Laurence Dawkins-Hall: 

Three years as a Specialist Advisor to the NTDC

11 July 2024

We spoke to Laurence Dawkins-Hall (NTDC Specialist Advisor) about his time working with the NTDC. Laurence has been a Specialist Advisor to the NTDC for three years; in that time delivering online, in person and hybrid sessions around a variety of topics. 

Hear from Laurence here:

"About 1 week ago (circa July 2024) I was reminded, on LinkedIn, that I had served three years as a Specialist Advisor (SA) in 'Professional Registration & STEM' for the NTDC. Coincidentally, I have recently provided in person workshops, in my SA capacity, for the University of Oxford and also Queen Mary University London; both Partner Affiliates of the NTDC.

Juxtaposing those two sets of events, I began to think about how my workshops have evolved, from inception at Leicester De Montfort University to the present:

How has the format of my workshops altered in 3 years?

Three years ago, when I provided my first workshop at Leicester De Montfort University, the format of my workshop(s) was more monologue based with interaction afforded by asking the prospective participants to send me questions, which I then answered in real time, as a prologue to the main event.

Since those early days, and with the inception of tools like Slido, I have tried to introduce real time polls, word clouds etc. to gauge audience understanding in real time and get the audience thinking about content from a personal perspective, especially when it comes to their own Professional Registers and also their own Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours (KBE), mapping to the Principal Competency Objectives for Science Council Registration and sub competencies thereof.  In other words, there is now much real time interaction during the workshop with audience members.

In addition, I now utilise pre workshop materials, which prime potential registrants and/or audience participants before attending the workshop and in that way augment their experience(s).

What has most influenced the changes in content and delivery style associated with your professional Registration workshop(s)?

Unequivocally, the single biggest driver when it comes to workshop evolution over the ensuing three years has been feedback from registrants themselves. In particular, consensus questions and comments have contributed to how I formulate my prose when I deliver my powerpoint figures, in order to ensure that topics, obviously important to participants, are regularly talked about in association with my figures.

In addition, technology updates have allowed a more audience friendly interactive style of pedagogy and seminal amongst these tools has been Slido for eliciting audience workshop.

What do you consider to be the single most important change to your work shop in terms of impact and inclusivity?  

Perhaps the single most profound change in my workshop in terms of impact  is how I talk about and engage my audience pertaining to the competencies, which is the single biggest component of the online Science Council application process, or CAP (common application portal).

3 years ago, I tended to use a lot of text and very few illustrations and scant interactive content. Now, I engage the audience with word clouds, Polls and the chat function within Teams, Zoom, or in person.  Another seminal difference is using pictograms to illustrate competency themes. A picture is worth 1000 words” and that is put to good use in discussing potential categories of working practice and how they map to competency objectives in more modern renditions of my presentations.

In terms of inclusivity, I have also tried to make illustrative working practices, designed for audience members to recapitulate with their own practices, more generic and less biased towards bio sciences, thus fulfilling my remit as Specialist Advisor for Professional Registration in STEM. Thus, I have transitioned from pictures to pictograms in an effort to be STEM inclusive.

What else has influenced your workshops, thus far?

I provide workshops and seminars on Professional Registration for the NTDC, Science Council and Midlands Innovation.

There has undoubtedly been synergy in terms of content and trialling new presentation formats between these three forums.

What next?

In common with other presentation forums, I would like to progress towards more recorded materials as learning aides, augmenting real time presentations, and also think about highlighting sub competencies rather than just competencies.

I have utilised recordings of workshops for the Science Council and Midlands Innovation and would like to do something analogous for the NTDC. These would become an integral part of NTDC Professional Registration Resources. Embedded within such resources are recordings of Midland innovation Festival of Talent sessions pertaining to Professional registration.

The importance of further breaking down the principal competency categories into sub competencies thereof is illustrated by feedback from registrants who report that sometimes, they struggle to appreciate the difference between say sub competency D2 and D3. Thus, moving forward, I would like to initiate workshops in which examples of working practices are compared and contrasted between the sub competencies themselves.

Any other plans?

Post-COVID, more workshops are provided in person and where my total portfolio is concerned, I tend to focus online for Science Council presentations and increasingly in-person for NTDC presentations. With an expanded portfolio of NTDC Partner Affiliates and implied service provision, I would like to maintain this dichotomous approach to my work, as each way of working brings its own benefits and culminates in shared ideas for both. 

I would conclude by saying that different events with different time slots also demand varied content, conducive to time and expectations, and going forward, it is likely that a veritable menu of styles and time frames, e.g., 30 minute introductory talks, versus 1 hour, more detailed talks (including better introspection of competencies) versus 2 hour fully interactive workshops, versus sub competency tutorials, will be implemented to suit respective tastes.