Good Golly Pedagogy – Session 1 – Idea Generation

On January 17, 2017

Today, we officially kicked off our first planning session towards our PBL module and we certainly hit the ground running. The focus for the day was on idea generation and understanding the kinds of projects students want to do this trimester. We have incorporated multiple tools and techniques in this session which have lead to some great project ideas I hope to share with you in the coming weeks.

Traffic Light Skills Audit

We started the session with a baseline assessment of skills that may be important over this module. Through a simple anonymous questionnaire we asked students to rate their own perceived skill level. From this, we build a skills map where we can identify the strengths and weaknesses of the students as a group. The Skills Audit is a good way of evaluating lots of the skills students should have been working on in their level 4 and 5 studies and can provide the facilitator with a decent insight into what skills could be focused on during the PBL project period. After collecting this info, our class looked something like this…

Skills Audit Result

From this, we identified that the overall class felt comfortable discussing and presenting ideas, were reasonably comfortable with critical thinking and written work, a little less confident with time management and numeracy and a significant number felt they needed to improve their information literacy. For us, this means their ability to source materials, do preliminary research and use the resources appropriately in their own work. This has given us a simple benchmark we can work from when planning future group sessions. We still asked students to keep an eye on their own personal evaluation so they can review this at several points over the module.

Idea Generation

What students do on a technical degree can be quite prescriptive. They often have rigid assignment guidelines throughout taught modules and sometimes their work can become more like a “tick the box” exercise. This can leave both student and lecturer frustrated, especially when good ideas are put aside as they may not fit into the brief. This can become more frustrating when they are suddenly thrust into a major project where they need to curate their own learning and build a large project from scratch for the first time. With a more open PBL approach to meeting learning outcomes, students are able to define their own deliverables and build projects they can be passionate about, and do so at a time in the course where they can try crazy ideas, have failures and make mistakes.

In the idea generation section of the day we began by setting out some basic rules to encourage the class:

  • Defer judgment
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Stay focused on the topic
  • One conversation at a time
  • Be visual
  • Go for quantity

Our first session was built around three components: Skills, Knowledge and Project Deliverables:

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 15.37.31

Each student was asked to add their strongest skills and knowledge to the board. This didn’t necessarily have to be something they were studying on the course, but rather could be a passion or hobby. For example, an audio production student may be a huge fan of UFC and know all about the fighters, the business structure and the YouTube channels.  If it’s a passion, up on the board it goes. If we can twist this into a passion project with an audio focus, the student may be more driven to produce a high quality output. Maybe the student could work on a sonic branding campaign for their local MMA organisation. Or maybe they want to become a specialist in foley and sound design for fight scenes in movies or computer games. It is about bring practice into passion and vice versa.

By the end of the 25min session, the board looked like this…

Ideation Session

No idea too weird…

From this output, we looked for combos. Find a skill, find a knowledge base, match with an output. Some examples included:

  • Sound design + Game of Thrones + podcast = radio drama of a side storyline from GOT
  • Pure Data + comic books + installation = Pd overlay of sound FX onto a physical, interactive comic book
  • Artist management + Oxford music scene + music release = promoting a new artist in the Oxford area

The students were reminded that they should be looking at quantity to begin with and focus on quality later. We found it particularly hard to get students out of their shells and to take risks by suggesting wild ideas. It provided some great feedback for us and showed us how much they can worry about being shot down by their peers or facilitators. We spent extra time getting them to not be as rigid in their final ideas and actually bared them from any boring ideas for at least 10 minutes.

Reference Board

Once students identified potential projects, we then introduced a reference board. The board helps them identify a problem or challenge based around a particular audience. This will go on to inform their research and scope, and also will help them define an authentic audience for exhibiting the work at the end of term.

Reference board for PBL

Round Robin

Students were then asked to huddle in groups of three to share the ideas they came up with. We gave them 5 minutes each and then swapped all the groups after 15 minutes. Eventually all the students had a chance to pitch several basic ideas which helped them further develop the premise as well as give other members fresh ideas. Giving them limited time but high quantities of ideas worked as a natural filter and allowed them to automatically focus on the ideas and points they felt were best.


Poster Walls

Once students had settled on an idea, we began work on a poster wall project. Students are asked to take ownership of a part of the classroom to display their ongoing ideas. It is a living document that will change on a weekly basis and should display the current state of play of a project. We started them out with this design…

Poster Layout  Poster


The posters look a little wild right now, but they will be a living document on the classroom wall. Students are encouraged to keep them up to date and develop them into a finished presentation by the end of term. This will be the first publication of their work and will be on constant display through the term. Not only can this inspire other students around the campus, but it will push each student display their achievements and add a slight sense of competitiveness about their projects.

“7 Questions” Ritual

To ensure the posters and other class members are updated with progress, we have introduced a ritual called 7Qs (7 questions). These are colour coordinated to the poster sections and give them guidance on what they need to address and update. Students will be quizzed at quick fire on their project ideas and will be asked to address these 7 questions:

  • Explain your idea in one sentence
  • Why does this excite you?
  • What are you trying to solve?
  • Who will benefit from this idea?
  • What are your challenges? Tech, skills, time?
  • How will the final project look?
  • How will you exhibit/publish your work?

Session summary

The session allowed the students to engage with project building techniques and begin a path to becoming active practitioners. The cohort, a mix of Audio Production and Music Business students who all have very individual focuses, felt more like a cohesive working group and were actively encouraging wild ideas, running from tool to tool and starting their own research plans with some guidance from us facilitators. We were also able to begin identifying the different learning styles within the group through employing experiential theories like Kolb, Honey and Mumford.  This will be important for curating the projects we will be assigning the students over the next term to bolster their transferable skills. By incorporating simple visual techniques like post-it walls and poster displays, we we able to help students distill lots of ideas quickly, identify resources needed, find and audience and look at the challenges ahead.

A lot of simple tools have come together to form some great project ideas and over the next few sessions we will be using project tuning tools to get those ideas distilled into something focused and meaningful.

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