Being a winner

In my mental image of me, I’m not the sort of person who wins things.  So when I do win something, I’m quite chuffed. Yesterday, I got to the status of being very chuffed indeed to win the nanoteach prize at the Higher Education Academy’s Social Science conference in Liverpool.

The nanoteach competition asked people to come with a single, short idea about Learning & Teaching, to be shared in no more than 2 minutes. The delegates then got to vote on their favourite.

It would be fair to say that I was anxious about doing something for this.  I’d never tried it before and I wasn’t quite sure what kind of thing the organisers were looking for.  So how did I manage it?

Firstly, I thought about my audience.  You and I are busy people, who haven’t got time for anything too involved or complex to remember.  So it needed to be something that spoke to that.

Secondly, I thought about the context.  It’s a conference, at the end of the day, and there’s wine on the tables, so it can’t be too solemn.

Thirdly, I thought about how I could make a connection. Most of the people weren’t political scientists, so it couldn’t be disciplinary, just as it couldn’t be university-based, since people were also coming from a wide range of sectors.

With all that in mind, I still messed up.  My original idea was to talk about the sticks as a means of randomising contributions. It is visual, it speaks to a problem that’s generic and it’s a bit quirky.  But as the day went on, I realised that it wasn’t right for this: it’s actually quite involved – certainly for a 2 minute presentation – and as I’ve noted here before, it’s not without caveats about its use.  So this is where the final element came into play: I got lucky.

The nanoteach session was ordered by lots and I was able to listen to the first couple of presentations, then pop out of the room, find three post-it notes and dash back in. I then got lucky again, as my name didn’t come up until the very end, so I could collect myself and – importantly – gauge the audience more closely.

By the time I stood up and told them about the ABC system for feedback, I knew that I was giving them a much better idea than the sticks.  It’s super-simple, very easy to remember (“as easy as ABC…” indeed), useful for everyone who needs feedback on anything, and communicable in visual form.

I’m neither going to pretend the ABC idea is my own, nor that it’s the best idea that was presented last night (I’ve got some things I’ll be trying in class when I get back), but it was pitched right for that moment.  Just as our teaching needs to be responsive to our students and their specific needs, so that rest of our pedagogic interactions need to reflect that too.

So thanks to the HEA (for the prize), to my fellow delegates (for the votes) and to the colleagues who gave me the idea in the first place.  This winning thing is rather enjoyable!