Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Glasgow Set: An Emerging Writer’s Circle #PedagooGlasgow

As promised, just blogging my workshop outline from today at #PedagooGlasgow – thanks to all those who attended for making it a great session! 👍👌👏

Writing Workshop: A Goal-Orientated Approach

Dr Carol Webb
Twitter: @cazzwebbo

Assumption: you want to write, but might be getting stuck getting started

Workshop objectives: develop personal meaning & motivation for writing and set some personal goals

A writers’ circle approach

“The Bloomsbury Group—or Bloomsbury Set—was an influential group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists,[1] the best known members of which included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. This loose collective of friends and relatives lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury, London, during the first half of the 20th century. According to Ian Ousby, “although its members denied being a group in any formal sense, they were united by an abiding belief in the importance of the arts”.[2] Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality.[3]”

The Bloomsbury Set: “Lived in squares, wrote in circles, and loved in triangles”

Today: The Glasgow Set?

who, what, why, what, what, how, when, where….?
An emerging story? ☺
Perhaps… “united by an abiding belief in the importance of teaching, research and writing”.
Perhaps… “Their works and outlook deeply influenced pedagogic theory, practice, policy, and educational reform as well as modern attitudes towards schools, students and teachers” ???

a) Who are you? Identity as a writer…
• Are you writing as Miss Smith the teacher, the researcher, the mother, the explorer, the secret belly-dancer or something/someone else?
• Mr Jones the NQT, the runner, the fly-fishing expert, or enthusiast in working memory?
• “Come out”… Discuss and share with your group

b) What do you want to write about?
• Teaching, research, parenting, adventures, belly-dancing, fly-fishing, being an NQT, your interest in working memory or something else?
• Discuss and share with your group

c) Why do you want to write about these things?
• Why write at all? Brainstorm reasons for writing…

d) What is your motivation and what does this mean to you?
• If motivation and meaning are missing, can you create motivation and meaning?
• What rewards might you give yourself for writing?
• How will it feel to you having written something?

e) What can you write about?
• Idea brainstorming… nothing is a wrong answer in brainstorming
• If writing about teaching/research: your own practice? Experiences? The students? Behaviour? Learning? Your subject area? Challenges and overcoming them? Latest developments in pedagogy? Latest developments in technology? Contributing new ideas and feeding back to pedagogic practice in your field? Validating the previous claims of others made in research? Experimenting with new ideas? Something else?
• If you had to go and write something now, what would it be about? Share thoughts and ideas

f) How can you write about all this?
• Use of laptops? iPads? iPhones? PC? On a flipchart constantly kept open? Personal notebooks and reflective diaries? On slate? With chalk?
• Blogs? Magazine articles? Conference papers? Journal papers? Books? Essays? Dissertations and theses? Other ideas?
• Discuss pro’s, con’s, the processes of each and personal preferences.

g) When is the best time for you to write?
• At work/home? In the morning? Afternoon? Weekend? What time? Be precise…
• Discuss your optimal times for taking time out to write
• How can you reclaim time that something else less worthy is taking up?
• How can you minimise distractions?

h) Where is the best place for you to write?
• On holiday? Writer’s retreat? Fitting it in to a normal routine in your working day? In bed? In the bath? In your favourite armchair? In your kid’s tree-house? On a park bench? In a secret cupboard behind the cleaner’s bucket and mop?
• Discuss the best places to get undisrupted you-time

i) Final task for personal reflection:
• Make a promise to yourself to write something, in a certain place, at a certain time, using a particular method, on a certain topic, for a particular genre, this week. Give yourself a deadline.
• Write this promise down to yourself now, and then do it.
• Then tweet me @cazzwebbo by the end of this week to share what you did, where, when and how
• Get the twitter handles of the others in your group and tweet them to tell them that you fulfilled your promise to yourself as well

j) Follow up task:
• After you have done i) above, share with your tweet group on twitter your next writing goals using the hashtag #TwitWrit and keep each other informed what you have done and when. Have fun in your writing circle!

Feel free to use the comment space below to continue discussion…

Turning Research Projects into Butterflies

I’ve just finished a fourth meeting with my group of MSc students who I am supervising through their project management dissertation projects this summer at The University of Manchester, and we’ve had a breakthrough. I have a group of ten Chinese students, with varying abilities in English, and varying degrees of shyness and willingness to engage with the group beyond just doing a rapid presentation and then quickly sitting down.

I’ve been thinking about how to get them engaging more effectively with our time together, and to feed this into our process for learning and improving drafts of work done until final submission of dissertations by them at the beginning of September. Until now, the process for our class sessions has included them turning up, being really lovely, helpful, quietly submissive to the instruction to fulfill what they need to on time and then do a PPT presentation on work and reading done so far. But last week I modelled what their abstract and introduction chapter should include, and asked them to follow that model to provide a summary on their own abstracts and introductions done so far. They duly did this. But before their own presentations this morning I then modelled what their methodology chapter should include, asking them to provide a summary following that model for next week. And at the end of this presentation, before reminding them about the schedule of impending deadlines for submission of various draft versions of their work over the summer (first one due next Monday: first version of structure and outline to me for feedback by email), I then put the Austin’s Butterlfy video up on YouTube:

I introduced it by explaining the context – a group of first graders in an American school – and that obviously this was a very different setting and level to their own, but asked them to watch it and consider how they might apply it to their own practice while learning, researching and writing up their research projects. They thoughtfully reflected while watching the video and all agreed that they found the principle of providing mutual critique in a learning group to be of value. They liked the approach recommending honest, specific and friendly critique, and I then challenged them to think of how things had been in our group so far. I said it was good that they were doing as asked: turning up and presenting. But I suggested (strongly) that we now needed to move beyond just giving a quick and maybe dismissive presentation, clapping each other’s presentation and then sitting down too fast. I said that from now on, in order to make the most of this opportunity and time we have together, that I wanted each person presenting to ask for feedback, comments and ideas for improvement at the end of their slot.

Everyone slowly nodded, apprehensively.

I also pointed out that this would require thinking and engaging mentally with someone else’s presentation while they were giving it – not just watching with our eyes, smiling and nodding. They realised this was going to require a bit more mental work than usual.

But, they did it. Slowly but surely they got braver and were able to reflect and offer some good ideas and advice to each other following each presentation.

A few students humorously commented on the current stage of their own ‘Butterfly’. “I’m already at draft 4 of my butterfly”, laughed one student, with mock arrogance, knowing full well he was a little previous with such a statement. One female student might have already hit draft 5 though and everyone could clearly see that she was someone to learn from. You could see people in the room cognitively upping their game as she spoke. Others made their suggestions and comments more challenging for her, which was a little unfair but she could take it. She spoke to me after the session and asked if they could set up a FaceBook gropu for group discussion on their work – it amazes me that they think they have to ask for permission for this kind of thing. I encouraged it, of course.

In conclusion: Austin’s Butterfly… not just good for school kids – also good for MSc students. Can’t wait for their butterflies to keep hitting my email inbox over the summer now, getting bigger, bolder and more beautiful each time  🙂