Impact – An Assist

A while ago I was in the country music hall of fame, as one is, and I came across this story.  On the wall in a frame, written on a paper napkin (UK = serviette) were the lyrics to the song ‘Me and Bobby Mcgee’.  The exposition about the napkin said, something like, Kris Kristopherson walked into a bar (ouch! – Tommy Cooper) and sat next to someone who asked him, “How do you write songs, where do the ideas come from?”  Kris says something along the lines of “they just come, no idea how or why.” So, the person says, “could you write a song if I gave you a title?”  “Sure, I’ll give it a go.”  And the title was …

I have also recently noticed that in football the person who supplies the ball to the goal-scorer now gets a recorded ‘assist’.  I support this as part of metrics of football, a way of figuring out the ‘Moneyball’ worth of a player.

Today I have just taught/facilitated a whole day session for the final module of a PGCLTHE – the negotiated study.  During this session, I found myself recommending a paper for students to read that I had a tiny hand in assisting into print.  The work was ‘The Story of Samantha’ (Wilkinson, 2018) and I know I had an ‘assist’ in its development, as it stemmed from a negotiated project idea within a PGCLTHE.

This led me to thinking why is it that I feel most proud of the work that I did not write but had a hand in development.  In the class today, I sought to inspire the participants into defining creative projects that will challenge and develop their teaching.  I hope some will be of publishable quality, as Sam’s was.

On the same day, prior to teaching, I had a conversation with a colleague who is part way through a doctorate.  I related to them that I had found the graduation of a doctoral supervisee to be much more rewarding than gaining my own doctorate.  This feeling may be founded on having some distance from my own graduation and on what opportunities I think the qualification has afforded.  However, it is also perhaps a proudness about an assisting role in someone’s education and achievement.

Can I as an academic developer develop a case for my own worth based on ‘assists’?  I think that the ripples outwards of our role and what assists we provide is a key ‘impact’.

So now, you have just gone into a bar and sat next to Bob Dylan and suggested – “Dude, why don’t you write a song called ‘Forever Young’”.  Imagine that as an impact assist.

Reference: Wilkinson, S. (2018). The story of Samantha: the teaching performances and inauthenticities of an early career human geography lecturer. Higher Education Research & Development, 1-13.

Dr Peter Gossman
Course Leader Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Principal Lecturer, Institute of Education, University of Worcester

Peter has worked in a range of FE and HE institutions in the UK and NZ in both Education and Academic Development roles, initially at Lincoln University just four songs south of Christchurch on the South Island. He has worked on a large NZ project investigating the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as well as publishing on a variety of subjects, particularly in relation to ‘good’ teaching and conceptions of teaching and he has published in a range of academic journals.

5 thoughts on “Impact – An Assist

  1. Dear Peter
    I think you have hit the nail on the head . . . identifying both the blessing and the curse of being an educator, and more specifically an educator of educators. . . . Those of us who work / have worked in academic and educational development gain great pride and satisfaction from these assists, and recognise the value of a welll timed intervention, a listening ear, a nudge in the right direction, an objective ‘have you thought about trying . . .’ peer observation comment.

    We, furthermore, are inherently well behaved and don’t shout about what we do in a way that would overshadow the recipient of our collective wisdom. And therein lies the root of the curse . . . .our units, collectively, and each of us individually, are regularly asked to demonstrate our worth, our value, our raison d’être, in metrics, or concrete outputs, and not unreasonably struggle. We do have great impact but unfortunately university metrics do not currently, in the TEF, REF or in staff evaluation, count assists.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the blog, Peter, and the reminder to avoid the sharp corners of a bar.
    Your piece brings two things to mind.
    I watched an intriguing film on Netflix last evening. Called the “Leisure Seekers”, it deals with an elderly American couple escaping memory loss and terminal cancer by taking one last fling in their creaky “Winnebago” (caravan). Never mind that the distinguished retired Yankee Professor was played by one of Canada’s finest actors in Donald Sutherland and that his loving ‘Southern Belle’ spouse was played by one of the UK’s finest in Helen Miren, the song “Bobby McGee” was a veritable theme song for the film and very powerful. I conclude that this song, with the unusual history involving ‘an assist’, endures.
    I am revising, with colleagues, an article dealing with our sense of accomplishment as facilitators of day-long pre-conference workshops we have offered annually for more than a decade. Rather than focus on, this time around, the feedback and positive evaluations offered by the particioants, we as facilitators analyzed our own reflections as workshop leaders. We concluded, essentially, that these outdoor experiential workshops were educational development/professional development for us as well as the participants. Part of our sense of satisfaction in reflecting on our role was definitely the ‘assist’. The process of ‘assisting’ others brings a refreshing sense of professional pride, re-enforces our work, revitalizes.
    And, in conclusion:
    In “Leisure Seekers”, the long-retired Professor Spencer astonishes his wife, Ella, when he encounters and recognizes a student he had taught in 1993, remembering her name and other details the same day he was challenged to remember the names of his own adult children. The smile on the good Professor Spencer’s face suggested he was very proud of his “assists” over a long and fulfilling career.
    Alan Wright

    Liked by 1 person

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