Avid readers of this blog might recall that I completed the University’s Teaching and Learning Support Programme in 2011. I recently took the opportunity to complement this valuable training by attending a subject-specific event run by the Council for College and University English, at Keele University.
The event began with a fruitful workshop on close reading, where the teachers became the taught! Dusting off memories of our distant undergraduate days, we were grouped with unfamiliar faces and given unknown poems to dissect and discuss. After the brief thrill of together turning words into meanings, we reflected on the role of close reading in our classrooms: What is it for? What kinds of students does it accommodate? How can we model it better?
Always an important aspect of any such gathering, dinner gave the opportunity to meet other delegates: inspiring and energetic people, all of whom are committed to teaching well. On the second day we continued to learn from one another’s experiences and observations, specifically exploring techniques for lecturing and small group teaching. There were eruptions of laughter, as the occasional improbably awkward teaching experience was recounted, and the appreciative scurry of pen on paper as we recorded others’ ideas for how to engage students.
Professor Robert Eaglestone (Royal Holloway) then provoked our understanding of ‘The Identity of the English Lecturer’, digging for the unconscious philosophies marking every moment of our teaching. For example, what are we silently saying through the shapes of our classrooms?
The event proved to be a precious opportunity to reflect on my teaching practice among a cheerful community of early career peers. I left newly invigorated to exploit connections between my teaching practice and research activities, and counting many new colleagues as fellow travellers on that adventure.