Moving beyond ‘binge’ vs ‘snack’ writing

Thank you for sharing this–a be gentle to yourself way of approaching academic writing. Or any writing for that matter.

Research Degree Voodoo

‘Binge writing’ is a common term, which I see used globally by people talking about why it’s better to write a small amount every day.

For example, in her series supporting summer academic writers, Kerryanne Rockquemore suggests we should move away from the ‘tough-guy, ignore-your-needs, shut-up-and-write approach’. (Shut Up and Write the writing program is a joke on this idea–actually you get to talk, you get to work with others, you get snacks and breaks, and you get a bit of writing done.) Instead, she suggests:

embracing your needs will help you to develop a support system that will move you from the occasional shame-induced writing binges towards a healthy, consistent, and sustainable daily writing routine.

[Now the series is excellent and I recommend it highly. I previously quoted this section in my original Generative Writing post too, because her bigger point is spot on. I’m just going…

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Academic writing is like a painful, upper middle class dinner party

It’s stifling the forced linearity of it doesn’t help much either.

The Thesis Whisperer

This blog post is part of a series dedicated to developing ideas for a new book I am writing with Shaun Lehmann (@painlessprose on Twitter) and Katherine Firth of the Research Voodoo blog. “Writing Trouble” will be a Swiss army knife of a book, containing range of strategies and tactics for fixing academic writing that is good, but not yet great.

We generated chapter titles from the bad feedback PhD students have told us about over the years. Parts of this post will end up in chapter two: “Your writing doesn’t sound very academic”: how to convince your reader you belong”. The book will be published by Open University Press and will hopefully be out in late 2018. If you’re interested in knowing more about the book before we publish, you can sign up for our writing trouble mailing list.

Although I got reasonable marks for my creative essays…

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Impact Pedagogy–A principle for teaching

A reflection on action.

A couple of weeks back I had a conversation with a friend who is—by trade—a psychologist. Said friend explained that I am an unconscious expert, to help me identify how to talk about the rational and concepts underlying my pedagogical models and approaches. Because I struggled to enable a smooth hand-over of some of the projects. So here is one of the scenarios I tried to dissect:

The case

One day after a workshop in radiography programme, the class-head came to me and asked what I had done to her students. You might remember the post about Balloon academy; part of the assessment for students was to write a personal development exercise. This exercise was only due by the end of the semester. Although, neither me nor the students mentioned that exercise even once in our session, in the following session with their class-head the students cued to ask her how to get started with the exercise. Normally the students would only begin thinking about it two weeks before hand-in.

So what had I actually done?

Reflection on Action

I went back to analyse my learning and teaching strategies, and I know that most of it is based on the principles of creative pedagogy I wrote about on numerous occasions: relevance, ownership, control and innovation. But when I had a closer look at my pedagogical approach, I realised there is another principle I am using every single time in teaching:


This is based on Dewey’s paradigm that everything newly learned should be linked or built onto something the students already know. So creating a real-life context of the principles of the object (object as in a social constructivism), something tangible (like the balloons, or the white cups) and then after the experience of the principles, link it back to subject content. It is effectively: learning in principle, applying in the subject (or object as above). So this is a topic I need to explore further, as it links into a variety of learning theories, to bring myself back onto a conscious level.

Lernen im Prinzip—Anwenden im Gegenstand



Safe space for Failure

Triadic Reciprocal Causation

I forgot to publish this so this is still a work in progress, and for various reasons I cannot go into detail. However, I hope it still makes some sense. The last project in my old role:

Discussions about resilience of students and the rise of mental health issues have been on the agenda for some years now. When I was approached to develop a concept for students who were permitted to repeat a year and hopefully get back onto an honours track degree route, I began to search for a model that would scaffold my pedagogy. Considering that my credo is to help our students to help themselves, and I seek to find strategies that are easy to ‘take away’ and adapt to their needs, as well as impacting across and beyond the students’ life cycle, I did not want a deficit model.

‘So back to basics.’; I thought. And one sunny Sunday afternoon—in the park with my coffee and pastries (hey this is important background information for creating a successful work environment)—I read for the first time in a decade a textbook again. It’s been a long time since I engaged with social and developmental psychology, was happy to find—or rediscover—a model created by one of my all-time-favourites: Bandura … the triadic reciprocal causation.

This model considers: personal characteristics, behaviour patterns, and environmental factors.

adapted from Snowman, McCown & Biehler (2009)

I particularly like that there is an emphasis on meta-cognitive knowledge, highlighting the importance of analysing, planning and monitoring ones behaviour. This affords the learner agency of the learning process and initiates control and ownership of this learning process. Incidentally, some of the attributes of creative learning and teaching (Jeffrey & Woods, 2009) I used during my postgraduate research.

During my time working with students in the School of Health and Life Sciences (Glasgow Caledonian University) I had the impression that students who engage in regular reflective writing activities, displayed much stronger academic practice (criticality, writing style, analysis) than students who did not engage in reflective writing activities. There is a limited body of research supporting this experience. I coached the students through the writing process, which took one, one-to-one meeting, and then reading and commenting on their scripts. There were only a couple of students I had to call in for a second meeting. The importance for the goal setting part of the reflective writing was to set skill-based goals rather than task-based goals.
So for instance, if a student would write: I am going to attend every lecture. You, and I, and the student knows this is not going to happen. A skill-based goal would be, I will obtain notes from all lectures, and identify questions to either ask in tutorials, labs, or my peers to help me understand the subject matter. This also introduced elements of self-observation and -evaluation.

The next point I thought would be significant in my approach was how students develop their concept of self-efficacy, and what I could do to have a positive impact on this perception. Self-efficacy is a crucial part of learner identities, and I used this to measure the development of the students’ progress throughout the year. More details will follow after the final analysis but so far there seems to have been a positive impact from this approach. So much so that talks have been given as various college committees to see if this could be translated and scaled up to different cohorts. The social and physical environment: was addressed by setting up institutional structures and processes, as well as strong communication from senior academics in the school, as well as introducing peer-coaching to create an environment of support.

Blooming Taxonomies


Catching up and refreshing my knowledge about all kinds of educational theory and research–it was inevitable to stumble across Bloom’s Taxonomy again–The University of Iowa ‘s CELT has developed a really nice model. I am still not convinced. But I am supposed to teach it.

So how do you teach something that you consider at best not functional and worst inhibiting and restricting learning and teaching experiences, if not causing damage to both?

The most interesting and challenging part of my work in education is the quest to understand, how we make sense of the world. How does this thinking thing work? Why do some learning strategies work for one student but not another? How do non-neurotypical learners compensate, and sometimes outperform neuro-typical learners?

Learning is identity-negotiation; it is a personal, social, and cognitive process. Learning constantly challenges our place in the world. What we know. How we form our interaction with the environment (social, physical, virtual). Cognition and neurosciences (e.i.: Neisser, 2014, Schäfer, 2005Marcel, 1983) have highlighted that even a simple act of perception is already an interpretation process of the brain. So identifying primary colours is much more than a simple ‘retrieval from long-term memory’ (CETL, 2012as implied in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

What pops into your mind when I say yellow?

The smell of lemon meringue pie, maybe? The texture of lemons? The sun? As drawn by little kids, with timber like beams? A dress your mom wore when young? A rubber ducky? The humongous rubber duck making the round on social media? A company logo? Horrible teeth? Autumn leaves? As we identify yellow, our brain allocates it within associative networks. We already learned that about 18 years ago in educational psychology. [For a really interesting history on neuronal networks check out this paper: Buckner & Krienen, 2013] So I am already stumbling over the very first lowest stepping stone of Bloom’s revised Taxonomy. Because effectively nothing is ‘just’ remembering.

And then of course is the problem of differentiation in vocabulary. Claudia Stanny has gone through some considerable lengths to identify if various institutions actually agree on the verbs (which was the first hurdle she encountered not everyone actually used verbs) and if these verbs then are assigned by different institutions to the same categories. It is almost needless to say: they were not. Surprisingly she found that a majority of verbs were all assigned to the same category. Language is context- and culture-dependent. Would a physicist writing learning objectives define ‘analysis’ the same as a sociologist? Would a bilingual academic?

I have not yet found–so please if you have, post the link into the comments–any research that actually maps cognitive processes to the various verbs, after establishing a strict definition to their meaning, and then links this to real life learning. The Taxonomy is a construct based on knowledge of cognition sciences in the 50s (yes, it was updated but the principles pretty much remained the same). It might be useful to develop an understanding of various forms of thinking, for someone who has not yet engaged with the topic.


Learning does not work in a linear way. Depending on what you are teaching you might want to start with creating. A learner might easily jump straight into so called higher level thinking based on prior experiences. If learning content is not relevant to the learner, e.i.: the learners experiences, their lives, their realities, they might not engage. Then what do you do? Their lack of understanding is not based on the lack of remembering.

So are you trying to keep them going through memory exercises over and over again? This will not actually bring the learner onto the proposed next level, which seems to be implied in the structure of this taxonomy.  It is in this regard a deficit model. If I go strictly by a linear progression model, in terms of asking the learner to prove each of the stages, I might find my learners are not able to provide evidence of each of the levels. I might also become discouraged because a learner who in one task displayed higher level skills, suddenly is back to basics, in a different task covering the same knowledge.

The heuristic spiral of learning, the character of learning as three steps ahead and two steps back, with a little side tap and a twirl, the importance of relevance and context of all learning content all of these are not shown in the model. I do not think any model can actually show this. I tried really hard during my PhD and was told that I came up with a fairly eclectic theoretical model, but this is the nature of trying to understand learning.

The fallacy is maybe not so much in Bloom’s Taxonomy itself–it can be a useful framework to scaffold assessments (and I am not going into performative cultures here), but more in the assumption that using it, provides a comprehensive overview and an applicable way of structuring learning. The fallacy is in an axoimatic way of teaching the model to aspiring teachers, in an almost dogmatic way of this is how we expect you to plan your learning and teaching activities.

Any learning model–particularly linear ones–cannot be but reductionist, over-simplified, and thus flawed from get go. To develop a functioning model that includes all aspects of learning: psychological, cognitive, personal, emotional, cultural, and social is near to impossible. So maybe a more differentiated approach to teaching this model is a way for engagement.

11 ADD (ADHD) Frustrations

With Heart, Mind, and Soul

1 Spills

When you covered half the house in towels to dye your hair
And the dye finds 10 uncovered square inches to drip onto and stain for ever

Why can I not just be clean and tidy? It’s not that difficult! Come on.

2 Bruises

When you ram full force into the edge of a wooden bench adding to innumerable bruises on your legs

Why did I not see that? What’s the problem with me?

3 Time

When you don’t know why it took you 1,5 hours to walk half a mile and what happened.

By the way: time–what’s all that about anyway?!

When you check your watch every two minutes on the way to an important meeting and arrive half an hour early.

This is just embarrassing.

4 Forgetting

When you just forget TICK to moisturize, check your emails, that apple in your bag, where your coffee cup…

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Forgetting to check Outlook Sub-Folders

This semester is all about keeping head above water with better organization strategies–and this not just for my students. So last semester I thought: ‘If I set up more rules for incoming messages I will have better control of the onslaught of information coming through each day.’

So Happy Dance for

Outlook Rules

My colleague explains how to set them up. In case you are a bit of a technophobe.

Nice thought … if you actually check them!

Now setting up rules is easy–remembering to check them when your brain runs on the attention span of a squirrel that ate fermented berries (long story it was before the time of smart phones) is not.

But I found really easy instruction on how to do this

Direct Link Folders in Outlook to Desktop

The only problem I had was the last step. It all worked fine until ‘Inbox’ but it would not take the actual sub-folder. So I renamed the sub-folder into a one-word term and it worked.

Once it is set up you can rename the folder into anything you find useful. Thank you provider of the information: Hail to thy helpfulness!