Orinoco Flow and The Tale of the Southsea

Orinoco Flow and The Tale of the Southsea Onryō

How do you describe the start of a research journey that has multiple beginnings and no clear sense of an ending? Do you start with the motivation for the research or by locating each of the tributaries for the beginnings?

I am going to start with a metaphor, the idea of a river, in this case the Orinoco. Why the Orinoco? I have no idea, I like the name and I heard it in a song once. Wikipedia says it’s one of the longest rivers in the world and it drains close to a million square miles of land. It’s a major transportation system in Venezuela and Columbia. I like the idea that each of its many tributaries starts somewhere deep in South America as a tiny trickle of water. Like a tiny idea, that slowly gathers and grows as it flows and combines with other streams to form stronger and larger flows of water. Until it finally streams as one unified flow into the sea. Though of course, it doesn’t do that, it actually fractures again into a delta of possibilities. So, the metaphor works, from a tiny idea to a strong motivating flow that itself presents multiple possibilities for creative action.

Let’s begin then with the first well spring of an idea and hopefully, what is intended as a series of blogs will begin to unfold in a way that narrates a research journey that may just result in a successful Arts Council England funding application for a transmedia story experience entitled The Tale of the Southsea Onryō (or Noh rest for the wicked).

The unravelling of audio cassette tape as an act of Urban Witchcraft

I have tried to find photographic examples of this phenomena but so far, no luck. I will keep trying as I am sure it must be out there but during the period of time when this phenomenon was common people didn’t carry cameras in their pockets, the world was not endlessly documented, circulated and reproduced for mass consumption. So, this searching for images will become a process of re-searching as I return to it again and again over time. In the 1970’s and early 80’s it was a common sight though, to see endless streams of audio cassette tape wrapped around the base of lampposts, street signs and railings. You might say it was ubiquitous and anyone alive at the time would be able to recount examples.

unraveled cassette tape

For those of you who don’t know (i.e. young people) back in those days music was widely circulated in small plastic cassettes within which was wound long lengths of magnetic tape. The tape could easily be pulled out, it would often jam and it was not uncommon for a cassette player to start spewing out endless lengths of the stuff when they broke. People would then discard the remains of jammed up cassettes and the endless loops of tape, often in public places so it’s easy to understand why this material started to collect and gather around street furniture. A simple explanation for an unwanted pollutant it would seem.

However, a conversation with someone long forgotten, possibly in a pub, a club or at a party led me to rethink the phenomena and this thought has stuck with me for a long time. They said that actually these streams of tape had been purposefully placed by Urban Witches who sought to cast spells by recording incantations on the tape and then lacing it around various public buildings, junctions and street furniture. Highly plausible I thought, at least from the point of view of a storyteller. What an excellent mystery for a protagonist to have to unravel (excuse the pun).  For many years I though occasionally about this idea and on occasion I even started to think through some ideas about character and story. It felt as though it would be a dark urban psychological thriller. Possibly revealing some governmental conspiracy, an occult battle between shady authorities and outsiders, a puzzle that would lead to… well I never got that far and the idea just sat there waiting for some attention. The difficulty was that it needed to be set in the 1970’s and it felt like more than just a short film, it would need a much longer treatment for it to work.

And that is where it sat until quite recently when I found myself challenged to create a transmedia story for a learning activity I was participating in. I returned to the idea of urban witchcraft and cassette tape and started to play with it. How could I bring it up to date, how could I make it more contemporary so it could serve as a starting point for a modern transmedia story? I thought about what the modern equivalence might be and then it popped into my mind – street art paste ups, a phenomenon that is quite common in my own town of Portsmouth. A visual medium that could just as easily be turned to the needs of an urban witch (Penczak 2001) as to an artist who just wished to brighten up the streets.

There then is the first tributary of my own creative flow as it encounters and merges with another distinctive tributary. It is this new flow that I will explore in more detail in my next blog post.


PENCZAK, C., 2001. City Magick, New York: Weiser Books


What might Research Informed Teaching (RIT) look like in media practice education?

A skewed and somewhat (REF)erential reading of the 2018 Media Practice and Education/MeCCSA Practice Network symposium.

Just the other week I had the opportunity to attend with a colleague, the Media Practice and Education/MeCCSA Practice Network held at University of Lincoln, School of Film and Media. These symposiums are always great fun, a fantastic opportunity to catch up with others in the field and to refresh/update yourself on where the subject discipline is heading. For this year’s symposium, there was a focus on the Practice as Research debate, no doubt driven by the forthcoming REF.

Before attending the symposium we were encouraged to read a paper on the topic of creative film and media practice as research (Bell 2006). Intended as a provocation for those submitting papers to the symposium, the paper asks questions about the epistemic nature of creative practice research (Bell 2006, 89) and questions the ways in which media practice researchers might apply the generic definitions (Bell 2006, 89) promulgated by the AHRC among others. For example, the definition of research as a process of systematic enquiry whereby new knowledge in a field of study is generated (AHRC 2005) is put forward as a kind of classicist definition of research. Bell (2006) considers the correspondence between the kind research activities found within creative practice and those more commonly recognised within academia. The kind of research that more commonly focuses on the empirical testing of hypothesis and the answering of pre-specified research questions. In contrast, Bell argues that research for creative practice is often more likely to be orientated towards the making of an artefact of some sort. Not towards the production of knowledge or the exploration of novel context free (Bell 2006, 89) research methods.

The development of practice based post-doctoral study, he tells us, may at some point, have held the potential to inform a pedagogy of research for creative practice (he lists some characteristics as: detailed documentation, contextualisation of methods/outcomes within a critical discourse, systemisation of learnt experience). However, he problematises this framing by pointing out that successful creative practitioners are not always able to clearly articulate their processes and that adopting the kind of reflexive approach that is common in practice-based PhD’s does not, necessarily produce high quality and successful creative works (Bell 2006, 90). This approach also tends towards an overbearing accountability to the discourse of empirical positivism, evidentiality, and the iron cage (Bell 2006, 92) of rationality. Which is to say, the framing discourse constrains practice within a set of narrow predefined boundaries that can be captured for the benefit of evidentiality (i.e. there is a focus on the epistemological outcome). Whereas, research for creative practice is by its nature exploratory and often difficult to document (i.e. there is a focus on the ontological experience). Bell goes on to argue that creative practice research is essentially performative, generative and the making of work is directly aligned with its reception. For him creative practices are doings and the properties of the final artefact turn us, as the audience to what was done (Bell 2006, 97). In other words, the qualities and characteristics of research undertaken in the making of a creative artefact is evidenced within its consumption. This would seem like a powerful argument for accepting the outputs of creative practice as bone fide evidence of the research undertaken.

For me, one of the drivers for this personal investigation in to research for creative practice is very much the rise of the Research Informed Teaching agenda (Stern 2016, Malcom 2014) commonly referred to as RIT. Joseph-Richard (2018) recently presented a useful review of the topic, evaluating a range of frameworks through which we can understand how the experience of learning could better mirror the activities of researchers (Joseph-Richard 2018, 34). In the end, he concludes that these frameworks are not practitioner focused and suggests that the existing frameworks constrain an understanding of research as practice to within a narrow conceptual understanding of what constitutes RIT (Joseph-Richard 2018, 34). By way of an alternative he offers a more descriptive framework based on a novel ‘crowdsourcing’ research methodology (cf. Joseph-Richard 2018) which he employs to elicit contributions from those already utilising RIT in the classroom. His framework draws on the principles of ‘student centred, creative, critical, analytical inquiry’ (Joseph-Richard 2018, 34) and places these at the centre of the debate. It reveals research to be a complex, interwoven, multiplicity of ideas, methods and approaches that require a discipline focused approach to what we do in the classroom.

The article is certainly a stimulating and engaging piece of work but it has one significant flaw from the point of view of my own inquiry into the field. How could you apply such a distinctively academic framework to the field of creative and media practice? Perhaps the framework doesn’t work for practice? Perhaps we are already doing RIT in our practitioner led classes? If we were what might it look like? These and many more questions arise from a reading of the article. So it would seem that Joseph-Richard (2018) has laid the ground for further research that might advance the understanding of what RIT in media practice classrooms might look like. He even offers a respectable methodology for asking these questions that would perhaps replicate his own research but within the media practice community. Sadly though, at this point in time, without having undertaken this follow up study, I am still no closer to answering the questions I have about RIT.

With this in mind I approached the symposium with renewed excitement. Was I going to finally unpack this idea of research through practice and be able to articulate it for myself?

Unfortunately, I left the symposium none the wiser and with perhaps more questions than I arrived with. That is not to say the symposium wasn’t informative, engaging and enlightening. On the contrary, it was all of those things. The issues is that, as I go deeper I find myself more and more confounded by the tensions and contradictions within the various intellectual positions put forward concerning the nature of research for practice, practice as research, practice-based research (and its various other formulations). So, when I arrived at the MeCCSA Practice Network, I set out with my own research question at the start of the day and set out to pursue the answer: what might RIT look like in media practice education?

In order to answer the question, I employed my own interpretivist methodology of listening, discussing, chatting, offering provocations and drinking tea with colleagues while bedevilling them with my confounding questions. I must admit that I really enjoyed the keynote by Associate Professor Craig Batty who unpacked for me exactly what research impact means and this fed into my investigation offering a number of key insights. For example, the need for there to be some kind of audience and the need to capture metrics around their experience of any artefact produced. Also, the requirement for some kind of change or transformation along with the need to evidence the research in some way also resonated for me. The idea of curiosity also circulated around the conference along with discovery and inquiry as buzz words that for me started to get me thinking about inquiry-based learning as a paradigm that might be drawn upon. I am attracted to the notion that RIT might somehow employ a Deweyian proposition that teaching should focus on processes through which we can encourage the development of critical, intellectual skills. These themes were further developed by the very engaging closing key note by Professor Brian Winston who argued that the role of creative and media practice education is not to train students to reproduce what we already have but to innovate and change the field within which they will eventually work. That we should be aiming to educate them to be incredible social beings. Inspiring stuff and more good material for my post presentation research activities to draw upon.

What was the outcome at the end of the day?

Quite productive as it happens and I have added the conclusion to my inquiry below as I now feel I have a sense of what RIT in a media practice classroom might look like. It draws on principles of inquiry-based learning, infused with a sprinkle of problem-based learning and probably delivered through project-based learning. I think it needs a name so I am running with RIT-based learning at the moment but am happy to take suggestions for a better way of framing it. Here it is, the answer to the question:  what might RIT look like in media practice education?

  1. Activity is driven by a question(s)/problem encounters.
  2. Activity is structured through adoption of a process/method/obstruction.
  3. Discovery should be situated (acknowledge what has come before).
  4. There is change/transformation/something new emerges.
  5. Activity is underpinned by risk taking and uncertainty.
  6. Research is evidenced in some way (perhaps through reflection).
  7. They’re should be impact/engagement/audience.

That is probably a description that most media practice educators will recognise and I have a feeling that we kind of already do all of the above. Perhaps though, we just need to find ways to articulate this better and to locate justifications within the literature.

Personally, I am not yet convinced that research is always evidenced clearly in the artefact and that the artefact itself should stand alone. My experience of the symposium suggests otherwise since the number of presentations I saw that were able to actually articulate the content of their abstracts was very low. In most cases I can’t say I came away with any understanding of the methodological aspects of the presentations which tended to focus on the output. Had the work been presented without the verbal contextualisation I am not sure if I would then subsequently be able to articulate any the the research questions/outcomes/methods (perhaps that is the problem – maybe I shouldn’t need to). In general, I find that the Ernie Wise approach to research through practice presentations (i.e. this is wot I dun) doesn’t do justice to the researchers and the quality of the work they are producing. It is a shame as I felt there was a rich seam of contextual information missing from most of what I saw.

I am sure this debate will continue and I am equally sure there isn’t really an obvious answer since the problem seems to lie with an institutional need to describe research for creative practice for the benefit of government ministers rather than for practitioners and their audiences.

If you are so minded you can watch a short video of the symposium here: MeCCSA Symposium held at the School of Film and Media 2018


Bell, D. (2006). Creative film and media practice as research: In pursuit of that obscure object of knowledge. Journal of Media Practice, 7(2), 85-100.

Joseph-Richard, P. (2018). Uncovering the many faces of research-informed teaching through crowdsourcing: a descriptive framework. Dialogue, 9, 33-48.

Malcom, M. (2014). A critical evaluation of recent progress in understanding the role of the research-teaching link in higher education. Higher Education, 67(3) 289-301.

Stern, N. (2016). Building on success and learning from experience: an independent review of the research excellence framework. London: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [viewed Mar 17, 2017]. Available here.

Dwelling Story Development Workshop: rapid story development for student-led creative practice

This last week I was given the opportunity to lead a workshop at the Active Learning Network Conference at University of Sussex. The entire day was a great experience and I got meet a lot of new people and to explore lots of really interesting ideas about Active Learning. The workshop was great fun even though I managed to set up in the wrong room and had to prepare everything really quickly. Luckily the participants were really helpful and together we got everything ready in just a few minutes.

The workshop set out to model a silent collaborative activity that has an aim of placing inclusivity and quite reflection at the heart of a story development through Dwelling. The idea is that participants respond silently to a visual trigger and inscribe their contribution to the story idea via posters which are continually added to in an iterative process of questioning and response. The final posters are then taken away, either individually or in groups and used as the basis for further fiction/factual, script/story development. The approach can be as a rapid development activity that is of benefit where time for ideas development is restricted. It can also be adapted easily to other settings, contexts and subject disciplines. The workshop simulated the use of this technique on a media practice fiction production course where there is a need for rapid development of an outline story idea that can go into preproduction.

The idea for the workshop came about through a number of different influences. The first was the discovery of an alternative to brainstorming called brain writing. This technique has been around for a while and there are lots of different versions of it. However, the form I came across in an article online was a little different from the way it is usually done and also, I adapted it a little to fit the story development process. The basic premise is that the ideation part of the process is to be undertaken in silence and involves participants writing ideas on post-it notes. The aim is for everyone involved to come up with as many ideas as possible in a restricted time. One of the benefits of this approach is that there is no judging of ideas, there is no nervousness, there is no dominating and people are free to just have ideas.

A second influence was an experience I had at the Rethinking Research Conference at Coventry University earlier in the year. By the way, the conference keynote was delivered as a cabaret which was truly inspiring and made me want to learn to sing. Anyway, one of the workshops I attended was run by three Practitioner-Researchers from The University of Central Lancashire’s, Dance Performance and Teaching team: Sara Giddens, Ruth Margaret Spencer and Justyna Katarzyna Urbanczyk The session was entitled quite simply ‘Dwelling‘. During the workshop large, blank sheets of paper covered each of the tables around which we were sat. At the centre of each table was a one word theme and participants were asked to respond in writing to the theme in a state of silence. It was an interesting experience and not only did we inscribe our thoughts but we added to other people’s comments in this way developing a conversation with others in the room, though we might not know who they were.

Though the emphasis of the workshop was on how slowing-down and finding-still-ness might inform alternative approaches to research. The experience seemed to be just as applicable to the classroom setting. The aim of bringing mindfulness to the classroom seemed to be more than appropriate and certainly resonated with the experience of using brain writing in ideation sessions with students. Mindfulness offers an opportunity to regulate attention by focusing on the present moment and this is something I felt very strongly during the workshop, that engagement and focus without interruption. There is also a sense of openness about the process of focusing on the moment which seems to instil a sense of curiosity. There is even research that suggests mindfulness can lead to changes in the way students apprehend information, process it and even how they manage learning (Lynch 2013).

The workshop leaders informed us that they in turn were inspired by Heidegger’s idea of “attentive dwelling” (1978:150). In fact, Heidegger has spoken on Dwelling a number of times and he seems to suggest that building (or perhaps we can change this to creating) and dwelling a synonymous (Heidegger & Hofstadter 1971, 10). My reading of his ideas (a novice reading at best I acknowledge), to me posits the notion that dwelling clears a space for building (creating), one that opens up for the potentiality of ideas to reveal themselves. A space in which an idea is able to gather to itself, in its own way, those things around it. Heidegger uses a metaphor of a bridge to explain how this process occurs pointing out that the bridge gathers two sides together and locates itself as a site for the confluence, of what might be thought of as the unconscious spirit of ideas that lies below the surface of realisation. There is then, a sense that for Heidegger dwelling is about return to a sense of peace in which the true nature of things is known (Heidegger & Hofstadter 1971, 3). That Dwelling as a form of thinking that returns us to where we always have been, without the noise, without the distraction, to recognise we are already there through careful attention to the moment.

I and my colleagues (I attended the conference with two research assistants) were very taken by this approach and we adapted it to a focus group methodology for a project we were at the time, just about to initiate. With the intention of evaluating the introduction of course blogs at our institution, the focus group session started with participants (in this case students) writing ideas down on post-it notes in response to a prompt. These were then placed on large sheets of paper on which each key theme had been inscribed at the centre. They were then encouraged to add other comments to the posters in an iterative, but silent process. This worked very well and after each Dwelling session we were able to facilitate a lively and productive discussion around the poster comments.

Alongside the development of the focus group methjod, I also adapted the approach to tackle a problem with a drama production module I was about to run for a group of second year production students. The issue here is that without teaching screenwriting (which would take a good 6 to 8 weeks) I needed the students to generate a story idea within the first three weeks of the semester so that we could get the pre-production planning started as early as possible. I also hopped to tackle another associated issue I which is that left to their own devices students, as novice screenwriters will tend to default to the lowest common denominator and you get stories that are immature, predicable, reflect a narrow world view and mostly involve a gun. A final problem I wished to tackle revolved around the attachment students have to their first idea. They seem to think that their first idea is the only idea and own it with such deep emotional attachment that it is difficult to shift them from it.

So, the aim of the story workshop would hopefully fast track the development of an idea, root that idea in a real-world experience and divest students of their attachment to their own first idea.

It seemed to work, the students were extremely engaged, and really excited about the posters (they were virtually ripped off the wall by their respective owners). Plus, the trick I played on them (see below for more on this) seemed to work in that their ideas changed and they continued to change as they received further feedback during the later stages of the story development process. Perhaps the real evidence of the approaches success though, concerns a group of students who arrived back from the winter break some three or four weeks into the semester. Having missed the workshop, they were offered the opportunity to develop a script on any topic they chose (this was the control group that added an empirical dimension to the research). Needless to say, while all the other scripts were dramas with a real depth to them, this one group made a somewhat cliched film about gangsters that featured a gun.

For anyone who wishes to adopt the methodology for this approach to story development I will close with a short recipe for its use. Feel free to adapt it any way you chose and I look forward to hearing of other people’s experience of using dwelling in other ways.

Workshop Methodology

Context: the need for rapid story development for drama production, to address the difficulty for novice screenwriters to write anything complex and mature i.e. without a, to break them of their addiction to their first idea.

Preamble: in advance invite participants to bring with them to the workshop an image or artefact from their past which for them evokes a story that they can tell. It is of value if they believe that they will be expected to tell this story in class and if possible it should be written down in advance (one page – title, logline, synopsis) and handed in to the workshop facilitator. Even though the participants won’t get to tell the story they have prepared it is important they have one in mind so that at the end of the workshop they can compare their first idea with their new ideas.

Instructions: place large A0 sheets of paper around the room with at least one per workshop participant. Invite the participants to stick their photo or artefact to the centre of a poster. Explain that in silence (you may need to police this) everyone will now go around the room and look at each poster in turn. Explain that they should write whatever comes to mind (what does the image or artefact make them think of). Let them know that as the workshop evolves you will be giving verbal prompts to add other comments to the posters. They should understand that they can write anything, they can add to other comments, change them, engage in dialogue with others through their comments. However, they are not allowed to write on their own poster.

Process: as the workshop evolves give prompts to initiate further writing (I use prompts designed to develop a three-act structure i.e. people, place, time; inciting incident; problem encounters; resolution or ending). You should probably allow anything between 45 minutes to an hour but be sure to give time for each participant to write something on each poster after your prompts. At the conclusion of the workshop invite the participants to take sometime to view their own posters. Ask them “has your idea changed”?


Giddens, S., Spencer, R.M., Urbanczyk, J.K., (2018). ‘Dwelling’, paper presented to Rethinking Research: Disrupting Challenges Research Practices, Coventry University, January 19th 2018. Available at: https://goo.gl/twYVCg [Accessed 9 June 2018].

Heidegger, M., 1978 (first published in 1956). The Origin of the Work of Art. In: D. Farrell Krell, ed. Basic Writings. London: Routledge.

Heidegger, M., & Hofstadter, A. (1971). Building Dwelling Thinking. Poetry, Language, Thought, (1), 42.

Lynch, S, 2013. Mindfulness in Higher Education: It’s a Win-Win Situation. Enhancement Themes, [Online]. Available at: https://goo.gl/4EyxtV [Accessed 9 June 2018].

Tucker, C., (2017). Borrowing a Powerful Brainstorm Protocol from IDEO. In: Catlin Tucker, 1st September 2017. Available at: https://goo.gl/R47B3p [Accessed 9 June 2018].


Using PADLET in class to promote inquiry and discussion around assessment briefs

One of the things that you quickly become aware of teaching in the online age is that easy access to information doesn’t always mean that people will access it. We live in the age of the attention wars and if you want people to look at something then the best way to get them to look is to shout louder than anybody else.

This very true of getting students to read assessment briefs. I have actually come to believe that for the most part this document is rarely read by students yet it is a key part of the assessment puzzle. There is a solution though and it’s a simple one – get the students to read the assessment briefs in class. It seemed like a good idea and it turns out it is also a very absorbing one. It even appears to be quite motivating.

I tried it myself this week in three different classes and got quite different results on each occasion.

The first class was a level 4 (first year) group of around 18 students and we undertook the task towards the end of a session in an IT suite. Prior to the exercise we had been researching material for a presentation the students will give in a couple of weeks which feeds into their assessment. I set them the task of finding the assessment briefs on the VLE (moodle) and asked them to read them having explained they would need to take notes. While they were reading I set up a Padlet (more on this below) and put the URL up on a screen.

It took a while for them to find the assessment briefs and to read through them. I think the whole thing felt like a bit of an adventure and I felt there was an air of inquisitive enquiry about the activity. After a bit of a note-taking session I asked them to get into pairs to discuss their notes. Then I asked them to open the Padlet URL and add notes to the page which they did and you can see the results by following the link below:


The second class was older, a L6 (third year) group consisting mostly of international students. This class performed the task in a more perfunctory manner and the air of inquisitive inquiry was not present. Looking at what they posted to the Padlet you can see that in general they cut and pasted directly from the assessment briefs and there was not much of an attempt to paraphrase or summarise. This may have been down to the way I set up the task, but equally I can see on reflection that these students were much more experienced and more confident about managing assessment. Nevertheless, I would have expected more questions and a sense of investigation which doesn’t seem to be present in their Padlet which you can see below:


For the final session, again another L4 group of around 18 students I took the time to frame the task in a way that I hoped would encourage them to take more time over summarising and paraphrasing the notes they posted to Padlet. I think this worked to a certain extent but there again the results for the first session where a little more inquiring. For example there are posts with excerpts from the grading criteria which suggest an attempt to express a sense of what needs be achieved that goes beyond pure description. You can see the final Padlet here:


In my mind, the task was very successful and it achieved what it set out to achieve. Throughout all of the sessions the students were absorbed and it allowed me to problem solve around definitions, interpretations and even ensure all the students had access. One student even commented that they had never read the assessment briefs before and that this was really useful.

If nothing else the students have now read the assessment briefs for the courses I am teaching, they know where to find them for other courses, plus hopefully they have gained a sense of the value of reading them. The use of Padlet also provided a good mechanism for focussing the student’s attention, it included the opportunity to read and comment on each other’s posts and also served to reinforce the information they had gathered through note-taking and then rewriting as they posted a note to Padlet.

I had never used Padlet before. It is a really good tool, very flexible, easy to set up and free (though you do get offers to upgrade). You just register and set up a profile. Then you can open and configure a page and go live within a few minutes. I can imagine using it again in numerous ways as the students really enjoy using it. The fact that you can instantly display their notes, the interactivity, all of this is very useful. Plus you can post the link to the Padlet on the VLE after the class and make all that information available.

If you haven’t already had a play with Padlet I would recommend giving it a go.



This is a new post to test Pingbacks

So, here we go, testing how pingbacks work. What are pingbacks? They are a form of RSS feed that exists as a tool in WordPress to allow bloggers to notify each other of a new blog post. It is an important tool for online community formation and will hopefully simplify the process of tracking student blogging. If you want the low down on pingbacks WordPress support has more to say on the subject.

What is: Pingback

Using PINGBACKS: The short version is…

1. Tutor posts a blog which includes the task instructions (ensure pingbacks are enabled on the post and your blog site)

2. Tutor emails the URL of the task instructions blog post to the students (don’t send a shortened version of the URL)

3. Students include the URL in their blog assignment (they can just paste it and make it a link anywhere in the post)

4. This generates a PINGBACK which appears in the comment section of the tutor’s blog.

5. The tutor can use the PINGBACK to click through to the student’s blog and add comments/feedback there.


RISE peer feedback model

RISE to the challenge of dialogic feedback

It seems that students want more feedback but studies show they don’t read it or don’t understand it (McConlogue 2014, 1496). But that might largely be down to the monologic, transmission model tutors use for giving feedback. If we want students to increase their uptake of feedback then we need to encourage them to proactively engage with the feedback. To achieve this then perhaps it is useful to start to see feedback as an “interactive and communicative process in service of learning” (Strijbos, J. W., & Sluijsmans 2010, 267) that is not an isolated incident along the way but something integrated into learning in an iterative and repeated manner.

Nichol (2010, 502) suggests that if students are to be thought of as “active agents“, who are equal participants in their learning then they should also be “active constructors“(Nichol 2010, 503) of feedback. Such a shift towards dialogic forms of feedback would see students engage in forms of interaction that might free them from a dependency on “tutor judgements” (McConlogue 2014, 1497) and help them develop the capability for turning their newly found skills in reviewing and feedingback to their own work.

The process of reviewing and commenting on formative writing through course blogs would seem to offer a useful space for developing just such a range of skills. There is though a fundamental need to scaffold peer feedback processes (Kollar & Fischer 2010, 347). Students need to be trained, to have the process modelled, they need practice. Tutors also need to be in a position to facilitate the development of positive and productive commenting and to understand that it is possible that the quality of the interaction with feedback is more important than the quality of the comments (Nichol 2010, 502). With this in mind I have started to devise a general model for application of some of these ideas. It starts with a workshop that introduces some principals and offers some suggestions about how to give good feedback. It goes onto include opportunities for face to face interaction between students post the review and commenting process.

Wray’s (2017) RISE model for structuring peer feedback is going to become an important tool for focusing the students reviews into constructive and valuable feedback. Coupled with a rubric for evaluating the quality of the feedback they give/receive based on Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy it may be possible to generate some interaction around the course blogs when we introduce them.

RISE model for peer feedback

Aligned as it is with Bloom’s taxonomy for higher order thinking the model aims develop feedback skills as positive communications that not only structure the process of review but give a model for reflection and the construction of new knowledge. I haven’t tried it yet but I am building it into plans for the coming academic year. It maybe that the terminology is too dense for some students and this is an issue that has been identified in the literature. As tutors we draw on a large repository of tacit knowledge that enables to easily unpack the meaning of complex jargon and we need to be aware that students don’t necessarily share that repository of knowledge with us. Nonetheless, the model looks inspirational and this reason enough to test its use as a means for structuring student peer feedback.


Kollar, I., & Fischer, F. (2010). Peer assessment as collaborative learning: A cognitive perspective. Learning and Instruction, 20(4), 344–348. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2009.08.005

Nicol, D. (2010). From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 501-517. http://doi.org/:10.1080/02602931003786559

McConlogue, T. (2014). Making judgements: investigating the process of composing and receiving peer feedback. Studies in Higher Education, 5079(October), 1–12. http://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2013.868878

Strijbos, J. W., & Sluijsmans, D. (2010). Unravelling peer assessment: Methodological, functional, and conceptual developments. Learning and Instruction, 20(4), 265–269. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2009.08.002

Wray, E., (2017). RISE Model for structuring Student Peer Feedback. Retrieved from http://www.emilywray.com/rise-model/

natomy of an Academic Blogpost by Annika Nottebrock-FEATURED IMAGE

The Anatomy of an Academic Blog Post 2

Well, confounded by own amateurish design skills I put a call out on a course Facebook group for some help and wow! The Power of the crowd. The next morning I have two excellent designs which are so much better than my own. Information is king but design goes a long way towards making it more digestible. So, I have posted both versions on here as image files and as PDF’s and lets see if anyone is interested enough to comment and share.

DOWNLOAD: Anatomy of an Academic Blog Post by Annika Nottebrock PDF

Anatomy of an Academic Blogpost by Annika Nottebrock

DOWNLOAD: Anatomy of an Academic Blog Post by Paul Stevens PDF

Anatomy of an Academic Blogpost by Paul Stevens

If you have any comments, preferences, suggestions for things to add, corrections and so on please comment and we will see if we can incorporate them.

Blog Task Design and the 3C3R Model

I have been giving some thought to the task design aspect of course blogging and its a tricky one as if you don’t get it right then not only will students not be motivated but the results won’t necessarily address the planned learning outcome for the task. In other words the results of the task need to align clearly with the objectives of the course activity the blog is related to.

Good writing tasks require students to address messy, ill-structured problems that are highly motivating, interesting, realistic and relevant. However, there is no point in designing highly complex tasks if they are not going to be able to engage meaningfully with them. Also, the blogging is intended as a formative activity in as much as it is not the end goal. It is an opportunity to feedback on their work and provide students with the material to effectively reflect while making links between theory and their practice. So getting the task right will ideally set the students up with a body of material, plus feedback that will enable them to right their summatively assessed critical reflections at the end of the course unit.

In my literature searches I came across a useful resource referred to as the 3C3R model (Hung 2009) which I have drawn on extensively in the paper I am currently writing. I have presented below some notes and diagrams that are intended to illustrate the model in use.


The model operates across two dimensions as below:

  • Content: what is the content of the learning that you want students to engage with, the topic, the subjects or learning outcomes.
  • Context: is the task relevant to the students, is it situated within their own practice, does it have a real world-ness to it that would give the task some authenticity in the eyes of the students?
  • Connection: how will students interleave sources of knowledge, identity relationships and interlink the concepts you want them to work with?
  • Researching: are the goals specified clearly and do they specifically address the topic domain you would like students to investigate? Does the research process mirror that undertaken by professionals in the student’s field?
  • Reasoning: will the students need to analyse, evaluate and synthesise the knowledge they gather?
  • Reflecting: how will this new knowledge be applied through their practice? What will change?

In practice it is perhaps easier to conceive of the model as linear process of students in which the task stimulates research (finding out), reasoning (analysis) and reflection (putting it all together). It sets up a conceptual framework for thinking about task design and a checklist of ensuring the task meets the planned learning outcomes.

3C3R linear process

I have designed a workshop activity based on the model with an example of a task I have designed, one which I have already used in action, which the participants can try out and evaluate. the question being does the task follow the rubric of the model. There will also be an opportunity for the workshop participants to have a go at their own task design which they will need to do anyway when they start using the course blogs a few weeks later. We will then see if the model helps or if it over conceptualises everything.


Hung, W. (2009). The 9-step problem design process for problem-based learning: Application of the 3C3R model. Educational Research Review, 4(2), 118–141. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2008.12.001


The Anatomy of an Academic Blog Post

My first go at an infographic that puts together some of the best advice on the web about what goes into a good quality blog post. There is certainly a way of writing a blog, its not that dissimilar to writer an article for a newspaper just more rich media involved. The material I drew on came from a number of sources including Hubspot’s Sophia Bernazzani who has written an excellent article on the Anatomy of a Blog Post. Hubspot are a digital marketing agency that promotes itself extensively through giving away really useful information on how to do digital marketing. So a good place to start of you want to do a little quick learning on the topic.

Really all I added to her article was the need to include academic referencing following the standard, in the case Harvard. So I guess I need to find a designer now who can take my draft and turn it onto something that looks nice. Any volunteers?


The perfect anatomy of a Modern Web Writer

I came across this infographic while searching for other useful material that I could use for an infographic that described the main elements of an academic blog post. Couldn’t find one and I had to make my own in the end which is a shame since I am no designer. Meanwhile, I thought I would still post this infographic as it summarises the broad set of skills media graduates need these days. I know it is not common to think of media graduates as needing writing skills but actually, if you ask graduates when they are few years into their careers. They will tell you that there is a lot of writing involved in any entry level job. Plus, you never see media online without there being some writing wrapped around it. So it seems, writing is just as important as it ever has been if not more so.

Anatomy of a blog post 5