Listening…

One of the things that struck me whilst working with the Curriculum Delivery programme is the excellent level of stakeholder engagement. I believe that successful projects listen to their stakeholders through all stages of development – from conception to embedding. By stakeholders I mean a whole range of groups affected by their innovations – managers, teachers, learners, employers, subject communities, and the wider HE/FE community.  Most projects have approached this in a very thoughtful and structured way, with one project even producing a comprehensive Communications and Engagement Strategy and Plan (CASCADE Project).

Interestingly most projects had already gained good levels of senior management support at project inception – vital to long term sustainability and useful as leverage to gain buy-in from other stakeholder groups.  Not surprisingly the group that have needed most support have been the front line teaching staff – those who are implementing new methods to enhance the learning and teaching experience.  Challenges have ranged from issues relating to staff perceptions, skills and time pressures to imposed institutional restructuring and something described as change fatigue or exhaustion.  Practical issues such as increasing student numbers have put pressure on pilot activities and present significant challenges for long term embedding.

Engagement from this, often diverse, group of staff is crucial to all of the projects and there have been significant efforts to persuade them of the benefits of the innovations. To their credit projects have largely done an excellent job through the establishment of practitioner communities and the use of champions to support take-up in faculties/departments and to external communities. One interesting approach is the Curriculopoly board game developed by the KUBE Project, aimed at teachers on the HE Business programs at Kingston College. The game specifically aimed to encourage creative thinking about how to blend different eLearning tools and techniques within the remit of the needs of the HE Business schemes of work. The Integrating Technologies Project used the following to describe how things are happening at their institution –  ‘Change happens one conversation at a time.’ For me this statement reflects a thoughtful and patient approach to transformation, which is likely to have a huge impact on long term embedding and sustainability. The team have also produced a document to highlight the strategies taken to engage different stakeholder groups.

The projects initially used their baselining activities to engage with their stakeholder groups and there is strong evidence that they listened and made adaptations to their plans as appropriate. This has been notable with this programme and there was a very high level of learner involvement in these baselining activities. Learners have been involved in project work in a variety of ways (not just as ‘recipients of interventions’) and project outcomes will be much richer for this. More on the Learner Voice in a later post…

The Delivery Projects have listened to both The ‘Learner Voice’ and ‘Teacher Voice’. I think the resulting work will prove to be of a high value to the broader community as well as to the institutions benefitting directly.