Exploring Bournemouth and Poole College

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 21, 2007

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Today was our first day meeting with our Bournemouth and Poole College (BPC) colleagues and find out more about the college.

I started out the day after a late night. We met for breakfast and then met our BPC colleagues in the lobby; Roy Watson, my curriculum partner from English; Jacob, Tory's curriculum partner from psychology; and Louise, one of our general contacts. Julie's contact is ill at the moment. Hopefully he'll be available later this week.

Roy knows quiet a bit about the Bournemouth community. He's already filled me in on other literary landmarks, such as--when Robert Lewis Stevenson lived here, he wrote Dr. Jeckyle and Mr. Hyde after awakening from a nightmare. And J.R.R.Tolkien sold the movie rights to The Hobitt in a hotel here in Bournemouth. And a particularly grim story about a WWII bombing raid, a lost body, and a stopped bell tower. I let you fill in the gaps.

We spent the day touring the Landsdowne campus of BPC and meeting faculty staff, and executives. We started with a conversation over tea with our curriculum partners, getting a sense of how their system operates. I won't get into all the details (I'm still figuring them out myself) in this blog; I'll just hit on the few things that caught my eye.

They seem to have a more structured syllabus that they follow, that focuses on meeting specific goals in preparation for the final exams. I don't know if this leads to teaching to the test, as they are clearly dedicated instructors focused on education, but the curriculum does seem to be more centralized and less individual to the teacher. (I learned later in the day that teacher and instructor are not interchangeable terms, so I'm using teacher to represent classroom teachers).
The college has a more integrated tutoring model with the students. Students have a personal tutor and a subject tutor. The personal tutor, who can be a faculty member, meets with a group of students (approx. 6) once a week--this is the personal tutoring group. This tutoring experience is focused on issues related to well-being and personal experience. They are a tutor that students can share personal problems with; as well, these tutors give them guidance on writng CV, applying for jobs, etc. These groups are organized by the college and students are required to attend the weekly meetings.

Subject tutors are focused on the area of the curriculum and do not have required meetings. I believe these are organized along the model of our tutoring program--a type of drop-in or contact person that the student can meet to discuss content issues. However, this is up to the student.

We were also taken by the number of fliers and placards around campus related to issues such as getting to class on time, not tolerating bullying, the need for respect, and other wellness issues, including sexual issues. There seems to be a greater focus on well-being and mental health in this system. It was explained to us that this is part of a national program entitled "Every Child Matters." We hope to find out more about this and the tutoring system when we meet with student's tomorrow for a forum on college issues.

For lunch, we had a 4 course meal at the campus restaurant, staffed and prepared by students as part of the catering/cooking program on campus. The food was very good, although the students seemed confused on who order what. At this meal, we met Lawrence Vincent, Vice Principal of the Landsdowne campus (equivalent to our college presidents). We also met Less Lees, an Academic Director (equivalent, in part, to our Deans) who we will spend more time with tomorrow. We also dined with our curriculum partners.

After lunch, we talked with Lawrence a bit more and met a few more executives, including Robin of Student Support who we'll work with tomorrow and Roland Foote, the Principal and Chief Executive (equivalent to our Chancellor). After our brief meeting, we spent the rest of the afternoon talking with Rob Gardner, Academy Director of Sixth Form Studies, trying to get a better understanding of the structure of their system and understanding terminology. Some basics ideas that I'm gleaming are that there is a clearer distinction between what faculty and administration do (in the sense that faculty are less involved in committee work with administrative outcomes) and that part-time (adjunct) faculty are not as heavily used. He did help us understand the types of courses (units) a student takes, their degree plan (course), and the years they take to get degrees (Foundation courses, National Degree Plan, Honors Degree Plan, Masters) and the distinction between university (academic) and college (more workforce) although this distinction is gray in some ways.

Towards the later afternoon, each us started to get very tired. I talked a bit longer with Roy about English courses and planned my visit to several classes on Thursday, then we headed back to the hotel. After resting a bit, we headed out for dinner. It's Julie's birthday, so her choice was to go to a place called Alcatraz, an Italian Brassiere (based on a recommendation from Louise). As a side note, we found out that Walkabout, the pub we went to a couple of days ago has quite the reputation as a rowdy place. Everyone was impressed that we hung out there.

The meal at Alcatraz was, like the others, very very good. I had a seared tuna dish followed by a hot chocolate. The food was good, but the service very "relaxed," something we expected. Americans have a greater expectation of being served quickly, while the idea here is to relax and enjoy the meal. We sat out on the covered patio, next to the heat lamp. It was raining on and off most of the day and got a bit cool. But a wonderful evening socializing with my colleagues.

I finally looked at my watch and saw that it was 11pm and we were just finishing our dessert; and this was the night we were going to turn in early. We paid the bill, walked home, and turned in "early" compared to our other nights.

Tomorrow we are participating in a forum with students. We are looking forward to hearing from students about BPC.
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