Introducing Debbie Holley, committee member of the Association of NTF with CATE

Life takes us along unexpected paths, and I am thoroughly delighted that mine has brought me to work with fantastic educators at the ANTF. Many of us are inspired by a teacher that taught us, I was a very average student at an ex-polytechnic until I met David Stewart – a specialist in transport. In his class I was introduced to authentic assessment challenges; collaborative problem-based learning approaches, and working with peers from industry. What a difference to the usual death by (overhead projector) at the time!

It led to me taking my professional qualifying exams alongside my final degree. This was an early example of graduating with a degree as well as a professional award. I achieved Fellowship of the Institute of Logistics and Transport, and a first career step as a graduate trainee at Pickford’s Removals. I remained in industry for most of the following decade; until my ex-tutor David contacted me and said the then Polytechnic of North London were looking for a female transport manager to give a talk to their day-release students.

It was wonderful to have a career change and teach logistics, purchasing and supply chain management. I had the ‘bug’! I absolutely loved working with my mature learners, and started develop materials to share online, as many were shift workers, and not always able to attend in person. Industry collaborations have always floated my boat – I loved the ‘A day in the life of a 3D warehouse’ project.

Every day is a challenge working with learners! I have now taught students in Further Education, Higher Education, Industry; on Undergraduate, Masters, Doctoral programmes; online, blended, flipped, distance learning, and really enjoyed my time as the PGCert programme leader at two institutions. My colleagues say I light up on teaching days…

What was a difficult teaching experience? Inheriting business studies as a unit leader for 1,000 students. The poor students were packed in 200/250 at a time to a huge lecture theatre. By week 5 we were down to 50 as the students voted with their feet. It was a fabulous opportunity to undertake a transformational change management project and to change the whole unit delivery – we moved to a blended approach, scaffolded all the learning online, and based it on a visit to the Tate Modern on London’s South Bank.

The culture change was not only the revamped programme – but many students had never visited a museum before. Looking back, I have come round in a circle, and in different contexts, modelled exemplary practice that engages and motivates students. My research and teaching have always been interwoven, so I don’t agree that researchers ‘always’ play ‘all the good tunes’…one piece of advice for my younger self? Innovate and experiment – the students would far rather we try and fail, than not even make the effort…being an NTF means you have a contact list like no other! A wonderful, helpful, supportive community who willing share, support, empathise and unfailing put their learners first – I am proud to be one of you.

Debbie Holley, Professor of Learning Innovation, Bournemouth University

Thats me on the left at the NTF Symposium with Caroline Coles, Chair of ANTF

COVID good principles adapted from distance learning students

Distance learning in a time of Corona Virus

James Derounian, from the Association of National Teaching Fellows, offers practical tips on delivering quality distance learning for quarantined students (and staff!) ……

There are none so zealous as the reformed smoker But we’re all born-again remote teachers now, c/o Covid-19.

My tips:

  • Both f2f online depend on fundamentals like clarity of communication, regular checking on student understanding of material, and enabling a conversation and exchange to take place between student and lecturer.
  • It’s crucial to build trust, dependability & relationship, and to be responsive to their concerns and not just leave them hanging in the ether.
  • Provide distant students with a sense of regular ‘appearances’ online, preferably on a set time and day (for example in their usual/ expected lecture slot), in order to overcome the feeling, they may otherwise develop, that they are out of sight and out of mind.
  • Use virtual break-out groups and electronic polls to garner student inputs.
  • Recorded the sessions as a permanent record and resource for students to return to.
  • Keep variety in assessment by adaptation eg a group essay via virtual groups of students via Moodle, working together in electronic groups of 3 or 4 to produce a team essay on the principles of community-based work. In the process of assembling this essay students practiced aspects of community development, such as inclusion, integration of work, partnership and division of tasks. A portion of the marks was awarded on the basis of how the individual student reflected on the assignment, by linking their experience to the principles they had been studying: were any members excluded because they came late to the party/ group chat? Did everyone pull their weight or were there passengers? Did individuals contribute complementary skills – one as editor, another as a researcher and so on?
  • I’m also a big fan of short, sharp podcasts, especially when it comes to material that you might otherwise repeat over and over to individual students. For example, I have been sending out 4-minute voice only casts, weekly, covering typical sections of an undergraduate dissertation: Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Analysis and Discussion, Conclusions and Recommendations; appendices.

I never thought a pandemic would vault distance learning in to the mainstream. But it’s gone……. viral. Keep as safe as you can colleagues and families, and students.