And the gold medal for band wagon racing goes to….

As the closing ceremony approaches you can hear the sound of politicians hitching a ride on the sporting bandwagons that were inevitable after such a successful Olympic Games. I take my hat off to the folks who have made the London 2012 games a success to douse  our British pessimism. It has been a triumph of planning and delivery on every level, apart from when the public sector had to bail out the private security operators  G4S. Even a ‘sportsphobe’ like me has been gripped by the action on the lakes and sea, in the pool, on the track, on the fields, in the ring and at the velodrome  – still can’t be doing with the horsey stuff though! Continue reading


What’s my approach to HE teaching and learning?

I recently (Dec 2011) successfully completed an application for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy; this required me to produce a paper about my approach to teaching and learning and expose my approach to scrutiny by experts within the University. Having survived that exercise I plan to share what I said with a wider audience.

My background is as an industry ‘expert’, a former practitioner in the field of corporate communications, public relations and social marketing of some 25+years, all in the public sector. I have never wanted to work in the private sector as I have a personal commitment to strong public services presented in a way that people can understand how best to benefit from them. I originally trained as a middle years teacher back in the 1970s and during my communications career was also responsible for developing, motivating, training, coaching and mentoring staff at all levels and through various professional institutions.

I have a personal commitment to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Lifelong Learning undertaking my Masters in the 1990s and by participating in my professional body’s CPD programme, which initially included regular sessions as a guest lecturer at the University when it first opened. It was as a result of this involvement with the University that I found myself taking up this work as a HE Lecturer when I took early retirement. I still see it very much as putting something back and supporting the next generation of communications professionals.

It is my natural instinct to want to develop other people – colleagues, new entrants to the profession and so on. On two occasions when I have moved jobs, a team member whom I had helped to develop through coaching and mentoring has succeeded me. Both of these individuals were then able to take the role they were promoted to onto new heights continuing the philosophy of continuous improvement. The mentoring relationship with one of the individuals has continued in the over ten years since.

I believe it is helpful to know something of the individual as this gives a context for how and why they ‘do things as they do’. My preferred learning style is active and I am a ‘Shaper’ according to Belbin (1993), both of which probably explain why I have developed ‘on the job’ and have engaged enthusiastically in developing the programmes of PR study. Myers Briggs has suggested I favour intuition and feelings, I have come out as both extrovert and introvert depending upon when I have taken the test and in what context (as a personal exercise or as part of a recruitment exercise – who says you can’t change the scores!). Coinciding with the birth of my son I became less judgmental and moved more towards perception as my preference. This illustrates just how diverse human beings are according to life experiences, context and task. In my role in HE it ensures that I am able to be cognisant of difference and allow explorations of difference. This is quite a challenge for a PR professional as the PR role is very much about managing messages – control freaks abound in the profession! Self awareness makes us all more effective at whatever we do as it allows us to understand how we impact on other people and how it is OK to come at problem solving from different points of view and in different ways.

When I first arrived at the University (2006), I was very focussed on the workplace and ensuring the students would have the right skills set for the world of work. Consequently I took a very practical approach to my teaching, littering it with examples of practice from my own career and creating opportunities for the assessments to have a portfolio element to them. I was not convinced by a purely academic approach for what I considered a vocational subject area (Public Relations – PR). However, working alongside colleagues who had opinions and beliefs ranging along the continuum from very practical to the purely academic and by reading around the theoretical and academic approaches to PR I have begun to ‘find a voice’ that balances the two. I still hold dear to the idea of ensuring students can provide employers with evidence of their suitability for the profession they have chosen and so use portfolio style assessments .