Six Heads Are Better Than One

We had the final project one group feedback session today for the Grand Challenges course. Lots of very impressive posters, as I would have expected with all the work we’ve done on them, but the best outcome was the quality and quantity of useful feedback from the group. There were a number of useful suggestions that identified key improvements to each of the posters.

The framing was important: look at the poster, then discuss how we could improve the presentation, or the underlying analysis. We went through the group in a variety of sequences to get the feedback, so that the last word generally belonged to a different person each time, as did the first. My voice was heard a fair bit, no surprise, but some of the best solutions came from the students, without question.

One of the grand challenges is the formation of a community that can solve the problems and the importance of inter-disciplinary cooperation. By providing an atmosphere where everyone’s voice can be heard, and having the rare opportunity to be able to run a course like this, I’ve been able to demonstrate exactly why this is so important.

Put simply, by yourself you make think of some amazing things, but a group view, with appropriate preparation and framing, will give you the extra things that you didn’t think of – the things that other people will see and, down the track, you might even kick yourself because you didn’t see it.

I don’t want to single out any of the students, because they’re all doing great things, but this is one that’s the closest to completion at the moment. There’s work to do, because the group suggestions put some really good ideas on the table, but the big advantage is that the producer (Heya, M!) was open to suggestions from his peer group and, of course, contributed as much to his peers – including offering to help people develop their expertise in the D3/JavaScript programming combination he used to make this.

250 Internet Maps, a lot of work by a PhD student, a postdoc, several lecturers and a rather busy Grand Challenges student: one picture of the awe-inspiring randomness that is the Internet.

I’m very happy with the progress that these students are made in terms of their knowledge development but also in terms of their overall demonstration of the importance of collaboration and cooperation. We still have a way to go, including some of the most difficult reports and projects, and the first really big marking stage is possibly going to introduce some strain – but I’m optimistic that things will keep going along good lines because I’ve been nothing other than honest about what has to happen, what I’m trying to do and why I believe it’s important.

I think I can sleep well tonight. 🙂

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