On Friday I embarked on a new adventure. My Bear Grylls is Mrs Stephanie Allen, proprietor of the Training Spa and guru of leadership AND management. Stephanie has encouraged us to create a learning journal or blog our journey towards the El Dorado of a Diploma in Leadership in Management (Level 5 no less).
We were invited to bring an object that held special meaning. I choose #chemquackers. A rubber duck that I 'won' at the European Chemistry Societies Congress in Seville in early September. Since then we have been near inseparable and our fun has been documented on Twitter. #Chemquackers is a pretext to share the wonder of chemistry, the science of everything we are, we eat and we see.
In the picture #chemquackers is surveying a VARK questionairre. VARK is the seductive idea that different students have different learning styles. The problem is, there is no evidence for this assertion. It would still be fine if was solely used as a vehicle to encourage us to reflect on the learning process. Unfortunately, it is widely taken to its logical conclusion and used to label learners as particular types. If learners then respond by rejecting teaching that isn't in their chosen style the consequences are dire. Read Pashler, 2008 before succumbing to the siren voices and acquiring some thoroughly unhelpful embedded beliefs.
I wouldn't dream of sharing the very personal experiences of my fellow students but it was great to be part of a very diverse group of people sharing the common goal of self improvement.
In her closing remarks Stephanie invited us to reflect on what Success would look like for us. Here I suspect our little class will hold widely differing aspirations. As a Professor of Chemistry and Director of Learning and Teaching I am expected to have certain leadership and management skills. In HE you can gain a lectureship role without ever being taught to teach so why on earth would we require a course in how to lead. At least for teaching new recruits have compulsory courses. I make this point not to slate the system but to explain that for me this is a not a directly career enhancing step. My senior colleagues are more likely to berate me for wasting my time than commend me for self-improvement.
So why am I doing it? A question I will no doubt ask myself many more times, particualrly during late nights finishing assignments. It boils down to: because if I don't put up, I will need to shut up. Poor practice isn't just costing my department money its leaching morale. There has to be a better way. There has to be a better way.
So what will success look like. I'll settle for one person taking me to one side and saying thank you. "Thank you for facilitating my career." or simply "Thank you for chairing a meeting in which I felt we achieved something." I'll settle for never feeling like an imposter again.