Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Am I improved?!

On Monday 19th we had our College Staff Improvement Day. To begin with we listened to a keynote speech given by Professor Bill Lucas entitled: Making more even in challenging times: developing adaptive intelligence in resilient organisations. In it he spoke about his 8 rules of change.
Rule 1: Change is changing; which essentially means that change is becoming more frequent and the previously believed models of how change occurs amongst people are outdated.
Rule 2: Real change is internal not external; I agree with this point - a 'real' change is not going to fully take place until all the individuals involved complete a transition process and become willingly accepting of the change.
Rule 3: Slow down; don't dissolve into panic at a time of change but control the process and manage the change instead of allowing it to manage you.
Rule 4: We can all change the way we see the world
Rule 5: We can all learn how to change more effectively; view change as a positive force rather than allowing it to have a negative impact on your outlook which can, in turn, endanger your views on other areas of your life.
Rule 6: No one can make you change; but, despite putting up a fight, over time, you often come round to accepting the change anyway.  I see it in my colleagues and I know I'm guilty of it, much to the frustration of my fiance!
Rule 7: Sometimes it's smart to resist
Rule 8: Use the brainpower of those around you; work together and change will be more effective!
Further discussion about these rules of change can be found in Bill's book: rEvolution: how to thrive in crazy times.

I think as an LRC team we manage change pretty well. However, within the organisation I have seen instances of sudden reaction to change rather than taking the time of effectively manage the change process. I would not like to be in the shoes of our senior management team - trying to calmly and effectively manage change across an organisation of our size must be very daunting!

My first workshop of the day was led by our Director of Student Services and was called Motivational dialogue and target setting. Aimed at teaching staff he facilitated a group discussion about how to get more out of their one-to-one sessions with students and how to improve the likelihood of the student reaching their targets. A large part of the session, however, was given over to discussing study skills: what skills to our students need, whose job is it to teach them those skills and when should they be taught? It was very interesting to hear the views of our teaching staff. For example, the assumption that students come to us having learnt these skills at school, whereas in reality this is often not the case. A lot of the tutors feel that study skills is a whole subject in itself and that they don't have the time within the syllabus to teach it. Some tutors, for example those who teach A level, feel that it isn't their responsibility when the students have their own group (form) tutor. I can understand this argument - as an A level or GCSE student you wouldn't want to be taught the same study skill by each subject tutor as it would be confusing. It would be better to be taught centrally within your form.

Whose role is it then? Is it the LRC's? We go so far as creating online interactive guides using Xerte on a range of study skills. They are designed for students to use independently or tutors can recommend them as ways of helping achieve targets, such as improve personal organisation. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity at the end of the workshop to demonstrate our Xerte guides and they went down well with the tutors - most likely because they helped take the onus off of them. To create them we read advice on particular study skills from books and sites of other colleges and universities. Does that now make us qualified to teach study skills? We need to reach a whole-College decision about how study skills are taught - does it happen during induction or at regular times throughout the course and who is responsible for delivering them?

My second workshop on UCAS did not end up having the focus we thought it would. Therefore, the only thing I came away with was an amazement at how inconsistent the application process is between the different faculties and the way in which certain parts happen so inefficiently (such as printing out the electronic form at one stage to pass on only for it to become electronic again at the final submission!) just because it's always been done like that. (The purpose of the session, as it turned out, was to devise a logical timeline to be adopted by the whole College that governs when each stage of the process happens, how it happens and by whom.)

My third workshop looked at the way that KC Online (our internal site created using Microsoft Sharepoint) is going to go forward. It was basically a feedback session to find out what works, what doesn't and what we'd like to see happen. The one shining point was that our LRC blog on KC Online was used as an example of good practise of sharing information :)

On Tuesday 20th we had divisional training comprising of a workshop on behaviour management led by my colleague Catherine Taylor. We discussed the student behaviour guidelines and, in groups, came up with ten reasons why we roam. My group came up with the following:
  • to provide a safe environment
  • to provide assistance to students
  • to encourage enquiries
  • to maintain a quiet environment for study
  • to keep the LRC tidy
  • to ensure LRC rules are adhered to
  • to build a rapport with students
  • to support the help desk
  • to look approachable
  • to ensure efficient use of resources
To finish we each gave our tips for successful roaming. These included going in with a smile; being friendly; being open-minded and tailoring interactions to different students. One that I didn't mention is that I always begin an interaction by addressing the students as ladies and gentlemen (to show my belief that they can behave as such) - the more they prove me wrong the more they are addressed as guys and girls! It's very subtle so I have no idea if any of them notice! The tip that I'm going to implement is taking a moment to stand still and listen - take stock of the environment to identify what's going on at the beginning of your roaming session.

After all that training, what's the only thing that could happen next? ... ...Christmas party!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The usefulness of social media

Here's a very brief case study of the usefulness of blogging and tweeting!  Last month CILIP held an E-books Executive Briefing.  There were several speakers from FE, HE and public libraries.  Unfortunately we were unable to attend, however I was curious to find out what kind of issues were discussed and if anyone had some innovative tips for promoting their e-books.

First I contacted CILIP to see if there was an official write-up of the event or whether any of the speakers had made their slides available.  They pointed me in the direction of Sarah Burton and her blog post: eBooks: Absolutely Fabulous?  She gave a great summary of the event and the speakers.

Her post also mentioned the #ebooks11 tweets she had read on Twitter. Finally I could see the purpose of Twitter! In July I blogged as part of CPD23 about my VERY brief encounter with Twitter and how I couldn't see the benefits of using it. However, the #ebooks11 tweets directed me to another great write-up of the event by Nicola McNee. From both Sarah's and Nicola's posts I have obtained a good overview of the topics dealt with by the speakers and can make a more informed decision about whether I want to contact any of them for further info.

The Twit has now been converted! Whilst I shall never be a regular Tweeter I have proven to myself just how beneficial it can be!