Using Action Learning Sets with students, mentors within our partnership schools and the wider community within Goldsmiths

Liz Morrison (left) Alison Griffiths (right)



The approach we explored in our project was based upon Action Learning.  Action Learning is an approach to empowering the individual to address problems or issues that have arisen in their professional experience that was developed by Reg Revans and has been widely adopted by a range of organisations for a range of purposes. The action learning approach:

“…is a means of development, intellectual, emotional or physical that requires its subjects, through responsible involvement in some real, complex and stressful problem, to achieve intended change to improve their observable behaviour henceforth in the problem field.”(Revans 1982: 626–7)


It involves the individual in engaging in small group focussed, structured reflection. Some of the characteristics of Action Learning includes:

  • a real problem that is important, critical, and usually complex;
  • a diverse problem-solving team or “set”;
  • a process that promotes curiosity, inquiry, and reflection;
  • a requirement that talk be converted into action and, ultimately, a solution, and a commitment to learning.


Our project had three stages:

  • The facilitation of Action Learning sets designed to support tutors from the PGCE Programme Team at Goldsmiths;
  • To train staff in how to facilitate Action Learning sets to support others they work with;
  • To broaden the learning arising from the Action Learning Sets to students, mentors within our partnership schools and the wider community within Goldsmiths.

The approach, as we interpreted it, initially fell within the “experiential school” that has learning at its heart and draws on Kolb’s (1984) learning cycle as its theoretical base.  This means that the starting point for learning is action with members of the learning set reflecting upon experience with the support of others, followed by further action, in order to change previous patterns. The overall goal of the Action Learning set is not to give advice but rather to question, with the aim of empowering the individual to generate their own solutions to the problem they have brought with them.


Revans, R. (1982) The Origin and Growth of Action Learning. Chartwell Bratt, Bromley.


Alison and Liz will be leading a Lunchtime Conversation on the topic, as part of the season of talk in the Autumn Term, 2018.  Further details in the Staff Learning Hub.



Beyond Lecture Capture

On Thursday 14 June I attended an event organised by the Digital Education Group of the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association which looked at experiences of lecture recording and video for learning in general.

There were presentations from a number of institutions, with academic and learning technology staff sharing their experience. There was also a student panel who discussed their use of the technology.

Typically what was recorded was the presenter’s voice and whatever happened to be on the screen – slides or maybe a visualiser. I’ve worked in a couple of institutions that used Panopto and I’m aware of both the concerns of staff and the enthusiasm of students for the technology, but Thursday’s sessions highlighted some interesting new findings or advantages:

  • Students actively listen in the lecture, note key points and then complete their notes from viewing the recordings. As one student said, if he looked through his notes and wondered why he’d written ‘trees’, he could go through the recording, find the relevant bit and amend his notes
  • Students actively listening make lectures more engaging for staff – the students are actually looking at you and paying attention!
  • The type of questions students ask show a deeper learning
  • In one course, the lecturer found that 62% students report reduced anxiety about the module and the number of 1sts and 2.1s increased
  • Students mainly watch at home or in student accommodation (mobile viewing still a small part of the picture)

The major problems from the student viewpoint were:

  • Lectures not always being recorded (either a technical issue or a module lead not wishing to be recorded – students need to know if something is not being recorded)
  • Poor quality or missing sound, either a microphone not working or the lecturer moving away from the lectern

From the staff viewpoint, a couple of concerns and recommendations:

  • Students need an induction in how to use the recordings, contextualised by academics in terms of note-taking and revision strategies (eg: watching the whole thing through repeatedly is not a good way to learn)
  • Set up a steering group with academics, students, IT, timetabling, estates, AV and learning technology staff

Generally there was agreement among staff and students that lecture recording is a valuable supplement, not a replacement for being present.

Finally Ale Armenelli from the University of Northamption spoke about their model of Active blended learning (below) which dispenses with lecture theatres and lectures.

Northampton's ABL

Northampton’s ABL


The largest rooms on the new campus accomodate around 60 people for team based learning activities.

Interestingly they don’t have staff offices either, including the VC. At which the room went strangely quiet, apart from the odd jaw dropping….

View the programme and presentations



From GIST to Enhancing Academic Skills Online

Antonia Lewis reports on a TaLIC Teaching & Learning Fellowship Award project, commissioned during spring, 2017.

staff photoThis project originally stemmed from the need to update an online library and academic skills tutorial situated on – GIST (Goldsmiths Information Skills Tutorial).  GIST, also realised with funding from TaLIC in 2012, was designed as a collaborative project between Library staff and the former CELAW.  It followed observations that information and academic skills resources needed to be more clearly sign-posted as a ‘one-stop shop’.  GIST proved popular, but its content and appearance had become out of date.  Many of the resources it listed had been superseded, particularly as the Library had undergone a process to update its online catalogue.  Student feedback from a focus group run in January also confirmed that a new approach would be worthwhile.  The old, existing GIST resource was felt to be ‘too detailed’ and felt ‘overwhelming’.  Feedback suggested that more visual elements were needed and clearer, more obvious chapter headings, such as “How to write an essay”, might work more effectively.

This time, it made sense to work collaboratively with members of the team who deliver the Enhancing Academic Skills (EAS) workshops ( – most of whom are now members of the new Academic Skills Centre.  It was proposed that the GIST structure could be unpicked and rebuilt as an academic skills resource, modelled on the portfolio of sessions delivered as part of EAS.  With these changes, the materials might better support and reinforce face-to-face teaching that was taking place at the same time.

There were several challenges in getting started.  The project timeline coincided with departmental restructures and some senior staff moving on or leaving.  The creation of the Academic Skills Centre had just been announced.  Working collaboratively across departments when staff have different priorities and management responsibilities also took a while to negotiate.  However with some persistence, a solid team emerged and we pressed forward with the project plan.

Progress was slow, but by working steadily and consistently over the summer, a resource began to take shape.  At times, there were some technical challenges.  Many of the applications we used to create content with had to be self-taught and a process of trial and error was often used to get the sound and visuals up to standard.  The practicalities of finding time, despite the extra funding, created additional pressure.

By the end of September, the majority of the content was complete and the  Enhancing Academic Skills Online ( resource was launched, just after Welcome Week in September.  A decision was also made to retain some content on the VLE, but the main resource sits on the platform – Libguides – a simple and widely used content management system designed for Libraries.

Enhancing Academic Skills Online includes chapters on – ‘Making the Most of Lectures and Seminars’ – ‘Researching, Using the Library and Referencing’ (with subsections such as ‘Using Library Search’, ‘Advanced Search Techniques’ and Zotero). Each section contains tutorials, video demos and interactive elements.


Enhancing Academic Skills Online is still seen as a work in progress.  The next stage will  be to test the resource and gather feedback on its use, to finalise developments and to refine the roll-out strategy.  Another student focus group is planned for the middle of January 2018 and the resulting feedback will be rolled into the next iteration.  Let us know what you think.


For more information or to feedback your views, please contact: Antonia Lewis (

Update on the development of the key situations in social work research

adi_staempfiAdi Staempfli (Lecturer in Social Work) updates us on the progress made in his project supported by TaLIC’s Fellowship (now Awards) scheme in 2017.

In my research I am developing the Key Situation reflective learning model for English social work education and continuous professional development.  It is a situation-based pedagogical approach (Ghisla, Boldrini and Bausch, 2014) that organises learning and artefacts around typical recurring professional situations (Tov, Kunz and Staempfli, 2016).  The concept of ‘situation’ is thus a tool for capturing and describing practice that allows reflexive learning and knowledge management that is rooted in practice.  To adopt the model for English social work I have started a participatory research process with experienced social workers to describe English social work key situations.

Funding, obtained through Goldsmiths’ Teaching and Learning Fellowship, enabled me to offer participants vouchers for their participation in a one-day research workshop.  I have successfully recruited 13 participants who took part in one of two workshops.  The social workers represented both adult, children and families and independent social work fields and came from far and wide, from both urban and rural areas of England.  I was humbled by the willingness of these practitioners to give up at least a day of their time to participate.

The participants identified over 180 tasks, processes and practice situations that were visualised, discussed, analysed and clustered into 16 areas of responsibilities.


Participants started to name key situations, such as ‘Having an initial conversation’; ‘Gather information to plan next steps’; ‘Dealing with a crisis situation’ and ‘Having a first meeting’ and around 40 draft situations have been named.

Following these workshops, I will review the situations and analyse whether any important fields or practice areas have been left out.  After this, participants will be invited to join a Wiki page on the key situation platform to further develop the key situations.  In a last round I am planning to invite others to join the online discussion and to review the whole title list as part of an external before opening the new Key Situations in English Social Work platform to the profession.

If you are interested in contributing to the review and validation of key situations, please contact me by email:

Adi Staempfli, Lecturer in Social Work, Programme Convener MA in Advanced Social Work (Practice Education) and Co-president of the Association Network Key Situations in Social Work


Selected publications

Ghisla, Gianni; Bausch Elena and Boldrini, Luca (2014) Bausch SiD –Situation-based Didactics. A guide for teachers in vocational training. Lugano and Zollikofen: Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET.

Staempfli, Adi; Tov, Eva; Kunz, Regula, Tschopp, Dominik & Eugster-Stamm, Stefan (2016). Improving professionalism through reflection and discourse in communities of practice: The key situations in social work model and project. Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 14(2), 59-79.

Staempfli, Adi; Kunz, Regula & Tov, Eva (2012). Creating a bridge between theory and practice: working with key situations. European Journal of Social Education, 22/23, 60-78

Tov, E., Kunz, R., & Stämpfli, A. (2016). Schlüsselsituationen der Sozialen Arbeit. Professionalität durch Wissen, Reflexion und Diskurs in Communities of Practice. 2. Auflage

Online Reading Lists

picMaria O’Hara, Reading List Services Officer (Library), reports on how online reading lists are being used at Goldsmiths and encourages academic staff to take advantage of the benefits of their use.

In the wake of changes to the DSA (Disabled Student’s Allowance) last year the College decided we needed to take a more coordinated approach to reading lists. We feel that inclusive accessibility practice is to make sure as many aspects of the university experience as possible are accessible by default so that students don’t have to request special accommodations.

In the case of reading lists, this meant ensuring as many of the essential articles and chapters needed by students as seminar readings would be available online in accessible formats. In the library, we knew that many of our academic colleagues have been going to a lot of trouble every year to ensure students received printed course packs with readings or uploading PDFs to the VLE. While that was brilliant for many students, those with special requirements were often left having to request accessible copies be made for them and then wait for them to be produced.

So last summer we made a big push to encourage everyone to send us their reading lists so we could get as much material as we could legally provide up on the system and have them available for students when they arrived. Since July, we have received over 300 lists to be converted into online reading lists.

The number of 2016/17 modules with online reading lists has risen to 38% compared with about 17% in 2015/16. Visual Cultures, Politics and Anthropology have particularly high coverage, Anthropology has almost made it to 90% coverage. However, other departments have also made significant progress, Psychology have doubled the number of lists on the system since September. Here at the library we’ve made about 3423 scanned readings available and purchased 4,441 reading list items. 90% of chapters marked as essential on Reading Lists @ Gold are available online as either ebooks or accessible, copyright-cleared scans.

With an increasing number of lists on the system we’ve begun collecting feedback from students to see what impact we are having on the student experience. Feedback has been very positive so far with one student telling us “Useful to have, a great help for studying!”

We recently ran a focus group to collect student feedback from online reading lists from Student Library Representatives. As part of this they filled in a library ‘love letter’ to sum up their impression of Reading Lists@Gold:

“Very sad. I just found out about the reading lists now they seem mega helpful, hope it was advertised better! Got one more year to go. I’ll use the hell out of it!”

“I find reading lists useful. I can find all my reading and suggested ones in one place so I have more time for me. Thank you”.

We plan to gather more feedback from students over the next few months but one stand out factor is that students probably won’t find your reading list if you don’t point them towards it. Most of the students we talked to found their lists because their lecturer either told them about it or they put a link to it on the VLE.

We’re happy to accept any lists you’d like to be converted into online reading lists throughout the year. You can find out more on the Reading List LibGuide here:

The Key Things To Know (when sending us a list):

  • Tell us the student numbers (and the module code), we can’t make digitisations if we don’t have an estimate of student numbers.
  • We are happy to update existing lists but please highlight changes – they may be obvious to you but we have to compare everything word-for-word to be sure.
  • Send us your list as soon as you can, we get loads over the summer and it can take a while to order and scan everything.

The Key Things To Know (when making your own list):

  • If you’ve never used the system before you’ll have to request staff access by emailing
  • Make sure you publish after adding or removing references from your list or students won’t see the changes.
  • Make sure you send your list for review when you’re finished adding or removing items (references) so the library checks it.

A Practice-based Curriculum for Reflective Learning in Social Work.

Adi Staempfli, Lecturer in Social Work in the Department Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies (STaCS) outlines his successful TaLIC Fellowship 2016-17 bid:

adi_staempfiThe challenge for social work is to find ways to integrate knowing, doing and values in and for a complex and uncertain practice world and social workers need to continually develop their competence. In his PhD research, Adi Staempfli therefore addresses the question: How can social workers be best supported to continuously develop their professional knowledge, skills and values and integrate these with their practice? 

Adi Staempfli adopts a practice based perspective (Schatzki et al., 2001) and explores the literature on profession and professionalism and suggests that reflexive professionalism, in which different forms of knowledge are integrated, is required. His thesis further analyses learning theories in relation to the development of competence and the role of reflection.

There is “a considerable body of research on how expertise … is developed” that suggests that intuitive skills “are essentially derived from experience”.  But experience alone is not sufficient.  It needs to be underpinned by reflection to enable learning, which is “best achieved in conversation with others, in supervision … or in discussions with colleagues“ (Munro, 2011: 87).  A reflective learning approach supports the integration of knowing, doing and values, if it focuses on “ways that ‘speak’ to the situations regularly encountered in social work” (Trevithick, 2011: 140).  Therefore, an approach to learning that is organised around practice situations is called for.

Adi Staempfli suggests that a focus on typical and reoccurring practice situations in reflective learning in and for practice, as proposed in the Key Situations in Social Work model (Tov, Kunz & Staempfli, 2016; Staempfli, Kunz & Tov, 2012) offers such an approach that builds on notions of reflective and evidence-informed practice, problem-based, situated and blended learning around key situations.  It combines individual, social and organisational learning in communities of practice  with a virtual platform on which the situations are shared (Staempfli, et al., 2016).  The innovative approach is applied in several universities in German-speaking regions in Europe and has been successfully piloted in three Local Authorities in London. The model offers an innovative form of continuous professional development.

However, there is no systematic account of what these key situations in English social work are. The author therefore applies a modified DACUM (developing a curriculum) method to describe these in a participatory action research project together with experienced social workers. The Teaching and Learning Fellowship grant enables him to run a series of workshops and the expected outcome will be a collection of titles and characteristics of key situations in English social work. These will then form the basis for reflections and offer a situational knowledge categorisation on the virtual platform.

For further information on the model visit the project homepage (German), the English home page, or watch this video that explains the Key Situation approach.

If you are an experienced social worker interested in contributing to this innovative research please contact


MUNRO, E. 2011. The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report. A child-centered system. London: Departement of Education.

SCHATZKI, T., KNORR-CETINA, K. & VON SAVIGNY, E. 2001. The practice turn in contemporary theory., London and New York, Routledge.

STAEMPFLI, A., TOV, E., KUNZ, R., TSCHOPP, D. & EUGSTER STAMM, S. 2016. Improving professionalism through reflection and discourse in communities of practice: The key situations in social work model and project. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 14(2), 59-79.

STAEMPFLI, A., KUNZ, R. & TOV, E. 2012. Creating a bridge between theory and practice: working with key situations. European Journal of Social Education, 22/23, 60-78.

TOV, E., KUNZ, R. & STÄMPFLI, A. 2016. Schlüsselsituationen der Sozialen Arbeit.  Professionalität durch Wissen, Reflexion und Diskurs in Communities of Practice., Bern, hep.

TREVITHICK, P. 2011. The generalist versus specialist debate in social work education in the UK. In: LISHMAN, J. (ed.) Social Work Education. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley, 133-153.



Greening HE: Sharing Understandings and Practices in Learning for Sustainability.

Nicola Hogan, Goldsmiths Environmental Officer, reports on the progress made in relation to Goldsmiths’ sustainable development commitments: 
Two years ago over 30 members of our academic staff completed an online survey relating to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).  The survey was developed by the Goldsmiths ESD Working Group and its aim was to establish how broadly ESD was being taught.  The outcomes of the survey formed a baseline of data regarding the level at which environmental sustainability was on the agenda and contributed to the shared definition of ESD as the:

“means enabling students to develop the knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic well-being, both in the present and for future generations”

Survey respondents were also asked to answer a series of questions relating to how they felt graduates of their modules/programmes understood their role in protecting the natural environment.  Overall outcomes of the survey suggested that sustainability is embedded in a variety of ways at Goldsmiths. Where ESD is not “implicitly or explicitly addressed”,  the survey’s respondents appear to acknowledge that it could be addressed straightforwardly. This indicated that there is still scope for improvement in the embedding of ESD throughout the provision.

I am keen to discuss the future of ESD at Goldsmiths and workshops or lectures to students on environmental sustainability.  There is an abundance of information about this subject available online and free to download from various ESD organisations and I would be more than happy to share these resources with interested staff.  Please get in touch if you’d like to explore this further.

Nicola Hogan, Goldsmiths Environmental Officer

Race Equality in Higher Education

David Woodger and Sue Westman’s (StaCs) final report on their Teaching Fellowship project undertaken last academic year (2014-15):

Research, including HEFCE Differences in degree outcomes: key findings (2014) and the Equality Challenge Unit Equality in HE: statistical report (2014), have highlighted a gap in the attainment of Black and racial minority students in HE, even when other factors such as socio-economic status, level of education, age at entry to HE and family educational background are taken into account.  Research sucha as the NUS Race for Equality report (2011) and Runnymede Aiming Higher report (2015) have also shown that Black and racial minority students are less satisfied with their student experience in HE compared to white students.

In order to make significant changes to the patterns and embedded nature of institutional racism prevalent in organisations, we need as academics in our teaching and learning in higher education to consider the approaches we adopt, specifically in teaching and learning methods and models, curriculum and staffing.  The Race Equality in Higher Education (REHE) TaLIC Teaching Fellowship project sought to:

  • identify issues in the teaching and learning environment faced by Black and racial minority students which impact positively or negatively on their engagement, retention and attainment;
  • to gain insight into experiences of teaching and learning around race and racism;
  • to improve the overall student experience;
  • to raise the attainment of black and racial minority students; and to enhance the quality, development and dissemination of innovation and good practice in learning and teaching around race and racism.


The project aims drew upon two main contributions: 1) research drawn from student and staff experience on teaching and learning, including around race and racism 2) exploration of the experiential group work model, adopted in an undergraduate Community Development and Youth Work course, (the latter of which was developed by the Community and Youth programme) and sought to equip students with both experiential and theoretical understandings, enabling them to engage with professionals and organisations to address racism.

We undertook peer research using semi-structured interviews and questionnaires with students chosen across Goldsmiths.  Although there were many positive responses from the sample of 60 students, they also highlighted a range of concerns that impede their learning experience:

  • a lack of diversity in the curriculum including in course reading lists, lectures and tutorials, thereby making their studies difficult to relate;
  • a Eurocentric approach to teaching and learning;
  • teaching and learning around issues of race, equality and diversity are either limited, marginalised or taught on a rather superficial and abstract level;
  • difficulty for black and racial minority students to raise their perspective, as it is not always valued and sometimes tokenized or met with disapproval.

Furthermore, students identified that the above issues left them feeling disengaged and frustrated, feelings further exacerbated by the academic language, which many felt to be both challenging and exclusionary.

Many identified interactive small group work as being an aid to learning, as well as the appointment of more black and racial minority teaching staff.


The Antiques Roadshow Blog (a.k.a Innovative pedagogy in Anthropology: Collaborative Event Ethnography 2)

Dr Gavin Weston’s concluding report on the progress of the Teaching Fellowship project being undertaken during the academic year, 2015-16:

On June 16th 2016, a minibus and several cars carrying a team of twenty-one anthropologists arrived at Ightham Mote in Kent to carry out a collaborative ethnography on the filming of an episode of The Antiques Roadshow. Historically, ethnography has been a form of research associated with long term fieldwork and participant observation (getting involved in the thing you are studying) and it has tended to be a highly individualistic pursuit. We drew upon Collaborative Event Ethnography as a method as it uses the same skills familiar to anthropologists (interviews, participation and detailed field notes) but with a team of ethnographers in order to get past an intrinsic problem in the research of ephemeral events: how can one person capture the multiplicity of a one-off event on their own without it being highly subjective and partial?  This being a project funded by TaLIC, the aim of the project was to experiment with this as a method which can draw together teams of teaching/research staff along with students (across BA, MA and PhD levels) to act as both a research method and form of experiential research skills training for students.  It seems (and this is based on the experience of the day – there are still many hurdles left to clear in order to take the research to publication) as both a research and teaching exercise, the event was a huge success.

The Antiques Roadshow production team could not have been more welcoming. They provided us with crew parking (fringe perk – but a nice one), access and information. They were welcoming throughout and if anyone was concerned with the potentially invasive presence of twenty-one anthropologists they hid it very well. Our group split up to cover different areas of the site with some taking their own objects for evaluation (hands-on participant observation that would not be possible for a lone ethnographer without the research becoming limited in scope) while others milled around interviewing, ‘zone marking’ (aimed at producing ‘thick description’) as well as interviewing visitors, crew and Igthham Mote and National Trust staff and volunteers. While analysis is the next step, at present we are in the process of sharing the data gathered by twenty-one researchers and with each of us having put in an 11 hour shift (hats off the production team who do this throughout the summer – it’s a long day) the wealth of data produced through this method is just becoming clear.

As this is a pilot aimed at enhancing everyone’s CVs, the learning has not stopped there. We’ve all just completed our NVivo training and we are now using this software package to start the process of coding our data to establish the themes that arose from the research and to find the evidence we will use to back up anything we argue in publications.  At present, the aim is to produce between two and four publications which provisionally, based on the experience of the day, will be exploring queuing, material culture and contrasting ideas of value, the event itself and the sense of British cultural identity we encountered at the event (there was rain, queues, an England vs Wales football match, Fiona Bruce, tea and cakes by the Women’s Institute – it’s almost impossible not to talk about these things) and perhaps Collaborative Event Ethnography as a method, too.

I could not have asked for a better team – from the second I saw them head off after the crew production and safety meeting and saw them start to instantly mingle I knew we would have data. Now we just need to keep the momentum going to transform it into publications. As and when they happen we will make sure open access versions are made available so that everyone interested can read about our experiences and findings.

Storytelling for film making

Account of a creative learning resource for, devised by Mark Aitken, supported by TaLIC Goldsmiths Teaching Fellowship, awarded 2014-15.


This is a creative learning resource for producing original storytelling for film making. The model is used on the BA Screen Fiction UG courses in Media & Communications and the Goldsmiths’ Short Course, Storytelling for film making.  It is hoped that staff and students alike will make use of this resource for film making, although it may also easily be adapted for other creative endeavours.



Fiction films need scripts. Some scripts are original and some are adapted from books or plays. However, good scripts take time to write and require much skill, practice and patience. It can be notoriously difficult to complete the elusive final draft.

Scriptwriting in a learning environment has its own specifics. Students on production courses seldom have the tools or experience and time to write accomplished scripts. Courses can end before a script is complete. The struggle is at best precarious or even worse, both the student and teacher feel dissatisfied and sense failure.

We all need to feel productive and build confidence.  Of course, making mistakes is the cornerstone of learning but if we are to fail better there are other ways to approach the challenges of developing ideas for film making.  We need to facilitate a foundation to work from that offers a sense of security for both students and teachers.    Ideas, stories and scripts can be derived and developed from studying other films.  Critical analysis of a film can break a story down to its components. These story elements can then be transferred to develop a new idea, story and script.  This transference combines analysis with creative practice. Critical analysis can be viewed as a kind of storytelling. In this context, it is storytelling for film making.


Starting with a full page

The work process consists of introducing completed films to students that may then be remade for their own productions. Producing original work by remaking a film is paradoxically rich with invention and possibility. We are focused on assessment of work (the film) so as to produce more work (student films), i.e: assessment for learning.

The primary outcomes of this practice are as follows:

  • To gain positive critical awareness of how and why a film works.    
  • To introduce an appreciation of universal archetypes in scriptwriting and film making.
  • To gain confidence through the production of coherent work.
  • To appreciate film practice as being inter-related to a much larger ongoing canon of work.


Making a template for creative practice

The arc of the learning model is acknowledged in stages and discussed with students week by week as the course progresses:

  • Selection of film to be remade.
  • Critical analysis of film to be remade.
  • Identification of key elements in the film.
  • Constructing a template of key storytelling elements.

The key elements are everything from characters, location, period, genre, narrative tension – all the ingredients of the film that account for the storytelling. The primary key element being what the film is actually about. What affected you?  The core theme of the film. This should ideally be honed down to one single word.


For the purpose of this account we are going to cite one example of a graduation film made in 2015/16 on the BA Screen Fiction module over two terms. The students viewed a short film called, Adeline for Leaves by Jessica Sarah Rinland. Then they created a new storytelling template derived from critical analysis. For example, Adeline for Leaves features an old man and a girl, a knowledge of history, a theme of time passing. These key elements were transferred to the new work. This transference offered a secure circular mechanism for developing ideas for the new film. The security lying in the opportunity to return to Adeline for Leaves for reference and in turn, gain a greater appreciation of how and why the film works.

The process follows:

  • Initial transference of key storytelling elements.
  • Adding or subtracting of elements.
  • Ownership of new work.
  • Reflection on the creative process.

Student Writer/Director Ella Brolly utilised Adeline for Leaves to derive key elements for her film Automaton. An automaton being a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.

Here is a sample of Ella’s transference of storytelling elements:

Adeline for Leaves                                      Automaton

Theme of life/death Theme of life/death
Adeline (child) Eva (woman)
The old man Eva’s Father
Horticulture         Automata
The circle of life/rebirth in plants and humans The human & machine – capacity to love and connect


Narrative centres around a personal quest The narrative is based upon a relationship


Man’s recordings are addressed to Adeline Father’s recordings are a personal venture

As you can see, changes were made. Over the development period before production, the consequences of these changes sometimes caused difficulty. Ella then returned to Adeline as her reference point so as to learn by example.


Automaton can be viewed here:

PW: goldie


The origin of this research came from a student who was overwhelmed with the task of producing an original screenplay while studying on the film production course. He was offered opportunity to remake an existing film.  Now this model for learning is being used by the course as a whole. The outcome has been extremely positive and productive. Rather than students depending on tutors for answers and solutions, they are empowered to learn via their own critical analysis of films. This analysis and transference of ideas is to all intents and purposes a dialogue with other film makers and offers a sense of inclusivity and a meaningful connection to creative practice beyond the institution.

The process has also assisted reflection on my own teaching practice – we are all learning within a culture of ideas. Critical analysis is of most value when it informs practice. Theory and practice are interdependent and the relationship is circular rather than hierarchical.


Here is a short clip of Writer/Director Ella Brolly reflecting on her creative practice: Ella Brolly interview

Password: Automaton