Category Archives: College Development Network

Prison Learning – What’s the Point? Labels, Stigma and Hope

On 11th June the creative writing and drama students from Glenochil Prison Learning Centre hosted a creative conversation as part of College Development Network’s The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas.

This was the culmination of a six week drama/Scottish Studies project in which students explored aspects of labeling and learning in Scotland through drama and writing processes.

The students performed a powerful piece of theatre and then hosted five separate conversations, based on topics of particular relevance to them in an open space format.

The aim of the final creative conversation was to be able to explore a range of crucial questions in a creative and innovative way with a range of participants from within and out-with the prison.

Questions included:

  • Are labels self-fulfilling?
  • When are labels useful, needed or important?
  • Positive learning in prison vs negative/sensationalist labels in the media
  • Is personal growth as important as gaining qualifications in learning?
  • Prisons learning and progression – how to progress on release with an offender label.

Following the event students wrote up their findings and identified areas that could be developed further by themselves, the Learning Centre or other parties.

Who was involved?

The project was delivered by New College Lanarkshire, Glenochil Prison Learning Centre and Scottish Prison Service.

Participants included students: fellow prisoners, prison learning manager, prison psychologist, prison chaplain, offender outcomes manager, lecturers from other prisons, artists, criminal justice researcher and Business Gateway representative.

What core skills were developed?

Students developed questions for the final event through performance, presentation, drama, reflection and writing processes.

The final performance/conversation event required all participants to challenge preconceptions, raise questions and explore potential solutions to problems with open and enquiring minds.

Performers had to be prepared for potential hostility from an audience who may have very different ideas/experiences to their own; they had to develop strategies to facilitate conversations that may include points of view they might disagree with. Likewise, guest participants had to be open to the lived experiences and emotions of the performers as well as to views they may disagree with.

According to participant feedback and learner reflections, the following characteristics were developed:

  • Motivated and ambitious for change for the better, including in their own capabilities
  • Confident in the validity of their own viewpoint
  • Able to apply creative processes to other situations
  • Able to lead and work well with others

What impacts did the project have?

The project has had the following impacts on participants, students and staff:

  • More engaged learners
  • More understanding and support for this kind of work within the prison
  • Expressions of interest in future collaborations across agencies both within and outwith the prison – eg. learners suggested a similar event could be held with trainee social workers
  • Staff learned not to be scared to do new things, to contextualize work appropriately and to ask for support when necessary

An unexpected outcome was that prison staff from other departments engaged positively with the whole project, enhancing processes across the board.

You can contact College Development Network here:

01786  892 000

Inside a Kelpie – the finale to the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas

The finale of the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas was held on June 19th inside one of the iconic Kelpies. It brought together over 100 people who had hosted and attended preceding events during the Emporium. Participants congregated at Helix Park and took part in a range of dangerous conversations en route to the Kelpies. Conversations were hosted by people who had facilitated events during the Emporium, giving participants an opportunity to catch up on anything they may have missed. Once inside the Kelpie, the Emporium was reviewed and the key themes of changing perspectives, risk and failure were explored.

The key reason for hosting the event inside a Kelpie was to raise awareness of perspectives, and how we may restrict ourselves by only viewing something (The Kelpies or education for example) from a particular standpoint. By exploring a Kelpie from the inside we were challenged to consider the different components through all of our senses, thereby changing our understanding and perspective. We were also able to consider the role and experience of failure by reflecting on events that didn’t go to plan or achieve the outcome that was hoped for.

An event like this has never been held before and it required a great deal of partnership work and creative thinking on behalf of the organisers, College Development Network, and their partner education and arts organizations. It provided a model for others in risk taking, celebrating failure and success and providing opportunities for participants to experience a change in perspective.

Throughout the event participants were actively encouraged to think differently, to reflect on their preconceptions and to imagine the possibilities of a change in their thinking and perspectives.

From feedback there would appear to be a willingness to take more risks and an acceptance that failure is an important part of learning.

“ Took away many thoughts…creativity is not hierarchial, always put ideas into practice regardless of expectation to fail, ….we need leadership which allows us to take proper risks if we never fail, we never know the real way to go push boundaries”. Event participant

One of the key things learned from this event was that participants expect us not just to talk about creativity and innovation in learning and teaching but to take risks, model different approaches and share experiences of failure.

Is Education Killing Creativity and Enterprise?

College Development Network event as part of the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas

This key event of the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas, June 2014, highlighted creative approaches to curriculum delivery and enterprising approaches to learning and teaching.  In the morning sessions presenters, including Skills Development Scotland and the RSA, gave a national and international  overview of employability and enterprise while Dundee and Angus College and Team Academy explained how their approaches to curriculum delivery were radically different, and how they helped develop creativity, enterprise and employability skills in learners. In the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to take part in an enterprise activity facilitated by Team Academy teampreneurs illustrating how teaching can be done without a classroom or timetable and can be very much student focused. Participants then had the opportunity to indicate areas they were interested in taking forward realizing the potential for more innovative approaches to schools-college partnerships and delivery of a range of curriculum areas.

This event built on the success of the Creativity and Employability event for strategic partners of Scotland’s Creative Learning Plan, organised by Creative Scotland in May. It aimed to encourage practitioners to consider how they could develop a more creative and enterprising approach to learning and teaching and curriculum design within a wider European and Scottish context.

The event was organised by College Development Network in partnership with SDS, RSA and Team Academy and was attended by practitioners from schools, colleges and universities as well as partner organisations.

The event gave participants the opportunity to consider how they could radically change their curriculum design and delivery. By being actively involved in an enterprising workshop activity staff could realize the potential for teaching in a very different way, that could potentially lead to lessening the restrictions of the timetable.

Participants were encouraged to consider their enterprise and creativity skills and how they could use these more effectively in their work setting. They pitched extremely imaginative ideas for education businesses which would solve some of the current timetabling and resourcing issues impacting on education across all sectors.

As a result of the event, participants have agreed to work on some SQA units over the summer to see if it is possible to offer a curriculum that is more enterprising and creative.

TES article:

Ripping up The Timetable

Enterprising Education in Dundee and Angus College

Dundee and Angus College identified partnership opportunities with local micro and SME’s who offer real work projects to HND Interactive Media students. The teaching and curriculum adapted to meet the demands of real work and the knowledge and skill requirements of students, rather than the other way around. Peer learning became an integral part of the course as students taught each other and relied less on traditional teaching methods and the theoretical elements of the course were taught through a webinar system in the early evening to suit students’ preferences.

Challenging normal practices

The project sought to change the current learning environment and culture to reflect existing work practices and to deliver training and skills which meet the technical demands required by today’s creative industry sector. Working with Dundee Heritage Trust as a key partner the work not only had an impact on the teaching staff and learners but also delivered benefits to the clients and partners involved.

Learners took responsibility for their own learning and influencing the content for the curriculum. The standard of work produced was very high and motivation in learners is now higher than it was prior to implementing the project’s approach.

The project was innovative because it didn’t follow the curriculum timetable, adopting instead an integrated project approach to delivering the course. In a change to normal practices it was necessary to set up a project office to cater for quick turnaround of projects.

Developing creativity skills

Learners were encouraged to develop their creativity skills through hands-on problem solving, investigating and reviewing possible solutions, communicating, often complex, ideas to peer groups and clients. Similarly staff had to take a very flexible, open-minded, and at times reactive, approach to teaching and learning which has led to their work in other areas being more varied and interesting.

Learners demonstrated confidence in their own views and abilities, and in working well with others, by giving tutorials and supporting their peer group. They were able to apply their creativity skills to different settings and were more confident in carrying out other projects.

This case study was presented as part of the final day (April 2014) of the College Development Network’s Emerging Leaders Course, as a potential model of intra-preneurial education that could be rolled out across the college and the college sector.

For further information contact Fiona Muhsin at Dundee and Angus College  –