If life is what happens to our plans, then dance is what happens to our steps.
ideas sometimes when you wait they come to you.

Preparation for starting with BAPP

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Campus Session (Dec 7th)

Yesterday (December 7th) we had a campus session based around task D & E.
The first half was looking at what made a productive conversation, communication. This related to both tasks but was aimed more at task E (the conversations through the comments). In task E you are asked to comment on each other’s work.

The second half of the session looked at the style of academic writing. You are asked to use this style in both task D & E.

This blog is an overview of the campus session (what we did) for those who could not make it and a reminder for those who were there. I am also hoping both people who came and those who could not be there will comment about this blog.

First half of the session:
This was a movement-based session. We wanted to look at how people engage, interact with each other. We were thinking about what makes a ‘good’ productive, stimulating conversation. In a way we are saying that academia is about engaging in a large conversation. It is about ways to understand and explain ideas across people who are quite spread apart (both in distance and in time). In other words academia has conventions of communication, (the academic style of writing that is asked for in task D & E is one of these conventions). These conventions have developed as ways to carry on useful and engaged conversations across distance (for instance between people in universities across the globe) and across time (for instance to develop ideas people who wrote in 1700 had in today’s world). In task D & E we want you to start to learn how to write within these conventions (in academic style) so that your ideas can fit into productive learning conversations through the blogs and comments.

But how do you have a conversation? We wanted to look at the personal values and feelings that people had about engaging in conversation. We wanted to see what a conversation looked like! We did this by replacing words with movements. We asked each person to choose three words that were elements of a productive conversation (these were elements like ‘respect’, ‘re-evaluation’, ‘questioning’ ‘passionate’ ‘quality’). Each word had a type of movement that would represent the word. For instance passionate was a big movement and quality was a slow movement.

We imagined the room was a metaphor for a conversation, stepping into the room was the same as stepping into a conversation. When we stepped into the conversation (room) we would execute the movements we had that represented our three important elements of a productive conversation. The movements were a physical representation of what each person individually valued as elements of a productive conversation.

We stood around the edge of the room. But before we could start we needed a reason to begin, enter a conversation (enter the movement space) and a reason to stop leave the conversation (leave the movement space). Each person made-up a personal rule for beginning and ending the conversation ‘dance based on their feelings about starting and ending a conversation in ‘real’ life. We did not know what each other’s rules to begin or end were. But we knew they were rules that were similar to their feelings about starting a conversation. Music was put on and people could start the conversation ‘dance’ as soon as their rule to start (enter the space) was met.

The first time we did it people waited on the edge for sometime and then a couple of people started moving others joined in and then the whole thing seemed to come to an end pretty quickly. We then talked about what had happened – we felt it looked like people had not stuck to their rules for starting.

Feedback from participants:
People had wanted to stick to their rules for starting but then felt they had to do something so just did anything. Then they felt sorry for other people who were out in the space moving so they joined in but finished as soon as they could. Once a little bit (token amount) of movement had taken place they felt they had done their bit and left. The whole thing finished quite quickly.

That’s what it looked like.

What did we feel this meant: we felt that starting the conversation because you felt you had to or felt sorry for someone meant that you didn’t bring much to it other than being there. It was not productive because as soon as you had done your ‘bit’ you left. Also there was nothing to really interest you because you only joined in to be polite not because you had anything to add or say. People said that the blogs could feel like this; because they don’t know people they felt they needed to be polite and say something but didn’t really want to do any more than that. They did not really write things to engage people more to acknowledge they were there.
We asked the questions; how can you become interested in something? What makes you interested?

We tried the dance again, this time everyone had to wait until their rule for stepping into the space was met and not just join in to be polite! We put the music on………………………………………………no body moved………………..no body began……………………we stopped for feedback.

Feedback from participants:
Nobody moved because nobody else did anything that would make them start.
They all had rules to start to engage that relied on someone else starting first; we asked how this reflected on the blog space. In truth no-body would really start to comment on each other unless someone else did first. This was understandable if we were looking at conversation in general but we were looking at a productive learning conversation. We asked participants if they needed to re-evaluate their rule for beginning to engage. Did they need to ask themselves if it was productive to wait for someone else to be engaged before you were? We said nobody had to change their starting rule but they could if they wanted to and I joined in the next one with my starting rule which allows me to just start – as an advisor I felt my starting rule should be just begin as soon as the music starts.

We tried it again, this time some people started with big (passion) movements. There was a lot of interaction.

Feedback from participants:
One person noticed that passion as a big movement can be a little overwhelming and sometimes it needs to be small and intense. (Maybe considered and focused).
Another person found that people who stuck to being respectful or polite where hard to dance with after a little while because you could not get beyond the same polite movement.
Other people noticed that the comfort place for most people was to be doing the polite movement because it was safe!
Some people that did the personal conversation movement ended up drifting from person to person.
When people got into a rhythm with someone else they felt quite relieved, but people outside of that small group felt that it was hard to enter the group. They felt the group was much more organised than it really was.

Do you think these observations could apply to the blog spaces too?

We did the dance a few times developing the rules and trying things out as we noticed them in feedback. At the end people were asked to write what they see, what this made them think and what they wondered.
People have some connection
It was very random, but with power
Many instances of copying
Observation what happens when people observe each other and situations?
Lots of copying
Lots of copying of movement (respect)
Small groups formed

Each exercise was very different
She’s shy
People will only engage in movement (conversation) fully if they are interested
People’s attention has to be grabbed
A lot people copying
The group are not trusting each other at first maybe near the end a bit more
It’s ok to play a small part in a conversation as long as you are involved
Breaking the ice

How it was ever going to end?
If some people don’t comment because of lack of trust or lack of confidence?
Does this reflect each person?
Is it ok to not be drawn in?
What was your rule?
What made the conversation easier?
How important are rules?
How it was going to end?
When to start coming in?
What made you change your mind?

Have a look at what they wrote and see if you think they apply to the blogs and the activity of the comments on blogs.

Overall we felt we learnt a lot about how conventions of politeness and respect could get in the way of having a productive conversation. This was because we were not their as friends and we didn’t know each other very well but we need to get to the ‘meat’ of the conversation without feeling we were being rude.

This is the problem that academia has tried to solve; how do you talk to someone in a university hundreds of miles away who you have never met but about something that you are quite passionate about. THIS IS WHY ACADEMIA HAS CONVENTIONS AND RULES – FOR INSTANCE A PARTICULAR WAY TO WRITE . Academic writing is just about another set of rules to be polite but to cut to the chase and get on with the interesting learning conversation. This led to the second part of the session which was about looking at the conventions of academic writing in ore detail.

I led the first part of the session. The way of working is my way of looking at embodiment, how the body can be a part of a whole understanding. Some of the research for this part of the session was done with Prof. Anna Craft a few years ago. The ideas are part of some research I am doing at the moment about the body, environment and learning

Paula led the second half of the session. We looked at the idea that writing in academic style use conventions as we said above. These conventions are to aid with neutrality, exchange of ideas, critiques, statements and concepts. We looked at the idea that a set of concepts forms a theory. When writing in an academic style you express and explore concepts and theory. It is important to have these to allow the Reader to understand where your points are coming from, why you are taking a particular point of view.

Paula introduced the idea of Critical Thinking as a process that is used to think about topics and issues. In small groups we did some exercises discussing (having a conversation about a topic), writing down some concepts and theories that different people in the conversation had.

We looked at the important distinction between the content of some written text (WHAT it is about) and the structure of some written text (HOW it is written). We said that academic writing, marketing and descriptive writing are all structures for writing. (They are about How it is written)

To summarise: in the first half of the session we discovered why it important to have conventions for communication that support the kind of conversation you need to have. We identified where our personal conventions for engaging in a conversation might need to change. That we may need to have a distinction between our personal rules for engaging with people in general and our personal rules for engaging in an academic context.

In the second half of the session we looked at some practical examples of the conventions within academic writing and we practised some writing in small groups.

Other things:
People pointed out how frightening the posting of blogs is, especially if you are not sure about spelling. We talked about using spellcheck and reading your work to someone. We talked about the importance of getting help if you have dyslexia. I have dyslexia, I have a step by step guilde to what to do to try to get government help as a pdf on the communication page of my website. (If you want to look at it)
We talked about the difference between facebook and the blogs. How the people on facebook are people you know but the people on the blogs are not and you would not know them if it was not for this course.

So what do you think about all this? PLEASE comment


  1. Hi Adesola,

    Thank you for posting this blog in such detail, as I wasn't able to make the session and it really helps to be able to read up on exactly what I missed.

    I found it very interesting to read about the movement work you did, and the discussions that were had. However, I'm not sure it has helped me in improving my writing for Task D or E???

    What do other people think?

    Also, do you know what the dates are for the next campus sessions? I'm hoping I can make them!



  2. Adesola - your explanation of the process is very helpful.

    In response to Laura-Beth's question.

    What Adesola and I did to link this 'kinesthetic' or movement process of conversation to the Tasks was to move into a discussion about the 3 learning styles of visual, audio, and kinesthetic - to using the conventions of academic conversation to think about and respond to the 3 writing styles in Task D... the academic structure is similar to the rules that the Movement exercise provided BUT people need to engage in the process for it to work... in Task E the job is to look at the styles of writing - pick out key points that discuss the content and structure of the Task D - and say something about the piece of writing in the COMMENT BOX that might help the writer clarify certain passages or be clearer in order to communicate ideas.

    We did discuss the conventions of academic writing a bit - and luckily the group had really good questions about the process. For example, if 2 or 3 references are used in the writing to explain, back-up or expand upon a point of view, then use the Harvard method to cite these sources... the Harvard method is in the back of the Handbook. Check out http://paulanottingham.blogspot.com/ for more explanation of the 2nd half of the workshop.

  3. Hi Adesola

    First of all, I would like to thank you for posting this, as I am currently touring and unable to attend the workshops, but this way I know what went on, and can try and stay up to date. 

    I love your idea of expressing the structure of the conversation through movement, For quite a few years ive worked with the company CANDOCO, this is a disabled company and they do numerous workshops for disabled children as well.
    One workshop, one of my greatest memories working with them, was based along the same idea, without talking we would try to create a bond and communicate something to the other people in the room, this wasn’t supposed to be miming, simply movement.
    We then got into pairs and we would have to close our eyes, and through contact improvisation we would have to do the same thing, I found it amazing how as soon as you get rid of your sight sense you can pick up every tiny movement and what emphasis it is created with, again like this we would try and hold a “conversation”
    This was an amazing experience especially as some of these children cant communicate in other ways, for example the autistic children, and it really helped to understand how they felt.
    After all this I can understand the structure of movement in a conversation and im very upset I didn’t make it to this workshop.

    Regarding the “see, think and wonder”
    I observed that a lot of the things that came up do indeed relate to our blogs.
    I think that it is so much more difficult on here as there is nothing specific to talk about, whereas within university discussions across the globe there is a general topic, or you talk about anything that’s on your mind that can be used as information and debate, whereas this blog I find is very constricting as its supposed to be based around our profession only.
    I take part in a few different blogs but in other languages and about different topics.

    I find that the easiest way for me to understand the “rules” of academia, and please correct me if im wrong, is literally think of it as a debate, if you enter a room with people and you are all there to talk about a topic, you always know that any ideas and thoughts are welcome, and its all about putting across your idea so that the other people and comprehend it clearly, a general mistake I do find in these situations is people can push across there ideas instead of present them, using wording that can insinuate that there idea is the correct one, or that somebody else’s idea is wrong, this is what I would usually consider as rude, there is no right or wrong just different opinions.

    Regarding tasks D & E, im having a little trouble deciding what to write about, do all the different writings have to be about the same thing?
    And can it be something historical or psychological?
    In the marketing style writing do we have to try and sell a product (class, show etc) or can we also sell an idea?

    Thank you for your time
    Look forward to hearing opinions on this


  4. Hi Adesola,

    I have just finished reading your post of session on 7th Dec. I was unable to make the lecture due to my commitments with work but believe I would have learnt a great deal from attending it.

    The activity you used between conversation and movement sounded very beneficial in different ways. It highlighted the initial confidence required to take the first step when applying new ideas and, in this case, various styles of writing. Although people strive to be polite and worry about making mistakes and how others may judge, they do not necessarily grasp that mistakes and combined ideas makes us stronger.

    This method of learning was very unique and definitely something I would consider putting in to practice throughout my own workshops.

    Although your post states a mass of information about tasks D and E I am still struggling with how to construct my Academic style of writing. Does it hold similar qualities to that of a literary review?

    However, overall I found this post very helpful and I am very grateful for you publishing it.

    Thanks Again

    Rachel x

  5. Hi Adesola
    Thank you for posting this information in such great detail. I am in oz and feel I am missing out on not being able to be there for any of the workshops. But atleast now I know exactly what happened in this session.

    I like the way you used movement as a way to explain the points more clearly. I agree that we are being polite when commenting. For me this is not stopping me writing my points on peoples work even if it is a constructive critisism. I am wondering if they way I'm commenting is the correct way?


  6. Hello Adesola,
    Your post and the comments after it are very helpful, thank you! Reading it, I felt like I was there at the workshop. I feel more confident to comment on other people's work now because even if what I suggest may be wrong, then like what Rachel said above is that it doesn't matter because hopefully someone will comment to say that it's wrong and then we will all learn from my mistake. I understand that the more comments we make on each others' work, the more we will all learn.
    Thanks again,

  7. Adesola, Thankyou for posting the notes on the campus session. I did attend the session and found it very benefitial. It's wonderful how movement can be used to define almost anything, very clever. Using the room as a metaphor for the conversation and three chosen movements to show the three important elements of our coversation worked so well.
    After reflecting on the session I wondered why I was a bit reluctant to enter the space and be the first to start the conversation of movement rolling. This was because I didn't want everyone looking at me and didn't want to get it wrong But what was there to get wrong?? This links to commenting on the blogs. I can sometimes be reluctant to write the first comment on a blog just in case im wrong or it is not brilliantly written. After reflecting on this I know now that I need to trust myself and know there is no right or wrong.
    Thankyou very much for the session. I found it fun, useful and interesting