An important part of the Tactile Academia philosophy is to connect with people directly, to try things and to exchange experiences and ideas. To inspire people to start their own journeys.

A Tactile Academia workshop by me can range from a 10 minutes lightning activity featuring one of the innovative analogies from Writing Essays by Pictures, to ‘feature’-lengths keynote presentations about the work, from a workshop as part of a conference to a stand-alone independently organised event, from day-long workshops to writing retreats spanning several days. The longer ones often feature a custom designed give-away for the delegates. I am happy to come on my own to facilitate the whole event, or help you with organising your own including finding speakers and facilitators that have the Tactile Academia spirit.

Please get in touch on tactileacademia[at]gmail[dot]com if you want me to do a workshop for you.

Upcoming Events:

Silo Alert – Exploring Collaboration in HE

on 21st June 2023 2pm in Stoke-on-Trent. Sign up here

Together, we will delve into the Higher Education (HE) sector, sharing and discovering current resources, projects, and networking opportunities. This workshop will be an opportunity to tap into the expertise of the participants, and yes, we might even assign a little homework to prepare in advance. The key is to keep an open mind and be attentive to the Silo Alert, as we encourage you to look beyond your own subject and institutional boundaries.

Drawing inspiration from their collaboration on a virtual escape room during lockdown, Alke and Eleanor have contributed a chapter to the forthcoming open access book, Collaboration in Higher Education, to be published by Bloomsbury in May 2023. This workshop is designed to highlight some of the key themes explored in the book, and it will be followed by an exciting mini book launch.

Sketchnote Your Syllabus

(being developed for a forthcoming conference)

The basics of the Hero’s Journey framework can be applied to many experiences and journeys – including educational ones (see Gröppel-Wegener and Farmer, 2023). However, this fact seems often lost to the students who might not see formal education as an enriching experience, but a dry slog. This is not helped if they are introduced to a new subject by a dry, word-heavy syllabus. While examples of syllabi exist that are visual and engaging, see Sousanis (2023) or Barry (2014), it can often feel like this is reserved for people with an artistic background.

Enter the sketchnoting principle that if you can hold a pen and write, you can sketchnote!

This workshop explores the intersection of the Hero’s Journey as applied to education and the visual syllabus, to guide participants to turn one of their own syllabi, lesson plan (or any other plan or itinerary) into a map to share with others by using basic sketchnoting strategies.

Armed with marker pens and paper, we will break down the stages into locations on a journey, plot a path (or more than one), identify allies and enemies, as well as challenges in order to interpret them as part of a Hero’s Journey. We will then use a collection of symbols that can easily be copied and customized to each create a map that can be used to talk people through what you’re planning to do with them and let them visualise themselves as heroes on this journey.

Previous Events:

The Hero’s Journey in HE

Practically exploring the Hero’s Journey in HE framework for curriculum planning. Rob Farmer and myself have presented this in overview sessions (in person and online), as well as run workshops of varying lengths to explore this with individuals, as well as teams. Get in touch to develop the custom approach that would work best for you!

Make Your Own Research Board Game

Initially, I ran this workshop at the 2018 Undisciplining conference run by the Sociological Review with help from Dr Katy Vigurs. Participants used the analogy of the board game to develop their own innovative ways of sharing their own sociological research projects. The Sociological Review liked it so much, they asked us to extend it into a whole day workshop and run it again! Since then, this has become one of my most popular workshops to run, and I have done it for PhD candidates of a range of disciplines, as well as for established researchers. I have also developed an tested an online version, that runs over the course of a few days (which could be in the same week, or spread out further).

Read more on the blog here. 

Also check out this guest post by one of the participants.

The custom made handout for the Undisciplining conference

Experience Design Your Teaching – An Academic Afternoon Tea

10th May 2019, LEAF Manchester 2:30 pm

A mash-up of a traditional afternoon tea and academic CPD workshop, we looked at Learning and Teaching through the lens of experience design in three stages:

  • considering our ‘audience/participants’ while digging into some savoury treats,
  • reflecting on the structure of a session/module/course in terms of the ‘hero’s journey’ while munching scones (possibly with a side discussion of what comes first – the cream or the jam),
  • and thinking about the ‘take-away’ while having some sweet treats.

…and drank a lot of tea along the way. (Actually the afternoon tea format made this ideal for networking)

Read more on the blog here.


ReGenring Academic Writing and Assessment

A conference hosted by the Trent Institute for Learning and Teaching at Nottingham Trent University on 21 June 2017, co-organised by Lisa Clughen and Alke Groppel-Wegener. Featuring Julia Molinari, Lisa Clughen, David Hindley and Nick Sousanis as speakers, delegates also made their own nametags, created feedback bunting and in the afternoon took charge of the day with a sharing session organised around posters resulting from a call for practice. The event was summed up by Fiona English talking making links to the theory and pratice of using genres within education.

Read more on the blog here.

Feedback Bunting in action

Picture This! Using the Writing Essays by Pictures approach to teaching academic practice

A half-day workshop with Dr Alke Groppel-Wegener in Manchester on 5th May 2017. Using the Writing Essays by Pictures book as a starting point, we explored different ways to teach academic practice using everyday analogies, all the while designing board games and greeting cards.

Delegates received a copy of Writing Essays by Pictures.

A peek into Writing Essays by Pictures

Playing with Genre

A workshop at the Look! Make! And Learn! ALDinHE Event at Huddersfield University on 9 December 2016 facilitated by Dr Alke Groppel-Wegener. Using the concept of a board game, delegates were designing board games inspired by the process of writing essays.

Read more on the blog here.

One of the boardgames designed by the participants

Thinking-through-genre: exploring genre as a pedagogical resource

A workshop hosted by Staffordshire University at Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent on 8 November 2016. Facilitated by Dr Alke Groppel-Wegener and Dr Fiona English, delegates first experienced the regenring of institutional name tags by making their own and were then introduced to English’s theoretical framework and work on regenring. After a tour of the factory we were thinking of how an experience such as this could be regenred into a teaching experience – and looked at ways to use activities and analogies to teach academic practice.

Delegates received a copy of Writing Essays by Pictures and a limited edition furoshiki (Japanese Wrapping cloth) custom designed to visually portray English’s Orientations of Genre theoretical framework. Read more on the blog here.

the delegate pack made use of a furoshiki, an artefact embodying regenring

Confessions of a Swamp Girl

Pre-conference workshop for fellows of SEDA conference on 2 November 2016 in Brighton facilitated by Dr Alke Groppel-Wegener. After a brief overview of the Tactile Academia approach, delegates analysed different genre using the Dress-Up Doll of Formality activity. Using first academic genres that students might encounter and thinking about how to explain them, we then moved on to the genres within academia that staff might encounter but be equally confused by as students might be by essays. How, for example, can managers explain to staff the usefulness of the annual monitoring process with all its meetings, forms and reports?


Two workshops (interconnected but stand-alone) facilitated with Dr. Susan Ryland at the International Visual Methods Conference in September 2015 in Brighton. When planning these workshops we were inspired by philosophical concepts, which we explored through cuts and folds.

For this conference we were commissioned to produce a booklet for the conference bag, that allowed even the people who didn’t come to the workshop to use the strategies. Read more on the blog here.

exploring (and customising) the Thoughtbites booklet

Essay Writing for Visual Learners

A workshop at the LearnXDesign 2015 conference in June 2015 in Chicago. Using the analogies of Writing Essays by Pictures delegates explored ways of explaining troublesome academic practice to students that consider themselves visual learners.

We tried out designing a Connect The Dots picture and then had a lot of fun sharing ideas.

Academia Mantra Cards

A workshop facilitated with Melanie Mowinski at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). Using the idea of the Mantra – a short saying that focuses the mind on a particular process or outcome – and pulling it into the context of teaching and learning (and writing), teaching staff asked themselves what sayings do they constantly repeat to themselves and students – and what they wish students would be telling themselves. Using sticky tape transfers we augmented these sayings with patterns from photocopies – and made some mantra cards.

Academic Mantra cards made in Massachusetts

Exploring the Fishscale of Academicness: Visual Analogies in Study Skills Teaching

A workshop at the Eighth International Conference on Design Principles and Practices – Design as Collective Intelligence on 16 January 2014 in Vancouver. This included an overview of the fishscale activity, which was then extended to think about the use of analogies in Study Skills teaching.

We designed sea creatures and delegates received a copy of the new Fishscale of Academicness booklet (available to print out on the Fishscale resource page here).

Making Writing

A workshop that explored approaches to writing in creative, practice-based disciplines. It provided the opportunity to share ways of engaging students in academic writing through practical exploration of a range of research into the synthesis of arts-based practices with the more traditional modes of academic writing. Hosted by Learning Futures at University College Falmouth on 12 July 2013, this was facilitated by Caroline Cash and Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Writing Warm-up’ by Pat Francis, ‘Writing and Materiality’ by Nancy de Freitas, ‘Footnotes – Drawing Writing’ by Oliver West and ‘Visual Stimulus and Metaphor in Academic Writing’ by Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener.

We made reflective books. Read more on the blog here.

The Making Writing workshop culminated in a weekend Writing Retreat, which allowed delegates to build on the constructive and supportive atmosphere of the one day event. Using creative warm-ups as starting points, delegates got the opportunity to set goals, discuss difficulties, work in groups on challenges – and above all write and share their writing. It was facilitated by Nancy de Freitas, Pat Francis and Alke Gröppel-Wegener and co-organised by Caroline Cash and Alke Gröppel-Wegener.

We made more name-tags, played with post-its and all sorts of other materials when we were stuck in our writing and also visited some local sights. Read more on the blog here.

Towards Academic Publication

A workshop that focused on writing for publication for members of staff with a material studies background as well as postgraduate students. Hosted by the Institute for Applied Creative Thinking, an applied research centre at Staffordshire University on 2 July 2013, this was facilitated by Nance de Freitas (visiting from New Zealand) and Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Writing Creative Practice’ by Nancy de Freitas and ‘Genre and Academic Writing’ by Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener.

We were working on our writing (and also designing some sea creatures Fishscale style). Read more on the blog here.

Writing and the Object

A workshop that combined theoretical and practical approaches to consider different writing-object relationships. Hosted by Middlesex University , this was facilitated by Peter Thomas and Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Writing Design’ by Grace Lees-Maffei, ‘Using Objects as Starting Points’ by Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener, ‘Haunted Objects’ by Luke White, ‘The creative and personal in writing on site’ by Tony Side, ‘Art, design and dyslexia: multisensory routes to writing’ by Pauline Sumner, ‘Writing before animation: generative writing as part of a design process’ by Peter Thomas and Ossie Parker and ‘A Museum of Fashion: Writing about fashion through Archive Collections’ by Emma Dick, Richard Lumb, Marion Syratt Barnes and Peter Thomas.

We made reflective books. Read more on the blog here.

Take a Little Button

A workshop that was part of the HEA Storyville 13 conference in May 2013. Dr Alke Groppel-Wegener and Pat Francis concentrated on the everyday item of the button and led delegates in the exploration of analogies inspired by it.

We were playing with buttons, coffee filters and luggage tags (amongst other things) and delegates recieved the Tactile Academia booklet The Button Connection. Read more on the blog here.

Take a little button… object-abstract

Collage, Reflection and Writing

A workshop that looked at collage’s potential as a method of inquiry through creative practice which seamlessly merges the making and the textual. Delegates explored the versatility collage offers as it allows one to find the words to express subjective experience through reflexivity and the intrinsic multiple interpretations of the ‘image’ collage offers. They also investigated collage as a method of inquiry, reflective bookmaking, poetic inquiry and poem houses all through making, as well as discussed ways of introducing students to structuring academic texts through collage. Hosted by the University of the West of Scotland on 12 April 2013, this was facilitated by Alison Bell and Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Thinking through Collaging: Reflective bookmaking and poetic inquiry’ by Sarah Williamson, ‘Collage as subjective experience: Transitioning, Relinquishing, Becoming’ by Alison Bell, ‘Collaging in three dimensions: the Poem House’ by Brigid Collins and ‘Collaging the Context: Visual Ways of Collating a Literature Review’ by Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener.

We made poem houses and delegates received the Tactile Academia booklet The Winning Hand of Independence. Read more on the blog here.

Work in progress

Exploring Layers of Meaning

A workshop that allowed delegates to respond to a set reading by Stuart Hall through experimenting with collage and simple book structures. Hosted by the University of Chester on 26 March 2013, this was facilitated by Elizabeth Kealy-Morris and Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Taking Collage seriously’ a presentation about ways of engaging with text through collage by Elizabeth Kealy-Morris, ‘Exploring different ways of ‘layering’’ by Sarah Williamson and ‘Layering in book structures’ by freelance book artist Angela Davies.

We made reflective books that explored layering through collage (and in other ways) and delegates received instructions on how to make a Tunnel Book in A Bag. Read more on the blog here.

The Underwater Iceberg Tunnel Book made in preparation for the Chester workshop

A Beastiary of Subjects

A workshop for HEA subject leads in the Arts and Humanities cluster to plan a promotional publication. We started by making a beastiary of the different subjects and then thought about potential genres for the publication by playing with the Dress-up Doll of Formality. We ended up with a plan for a postcard based publication, which was given into production later in the year.

Practicing Theory in Art & Design Education

A workshop that explored ways to build and strengthen the relationship between theoretical modules of study and studio-based learning within HE art and design courses. Hosted by the University of Northampton on 17 December 2012, this was facilitated by Will Hoon and Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Practicing Theory’ by Will Hoon, ‘Tactile Academia: Integrating Making and Writing’ – a show and tell on ways of visualising academic research through making projects by Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener, ‘Back to the Mantelpiece: Word, Memory and Image’ by Louise Bird and ‘Using Genre as a Pedagogical Resource’ by Dr. Fiona English.

We made reflective books and dressed up gingerbread people as genres – and all Delegates received the fourth Tactile Academia booklet, The Dress-Up Doll of Formality. Read more on the blog here.

Visualising Hidden Academic Practice/Playful Approaches to Writing

Two workshops delivered by Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener and Pat Francis at the Pedare Annual Learning and Teaching Conference – Creative, Connected and Courageous: Explorations in Learning & Teaching at University College Falmouth on 13 December 2012.

We did some fast and furious warm-up writing activities and played with everyday analogies to visualise hidden academic practice. Read more on the blog here.

Reflection -THROUGH – Action

Two workshops delivered by Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener and Pat Francis as part of the HEA Teaching in Practice event in London on 27-29 June 2012. We organised an icebreaking activity for delegates who were attending the opening as part of New Designers, and then a workshop on the second day, using the postcard genre as a way to take notes, focus thoughts and write feedback.

Delegates went home with some postcards, as well as getting self-written reminders in the mail a few months later. And they received the Tactile Academia booklet The Land- and Seascape of Creative Practice. Read more on the blog here.

The Land- and Seascape of Creative Practice

Pop Up Tactile Academia – Developing Reflective Thinking through Book Making

A pre-conference workshop at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning hosted at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario on 23 October 2012, this was the first time we took Tactile Academia outside of the UK. The workshop was co-facilitated by Dr. Alke Groppel-Wegener, Sarah Williamson and Dr Lisa Gold, and followed up with a panel on the Tactile Academia approach on the 28 October.

We got attendees started on making their own reflective books to document the conference and checked back in with them during the panel. Read more on the blog here.

Integrating Writing into a Studio-based Curriculum

A workshop that concentrated on how the Writing in the Disciplines model of integrating writing into subject specialist modules can be applied in the creative, studio-based disciplines of Art and Design specifically. We looked at a number of models of teaching academic writing – from stand-alone to fully integrated – and the idea of genre when introducing written assignments. Hosted by Staffordshire University on 24 May 2012, this was facilitated by Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Visual and verbal thinking within studio-based disciplines’ by Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener and Sarah Williamson with an introduction to reflective book making, ‘Models of Teaching (academic) Writing within Studio-Based Disciplines’ by Jane Ball, ‘Student Writing and Genre’ by Dr Fiona English (author of Student Writing and Genre) and  ‘Tactile Academia’ an exploration of creative projects as written genres by Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener.

We tried out Poetic inquiry and all delegates received the second Tactile Academia booklet, The Butterfly Challenge. Read more on the blog here.

Thinking through Writing and Making

A workshop that focused on how academic practice that seems to be hidden to students’ understanding of the term ‘research’ can be highlighted through a variety of learning and teaching activities. Exploratory writing, including creative writing, were tried out, as well as collage and other making activities in order to visualise research activities such as questioning the provenance of a text. Hosted by Staffordshire University on 29 march 2012, this was facilitated by Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener and included ‘Thinking through Writing’ – a workshop with Pat Francis (author of Inspiring Writing in Art and Design) exploring voices through different writing styles, ‘Thinking through Making’ – a workshop/presentation with Sarah Williamson using collage as a reflective tool and ‘Tactile Academia’ – Linking Writing and Making – a show and tell on ways of visualising academic research through making projects by Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener.

We made reflective books and all delegates received the first of the Tactile Academia booklets, The Fishscale of Academicness. Read more on the blog here.

Reflective Book made at Thinking through Writing and Making workshop

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