Thursday, 30 March 2017

I'm going to live to be 100

Those born in the 1950's have a better chance of living to receive the Royal telegram that any previous generation.  Our improved health, our finances, our retirement wealth borne of pensions, bequests and home equity and our sheer bloody-mindedness to prove the actuaries wrong (is that just me?) combine to offer the tantilising spectre of scoring a century.

Of course we have to look after our bodies, minds and networks of friends to make such a feat physically possible but if we did reach 100 what would we tell the students of the 2050's about what we had learned in our long life?

What do you mean, the ageing app on the ipad didn't work?
Top of my list would be a lesson my wife repeats often to me:  Nobody's last words are "I wish I'd spent more time in the office" and "When you cannot start your work day with a smile then its time to leave".

And there's always: "Work for yourself and your family - that way the disappointments and stresses that your employer heaps on you are put into perspective.

Actually I'm writing this four decades away from being 100 - I wonder what else there is to learn in the other half of my life?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Same problem - different solution

There is an apocryphal story about NASAs millions of dollars spent on a pen that would write in a zero gravity environment - and the contrasting story that the Russians took pencils during the 1960's Space Race.  OK, so the USA had millions of dollars to spend and Mother Russia didn't, but that does not hide the fact that there are often effective and better value solutions available for many problems.

"Developed" and "Developing" world solutions
So, rather than engineer a complex solution, possibly costing many millions of pounds, dollars or roubles and label it "innovation", why not ask some of the most innovative people in the world - those who have to "make do" with very scarce resources, low wages, poor buildings and all manner of drawbacks that the developed nations (and their students) take for granted?

"Back to basics" is a common expression but how many of us actually reflect enough to consider what the "basics" are?  In an air conditioned, VLE supported, Lecture Captured, newly upholstered, "state of the art" lecture theatre teachers can often struggle to foster student engagement.  Students are persuaded that they are consumers, that the government is "on their side", that the privilege of education is actually a right and that their "satisfaction" is all that rally matters.  The notion that they must actually participate, i.e. give as well as take, is alien to their thinking.

Contrast with the schools and colleges in less well developed nations where education is fought for, families make sacrifices and engagement comes from the students, themselves, rather than their seeking it entirely from their teachers.

I'm off to Africa.  It's warmer there anyway.

Friday, 17 March 2017

This job could be for you...

Do you really want to change your job for XYZ University?  Do you have any hope of doing so or would it be too disruptive and costly just to have the pleasure of sticking your fingers up at your current employer?  You came into University teaching to make a difference but you find that so many things are set against you - including being a second class citizen in a teaching institution that does not reward teaching.

So, what's the solution?  Simple...say the following phrase out loud and as frequently as possible:

Please excuse the crayon but they don't allow me sharp objects any more.
Working for yourself is not a career choice or a "new economy" solution, it is a state of mind, an attitude - but one with its own Person Specification:

You will not get that promotion, nor that deserved reward - but you will be happier, and that's priceless.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Tadpoles, Boiled Frogs and Bullfrogs

Spring is with us in the UK and with it ponds and lakes teem with mating frogs (climbing on the lady frog to get a better view, as we eplained to our 6 year old grandson).  Soon spawn will.....well, spawn, tadpoles will emerge, sunshine will bring activity and the birds will swoop down to eat the unwary.
The few will survive to sink to the murky bottom of the water over the Winter only to emerge next Spring to re-start the cycle - Ahhhh the glories of nature.

One analogy used in Corporate Failure theory is that of the frog life cycle.  Firstly, the tadpole - the start-up business that never survived.  The Bullfrog - the business that lurched its way to failure, and the "boiled frog" that would jump out of the pan if the water was boliing but often failed to feel the water around it warming up until it was too late...

I re-purpose this analogy in terms of student progression and illustrate it below:
No frogs or students were harmed in the use of this analogy
TADPOLE students never really settle in Higher Education, they may be immature, ill prepared, wrongly advised or simply too hopeful that prior studies have given them the foundation needed for independent study.  Of course, properly guided, protected and supported the TADPOLE could continue on an upward trajectory.

BULLFROG students have a patchy performance at University, the causes can be the same as the TADPOLE but they operate at a level sufficient to survive each lurch of performance.  Good pastoral systems can revive flagging spirits, aid time management and encourage less partying.  Whilst the illustration shows the BULLFROG student at a high level of ultimate success it is equally likely that performance will plateau.

BOLIED FROG students also have a tipping point, they can crash and burn (if you can burn in boliing water that is) or can acclimitise themselves to the warmth and challenge of the hotter water and plough on to the highest performance.

The challenge for Universities, therefore, is to identify the different types of frog, guide, nurture and support them so that all fulfil their potential.  We cannot leave it to Darwin and nature to select the fittest.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

TEF's critical friend

As Universities in the UK submit their Year 2 TEF self-reports and metrics, measuring what only metrics can, are collated it is instructive to consider the 10 elements of self-report and ask some critical questions.
The Self-reports follow a format of reflection on:

Teaching Quality, through: Student Engagement (TQ1); Valuing Teaching (TQ2); Rigour and Stretch (TQ3) and Feedback (TQ4).
Learning Environment, through: Resources (LE1); Scholarship, Research and professional Practice (LE2) and Personalised Learning (LE3).  And, finally,
Student Outcomes and Learning Gain through: Employment and Further Study (SO1); Employability and transferrable skills (SO2) and POsitive Outcomes for All (SO3).

So what should the critical friend ask?

That should do as a starter for 10 Bamber.