National Teaching Fellow 2015
Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener’s main role is to teach students in creative studio-based disciplines how to research and write – a challenge that she tackles through highly visual and engaged sessions.
Depending on the objective of the session, students might find themselves discussing how the reader of their essays could be likened to a polar bear (and the essays to an iceberg), exploring secondary sources by visualising them as sea creatures or understanding the concept of a literature review by thinking about playing cards. Students might also find themselves handling objects from Staffordshire University’s research collection, on a treasure hunt or doing a spot of documentary drawing.
These, and many more, learning and teaching strategies are part of the innovative and creative approach Alke has developed under the umbrella term of ‘tactile academia’, which is based on the exploration of the links between academic and creative practice. And it is all for the purpose of making academic conventions accessible to students, effectively done by utilising visual analogies and metaphors, and incorporating object-based learning, thinking-through-making and exploratory writing tasks. Her latest project is Writing Essays by Pictures, a workbook for students she wrote, designed and raised money for printing via a Kickstarter campaign.
Working across all three schools of the Faculty of Arts and Creative technologies, Alke facilitates and champions learning opportunities that are student-centred and experiential, visual and accessible. She also shares them widely. For example, Alke has been instrumental in organising and facilitating a series of workshops in conjunction with Writing PAD (the network of Writing Purposefully in/through/for Art and Design) and funded by the HEA that showcases the challenges and opportunities of writing in creative practice. This allowed a network of learning and teaching professionals to form, who now share best practice – and collaborate in new developments in learning and teaching. As a colleague and collaborator stated:
“With Alke there is always this glorious mixture of excitement at methods that are evolving and, at the same time, an understanding that she has got something very special to communicate.”