Reflections before Professional Discussion

Well, I’m sitting in my local cafe trying to keep warm because my boiler’s been broken since Wednesday and it’s really quite chilly working from home. Do you think I should apply for a PMC on this assessment? 🙂

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I’m looking back through my notes from the webinar and the session last week when I got together with my PGCAP peers to prepare for the professional discussion. I’m rereading my educational autobiography to see the journey that I’ve been on. I think I’ve found inspiration for my Lego model, at least! In my portfolio, I described being thrown in at the deep end when I started teaching last year. I felt isolated and unsupported. So I might make a model of myself at the bottom of a pit! There are no windows so I can’t see what other teachers are doing. I’m very much on my own. There are no resources down there so I have to rely on my own past experiences of learning and my own preconceptions. There isn’t much space down there and it’s dark so I can’t see what I’m doing to reflect on it! I coped and I like to think my students learnt something but I knew I was very
Iimited.
The PGCAP has enabled me to climb out of the pit and into the wide open spaces! It took a while for my eyes to grow accustomed to the light. But out here in the open I can see things much more clearly and I can engage with other teachers and learn from them. I can access lots of useful resources and learning. The light means I can be far more creative in my teaching. The extra space inspires me to experiment and take risks. I am now part of the wider university rather than being on my own, working in isolation.

Looking back at the goals you had set at the beginning of this module, would you say that you have achieved these and to what extent?
1. Become more reflective. I had very limited reflection at the start. I was often tempted to blame the students rather than reflect on my own practice. I’m much more able to reflect now – evaluate my practice and identify ways to move forward. Eg So much of what I did last year was standing at the front talking. I’ve been able to reflect on this from a student centric point of view, understand more about diverse learning communities, how students learn, and think about how I can put this into practice. I realised I needed to increase students’ active engagement with the subject – get them to do more stuff in class. Why should I write stuff on the board? They can come up and tell me what they know and between them they’ll get it.
2. Evaluate my teaching in the light of huge changes to my core subject – journalism. I’m getting involved in online communities to exchange ideas and learn more about developments in pedagogy in my area in keeping with UKPSF.
3. Using learning technologies. I’ve definitely embraced this because it’s also such an important part of journalism these days. It’s a vital part of lifelong learning that’ll part of institutions-wide ILOs. So I loved the fact that the PGCAP used so many different tools to engage students. I’ve been applying that in my own course with varying degrees of success. Some students like it more than others and I need to find ways of making it more appealing. I’m making much more use of the VLE than I ever used to and I think it helps engage different students in different ways. Eg wiki.
4. Create appropriate Leaning Outcomes aligned to the assessments. Through my wider reading, I’ve learnt so much about the importance of trapping students into a circle of learning! Now instead of just telling them what I’m gong to do in each lesson, I give them ILOs which are focused on their activities and give them guide to what is expected from them. My teaching activities are aligned to these. Eg a big part of the module is developing the students’ news judgement. Through a better understanding of learning outcomes and alignment, I thought about different ways of getting students to APPLY news judgement – rather than just listening to me take about it! Eg I got them to listen to a bulletin and discuss the news value of each item, why each story was in that bulletin, should it be. The students didn’t necessarily agree and so had to defend their positions. In fact, it sounded like a real life editorial meeting! I hadn’t expected that so I was really pleased and I can now develop this for next time. Reflection in action. The was also a strong level of assessment including peer assessment as they listened and challenged and reassessed their understanding.
5. Need to learn more from relevant literature on teaching/learning in HE. This is an ongoing process but the more I engage, the more confidence I have to experiment and explore because what I’m doing is informed by evidence. Usually….!

What does achieving these things mean to me?
It means I’m out of that deep pit and feel part of the university’s learning environment. I feel I’m doing the best I possibly can for my students.

What challenges did I encounter and how did I overcome them?

This has all been very new to me. I had felt very isolated from the university community. My peers have helped enormously.

What have I learnt about myself as a practitioner in HE?</strong

I can talk spontaneously so I can let go a bit. I used to think I had to script every minute of the 3hr sessions because I was terrified of running out of material – a broadcaster’s nightmare. But I’m not a broadcaster, I’m a teacher and it’s OK to observe, reflect in action how things are going and just go with the flow.

I do reflect in and on action. See above! I’m always making notes of things to do differently next time – more of this, less of this, what about this.

I’m impatient and need to think more about how I use questioning in class. This came about from a post observation conversation with Chrissi. I was initially surprised but I’ve “observed” myself since then and she’s right. I need to reflect more on this. I think it’s because I can’t bear the silence, the thought of losing time whilst somebody thinks. So I need to find strategies for dealing with the waiting time, encouraging students to take time to answer. I need to read some relevant literature on Socratic questioning and think about how I could apply this. I shall rite a reflective post on this – perhaps in the form of Socratic questioning?!

I’m approachable. I care about my students. I’ve out a lot of effort into getting to know them, not just their names but also a few facts about what they’re interested in, what experience they bring to the class. My students know they can come to me in breaks and after class, they often email questions or ideas asking for feedback. It’s time consuming but feels important.

I’m prepared to take risks and experiment. The PGCAP has given me permission to do this! I love trying new things eg the Dragon’s Den game which I’ve now “sold” to Julia! I was even brave enough to ask for feedback from the students and will incorporate that into my reflection on the game and how I could improve it.

I need to learn how to critically engage with literature. This is important in terms of my broader academic development since I am involved in a research paper! I’m booked onto Victoria’s writing course and I’m going to seek advice from some ex radio journalists I know who are making a similar transition from journalistic to academic writing.

I enjoy using technology.. I’m quite evangelical about this. Venture capitalist, Fred Wilson, writes about giving a talk at NYU Poly and being asked what advice he had for someone “who isn’t technical.” “They should try to get technical, ” he replied. This has been my inspiration this year! I’ve made myself try all sorts of new stuff I’d always avoided on the grounds of not being technical. I started to learn JavaScript and have set p a coding club at school. More importantly, I’m trying to incorporate different technology into my teaching and encourage students to embrace different ways of engaging this way eg wiki where they can add any information about useful digital tools they come across. I love the way the PGCAP uses different technology which has helped to push me further in this direction. I’d love to pursue it further and prove that ANYONE can get technical if they make that decision. It’s part of lifelong learning which I’m trying to pass on to my students. It also helps to engage students in different ways.

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What impact did your engagement with the module have on your thinking and practice?
I’ve become more creative in my teaching. The module taught me the importance of creativity and gave me confidence. I’m particularly interested in the importance of creative play to that students are able actively engage with the learning. I’ve also realised that I’m much more visual than I thought and I can utilise that in my storytelling, for example.
In fact, storytelling itself has been another revelation. I’d not really that of that as a teaching tool before. But being asked to give a presentation to my peers about storytelling helped me to look at it in a whole new light. Storytelling enables us to see situations from multiple viewpoints. I’ve used this to help students prepare for their Newsdays by producing a strip cartoon! Without the PGCAP, I would never have considered doing this!
My relationship with the students has changed. I reflected on this a great deal in the early weeks of the PGCAP. I realised I’d allowed a barrier to come between us. It felt wrong but I think I was just trying to replicate how I’d been taught. Through discussions with peers, observations and engagement with the literature, I’ve been able to evaluate my actions through the students’ eyes and come up with a very different approach which actually feels more natural, more me. I’ve done really simple things like name badges in week 1 and 2. I also took a leaf out of Chrissi’s book and got students to take photos of themselves holding up their names and unaided them to our Flickr account. I can now have that set of photos on my iPad at the start of the session so I’m able to greet each student by name. That just feels nice! I encourage interaction online and in class. I really care about my students and I think that enables them to do the best they can because they are perhaps less anxious about assessments, for example. I tell them I’m looking forward to seeing their work!
I’ve helped students catch up when they’ve been off sick and asked for help. Apparently, I was the only tutor who did this which shocks me.
This relationship is important because it creates a positive learning environment. They know I’m on their side.

What further development plans linked to teaching and learning to y have for the near future?
I’m going to think more about how I use questioning in class with my students. This came to light following an observation discussion with Chrissi. See above.
Academic writing
I’m going to continue to engage in CPD by accessing more literature on teaching/learning in general and specifically n my subject area. I’m going to continue to connect with fellow journalism teachers.
I’m going to develop different approaches to feedback and assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of my teaching. Eg I created a fairly realistic newsroom activity in class whereby students had to listen to an interview from the Today programme and find a 20″ clip they could use in the next news bulletin. They did this individually and my plan had been to go round the class talking to them individually about what they’d chosen and why. But as the session developed, I had an idea for doing it very differently because it would take ages to go round to everyone and boring for the others who were waiting. So I got them to stand up and find other people who’d chosen the same clip as them so we’d eventually have several groups of students. It meant they had to discuss the exercise with each other. I also meant we could see immediately that different students had chosen different clips it one had been much more popular. One poor student found herself in a group of one but was brave enough to stick to her guns! So there was lots to talk about and reflect on and it was a great way of us all giving feedback in different collaborative ways. I actually agreed with the solitary student, btw!! We then found ways to develop the task further.

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