Around 30 Network members attended the first of a series of Foundation Year Network ‘coffee mornings’ on Friday 1st May.
This was designed as a chance for people to catch up and have an unstructured conversation about learning, teaching and surviving in lockdown. We started with some introductions and then started to discuss our varying experiences of the past few months. The discussion was very wide ranging
Key themes discussed included:
- An exploration of the sudden shift to online delivery, what this meant for student engagement, and how much of this may be linked to our perception of it as educators. This included a discussion about what expectations we should have of students, and what were the barriers to engagement that were being experienced. We talked about how this was experienced deferentially within our cohorts, and there was a shared concern for our students from more deprived backgrounds, family commitments, and those with IT limitations.
- What we as educators were missing from transitioning an online environment, in terms of all of the unwritten and non-verbal communications that we use in our teaching, and our interactions with colleagues.
- What digital tools we were using, and what were the advantages and barriers of these? There was some concern around using too many modes of engagement, and how to keep things as simple as possible – especially considering issues of internet coverage.
- Support for students and staff who are lacking the infrastructure that they usually have for studying, including real concern about the physical consequences of working in makeshift conditions.
- Within this there was particular concern for staff on temporary contracts, and what may happen to them in this situation.
- Concern about the big ‘what ifs’ related to academic year 2020/21, and how to teach and support a new cohort in a virtual world, rather than students we have an existing relationship with. What’s the difference between remote learning done at a time of emergency, and remote learning which is planned in advance?
- There was particular concern for how we teach subjects such as science, or art and design which rely on tangible experiments, field trips or studio sessions. How do we replicate this and should we be even trying?
This felt like the first of a series of conversations, we’ve aired a lot of issues but not solved any of them – you will notice that ‘concern’ features a lot in the bullets above! We’ve already got coffee mornings planned to discuss student support, transition to level 1, and teaching science online. We’d love to hear suggestions for future discussion topics you’d be interested in.