Remembering My Hat

18th January 2023

Showing my workings: Part 6

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:21

See earlier entries for explanation about what this is all about.

I thought it might be useful to show the transition from a D1 to a D2 of some materials. So here is one sub-section as it existed at D1: (sorry it looks so terrible, it will look much nicer on the VLE)

Reflecting on your own experiences

Activity 12.1: Your own wellbeing in adulthood Timing: About 15 minutes

Part 1 (Productive) Reflective activity about their own experiences of wellbeing as an adult, and how that differs from memories of wellbeing as a child.

Part 2 (Communicative) Poll activity, aiming to get a sense of diversity among fellow students e.g. maybe ‘Overall, was your wellbeing greater when you were (option 1) a child or (option 2) an adult?’ Or possibly a word cloud: three words to describe the three most important things that support your wellbeing.

[teaching text in between to reiterate that health care is only one part of wellbeing]

Activity 12.2: Your own experiences of health care in adulthood Timing: About 15 minutes

Part 1 (Productive) Reflective activity about their own experiences of accessing health care as an adult, and how that differs from memories of accessing health care as a child.

Part 2 (Communicative) Poll activity, aiming to get a sense of diversity among fellow students e.g. maybe ‘The last time you went to your General Practitioner or family doctor, what was the main reason for your visit?’ (screening/pregnancy-related/chronic condition/acute illness/other) or maybe ‘Last time you saw your GP/fd, how much did that visit improve your wellbeing (lots, little, no difference, decreased my wellbeing’ Or both questions?


And here is how it looks now, after two hours’ work, which I think is pretty much okay for D2. I’m not perfectly happy that it is doing what I want it, and might tweak a little at D3, depending on the feedback I get, but this will do if I don’t have time to improve it. (Long experience is what gives me the confidence to say ‘this will do’ – I would have been much more perfectionist when I started out):


Reflecting on personal experiences

Thinking about your own experiences of health care and wellbeing is an important part of studying them academically because your own experiences affect the ways you approach the topic. Acknowledging your own experiences and perspectives can help you to see beyond them, and understand perspectives and views which are very different from your own, which is an important part of becoming a critical and analytical thinker. For this reason, the next two Activities ask you to think about your own experiences and also to compare them to those of other students studying K119. However, if your own experiences of wellbeing or health care have been difficult recently or in the past, it may not be helpful for you to think about your own experiences. In that case, feel free to skip the next two Activities and move on to section 1.2.

Activity 12.1: Wellbeing in adulthood

Timing: About 20 minutes

Part 1

Write a few sentences reflecting on your wellbeing in adulthood so far. What are the main factors that have affected your wellbeing in adulthood? How has your wellbeing varied as an adult?

Part 2

Type three words in the boxes to describe the three most important things that support your wellbeing in adulthood. Then click on the link to the word cloud, which will show you the words that other students wrote. The larger the word, the more people chose this word. Were your words similar or different to the commonest words?

Part 3

Overall, was your wellbeing greater when you were (option 1) a child or (option 2) an adult? Click through to see what other students said.

Reveal discussion

Part 1 discussion:

Here’s what one person wrote:

The main factors affecting my wellbeing have been my personal relationships and my job. In the early days of my marriage I had a job I really enjoyed, and my wellbeing was really good. I had lots of energy, lots of fun and was pretty fit too. When my marriage broke up I was really unhappy and seemed to need all my energy just to keep going, with nothing left over for fun or exercise. But when I got my latest promotion at work I started to feel positive about myself again and recently I’ve started feeling like I’ve got a bit more time and energy to do things I enjoy.

[Activity box ends]

The word cloud and polls have given you some indication of how your own experiences of wellbeing as an adult compare with those of your fellow students. You probably found some common experiences and some where your experiences differed from those of other students. In the following Activity you will similarly compare your experiences but in relation to using health care services. In LG8 [insert hyperlink] you reflected on an encounter between a child or young person and a primary care professional. In Activity 12. 2 you will do something similar but thinking about your own experiences of accessing primary health care as an adult.

Activity 12.2: Health care in adulthood

Timing: About 15 minutes

Part 1

Q1       Think of the last time you used a primary health care service yourself. Where was it based?

  1. Doctor’s surgery
  2. Dentist’s surgery
  3. Local pharmacy
  4. Opticians
  5. Mass vaccination centre

Now click through to see what other students reported.

Q2       Which of these options is closest to your reason for using these services?

  1. Routine screening e.g. cervical smear, well man clinic
  2. Routine check-up e.g. dentist or optician check-up
  3. Vaccination
  4. Pregnancy-related
  5. Chronic condition or illness
  6. Acute illness or sudden problem
  7. Medication

Now click through to see what other students reported.

Q3       Thinking about that last visit, how much did it improve your overall wellbeing:

  1. A lot
  2. A little
  3. It made no difference
  4. It decreased my wellbeing

Click through to see what other students reported.

Part 2

Did anything surprise you in these quick polls among your fellow students? Noticing when things surprise you is a really good habit for thinking critically about your own assumptions. Make a few notes in the box below of anything you were surprised by, or anything else you thought was interesting.

Reveal discussion

Here is what one person wrote:

I was surprised to see dentists and opticians in the list of places because I don’t think of them as ‘primary care’ in the way I do doctors or nurses. Actually, the last service I used was the dentists because something always seems to be going wrong with my teeth at the moment. Getting my teeth fixed makes a really big contribution to my wellbeing because I love eating!

[Activity box ends]

Having timely and appropriate health care plays a vital role in overall wellbeing but, as you have been exploring throughout this module, wellbeing is about much more than access to health and social care services.


6th December 2022

Showing my workings: Part 5

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:32

(See previous entries for explanation and Parts 1-4)

Today I have completed the bulk of the work on my D1 because although the deadline is not until Friday, I have other things I have to do later in the week. This is going to be the sketchiest D1 I have ever submitted, because I have had so so little time to work on it. My current running total is about three days, including today. I’ve never actually counted my days like this before but my feeling is that I usually spend 5 or 6 days to produce a D1, slightly more for a D2 and fewer on the D3. This time I will definitely need more like 10-12 days for the D2 because my D1 will be so under-developed. Since the deadline for the D2 is the end of January, writing this is making me realise I need to block that time out of my diary right now.

I was wondering whether my mental image for this stage is juggling, because there’s a lot of ‘if I change this, I have to change that’ but that feels a bit too stressful to describe how I experience it. I don’t find this stage particularly stressful, but more about moving lots of parts around, like a jigsaw (even though I loathe actual jigsaws):

Wikimedia Commons

I’ve got four main sections identified now, with approximate study times for each. Two are currently shorter – an initial one reflecting on their own experiences of wellbeing and health care as adults, and the final section on live kidney donation – and two are longer – becoming a parent and health inequalities. Absolutely ideally they’d be a bit more even, because Balanced workload helps students, so I’m looking particularly for ways to lengthen the first one and maybe shorten the longer ones.

Now that the AV is pinned down, I am concentrating on identifying the other existing resources I will be drawing on – academic readings, case studies and data sources/infographics. For the becoming a parent section, I’ve found a very suitable-looking article to send students to read themselves (clearly and simply written and usefully overviewing other research on why infertility is so challenging to wellbeing, from a life course perspective). I also had a lightbulb moment of realising I could use an activist newsletter I read to do some teaching about LGBTQ parenting, which is another of the topics I’m covering within this section. I’ve also found a lack-of-stats on what percentage of families have LGBTQ parents, which I can use to do some teaching about the distinction between L,G, B, T and Q, the difference between identities and behaviours, and the use of proxies when you can’t get the data you want (here, same sex couple families is the proxy). I’m still looking for something more general about how becoming a parent affects wellbeing. One obvious possibility is something on baby blues v. PPD, especially if I can find a source/infographic that talks about men getting it too. But I’m slightly reluctant because it seems so obvious. I will keep musing on this to try to discern whether my reluctance is justified or not.

I’m also sketching in ideas for Activities, coding them using the Learning Design Activity Types framework, so that I can keep an eye on balance (bearing in mind that the module chair wants me to particularly design Productive types). I’m not writing them fully at this stage as that always takes me ages. I’m hoping the module team chair knows me well enough to trust me to do them properly later. I have far too many Activities at the moment – 15 where the aim is about 8. Tomorrow I will go through and kill off the weaker ones (my, what a violent metaphor!) Prune them out, so that the others have room to flourish, that’s a much better analogy.

At the moment, I can’t see ways of sewing (more images, sorry, I’m a visual thinker) the study skills activities my LG needs to deliver into the content. Study skills Activities work much better if they are not stand alone but integrated into the topics being studied but I’m not seeing a natural place to put them yet. I might have a section on being a student parent in the parenting section, which might enable a bit of a link for those students who are parents to the skill about responding to tutor feedback, but doesn’t make a link for those who aren’t. And also I’m worried about seeming to imply that getting tutor feedback is a challenge to wellbeing! I think that can probably be managed with careful wording though. And of course sometimes it absolutely is a challenge to wellbeing… I guess the study skill about writing a good essay could have a tenuous link to the article reading activity, via some commentary about different writing styles. Actually, that’s probably a good idea, now I write it here – I will add it.

Looking back at the other posts in this series has been really useful for remembering all the elements I want to include, so I think the hour or so I’m putting in to writing each post is actually saving some time. I’d forgotten the idea about offering students choice to investigate something they are interested it but now I can see that it might work well in the section that I had just called ‘Other health inequalities TBC’. I was struggling with what to put here because there are so many different health inequalities I could talk about, but letting students choose deals neatly with that problem. I need to find a suitable data source for them to use. Previously I’ve designed this kind of Activity with an encyclopedia, handbook or authoritative website on the topic, so students chose from the contents page/menu. But I’ve not yet found one of these for health inequalities.

My spider sense says I have too much content, even though I have done indicative timings and it adds up okay. I will probably just put a note in to observe this.

29th November 2022

Showing my workings: Part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 13:07

Explanation here, part 2 here and part 3 here. I’ve done another day or so’s work, and specified the audio-visual resources I will be using.

I found one cluster of resources, around Black maternal mortality, by simply thinking ‘hang on, this was all over the news a few years ago, I must be able to find AV around this’. This got me a couple of Radio 4 programmes which had featured this work, but were not listed on videofinder, as they weren’t made specially for the OU. However, we can usually get the Rights for BBC shows, especially radio, so I’m reasonably confident I’ll be able to use these (it’s not my responsibility to check Rights but I bear it in mind from bitter experience of building a whole complicated Activity around a supermarket advert and it then being too expensive to use). I’m particularly pleased to have identified a pedagogic arc between these two resources, an academic article and a study skills activity: the first piece of AV is from Woman’s Hour and introduces the importance of the topic, the second clip is from More or Less, and complicates the statistical picture and the expert says ‘we don’t have the evidence yet on X’, the academic article was published this year with this expert as the lead author, and provides the evidence. The data on which this article draws is particularly complete, so it would make a nice vehicle for teaching the Methods part of the PROMPT criteria. However, the article is quite technical and may be too difficult for Level 1, however much I edit and mediate it. If I conclude that, I’ve found an infographic that conveys similar information and will use that instead and do the PROMPT activity about a different article.

The other cluster is around live kidney donation, which I thought might be interesting to students as something they might not know about, and I found that thanks to a tip-off from our former Media Fellow, who I emailed to ask for suggestions. There’s a couple of extracts from Hospital, the BBC/OU co-production (so Rights will definitely be okay), that allow me to bring in life course perspectives, because there’s discussion of whether living donors should get preferential treatment if they later develop renal problems themselves. And then there’s an Open Learn resource ‘should kidneys be bought and sold?’ which debates this ethical issue and lends itself beautifully to a reflective Activity. One of my colleagues was involved in this, so I may get in touch and see if she would be willing to review my materials in this section.

The final piece of AV I’m going to use is something that was produced for another course (K310) but having consulted with that team, they don’t think it would be problematic for me to use part of it here. It’s about Black health inequalities, so lets me widen the focus from Black maternal mortality to wider health inequalities, which is something I wanted to cover as part of my focus on barriers to health care.

Just as I prophesied last time, I came to realise that the issues I thought were problems in the audio-visual resources I was considering were not insurmountable. Some of them can be addressed by cutting the clips in the right place, and others are not as bad as I thought.

Here’s my current learning guide overview, I always need to produce something like this first off:

I was talking to a colleague yesterday who is interested in LGBTQ people’s experiences of conception and birth (as am I, although not professionally), and when I realised that would fit beautifully with the module chair’s suggested focus on motherhood as well as the Black maternal mortality materials, I laughed with joy. I freely admit to being a very sad (but happy) geek about making distance learning materials.

18th November 2022

Showing my workings: Part 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:33

Part 3 of my very slow liveblog, chronicling how I go about designing a section of an Open University module. Context and explanation here and part 2 here. This week I’ve done a couple of half days’ work, so about a day in total.

I read more of the module documents (learning outcomes, assessment strategy, descriptions for all the other learning guides) and then had a really helpful chat with the module chair about what it would be most useful for my LG to focus on. She identified the life course as one of the module themes that could do with more development, which suits me down to the ground because it’s a theory I’m very familiar with and have used in both my own research and previous modules. I might even be able to reuse ideas for activities from a previous learning guide I wrote that focused on the life course (although that was level 3 and this is level 1, so will need to be made more straightforward). She also identified that more Productive activities would be useful, which I’m very happy to do.

I also found out some of the structural requirements (maximum word length, student study-time, number of activities wanted, Reader articles length, forum use) – I later discovered that most of these were written down in a handy document in the module Sharepoint site but I had failed to find them in the many other documents there, a familiar experience.

I attended another module team meeting, where I found out more about what is going on in other LGs. This includes the very relevant information that the LG before mine is probably going to talk about diabetes, so I should probably scratch that from my list of candidate very common health conditions. For study skills, we’ve agreed I and the author of the next learning guide will split up the PROMPT criteria between us, and noted that they already feature in other modules students are likely to have studied, and are mentioned in LG8 in this module, so my focus needs to be more applying than introducing. Some students, however, may not have encountered them beyond this module, so I need to link to more introductory materials too. For my study skills activity on ‘a good essay’ one possibility is to ask students to do this as a forum activity. The module preference is for forum activities to be linked to skills, so that students can see the point of taking part. For the skill around responding to tutor feedback, I now know that this is already mentioned in LG9, so will build on that.

This week in my writing-for-production groups we were discussing Writing For Inclusion, and that reminded me that a neat trick for increasing inclusion is to get students to generate their own case studies or examples in relation to a theory or concept. So I’m planning to include that. The learning guide after mine is going to focus on strength-based and personalised care, which links nicely with life course perspectives, so I will do some feeding forward.

In terms of topic focus, the module team chair identified a useful overarching question for my LG, which is ‘how can health care support wellbeing?’ So focused more on the role of health care in wellbeing than on the provision and nature of health services themselves. I am wondering about a focus on motherhood, because it’s a classic life course event that would nicely allow me to bring in the work of colleagues around racism and maternal deaths, as part of a focus on barriers to health care. I’m also wondering about something on wider reproductive and sexual health issues, because that would allow me to draw on work of other colleagues (but not HIV because that’s already earlier in the module).

I have spend most of the time, though, trying to find suitable already existing audio visual resources, since I have to specify those by the end of next week. I’ve mostly been searching on videofinder, the OU’s enormous archive of materials used in all our previous modules and on Open Learn, because it’s very unlikely there would be problems getting the rights to use these. I’ve been making heavy use of the ‘speed up playback’ button – 1.75 seems to be optimal for me – and transcripts and storyboards when they are present. These really speed up the initial screening for relevance. But I’m not having much luck. My search terms are either too big (‘health care’ gets me 100s of hits) or too small. And I have a horrible feeling of familiarity in this search: ‘this one is not quite right in relation to X, whereas this one is great for X but all wrong for Y’. I have been round this loop so many times before over the years, and the solution is nearly always that I come to realise that actually the problems with X (or Y) are not as major as I thought and they will work fine, but I don’t seem to be able to speed up that process. I do remember my previous advice to myself that if I haven’t found something in 2-3 attempts, I’m probably not going to. Maybe I will do one more searching session early next week, and then settle for what I’ve got on my current long list.

Less urgently I am looking for some kind of friendly-looking database related to health conditions and demographics, where students can vary these and also things like time-period and geographic location. What I really want is something like the Gapminder resources but UK-focused. Or maybe I could take a more global focus? I will have a look later. If not, then I will have a look at the ONS (but think those are presented numerically not graphically) and Statista.

My priority for next week is to pin down at least one and ideally two or three AV resources. Eeek.

18th October 2022

Showing my workings: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 13:41

The next exciting instalment of my very slow liveblog, chronicling how I go about designing a section of an Open University module. Context and explanation here.

This morning I attended my first module team meeting (online), so now have more idea about the place of my section (‘learning guide’ or LG = approximately a week’s directed study time for the students) within the whole course. I’ve understood the overall module structure better than I had, so it’s really clear to me which are the other LGs I need to pay particular attention to, and ensure my LG builds on. I now have access to the shared area where all the drafts are being stored, so I will be able to look at other people’s LGs when I get a moment.

We are lucky enough to have someone on the team who used to be one of the Faculty’s Open Media Fellows, so he was suggesting possible OU/BBC co-productions we could use as audio-visual resources throughout the meeting. So there’s a couple of leads to follow up later once I am clearer about topic focus. He suggested searching the transcripts of the episodes on Videofinder (OU database of AV resources) using keywords, which is a great idea that I am horrified to realise I have never thought of before! There is always more to learn…

I’ve also properly registered the two key study skills I need to develop in my LG – I was vaguely aware of these before the meeting but they feel much clearer to me now. One is about evaluating an example essay and the other is about responding to tutor feedback on your work. Both of these strike me as ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’ study skills, so my first action will be to look for existing resource that could be adapted. For evaluating an example essay, my first step will be to have a look at The Good Study Guide by Andy Northedge This book was part of the first module I ever worked on, back in 2005ish, so it’s quite old now but it is a total classic and I don’t know anything more recent that does a better job. I value this book so highly that when we all had to grab things from our offices at the beginning of the lockdowns, this was one of the shelf-full of books I brought home. For the skill about responding to tutor feedback, I’m planning to remind myself what’s in the current version of this module, where I know this is also a key study skill.

In terms of topic focus, I have identified the general description of what my learning guide covers. This is taken from the Rep 03 – the description of the module that is created for the Board of Studies to decide whether the module should go ahead or not:

LG12 Adults in healthcare
This learning guide will select exemplar health conditions drawn from the epidemiology of adult health and illness, as outlined in Learning Guide 10. The learning guide will consider how general pattern of adult illness contributes to primary and secondary healthcare’s treatment and service priorities. The learning guide will explore how in relation to these exemplars primary and secondary healthcare services work to promote the wellbeing of patients and service users. It will also consider the evidence of effectiveness of primary and secondary healthcare interventions in improving adult wellbeing. This can include looking at factors that have improved health and wellbeing which are unrelated to improved medical and nursing care.

One of the things that strikes me right now as I paste in this general description, is that it’s quite public health and health care services focused, compared to other LGs I have written, which have focused more on the experiences of adults in health care settings. The focus here on public health is not at all surprising, since I know the person who wrote the Rep 03 is the person who is in charge of the public health degree, in which this module features. However, since most of the students on this module will be studying one of our other qualifications, I will check with the module chair and the person who wrote the Rep 03 whether this focus is essential, or whether something more focused on the experiences of adults in health care would be acceptable.

My very early thoughts are that I will want to include some topic that is a very common experience (to address the focus on ‘general patterns’), so maybe something about diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure (mental health issues are covered in a different LG). I’d also like to include something about barriers to healthcare e.g. phoning people up for appointments even though their notes state they are hard of hearing/Deaf. This example is in my mind because it happens so regularly to my HoH/Deaf friends, but it could be other sorts of barriers, like language or encountering racism or homo/bi/transphobia in a health care setting. I’m also wondering about something about a specific less common health issue, partly because students often find that interesting and feel they have learned something new, which can be motivating.

In terms of logging my hours: I spent 90 minutes at the module team meeting (which doesn’t come out of my 20 days for writing, as I have additional days for module team meetings) and then an hour chatting to someone about my ideas and writing this. I am lucky enough to live with someone who understands OU production pretty well, and I have realised that talking to them about my ideas is a really important part of how I design. But writing this was also very useful too, in further developing the ideas in the conversation, and realising the issue about the public health flavour for the first time. What do you know, reflexive practice for the win again.

30th September 2022

Showing my workings / Practicing what I preach?

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:43

At them moment I’m spending most of my teaching time running a course for colleagues who are new to creating online learning resources (I love doing this so much!) The course focuses on specific topics, such as designing good activities, pedagogic structures, different types of writing voice and writing for inclusion. But I’ve been thinking for a while that it might also be useful for them to have a fairly detailed blow-by-blow account of writing a learning guide. I’ve seen some great reflections afterwards from colleagues about the process, and wrote a reflection myself many years ago when I finished working on my first module, but I’ve not seen anything about the real nitty gritty of how someone decided what to do first, how they juggled the time among their other commitments, and what plans they had to abandon and why.

Handily, I’ve just agreed to take on a learning guide myself, so I am now in a position to supply one, in real-time stages as I progress. It is, of course, not a gold standard, and there are many different ways to go about designing learning materials which work well for different people. I am not offering a model here, just trying to make explicit some of the things that are often opaque to people new to designing online learning, which is kind of the schtick of the course as well.

So, here’s the first instalment:

Installment Loans
(cc) Thomas Hawk

This is a Level 1 module, replacing one that I was the production chair for in 2012ish, and then worked on in presentation in a number of roles. So I know the predecessor module really well, and the place of the new one in our qualifications, but I don’t know much about the new module itself yet. I also don’t really have any space in my workload to spend serious time on this until January (see above: teaching time full of courses for colleagues) but the D1 (first draft) is due in early December, the D2 at the end of January and the D3 at the beginning of March. (This is a more compressed schedule than is usual, in my experience, and I think it would be quite challenging for someone who has not done this before). I have 20 days allocated in my workload for the actual writing and designing and then a few more days for things like attending module team meetings.

Because I’m quite a deadline-driven person, the first thing I did was contact the module chair and curriculum manager to confirm these dates and to ask how much detail they wanted in the D1s. In my experience, D1s can vary from notes and ideas for resources to something pretty much written through but with a few activities or resources missing. The chair replied with a very helpful summary of what this module means by a D1 (more up the notes end of spectrum, phew) and the curriculum manager added that the audio visual resources need to be specified by late November (I have come into the process somewhat later than ideal). She very helpfully offered to find out whether there was any flexibility on that deadline, and it turned out there was, so it’s a little later in November for me than other people. It’s always worth discussing deadlines with your curriculum manager if you can already see something is going to be difficult. It’s much better for everyone if you work this out early and negotiate a new deadline if possible, rather than just hoping you will manage and then crashing deadlines later.

The chair has also promised to send me some D1s from an earlier Block, once they are submitted, so I can see the level of detail, and the content overview, skills development plan and learning outcomes for the whole course. I know the title of my learning guide (and the other LGs in the Block) and the topic is one I’ve covered before in other modules, although it’s not in my own specific research area. I’m going to a module team meeting in a week or so but, apart from that, that’s pretty much all I know at this stage.

My first opportunity to do any serious work on this will be the week commencing 14th November, and I plan to spend 3 or 4 days developing a D1, prioritising finding the AV resources, since those have the earliest deadline. I am hoping that attending the October and November module team meetings will help me begin to think about possible content, especially because I will learn more about what other people are covering. I often find that once I have some ideas about content, possible resources start jumping out at me from my every day life, but at the moment it’s all too vague to me for that to be happening. Because my LG is in the second half of the module, I am wondering whether I could reuse a piece of AV or other key resource that students have already met in an earlier LG – that often works really well for deepening understanding and creating continuity, as well as saving me work!

Next instalment of this gripping story probably not until late November, unless the module team meeting proves even more useful than I am anticipating…

5th February 2020

Long gestation articles

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 13:02
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yesterday I heard that another one of my slow-burn articles has been accepted. Here’s the title and abstract:

Later life sex and Rubin’s ‘Charmed Circle’

Gayle Rubin’s now classic concept of the ‘charmed circle’ has been much used by scholars of sexuality to discuss the ways in which some types of sex are privileged over others. In this paper, I apply the concept of the charmed circle to a new topic– later life – in order both to add to theory about later life sex and to add an older-age lens to thinking about sex hierarchies. Traditional discursive resources around older people’s sexual activities, which treat older people’s sex as inherently beyond the charmed circle, now coexist with new imperatives for older people to remain sexually active as part of a wider project of ‘successful’ or ‘active’ ageing. Drawing on the now-substantial academic literature about later life sex, I discuss some of the ways in which redrawing the charmed circle to include some older people’s sex may paradoxically entail the use of technologies beyond the charmed circle of ‘good, normal, natural, blessed’ sex. Sex in later life also generates some noteworthy inversions in which types of sex are privileged and which treated as less desirable, in relation to marriage and procreation. Ageing may, furthermore, make available new possibilities to redefine what constitutes ‘good’ sex and to refuse compulsory sexuality altogether, without encountering stigma.

This one started as a talk within a symposium at the ‘Sexual Cultures’ conference held at Brunel University in 2012. The symposium was great, with brilliant papers from Meg-John Barker, Christina Richards and Ester McGeeney also applying Rubin’s charmed circle to sex therapy, transpeople’s sexuality and young people’s sex, respectively. A revised version of my own paper also went down well at a European Sociological Association conference in Turin the following year and it always felt like something I wanted to say and thought needed saying. So I’ve been pondering why it took me so damn long to get it published, and what that tells me about the barriers and enablers for me of writing for journals (I’ve always found writing in other forms much easier).



I see from my Word ‘planned publications’ folder that I had a complete first draft within 9 months of the original symposium, so it’s not that I got stuck on the transition from talk to writing, as I sometimes do. I remember that I presented that first draft at a Feminist Reading Group meeting, and that members of the group were polite but seemed to be most interested in the bit at the end about refusing sex, rather than what I saw as the main point of the paper. That made me think that I hadn’t managed to communicate what I wanted to communicate. I also had a senior colleague read it for me and, alongside many helpful and supportive comments, she remarked that it read a bit like the lit review section of a Masters dissertation. That hurt and was very discouraging but I realised it was true. This paper is not an empirical paper, it’s a conceptual one and I always find empirical papers easier to write. I was struggling to find a voice in which to write primarily about ideas rather than primarily about data and, at that point, I couldn’t find it. In retrospect, I also recognise that at the time I had two pre-schoolers, was chronically sleep-deprived, only employed 3 days a week, was drowning in teaching and quite honestly it was a miracle that I managed to write anything at all. But the whole neo-liberal higher education culture means that I have only been able to recognise that with hindsight.

My ‘planned publications’ folder tells me that I then did nothing on the paper until 2018. So what did enable me to start writing it again? Partly it was the contextual personal stuff – I was getting plenty of sleep, my kids needed me less, I was working 4 days a week, I had a better writing routine, and I found my more senior teaching and management roles more enabling of research than my more junior ones. But I think it was also about increased confidence and facility in writing for journals. In between, I’d had a couple of really positive co-writing experiences and also managed to write the one big sole-authored paper I really wanted to write, even though it was really hard and also took years (this one: Jones, Rebecca L. (2019). Life course perspectives on (bi)sexuality: Methodological tools to deprivilege current identities. Sexualities, 22(7-8) pp. 1071–1093.) That made the task of sorting out this paper much less daunting. I had also got interested in the topic of later life sex again, so it had moved in my mind from ‘old stuff’ to ‘current stuff’. I benefited hugely from a three day writing retreat paid for by my department. By the end of the three days I’d managed to find the voice for writing conceptually, and that pretty much cracked it. Although it feels like a bit of a cheat because I pretty much just treated the academic literature on the topic as a kind of data… But it seems to have worked, so I’ll settle for that.

I think the lessons I draw from this for myself are:

  • have faith in yourself
  • recognise the contextual stuff and cut yourself some slack
  • take the long view – it’s okay for some articles to take years (spoken from a position of huge privilege of being permanently employed and working in a supportive environment where I am not pressured to meet impossible targets).
  • keep slogging away at new voices, even though it will slow you down
  • go on writing retreats!

26th February 2019

Imagining feminist old age: Initial feedback to participants

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 12:42

For the past 9 months I’ve been doing fieldwork for a small unfunded project which asks feminists to imagine a personal ideal feminist old age, using creative methods such as sketching, stickers and collage. The project is a response to this paper (Sandberg and Marshall, 2017), which calls for new visions of old age, and also builds on my own past work using creative methods to imagine alternative visions of personal ageing. The fieldwork is so much fun! And also really challenging and demanding, and much more personal to me than I expected. But really energising and exciting.

So far I’ve run 90-minute workshops with three groups of self-identified feminists. Participants in the workshops have wanted to know what I’m finding, so this post is a quick-and-dirty summary of some of the initial findings so far. It’s not proper systematic analysis yet, just some impressions of patterns I’m seeing at this stage. I’m also not describing the methods or the research rationale here, because participants in the workshops already know about that – if non-participant readers want to know more I’m happy to say more. All the names are self-chosen pseudonyms and the images are CC-BY (Rebecca L. Jones, link to this page if reusing). The groups have been quite diverse and I might later look at whether there are any differences between the groups in terms of the kinds of feminist futures they imagine, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

Rambler close up of figures

There has been lots of talk about the importance of maintaining independence – bodily, financial and personal independence. The photo above shows Rambler’s imagined future where new technology and financial resources enable her to keep doing an activity that’s really important to her- rambling. The figure on the left is Rambler, the figure on the right is ‘robodog’ who has GPS in his tail, carries first aid and survival supplies and will report back to a base unit if Rambler gets into difficulty.

Vanessa also imagined technology playing a role in enabling a feminist old age. She said that her creation shows “A future where gender ceases to have much significance and that this isn’t just a London-centric, Liberal indulgence. Specifically, that the rapid developments in AI allow coming generations of women to live their chosen lives unjudged and able to change those lives with advancing years.”

The two groups that were made up only of women talked a lot about personal and family relationships and the tension between wanting to be supportive and close to loved ones but also sometimes to feel less responsible for other people than they did at the moment. In one group, a lively debate developed between the majority arguing that they wanted immediate and extended family around them and one participant who stated she wanted to get away from family and that she had spent her life running around after people and just wanted solitude in old age. In another group, Christine wrote about the importance of family and loved ones but also said that she would no longer be delaying gratification and earning money to keep others, and that she would “finally […] have only responsibility for myself”

Becoming more yourself and less limited by other people’s expectations also seems to come quite up a lot. For example, Gabrielle said her creation showed “Living my best life. [… being] fierce and sassy with no limit and boundaries […] To be limitless […] To be powerful over my self”:


Participants also imagined futures where attitudes to older people, and especially older women, were different. For example, Simone imagined being “respected by society and family so one is not inhibited from being nosey and inquisitive”:

IMG_20190226_093754083Similarly, Gorgeous Grey, chose as one of the three main things that would enable her to have a feminist old age “Change of attitude amongst younger people to realise older women have a lot to offer.”

In these lists of the three main things that would enable a feminist old age, good health and sufficient money have been by far the commonest things mentioned, but supportive family, friends and communities of feminist or other like-minded people, have also been mentioned frequently. Other things include “to have a voice that is heard and role that is useful” (Olive), a more representative democracy, including more women and people of more diverse ages in government (Vanessa), better financial support from the state and a change of housing policy to make co-operative living easier (Gorgeous Grey) and “accepting and respecting care” (Peggy Tilly). Some people included personal attributes in these lists such as ‘courage’ (Christine) and “Ideally my wits” (Maddy).

One thing I’m noticing is that several people are mentioning being near water in their ideal feminist futures – often the sea but sometimes just ‘water’. Malaika said that she “would love to live next to a water body. Water calms my soul”. Jazzy’s creation shows “me swimming naked, brown as a coconut (i.e. tree) in ocean in HOT climate with grey bob [her hair]”:

I’m not sure what to make of all this water yet! Suggestions very welcome…

There’s so much more I could say – this is really rich and interesting data and I’d welcome any comments or questions.

I’m also still looking for one or two other groups to run workshops with, so if anyone knows any groups of people who would be happy to describe themselves as feminists (the group doesn’t have to be an explicitly feminist one, and the workshops are open to all genders and ages), not too far from Milton Keynes or London, please do let me know. I’d particularly like to find a group of younger feminists (but not younger than 18, because of ethics clearances) or people with caring responsibilities, or parents of young children, or people with disabilities, as these are some of the groups that are currently under-represented in my sample. Participants seem to really enjoy the workshops and I always supply cake and fruit!


27th November 2018

Applying to become a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 15:33

‘Finish SFHEA application’ has been one of my annual objectives for at least the last three years. I have now very nearly finished it and am pretty confident I will get it submitted by the next deadline for the OU scheme in January. In my 6k words of case, I have ended up making quite a lot of reference to entries in this blog ‘as evidence of my reflective approach to my pedagogic practice’ so it seemed appropriate to reflect in this entry on why it has taken me so damn long.

Like most people, I have tasks I procrastinate on but this is a really long procrastination for me. It’s also not the kind of task I usually procrastinate on – those are usually things I am scared I can’t really do, whereas I really am pretty confident that I deserve to be a SF of the HEA. Although putting it in writing like this feels horribly fate-tempting. And is not to say that I’ve got the case right yet, dear reader, if you are one of my reviewers. Of course I’ve had lots of competing demands on my time and things that felt (and undoubtedly were) more important than this, but really, in 3 years I couldn’t have found the approximately 10 days it has taken me to finally get there?!

So what has made it so difficult? One initial difficulty was that it felt a bit like applying for a job or a promotion in that it seemed to require the same kind of blowing-your-own-trumpet that is so uncomfortable for many British people and people-raised-as-women especially.


(cc Paul Williamson)

This included feeling that I was claiming credit for things that had actually been a team effort. My first draft was pages and pages of ‘I did this and here is the evidence that it was GREAT!’  and writing it was a really uncomfortable and drawn-out experience. And also quite discouraging because for some of the things I was writing about there wasn’t very good evidence that it was GREAT because it’s a complex system with many co-dependencies and a lot of my work as a Qualifications Lead is very slow burn. It helped when I realised that actually ‘I did this and it was GREAT’ was not what was required. Rather (I think), it needs ‘I did this because [reasons] and it led to [changes] which I evaluated [like this] and which has [these implications] for what we should do next’. That reframing of the task enabled me to access first a reflective voice and then a critical one, both of which come much more naturally to me than the ‘banging my own drum’ one.


(cc Linda Thomas-Fowler)

Another conceptual difficulty I experienced was the issue of drawing on the academic literature, because it felt like cheating. I don’t read pedagogic primary literature that often, so it felt as if I was retrofitting the academic literature on to decisions I had made for other reasons. Two things helped me deal with that. One, appropriately enough, was Wenger-Trayner’s notion of the community of practice and recognising that, while I don’t myself read the primary pedagogic literature that much, I am a fish swimming in a sea of pedagogic literature because the OU cares so much about teaching. I’ve gone to countless seminars and workshops on pedagogic issues, I read briefings and reports from primary researchers the whole time, I line manage people who undertake scholarship projects (and do the odd one myself) and I have conversations with colleagues in the corridors and during meetings about the best ways to teach things the whole time. So I am actually drawing on the pedagogic literature the whole time, just not always directly.


(cc) Ryan McMinds

The other thing that helped with this, also appropriately enough given that some of my case reflects on the 14 years I’ve been teaching at the OU, was thinking about some of the concepts I included in the first materials I ever developed, for K101 back in 2005. I wrote a section about evidence-based practice and explored some of the debates about whether ‘evidence’ just means academic studies or whether it also includes the knowledge of expert practitioners and service users. I’ve always been of the opinion that it has to include both (in critical dialogue with one another) but I realised that I’d been privileging the academic literature over my own, colleagues’ and students’ expert knowledges. That enabled me to reconceptualise what I am doing by citing the literature as tracing back the academic genealogy of an idea, rather than falsely claiming to have made this decision because the literature told me to (which anyway, would be a terrible way to proceed because you can hardly ever move straight from ‘the literature’ to ‘what you should do’ in this kind of complex world).

So there you are, some reflections on the process, which I will now link to in my case, to complete the self-referential circle. If nothing else, this should ensure I really do get the damn things submitted soon because how embarrassing would that be?!


(cc) Christine Mahler

11th July 2017

Updated reading list on bisexuality and ageing

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:31

My 2012 reading list on bisexuality and ageing is one of my most popular posts, so here’s an updated version, to take account of some literature I’ve encountered more recently. The heading ‘Empirical literature’ is pretty exhaustive – this is everything I know about that focuses on bisexuality and ageing. If I’ve missed something, please do let me know! ‘Non-empirical literature’ is not exhaustive but these are some of the most cited and (I think) most interesting pieces (why yes, I do include one of my own chapters in there!) Do let me know if you would like to read any of these and are having trouble getting access.

Empirical studies of bisexuality and ageing

Special Issue of the Journal of Bisexuality on Ageing and Bisexuality (2016) 16:1:

  • BÉRES-DEÁK, R. (2016) “I’ve Also Lived as a Heterosexual”—Identity Narratives of Formerly Married Middle-Aged Gays and Lesbians in Hungary. Journal of Bisexuality, 16, 81-98.
  • HILL, B. J., SANDERS, S. A. & REINISCH, J. M. (2016) Variability in Sex Attitudes and Sexual Histories Across Age Groups of Bisexual Women and Men in the United States. Journal of Bisexuality, 16, 20-40.
  • SCHNARRS, P. W., ROSENBERGER, J. G. & NOVAK, D. S. (2016) Differences in Sexual Health, Sexual Behaviors, and Evaluation of the Last Sexual Event Between Older and Younger Bisexual Men. Journal of Bisexuality, 16, 41-57.
  • WITTEN, T. M. (2016) Aging and Transgender Bisexuals: Exploring the Intersection of Age, Bisexual Sexual Identity, and Transgender Identity. Journal of Bisexuality, 16, 58-80.

FREDRIKSEN-GOLDSEN, K. I., SHIU, C., BRYAN, A. E. B., GOLDSEN, J. & KIM, H.-J. 2017. Health Equity and Aging of Bisexual Older Adults: Pathways of Risk and Resilience. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 72, 468-478.

JONES, R. L. (2011) Imagining bisexual futures: Positive, non-normative later life Journal of Bisexuality, 11, 245-270.

JONES, R. L. (2012) Imagining the unimaginable: Bisexual roadmaps for ageing. IN WARD, R., RIVERS, I. & SUTHERLAND, M. (Eds.) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ageing: Providing effective support through understanding life stories. London, Jessica Kingsley.

JONES, R. L., ALMACK, K. & SCICLUNA, R. (2016) Ageing and bisexuality: Case studies from the ‘Looking Both Ways’ Study, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

ROWNTREE, M. R. (2015) The influence of ageing on baby boomers’ not so straight sexualities. Sexualities, 18, 980-996.

WEINBERG, M. S., WILLIAMS, C. J. & PRYOR, D. W. (2001) Bisexuals at midlife: Commitment, salience and identity. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 30, 180-208.


Non-empirical literature on bisexual ageing

DWORKIN, S. H. (2006) Aging bisexual: The invisible of the invisble minority. IN KIMMEL, D., ROSE, T. & DAVID, S. (Eds.) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aging: Research and clinical perspectives. New York,ColumbiaUniversity Press.

FIRESTEIN, B. (Ed.) (2007) Becoming visible: Counseling bisexuals across the lifespan, New York, Columbia University Press.

JOHNSTON, T. R. (2016) Bisexual Aging and Cultural Competency Training: Responses to Five Common Misconceptions. Journal of Bisexuality, 16, 99-111.

KEPPEL, B. (2006) Affirmative psychotherapy with older bisexual women and men. Journal of Bisexuality, 6, 85-104.

JONES, R. L. (2016) Sexual identity labels and their implications in later life: The case of bisexuality. In: PEEL, E. & HARDING, R. (eds.) Ageing & Sexualities: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Farnham: Ashgate.

KEPPEL, B. & FIRESTEIN, B. (2007) Bisexual inclusion in addressing issues of GLBT aging: Therapy with older bisexual women and men. In: FIRESTEIN, B. (ed.) Becoming visible: counselling bisexuals across the lifespan. New York: Columbia University Press

RODRIGUEZ RUST, P. C. (2012) Aging in the bisexual community. In: WITTEN, T. M. & EYLER, A. E. (eds.) Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender aging: Challenges in research, practice and policy. Baltimore, US: The John Hopkins University Press.


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