Welcome to May-June’s Hot Topic: Lessons and reflections from the last year

Original illustration by Ying Sun, Edinburgh College of Art student

In this post, Joséphine Foucher introduces the blog’s new Hot Topic theme on “Teaching and Learning during a Pandemic: Lessons and reflections from the last year”. The theme will run from May through June. Joséphine is the Teaching Matters’ blog co-editor.

Welcome to May-June’s Hot Topic theme on “Teaching and Learning during a Pandemic: Lessons and reflections from the last year”!

The illustration above by Edinburgh College of Art student Ying Sun, created specifically for this Teaching Matters’ theme, portrays beautifully the enormity of the last year. The colourful shapes, lumped together, overlapping and stepping over each other, evoke the heavy load of thoughts and turbulent feelings that many of us have faced in 2020-2021. In this pile of colours and shapes, I recall how difficult it was to clear my head from overwhelming interrogations and uncertainties when my only escape was a walk around the neighbourhood or yet another zoom call, which only reminded me of the strange times we were traversing.

But what I also see in Sun’s illustration – in that pile of bright and warm colours – is that those thoughts that might make us feel small and overburdened at times, are also a wonderful source for creativity. When looking closely, I feel a sense of expansion and possibility: the girl with long black hair is standing upright, she’s not crushed, nor flailing, but rather witnessing, holding her arms out and tending to this cacophony of thoughts, she’s facing them frontally and maybe asking: ‘what can I learn from all of this?’ This year forced introspection onto many of us, not only personally, but also professionally, and this theme is about taking stock of the lessons learned from the adaptations to teaching and learning in 2020 and 2021.

Over the last year, colleagues have conducted surveys, spearheaded research projects, reviewed quality assurance documents, written blog posts, and produced podcast episodes to get ‘real-time’ insights into the ways the University community was adapting to shifting learning and teaching practices. Discussions have veered from how to adapt to a hybrid environment quickly, to rethinking place-based education and student-staff co-creation, to reflecting on how to make our classrooms more inclusive and safe in a time of isolation. More specifically, we learned that students prefer smaller blocks of recorded content and a variety of both asynchronous and synchronous activities, that contact time needed to be carefully reimagined, and that open-book exams could continue being a viable assessment option in the future. In this series, we will explore more of these reflections as they shed light on how a year of introspection and conundrums have helped to really pause on what we want out of our pedagogical spaces.

In this series, we will read a post by Kate Yee, Media Studio Service Manager at ISG, and Norah Spears, Professor of Reproductive Physiology working in Biomedical Sciences, on the new Supported Media Production Studios and how it helped staff to deliver innovative teaching content. Then, Sabine Rolle, Senior Lecturer at the Department of European Languages and Cultures will discuss how to make the best use of contact time in an era of hybrid teaching. We will also hear from Joe Arton, Hybrid Exchange Site curator at the IAD, who will share a detailed and insightful guide on how to embed storytelling techniques into academic video material… And many more!

Previous Teaching Matters posts that you might find interesting:

Happy reading!

photograph of the authorJoséphine Foucher

Joséphine is doing a PhD in Sociology at The University of Edinburgh. Her research looks at the intersection between art and politics in contemporary Cuba. She supports Jenny Scoles as the Teaching Matters Co-Editor and Student Engagement Officer through the PhD Intern scheme at the Institute for Academic Development.

photograph of the authorYing Sun

Ying Sun is an illustrator and animator from Nanjing. She is now studying an MA illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. She was a game designer until she discovered that she had a stronger interest in illustration and wanted to go more professional and devote more time to it. At the same time, the basic skills she learned about game design are incorporated into her illustrations. For instance, she likes to model her characters in 3D software or creating GIFS and animations for them. She makes e-books with game elements for some of her illustrations. She is now refining her personal style and learning how to use illustration to tell a good story. Although she is not a very humorous person, she tries to convey some sense of wit and hilarity through her work. She seeks to make her work look interesting more than sophisticated.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/abigalesun6/

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