It’s safe to say, teaching and learning changed for many this year and every school at BCU has been tasked with delivering their courses in a COVID-secure environment. Dauvit Alexander, Course Director for HND Jewellery and Silversmithing, reflects on the challenges, and unexpected benefits, his team have encountered in their first semester.
Senior Lecturer in Jewellery and Silversmithing
If I’m being honest, I thought it couldn’t be done. Working with groups of no more than five people and the extra work needed to meet BCU’s pledge of 50% face-to-face teaching would be hard, but we’ve done it. Thanks to my stellar team, Katy Tromans and the new-to-the-School Naomi Clarke, we’ve produced a programme that is working brilliantly and we’ve learned a lot from this experience about how to teach our course. Some of our Level 5 students have even expressed a preference for the new way of working.
It used to be that the HND was delivered in large groups – sometimes up to 34 people – in the workshop and then allowing students to work through projects at their own pace. Today, we teach groups of no more than 12 – 14 students and often as small as 3-5 students. Yes, they are in the workshops for a bit less time than they used to be and, yes, they do have to be more responsible for their own learning, making use of our facility to book unused spaces in the workshops, but they’ve really stepped up to the mark. Even the groups who have had to miss work due to self-isolation have successfully caught up again with their peers.
Some things haven’t changed at all. Traditionally, stone-setting is taught to very small groups and this is still the case, but other things have changed beyond all recognition. A whole team are on board to deliver Level 4 Silversmithing and I’m able to make it a success thanks to serious support from Naomi Clarke, Graduate Teaching Assistant Joe Hill, Artist-in-Residence Giles Kozdon and Visiting Tutor Sam Chilton, our wonderful technical team. Sometimes six different classes are happening simultaneously, meanwhile the Level 5 students are working on their Live Project briefs in other studios or working online from home.
One of the things the School of Jewellery does very well is pastoral support and the increased need for this type of support has become apparent due to the stress and anxiety around our current circumstances. We’ve been working closely with Abigail, our Student Success Advisor, to ensure that everybody has the support they need. It’s been brilliant to witness the way our students are supporting each other and a real community of practice has emerged from the bonding within smaller groups.
Naturally, we all want this to be over and everyone is talking about how they want things to be ‘just like before’. While I concur that this would be pleasant, the reality is that aspects of our course have actually been improved. We’ve been forced to think about our content and delivery, we’ve been forced to work more intelligently around space, time and materials, to think about how to use online delivery efficiently and creatively, and we’re looking forward to taking these innovations into the ‘new normal’.