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The crit and how students receive feedback

January 9, 2016 in PGcert

I read Critiquing the Crit for this topic: Blythman, M. Orr, S. Blair, B. (2007) ‘Critiquing the Crit‘: ADM Subject Centre, Higher Education Academy.

Reading this makes me think about equal participation, something I wrote about in my Topic 2 blog Equalising student participation (including small groups, peer feedback, fostering familiarity and speaking in circles), and how students can feel about receiving feedback.

Out of all the descriptions in the Staff Guide, the one I identified most with was ‘Peer crits’ where:

  • The tutor acts as facilitator
  • Students are divided down into smaller groups
  • Students are given criteria to critique against
  • Students give peer feedback
  • The facilitator feeds into the discussion

It’s a similar model to the peer feedback presentation skills workshops I teach, and the issues raised feel very similar, probably because a core component is about speaking in front of people.

How students feel

I really like one particular quote from Danvers (2003), cited in the Critiquing the crit discussion paper, who says creativity thrives ‘in an environment where the individual feels psychologically and physically comfortable, in an atmosphere of trust, security and openness.’

How can we create an environment where students feel more comfortable about receiving feedback? Part of this seems to be by understanding how students feel and responding by creating a supportive environment.

I collaborated on publishing a book Art Crits: 20 Questions (2013) where we interviewed UK Fine Art staff about the art crit. Jim Hamlyn, Gray’s School of Art, sums up a key point: ‘A lot of the barriers revolve around people’s sense of inferiority, where they feel as though they are in a situation where other people are superior in some way or have superior access, knowledge, understanding or articulacy.’

In an article in Networks Magazine, Perception, Interpretation, Impact (2007), Bernadette Blair says:

‘If a student’s cognitive resources are interfered with in one or more of the crit activities, through either a negative experience or a misunderstanding of the formative feedback, or by being so apprehensive that they cannot listen to or absorb the feedback comments on either their own work or the work of others, then this can impair the student’s performance and learning experience.’

By understanding this, we can create a supportive environment that helps create equality, where each person’s opinion and contribution is heard and valued, where the students feel comfortable sharing their work and the feedback doesn’t feel like judgment but something that helps them learn.

Large groups and dominance

The Critiquing the Crit discussion paper says that students generally found the large crit to be ‘inhibiting when presenting to the whole group, especially for shy or international students’. Large groups require students to broadcast their ideas rather than converse.

‘Strong students can dominate. The overtalker is as much of a problem as the undertalker’, say Blythman, M. et al. Bernadette Blair says something similar in Art Crits: 20 Questions: ‘A bad crit is one where it becomes a performance for the staff or a particularly egotistical student to take centre stage and not actually let anyone else get a word in edgeways.’ (p67)

The peer crit model breaks students into small groups, and giving each student a certain timeframe to speak. This helps give each student an equal platform, where those feelings of inferiority aren’t heightened by students who speak more confidently for longer periods of time.

Peer feedback

When students are with their peers and friends, they feel more comfortable. One of the students I surveyed said: “When I know the people and it is a friendly non-judgmental environment I feel good and I am more able to speak out.”

An outcome from Susannah Rees’s PgCert action research project ‘Improving the Student Experience of Presenting work to Peers and Tutors’ (2008) was that students are more than twice as likely to be more nervous when presenting to tutors than peers. Peer feedback supports learning, if we follow the idea that students who are feeling emotionally comfortable will be in a better position to learn.

Peer feedback also seems to be a tool explicitly valued by students. In the discussion paper, Blythman, M. et al say, ‘Students especially stated that verbal feedback from their peers is critical in enhancing their own learning activity.’

‘Invisible’ teachers

As well as peer feedback reducing nerves, it also helps equalise between the students and staff, reducing the idea of the teacher as authority figure (discussed in Topic 1 and Topic 2).

I like this quote from Jim Hamlyn in Art Crits: 20 Questions: ‘The more I teach the more I realise that actually being invisible is probably the best thing that you can do.’ (p66)

This ‘invisibility’ of the teacher equalisation reduces formality, hierarchy and pressure, and students could feel more at ease talking about their and others work.

Invisible teachers

Bad experiences

I think that the first experience of speaking in a crit or class is extremely important. One student I spoke to from LCF said his first experience of public speaking was an assessment in front of 60 students and 2 tutors. “I just freaked out, shaking, sweating.” His friends afterwards said they were shocked as he seemed so confident in other areas of life. This very stressful first experience meant that subsequently he resolutely avoided speaking in front of a big group.

The potential for humiliation and embarrassment is high, and these experiences can stay with you and can continue to block the learning benefits. I doubt that this student would have processed any feedback following his presentation.

Embedding presentation skills in the crit

I spoke to Nancy Turner (previously at UAL, now University of Saskatchewan) a few years ago, who suggested that the crit could be used as a way of embedding speaking skills in the curriculum.

I would like to consider this idea more and develop a new workshop in collaboration with a course. I developed a peer feedback presentation skills workshop for the Introduction to Study in Higher Education unit. If  students participated afterwards in well-structured ‘peer crit’, I think this would provide them with a more comfortable first experience of giving and receiving feedback which can be built on positively as they progress through university.

Learning outcomes and self assessment

December 14, 2015 in PGcert

Assessment is quite a new topic for me, as I generally work with courses on presentation and employability skills, and I’m not closely involved in the learning outcomes and assessment. The sessions I teach are very practical and slot into, and are adapted for, other people’s programmes.

First thoughts

The question I’m considering is: How useful do you think intended learning outcomes are in the teaching of your discipline?

I can see the benefit of planning ahead and shared expectations between staff and students, or “the implicit contract with students… is that only the preset criteria will be used in deciding the grade.” (Sadler, 2009, p167)

But learning outcomes seem potentially prescriptive, and I wonder if the language used could be challenging for arts and design students. For example, ‘aims, objectives and outcomes’ feel quite corporate. (Though this might be influenced by some of my reading, see illustration in the image below!)

Queen Marys photo

Danvers, J. says that “learning objectives determined by, and for, others” can alienate individuals from the learning process.  (Danvers, J. (2007) Qualitative rather than Quantitative: the assessment of arts education.) This teacher as authority feeling is echoed in guidelines from Oxford Brookes: “Once you, the teacher, have decided what knowledge and skills students will demonstrate…” (Carrol, J. (2001) Writing Learning Outcomes: some suggestions).

I like Danvers comments on the derivation of the word ‘assessment’, from the Latin ‘assidere’ which means ‘to sit beside’. This feels more equal, supportive and collaborative than the meaning commonly associated with ‘assessment’: “the ​act of ​judging or ​deciding the ​amount, ​value, ​quality, or ​importance of something” (Cambridge Dictionaries online).

Drafting learning outcomes 

I’ve spent a bit of time getting my head around how to write effective learning outcomes. I’ve written a summary of the reading I’ve done to help inform my understanding (Creating learning outcomes).

Creatin

So this is my first stab at writing down the activities and the learning outcomes:

What are our aims? Get students to practice making presentations

What are they going to do? Present to their peers as part of a workshop

How are we going to assess it? This is a tough one. It could be ‘Judge how well the students present’ but that doesn’t fit at all with my ethos (I explore this more at the end of this blog post).

Activities:

  • Prepare presentation
  • Talk in pairs to discuss presentation
  • Present in bigger groups
  • Give and receive feedback

Learning outcomes:

  • Participate in the workshop and speak during each exercise
  • Prepare a presentation to demonstrate your research work on your chosen film
  • Practice delivering your presentation to improve it
  • Listen to presentations from your peers and give feedback that will help them make improvements
  • Evaluate and apply feedback from your peers to develop and improve your presentation

Any feedback on how I could improve the learning outcomes would be much appreciated!

Activity

Now that I understand a bit more about the nuts and bolts of putting together learning outcomes, I am having a look through different approaches to assessment. I am most interested in emergent outcomes and activities. I tend to focus on activities in my teaching, possibly because my research has shown that you improve presentation skills by practicing.

We were asked the question ‘What’s one thing you’re good at, and how did you get good at it?’ in the online seminar. My answer was: ‘By doing a lot of it.’ Several people said ‘repetition’, and the biggest word on Lindsay’s word cloud was ‘experience’.

Activity seems to be central to ‘constructive alignment’, something that John Biggs’ talks about: “Learning is constructed by what activities the students carry out; learning is about what they do, not about what we teachers do.” John Biggs www.johnbiggs.com

I was particuarly interested in Elliott Eisner’s focus on activity theory, starting from the point of the activity. I found an essay called ‘Educational Objectives: Help or Hindrance?’ Eisner, E. (1967).  He says that the rational approach to curriculum development is to state objectives before the formulation of activities:

“At first view, this seems to be reasonable way to proceed with curriculum construction: one should know where he is headed before embarking on a trip. Yet, while the procedure of first identifying objectives before proceeding to identify activities is logically defensible, it is not necessarily the most psychologically efficient way to proceed. One can, and teachers often do, identify activities that seem useful, appropriate, or rich in educational opportunities, and from a consideration of what can be done in class, identify the objectives or possible consequences of using these activities.”

It’s the chicken and egg question: does the outcome come from the activity, or the activity from the outcome. In some ways, this circular process is appropriate. Esser-Hall says: “interpretation has no final result and each ending holds a new beginning”. Esser-Hall, G. (2000) ‘Perpetual Beginnings: The Role of Phenomenological Hermeneutics in Art Education’, The International Journal of Art & Design Education 19:3 (p289)

Danvers says: “Outcomes may well be unpredictable, unknown at the outset of an activity or only become apparent long after the supposed period of learning.” (Danvers, J. (2007) Qualitative rather than Quantitative: the assessment of arts education.)

He says that summative assessment “tends to develop convergent thinking at the expense of divergent thinking.” He thinks that the “increasingly deterministic emphasis on goal-orientated behaviour in which linear systematic processes lead to predictable outcomes”. In contrast, divergent thinking puts an emphasis on inventiveness and innovation, and creates a “willingness to revise, re-think and re-formulate” (Danvers, J. 2003 ‘Towards a Radical Pedagogy: Provisional Notes on Learning and Teaching in Art & Design’, The International Journal of Art & Design Education 22:1 (p.47–57)

I don’t like the idea of locking things down and not allowing creativity to thrive, or ignoring something that could be profound or transformative just because it doesn’t fit the criteria.

An example of an unintended learning outcome could be the invention of the microwave oven in 1945, after radar researcher Percy Spencer noticed his equipment had melted a bar of chocolate.

chocolate bar

 

Ipsative assessment and measuring improvement

I found this blog post by John Kleeman blog post quite helpful in understanding the idea of ipsative assessment. He says that it compares an individual’s results against his or her previous result, and how “progress and improvement is a useful thing to measure as well as achievement and competency”.

The study by Orr, S. & Bloxham, S. (2012, Making judgements about students making work: Lecturers’ assessment practices in art and design) on examining conversations of examiners when marking student work is interesting.

“…she starts weaker and you can really see now where she’s come on.”

For my sessions, it feels like the most important aspect is how much the individual has improved, and whether they feel more comfortable. As part of my evaluation, I ask students how they feel before the workshop and after it, so we can compare the two sets of data and track any difference, as well as any narrative feedback. This feels like it links well with ipsative assessment.

Although there are improvements that I notice during workshops with the students, I think my assessment of their progress is far less important than their own. The measure is ‘Do they feel more comfortable speaking’? It’s more about self-reflection, comparing their before and after, and formative assessment.

After thinking about this more, I’d now add another learning outcome:

Reflect on how you feel about making presentations before and after the workshop

Are intended learning outcomes useful in my work?

It feels useful to have some guidelines and shared expectations between staff and students, and for the students to know what they will be assessed on.

But it feels like there needs to be a degree of flexibility, and certainly take into account emergent outcomes, which may allow for greater creativity and also takes into account any unexpected learnings or demonstration of skill.

However, it also seems important to be consultative, to make sure that we don’t create learning outcomes that alienate students.

For my workshops, I do wonder if the assessment should be aimed at the teacher rather than the student. If the student doesn’t feel more comfortable speaking following the workshop, then I feel it’s because I’ve not fully understood their needs or feelings and I need to do more research in order to improve the teaching. For example, I want to do more research into international students to ensure that I am tailoring my teaching to their needs (see Topic 4) in order to make the workshop more effective.

Inclusivity and international students

December 4, 2015 in PGcert

For the inclusivity topic, I’m thinking about what makes students feel included and excluded in my teaching.

I feel that inclusivity and equal participation (discussed in Topic 2) is a major focus of the presentation skills work I do, particularly the fact that everybody takes speaks equally during my workshops, which are based around peer feedback.

I naturally have empathy for people who find it hard to speak, as I am terrified of public speaking myself, and have researched the reasons why students might feel nervous during my Teaching and Professional Fellowship.

However, I need to make sure I understand any barriers that may relate to disability, language, cultural differences, race, gender, financial restrictions. I want to adapt my workshops to meet the needs of as many students as possible within the same session.

I am going to focus on international students for now, following a conversation I had about the challenges around international students and giving feedback in class (see James’s comment and my response).

International students and speaking

First of all, I do struggle a bit with the term ‘international students’. This is because the category could include a student from America with English as a first language, and a student from China with English as a second language, and therefore the category represents very different needs. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll focus on international students with English as a second language.

I’ve done some initial research around international students and participation, as part of previous projects.

One student talked about language barriers: “I am generally reserved and not self-confident, I am afraid of being judged. Here in London my fears have doubled because my language is not English.”

Another student talked about cultural differences: “There is this common code or belief and because everyone knows it, you don’t have to say it. If a student speaks out they are regarded as being too flashy, not humble.”

During 2014/15, I organised workshops with 244 students. 48% of the participants stated that English was not their first language. 71% of those students felt nervous about public speaking, compared to 50% of the students who had English as their first language.

One good thing is that the workshops already have a positive effect on international students. The number of students with English as a second language who were nervous dropped from 71% to 43%. It’s not as pronounced as the improvement of those who have English as a first language, where the number of students who felt nervous more than halved from 50% to 23%, but it’s still a significant improvement.

A Chinese student from BA Fashion Jewellery at LCF said her confidence had increased because the workshop “Gave the great feedback that I need to improve so it makes me better.”

Understanding the complex interactions

I’m now considering what my next step would be in order to understand any barriers more.

Using the idea of an audit from the NUS report Liberation, Equality and Diversity in the Curriculum, I did a small scale review of my course material and my research methods.

It made me re-evaluate some research I am planning. I wanted to do research with a group of international students to understand the factors that may influence speaking and participation in order to help make my teaching more inclusive. I now feel I should extend the research to a wider group of students, not just international students, as there are a more complex range of interactions at work.

International students may experience feelings of exclusion, for example. One of our class members in the PgCert workshop said that the level of English that students have to achieve “doesn’t prepare you for chatting to your peers”. This is a challenge that affects all students, whether home, EU or international.

There are other issues in addition to language. One student told me that she initially felt resentful towards some of the international students as they were well-off and arrived at university in taxis. In turn, this type of feeling could affect the experience of the international students. “The international students can feel like they’re not valued,” said a PgCert class member, ‘as their peers think they are there because they pay high fees.”

To extend this idea even further, there could also be tensions between students and staff. In Duna Sabri’s Becoming Students at UAL (2015), one Chinese student felt her tutor was prejudiced against the international students. But, she says, “It’s not that bad now, I’m quite getting used to him and the tutor is getting better… because we know about each other.”

I feel that if there is more communication, then empathy increases and prejudice reduces. The more we share openly and honestly, the more connections the students will see between each other.

Collaborate and hang out together

Siobhan asked in our PgCert discussion: “How are you getting the students to collaborate and hang out together? We have a responsibility to support this.”

The presentation skills workshop promote communication between students so I feel that they have a wider role to play in inclusivity. I’ve noticed if we do the workshops early on in the first year, it gives students the chance to talk to people they might not have spoken to and provide mutual support.

Equality and Diversity for Academics – Promoting good relations suggests we “encourage working across difference”:

“Students can be reluctant to work with people who are different from themselves, particularly across perceived language or cultural barriers. Use group work to encourage students out of their comfort zones.”

A very similar point is made in Equality and Diversity for Academics – Inclusive practice, where it suggests we ‘encourage interaction’, allocating teams for group work rather than allowing self-selection (something we discussed in Topic 2).

Using digital to facilitate greater understanding

There are some interesting videos of international students on Commonplace. We could show some of these videos as part of the workshops. For example, the experience and advice from student Angela is really lovely. Angela says: “It’s really important to share, to make speech… Communicate is the only way to improve yourself, to have a much better life instead of hiding.”

I could also collaborate with Commonplace to create some new videos. For example, I could ask the students in the video presentation skills workshops I run to film a short presentation on how they feel about speaking. We could then upload the videos on Commonplace and play them back in future workshops.

Collaboration between year groups

Writing about this topic has now made me think further about how students can provide support to each other and foster stronger connections.

In our discussions on sustainability, I talked about a workshop I devised for the collaboration unit for MA Documentary Film, where the graduating students mentored the new students by giving them support and feedback on their presentations.

I could apply the same idea to other workshops. Students from the year above, including international students, could give feedback and support to the new students. I can imagine advice and insights from more experienced international students, similar to those on Angela’s video, could be very helpful.

I want to end on an important question asked in Tell Us About It: Student Stories: “How can we manage/facilitate the student group to be a resource for each other?”

The teaching I do includes peer feedback, mutual support, communication, sharing of stories, increased familiarity and working together. If I can do more work to fully understand the needs of the different students, then I think the workshops can play a role in increasing inclusivity and understanding between different people.

Sustainable systems and positive human agency

November 6, 2015 in PGcert

I spent the majority of time on this topic wondering what ‘sustainability’ actually means.

I did three pieces of reading, which first made me feel perplexed, then a bit annoyed, and finally slightly more comfortable.

1) Perplexed

An enhancement guide for Sustainability in the Curriculum

This guide doesn’t explain definitions of ‘sustainability’. It says that sustainability is not just ‘related to our physical environment’, but what is it related to? The closest thing to a definition is the quote from UAL’s strategic aims, ‘To create a culture of social and environmental awareness in order to develop and integrate sustainable and ethical practice throughout all aspects of our life and work.’ (University Strategy 2010-15)’.

2) Bit annoyed

Dawe, G., Jucker, R. & Martin, S. (2005) Sustainable Development in Higher Education: Current Practice and Future Developments. York: Higher Education Academy 

This goes through different definitions of Education for Sustainable Development (EDS). There are variations on three factors: environmental, social and economic.

Dawe et al present different criteria for EDS. One is ‘Acceptance of limits’, related to the idea that ‘we are living within a materially non-growing, closed system’. This is based on a model called ‘The Natural Step’, accompanied by a picture of a person draining too much water from planet Earth via a tap. The tap represents technology (not cutting edge technology, given taps were invented in the 1800s!).

The Natural Step

I react against this definition. I think education is about not accepting limits. Are we really living in a finite, closed system? For example, fossil fuels might be limited but what about the other ways we might be able to create energy?

There’s a great book called ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ which is all about dispelling the assumed limits that we place around ourselves and going beyond them. I think we should want students to be proactive, innovative and taking action, and not see themselves as consumers who are fearful that our resources will run out.

In the workshops I deliver, there is a focus on empowering the individual. (Dawe et al do talk about the ‘empowerment of the learner’.) Developing speaking skills is not just about better communication, it’s about your agency as a human being and doing something that matters to you. It’s about breaking limits, taking risks and helping create a future that is better than some of the dystopian futures I hear about in the context of sustainability.

3) Comfortable (ish) 

Sterling, S. (2013) Future Fit Framework: An introductory guide to teaching and learning for sustainability in HE

Sterling gives much clearer context for ‘sustainability’. More importantly he relates it to ‘graduate attributes’ and how graduates should prepare themselves for the world. He sums it up here:

‘In a nutshell: sustainability education prepares people to cope with, manage and shape social, economic and ecological conditions characterised by change, uncertainty, risk and complexity.’

A German view of sustainability literacy seems the most practical to me. This checklist (Michelsen and Adomssent 2007, p22) includes: the ability to deal with uncertainty, working in an interdisciplinary way, being participatory, the ability to plan, feeling empathy, motivating yourself and reflecting on wider concepts.

All of these things I understand in relation to developing enterprise and employability skills, and particularly to speaking skills. For example, being participatory (something I explored in Topic 2, Equalising student participation) and feeling empathy (when giving feedback, there is a need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes).

Sterling sums up: ‘..the sustainability learner will be characterised by such qualities as resilience, resourcefulness, creativity, systemic and critical thinking, enterprise, and a co-operative and caring outlook.’ (p 23)

This is exactly the kind of skills that I want to help students and graduates develop. Though I do still wonder if sustainability is something that can mean what you want it to mean.

I thought about sustainability when I designed and delivered a day of workshops this week on collaboration and presentation skills. I worked with two year groups on the Documentary Film MA at LCC. In the morning, the graduating students acted as mentors to the new students, and gave feedback on their presentations. In an afternoon workshop, the new students gave feedback on the graduating students’ presentations in return.

This ecosystem and reciprocity will carry through to next year, when the new students will be graduating and will act as mentors to the next intake of students.

In these sessions, the students are:

  • Resourceful (reflecting on ideas and articulating them)
  • Participative (each person speaks)
  • Supportive (give constructive feedback to peers)
  • Collaborative (two year groups working together)

There is a circular sense of sustainability about it. But I also feel that these skills encourage positive human agency, with the voice helping turn thought into action).

Sustainability and innovation

Equalising student participation

October 16, 2015 in PGcert

The big question for me this week is: How do you get every student in your class to participate?

I really enjoyed reading Psychology Teaching: Working in Small Groups written for the Higher Education Academy by Caprice Lantz. It’s great summary of different ideas, combining theory and practical advice. She talks about ‘Encouraging and equalising student participation’ which seems important.

I found that I am already using some of the other techniques around working with small groups, which I think are essential for helping students speak more comfortably:

1) Small groups. The presentation skills workshops I run ensure each student speaks, partly achieved by using small groups. Each student has an allocated time to prepare and present a short presentation in a pair, before joining another pair to practice again, and then moving into a bigger group. This snowball method means that it feels more like a conversation rather than a presentation, even when speaking in bigger groups. Lantz’ survey of literature suggests that small groups should be taught in a maximum of 6 (Bennett et al., 2002 Small group teaching and learning in Psychology).

2) Peer feedback. The workshops are centred around students giving each other feedback on their presentations. Lantz talks about the ‘traditional master-apprentice view of lecturers and students’. This model means the teacher dominates. This is apparently more commonly found among teachers who identify themselves as ‘experts’ (Silver, M. & Wilkerson, L. A. (1991) Academic Medicine). This equality and two way-learning is something we discussed a lot in Topic 1. Small groups ‘establish a more intimate and dialectical contact with academic and teaching staff than more formal methods permit’ (Jacques, D., & Salmon G. (2006) Learning in Groups: A Handbook for face-to-face and online environments)

3) Fostering familiarity. As the students talk first in pairs in my workshops, then gradually add people to their groups, there is an opportunity to get familiar with the others in the group. Lantz says that Giordano and Hammer (1999) and Jackson and Prosser (1985) both advocate fostering familiarity to help ‘reticent’ students to become more participative. As one student said in my research for Teaching and Professional Fellowship at UAL, “I found giving presentations about my work very difficult at the start but as I’ve got to know people, it’s more like talking to your friends.’

4) Circles. The students in my workshop always sit or stand in a circle when they are giving feedback to their peers. Lantz says that circles are widely considered best in facilitating interaction (Bennett et al., 2002)

What matters the most to me is that everybody speaks. This is not about some people being the best speakers, it’s about each student finding a comfortable way to express themselves.

One question that preoccupies me a lot is: How do you equalise between dominant students and quieter students?

Lantz writes: ‘When groups convene, roles are sometimes ill-defined and dominant students have a tendency to take control while reticent students struggle to contribute or fade into the background.’

I don’t really like the word ‘reticent’ as it suggests that the students are unwilling rather than feeling unable to contribute in some way. But it’s true that some people dominate.

Jacques (2007) has advice around verbal and non-verbal ways to discourage excessive contribution: ‘…you can discourage a dominant student by slightly frowning, using a stop hand gesture and making eye contact with other students’. I might try this but wonder if it’s a bit too obvious?

Victoria Kelley, in her PgCert project, describes a technique using playing cards. Each person has 3 cards and puts one down when they speak. This is interesting. My concern would be if you are a quieter person there could be even more pressure on you if you’re the one left with 3 cards in your hand.

Often when people talk about presentation skills, the emphasis is on individual confidence. In fact, there are many other factors that contribute to someone being able to speak comfortably. These include the physical environment (eg is it formal/informal) and whether the group well-faciliated (eg is the group structured so each student is contributing equally). I think allocating roles is a useful idea, and I will do this when we are doing a group presentation exercise.

I’d be really interested in any other thoughts about how you can equalise participation, encourage participation from quieter students and discourage excessive contribution from dominant students…

Word cloud based on people’s responses to the question ‘What makes a great group?’ in our online seminar discussion, Tuesday 6 October 2015. Interesting how much the word ‘leader’ features, especially given the comments above about equalising participation. (I like the way ‘booze’ creeps in there!)

Wordle pgcert

Critical reflection and the voice

October 2, 2015 in PGcert

I read a Chapter 2 from Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.

The first half of the chapter focuses on the methods that you can use to be critically reflective: 1) how you’ve learned in the past shapes how you teach now 2) seeing learning from the point of view of the students 3) learning from colleagues and using them as a ‘critical mirror’ and 4) using theoretical literature (to help ‘teachers from mistakenly blaming their personal inadequacies for situations that are politically created’).

The power of developing your authentic voice stood out most for me, both that of yours and that of your students. I work on how we can help students feel comfortable speaking, particularly in relation to developing employability skills, so this is really interesting for me.

Brookfield says: ‘Feeling the power of one’s voice is fundamentally connected with developing one’s sense of agency’. He also quotes Richert (1992): ‘Agency, as it is described in this model, casts voice as the connection between reflection and action’.

The idea that speaking is about human agency, and helps you catalyse thoughts into action feels quite profound.

Brookfield says that getting feedback from your students is central to understanding your teaching from the point of view of the students. Deborah talked about Ramsden (2003). One of his points is that you first need to understand your students’ experiences of learning.

In both my teaching and digital work, user research and testing is a key process.

Brookfield emphasises the importance of getting feedback anonymously. I collect anonymous feedback in my workshops, as it allows for complete honesty. However, in our discussion group James said that teachers should create an atmosphere where it feels OK for students to contribute criticism, and that dialogue allows for further clarification.

As a result, I’d like to think more about how we create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing what could be done better face to face. This also adds to the idea of creating conditions where all voices can be heard.

One point that seemed to come up strongly was that learning is an ongoing process. Brookfield certainly suggests this, as does Dall’Alba (2005) – she talks about teachers playing an active, collaborative role in their own learning. James said that practice and discipline as a product designer is one in the same, and you couldn’t be a product designer if you weren’t continually learning.

Emmeline felt that her teaching practice was integrated and holistic, when looking at the categories put forward by Shreeve (2008). Emmeline made a very interesting point that her practice is distinct from the advertising course that she teaches on, and how that relates to how you can integrate learning and practice (my work doesn’t always relate to what I teach either).

One final point from Brookfield is that it’s important to understand that curricula is constructed and tentative, and should be questioned. I think this relates to the power your own teaching and voice can help shape external factors.

So the summary from my perspective is: in order to develop your own voice, you can help facilitate other people’s voices, understand other people’s voices to help define your own, and use yours to help shape the environment around you.

Critical reflection and voice

PgCert intro

September 11, 2015 in PGcert

I focus on enterprise and employability skills development, particularly presentation skills, and also how this is supported by digital learning.

I am interested in how we can enhance the student experience across the colleges, by embedding employability skills in the curriculum and how this improves opportunities for students.

In my role as part-time digital communications manager for Careers and Employability, I look at how we can use digital to help students learn employability skills. I’ve produced a series of short films for our website that focus on developing practical skills for students, such as how to kick start a project or how to find work.

I am also an Associate Lecturer. A key area of my work with students is around presentation skills. I did a Teaching and Professional Fellowship at UAL to research the most effective ways to teach students presentation skills, where we trialled different methods of teaching presentation skills. I have worked with staff and students to design and deliver training to embed in the curriculum, piloting this with the Film and TV BA at LCC in the Introduction to Study in Higher Education unit. I run workshops with students across all six colleges. I’ve also produced practical films which demonstrate to staff how to teach presentation skills workshops.

I want to develop a deeper understanding of how to teach employability skills consistently across courses, and how to support this digitally. I would like to understand student needs and how digital learning impacts on the learning experience for students at UAL.

I also want to develop my skills and knowledge around creating online courses, models of curriculum design, academic practice, and how best to teach and engage students.

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