‘Walk me through your dissertation’: using urban walks to develop students’ thinking about research
In the Spring of 2020, during Covid-19 restrictions that were prohibitive for in-person teaching, the Learning Development Unit at a research-intensive university sought ways to support postgraduate taught students who had been learning online. Creative Dissertation Walks were in-person, one-to-one tutorials that ran from May to August for students who were undertaking research. These walks enabled students to book an appointment with an experienced researcher to ‘walk and talk’ (Stansfield, 2019) about any aspect of their dissertation. Borrowing methods from dialogic one-to-one tutorials (Boyd & Markarian, 2015; Wingate, 2019) this project focused on the development of students’ articulation about their thinking around their project and enabled experienced researchers to provide feedback about students’ ideas. The walks took place in a park close to campus because green spaces are thought to improve creativity and generate ideas (Oppezzo & Schwartz, 2014; Keinanen, 2015; Leisman et al., 2016;). Walking improves mental health (Roe & Aspinall, 2011) and in conjunction with meeting another member of the university community in-person, students who participated in the walks stated that they thought the walks had improved their wellbeing and the outcome of their dissertation.
This practical session provided delegates with the opportunity to experience how walking and talking can develop thinking and how learning developers might adapt the model for their own context. The session also discussed practical considerations when planning walking one-to-ones and reviewing questioning techniques that lend themselves to an environment that moves beyond the bounded notion of the campus (Leander 2010; Healy et al. 2015).
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