Blog 46

In this 5 part series, Mandy Frake Mistak from the Teaching Commons provides an insight into her experience running and Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW)  at the University of Lincoln in the UK.

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 ISW blog 3 – ISW Day 2

Having started our fourth day in Lincoln with a cup of tea and our morning walk to the University of Lincoln we were rather tired. Last night had been a late night reviewing, (re)planning, and prepping for our third and final day of the Instructional Skills Workshop. As a facilitator of the ISW, we are all too familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed upon starting the last day. There is still so much to do by way of review, wrap up, concluding the workshop, but more than that, doing our best to ensure that each participant will take as much as possible from the workshop before returning to their everyday teaching routine. Day 3 is our last opportunity to engage with the participants as it is their last day to engage and learn from each other. A lot weighs on these final hours together and beginning the morning as fatigued as we were would do much to slow us down. In hindsight, fatigue also had a miraculous power of helping our participants cut through the nonsense and formalities to get right down to business.

Our participants arrived and were rather quiet for the first while. Although this was anticipated we did have to push them a little more than normal to interact with us and each other. I noticed fairly early in the day that the participants were not questioning my motives as much as they had been in the previous two days. I noticed that they were facilitating each other in such a way that allowed me, the facilitator, to fade into the background. Watching and observing how the participants organized themselves, asked questions, and provided feedback to each other showed me how their already tight knit community had come to embrace the ISW model and how the process was working. It had worked incredibly well. This was the mark of a successful ISW in so far that they could facilitate themselves without my presence. I was particularly pleased about this shift in dynamics seeing as though I would be heading back to Canada the following morning.

At York we typically do an “Ask-it-Basket” as a way to answer or discuss any outstanding questions, concerns, queries, or issues that may have surfaced at some point during the ISW. This is a way to bring some form of resolution before we formally conclude the workshop. This discussion forum was very different from previous experiences in leading this kind of activity. We spent considerable time discussing if the ISW should be introduced into the University of Lincoln (and by extension the UK) and if so, how to do it alongside an already heavily mandated postsecondary education system. In truth this dialogue didn’t feel as though this was the best way to wrap up the third of three very intense days but it spoke volumes to the institutional need rather than personal teaching or pedagogical issues. I had hoped for an explosion of cheers and congratulations but the real work was about to begin. We had fulfilled our responsibility of facilitating the ISW and providing support and guidance for how the ISW model might be implemented in the University of Lincoln, but the real test would be in making it happen after our departure.

After a somewhat subdued conclusion to the workshop we were invited to an end of workshop dinner at the student centre. All I wanted to do at that point was head back to our little cottage, make a pot of tea and sit quietly…and try not to reflect…even educational developers need a break from reflection once in a while. It wasn’t in the cards but I admit I had a lovely visit with those who were able to attend and got to know them on a more personal level. I recall thinking how strange and surreal this whole experience had been – flying in for a 3 day workshop but leaving feeling as though we had spent months together. I would be sad to say goodbye and found myself rather thankful for this last opportunity to sit and reflect, and conclude (in a more uplifting kind of way) our ISW at the University of Lincoln.

We have a saying in Canada about participants who complete the ISW. We say that they have become swans. It just so happens that swans are the national bird of Lincolnshire. Call it fate or call it serendipitous, we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these particular swans all week.

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