Part of the University Teaching Academy’s pathway to a Masters in Higher Education at Manchester Met, FLEX 30 is a 30-credit module which asks participants to create a 3,000 portfolio based around practical activities and reflective learning.

The paper below was submitted in December 2021 and is awaiting a grade (due Feb 2022)

FLEX 30: Using pedagogy, professional expertise and critical reflection to create a pathway to teaching

1. Establishing purpose

For some time, I’ve aspired to turn my 14 years’ experience working in content, brand and digital marketing into a teaching career, a goal I’ve actively pursued through collaboration and independent study.

Since 2014, I’ve lectured, run workshops and helped design course modules on the Film and Media BA at Manchester Metropolitan University. As an independent scholar, I’ve also engaged in research, delivering my first academic paper in 2019. Yet despite my proactive approach, a pathway to permanent teaching has remained unclear.

Through University Teaching Academy, I aim to earn the PGCert, PGDip and MA in Higher Education to bolster my academic credentials. However, through FLEX 30, I want to reflect upon my strengths and weaknesses in a real teaching environment, and how my professional experience aligns with existing pedagogical models.

Combining independent study with practical application and critical reflection, I will establish an informed, achievable action plan – designed to support my future transition into an academic role.

2. Reflection and problem-based learning (PBL)

For Schon (1991), complex and diverse problems are a fundamental part of practitioners’ day-to-day lives, giving them invaluable skills unavailable through traditional academic learning. Schon (1983) argues this kind of experience is also vital to personal reflective practice, as it allows for intuitive responses to situations and actions, informed by implicit knowledge.

As a marketing professional, I had initially been drawn to a number of texts which suggested clear parallels between my practitioner and teaching experience. However, Schon’s argument seemed to strengthen the link I had found in problem-based learning (PBL), an academic framework that encourages students to approach workplace situations and find effective solutions using industry methodologies.

For my first activity, I considered PBL in the context of a seminar with second year Film and Media BA students on the Media Industries module:

Activity 1: Click for link to page (opens in new tab)

3. Reflection and storytelling

Having reflected upon the first FLEX 30 activity, I’d found clear similarities between PBL and the ‘live brief’ classroom approach.

In addition to considering the pedagogical framework my academic colleague and I were deploying, and our respective roles within it, I’d reflected on my approach to student engagement and concluded storytelling was as essential to my teaching as it was my professional practice. I found myself at my most comfortable recalling prior experiences, outlining the marketing problem and how it was overcome.

With this in mind, I decided my second activity should more actively utilise storytelling as a teaching method within PBL:

Activity 2: Click for link to page (opens in new tab)

4. Creating value, improving skills

As with the first FLEX 30 activity, the workshop allowed me to consider the value of storytelling as part of a PBL teaching toolbox, whether based on actual professional experience, or in creating authentic industry-specific scenarios for students to explore.

I had reflected upon how this made the working world more ‘real’ to students, but also how it allowed them to explore their own strengths, weaknesses, likes and preferences – and how these might translate to genuine career paths in the future.

I had considered how both Barrett and Moore (2011) and McDrury and Alterio (2002) had emphasised the importance of the initial ‘problem’ in PBL and how to take this forward in the classroom. Both offered useable models I could adapt for use in my own teaching, that would allow me to build a portfolio of informed content that I could deliver and reflect upon as part of my future learning journey.

Fig 1 – PBL and storytelling models (click for higher resolution online version) adapted from Barrett and
Moore’s (2011) The PBL process and McDrury and Alterio’s (2002) Learning through storytelling models

5. Developing an action plan

Starting with personalising the models I have discovered around PBL and storytelling, my action plan initially focuses on the development of pedagogically-informed lectures, workshops and asynchronous resources during spring and summer 2022 terms.

Once delivered during the autumn/winter 2022/23 term, I will reflect on their effectiveness as part of my MAHE dissertation. This work begins in spring 2023 and will focused on practitioner experience, academic careers and the connective tissue between the two in modern higher education.

Fig 2 – 2021-2024 action plan (click for higher resolution online version)

6. Conclusion

In Concepts of Workplace Knowledge, Stevenson (2008) references the debate around vocational versus academic learning and its relationship with class distinction in higher education. However, citing his 1996/2001 work, he adds that in times of societal crisis, skills or competency-based education tends to be viewed as more valuable to society.

I believe my experience as a practitioner, coupled with a growing understanding of pedagogical models, can contribute to this debate. I also believe that, in a postpandemic world already placing greater emphasis on high quality digital and asynchronous student resources, I will be well equipped to take this forward in creating valuable, engaging, teaching content fit for a rapidly changing landscape.


Alterio, M and McDrury, J. (2002). Learning Through Storytelling in Higher Education:
Using Reflection and Experience to Improve Learning, Dunmore Press Ltd.

Barrett, T. and Moore, S. (2011) New approaches to problem-based learning:
revitalising your practice in higher education. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Biggs, J. B. and Catherine So-Kum Tang (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at
University: What the Student Does. Maidenhead, England; New York: Mcgraw-Hill,
Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

Bolton, G (2009) Reflective practice: writing and professional development. London
Etc.: Sage.

Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-
Bass Publishers.

Kolb, D. A. (2014) Experiential learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and
Development. 2nd ed., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Lauritzen, C., Jaeger, M. and Davenport, M. R. (1996) “Integrating Curriculum.” The
Reading Teacher, 49(5) pp. 404–406.

Morley, D.A. (2019) Enhancing employability in higher education through work based
learning, Palgrave MacMillan.

Moon, J. A. (1999) Reflection in learning & professional development: theory and
practice. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Schön, D. A. (1983), The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action,
Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Schon, D. (1991). The reflective turn: Case studies in and on educational practice.
New York: Teachers College Press.

Stevenson, J. (2008). Concepts of Workplace Knowledge in Murphy, P. and
McCormick, R. (2008) Knowledge and practice: representations and identities. Los
Angeles; London: Sage; Milton Keynes, U.K.

References (online)

7 Key Elements of Problem Based Learning (PBL) Classrooms (2015), [Online]
[Accessed on November 22nd, 2021]

About us (n.d.) Manchester Metropolitan University [Online] [Accessed on November
22nd, 2021]

Developing Sustainable Resilience in Higher Education | Advance HE (n.d.) [Online] [Accessed on December 8th, 2021]

Education Strategy (2017) Manchester Metropolitan University [Online] [Accessed on
November 22nd, 2021]

Employability: a review of the literature 2016-2021 | Advance HE (2021), [Online] [Accessed on November 22nd, 2021]

Mellor, N. (2021) What advice would I give to a first year student looking to get ahead
of their future career in marketing? [Online] [Accessed on December
17th, 2021]

Mellor, N. (2021) Teaching & lecturing [Online] [Accessed on December 8th,

Story (2019), Manchester Metropolitan University. [Online] [Accessed on November
22nd, 2021]

Sutton, P. S. and Knuth, R. (2017), “A schoolwide investment in problem-based
learning.” Phi Delta Kappan, 99(2) pp. 65–70

References (supporting images and video)

Mellor, N. (2021) Fig 1 – PBL and storytelling models

Mellor, N. (2021) Fig 2 – 2021-2024 action plan

Mellor, N. (2021) “Media Industries: Marketing 101”

Mellor, N. (2019) “Why are we wearing bras on our heads? Occult perceptions in the

home video era”

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