Phil, a member of the Learning & Teaching Enhancement team at the University, explores the relationship between the poetic nursing heart, the University Learning and Teaching strategy and the Principles of Partnership Working.

‘Words of learned length and thundering sound’: Learning, Teaching and The Poetic Nursing Heart

I first became aware of the work around The Poetic Nursing Heart after inviting Tom to present his innovative co-construction approach at the first Student & Staff Learning & Teaching Conference in January. In following conversations I was immediately struck not only by Tom and Nicole’s infectious enthusiasm for sharing their love of poetry but also by the powerful potential of The Poetic Nursing Heart to facilitate a fresh and authentic approach to inspiring reflection upon creativity, learning and the self for both staff and students across the University.

From a Learning & Teaching stand point it is evident that the Poetic Nursing Heart has a deep resonance with the University Learning & Teaching Strategy. Several of the key principles of the strategy naturally align with the Poetic Nursing Heart and in particular the principles of Building learning communities, Educating the whole person, and Students as partners in learning are woven throughout in a natural and organic manner.

This lends the Poetic Nursing Heart a powerful synergy that is borne out in the experience of both staff and students who have been involved. A recurring theme in these testimonies is the feeling of being part of something that transcends just a poetry reading session, words such as connection, significance, emotion, shared, caring and passion appear repeatedly, words that are not perhaps associated with the classroom all too often! It is still early days for formal conclusions to be drawn but it appears that the approach simultaneously promotes a ‘deep learning’ connection to the material itself whilst also generating an authentic sense of inclusion, belonging and shared community amongst participants.

Community, Authenticity and Inclusivity are all central Principles of Partnership Working at the university and the Poetic Nursing Heart presents an exciting opportunity to explore student & staff partnership within a new frame. It is clear even at this early stage that the approach appears to have a deep and powerful effect on the way that both students & staff think about their sense of place within the university community. The approach creates a unique space in which students and staff can share vulnerabilities and develop the mutual trust that this requires.

Although the approach was first developed for use within nursing and the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, I see no reason why a similar approach could not be adopted by any programme or Faculty with similar results. In Tom’s words, the glowing ember has sparked into a small flame, we are now entrusted with nurturing, protecting and growing that flame.


Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,

With blossomed furze unprofitably gay,

There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,

The village master taught his little school;

A man severe he was, and stern to view;

I knew him well, and every truant knew;

Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace

The day’s disasters in his morning face;

Full well they laughed, with counterfeited glee,

At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;

Full well the busy whisper, circling round,

Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned;

Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,

The love he bore to learning was in fault.

The village all declared how much he knew;

‘Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;

Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,

And even the story ran that he could gauge.

In arguing too, the parson owned his skill,

For e’en though vanquished, he could argue still;

While words of learned length and thundering sound

Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around,

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame.

The very spot

Where many a time he triumphed is forgot.


From The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith



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