Newcastle Educators

A peer educator network

Give Me Some Thinking Space(s)!

This is the day after our Learning and Teaching Review here in the School of Modern Languages. Why am I mentioning this in a blog post about thinking space? Because, as could be expected, the report recommended creating a common room for our UG students but did not mention anything about creating both the time and the space for colleagues to meet and have a casual chat over a nice cuppa. To be perfectly honest, we do have a staff room but it is rather on the small side and, as most of my colleagues would say “Who’s got time for a lunch break these days?” anyway…

The idea to write a blog about thinking space(s) started nearly two months ago (!) when the team of Newcastle Educators met to discuss plans for this academic year. After toing and froing trying to find a time that suited everyone, we met up in the Ridley Atrium in the School of Medicine. If you are from HaSS or SAgE and you’ve never ventured that side of campus, you should really go and have a look for yourselves. What an amazing space for staff to meet! It is inviting, spacious, calm and for staff and research students ONLY. The Ridley Atrium, I noted, was the perfect place for us to meet to discuss our teaching. Not that I am against shared spaces for staff and students… However, it is nice, for a change, to be able to have a chat about the ups and downs of your teaching without fearing you some of your students might hear you. This led us to discuss the general lack of meeting spaces for staff apart from Schools’ staff rooms. Would it not be nice to have accessible and inviting staff meeting spaces that would attract people from all Faculties? This would certainly encourage ad-hoc cross-fertilisation in learning and teaching! I doubt this would be enough, though. There is ever-increasing on our time and even lunch meetings are becoming tricky to plan. I wonder if we should not also recognise the need for thinking space in our busy lives…

More than that, maybe we should all recognise that sometimes “wasting” time allows you to “gain” some time! This sounds rather counter-intuitive but let me explain… Going for a cuppa with a few colleagues may very well lead to a relaxed conversation which could help you find creative solutions to challenges you are facing! Similarly, you may find it difficult to complete your application to the Higher Education Academy or to attend an event on learning and teaching – you may even come to see them at a waste of time when you have some many other urgent things to do. Oh, how I can relate to these feelings. Maybe, though, you should see these two as important thinking time on your practice that could very well make you gain time in the future. So please, from time to time, get out of the rat race and carve some thinking space for yourself – a great first step would be to come and join us to our 2nd event in the Teaching Excellence Series (Educators’ Perspectives) on Thursday 15th December (Lunch will be provided, so please register for a session on I look forward to seeing you there!

Written by JC Penet


EDUBITES Teaching Excellence Series

EDUBITES – Teaching Excellence Series

With increasing developments and discussions around teaching excellence in the sector, the Edubites sessions this year will be delivered as a Teaching Excellence Series to discuss this topic from a range of perspectives.

Everyone is invited and welcome to attend as many of the sessions as they wish.

As always, Edubites offers you the opportunity to share your practice and discuss issues or points of interest with other colleagues, so please do come prepared to contribute.

Lunch will be provided, so please register if you wish to attend.

Teaching Excellence Series Update

We have been busy planning the TES sessions, which has included engaging others (of course, for their perspectives) and one of the most interesting groups to engage has been our students.

Across our 3 Faculties, we have been posing the following question to our students:

“what you feel ‘teaching excellence’ is?”

The response has been both interesting and enlightening, and is one which we shall be sharing at our February event.

As we gear up to our first event next week, let us ask you the same question:

“what you feel ‘teaching excellence’ is?”

Please add a comment with your thoughts…

Supporting Reflective Practice event

Across all disciplines, for learners and for ourselves as ‘learner-educators’, self-reflection plays an important role in enabling us to articulate what we have really learned through our study and practice by examining ‘where we have been’ and ‘where we are going’. ‘Supporting Reflective Practice’ was a great topic to begin the series of EDUBITES events, which are intended for educators to gather and discuss issues of importance to practice and personal development.

Furthermore, James demonstrated to us how we can map what we do to the UKPSF, in order to support us in obtaining recognition from the Higher Education Academy, which is becoming even more important in light of new measures such as the forthcoming TEF.

Key to this is the ability to evidence what we do, and how we do it, as we seek to achieve higher recognition for our work by demonstrating support for others, and for the leadership of teaching.

Many of you will be aware that LTDS link their development sessions to the UKPSF standards, so if you are looking to fill some gaps, you could find a relevant session here. Newcastle University’s Staff Development Unit workshops are also linked to the UKPSF.

The Case Studies LTDS have collected are also useful. The ePortfolio can help you to record and share evidence with others, and also has a mapping to UKPSF (quite a number of the group did not know this).

James, and his colleagues have undertaken some research which shows that 96% of educators feel that reflection is important, whilst only 2% currently use a framework for reflection. Without doubt, the most important tools to help educators and their students with reflective practice are ‘being able to record and sort through evidence and commentaries, getting into the habit and sharing your experiences’.

Through his research, James has identified a gap in the availability of a dedicated reflection tool which enables you to understand and practice the various levels of reflective practice, and conduct that practice within your work/lifestyle. They are working on a reflection toolkit which could address this gap, so watch this space. At this point in the event, a lively discussion was had. We look forward to inviting you to help trial the toolkit during its development.

Finally, if you are looking for a guide for Reflective Writing to use yourself and with your students, we would recommend the 2012 text ‘Reflective Writing’ (Pocket Study Skills) by Williams et al. available in the Robinson and Walton libraries.

Are you involved in the use of reflective practice at Newcastle? You can get in touch with members of the EDUBITES group directly –

A new educator-led forum

Teaching colleagues from across the University have launched a new educator-led forum to share good practice and provide support.

The group – which is open to anyone with an interest in teaching at Newcastle – will hold its inaugural meeting on 27th January.

This first EDUBITES session will include a talk on ‘Supporting Reflective Practice’ by Dr James Field (Dental Sciences) and will include lunch.

Although the group has existed in a range of guises in recent years (Teaching Fellows Forum, NUTS Forum), this year’s coordinators are determined to provide a space for the support and discussion of teaching practice and teaching staff across the University.

The group is run by teaching staff for teaching staff and organisers are drawn from across the three faculties; James Field (Dental Sciences), Sara Marsham (Marine Sciences), JC Penet (Modern Languages), Phil Ansell (Maths and Stats.), Lindsey Ferrie (Biomedical Sciences) and Katie Wray (SAgE Faculty).

The group is partially funded by a grant from Pro-VC for Learning and Teaching, Suzanne Cholerton.

Sara said: ‘We really started it as a space for Teaching Fellows and other early career teaching staff to support each other and answer each other’s teaching related questions and queries.’

‘It can often be intimidating to come into a department and start teaching, and quite isolating too.’

‘Early career or new colleagues don’t necessary want to ask more senior staff when they’re unsure or worried about something, so we want to create an informal space for them to raise those queries, get advice from others, and share good practice.’

Although the origins of the group were around the establishment of teaching-only roles in the University, all colleagues are welcome to attend the sessions.

‘We hope everyone will be happy to come along, find out what is happening across the campus, and even propose a session to share their ideas and their practice.’

To find out more, or to propose a session email:

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