In the first blogpost in this series, I outlined the rationale for providing a different form of Writing Support for HEA Fellowship applicants by means of a structured day using time restricted, goal focused writing sessions and the feedback we received on it. I organised the session, but was supported by my colleague Darren Minister.
Below, I provide my reflections on this style of facilitated teaching.
Lessons learnt from offering a ‘Pomodoro’ style session
Start the session right on time. With small numbers of attendees, waiting for non-attendees/late comers did impact on our schedule for the day and we made amendments ‘on the fly’.
Share goals and feedback amongst participants – the delay to the start of the day and waiting to catch up on time means that I missed a key part of encouraging attendees to share their targets and discuss issues. So, perhaps having a plenary at the end to ensure sharing of goals and providing feedback on outputs is key (Flint, 2017, Kent, 2017); the collegiality during these events are very important too (Kramer and Libhamer, 2016).
Is this teaching? As the facilitators we certainly felt empowered and hoped that we were helping. But there was that crisis of identity for me personally. Am I actually teaching? I’m not at the front sharing facts and knowledge, but I’ve planned and set the environment, the pre-session expectations and I’m there to support and facilitate. So I guess, yes, I am teaching!
As facilitator, you still have a role! Sitting down while participants engaged in some reflection or writing sounds easy, but it was tiring! You can’t ‘relax’ and turn your attention into writing your own paper or work on a major task. Yes, you should be quiet and unobtrusive but for those who have questions, you have to be prepared to drop what you might have been doing and go to help. And you have to appear strict and keep to time.
Participants should ideally be at the same stage of application development – it was challenging supporting staff who had just started the process and had lots of questions, compared with those who’d already undertaken their planning, understood the application form and were well ahead in the writing. Kent (2017) notes the value of shared peer values in providing writing retreats for early career academics for example.
We’ve recently scoped the appetite for future “Writing Retreats” at the end of this term and start of next term. Please let us know what you think by completing this survey: https://bit.ly/2kHbwVt
We’ll be considering the above points in our planning and delivery of the next round.
Don’t let this be your reflection in October 2020:
Flint E. (2017) “The Tale of the Squished Pomodoro: using writing groups to support Professional Recognition applications” Blogpost https://teachingacademyblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/the-tale-of-the-squished-pomodoro-using-writing-groups-to-support-professional-recognition-applications/ accessed September 23 2019.
Kramer, B. and E. Libhaber (2016) “Writing for publication: institutional support provides an enabling environment” BMC Medical Education, London Vol. 16, (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-016-0642-0
Kent, A. et al (2017) “Promoting writing amongst peers: establishing a community of writing practice for early career academics” Higher Education Research and Development, Volume 36, 2017 – Issue 6, 1194 – 1207 https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2017.1300141