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Getting the most from your Project Teams: Creating a Critical Learning Community Cordelia Bryan.

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Presentation on theme: "Getting the most from your Project Teams: Creating a Critical Learning Community Cordelia Bryan."— Presentation transcript:

1 Getting the most from your Project Teams: Creating a Critical Learning Community Cordelia Bryan

2 Creating a Critical Learning Community (CLC) My approach to directing three Learning and Teaching research and development projects over 12 years utilised my own experience as an Educational Developer. Projects offer a means of modelling CPD (Continuing Professional Development) thereby potentially engaging all personnel.

3 Why Create a Critical Learning Community (CLC)? Creating a CLC offers a win/win situation: Hypotheses can be rigorously tested within the community thereby providing an additional level of trialling Engaging in collaborative processes individual community members may benefit by enhancing their own CPD. Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press.

4 Why create a CLC? A projects success can be largely dependent on how effectively its members work together so that processes are not delayed or hampered by potential non-delivery of agreed actions by one or two individuals.

5 Why Create a CLC? The key here is to motivate team members to commit the necessary time and energy Developing and maintaining motivation, or as Barnett might put it, cultivating a will to learn is, critical as team members typically have other work responsibilities outside the project which may tend to take priority. Barnett, R. (2007) A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty, SRHE & Open University, Maidenhead

6 A motley crew Project teams are frequently made up of diverse staff. These might include: Experienced or inexperienced teachers and researchers Experienced or inexperienced administrators Senior and/or junior colleagues Colleagues from schools or institutions with differing cultures Colleagues from different subject disciplines

7 A motley crew Colleagues who have actively applied to be involved in the project Colleagues who have been co-opted for a variety of reasons e.g. who are involved because their presence is required for receiving the project money (typically PVCs (academic), Deans or Heads of School) Seconded colleagues who divide their work time between more than one department or institution and for whom the project may be a small fraction of their overall workload – who therefore report to several line managers Associate Lecturers who have a direct line management relationship with the Project Director for all or part of their time

8 Motley crew to CLC A practical and pedagogically sound way of managing such potentially diverse groups of individuals is to promote the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL). Such an approach requires the Project Director to act as a facilitator in creating a healthy CLC.

9 Small Group Activity 1 What conditions, values and behaviours do you consider important in order to develop and maintain a healthy Critical Learning Community / Project Team? Please list these on a flip chart.

10 Sharing values & agreeing ground rules: The importance of an initial Awayday Exploring ways to entice your extended team members to come along to your first Awayday where you can only then outline and demonstrate the benefits of creating a healthy CLC. Spell out & explore what CPD is inherent in the project Get to know each other etc..

11 Small Group Activity 2 In 2 minutes jot down as many CPD opportunities you can think of which might be inherent in L & T projects. Now share these in small groups.

12 Some examples of CPD opportunities inherent in L & T projects Practice self reflection – added value, what I have learnt – done as diary and/or verbal as collaborative activity Produce publications - could be particularly attractive CPD for technicians on your team to learn necessary skills by co-writing with experienced researchers Experience practical CPD through project management style (shared decision making; professional accountability; pro-active PBL; teamwork; empowerment & trust) Experience effective staff development – through project workshops & conferences etc.

13 Some examples of CPD opportunities inherent in L & T projects Experience innovations which move emphasis from teacher centred to learner centred in a variety of contexts Engage with creative assessment methods Understand the use of ICT to support pedagogy Acquire valuable IT skills – (CV skills; VLE & distance working etc.) Experience team teaching and mentoring – critical friend

14 Action Research Approach Once a critical learning community has become established, the Project Director may facilitate an Action Research approach to the project brief. This might be as a series of individual action research projects within the overall project or a combination of individual and collaborative interventions as determined by the CLC.

15 Action Research Approach Action research is a term which refers to a practical way of looking at your own work (here in relation to the project remit) to check that it is as you would like it to be. It is a form of self-reflective practice which may be enhanced through collaboration within a CLC. McNiff J. (2002) Action Research for Professional Development. Available at (Accessed: 8 October, 2009)

16 Some parting thoughts..... If we believe that healthy CLCs are desirable as models of CPD inherent in project team management, how do the values, conditions and behaviours compare to those within the wider context of current Neo-Liberal HEIs?

17 Some parting thoughts..... In the table on the handout contrasting Neo- Liberal HEIs and Critical Learning Communities Mike Laycock sets out some potential challenges for those wishing to adopt the approach outlined here for project management. That said, it is possible and, who knows..... maybe Senior Management teams in our HEIs might adopt this approach one day. Laycock, M. (2009) CPD and Critical Learning Communities: you cant have one without the other, in Laycock, M. & Shrives, L. (Eds) Embedding CPD in Higher Education, SEDA Paper 123.

18 Workshop Facilitator Contact Details Cordelia Bryan Higher Education Consultant

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