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Tuesday 24 February 2015

Students critical thinking classes prove effective

Earlier in the year I was asked by a business lecturer, ordinarily a very lovely person, to teach 11 sessions on critical thinking to the foundation year students. Teaching 11 identical classes over the course of a week is outlawed in several countries for being ‘cruel and unusual’, but I rose to the challenge and only got a bit confused with whether I’d said something already or not to each group.

Fast forward a few months and I find myself as one of the judges for these students’ poster competition. For me, this is adequate reward, to see how the students have progressed and developed over even such a short space of time, and I greatly enjoyed the experience.

Teams from across business, tourism and sport were tasked with developing an event that could be held in Southampton to showcase the city or its inhabitants, have a demonstrable social impact and – here’s the kicker – be achievable within a budget of £500. The best idea would be funded to turn it into reality.

Over the morning session I saw seven groups, presenting such ideas as a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt around town, a Christmas dinner with employability training for homeless people and a summer sports day in the park.

I was struck by every group’s enthusiasm and energy, and how much they seemed to believe in their idea – even after seeing judge after judge and presenting each time – and every idea was different. It’s true that some of them had a better handle on the budget than others, but that’s what learning is all about.

After a lunch of several hundred sandwiches (and that was just my share), we reconvened to look at the 10 best, as determined by collective judge feedback and their lecturer Andrea Faustino’s final decision. Unfortunately the group who came up with a Crufts-style event failed to return, so I missed seeing that, but instead I heard about an open mic night, a touch rugby tournament and an Easter-themed event, which I really liked and not just because the group gave me a cupcake.

Finally, at 4pm, exhausted and all talked out, we reached the end and a final decision. The winners had a clear lead and will be funded by the Students Union to present their Southampton Showcase event on the May bank holiday. The Easter group took a worthy second place, and will be supported in resubmitting their proposal for the SU’s consideration at a later date.

My feet were aching and the different events were all starting to merge in my mind, but even so it was a fun day and an inspiring one, and exciting to see what our students might be capable of in the future.