I’ve just come back from a really good day with the four HE Academy pathfinder projects I am involved with. See previous post for some of the background to this work and previous activities. The day was hosted by one of the projects, cure Reading University, viagra in their ‘Innovations lab’. What an interesting space! Now that is a real example of creative and novel use of space, search would that we could do something similar with our new building The idea of the space is to provide a varied, relaxed and flexible space, which encourages alternative ways of thinking and so it’s an ideal place for an away day. You can even write on the walls!! This was the third joint cluster away day that we have had and we all felt that it was really productive. We spent the morning doing a round of updates on what the projects have been doing, it was great to see the progress made, the different approaches adopted but also the commonalities and shared themes. The four institutions are very different – contextually and culturally, but surprisingly (and encouragingly) a number of cross-cluster themes have emerged. These include
- A focus on change management (changing academics mindsets) and managing institutional change
- Adoption of an evidence-based approach
- Utilisation of sound approaches to e-learning – building in good pedagogical principles
- Very clear dissemination and engagement strategies throughout the projects, not just at the end
- Building on current good practice, starting from where people are now
- An explicit drive to embed the project activities into institutional policies and processes
- A very broad engagement across the institution, not just focusing on isolated areas or individuals
- Developing strategies to embed e-learning
- Listening to the student voice and bringing this together with the academic voice
- Adopting a participatory approach
- A focus on continuous quality improvement
- Evidence of capacity building through the projects and cluster activities - both institutionally and at a meta-level via the cluster activities.
We have a programme level event in York next week with the full complement of all 28 pathfinder projects which have been funded in this phase of the work and so we used the afternoon to jointly develop our presentation for the event. We identified the key essence of each of the projects and then drew out commonalities, challenges and overarching themes. What emerged was a pretty impressive list, which I think is a credit to the work that the projects have done. It’s interesting to reflect on this notion of having clusters of projects and an associated critical friend. I think we all feel that our cluster has worked well and achieved things above and beyond what the individual projects have done. Not sure what the key ingredients for success are but my guess is that the following factors have been important: 1. A shared set of interests and challenges, 2. Specific activities/goals to jointly work on, with tangible outputs, for example, during our cluster away days we have always included some sort of joint activity, these have included: production of a cluster-based poster, brainstorming and writing workshop outlines, identifying and articulating cluster-level issues, challenges and themes, presentation and sharing of methods and tools. But perhaps the most important ingredient for success has been having a good mix of people, prepared to work collectively, with a liberal dose of fun mixed in ;-).