Had a really excellent meeting on Wednesday at CARET in Cambridge with ‘Cluster C’ pathfinder projects (links to each of their blogsBrunel, Cambridge, Reading and South Bank). All four projects are adopting very different approaches in their pathfinder work in terms of embedding e-learning; not surprising given the diversity of the institutions within which they are located. The purpose of the workshop was to explore the role of adopting an evidence-based approach. Naomi Irvine from CARET set the scene in advance, by creating a wiki. Each project added examples from their own work of how they had been using an evidence-based approach to instigating institutional change, along with examples of tools and instruments they had produced. Picture is of Natalie Parnis from Brunel presenting on some of their work. We spent the morning brainstorming the context within which the projects were working, key external factors, stakeholders, and the relationship between evidence, theory, policy and practice. Then the afternoon was dedicated to short presentations of the materials each project had uploaded to the wiki and discussions on the ways these were used and each project’s experiences of what worked and what didn’t. We then synthesised across these under the following key headings:
- Key tips and hints - there were a number of nice simple success stories, for example the use of Personal Response Systems as a means of getting feedback from a large body of students (Brunel), summarising audit or other evidence-based findings into five simple, keys as the basis of a constructive discussion (Cambridge), and the value of departmental away days at critical points in the process (Reading). We also discussed the importance of presenting data in an appropriate format and who it would be of interest to and when.
- Common themes. The nature of “brokerage roles” and their importance was a common theme across our discussions and a key aspect of all four projects. We had a lot of discussion too about how projects of this kind inevitably involve working across boundaries. “Planting seeds of change” emerged as a phrase at one point in the discussion (a slight pun as one of the projects is working closely with Plant Sciences) – i.e. using the right people in the right context, a number of the projects had already done this and had success with adopting this approach.
- Common approaches. Co-researchers – of staff and students – seems to be a common theme across the projects. The value of evidence base as an approach was clearly something we all agreed on, hence the workshop, but its value was even more evident we felt at the end of the day when we saw the accumulated range of tools and techniques that the projects had produced.
The projects are evidently adopting a very self reflective approach to what they are doing and I think part of the value to be draw from these projects will be as much about the process of how they have gone about things, as the final products and outputs they produced. The cluster will be presenting a poster on this work at the Networked Learning conference in Greece and we are in the process of putting together a workshop to submit for Edmedia.