First SEDA Conference: Reflections of an early career educational developer

This blog is probably more useful for newcomers to SEDA, because those who know SEDA have long understood that the event is relaxed, welcoming, and very useful. Like the areas of activity in an HEA fellowship application, I’ll deal with each of these in turn.

From the opening greetings, the conference organisers created a relaxed, informal atmosphere which put me as a newcomer at ease. Though Dr Mark Glyn’s opening keynote was full of systematically structured and well-supported in content, he delivered his ideas in a similarly relaxed and engaging style. His strategic perspective on educational development was really useful to me in revealing how our work can help bridge between the priorities of various stakeholders in an institution.

The workshop sessions over the next two days managed to maintain this relaxed tone right through to Dr Michele Morgan’s keynote review of challenges in higher education on the morning of day two. It was interesting to note that Dr Morgan shared the same taste in headwear as Dr Glyn. Unfortunately, I had to leave before seeing Dr Phil Race’s keynote on future directions for learning, feedback and assessment, but it seems he’s also in the pointy hat club.

As a relative newcomer to this field I was relieved to find that, much like the Learning Developer conference I attended last April (ALD in HE, Exeter), Educational Developers don’t take themselves or their work too seriously. I had some really interesting discussions about work during breaks and the conference dinner, but also lots of great conversations which definitely weren’t about work. That made the conference experience far more enjoyable than some I’ve experienced while mingling with other academic tribes in their territories.

On top of the relaxed atmosphere, I found the participants to be very friendly and welcoming. A number of long established SEDA folk introduced themselves to me and were interested to learn about my experience of the conference, and to ask for my suggestions or request for future events. The size of the conference was an advantage in this respect, meaning that I could also grab ten minutes to chat with keynote speakers without having to fight through a clique of bigwigs or join a queue of nervy but determined PhD students.

Of course, the main benefit of a good conference is that it’s in some way useful to participants. I attended a really interesting workshop about approaches to reducing the attainment gap via use of collaborative or team-based learning, and was glad to find talks which dealt with technology (for example on use of e-portfolios) which took a measured approach to the technology itself.

The informational talks provided by SEDA regarding fellowship and grant applications were also delivered in an accessible and friendly manner. I was relieved to receive a positive reception for my first attempt at a SEDA workshop – facilitating a workshop for a bunch of education experts is, on the face of it, quite an intimidating experience!

If there was one thing which could be improved it would be the addition of a post conference dinner pub quiz similar to the one I enjoyed at the ALD in HE 2019 event – everyone loves a pub quiz, don’t they? Overall, however, I’d highly recommend a SEDA conference to anyone interested in educational development in HE.

It’s currently just an aspiration, but maybe one day I’ll have the knowledge, experience and gravitas to put on one of those hats with an arrow or pants stuck on top.

Author: Steven White, Arts University Bournemouth

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