Friday, 17 April 2009

Correspondence with Steve Draper

Following Steve Draper’s presentation at the HEA Assessment and Feedback day we have been passing emails back to one another. Steve is a great thinker and a really energising presenter. Go listen to him whenever you get the chance.

Two things came up in the correspondence.

1. The difference in the use of ppt between Steve and I. Steve amplified and told wonderfully engaging stories about the words he had on his slides. (I tend to shy away from .ppt slides that are littered with just text) and my talking over pictures. We also presented our ESCAPE activity and we wanted to help capture the attention of the delegates and thought a visual stimulus might help. We overlaid animations on graphs since we wanted delegates to really understand what we were talking about - I think the animations helped us do that (I hope) – it was just after lunch too – and I am aware I can be a tad soporific!

We discussed the usefulness of .ppt slides after such an event. With my approach it would be particularly difficult for anyone that wasn’t there to ‘get’ what I was showing. I am aware of this but also wondered how many people actually revisit the slides after such an event. Steve has a simple solution to this and brings a ready-made, single-sided hand out. The hand out comprises useful refs and links.

2. The second point we batted about, and of more relevance here, is the approach you take to engage staff in re-engineering activity. I am talking here about re-engineering curricula and in relation to ESCAPE re engineering and rethinking the assessment activities.

Although slightly extreme we discussed the merits of small steps of change versus big-bang change. It will be of little surprise that we both converged on the notion that both have something to offer.

With small steps of change …

It is more likely to keep staff engaged and on board i.e. in a way we are showing that we value what staff do but help to nudge things along (to be more educational effective and resource efficient) in a way that is both manageable and supportive.

For some staff a big-bang approach might wrench from under their feet everything they thought was good about their work. I wonder too if a step-wise approach is a great conversation starter and less threatening. Small-steps might prepare staff for some fun big-bang stuff and also develop their scholarship in a risk managed way.

The problem with small steps of change is that often you might never get to the heart of the problem. You tinker, fiddle on the edges, and whilst you might be adding incremental enhancements to a system / assessment (curriculum design approach), the approach /system / curricula you are tinkering with might actually need dropping!

Big-bang gives a great chance to ‘really’ explore the fundamental issue, establish a vision and help set out a curricular that responds to that vision.

We are doing both with ESCAPE and will look at how personalities as well as features of the modules/assessment arrangements best suit the alternatives.

Watch this space!

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