The Engaged Curriculum: An update

This blog was first and foremost designed to share interesting things which have been happening with the many and varied projects which are related to the Engaged Curriculum. From time to time we also include updates on project milestones, progress and to share our thoughts on future directions.

At the end of July we convened our advisory group, which is made up or ‘practitioners’, in other words staff from across the University who undertake engaged learning and teaching. Their work is exceptionally varied, and the individuals come from different faculties of the University. Some individuals have been doing this type of work for years, others are newer to it but nevertheless all are enthusiastic and genuinely believe in the benefits of engaged learning and teaching in terms of students, the institution, and the community.

During the meeting at the end of July, we talked extensively about how important it is that we support better understanding of what we mean by the ‘Engaged Curriculum’. As ever in higher education institutions, we are one of several curriculum-focused initiatives, and we are always conscious that we do not want to seem like ‘just another thing’ to academics. The concept of the Engaged Curriculum was developed not from a mere idea, but from existing work. The University’s learning and teaching strategy for 2011-2015 is entitled ‘Global education in a civic university’, not because the institution simply decided this type of work should be a priority, but because so much of it was already taking place and it wanted to harness this knowledge and experience, and ensure it was shared and embedded across the whole University.

We now have a fantastic portfolio of projects which have been developed by academics across the institution. These are a mixture of projects which have been funded and supported through the initiative, and those which are longer standing and pre-date the work of myself and Brendan Stone, who is the Director of Learning and Teaching for this area of work. We are now working on disseminating the outcomes of these projects, both in terms of the concrete outputs which have been generated, and also thinking about what the staff have learned and how this information might help others who are interested in developing similar areas of work.

In relation to the above, we are working with a local filmmaking collective to develop a series of short films, to showcase some of the projects which have been developed over the past eighteen months, and also an overarching piece to show what engaged learning and teaching looks like here at the University of Sheffield. Alongside this there will be a publication, available both in print and digital format, which will go into more detail about the various projects. Naturally we can’t include everything, but we do hope that collecting the information into attractive summaries will go some way to helping to develop understanding of this work both within and outside the institution.

So, watch this space for news on where to find the videos and publications…

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Living Library Project update

Robin Sen, Nora McClelland and Bev Jowett give us an update on their project, which has received support from the Engaged Curriculum initiative.

Since the last blog we have run a second ‘Living Library’ event: on this occasion the books were recent ex-students of the course who were all ‘newly qualified social workers’ (NQSWs) in their first year of practice, a period where most social workers now undertake an Assessed Year in Employment (ASYE), similar to a ‘probationary’ year undertaken by teachers in their first year after professional qualification.

Our recently qualified social workers gave their insights and experiences of the period since their qualification to a group of second year Masters in Social Work students who were about to qualify. As before, Living Books were free to choose their own titles, and the titles and book descriptions of our six books for this session give a glimpse into some of the subject matter covered:

  • “Remind me why I decided to do this? Experiences of a newly qualified social worker in the statutory sector”
  • “Starting off practice in the Voluntary Sector…ASYE and all that”
  • ‘Fake it till you make it: A blagger’s guide to interviews and ASYE in children’s social work’?
  • ‘I could have done with my running shoes for this’: Eight Months of ASYE as a Statutory Children’s Social Worker’.
  • ‘Dude, where’s my Social Worker’; getting to grips with case management and ASYE’.
  • Unspecified title, based around social work and cuts in adult social care.

Many thanks to our ex-students Ade, Anne-Marie, Ellie, Jess, Gina and Katie (not in order of titles) who gave up time for this event.

We have gathered and analysed feedback from Living Books, student participants and partner agencies about the first Living Library event held in September 2014 – the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and very heartening to see. Nora McClelland and Robin Sen presented an oral paper on the Living Library concept based on the first Living Library event and feedback on it at the JSWEC Conference in Milton Keynes in July.

Plans to capture some of the Living Library Experiences are underway with some of our current MA students undertaking a small number of interviews with those who have been Living Books at past events. We intend both that these interviews will be the basis of online learning objects for future students around the insights which Living Books have provided through their lived experience and also that they might serve as a resource for those interested in becoming Living Books in the future. Since the original event in September, we have had contact from a number of people with experience of care and social work services who are interested in taking part in future Living Library events. The interviews should provide an insight into what being a Living Book entails for those who are interested in participating in future events.

We are also busy planning for our next Living Library event in collaboration with Sheffield Young Carers on October 27th, 2015. Here, during the school half-term week, we will be running our first Living Library focussed on young people as Living Books. We hope to combine the event with a tour of the university for the young people, highlighting the principles of reciprocal and mutual exchange between Living Books and Readers which are at the heart of the Living Library concept.