As the sun rose over Newcastle yesterday, the Conferences and Events team arrived at Northumbria University to finish setting up for the Teaching and Learning Conference. With everything in place, we were ready to welcome nearly 300 delegates to the first day. Delegates started arriving, happy faces, eagerly anticipating a day of discussion around innovation in teaching and learning, and to hear from our keynote Speaker Dr Diana Beech, Policy Adviser to Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.
Diana gave a great opening talk, discussing her views on teaching excellence, student expectations and the challenges ahead. Did you know that there are consistently 5% more boys than girls born in the UK every year? No, neither did I; but related, is the challenge in the overall growth in numbers of 18-year-olds over the next 10 years and how this will test the higher education sector in the UK: do we have the pipeline of academics in place to allow for the anticipated growth in student places needed? What will the impact be on institutional facilities, on funding, on grade requirements for university entry? And in the longer term, how will this impact on the job market and the economic growth of the UK?
After the keynote session, the day moved into our practitioner-led parallel sessions with 10 workshops running across our Arts and Humanities and Health and Social Care strands. Twitter lit up with people’s thoughts on sessions, things they were learning, debating, sharing and discussing. Workshops buzzed with passionate discussion, people tried some meditation, tested VR and simulation, learnt about teacher behaviours and viewed a range of posters addressing many of the challenges to innovation and enhancement in T&L.
After lunch, the fast and energetic ignite sessions started, followed by the new soapbox sessions. Four individuals used their 20 slides in five minutes to tell us about their work looking at innovative student communications to improve engagement, assessment and feedback in nursing and midwifery, as well as the development of academic skills and collaboration between speech and language therapy student and teachers. Everyone brilliantly stuck to their five-minute timeslot and enjoyed the experience. Our new ‘soapbox’ session then allowed four delegates to put forward an idea for a new project and ask for collaborators and ideas to feed into their work. Connections were made, conversations flowed on into the refreshment break, emails were exchanged and hopefully, we will be able to present some of the work of these collaborations next year!
As the day wound to a close, we reflected on our key take-home messages; how we would change our practice next week and over the next year and what we would share with colleagues on return to our day jobs. Again, Twitter filled up with people’s reflections as they travelled home and the team relaxed in the knowledge that our delegates had enjoyed learning, sharing and discussing all day.
We then enjoyed a networking BBQ including a meet and greet for our international delegates and a presentation on Advance HE Connect by Nick Skeet, Assistant Director (UK Memberships). Burgers and sausages were eaten, beer and prosecco drunk, and many new connections made and old ones reinvigorated. The happy buzz of conversation, interspersed with laughter and fun was a great way to end our opening day. Now for ‘Day 2’, 380 delegates and the annual debate…!