Empowerment and resilience

Further reflections on the Student Education Conference (SEC):

The key note from Dan Crow and the 2 panel discussions at the SEC were inspiring and useful in equal measure. These are main things that really resonated with me:

Empower your students

Elizabeth Powell from Newlaithes Primary shared how she empowers her very young students (4-6) to be independent, curious learners by encouraging them to solve problems, persevere, think independently as well as be able to work as part of a team. Interestingly the panel agreed that students are often more independent learners at 11 than when they leave secondary school at 18.

This really struck a chord with me because I think many of us (myself included at times) can be guilty of “talk and tell” teaching. Even in classes where students get opportunities to undertake tasks or group work they are often preceded by lots of instruction. If we trust 4 year olds to take control of their learning why not 18+ year old adults?


In the second panel discussion about transition from university to work the issue of developing resilience in students was raised and in particular giving students a safe environment in which to fail. Dan Crow explained how failing taught him far more than his successes. To me, this is not just true of students but us as well. I don’t want to generalise but indulge me for a moment… the culture of librarianship can be quite risk averse and the fear of failing- failing our students, departments, managers, ourselves- can stop us from developing new and innovative services or even trying new things within our current roles or teams. I’m actually talking a bit about this at LILAC and AldInhe this year (self promotion #sorrynotsorry) so come along to “Learning to experiment” if you are interested.

The physical university is important

It was very refreshing to hear that for someone who has worked for Google, Apple and developed his own tech Startups, Dan Crow saw the physical university as integral to student success. Whilst he saw huge opportunities for universities to expand their online learning provision, he was explicit in the fact that what he had gained from his time at the University of Leeds extended far beyond the subject content of his degree. The friendships he made, the experiences he had (such as joining the theatre group), the opportunities to broaden his skills, were hugely significant in shaping his future.

There certainly seems to be an obsession amongst some in education with trying to replace face-to-face learning with online resources rather than offering a truly blended approach (im not referring to explicity offering online learning, MOOCS for example). I agree with a friend who said “if you can be replaced with an online tutorial, you should be”. We should be using the amazing technology out there to help us provide engaging, rich opportunities for student learning in the classroom.

I am going to try and build all this into my teaching. I want to empower the students, build their resilience and use technology so that I can make the most of my face-to-face time with them.

Now if I can find an extra few hours in my day….



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