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Lynne's design narrative cloud: Teaching new undergraduates literature (drama) analysis skills

Cloud created by:

Lynne Dixon
27 March 2013

Title choose an informative and attractive name

Teaching new undergraduates literature (drama) analysis skills


What was your role in the story?

Tutor & discussion facilitator


Describe the physical, social and intentional factors that define the design space. E.g. where and when did this occur? In what kind of space? Who were the key actors, and what were the relations between them? What where the beliefs and desires which shaped their interaction?

The students are level 1 distance learners on the Open University's BA programme. They are halfway through an introductory multi-disciplinary module. The module provides a blend of face-to-face and online tutorial support. This session took the form of a 'live forum' - a two hour synchronous discussion session in the form of posting messages to a closed forum to which students have access throughout the module. The 'live forum' events are designed to be accessible to a larger number of students than the face to face events, since no travel is invoved. The discussion messages are left in place for absentees to read.


What were you trying to achieve? What was your measure of success?

My aim was to introduce these students to the skills required for anlaysing a modern play in terms of its key themes, comparing their ideas and slecting approprite evidence from the play.

The measure of success was twofold: (1) the number of students participating, either actively during the event or passively in the following days; (2) achieving a good standard of work in the assignment assessing their study of this topic.


List the actions you took in chronological order, note their effects – expected and unexpected. Highlight any obstacles you encountered, and explain how you tried to overcome them.

  • 1. Selected an appropriate date & time for the tutorial. It had to take place late enough for students to have begun work on the topic, but early enough for them to apply their learning in the assignment. A two hour evening slot (with option of 'attending' for part of the session only) was chosen, as many students have employment or caring cmmitments during the day.
  • 2. Notified the details to students at the start of the module, with a reminder message permaently displayed in the forum.
  • 3. Drafted three instruction messages for the forum, each containing a separate discussion activity.
  • 4. Posted these messages on a delayed release setting, so that they would be displayed several hours before the live session - not to encourage prepared answers, but to reassure students about the accessible nature of the activity.
  • 5. Day before the tutorial: sent out a group email through the OU messaging system to remind students about the event & encourage attendance.
  • 6. Five minutes before the session: logged into the forum, posted a message to let students know I was there & invited them to announce themselves.
  • 7. Welcomed arrivals individually.
  • 8. Monitored all three discussion threads, acknowledging contributions, responding to queries, & asking follow-up questions to deepen & extend the discussion. This part is as unpredictable as any live learning activity.
  • 9. Towards the end of the two hour slot: summed up the discussions & invited final comments.
  • 10. The following day: posted reflections, drawing out the main learning points & explaining how these might be applied in the assignment.
  • 11. Sent a further group email encouraging those who had not attended to visit the forum & read the messages.


List the expected and unexpected outcomes of your actions. To what degree did you meet your objectives? What additional outcomes did you engender? Provide evidence to back your claims.

One student emailed apologies. Two students read the instruction messages in advance.

One arrived in the forum promptly, but mentioned potential connection problems. She participated fully for over an hour. Another arrived 10 minutes into the tutorial, bypassed the welcome message & began contributing to discussions immediately. Low numbers meant amending some activities 'on the fly'.

Altogether 54 messages were exchanged.

Anticiapted result:  further x students reading the discussion messages over the next few days.

Evidence of learning will not be available until next month when students submit their assignments. Based on previous experiences, it will show that studnets who participated in the activity (whether actively or passively) demonstrate a higher level of analysis skills.

A bonus outcome of last year's event was that several students contacted me to say how much the tutorial had boosted their confidence.


Reflect on your experience. What transferable insights did you gain? 

This experience has made me more aware of prcedural aspects. In future, it might be beneficial to consult students in advance about their preferred time/day. I could also ask them to indicate their intention of taking part; this might lead to a greater sense of commitment to the event. The actual content of the learning activities seems to have worked well, so this will remain unchanged.

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