July 21, 2010

Post–session reflection on 'Reflection on Practice with newly–appointed academics'

Follow-up to Reflection on Practice with newly–appointed academics from Alison's blog

I changed things at the very last minute! As I was thinking through the session just before it was about to start, I decided that I needed to adhere to my principle of not asking participants to do something I needed to model beforehand. In this particular context, it was also important for me to provide input and content, not just elicit responses from the participants. So while originally I had planned to use the three case studies as material for individual participants, at the last moment I decided to demonstrate Biggs' stages of the reflective process myself, using one of my early PCAPP workshops as an example. That allowed me to model the process using Biggs' framework which seemed to work well. However, it left me with a problem, because doing that meant that I had no chance of getting through what I had planned in the allocated ten minutes! So a bit of quick thinking... I gave out the case studies, allocated each to individual participants, gave a minute for them to read them through and then decided I could just run with one of them, so asked for a volunteer to summarise the problem his/her case study articulated. Then I invited everybody to contribute to going through the reflective stages together, all focusing on that one case study. Of course, that meant that the other two case studies weren't actually used, although I guess just having them there served a purpose of inviting further reflection once the session was over. I got it all done with ten seconds to spare! But since here in this blog post my task is to monitor, fine tune and change things for future occasions, if necessary, then on another occasion I would just prepare one case study and everyone would look at the same one. Either that, or I would offer the three and we would come to a common concensus about which one to use (although just doing that is time consuming). I wonder too whether I allowed one of the participants to be slightly left out and could have worked harder at including this person and inviting their contributions.

I was pleased the participants contributed willingly and thoughtfully. In the question time afterwards it became apparent that these were, in fact, familiar scenarios to them, so that introducing a structured way of thinking about them should have been quite useful (given their 'newbie' status). One question struck me in particular, and I have mulled it over considerably since the session. A participant asked if I thought there was one, or maybe more than one, defining characteristic of a 'good' teacher or lecturer. Gosh. I've not been asked that before and it's fascinating. At one level, it's impossible to answer, but that's just not good enough. We must know what goes to make a good teacher, or the whole of our profession and my field of expertise is thrown into question. I said, thinking on my feet (again!) that I thought the awareness of the other was probably the most important thing for me. By that, I meant much more than simple consciousness, but an awareness of what's going on, that there are real live people in front of us when we teach, who have questions, get bored or tired, can't follow, need help... On reflection now, I wonder whether I meant something perhaps better articulated as 'connectedness'. I think the mark of a good teacher is someone who connects with his/her students, doesn't see them as bodies to perform to (as in theatre), doesn't see them as animate yet largely passive recipients of the 'gift' of content he/she has to bestow, but instead sees them as beings who are in the process of growing and developing, and the teacher's role in this is crucial. I guess I'm really trying to articulate the principles behind social constructivism, or behind student-centred learning. I shall go on thinking about that.

As always, comments are welcome. What does anyone else think about the hallmark(s) of a good teacher/lecturer?

Another topic that we touched on so briefly it wasn't possible to follow up was that of the use of games for learning. I have been looking at that a bit while I've been reading in preparation for writing the paper on Visitors and Residents with Dave White, as we challenge Prensky's Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Dave and I need to talk more about this. Prensky comes from a gaming background, but Dave reckons that the link between gaming and learning is very tenuous. Interesting, and something else to pursue.

Again, any comments from anyone?

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