Sam Illingworth reflects on his TLC, using poetry in teaching

The webinar that I hosted as part of the Teaching and Learning Conversations was designed to introduce ways of using poetry in higher educational teaching. It was a really enjoyable webinar to host, as there was plenty of discussion and a passionate (and at times rapid) sharing of ideas. I had hoped that the webinar would help to demystify the use of poetry in the classroom, and that it would encourage people that poetry is a beautiful, thought-provoking and fun medium.

At the beginning of the webinar a couple of the participants expressed their apprehension and fear of poetry, especially in relation to analysing and writing poetry, but by using a simple analytical tool (based on the first verse of this Rudyard Kipling poem) everyone was soon very much engaged in pulling apart the following poem from the American Beat Poet Richard Brautigan:

At the California Institute of Technology
I don’t care how God-damn smart
these guys are: I’m bored.

It’s been raining like hell all day long
and there’s nothing to do.

There were some really interesting discussions in terms of how the poem made people feel, who they thought was writing it, and why they liked/disliked it. By the end of the discussion the participants were beginning to feel more comfortable with analysing poetry, and judging from their responses it was clear that they were making connections with their own experiences and learning journeys, which is exactly what poetry has the capacity to do!

After writing some fun acrostic poems for the TLC acronym there was a group discussion in which numerous suggestions for how to use poetry in a higher education setting were made. All of the contributions were innovative, but I particularly enjoyed the idea of using poetry to explore other people’s perspective, as this can be an extremely powerful tool and chimes with some of the wonderful work that Kirsten Jack is doing at Manchester Met with student nurses and poetry. I also really liked the suggestion of a lunchtime poetry club, which is something that I hope we can develop over the coming weeks for the higher education community, so watch this space!

By the end of the session I think that I had managed to convince the participants that poetry is anything but scary, and that it has the potential to really open up discussions amongst students, and can even help to develop engagement. A link to the webinar can be found below, and I encourage any ideas that come from engaging with it to be posted as part of the inspiring 101 Creative Ideas project run by Ellie Hannan and Chrissi Nerantzi.

You can watch the webinar in full here: 

Dr Sam Illingworth   Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, Manchester Metropolitan University

Twitter: @samillingwort

The Poetry of Science If Bowie were a Scientist

TLCs 2016/17: Open Call for contributions

TLCs are free, monthly online webinars (normally 1 hour), organised by a collaboration of colleagues from several UK universities.  There are two main aims to TLCs

  1. To provide an opportunity to share and discuss interesting, creative and innovative practice in learning, teaching and assessment within a supportive and critically friendly academic community.
  2. To experiment with the “webinar” format in the context of providing engaging, interactive and effective continuing professional development experiences for participants and facilitators of TLCs.

We are seeking contributions from colleagues with an interesting idea, project or experience of learning, teaching and/or assessment to contribute to the 2016/17 TLC programme starting in October 2016.

For the 2016/17 series, we are particularly interested in supporting colleagues who have limited experience or who have never delivered a webinar before to do so.  This is quite experimental, as this support will be provided remotely.  This is an exciting new development for TLCs.

Webinar veterans are also very much welcome to submit proposals for contributions.

Please complete and submit your TLC Proposal and the team will contact you asap.

If you have any questions about the TLC open call please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The TLC Team.

Using poetry in teaching #TLCwebinar with Dr Sam Illingworth, join us on the 18 Oct, 1.30pm UK time

Dear colleagues,

The TLCs are back after the summer break. We now have a presence on Twitter. Please check out @tlcwebinars and follow if you like😉.

Our very first TLC this year is with Dr Sam Illingworth who will introduce us to the world of poetry in teaching. This will take place on the 18th of October, 1.30-2.30pm.

The direct link to the webinar room is

Here is Sam’s introduction for the webinar: 

In this interactive session, Dr Sam Illingworth, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University, discusses how poetry can be used as a facilitatory tool to explore a variety of subjects in higher education.

A few words about Sam: 

showoff11-350x350Dr Sam Illingworth is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research is concerned with empowering members of society with science using a variety of different media, including poetry and theatre. As well as researching and publishing peer-reviewed papers in the area, Sam is also a practitioner and an award-winning poet and spoken word artist in his own right. He writes a regular blog in which he communicates recent research via the medium of poetry to the general public ( Sam is also an experienced teacher and workshop facilitator; as well as being the Programme Leader on Manchester Met’s MSc in Science Communication he is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has experience of running poetry workshops for a wide variety of audiences, from primary school children through to scientists working in research institutions. He was recently commission by the European City of Science to pair scientists and poets to deliver an evening of science poetry as part of the city’s celebrations. He also ran a series of successful workshops on poetry writing and performance at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly (Europe’s largest geosciences conference with approximately 14,000 participants) in April 2016, culminating in a performance of poetry by scientists to a pack crowd of ~300 other scientists. More information about Sam’s research, teaching and public engagement expertise can be found on his website:

We are really looking forward to discussing poetry with Dr Sam Illingworth and all of you.

The TLCteam


Follow-up to “S & M in Higher Education: Surveys and Metrics” led by Prof. Mark Langan

Many thanks go to Mark for a fabulous session today.  Informed, insightful, inspiring are just a few of the comments I have received from participants.

As requested during the TLC webinar today here are resources and outputs from Mark’s session.



S & M in Higher Education: Surveys and Metrics

A teaching and learning conversation with:

Prof Mark Langan
Prof. Mark Langan,
Manchester Metropolitan University

When: Tuesday 24th May 12:30-13:30 UK Time (60 minutes)

About this conversation:

Higher Education places a great deal of emphasis on the outcomes of student surveys and other metrics associated with student ‘success’. This webinar is an opportunity to discuss metrics, particularly the outputs of the National Student Survey, and the challenge of interpreting them with appropriate context.

About Mark:

Prof Mark Langan (Chair in Higher Education; Associate Dean for Learning Teaching and Quality) is known for creative teaching designs and research into student surveys and other quantitative educational areas such as benchmarking. He has a research background in animal behaviour and evolution, but has focused on HE research for the past decade. Currently he is exploring data from the first ten years of the UK’s National Student Survey, researching student engagement and identifying predictors of student success. He is former editor of journal Bioscience Education, a National Teaching Fellow and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Selected Publications:

Langan, A. M., N. Scott, S. Partington, and A. Oczujda (2015). Coherence between text comments and the quantitative ratings in the UK’s National Student Survey. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 1-14.

Langan, A.M., P.J. Dunleavy and A.F. Fielding (2013). Applying Models to National Surveys of Undergraduate Science Students: What Affects Ratings of Satisfaction? Education Sciences, 3, 193-207; doi:10.3390/educsci3020193.

Fielding, A.F., P.J.Dunleavy and A.M. Langan (2010) Effective use of the UK’s National Student (Satisfaction) Survey (NSS) data in science and engineering subjects. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33, 347-368.

Joining the conversation:

Simply follow this link and enter as a guest by typing your name, institution and country into the name field and clicking on the “Join Meeting” button.

Whether or not you have previously participated in a webinar or online activity using Adobe Connect we advise that you make sure that you do some checking and preparation in advance. Check your set-up and connection here.

You may also find our Adobe Connect Webinar Participant Guide useful to print out in advance of the session.We really hope that you will be able to join for what should be a lively and highly interactive TLC.

Follow-up on “Hacking Assignment Practice” with Sandra Sinfield

Sandra_SinfieldA really big thank you must go to Sandra for leading a fabulous TLC today (26th April 2016).  It was thought provoking, challenging and inspiring in equal measures.  Thanks to a very engaged audience the chat pod was filled with questions, comments, ideas, experiences and lots of links to useful follow-up resources (see Chat pod transcript below).

One question Sandra was asked but we ran out of time for was ‘How many students…?’ Sandra has already let me know that “class has between 70-90 students (at the beginning of the year – and depending on recruitment) – and Tom & I team teach – keeping them as one large cohort throughout…“.

Please get in touch with Sandra directly if you have any further follow-up questions relating to the TLC at or follow her on twitter @Danceswithcloud.

As usual I have made the recording available on the TLC archive page at:

Sandra has kindly shared her slides and I have also provided a link to a copy of the transcript form the chat pod below.

Hacking Assessment Practice: Sandra Sinfield – Slides

Hacking Assignment Practice – Chat Pod Transcript

Thanks so much for all of your excellent contributions during today’s TLC.

The TLC team.

Hacking Assignment Practice: Finding Creativity and Power in the Fissures and Cracks of Learning and Teaching

A teaching and learning conversation with:


Sandra Sinfield
London Metropolitan University

When: Tuesday 26th April 12:00-13:30 UK Time (90 minutes)

About this conversation:

Discourses of Assessment can be complex and contradictory with many voices calling for a de-stabilisation of the essay as the sine qua non of academic achievement (Crème 2003):

Moral panics about plagiarism have suggested we design plagiarism out of assessment with more creative challenges than the traditional essay (Viz. ); somehow the essay remains.

Tackling disability suggests making ‘reasonable adjustment’ for students with SpLD – and that all students be given the choice of undertaking the alternative assessments thus developed (Ingle 2013a, Ingle 2013b). And still the major adjustment is not to re-design the assessments – but to allow more time in which to complete or submit the traditional written assignments.

The push for TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning), e-learning and/or blended learning implies that this new multi-modal age will usher in more multi-modal assignments that will match the essay in challenge and complexity (Abegglen, Burns & Sinfield 2014; Burns, Sinfield and Holley 2009, 2012); but the technology typically introduces the online submission of the written assignment.

No matter from where the push for alternative assessments emerges, we seem to end up with the same old written assessments.

When asked to populate a 30-week first year module written with Higher Education Orientation (HEO) in mind, without getting caught in the navel gazing trap that language interrogation can lead to (Hayes 2004), we wanted to go deeper – below the contours and fissures (Deleuze and Guattari 1987/2005) of ‘typical’ HEO practice and rhetoric. We wanted to introduce emancipatory education that also acted as a lens with which to critique stultifying academic practices (Sentito 2013). Moreover, we wanted flexibility in the assessments such that students could choose from a range of activities and mini-projects in ways that lit fires in their hearts and minds and allowed them space and time to follow their passions.

This is Learning Development that definitely goes beyond ‘fixing’ broken or deficit students – and instead looks at new ways to help students find their voice and power so that they ‘get’ the multi-faceted range of active processes involved in successful studying and learning.

We would like to discuss how we ‘hacked’ our traditional assessments to provide fissures and cracks (Deleuze and Guattari 1987/2005) in which to promote student engagement, choice and passion based learning.

In the discussion we would like to consider how learning developers, educational technologists and discipline staff can work together to develop and scaffold alternative assessment practices.

References, links and further reading:

Abegglen, Burns & Sinfield (2014) ‘Disrupting learning landscapes: Mentoring, engaging, becoming’in Investigations in University Teaching and Learning Vol 9, Spring 2014 pp15-21

Burns, Sinfield & Holley (2012) ‘The Shipwrecked Shore – and other metaphors: what we can learn from occupation of – and representations in – virtual worlds’ In Investigations in University Teaching and Learning Vol8 summer 2012 pp119-126

Crème P (2003) ‘Why can’t we allow students to be more creative?’ in Teaching in Higher Education Vol. 8, No 2 2003 pp 273-277

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F., 1987/2005. A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press

Hayes (2004) in Satterthwaite, Atkinson and Gale (Eds) Discourse, Power, Resistance: Challenging the Rhetoric of Contemporary Education Stoke on Trent; Trentham Books

Ingle J (2013a) ‘Writing as exclusionary practice’ in DISCOURSE, POWER AND RESISTANCE: DISCOURSES OF INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION 2013

Last Refuge blog (2013):

Noble, C (2014) Week 12 blog:

Preventing Plagiarism (2008) Staff website:

Sentito (2013) Leader of the Symposium Strand: ‘Stimulating or stultifying? Education as if learning matters’ in DISCOURSE, POWER AND RESISTANCE: DISCOURSES OF INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION 2013

Sinfield, Burns & Holley (2009) ‘a Journey into Silence’ in Social Responsibility Journal Vol 5 No 4 2009 pp566-574

Joining the conversation:

Simply follow this link and enter as a guest by typing your name, institution and country into the name field and clicking on the “Join Meeting” button.

Whether or not you have previously participated in a webinar or online activity using Adobe Connect we advise that you make sure that you do some checking and preparation in advance. Check your set-up and connection here.

You may also find our Adobe Connect Webinar Participant Guide useful to print out in advance of the session.We really hope that you will be able to join for what should be a lively and highly interactive TLC.

Reflections on a “dual audience” webinar

Once again I have been reflecting on the format of our most recent TLC.

This months TLC was led by Doris Dippold from the University of Surrey on Teaching linguistically and diverse cultural groups.  What was different about this TLC was that it had two quite distinct audiences.  Not only was the TLC delivered online via Adobe Connect to an online audience but it was also delivered from a seminar room at the University of Surrey to a live audience of approximately 25 students.

The Set-Up

Technically there was a little bit of advanced preparation involved to set things up (thanks Ceri) which we worked out the day before the webinar. Rather that Doris sitting at a desk in front of her computer webcam, we wanted to see here in action in front of the live audience.  To achieve this a networked laptop running Adobe Connect was set up in the seminar room.  A good quality, echo cancelling room microphone was attached to the laptop and positioned at the front of the seminar room where Doris was speaking.  So that the the live audience could hear the audio from Adobe Connect, external speakers were also required (hence the need for the echo cancelling mic).  The webcam on the laptop was simply pointed at Doris so that the online audience could see her as shown in Figure 1.

Connect Set UpThe laptop screen was projected onto a data projection screen at the front of the seminar room enabling the audience there to see Doris’s slides as well as the chat box text stream in Adobe Connect.  We had a minor issue with the external speakers before the webinar started but other than this the technology held up really well.  The audio quality was very good while Doris was speaking and the video, although a little grainy and dark was good enough for the online audience.  Several of the online participants struggled to hear questions posed by members of the live audience – we will come back to this issue later in the post.

Delivering the webinar

As has become normal practice for our TLC webinars, while Doris focused on presenting and facilitating the TLC a second person (in this case Simon Lygo-Baker) monitored and responded to activity from the online audience in the chat room – now a tried and tested technique. I think it is fair to say that this was particularly important for this webinar format. Doris’s attention was primarily on the live class in front of her and it would not have been possible to monitor the chat pod in Adobe connect at the same time.  Simon did a sterling job of identifying comments and questions and drawing Doris’s attention to them at appropriate points.  Although the audio quality when Doris was speaking was good it was difficult to hear questions and comments made by members of the seminar room audience.  Simon came to the rescue by reiterating questions to the Connect audience via the chat pod.  Generally, this worked well although there was a slight delay in the typing which meant that Doris was sometime responding to questions before that online audience had not quite finished reading.  Two possible solutions occur to me in relation to this. Firstly, presenters could make sure that they reiterate questions before answering them, as is often done at large conferences where presenters are using microphones but the audience aren’t.  Secondly, with an addition bit of technical know how roving/wireless microphones could be used for the audience questions.

Part way through the session Doris introduced a group discussion task for the seminar audience.  Online participants we asked to make their contributions individually via the chat pod.  As the group activity got underway, the sounds of animated and enthusiastic discussion could be heard by the Adobe Connect participants.  As the meeting host I thought this might be a little bit distracting so I temporarily muted the audio from the seminar room.  The response from some of the Adobe Connect participants via the chat pod was really interesting as the following (partially anonymised) extract hopefully shows.

Participant 1: sound has gone?

Participant 2: cant hear anything

Simon Lygo-Baker: Just turned the sound off while group chatting

Participant 3: Yes. My sound gone too

Audio is then turned back on

Simon Lygo-Baker: Should be back now

Participant : Its back!

Rod Cullen: We muted temporarily while the group work was going on at Surrey

Participant 1: shame. the sound of group chatter was most reassuring😀

Rod Cullen: @Participant 1 – ah OK – will leave it on next time🙂

Participant 1: Yes Please. The chaotic buzz of the room was not only life affirming but also useful to know the sound hasn’t cr**ped out again🙂

It very much seemed that some of online participants wanted to feel connected to the face-to-face activity, even though they were not directly involved, and the sound of the group chatter helped in this respect.  I didn’t expect that level of attachment.

Overall, another successful TLC but this time bringing together a face-to-face seminar and an online audience.

Materials from Doris Dippold’s TLC

Many thanks to Doris for such an interesting and thought provoking TLC yesterday on Teaching linguistically and diverse cultural groups.  This topic really generated a lot of interest and I received several requests for access to the recording of the webinar both before and after the event from as far afield as the USA and Australia.  Doris has kindly shared her presentation slides and provided links to additional resources including the details of her book which she mentioned during the session.  We had lots of interesting contributions during the session via the chat pod, including useful links so I have included a transcript below.

Teaching linguistically and diverse cultural groups – Webinar recording

Presentation PowerPoint Slides

Chat Pod Transcript

This the book that Doris has written on the subject: Classroom Interaction: The Internationalised Anglophone University

Further information about Doris can be found at the following links:

Doris Dippold Biography

Doris Dippold Publications

Teaching linguistically and diverse cultural groups

A teaching and learning conversation with:

Dr Doris DippoldUniversity of Surrey

When: Tuesday 22nd March 12:30-13:30 (60 minutes)

About this conversation:

Internationalisation is now a reality in higher education institutions across the world. University strategies  tend to carry large banners advertising internationalisation as a strategic goal and a desirable ability, whilst their marketing often focuses on an institution’s ability to turn students into global graduates.

This  Teaching and Learning Conversation focuses on the issues university tutors and lecturers encounter when teaching linguistically and culturally diverse groups. Rather than focusing on cultural difference, it will discuss the linguistic issues participants encounter when using English as an educational lingua franca, and how to address these.

It will also provide a space to discuss the role of the ‘home’ student, who tends to be neglected in the discussion on internationalisation in higher education.

We hope that you can join us,
The TLC team

Suggested Links:

Doris Dippold Biography

Doris Dippold Publications

Joining the conversation:

Simply follow this link and enter as a guest by typing your name, institution and country into the name field and clicking on the “Join Meeting” button.

Whether or not you have previously participated in a webinar or online activity using Adobe Connect we advise that you make sure that you do some checking and preparation in advance. Check your set-up and connection here.

You may also find our Adobe Connect Webinar Participant Guide useful to print out in advance of the session.We really hope that you will be able to join for what should be a lively and highly interactive TLC.