We had a special Valentines session this Thursday. Full house too, which is always nice. A heart balloon (but not for long, loads of red paper hearts filled the room but also real ones that were full of life, love and energy. Silos broke, we opened up.
We learnt what reflection is through actually immersing ourselves through a facilitated activity into our own past, trying to make sense of it and learning something through it. We all got what reflection is really quickly. Fancy Powerpoint slides would just be a distraction, would have made reflection look like something detouched from reality, something sterile and distant. Building theory through experiencing it in our own context is much more powerful than the other way around, I think… Is this aways possible?
The session worked really well, I think and it was a feel good session, not just for me but I could see that my students felt that it was useful for them. Somebody said at the end: “The 3 hour session went so fast, like an hour which means the session was interesting.” Did some of us at least experience what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the state of flow?
Not all sessions are like that and we all have lows as well. Some of them are so low that we feel that we don’t have the strength to continue, to pick ourselves up again. What do we do then? Can we reach out? Should we reflect? What about our emotions? What if we don’t hav anywhere to do? What if our thinking is just not leading us anywhere? How can we move on then?
I have to say, that I am really impressed with my current group and the openness and honesty so far. I think this is the most open cohort ever. The majority of portfolios is open, we have portfolios already available under creative commons licences, some badges too and more importantly we have conversations happening in these portfolios and our Google + community. All this activity just makes me wonder why this hasn’t happen before to that extend? What did I do differently this time? I know that every group is different and what works with one group might not work at all with another but there seems to be a massive change suddenly.
The transition from learning to teaching to reflective learning and teaching happened organically and I think this was the first time also we achieved this. Perhaps I am getting better at making links between different concepts so that what we discuss doesn’t seem too disconnected and the transmissions are now smoother? I think this is really important. If we appear to be jumping from one topic to the other without enabling the students to see and make the connections, this can be confusing. Not saying that confusion is not useful. Confusion is necessary for learning and can lead to strengthening connections and making new ones but also letting go of others.
Making the connection between learning and teaching was powerful and interesting thoughts and observations came out when we discussed what good teaching is. Collaborative student-centred learning featured strongly but was intermixed with more traditional and conventional views about content, covering, delivering, and lecturing and at the heart of the posters were still the teachers… A disconnect between beliefs and reality? How much time do we spend thinking about our students and what they will be doing in the classroom? How much time do we spend preparing slides? I think we know the answer. Is this healthy and useful for us and our students? Remember, content is everywhere! It is not about covering! Uncovering is what we need to encourage and original thinking! Is there an opportunity here to un-think! Re-think! New-think!
How would we spend our time preparing when we start from the learner and what we want them to learn? Hopefully next week will be useful for everybody when we will be looking at planning sessions.
What I need to do now!
Well, I have to admit that we didn’t spent enough time discussing the observations. Despite the 5 minutes mini break. How often have I said, that the 3h should actually be a day event. And I actually think that would be beneficial. We would have a morning session, then a lunch break and then come together again in the afternoon. In my head I can plan for a series of LTHE days and can see this working really well. Will it ever happen? If the module was offered in blocks, we could have a chance… maybe…
Ok, back to reality and my plan. I think it would be useful to offer a webinar in the next week to discuss this further especially as I can see that some are concerned. Ok, I think I need to think of a day and go ahead with this idea. Can’t afford to just forget about it and assume that everybody will be ok. Thinking of also inviting others who have completed the module and share their experiences about the observations they carried out.
Comments are always very welcome 😉
I smiled when I read this comment. I asked my new cohort to share with us how they felt at the beginning of the session, at the beginning of the PGCAP. The majority of students seem to be positive and are looking forward to this chapter in their life as a teacher in HE. But there were also some critical voices who are not convinced yet that this course will be useful for them. That is ok. I don’t mind as long as we all have an open mind and use the PGCAP as an opportunity to explore, experiment and discover but also to connect with colleagues from other disciplines. I smiled because of the self-realisation that my teachers are now students again while also being teachers and it also linked nicely with what I was trying to achieve in this session overall but also through the Lego model making activity, to look at themselves as learners. No point talking about teaching if we forget who we are as learners and our learners. It will be fascinating to follow how this dualism is influencing their thinking, reflections and actions but also if it also has transformative powers for who they are as a teacher.
My approach is playful and I try to do things differently and do different things, as I have heard some time ago Prof. Ranald Mcdonald saying in one of his workshops. We are all busy already and adding new stuff on top of what we do already just won’t work. We need to be open, work smarter, stop doing things that just don’t work and make time and space for new practices to emerge! We teachers are learners first. If we model learning and share our passion for learning and our subject with our students only then will we be able to connect with and enthuse them.
This session was an introducion into the PGCAP and the LTHE module. Was there a lot transmission of programme and module information going on? I think so! This is why I find it so challenging as I am not really a information transmitter. Information overload? We talk about flipping the classroom and making information available n advance of a session… isn’t this though just transmitting information in a different way, time and place? I really struggle with this approach. We talk a lot about self-directed and self-organised learning and if this means that the learner is in the driving seat, what does this mean for the teacher? The induction session is going to be changed radically for the next cohort. Some ideas I have at the moment:
Programme handbook and module guide with resources will be available during orientation (they were now as well). A webinar will be organised to answer questions linked to the course and then during induction we will be able to get to know each other and immerse ourselves into the collaborative pedagogies through experiencing these. I think this could work better… It will be challenging if people don’t engage with the resources and don’t participate in the webinar… what would I do then??? Expectations need to be shared and working practices agreed from the very beginning. We only get out of it what we put into it! This applies to students and teachers!
Anything else I should be thinking about? Perhaps my LTHEJan13 students have some ideas? Feel free to share, ok? Thanks.
This was the first time I saw my new cohort starting the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education module of the PGCAP. It is always exciting to welcome colleagues on the programme.
Context: The purpose of this session was to discuss the use of portfolios on the programme, familiarise students with the tool but also enable individuals to start getting to know each other. The majority of the students were there, which was really good. For individuals who couldn’t make it to the session, the plan is to buddy them up with others who were there so that they can help catch up and build the portfolio together if there are difficulties.
What did I learn? We need to allow for more peer learning. Nobody is a blank sheet. Collectively we can contribute and co-create knowledge and understanding and develop skills too. I am pleased that I used this approach. And while for me, it wasn’t a question of not using this approach, I was interested in how my students would re-act. Did they expect me to tell them everything? Did they want to see a flashy Powerpoint presentation? Would be interesting to find out what their expectations were and how my approach made them feel… and if it worked for them.
How did I feel? Well, I am always excited welcoming a new group! But also nervous, as I have no idea how individuals will feel and/or what they will think about me and my approach. Am I like Marmite? Sometimes, I have noticed that it takes people time to understand why I do things the way I do them. I have to say here that I challenge myself as well and experiment with different ideas and approaches and I know that some might not work. I see myself as a learner too and a peer on this programme. So I know that I am here to learn and my students will be one of the source to make this happen through the interactions, conversations and collaborations we will have during the module. I see this programme as a greenhouse. It provides a safe and supportive space to be experimental and creative, for tutors and students, and as such we will all be challenged and stretched and encouraged to reflect on what works and what doesn’t and see mistakes as opportunities to learn and enrich practices.
What would I do differently? Well, I have a problem with the space we used! We were in the basement. No natural light. No windows. The temperature was going up and down. Desks arranged in rows. Next time, I need to think about finding a more suitable location. At the moment I am thinking about asking students to bring their own laptop and meet in a bright location around campus where we could also have some food and drinks and have more flexibility in learning together.
A big thank you to Cheryl Dunleavy and Alex Fenton who helped me during this session. Their help made a real difference to the student experience and enabled everybody to make a good start with their PGCAP portfolio.
At the end of the session I was asked the following question which I would like to share with you: “So, do I have to reflect from now on, on my practice?” What would you say to this person? Feel free to comment here.