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Welcome Activities: Spectrum of Opinion & Vocabulary of Values

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"These activities are designed to welcome learners into the university community by addressing the interrelationship between their personal values and the institutional guiding principles; the pedagogical challenges require careful thought and sensitive facilitation."

Desired outcomes for the activity

This section summarises the knowledge, understanding, or skills that students are expected to acquire by the end of the activity.

By the end of the workshop the participants will be able to:

  • Introduce the principles and values in a safe environment
  • Explore the everyday application of the principles and values
  • Create community awareness between students and staff alike

The activity

This section explains how to conduct the activity, and might include a step-by-step description or session plan for the activity.

The context for the workshop was cross-faculty, international learners in a small group environment during the Welcome Week programme. The workshop was co-facilitated by academic and professional staff with PGR lead learners, to demonstrate role-modelling.

The first activity Spectrum of Opinion required interaction with each other and with the classroom environments, requiring participants to move along an axis (like a bar chart) to find their position on the scale from ‘Strongly disagree’, ‘Disagree’, Indifferent, ‘Agree’ and ‘Strongly agree’. They do this according to a range of statements which can be pre-selected: e.g. ‘The building was easy to find’ or ‘I am uncertain about what is expected of me at university’. These are then used to shuffle and reshuffle the learners to facilitate discussion and debate about a range of issues which can be explored in a safe and supportive way.

The second activity related to Vocabulary of Values which consists of an accessible deck of words being circulated to each participant and ask them to select those ‘values’ which matter most to them. Once selected, they can prioritise these words by arranging them on a surface, and comparing them to a partner’s selections. The main development task requires these pairs (or small groups) to make a final selection of words and prioritised ‘values’ as a result of negotiation, compromise and discussion. These tasks may require careful monitoring and facilitator interventions, to arrive at a selection of new ‘values’ that can be displayed to the group, before further reflection. Once these selections have been displayed and discussed, the facilitators can relate these to the ‘guiding principles’ and ‘core values’ of the university, which will then be explored in the final group task.

The final task applies this learning and reflection to specific case studies which have been carefully selected and written on accessible cards for the small groups to discuss, supported by the PGR lead learners, where possible. These scenarios allow mixed student groups to safely address challenging cases where respect, equality and diversity, mutual trust and openness may be under pressure or complicated by inappropriate behaviours.

Activity resources

This section includes copies of resources used in the activity, and any relevant background research or supplementary reading.

Powerpoint Presentation used within the session

Reflection on the experience of planning and/or delivering the activity

This section includes a reflection by the member of staff or student who submitted the activity, on their experience of developing and/or facilitating the activity.

While every learner arrives with some sense that these values or principles exist, and may have completed an online course as part of their registration, many are still unsure about what is expected of them. These questions and concerns cannot be resolved in a short introductory workshop but they can be addressed and, in partnership with the students’ home departments, a series of pathways can be shared to address various needs from the Active Bystander Interventions to address sexual and gendered violence, to the anti-racist pedagogy (with support from ADC and WIHEA) and the Students’ Union campaigns on issues such as trans-Inclusive practice and decolonising the curriculum. Addressing these community values holistically, and in connection to other areas of educational support such as widening participation, social inclusion and student wellbeing, is particularly important.

 

There are three other areas of reflection: firstly, the vital need for learners to interact with other students in order to discuss differing personal opinions, diverse value systems, and ‘role play’ specific scenarios, i.e. using case studies to address common concerns; secondly, the need to support students in identifying areas for compromise in personal/collective values, e.g. ambition & community; safety & risk-taking; respect & competition; and finally, to sensitively challenge behaviours that to do cohere with the guiding principles, i.e. enabling students to understand what they are, how they are embedded and why we hold these views. Ultimately, this can be do in partnership with students, and can be co-created with student groups so that they have ownership of the community values themselves.

Contacts

If you would like to know more about this activity, please use the contact details below.