November Creative Lunches: sharing good practice at HCA

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I wanted to briefly capture two successful creative lunch sessions recently; both were aimed at sharing practice and supporting students, but each had a very different focus. 

Alex Thimm is B.A (Hons) course leader for Photography at HCA. His lunchtime session shared practice ‘on the ground’ that Alex’s students have found helpful in supporting them manage their time and learn valuable study skills.  

This work, in Alex’s words; ‘isn’t rocket science’. Alex curates resources from Study Skills information in the library and then, during a facilitated discussion session, invites students to self-assess against different ideas of higher level study skills. The students identify where they might struggle, and together the group comes up with ideas for support. 

This might not be rocket science, but it is good practice – and evidence from internal and NSS surveys suggest that it works. Alex finds it a useful approach as it lets him get to know his student’s particular strengths and weaknesses better early on in the course, but, crucially, in a way that empowers his students and helps them find their own strategies to support progress. 

Interestingly, when I suggested that we might involve Student Services in rolling out a similar scheme across the college, Alex didn’t agree. For him, an essential part of this is the dialogue and trust it creates within the course area for the student, and I see his point. This is a course area taking control of what, traditionally, can be pushed to Student Services as ‘their remit’. In supporting students with their transferable skills, Alex can tutor them more effectively and, if necessary, refer them to Student Services for more specialist support. 

He also told us about a successful pilot scheme whereby HE students let peer review sessions for FE photographers, supporting both the practice at FE and the students’ own abilities to sensitively feedback and offer helpful critique. I hope he’ll consider sharing this at our next Festival of Practice in April. 

Victoria’s session was different in focus but had the same goal. Together with Jo Lacy, our college librarian, she has persuaded the college to trial ‘Kanopy’, a web-based audio-visual resource. As we move toward a more multi-modal world, with different dissertation options and alternative ways of making meanings with cultural images, it is imperative that we have resources to share with students that aren’t wholly text-based. We also trialed Box of Broadcasts last year with the same goal but found it difficult in a studio-based teaching culture to get staff to use the resource. 

My hope is that with an exciting new college strategy on the way, and early strands showing an interest in how we blend digital and analogue, we will develop fresh pathways that work on the edge of workshop and digital; letting us create digital studio spaces that encourage making and reflections we can share with a creative community way beyond the walls of HCA. But it all starts with communication and sharing our individual practices in order to disseminate these and start conversations. This is what the ‘creative lunch’ is all about, too, and my huge thanks to Alex, Victoria, and Jo for hosting such interesting and useful sessions. 

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