Founder of Ketso, Dr Joanne Tippett, won the 2021 AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning) prize for Excellence in Teaching for her module titled: Designing Sustainable Futures. The core first year module introduces students to issues connected with sustainability challenges and creative responses to them. It has been designed to build key skills in inter-disciplinary and critical thinking, teamwork and writing. The benefits of Ketso Connect played a major part in the award judges’ decision.

The AESOP competition recognises and rewards innovation in planning schools, and the theme for 2021 was Planning Education in the Digital Space. Joanne and the Teaching Assistant team’s innovation was recognised for its hands-on and unique approach to developing structured and collaborative thinking.

This module already included the use of Ketso, to encourage students to engage with each other and build their thinking skills in group workshops. A challenge in the pandemic was how to transfer this active and student-orientated learning to online spaces. A key element in Joanne’s solution was posting each student their own individual learning aid, for them to use during live teaching, in groupwork and in their assignment preparation.

Ketso Connect, when combined with online, gives students in remote settings a sense of connection and engagement in shared tasks and with each other, cats are optional!

This hands-on learning aid, Ketso Connect, allows students to write their ideas onto ‘leaves’ which can then be moved around a felt backboard. In this way, connections between ideas can more easily be made and evaluated, facilitating better peer group discussions and feeding into course work. Students share pictures of their work in progress via Padlet, a digital noticeboard, combining the value of individual time for reflective thinking with sharing and discussing ideas.

A key element in Joanne’s solution was posting each student their own individual learning aid, for them to use during live teaching, in groupwork and in their assignment preparation.

Joanne has taken a fundamentally different approach in her teaching, introducing robust methods to increase participation and encourage her students to think in a more structured way, no matter what the setting. This innovation of combining individual work using a tactile learning aid with group discussion, proved to have many advantages for the students’ experience.

Social inclusion and engagement

During the pandemic, Ketso Connect became a device that promoted inclusivity, activity, involvement and engagement, which could otherwise be missing during online lectures and group sessions. As Joanne explains:
“When the pandemic physically disconnected students from their peers and lecturers, I created Ketso Connect to bring engagement and a sense of community back to teaching. Having seen how well this engendered cohesion amongst students, I am now really looking forward to using this tool in my future dual and face-to-face teaching. It allows me to interject short bursts of active learning and discussion into sessions, no matter what the class size or setting”.

Ketso Connect is easy to carry around and the bags can be branded with university logos for that sense of community.

Transferable study skills development

Joanne’s teaching methods were found to encourage teamwork, problem solving, time-management, essay writing, critical analysis and systems thinking skills, all alongside developing knowledge of sustainability concepts.

“The pandemic pushed us to try out a new way to support students who were learning across the world.”

“The pandemic pushed us to try out a new way to support students who were learning across the world. The full value of having this tactile study support available for use in their own spaces only became apparent once students started sharing the different ways they had used it in their studies and professional development” said Joanne. “I was genuinely surprised by the powerful feedback about how it helped students to structure their thinking and make sense of their learning, both during and between the teaching sessions.”

It is this ability to help students develop their learning and study skills that has inspired other universities, such as Manchester Metropolitan and Ohio State, to integrate this new approach into their future teaching.

To share their expertise in student engagement and study skills, the winners of the 2021 AESOP awards will be hosting a series of webinars in August and September 2021. For more information and to register click here.

Find out more about Ketso Connect