About: This activity was part of WBS ‘CORE Practice: Shaping our future selves’ (2012-2018) - a compulsory module seeking to engage students cognitively, intellectually, and emotionally through teaching and learning encounters that resonate with real-world work knowledge/practice. The start of the module focused on student transition, with an emphasis on practice that promotes independent, reflective and flexible behaviours.
How to carry out the activity
In advance: Prior to starting the module, students were asked to upload a photograph that told a story about where in the world they come from. Sample instructions email for students:
- Upload a photograph, preferably one taken by yourself (not sourced from the internet) that shares something about where in the world you are from. We will share these photos with the rest of the group.
- The photograph should attempt to capture an impression and/or sense of; either a custom, belief, ritual, value, behaviour, and or attitude associated with you and your cultural identity.
- When taking the photograph ask yourself the following:
- Communication: How can I help my peers understand something about where I am from and what shapes my identity?
- Contribution: In what way(s) might the photograph/s help share understanding about what I value?
- Creativity: What does form and perspective offer to how we see what makes us similar/different?
- When submitting the photograph please include a 140-character max caption which will be displayed with the image.
- Finally, and most importantly, this activity has been designed to encourage a broad and artistic interpretation of the brief, with each entry serving as a catalyst for future dialogue and debate. Although photos will need to be approved, there is no right or wrong way of doing this task. What matters is that through this 'action' you are starting a dialogue with your peers about cultural diversity and value-led learning.
Finally, to help inspire you, this photo is a stark reminder of how you must never forget your roots, your values, and where you come from. Life will take its course, but your roots are what will keep you grounded.
(Ensure to add details of deadlines and where to submit the pictures, make use of Padlet or speak to your department’s academic technologist to discuss options).
Potential ways to use the photos:
- As an introductory film of moving images as students enter the lecture theatre (or join online). As part of the discussion, share the Warwick Values page so students can see the five values. Encourage students to reflect on their understanding of the values having just participated in an activity where they shared a part of their own values.
- Select a small number of images from the submissions, and with student approval use them to create a teaching and learning resource for a group work activity on culture and identity.
- Created a physical display of student images to be displayed in the department (or add a link to the online Padlet on the department webpages).
"By the end of the first session, I started feeling like I belonged…that my person matters and is important to others. The sense of community was a real contrast to the traditional lecture”. (
Yr1, Accounting and Finance Student)
Reflection on the experience of planning and/or delivering the activity
Submitted by Rachel Dickinson, WBS.
Why do this activity? Each image uploaded, by the 600+ strong student body, attempted to capture a sense of custom, belief, ritual, value, behaviour, and or attitude associated with their home culture. In short, helping each other understand more about what and who shapes or influences the way we might think, act, and interact differently as well as what we share and have in common. The advantage of setting a task within a module (and at the start of the year) is that students are highly open and responsive. I found that I had this magic window in which to capture and focus attention on something that felt personal and personalised. Whilst I needed the technical support of the Teaching and Learning team in WBS to help set the task up, maintenance was low, despite the hundreds of students engaged.
What worked well, and what could be improved? What was perhaps the most powerful outcome was the gift of insight, offered not only to myself as the module leader, but also for students to acknowledge the international and cultural diversity of their peers as they embarked on this new stage of learning and development. Bringing something of students’ identity into the learning environment right at the start of their study was an important signal that their experiences would form an essential part of the learning journey ahead.
Challenges? Scale! Over the years the module first-year intake grew from under 400 to over 600. The challenge of creating a teaching and learning environment where students feel valued as individuals, who are named and whose values are actively engaged with, explored and reflected on in meaningful and relevant ways is no mean feat. Then there is managing the ‘softer’, but no less complex dimension of Higher Education. In a module were the design and delivery unsettles the distinctions between academic and vocational knowledge or between propositional and embodied forms of knowing then taking time to embed tasks like these in meaningful ways is essential.
How might you change the activity in future instances? This kind of task is highly flexible and could easily be adapted to explore a wide range of values-led debates and exploration tailored to different disciplinary contexts. I have recently reached out to my Personal Tutees to understand how lockdown has perhaps forced, by circumstance and context, individuals to (re)consider and or (re)discover what or who they value, how these have been strengthened during the pandemic and how they now serve to guide and inform actions, behaviours and or aspirations going forward. Images like these, whether inside or outside of module delivery are simple but effective ways of helping staff and students reflect on their own values and how these are embodied in everyday actions, behaviours, and decision making. I wouldn’t change the activity but I would continue to explore how ‘ice-breakers' such as this can be used to introduce a more complex, robust, and continuing debate on respect, inclusion, diversity, equality, and social justice in our curriculum, classrooms and beyond.
Selection of previous submissions
Thank you to Rachel Dickinson for submitting this activity.
"This exercise was designed primarily to gain insight into our first-year cohort, including who or what has shaped their values and beliefs..."
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