Trip Start May 04, 2007
16Trip End May 21, 2007
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The Queen's Hotel is right across the street from the Lansdowne location. Lawrence explained that usually the college holds events like this on their own campus but this time of year the large halls are used for students who sit for exams. It's very much like Harry Potter movies where the all students from the same grade come together to sit in one large room and take their exams.
We were met by Robin (didn't catch his last name) who is Head of Student Support (counseling team, financial team, student events team). He explained the Student Feedback Conference is held annually and is an opportunity for the student union reps (student elected spokesperson for each tutor group) to come and give "very brutal feedback" on different aspects of the college to see where the college can make improvements. The students would be split into 6 groups and the groups would take turns going to different round table discussions... each with their own topic. The last group was titled Home and Away and Matt, Tory, and myself would facilitate this round-table discussion. We would have the opportunity to ask questions to each student group and in return they could ask questions of us about college life in the states or particularly Houston.
Some of the questions we asked the groups were about personal tutors and how they perceived the benefits or experience with their tutors. Many groups saw their personal tutors as their friends some some event referred to them as their surrogate mom or dad. The tutor groups meet with students once a week as a group or they could meet individually in a smaller group of about 3 for about 15 minutes. The tutor groups are the same students throughout a 1 year course. Some students had the same tutor groups throughout their second year as well but not always. One student group said that they didn't bond with every teacher and they felt it depended on the nature of the course. For example the students in the Business track didn't have a bond with their tutor (who was also a Business lecturer) but they didn't feel like they were missing out. It was discussed that some disciplines aren't as open as others and it all depended on the nature and personality of the student and tutor. This group did say that if they had a problem or concern that was personal in nature (family, relationship, stress, etc) they would first talk to their friends and then perhaps go to a counselor. Other students said the relationship with their personal tutors was established very quickly. One group seemed to have an issue with the availability of their tutor. This was an interesting group because most of the students had the same tutor and therefore were a tutor group. These students didn't just meet the one hour as a tutor group but had become friends outside of class.
We also asked each group if they worked in addition to taking classes. A large percent of the students did work. Those who didn't were in Year 3 and very focused with finishing and heading to the university. Many students worked evenings and weekends and had to work in order to afford transportation to campus... others to pay rent. It didn't seem that any of them worked to have some extra spending money. They worked out of necessity and all their money went to "staying in college".
When asked why they chose B&P College the answers were location and therefore cheap transportation, word of mouth about how good the courses were, x-students spoke at their secondary schools and talked about their good experience, variety of courses, difference in the general attitude of how the students were perceived, and of course some boys said it was because there was loads of girls. (LOL)
We asked them to give us an estimate of how much time they spent on course work outside of their campus hours. "None" was the overall answer. One Year 3 student said maybe 1 hour a week The students do all their course work on campus during the scheduled time of class. If they do not complete their work they can continue the next day, stay late, or ask the tutor or lecturer to let them come into the class and finish at another time. Basically when they leave campus they leave everything behind. Some said they stayed on campus a bit longer and surfed the internet in the Open Access areas until it was time to catch their bus or train home.
We asked about safety on campus. We have seen several posters and flyers about bullying and respect (respecting the tutors and the lecturers) therefore wondered is there was a issue on campus. All the students in the different groups said they felt very safe on campus. Some mentioned issues of vandalism such as broken windows and punched in doors when we asked about bullying. Perhaps the word "bullying" is perceived as more than just personal harassment. Along those lines some students stated they had several issues with bullying in secondary school but coming to college they felt they were able to be themselves without worry of retaliation. I got the impression that in primary and secondary school it was a real problem.
Between the different discussions there was a lunch break where all the students were treated to a light lunch at the hotel. After lunch there was a presentation on the new Nintendo Wii which apparently just became available in the UK.
I had a chance to talk further with some of the students during this intermission, several foreign students in fact. They asked a lot of questions which usually started with "Is it like in the movies...". I'm afraid I stomped on some loved myths about college life in America but they bounced back and asked what "majoring in" meant at the university. Many students plan to immigrate to another country for higher education or after they complete their degrees.
After the conference Les Lees picked us up and took us to drive around the town of Poole. The property in Poole is extremely expensive and some of the houses are rather large. Apparently this is where movie stars and football managers live. Kind of the Hollywood of southern England. Some of the homes go for 8-9 million pounds (now double that for dollars) and the houses are mansion size like us westerners would expect. They are large, don't get me wrong... just not like what we see in the tabloids of where some of our rich and famous live. During World War II, Poole was thought to be a prime area for invasion because of the harbor. Below is an excerpt about Poole.
" As the town climbed out of the austerity of the war years it became apparent that if Poole was to recover radical action would have to be taken. Housing, schools, roads and just about all the services needed to run a modern town were lacking or sadly run down, not least here in the Old Town of Poole, which was in a sorry state. Many of the houses were derelict or unfit for occupation, some inhabited by vagrants or left to rot. Consequently the people who were left gradually moved out. Poole is famed for its large natural harbor, and is one of the main centers of sailing in England. Poole Harbor (said to be the second largest natural harbor in the world after Sydney, Australia) has been a working port for many hundreds of years, though the port has declined somewhat as the shallow water cannot take the largest ships. Today the port is amongst other things the home of Sunseeker, manufacturers of luxury yachts, and the departure point for ferries (Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries) to France and the Channel Islands. The quayside and harbor was the place from which some ships departed for the D-Day landings of World War II. There is currently a plan to expand the port and enlarge the capacity and facilities so that larger ships, even cruise ships can dock in Poole. This is all part of the rejuvenation of the town, alongside many new developments and amenities including the new bridge which will be going into erection stages in the near future."
We then went to the North Rd. location for a quick tour. In particular he took us to the Study Gallery which was a partnership with the Poole Arts Council. It's a 3 story section of a building with the lobby extending all the way to the 3rd floor. The first floor is a store where artwork is sold such as student made jewelry and ceramics. The second floor is used for class lecture or other types of guest speakers, and the third floor is a separate permanent gallery area with Macs for students to get some independent reflection of art. Apparently a previous Principle (headmaster of sorts) started purchasing art himself for the college and the collection was never displayed but shoved off in a closest. When it was discovered later by an Arts lecturer there was an Epstein sculpture among many other well known pieces. The original concept of permanent art collect was extended to the gallery for independent reflection. At 4:15pm I was scheduled to give a presentation on online Environments and to demo a bit of the features of WebCT to the Art & Design lecturers (drama, music, studio art, graphic design, drafting). I gave a quick presentation (30 minutes or so) where I talked about the benefits of using an online environment to promote student engagement and success as well as creating curriculum management for the instructor. This was a dry run of the larger presentation I'm doing on Friday to all the Academy Directors, Vice Principles, and Principle.
We left the North Rd. location and popped in to have an extremely quick tour of Lower Constitution Hill which is the site for the music and drama courses. One of the buildings was an old chapel. The site is very secluded and we were told that when the new build of the Lansdowne and North Rd. are done they will sell the Lower Constitution Hill site to help pay for the build (the site is in Poole and it's prime property, will over a million pounds for it and it's a very small site).
We left Lower Constitution Hill and Les Lees took us to his house for dinner with him and his wife, Stella. Stella works at Bournemouth University which isn't far from the Lansdowne location. We had a lovely dinner of Zanzibar Chicken, green beans and leeks, roast potatoes, and carrots. The chicken was fantastic. We talked for quite awhile after dinner about our different college structures and then had some "pudding" of fresh fruit with cream.
Tomorrow is our day with our independent curriculum buddies. I'm looking forward to seeing more the creative industries at North Rd.
Where I stayed