This is a transcript of the podcast interview of Judith Morgane, included in the Managing Expectations article on this website.
(Podcast length: 9 minutes)
Judith: I think this is, this is exactly what would have helped me with managing this project. So I didn’t necessarily have any idea of what I’m involved in, and it wasn’t necessarily clear who was going to lead on the project. It wasn’t even entirely clear what the students are going to do. So all of these things were sort of like we developed them as we went along.
I think we did it for the first time – everyone did this for the first time; nobody had students involved in this way before. So it was very much trial and error and some things worked really well and other things didn’t. And obviously expectations changed as we sort of went along with all of it. And there were quite a few things where it was like “Oh, I didn’t realize that, really. Oh, how are we going to do that sort of way, a few moments? My customers said, well, that’s completely different from what I, you know, what we initially talked about because the project had developed in a different direction. And I think it can be expected of a community partner to be prepared for that, to be prepared for a bit of give. I think you need that.
You need to realize that the project develops as you go along, but I also think there needs to be a framework within which you keep the project. Otherwise it’s just sort of like it, you know, it sort of starts to go off into all kinds of directions and that might make it difficult to bring it back together. I think that’s the, that’s, that’s one of the things that when I look at the, your, your list, it’s managing the expectations.
Absolutely. And making clear where the responsibilities for different things lie: So this is what the student does. This is what the community partner does. That’s what the university, the academics, the professors contribute. This is the person that holds all the information and holds the project together.
So once these things are clear, generally, it’s easy to work together and these are some of the difficulties we experienced. So when I look at your list of, okay, these were some of the challenges like yeah, quite, yes. Our challenges too. I think.
Interviewer: Of course, every engaged learning project is in a way unique, you know, that there’s always something unique, but there must be something in common. So this is just a start and with the CaST team in Malaga, we discussed possibility of this website gradually evolving and not just being a forgotten website and an outcome of once again, you know, finished EU projects. You know, there are lots of them, but we’re hoping that it would gradually evolve into a sort of wealth of information. For all kinds of people who are engaged, involved in these projects, so this is what we’re trying to do.
Judith: Yes, absolutely.
Interviewer: Is there something, anything you might want to add to the list, anything that you were hoping to find?
Judith: Well, it was interesting when you said that some of the students’ output was a bit flimsy. And I find the same; that obviously, … so we had five students. And some of them were spot on in what they delivered. And others were not. And I wonder if… So I’ve done various different projects with university. And with the last one I did before Hidden Exeter, I was part of the interviewing process. So I had a voice in choosing which students I, as a community partner, thought the right student for this particular project.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you get it right because you know, somebody might interview amazingly well and then not be the right person for the team that you have at the end. So that’s just, you know – any interview for any position is like that. But at least, you know, you sort of feel that you’ve, you’ve had a chance to speak to people and, you know, you ask them the questions and they come back with some sort of answer that will hopefully give you an idea of this might work, or maybe they have expectations that we can’t fulfil because they, … say, you know, the students also have expectations. So when we say “managing expectations”, it’s not just the university and the community partners, but it’s also the students. Because a lot of students would just simply have to tick a box to say, okay, tick box. I need to do this to, you know, to finish this degree. I need to tick this box because I need work experience; and it would look good on my CV; whatever else it might be. But then a lot of students will also want to do this specifically because they know I, the job I want, is exactly this particular project that will, it will give me the experience I need. So afterwards I’ll have, you know, I’ll know so much more, and I’ll be so much better… or I want to work with this organization. I want to work with the people. There are different reasons for, you know, why students would come to the priory and join us for a project, but then the more they know about what we do and what we can offer, the better the fit will be later on in the team, I find.
So one of the students we found in a previous project, she’s been part of a previous project, and then she came again for others. So she just sort of stayed with us because she realized it’s – not as a university project, as a volunteer –because she realized that’s the right kind of thing for her to do. That’s her path. And that’s sort of what you want.
You want students to continue to be part of your organisation. And I think this is one of the questions. So it’s what comes after, and for us, if the students who come, bond to continue to contribute to what we do, then we’ve achieved our goal. We haven’t just given them the experience of the project, but we’ve also made them part of what we try to do.
Is it, you know, as an events venue, a community building with well, being a heritage building almost a thousand years old, it’s very important to have people from lots of different walks of life, you know, to be part of that. So if they stay that’s great, that’s what you want out of it.
Sometimes that works because people manage to stay in the vicinity and some people will just move away because they’re done with university, go off, but some will come back. So the latest – what I would like to call a success with them – student internships, one of them came back from London for a specific event because they wanted to be part of it.
They had contributed to some part of it and said, well, we’re going to come back. We want to be there. We want to see how it works, with the public. We want to speak to people about what we’ve contributed, not just say, oh yeah, we are done, tick, we’ve done our bit and off we go to do something new. So it’s those relationships that are important, I think. And I think maybe that’s also something that can be looked into. How can you keep those relationships alive?
This is another thing: it’s important for community partners to have some sort of idea of what, you know, engaged learning means. And then what theories are behind that. So I think if, if there is a platform with – okay, so there’s this paper available and then I dunno, some country they’ve done this, and then that’s me, but people in the academic world will know about this. And then they can say: “Oh here’s a link, look at that.” And then we can all dip into that very rich resource. So if everyone contributes a bit of what they hear and, and read, then, you know, this is going to grow into a huge corpus of information.
I would also like to be part of the pre-project as well, the pre-production of the whole thing, where we set up the book, and set out the parameters of how we work together, and what’s expected, and who’s doing what. I think that is the learning that I take away from the last project – that I think it needs to be clear who’s doing what, who’s responsible, how far there’s, you know, what, what can we expect of the student? How much responsibility can we put on the student. And then of course, because it was paid internships, there were limits to the hours that the students had available to do this – equally difficult because you need to manage time.
And in many ways you need to help them manage that time. And that will depend on, you know, some students are very quick and can produce lots of work in very little time. Other students will take a lot longer, so… And all of this needs to be accommodated. So it needs, it’s almost like it, it needs to, it needs to have two, two people who – one who knows the student side of things, and one person who oversees the rest of the project and holds it all together. So there needs to be an admin function, almost like a coordinator type person. And we didn’t really have that. We had a few people who were doing this, but nobody really, that was officially in charge.
And I think that it might have helped a lot… it will help, you know, next time around. What we’ll need to know is like “this is the person”, and once they’ve said “yes”, we’ll go ahead. And not “Oh yeah, well, go and discuss.” Because “you go and discuss” usually means three weeks later there is still no decision. Another thing we’ve learnt.
I mean, this works. And I mean, of course the student will wait for the professor or the community partner to, to say something – because, maybe the students have, you know, we haven’t given them the choice to say, well, this is what we choose to do. And that’s how we move forward because maybe there wasn’t a fit.
So I think that’s the sort of thing that needs to be discussed beforehand; before you bring the students on board, I think. It’s interesting to hear when things don’t work, because that’s really where the learning happens. If you think about it, if everything runs smoothly, well you know, there’s nothing to do anymore. Tick, then we’ll move on to the next, but it’s, it’s where the challenges lie, the tensions that need to be resolved, that’s where the learning is. I think. And if that can be on your website, then people will see, “Oh yes, we need to think about that before we start with our own projects”. And I think that’s the important thing.