July 7th, 2012
Claire Eustance from the UG-FLEX project, Peter Bird and I visited the OU in Camden on 5 July for a seminar entitled ‘Opening up the Game’, which was intended to give participants an opportunity to try various tools to get people talking about inclusive curriculum development. Each table had the opportunity to try all three activities, spending 40 minutes on each of the Snakes and Ladders activity, the Accreditation! game and the curriculum planning cards.
The seminar was organised by John Rose-Adams from the Centre for Inclusion and Curriculum at the Open University, as part of their research seminar series and I must admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect from the participants. On previous occasions where we’ve used or demonstrated these tools, the audience have either been linked by being in a programme team, or at a conference for people interested in curriculum design, or working together on institutional change. All of the approaches we used are pretty simple and low tech and I wondered how a more mixed group of participants would react to them. I needn’t have worried. There were around 25 participants from a very diverse range of HEIs and they were all prepared to roll up their sleeves and get on with it, however odd it may have seemed to be playing a board game at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a working day.
There was a lot of animated conversation about engaging colleagues in what Claire has characterised as ‘creative conversations’ about curriculum design, and my favourite comment came from a table on which one participant was able to relate to a particularly large number of the dilemmas posed in the ‘Accreditation!’ game: “It’s not a game, it’s a biography!” It’s good to know that some of the difficult choices to be made are the same in other institutions!
Using the curriculum planning cards, we asked participants to plan some pre-entry and induction activities to support students from FE moving into a Foundation Year who would be expected to write essays and sit traditional exams during their first year, and they came up with some really great ideas. Lectures were relegated to minor roles as the focus was placed on developing self-confidence, managing expectations, encouraging peer review and asking critical questions.
This group wanted students to focus on taking an active role in their own learning and asking questions:
This group thought that students would benefit from the use of a cycle of events repeated several times through the year as the class moved through the modules. This approach would build confidence and skills slowly but surely through the year. Clare and I felt particularly that this activity complemented the Snakes and Ladders discussion, in which the participants talked about barriers and strategies to overcome them, because the cards then gave a visual way to operationalise the strategies into actual course activity.
I look forward to seeing continuing discussion about the activities on the OU’s CloudWorks area and hope that more people are moved to download the various tools from the JISC DesignStudio and maybe add to the collection.
Many thanks to John Rose-Adams for organising a really enjoyable session and to all those who participated so enthusiastically.