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what advice would we give others

If you are interested in developing teaching and learning then you might want to consider:

  • working on the bits of the programme you are not happy with. Make sure the innovation is worth the effort as it is a lot of work. We tackled theory as it was a problematic concept for us and for students and it promised to offer a high return on effort. Think of ways of maximizing the dissemination of the resource for example, here the online material was designed to be both a stand-alone resource but can also be used as part of a blended teaching strategy within the formal teaching of research methods.
  • including participation between students and teachers. Your resource would be substantially poorer without the participation of / feedback of students. In other words learning materials are not to be judged good or bad in an abstract sense but how they engage these students you are working with.
  • pedagogical knowledge as well as content knowledge. This is a distinction made by Shulman (1986). Content knowledge is what you know about the topic, pedagogic knowledge is how they topic is understood by learners. For us a key breakthrough was not in content knowledge but pedagogical knowledge - in particular understanding that research students struggled with the multidimensional nature of social theory and their difficulty in understanding the difference between theory and theorising
  • be flexible and optimistic. Have a generous time scale but include regular meetings so that you don't keep putting the project work back. Use mock ups so you don't become over committed to a particular approach. Small can be good.
  • consider taking the role of curator when designing learning material. You do not have to produce everything; you can be the one who brings the materials together in one show and explain their significance. You need to respond to your audience and make the show interesting but your role is to educate your audience too. Here the concept of learning needs is not straightforward. At some point your job is not to give learners what they want but ‘what they don't know they want until you show it to them’