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Helping great teaching ideas out of the seminar room and into the sector

25 Nov 2022 | Professor Emma Mayhew The sector is alive with fantastic ideas to enhance teaching but many remain undiscovered. NTF, Professor Emma Mayhew, an Associate Dean at Surrey, outlines how she, and a small team, contacted innovative colleagues to create and share a library of over 60 ideas on a new Teaching Innovations site.

The past few years have challenged educators in all kinds of ways but, at the same time, provided opportunities for innovation and inspiration. Our sector employs some of the brightest minds. They have brought originality, resourcefulness and even playfulness in teaching delivery. This has been fantastic to see.

But what’s less fantastic is when these ideas don’t make it out of the seminar room. Students could have experienced the most thought-provoking session, undertaken the most brilliantly designed assessment, joined with peers in an enormously valuable community building activity but actually, no one outside a small circle might know about it.

Sometimes colleagues don’t have the time to write a lengthy article, or they might not have the right opportunities around them to quickly share their great ideas, even when they work brilliantly well.

What impact does this have?

If great ideas aren’t shared, we miss the chance to help develop the practice of others and contribute to the growth of institutional and sector wide knowledge. How else can others reflect and build on those experiences and perhaps incorporate something similar into their own practice? We also miss out on important moments of reward and recognition that come from routinely disseminating work, and all the personal and professional benefits that those instances bring.

What did we do?

We wanted to build on our existing showcase opportunities at Surrey but capture even more of the extensive, innovative work being undertaken across campus. The best way to do this was to ask colleagues to submit very short written blogs (around 400 words) or videos (around 5 minutes) describing a great idea that they have brought into their teaching and any impact they have evidenced. These ideas had to be transferable so others could easily pick them up, adapt and maybe then use within their own practice. We collated over 60 fantastic practices into what we called a ‘library of ideas’ for colleagues to browse through, at their leisure. This became our Teaching Innovations website.

What did we uncover? Origami, jigsaws and bingo, escape rooms, diversity walls and cake!

We’ve categorised each of the ideas into nine category areas: assessment design or support, professional skills, community building, using the VLE, teaching enhancement, digital, internationalisation and diversity.

Within these sections, visitors to the site can find out about using origami fortune tellers to teach marking criteria, jigsaws to teach participant observation in Politics, poker to teach risk, bingo to embed learning in Biosciences and classic 80s board games to support revision in Health Sciences. They can find out about using virtual reality plant rooms in Chemistry, crisis simulations for paramedic students, an online investment portfolio simulation competition with students in the US and ‘Dragon’s Den’ style drug development pitches. There are case studies on using comic strips for formative assessment, creating a sustainability hackathon, running dissertation writing retreats in Literature and Languages and the creation of a Physics diversity wall. There’s also mindfulness training in the Graduate School and yoga in the Business School. Visitors can explore the use of cakes in seminars, the use of TikTok, walking ghost tours, student autobiographies, collective biographies and a chemistry escape room to bring staff and students together and enhance our sense of belonging.

There’s this, and a lot more on the Teaching Innovations site. We hope that this will provide a really useful starting point for other colleagues who are looking for a great new idea to try, or to build on to enhance their provision even further.

Professor Emma Mayhew, a National Teaching Fellow (NTF), is the Associate Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Surrey. She has worked alongside Dr Chris Trace (Head of Digital Learning) also an NFT, Erivan White (Surrey Business School) and Trish Ryder (Faculty Coordinator Teaching and International) to create this site.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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