Last Friday was finally the day – I got to try out the Academic Afternoon Tea format with some brave adventurers (or maybe just afternoon tea lovers). I’m still working through the feedback, but thought I would post some initial thoughts and feedback before too much time passes.
We met at LEAF Manchester, a cafe that I had selected for their excellent afternoon tea and cosy atmosphere. And they did not disappoint, the staff was super lovely and helpful and food and beverages were delicious. (If I am bringing the Academic Afternoon Tea back to this venue I will have more time for people to engage with their wonderful menu of teas, which we didn’t really have time for this time around.) What slightly put a dampener on spirits (quite literally) was that a lot of people got caught in a heavy rain shower on their way in. Luckily I didn’t so the materials I brought remained dry.
Over the next three hours we made our own nametags, reflected on the role and agency of students and how that matches up to the learning activities we put on (or doesn’t) by making a volvelle (or pinwheel), we wrote Calls to Adventure for our students to follow, drew maps of the Unknown world we invite them into, thought about the people and ‘devices’ they meet – and how those might help and hinder them – and turned these into storydice, and ended by writting ourselves and each other messages to seal into a little bottle to take home with us.
And in between we had declicious food and drink and the opportunity to chat to each other, exchange stories and get inspired by other points of view. We were lucky in that we could use a different space to eat than to make because the cafe was not busy – this worked out really well and I would definitely make this a feature next time. Because the one thing we really needed was a bit more table space for the making – another thing to keep in mind for the future.
Another opportunity that came with moving between different spaces was that it encouraged mingling and re-mingling, which gave people the opportunity to meet more people. In a way this made up for us not doing a round of introductions at the beginning (which I avoided because in my experience that can get really out of hand and eat into the scheduled time), however, the people with dietary requirements remained seated together because of where their food was, which is something to consider in future.
I collected feedback via questionnaires and feedback bunting, here some of my favourite comments:
- make your own name tags – Great for pre-sessional teacher induction
- In times of trouble… turn to TEA
- The pin-wheel was an eye opener. I’ve always thought of activty first – putting students first, not activity is really obvious!! But we don’t think like that!
- Map as a reflective journal – great for students
- Turn a problem into a challenge
- feedback bunting – So much better than post-its
- These activities would be excellent in PGCert Teacher Training!
- Excellent ideas to take back to work & change teaching practice
- I really enjoyed the process of doing short bursts of activity interspersed with getting to know other people + eating 🙂
- As challenging as I anticipated. So much to learn. So much learning taking place. Well done!
- Relaxed + friendly space to develop and remember our creativity
- Freedom to opt in + that there was no ‘right’ way
- Fascinated at the possibilities for how the hero’s journey can map on to the student experience & how this might change dependent on level & moduel etc. Would like to now see how my students might interpret this…
- Lots of great ideas that I look forward to adpating and using. Thanks
- Thank you so much for this! I had a beautiful time and feel inspired!
- I was active & interactive, not passive!!
- I usually hate this kind of thing but I actually really enjoyed it. So thank you
- This has been delicious and fun and interesting! I am leaving inspired amd with tangible plans and ideas. Thank you
But I think my absolutely favourite comment was the questionnaire answer to the question of what was their favourite bit that stated “adjusting my thinking about ‘experience’ and ‘student experience’ away from facilities & buildings!” In a way this is exactly what the afternoon was meant to be about, thinking about how to put the students at the heart of their own individual journeys, to reflect on how challenging and transformative that can be – and trying to find ways to facilitate that through experience design, rather than fitting it into an existing context that might not (or only partly) be fit for purpose.
So all in all a successful try-out of the format! I will get on planning some more for the future – is there a particular topic you would want to explore in an event like this? Let me know as a comment!