Last week I was lucky enought to attend the Happenings & Knowledge Promenades: working cross discipline workshop at the Arts University Bournemouth. It had been promised that the workshop would explore “the value and potential of cross discipline collaborative activities and the dynamism of the Happening and the ‘knowledge promenade’ in learning and teaching”, and it really delivered.
The graphics studio, which was to be our base for the day’s activities, had been overtaken with a large labyrinth on a floor cloth augmented with little electronic tea lights, and we were invited to walk this art work at any time of the day – as long as we didn’t take our beverages further than the christmas tree branches playfully demarking its outer edge (no drinks beyond the treeline).
Hosted by Kirsten Hardie it was introduced by short Pecha Kucha presentations to set us up for a day that was built around four sessions, which explored different aspects of disruption of the traditional methods and spaces of teaching. And while each of the examples was based in a particular discipline, great care and attention was taken to get us participants started to think about the cross disciplinary potential of what we were experiencing.
The order in which I ended up doing the sessions led me from the contemplative to the disruptive, which turned out to be just right for the day.
I started with Labyrinth making and walking facilitated by Jan Sellers. Here we learnt to draw some basic ‘classic’ labyrinth ourselves and thought about the meditative qualities that even the drawing has. We then ventured outside to do a collaborative one with chalk, which we then ran (we didn’t have the time to walk it, and actually that little run was absolutely hilarious). Jan gave us some more reading materials and resources to take home, for example the link for the Labyrinth Society and the Labyrinth Locator
I then joined Becoming through Music facilitated by Laura Ritchie, where each of the participants found themselves with a cello in one hand and a bow in the other (yes, an actual cello), learning to plug and then play some simple notes. (Note the mnemonic: Active Dreams Give Courage to remember which string is which). In the end I could play an almost recognisable rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Litte Star. But of course the important aspect of the session was to reflect on what it is like to be a learner yourself (something every teacher should be reminded of every once in a while), how sometimes ‘giving it a go’ can be both scary and exhilirating, and how important non-verbal communication can be (we also did some cello playing as a group).
After lunch I joined in Clive Holtham’s session on the Knowledge Promenade – walking and recording, where we explored ‘learning by walking about’ (or the dérive, to give it a more academic sounding term). Again we learned about this more by doing, exploring the campus as small groups who had lost their memories about all knowledge of the nature and workings of a university, trying to make sense of this alien environment. The narrative our group came up with was an intriguing conspiracy of some sort of institution obsessed with the colour red, trying to indoctrinate us (it did make sense in the moment). Again, Clive shared some resources with us to allow us to find out more about this intriguing method of exploration and above all noticing. (In that way quite close to the long short walk I experienced at the HEA conference in Brighton in May.)
My last session of the day was Happening with Gordon Ramsey. Here we shared in groups things we had already done that could be considered disruptive – productively surprising students and introducing a new energy into traditional lecture and seminar settings. When he first briefed this, I though to myself: I haven’t done any of that!, but surprisingly once I started thinking about it, I could come up with a short-ish list… some of the stuff already documented on this blog. We then went on to consider what task we could set students that would be so memorable that they would never forget it – and again there were some interesting ideas thrown about.
Unfortunately the day was over all too soon (as these events so often are). What was particularly valuable was that it allowed an insight into practices from a wide range of disciplines, all of which with the potential to be built into other disciplines (most obvious with Clive’s session, where he also shared how this has already spread from management to health). It was a memorable day that provided food for thought for a long time to come!