SpotLITE: Dan Trowsdale, LITE Fellow

For each edition of SEB we’ll focus on a different aspect of the Student Education community at the University of Leeds with a Q&A feature.

This month we shine a light on Dan Trowsdale, a Fellow at the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE).


Tell us a bit about your career before teaching

I came to teach at the University of Leeds around twelve years ago following over twenty years in industry as a practicing product designer, design advisor and design manager.  I was ready for a change and felt I had experience to support the practice based elements of the discipline of Product Design.  Having recruited and ‘trained’ a number of graduate product designers I thought that I had a good idea of the sort of competencies required.  I was not, however, trained to teach which has become a real focus and notably my thinking about what should be ‘taught’ has changed dramatically.  Skills in designing and creativity have been really useful in the role we all take as educators, that of being a learning designer.  Seven years since completing the PGCLTHE I still feel I am making significant improvements each year to my designs for teaching and learning.


What does being a LITE Fellow involve?

Being a LITE Fellow has provided the platform and headspace to really focus on an area of educational research and scholarship that I simply wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore.  The working space is very conducive to scholarly activity and it has been enjoyable to be so centrally located in the University Campus.   It has been particularly fantastic to spend time amongst a group who care so passionately about supporting and developing teaching and learning activities.   Although I love teaching, having a break from the seasonal tides of teaching and assessment has been most welcome.  The role provides time that wouldn’t be possible around my day to day workload.


What do you hope to achieve from your project?

On a scholarship level, I hope to enhance approaches to module review and module re-design by involving the student voice.  In a Design context, this  process would be called human centred design, listening to the ‘user’ and putting their views as close to the centre of the design process as possible. Only a short way into the project I realised that our students are very capable of  contributing to the development of modules and have views that simply cannot be collected through traditional tick box surveys or questionnaires.  On a personal level I hope this experience will enhance my ability to teach and also contribute to my career development as a L&T scholar here at Leeds.


What excites you about this role?

I really enjoy new challenges and the opportunity to develop some of my ideas is really exciting.  It is also fantastic to be focussing specifically on scholarship and impact of scholarship.  Being within LITE will expose me to new aspects of the University which has opened my eyes to what an amazingly complex organisation we are part of.  I’m also excited to be working with students in a different way, we are so lucky to be surrounded by some brilliant young minds and I have been excited to test new ways of engaging with them in a dialogue about learning.


What does the future hold for you?

I hope to progress my research and scholarship in education in areas where design thinking and design processes can impact on design for learning.  There is much to consider as we embrace new technology and react to the changing nature of HE.


How do you relax away from work?

I try to laugh as much as possible.  Comedy has recently become an important aspect to my life away from work.  I discovered how performing  stand-up and improvised comedy can deliver a healthy attitude to life and have appeared on stage in Leeds, York, Manchester and Reykjavik.  The people in comedy are amazing and this has led to me hosting and promoting charity comedy nights at a local venue involving some of the funny people I have met along the way.