Thursday, 19 June 2008

Magic muffins

Thanks, Kath, for your post here, and your participation in the numerous other bits of technology thrown your way today - your enthusiasm is much appreciated! I also welcome your role as "devil's advocate" in some of today's discussions, especially as it is grounded in your own experience, given the need we will have to justify TASH as different to the other university resources and schemes. We are, as I think came out of today's discussion, operating in a crowded market, with a superfluity of demands on staff and student time. If TASH is to succeed, it needs to be clearly established as something that will make everyone's life easier, and that the time-cost of engaging with it will be rapidly outweighed by the benefits.

There were some other specific bits of learning about the project that I wanted to ensure we kept hold of. In no particular order these are:

  • We need to promote the resource at various points of the academic year - for example, before and during Intro Week; before key assessment points and after feedback; at transition points, where the student may be moving into unfamiliar territory, and might be unclear of the changed rules of the game. All of this will require (1) subtle and variegated design, and (2) an embedding of the resource in staff and student consciousness so that it becomes the natural place to go in moments of dislocation.
  • The transferability of skills or indeed knowledge is a particularly pertinent issue under a modularised system, and something that could be worth highlighting in the resource. Much as Linda described in the ACSE Level One curriculum, we would do well to highlight the moments where students need to pick up the stuff they did in a previous place, and apply it somewhere new. After all (and this is my particular hobby-horse) as wide-awake intelligent independent adults, they can already do loads of stuff that will help them in academic life. They just need to be enabled to do this, and given the time and space to carry out the often difficult personal work it requires.
  • One potential vehicle to achieve both these points is to make readily-available connections between TASH and PDP. We're trying to jump between moving vehicles here, as both projects are in various states of change, but PDP is an already-existing structure for staff-student conversations about skills, and as such, could be an excellent moment to engage with TASH.
  • There might well be resources within the Research Training Programme that would benefit L3 learners engaged on independent study. The more generic point to draw from this is that appropriate resources for supporting learning might exist in surprising places across the institution.
Some time ago, Willy posed the question of whether inquiry-based learning was a treasure hunt or a voyage of discovery - are the students finding what you've already planted there, or genuinely discovering new things for everyone (even if they're initially mis-identified, etc.)? This TASH project would seem firmly to be a voyage of discovery, and as such, is likely to be thrilling, disappointing, frustrating, and, erm, splashy by turns. We know what we'd like to find, but we don't know quite where it is; and we're expecting to find other things along the way. The trick will be, to tie together what is rapidly becoming a ramble, to balance this open-ended discovery ethos, with the time-efficiency driver I indicated at the start. Whatever it is we end up with, we need to know that it works, and be able to persuade others of this fact. Given the general goodwill shown towards the project thus far, and the commitment and enthusiasm of the core team evident today, I think we're well-placed to achieve this.

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