have experiences in practice that may be upsetting, that we feel sad about or, indeed, feel particularly happy about, but it is the sharing and the understanding bit that is important.
The other method I use is to say ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Have a go, write something and have a go at reading it out and then tell that you don’t like it, but just try and do your best.’ And I think if you set the scene and encourage the students over a period of weeks, they start to feel more comfortable with you and with their colleagues in the classroom, I think that is really helpful.”

2. Student often talk about very sensitive subjects, how do you manage this?
“Our students tell us that sitting and thinking about how they felt about an experience, writing the poem and redrafting and the rethinking and the rewording helps them to think and revisit an incident in a very meaningful way. I think that is particularly important for the incidents where students talk about something, which may involve a death of somebody, and it may involve the death of a patient that they have maybe got quite close to. So, going over the incident and going over the death and how they felt can be a very cathartic experience for them. They are in a group when they read the poems out, they are with their friends, they are with me, so it is safe environment and it is a way of them understanding that what they are feeling is normal and that other people feel the same. Very often, students will get upset when they are reading the poem out or they are talking about what happened, and they will cry and other students will cry. Sometimes I cry too, but I think that is OK because then the students think ‘well, it is not just me! I’m alright. I don’t need to be any tougher. It is alright to feel these things’, so I think it normalises the situation for them.

3. What do you most enjoy about doing poetry for reflection?
I think the best think about this session and this way of teaching is the meaningful discussions that we have after the poems have been read out and the way in which this style of teaching develops confidence. There is nothing like writing a poem and then reading it out to develop a student’s confidence and a lot of them feel very uncomfortable about it, but once they have done it, usually they are very glad they have done it and they feel better about themselves for having done it.

4. Are there any developments on the horizon?
“I think a way of developing this activity, and this has come from the students, a group of students, about five of them , from the last group that we ran the session with, they wanted to have their poems recorded. So we’ve recorded the poems and what we are going to do is put some animation over the top of that, and they are going to own all of that. Hopefully then we are going to use that as a way of spreading the word amongst nursing that writing poems is a really good way to share experiences about our practice.”

The Good Practice Exchange is an online resource created by CELT MMU to celebrate and share good practice in learning, teaching and assessment by our colleagues across the university. If you or your colleagues have a teaching initiative or aspect of good practice you think would be valuable to share, contact Eleanor Livermore on Thank you.


Trading Theory for Practice

Last term, we filmed Gavin Brown from the Business School doing one of his Economics lectures. In these lectures, Gavin introduces various theories for stocks and shares prices and movements. However, keen that his students don’t just get a good book knowledge of his subject, he has introduced a way of applying their theory in practice. Here, Gavin expands on some of the points he discusses in his Good practice film, focusing particularly on ethics and research. Continue reading

Interactive Lectures and Working with Course Reps

Dr. Tom Brock, Lecturer in Sociology in the faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences, was shortlisted for two MMU Student Union Teaching Awards in 2014, just one year into teaching here. We followed up with Tom to find out what he was doing in this teaching that students liked so much. The video, created for the Good Practice Exchange, focuses on interactivity in lectures and working with course reps. For this post, Tom and Abs, last year’s Sociology Course Rep, have teamed up to write about being working the importance of course reps and student feedback. Continue reading

Good Practice Exchange: Pre-Lecture Screencasts

Dr Paul Smith, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry & Environmental Science at MMU, has been working with pre-lecture screencasts as part of an initiative to implement a flipped classroom model in Chemistry. In this Good Practice Exchange film, Paul talks about how he uses them and what it means for his teaching. We have asked Paul three extra questions to find out what is next for his teaching practice and what tips he has for you if you would like to try using pre-lecture screencasts in your teaching. 

How has your teaching practice changes as a result of this method?

I have been trying to develop this method as part of the flipped teaching model, where the students are encouraged to watch the recording in their own time and at their own pace before attending the teaching session. The lectures now become less about the transmission of information and include more student participation, which can promote active learning. The class can now be guided by the students understanding and I have greater flexibility in the delivery of the material. However, a common problem with large classes is that answers to the questions is often restricted to a small group of confident students who regularly raise their hands and volunteer answers. In an effort to engage all the students  I have been using smartphones combined with a game-based learning classroom response system such as Kahoot and several short quizzes containing 3/4 questions have been prepared for each lecture. So with the transfer of material largely occurring out of class, via the screencasts, the in-class time can know focus on the assimilation of this information using the mass polling quizzes.

What are your plans for using pre-lecture screencasts in the future?

The overwhelming consensus from the students who took part in the pilot study was that they do not fully interact with longer resources. One suggestion was to develop screencasts for one concept or learning outcome, or a series of closely related learning outcomes. A recording of about 5 mins plus interaction time was considered suitable for most purposes, with an absolute limit of 10 mins in special cases. Also, students welcomed the opportunity to view screencasts of tutorial problems/worked examples and this was cited as an important area for further development. An area that has yet to be investigated fully is the adaptation of this technology for students with hearing difficulties who are obviously disadvantaged by this mode of delivery. Current work is looking to expand the inclusiveness of screencasts by using Camtasia studio, which is a more versatile software that allows you to improve the visual impact of the videos by adding subtitles/text boxes and a camera.

What advice would you give to a colleague who wanted to try pre-lecture screencasts?

Keep them short, no more than 10 mins, where possible avoid mentioning dates or even class groups to keep it generic and enhance its reusability. A key aspect in their design is to keep them self-contained and logically structured, where students can use in any context (just before/after lectures, just before exams, etc.). Prepare the visual component in advance of recording the audio and it is worthwhile preparing a script. The time spent doing this will be offset by reducing the number of takes required. For audio, the recording environment has to be as quiet as possible and use a good quality microphone with a USB connector. The microphone input is best positioned below the mouth, rather than in front of the mouth, since this reduces heavy breath noises. The best way to get started is to look at the user guides for producing podcasts with PowerPoint/BB flashback software, which are available in the Staff Resource Area of the e-learning website (Moodle area). If you want any further information do not hesitate to send me an email ( and I will do my best to help.

View this resource on the CELT website and find more resources relating to flipped classroom approaches.

Contributed by Dr. Paul Smith, Senior Lecturer in Department of Chemistry & Environmental Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, MMU.

The Good Practice Exchange is an online resource created by CELT MMU to document good practice in learning, teaching and assessment by our colleagues across the university. If you or your colleagues have a teaching initiative or aspect of good practice you think would be valuable to share, contact Eleanor Livermore on

Good Practice Exchange: Personal Tutoring and ‘Rescue Plans’

“In May 2014 I was honoured to receive the MMUnion Teaching Award for the Best Personal Tutor. This was particularly valued by me as I have always regarded student support as key. The full-time undergraduate students are at the core of any university and to provide needed advice can genuinely help students on their academic and personal journey.

I am the first to state that there is no “one size fits all” model for being an effective Personal Tutor. It largely depends on the personality and individual interests of the tutor. Other colleagues have equally effective views and practices which they operate.
My aim has been to make myself available to students either personally or by email. It is then to empathise with the student and imagine how they must feel. From there an effective dialogue can begin and hopefully a positive plan, whereby a student, who has run into difficulties, might now appreciate that all is not lost and a rescue strategy can be possible. This requires the student to keep to their side of the bargain and complete what has been agreed.

I also try to be strict in not overstepping my remit. If the student problem is one which requires external support then I will act as a signpost and point the student in the right direction. I also encourage them to call and see me to let me know how they are progressing, if they wish to. Hopefully, this builds a relationship which can benefit the student, increase student satisfaction and aid retention.

As my career is drawing to a close, it is very gratifying to be nominated for this award, let alone to receive it. I hope this achievement does reflect on some good practice which has been developed over the years to help students who are experiencing a wide range of problems. These are not always of their own making. Even if they are, my personal view is everyone deserves another chance to go on and achieve their personal goal.”

Contributed by Chris Lovatt, Senior Lecturer in Department of Business and Management Studies, MMU Cheshire

The Good Practice Exchange is an online resource created by CELT MMU to document good practice in learning, teaching and assessment by our colleagues across the university. If you or your colleagues have a teaching initiative or aspect of good practice you think would be valuable to share, contact Eleanor Livermore on