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Ear to the ground— On Photography Group work - The Open College of the Arts

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Ear to the ground— On Photography Group work

Robert Bloomfield and Dan Robinson

As online group learning continues to gather pace across the college, we’d like to bring you a short update with the latest developments in Photography.

For those who are new to OCA, or have not yet tried group work, these are video based discussions with students and tutors focusing on a shared theme. Sessions take place at various times, usually last for an hour, and are a great opportunity to meet other students and to share learning experiences.

Eddie Tucker, ’I’m not Bionic, Just a bit Buggered!’ (2020). Work shared during a cross-course Haiku workshop. 

The first thing to remind everyone of is that we’re currently in the process of moving from the old OCA student site onto our new ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ at OCA Learn. The main thing to know, in terms of group work, is that we’ll be organising all of the events from this one space, which is something you’ve been asking us to do for a while. Next week we will be launching our Photography Group Work page on OCA Learn, so you can begin to familiarise yourself with the listings and also access these events on the course Google Calendar. We hope having all this info in one place will be a great help and easy to use, but there may well be teething problems so please allow some time for this to bed in.

Another exciting development is the emergence of new student-led groups. A lot of the developments in this area have come about in partnership with the Student Association. For instance Focus Live (see Alan’s blog post here ), our oldest regular photography hangout, is now part funded by OCA’s Student Association and being run very efficiently by Alan Fletcher. Attendees still have the benefit of Clive’s wisdom and experience though, and other tutors are now being invited in.

Eddie Tucker, ‘X-rays of the metal in my back’, 2020

Lynda Kuit and Alan Bulley’s ‘Rest of the World’ hangout is another chance to meet and discuss with cross-course students from around the world.

“Ours is not a technical or critical group. We have worked to make it welcoming, so it is perhaps more supportive – we can offer advice, encouragement, learn from each other and suggest other approaches / sources / artists to look up. One real benefit of the group is that we are all ‘international’ students from the perspective of the OCA, so we share the experience of not being in the UK and can also offer local perspectives from each of our countries of origin. We put the ‘distance’ in ‘distance education.’” (Alan Bulley)

These and other student groups truly reflect the ethos of the OCA with people from all ages and backgrounds coming together to share work, study tips and friendly advice. We’ll keep updating the Group Work page with student led groups as they happen and are always keen on hearing new ideas and how best to support you in this area.

From the tutor side, there will be some familiar faces offering new sessions over the coming months as well as some tutors who’ll be delivering an event for the first time.  Jayne Taylor will be building on her experience with the regional groups by offering much needed group crits across Levels 4 and 5. Ariadne Xenou, who is already offering bi-monthly critical theory sessions to Level 3 students, will begin tailored sessions on critical practice for Photography students doing L1 units Expressing Your Vision (EYV) and Context and Narrative (C&N). We’re excited to bring Derek Trillo into the EYV group as well – he’ll be offering a session on time based photography next month. Helen Warburton will be starting an occasional reading group, primarily for L1 Identity & Place students but open to anyone on Photography Levels 1 and 2, Andrea Norrington’s very popular group on all aspects of creative learning will restart in March and and last but not least, Jayne Taylor is starting up a series of forum events for foundation Photography. The tutor led page will be at Group Work: tutor-led.

“I attend a number of both peer and tutor led sessions and all are very helpful. Everyone is very supportive when giving feedback. I have always come away with more ideas and I have benefited from effective constructive criticism.” Lynda Wearn.

Photography Programme Leader Dan Robinson said, “Increasing and promoting group work to enable more peer interaction is part of OCA-wide development of learning communities. Group Work pilots had positive feedback and in line with periodic review we’re working on plans to build peer and tutor group activity into courses. Students have helped shape this— running hangout groups, feeding back on group work and in focus groups. One request our new sessions address was for ‘more chance to discuss theory and practice at earlier levels and increasing peer group opportunities to be welcomed into our community.[1]

Of course, this is all taking place within an external context that is challenging to say the least, but from an educational standpoint, the shift to video meetings of all kinds has been nothing short of revolutionary. In a global sense, there is clearly no return to the old way of doing things and, although we may miss it horribly at times, learning in physical spaces also had its drawbacks in terms of time and expense, as well as environmental impacts. As distance learning tutors we feel profoundly connected to and enthusiastic about this shift. So whether you’re a regular at hangouts and zooms or new to the game, we hope you’ll find something to support your OCA journey this spring.

From next week you can fully access Photography’s two sections for group meets on OCA Learn. These are Group Work: tutor-led and Student-led Peer Sessions  – follow these links to find out more and see the course calendar. There may be student-led events that we have missed. If you would like to share an event, please feel free to add details in the comments below this post.



Note to student meet up organisers in Photography:

The Photography course is working with the student association to support how student-led activity at course level can be supported. If you are involved in organising student-led activity in photography such as meet-ups, you may wish to attend a monthly support meet with student reps and program leader Dan Robinson – see this discuss thread for details

For further information about Eddie Tucker, , see Eddie’s blog here.

[1]Students feedback suggests a growing appetite for discussion on topics referred to within course materials in a more fluid and dynamic structure and more regular points for formative feedback and support.’ Student focus group report: How could OCA better support new students towards studying as part of a community? (Jayne Taylor, 2019); See also, Towards the synthesis of practice and theory. (Ariadne Xenou, 2019).


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Posted by author: Robert Bloomfield

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