Friday 29 March 2019

Flip Me!

One of the programmes I'm involved in running is a three day development programme for Deans at Cardiff University. Day one is run by the PVCs, setting the context etc, and I pick up days 2 and 3 (which are some time apart). These focus on a variety of topics, from time management to change leadership and influencing skills.

This year, at the end of day 2, which had gone well, they asked if we could try flipped learning for day 3. For those not in the know, flipped learning means sending them all the material I would normally talk them through in advance of the day for them to read, leaving the day itself clear for discussion of, or practice with, the material, with their peers.

I was in two minds. On the one hand, I was keen to experiment and see what I could learn. On the other hand, I think that one of my skills is making the material relevant and interesting in the way I present it.  Further I was concerned that my handout material probably makes more sense in support of my presentation of the topics, rather than freestanding.

Nonetheless, I agreed to give it a go, and sent out the handout material in advance. On the day, I posted the agenda/running order on a flip chart, reminded the Deans about the primacy of listening (I had introduced the Thinking Environment on the previous day) and then launched each topic with a very brief reminder of the key points in the material I'd circulated.  In a couple of cases, I suggested a particular approach or activity that might help them get the most from the topic and the time, and that seemed useful.

Then it was over to them to discuss it. And discuss it they did: sometimes in plenary, sometimes in pairs and threes.  Some went for a walk in the park to discuss one issue (resilience) whilst others discussed it over a coffee in the coffee area.

It seemed to go very well, and as I travelled home, I got a little flurry of emails from some of the Deans saying how much they had valued the day and the approach, and how well it had helped them get to know each other as well as discuss the various topics.

And not only that, they revealed that they have invented the collective noun for Deans: they are a Forest of Deans.

All in all, a very satisfactory day; and an approach I will certainly try again when the occasion arises.

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