It’s good to talk!

The University’s commitment to working in partnership with students and the developing ethos of Team Bradford are nurturing a sense of belonging and community for enhancing the student experience, particularly through sporting events … definitely something to be celebrated. Social interactions are at the heart of building community, and much of our focus is on encouraging our students to take advantage of opportunities to interact as shown in the following video:

Reflecting on this, I’m prompted to ask why it is the student who has to shoulder the responsibility for the missed opportunities to interact; isn’t interaction a two-way process with shared responsibilities? Surely the staff whom the student passed are also missing valuable opportunities to initiate interaction?

This set me thinking about interactions I’ve had with colleagues over the last month or so, and two in particular: a workshop on personal academic tutoring and a session on peer supported review. Both are identified as important influences on NSS and TEF; both are reliant on effective interactions with peers and students; both invariably prompt the question “how do we find time?” For me, a bigger question is “how can we afford not to find the time?” and here’s why.

In his idea number 13 of 53 Powerful Ideas All Teachers Should Know About, Gibbs writes:

“Nothing they could measure, and nothing they could find in their management information database, explained the differences in average marks between subjects. Then a visiting ethnographer ‘hung out’ with teachers in subjects with very high and very low average marks, to try and see what was going on. It was simple –the teachers in the subjects with high average marks had a curry together on Fridays. Teachers in subjects with low average marks did not even turn up to formal departmental meetings and said things like ‘Frankly I have my hands full teaching my modules and I don’t have time to talk to anybody’. High performance is associated, across many professions and contexts, with lively ‘communities of practice’ that talk about what they do and share beliefs and approaches and skills.”

In the Centre for Educational Development we have the privilege of working with colleagues from across the University and subject disciplines, and behind the successful programme designs, effective teaching practices, etc, we invariably find a strong programme team identity; a community developed through interaction and a strong sense of belonging. They know each other and how each piece of the jigsaw fits together and relates to the programme learning outcomes; they are able to provide context to their students about what has gone before and what is to come in the programme, the assessments and future employment; their students can talk to any member of the programme team and receive a consistent and coherent message. These are all key contributors for developing motivation for learning.

Over time, the Programme Leaders’ Forum has developed a vibrant sense of community demonstrating a willingness to interact, share practice and find solutions to common problems. We now need to cascade that sense of belonging to programme teams.

So my plea is, let’s take the next step to extend Team Bradford’s ethos by seizing every opportunity presented to us to interact positively with our students and our peers in order to build a highly effective learning community from which we can all benefit.

It’s good to talk!

PS A quick look at the 2016 UK Engagement Survey also seems to support that we need to interact more!