Session 2a

'I Am A Magazine': diversity in a large scale collaborative, interdisciplinary, self-directed learning project
Peter Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Academic Writing and Language, Middlesex University London
Alison Tanner, Senior Lecturer in Photography, Middlesex University London

This symposium will focus on a recent large-scale interdisciplinary project, I Am A Magazine. Three participants from the project (a student, and two lecturers - one from a University service, the other from a faculty) will reflect on the role diversity played in the project.

Session summary:
The presenters had different roles in the project, and come from different parts of the University. Peter Thomas (LET) organised the event; Gavin Fernandes (FACI) was a core member of the IAAM team, who planned and taught on the project; our third presenter was a student-participant on IAAM. The symposium offers us the opportunity to share reflections on the project from different points of view, and to engage in dialogue with an audience about issues we encountered, the impact of projects like this, and possible ways forward.

The aims of IAAM were that it should: be collaborative and interdisciplinary, encourage self-directed learning and develop the participants as creative practitioners, and facilitate engagement with the University’s magazine collections. In the symposium we will relate the aims to the conference strand: Diversity as a resource for student success, as diversity played an important part in the project.
By its nature collaboration, particularly between different disciplines, necessitates engagement with diversity. This was apparent in IAAM on many levels: the students worked in groups, carefully organised so they would meet, get to know, and learn from other students on degree programmes different from their own. They were also taught and supported by staff from a range of services and schools, many of whom were also new to the students. This diversity presented issues (e.g. not understanding the expectations or priorities of different disciplines), but also benefits (e.g. learning previously unfamiliar techniques).

Diversity was apparent in the self-directed nature of the project, and in the way that it was designed to help participants develop as creative practitioners. The project brief was deliberately open-ended, which meant groups had to make their own decisions about the direction their work took. A challenge for some students was to reconcile the diversity of options open to them. Finding creative solutions to issues like this, and learning to tolerate and exploit such uncertainty are intrinsic elements of creative practice, and were important features of the project.

There was also considerable diversity in the resources that the students drew on (the magazines), what they chose to focus on in their outcomes, and how they went about it (the practices they employed).