Archives for posts with tag: development

This post is a bit of a change of pace for me – I’m going to share my experiences of participating in a development event.  Back in the summer I started the 6-week Introduction to Creative Media course offered by the Creative Media Team here at the University.  It was advertised as an introduction to a range of skills including video, audio and image manipulations and it could be completed online.  At the time I was reviewing what Think Ahead offered in this area and I thought it would be good to try out the course and see if it would be something which we could recommend to researchers.

I signed up to participate, but was slightly shocked when the course became available in MOLE and I found out that it was going to be a little more work than I had anticipated.  I’ve discussed before about the importance of having a considered development plan and making an informed choice about the events you are participating in.  My first reaction to seeing the course content was definitely “this isn’t what I signed up for” but to be honest, I hadn’t delved further into the course content or requirements so it will teach me to practise what I preach in the future.  Nevertheless, I decided to stick with it and fully immerse myself into the learning experience, and I’m really glad that I did.


Photo by Helen Cowen… with my camera off auto!

The course was broken down into weekly topics which were mainly delivered online through short lecture-style videos and additional reading.  To fulfil the requirements of the course, participants had to complete an online quiz (designed to check learning) and a task, which had to be posted onto the course blog.  There was also the option of attending weekly workshops, delivered by the Creative Media Team, where you could go through that weekly task and receive advice directly from the experts.  I really liked the blended learning approach – I found working through the online material easy to fit into my daily schedule and I attended almost all of the face to face workshops to cement my learning and to have dedicated time each week to complete my coursework.  I also found the course blog to be a great vehicle to reflect on how I’d approached the tasks, what I’d learned from completing the tasks and what I’d do differently in the future.  The blog is only visible to the other members of the cohort and helps to create a learning community.

I’d highly recommend the Introduction to Creative Media to anyone interested in developing skills in photography, Photoshop, audio recording and manipulation, and video recording and editing.  If you’re a researcher at the University of Sheffield, the course can help you develop the tools to effectively promote your work and engage others with your research by producing visual and audio content to be used on blogs, podcasts and vlogs.

What started as an exercise in road-testing a course has seen me develop new skills which have already benefitted me professionally and personally (that fancy camera that I’ve had for two years is finally off automatic mode!).  The course has made me think about different ways of approaching work related tasks and I’m hoping to contribute in a more significant way than before to the Think Ahead online offer.


I am back from holiday, gearing up my mindset to face the next academic year.

Contemplation © Sandrine SoubesI have just started to review the uptake on a writing programme we have organised for Research Staff in early September. The writing programme is called “Facing the challenge of effective writingand is run over 4 days (11-14th September); Read the rest of this entry »

My work in designing mentoring programmes naturally covers mentor ‘training’. I’ve been at it again this morning, meeting one of my groups incoming onto the September to March Researcher Mentoring Programme.

Actually I prefer to say mentor development, because training is too directive a notion to be a good way of describing how we use workshops to get to grips with the practices of mentoring — which is itself a very non-directive activity. As with all types of learning & teaching, there’s not a ‘right way’ to do mentoring, each mentor chooses their own approach, style and practices, and applies them in different situations and contexts. Read the rest of this entry »

What happens after you’ve participated in a development event?  Do you put together an action plan to implement what you have learned or do you take your time and apply your knowledge/skills as and when they are required?  I know that I’ve been guilty of completing an evaluation form immediately after a workshop, identifying three things I will do as a result of attending and then months later I haven’t actually followed through with my grand plans.  Sometimes this is because priorities change and other times it’s because I haven’t taken the time to properly reflect on the outcomes of an event and whether or not I will ever put them into practice. Read the rest of this entry »

I’d like to alert you to a new resource for supervisor development on the Think Ahead web pages. The page was developed from Trust Me!  an ongoing research project led by me and funded by the Leadership Foundation for HE, investigating the behaviours that are important in building trust and creating ‘quality’ doctoral supervision relationships.

Throughout the project students and supervisors alike speak of the need to achieve clarity of purpose, and find good ways of working together, seeking to make the uncertain processes of the PhD more predictable; reducing feelings of insecurity, worry and stress for all involved.

The resources (locate the page here) are designed to help supervisors think, plan, and have the right conversations with their students. Read the rest of this entry »

We have a new book out! 53 Ways to Enhance Researcher Development

cover.pngSeveral of the Think Ahead team, contributed practical short chapters to this edited collection, sharing what we do and how we do it. There are 53 chapters in total, written by contributors form across the world, and this book would be great for anyone seeking to refresh and revitalise what they deliver and how, as well as people new to research development.


Daley, R., Guccione, K., Hutchinson, S., (Eds) (2017). 53 Ways to Enhance Researcher Development. London: Frontinus Read the rest of this entry »

The beginning
Recently I’ve been thinking about how Think Ahead came to be.  Fifteen long years ago, Sir Gareth Roberts completed a detailed review into the supply of people with science, engineering and technology skills to support UK innovation.  The review made many recommendations, two significant ones for researcher development being;

  • “The training elements of a PhD, particularly training in transferable skills, need to be improved considerably.”   (and)
  • “HEIs take responsibility for ensuring that all their contract researchers have a clear career development plan and have access to appropriate training opportunities.”
    (SET for Success, 2002).

In 2005, the European Commission adopted a ‘European Charter for Researchers’ and a ‘Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers’ furthering the agenda to make research careers more equitable and attractive. Read the rest of this entry »


I teach professional practices in coaching and mentoring* in an education context and have developed some short workshops for academic supervisors and principal investigators that focus on the relational aspects of research leadership and use coaching techniques as the basis for conversations that help people develop their thinking and understanding.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a guest post, written by and expressing the views of Dr Steve Hutchinson (founder of Hutchinson Training and Development). Steve runs excellent workshops. He is also one of the editors, and a plausibly prattling contributor to the upcoming book ‘53 interesting ways to enhance researcher development’…

Many years ago, I was trying to successfully navigate the upgrade meeting which would allow me to promote my registration from MPhil to PhD.

This was a scary meeting and not because I didn’t know my science (I didn’t know my science – but I’ve always been good at plausible prattle). The meeting was frightening because straight from the start one of the two panellists fixed me with a steely gaze and asked: “So, what have you learned over the last year that has made you a better academic?”. Read the rest of this entry »

d53018c541604453a8446db7ebff4483.jpgI work a lot with stuck and panicking PhD researchers near the end of their time here, and from them I have some intel to share. Bear in mind then that what follows doesn’t represent an ever so typical experience, but it does represent an important and keenly felt negative experience. One we can all learn from as colleagues in researcher development: be your role full time academic superhero and supervisor, or like mine, a specialist learning and development role, I think this will be relevant to you. Read the rest of this entry »