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Thursday 30th November at 3.30pm was ‘ThirTEA’, the University’s annual call to take thirty extra minutes to consider or engage in development.

I fully support this event and after enthusing the Department at 3.25pm, I decided that what I was going to do with #myThirty30 was to build a Buckyball*.  My reasoning was that for the last three years, I have encouraged others to make these as part of our annual Kroto researcher showcase but I have never tried it myself.

The next thirty minutes turned out to be incredibly illuminating from a learning point of view, for so many reasons.

Firstly, you need to know that I did not complete the Buckyball, so from the point of view of my original objective for the thirty minutes – mission not accomplished.

I didn’t feel crushed or despondent, just baffled – I knew I should be able to do it.  My colleagues had different responses to my lack of completion, some wanting to have a go to see if they could make it work, others offering encouragement, others reflecting back to me their own experiences of learning and the techniques they use.

Here’s how the process went:

  • I started building without using any instructions
  • When my progress slowed, I used ‘here’s one someone made earlier’ (at the researcher showcase) as a visual reference point
  • I got stuck
  • I did a little bit of mistake repeating while I figured out another strategy
  • I knew where the instructions were to be found but I momentarily though it’d be ‘cheating’ to look them up
  • I knew I had the capability to achieve the build and felt something was amiss with the kit
  • I counted the amount of pentagons in the completed kit and the amount I had – they were different
  • I looked up the instructions
  • I compared them to the physical reference I had used
  • I noticed the colour use for the completed one and the one in the instructions was different
  • It was now obvious why I had lots of red but left over and not enough white pieces

Throughout, I made decisions based on unconscious assumptions, born of past experience.  Some of those assumptions were helpful and some were a hindrance – what category would you put each of the below in?  Were there other assumptions that I made?

I assumed it could be done
I assumed the visual template was accurate
I assumed prior knowledge would help me
I assumed I had done it wrong
I assumed I could do it without assistance
I assumed repetition would resolve it
I assumed using instructions was ‘cheating’
I assumed taking a break would enable a breakthrough
I assumed there was an issue with the kit
I assumed I would succeed

The main thing I was reminded of from the experience is that in learning, there is no getting it ‘wrong’, all of our experiences are useful, if we only take the time to reflect on them.

I also experienced the ‘easy when you know how’ effect – it took ten minutes to complete the Buckyball after I had read the instructions!

*visit our fabulous ‘Outreach & Widening Participation’ webpages to find out more about the Buckyball.


This is a guest post by Devon Smith, PhD Researcher and Medical Post Grad Society Social Butterfly

As a student myself, I think I have a fairly good idea about how my fellow students feel about writing.

Read the rest of this entry »

I moved office this week and even though I did take the opportunity to get rid of some stuff, I still easily filled eight crates (everyone else had three) and my car with the leftover items (hubby not a happy bunny!).

Having been a trainer/lecturer for over 20 years, I still have training materials going back to the last five companies I have worked for as ‘they may come in’. I have even scanned a lot of it but I still have too much stuff to cope with.

I have decided that I need to find some way of reducing this down, so how can one de-clutter? (Image credit). Read the rest of this entry »

As a rehea logosearcher developer I often support early career researchers who are interested in applying for a fellowship with the Higher Education Academy which allows an individual to demonstrate their commitment to professionalism to learning and teaching in higher education. A key challenge researchers have is to understand all the different opportunities that count as relevant experience that can be used in an application. Many initially think that teaching experience is simply standing in front of a lecture theatre full of undergraduate students and that if they haven’t previously gained that experience then they can’t demonstrate teaching in a University. This isn’t the case as relevant teaching comes in all forms for a HEA fellowship including delivering tutorials, seminars, small group facilitation, research supervision, essay setting and marking, mentoring, online module development etc. etc. Read the rest of this entry »

doormatWhen I first started in the role of Researcher Development over 10 years ago it was quite common to hear that new members of research staff would be shown to a desk in a lab or office and then left to ‘get on with it’. I had hoped that over the last few years development in induction processes at both department, Faculty and University level had dramatically improved. However about a year ago, when running a Faculty induction day for new Research Staff I heard a familiar old tale of “So there’s your desk, just get on with it”. Read the rest of this entry »

ERS_Logo_12_bI attended the Engineering Researcher Symposium last Friday (30 June 2017) and the message that came across to me, was that often collaboration isn’t about having a research idea and then looking for collaborators, but rather it can be by talking to others, that ideas for collaboration come about. Read the rest of this entry »

stress laptopWorking in academia, most of us don’t have the ability to hand work over to someone else when we need to take a break so that it all keeps ticking along. Typically after taking a week off with the kids for half term, I then get hit on the back of the head with a freezer block and get a lump the size of an egg and 2 days later come down with a throat infection as soon as I start back in the office.  In the time you are away the emails ridiculously build up and the to do list is getting longer and longer. We take breaks to avoid stress but in the process it often feels worse when you come back then when you went away. How on earth do you catch up on all this and not just end up rocking in the corner as the stress builds up? Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership is one of those Holy Grail skills that all researchers aspire to develop but often struggle to leadershipdemonstrate and give evidence of leadership experience on job applications or in interviews. There are lots of different ways to lead and just because you line manage someone, doesn’t mean you are acting as a leader. Other forms of leadership include; leading up (i.e. leading your supervisor, which in research is a very regular occurrence as you are the person who knows your research area as well as, if not better than your PI), self-leadership (which is self-explanatory and something researchers do on a daily basis) and lateral leadership which I want to cover below. Read the rest of this entry »

I was appalled by two recent reports in the news of women treating other women appallingly. Women in very professional roles behaving very badly!

Mother ‘told to prove lactation’ at Frankfurt airport

A top police officer mocked a colleague’s ‘boob job

Yes the ‘mean girls’ are alive and well and now employed in roles with authority! Read the rest of this entry »

Second guest post in a series of three by Dr Graham McElearney, Senior Learning Technologist, Technology Enhanced Learning Team in CiCS

Many of the reasons that you might want to think about getting yourself and your work published and visible online stem from the arguments to get involved in public engagement more generally (discussed in my previous post, ‘The Power of Public Engagement’).  This post will explore the benefits of using digital media within public engagement, as well as the emergent field of digital scholarship. Read the rest of this entry »