Have you ever taken your students to an academic conference?
I did, and it was an exciting experience that made me see things in a new light. I recruited Chris, a 3rd Year student of mine here at UEA, as research assistant to support my work. We are crunching data and co-ordinating various activities for a HEA funded Teaching Development Grant on the use of Student Response Systems to elicit student confidence. Chris has been excellent support to the project activities. After so much hard work I thought it would be interesting for him to see where the results of our analysis would end. I asked Chris whether he wanted to come and help me presenting some preliminary results at the HEA Social Sciences Conference. Busy revising for his final exams, dribbling between books, review notes and exam sessions, Chris packed his bag and joined me on the way to Birmingham. The train journey from Norwich takes forever, but we did not stop talking for the whole duration of it: projects for the future, his experience at UEA, the future of Higher Education…this went on over dinner. Nevertheless, professionalism kicked in again just before sleep time as Chris asked me to review our PowerPoint slides together, to make sure that he knew what we wanted to say and how. (He did already know better than me!) A good night sleep and we were ready to join the crowd of delegates. I suggested that Chris could take a few hours off to take a wonder in the city centre, but he insisted to stay and attend all the sessions. (I was secretly pleased to have some company and somebody to discuss the presentations to be true). But that was not enough to him: as we were walking around conference sessions and venues, Chris started to talk to colleagues and engage with debates like a veteran! Not only was I proud, but also amazed by how much wisdom, knowledge, and information Chris was willing and able to share with fellow conference delegates. There is a lot of discussion in the HE literature about ‘creating partnerships’ with the students and on the ‘teaching-research nexus’, but this was truly a prime example of how to move from (sometimes -let’s admit it-) vacuous words to facts. Chris delivered his part of the talk captivating the audience and I think he truly enjoyed and made the most of his experience in Birmingham with me. My colleagues and I gained so many useful insights from his experience. Yes, indeed, because none better than him could give us a clear picture of what truly means being a HE student in current times. Have you ever taken your students to an academic conference? Try that!