Reflections on Engage

It is a week after our Engage workshop and I think we are still bowled over by how well it went.  The workshop was attended by 10 teachers and lecturers, two Oxford students and seven Oxford academics and friends of the project. Everyone came ready to contribute and participate and we had two very busy days exploring our theme of Great Writers Inspire.

Our two students, Cleo and Kate, kept the blog fed with up-to-the-minute reports of sessions which you can enjoy here. They amazed us with their energy, speed and commitment to the project. Cleo gave an excellent presentation on how she was inspired as a student, which led into a great discussion on how teachers inspire their students. They also found the time to record some vox pops with our participants which we hope will yield some excellent quotes.

The academic debate on ‘What is a great writer?’ inspired us all and I overheard one participant say it made them feel like a student again. This and other recordings from the workshop will be released for everyone to enjoy.

I’ve had time to go through some of the feedback and evaluation forms and there are some clear themes emerging which we can add to our wish list:

  • A requirement for materials for some specific writers was suggested, for example the Brontës. We are working on this collection and will do our best to continue to add content in the remaining 6 months of the project.
  • Signalling possible connections through the site and notes to suggest how an item may be used would be helpful.
  • More critical analysis, introducing the idea of debate and multiple readings would be excellent for students.
  • Short clips and videos are most useful for showing in the classroom or lecture as illustrative materials for further discussion.
  • The text-based resources are most useful, given that the text is most often the basis of study.
  • More pictures and visual images would be inspiring for students.
  • Whilst it is early days for ebooks in the classroom, students are using mobile devices in lectures and adults bring Kindles into the classroom, and there are things that can be done with etexts which are impossible with a hard copy.

The general feedback on the Great Writers Inspire website was overwhelmingly positive and we are confident that people will use materials from the site in their teaching and learning. Some quotes from the workshop:

“this on line resource will offer the possibility of diversity and depth whenever we choose to take its opportunity to inspire us to engage with new texts and perspectives.” HE lecturer

“The potential of great writers is to allow ‘off piste’ exploration.”  A level teacher

“Some students feel that they do not belong in this literary world – they ask how does this fit in with all this literature? Access to GWI helps us address this question.” A level teacher

“I would probably want to include EVERYTHING on the Great Writers website which relates to the authors or books on the module I create.” HE lecturer

“Really attractive range of resources – great for giving students a taste of what university study might be like.” A level teacher

“One of the really amazing things this site could do for A Level students is offer alternative perspectives on great writers works which would help them develop a richer, more versatile understanding of the authors they study.” A level teacher

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