The circus comes of age: engaging staff in engaging students


  • Maureen Royce Liverpool John Moores University, Faculty of Business & Law
  • David Soehren Liverpool John Moores University, Faculty of Business & Law



Pre-pandemic, an experiment in bringing all staff together for development days, sharing good teaching practice and increasing digital literacy was developed. Already embedded when the pandemic hit, a trusted space in which to work with the challenges of online delivery was tested.  Participation from Faculty, on a peer-to-peer basis, as well as much appreciated support from professional services teams provided the content for drop-in sessions over a 3–5-day period. During summer sessions in 2020 and 2021 over 500 engagements were made as staff dropped into the sessions they prioritised. The sessions included basic digital advice and space for practice as well as more advanced offerings. The student experience was the driving force and staff shared their module developments in areas of delivery, Canvas use and assessment practice as well as programme-related communication areas, such as Town Halls.    


Student experience expectations merged with staff needs and opportunities to share experience and expertise. Staff were reminded of and engaged in changes to systems and   about how to use changes in shaping their communication with students. Courage was seen through the peer-to-peer support where staff who were not experts, eg in the use of Vevox or tools within teams, came forward and offered their experience and support to others. Authentic partnership between academic and professional teams helped to bond and inform all staff in an inclusive setting. The presentation will look at what has been achieved, what we have learned and how we plan to keep the initiative current.


In developing the circus approach over time, we have learned more about scheduling and duration and participants will see how we have structured the sessions to meet institutional changes within a Faculty context. This structure would be transferable to any Faculty or School and the session provides practical guidance about organisation of events and setting expectations. We have learned much about the creation of safe spaces to practice and question the use of IT tools, games and practice-related assessment over time and the session will share our learning in this respect.