The feeling of learning

This week, I’ve been experimenting with data visualisation.

In this graphic, I’m playing around with the idea of ‘moments of learning.’

I’m going to bring data visualisation into my learning and teaching this coming semester, beginning with our students on the MA Creative Writing (Distance Learning) at Teesside. There’s a lot of anxiety around about data at the moment - and this is increasingly important to think through it seems to me, when it comes to learning analytics and student experience.

Data can be useful and powerful when it helps us to work with students in new ways. However, I want to ensure that our students feel that they have ownership of their data and involvement in how that data is generated, so I’m going to ask them to keep their own record of their learning experience from Welcome Week onwards and I’ll invite them to share it with me and/ or with their peers.

Together, we’ll explore ways to visualise their data that feel meaningful and helpful, with a focus on qualitative data over quantitative. In other words, as well as doing some counting - how many times did I feel anxious and when? - we’ll start to notice and record how each activity, session, interaction or week of learning feels, so that we can begin to get to know ourselves better as learners over time.

I’m hoping that this will enable students to gain new insights into how they are developing as learners - and to identify their strengths and any areas where they need support. I’m hoping that, by encouraging them to take ownership of the process by sharing how their learning feels for them, they will be able to get a better understanding of their own learning journey. I’m also hoping that this might help to normalise some of the natural anxiety and concern that we all feel when we start a new phase of learning.

I also think that this will be invaluable feedback for me as a teacher. What do I do that is most helpful? What could I do better or differently?

Below is a key that I made to my own data visualisation about the ways that I noticed myself learning over the past week.

key to ‘moments of learning’ data viz

key to ‘moments of learning’ data viz


Sophie Nicholls

Sophie Nicholls is an author, poet and University Teaching Fellow at Teesside University where she teaches creative writing and leads on online, hybrid and digital learning and teaching projects.