All entries for January 2022

January 24, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Nina Basra

The teaching philosophy journey that has led me into a path of teaching is my interest to always want to learn new things, just as John Dewey suggested ‘learning by doing, adapt your environment to learn’ this is true for me when I started my professional career in the software licensing team at an IT reseller. During my first few years, I particularly enjoyed learning about new types of software available for businesses to use and how to support a business to license these according to various vendor’s criteria, it fascinated me for many years.

As I took a career break and started to investigate a suitable education path for my first daughter, I ventured across the Reggio Emilia approach to learning that focused on a child-centered form of learning using a different approach which interferes with a traditional approach, making the child better at problem-solving, able to engage with their community and environment, welcoming new experiences, able to express themselves better and enjoying learning with confidence. I battled with the decision to send her to a traditional playgroup as I had attended when young or a bright new concept for learning. The inspiring new way of learning was the right learning decision for her as she smartly pondered into her daycare for a few days during the week with confidence and a smile, becoming independent as a little two-year-old. It also had disadvantages for the nursery staff as my daughter had full access to the bathroom taps and sink to play with the water at any time.

This was my chance to change direction and explore a different career, having seen everything that was happening in the daycare sparked joy and passion and I knew I wanted to work with children and build a career in education. Frank Parson’s trait and factor theory develop the idea that an ideal career can be based on matching personal traits, values, and various other factors, he recorded the better the fit the higher the job satisfaction.

In 2011 I completed an NCFE in supporting teaching and learning in schools, however, my days of studying were not complete, I knew I was destined to study for my PGCE however we were seconded to Singapore putting a hold on my career path. I settled my family and me and began to investigate options on how I could pursue my path in teaching. I started working at a school which confirmed my interest and that is where I found out how to pursue this course.

During my time at school, I worked with many talented teachers and learned many concepts about teaching. This has remained with me and is part of my pedagogy as the belief in the importance of a growth mindset in order to embed learning, enjoying the love of learning, which will reflect on the impact I will make as a professional teacher. “The best gift we can give children is to teach them to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning” (Dweck, 2012. p270).

References

John Dewey suggested ‘learning by doing adapt your environment to learn’

Dweck, C. (2012) Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential. London. Robinson.

Reggio Emilia - https://www.reggiochildren.it/en/reggio-emilia-approach/

Frank Parson’s trait and factor theory Parsons, F, ‘Choosing a Vocation’, accessed December 2008, (www.leonardoevangelista.it)


January 17, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Esme Barrell

What is your teaching philosophy? How has this originated and can you evaluate how your educational touchstones will impact upon the teacher you aspire to be?

At the heart of my teaching philosophy is ‘the development of students as autonomous, self-directed and self-regulating learners’ (Weimer, 2013, p.10). In relation to what I teach, I believe this should transcend from subject content into disciplinary skills that support students for their whole lives; empowering them to become life-long learners.

This belief derived from the advice of my A-Level History teacher to ‘think like a historian.’ To learn history, and to teach it, is not just a memorization of facts. Students personify the cognitive skill set of the discipline. Whilst, in ten years’ time, I do not expect my students to recall every piece of factual information of the historical periods studied. I hope the historical thinking skills they’ve harnessed, such as interpretation and analysis, will leave lasting cognitive legacies that they can apply independently everyday. I’ve observed how History is often inaccessible to students because it's generalised as facts and dates, which derives them from the fruits of the subject. My ambition, as a teacher, is to develop student inquisitiveness, using Ford and Kennett’s metaphor of ‘historical learning as a great symphony of facts, conceptual skills and narratives’, with myself as ‘the conductor’.

Aligned with constructivist pedagogy, I believe ‘learners are active in constructing their own knowledge’ (Bruning, Schraw, Norby, & Ronning, 2004, p.195) thus my classrooms are environments for student questioning and contention with objective truths in history. During lessons at my current school, I proactively guide students towards conceptual questioning, reflection on their cognitive processes for problem solving and use of independent judgement. In subsequent student self-reflections, students have shared how this makes their learning more meaningful and engaging. Above all, I hope to encourage their passion for studying History through this constant rethreading of subjective narratives. It is this ceaseless labyrinth of interpretation that makes History so bewitching. As a teacher, by giving students autonomy to reach their own conclusions, I hope to embed a love of learning and mental models for life.

As Weimar illuminates, these skills are ‘sometimes used within the course itself and regularly after it’ (Weimer, 2013,p.11) . To embed this, I allocate time for student reflection on a weekly basis so they can take ownership of their learning; scaffolding techniques such as journaling and target-setting, influenced by experiential learning pedagogies such as Kolb. I believe that my responsibility as a teacher is to be the architect of the learning environment, in terms of structure, objectives and modelling. However, students are all unique and should be challenged by guiding learning with their own ideas and conclusions.

Having personally studied at an international school, I believe my classrooms should be spaces to share differing viewpoints and cross-cultural awareness. Similarly, my current school also holds a diverse international student demographic. My teaching philosophy here is grounded in constructivist underpinnings that active student dialogue and sharing of beliefs and opinions help students grow into global citizens . I strive to maintain this opportunity during online learning and continually reflect on how to effectively install student-student collaboration and discussion into virtual classes. I believe an outstanding teacher is responsive, and will continually reflect on how best to meet shifting student needs.

Whilst history is associated with the past, I aspire to guide my students on how to thrive in the future.

References

Brooks, J. G & Brooks, M. G. (1993) In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Bruning, R., Schraw, G., Norby, M., & Ronning, R. (2004) Cognitive psychology and instruction Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, p. 195.

Ford, A and Kennett, R. (2018) “Conducting the orchestra to allow students to hear the symphony: getting richness of knowledge without resorting to fact overload”. Teaching History: 171. The Historical Association, 9-10.

Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc.

Weimer, M. (2013) Learner Centred Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice 2nd Ed, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, p.10-11.


January 10, 2022

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): Considering and measuring impact

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): Considering and measuring impact

By Dr Kerry Dobbins (Assistant Professor, Academic Development Centre) and Dr Isabel Fischer (Reader in Information Systems at Warwick Business School)

Questions about how to evaluate and measure impact of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning activities (SoTL) have always generated much lively discussion and debate within the SoTL community. For example, a recent LTHE Tweetchat focused on the topic of ‘Breaking boundaries: career progression and education-focused roles’. At the heart of the discussion was the nature and purpose of SoTL in relation to career advancement. Two specific questions discussed were ‘what forms and outputs can SoTL take?’ and ‘how should quality and impact be measured?’ In recent times, these questions have become more important than ever for all colleagues on education or teaching-focused contracts due to their connection to institutional promotions criteria. Routes to promotion for these colleagues will often involve criteria including:

  • Making a significant contribution to pedagogy.
  • Gaining recognition for quality and impact of scholarship.
  • Demonstrating educational impact and influence within and beyond the University.
  • Producing scholarly outcomes that advance learning, teaching and assessment.

Outputs and demonstrable impact of SoTL underpin these criteria and highlight why the recent Tweetchat was such a topical discussion. Considering the various forms or outputs that SoTL can take connects to how impact from those outputs may be measured or viewed to have made a significant contribution. The Twitter community identified a wide range of forms that SoTL outputs can take. These included:

  • Conference/webinar presentations
  • Publications
  • Podcasts, blogs, vlogs
  • Infographics
  • Content for repositories, e.g. the National Teaching Repository
  • Books
  • Invited talks
  • Staff/student development training
  • Well-designed courses/modules

There was much leaning towards open access forms and critical scrutiny occurring through the teaching community, rather than tying outputs largely to journal publications and scrutiny through the standard academic peer review process. This leaning is still in line with the SoTL principles of sharing findings for communal use and review, but importantly the Twitter community placed considerable value on practitioner-focused scrutiny.

There was also recognition that different outputs serve different purposes and that any output can have an impact. This takes us into the realms of questioning what ‘impact’ means in SoTL and how it might be measured. Again, the Twitter community identified various ways that ‘impact’ of SoTL could be considered and/or measured:

  • Policy changes – national, institutional, departmental, etc.
  • Creation of staff development provision.
  • Explicit recognition and reward of teaching through, for example, promotion and recruitment criteria.
  • Improved module/course evaluations and student grades.
  • Enhanced student engagement.
  • Paper citations, usage metrics.
  • Engagement in networks or communities of practice.
  • Improved resourcing for teaching/development.
  • Changes in colleagues’ practices.
  • Engagement in collaborative activities.

It is interesting to see from the responses the different levels at which impact may play out (e.g. individual, institutional, etc). Of course, one of the ultimate aims of SoTL is to understand how students learn effectively so that learning experiences can be enhanced. However, SoTL is also recognised as an essential component of academic professional development and a mechanism through which HE teaching as a profession is advanced. As the responses above show, this wide remit of SoTL means that impacts from its activities can take many forms.

It is also apparent that some of the impact examples offered above may take longer to realise than others and be harder to measure in a quantifiable sense. A key question emerging in the Twitter discussion was whether SoTL impact needs to be measurable. This again takes us back to the question of what ‘impact’ means in SoTL and more specifically, what type of impact is being sought.

Different stakeholders (e.g., individuals, community groups, institutions) may of course be seeking different types of impact from SoTL activities but in reality, the needs of the different stakeholders are not so easily separated. There continues to be a challenging balancing act being played out in SoTL between it being an activity to develop individual and community practices, and it becoming a significant feature of aspects like promotions criteria. Whilst inclusion in promotions criteria demonstrates institutional recognition and reward of SoTL, it adds a layer of trying to measure or capture a narrative of identifiable and evidence-based impact that resonates with a panel who may or may not be familiar with the various lenses and dynamics of SoTL.

What all of this leads to is the need to keep engaging in institutional conversations about SoTL so that purposes, outputs and impacts of this activity are not viewed in too reductive terms and the various lenses and levels identified by the Twitter community are not overlooked. This is the vast flavour of SoTL and if we are too reductive, we may only taste elements of the impacts that it could have.

Two further questions should also be asked in the context of these institutional discussions:

  1. How to align expectations about output and impact with time allocated for SoTL, e.g. what should be the output for somebody who receives a workload allocation of, say, two to three hours a week versus somebody who receives one to two full days per week?
  2. How might expectations about output and impact be aligned on an inter-disciplinary instructional-level to encourage transferability?

It is important to ensure that discussions to define impact more clearly (and broadly) at an institutional level do not deter us from seeing the sharing of SoTL work and findings as an activity worthy in and of itself. At Warwick, we aim to create and encourage opportunities for the sharing of SoTL activities as part of our internal communities of practice. This way inspirational SoTL findings can be spread and impact upon colleagues’ practices, independent of views about measurability.


January 04, 2022

Happy New year!

Welcome to the new year and a new term. We hope that you have managed to have a restful break and spent some time with your loved ones.

Is one of your new year's resolutions to start your research journey? Ever considered blogging as a first step?

What is WJETT?

The WJETT blog or Warwick Journal of Education - Transforming Teaching blog is designed to encourage staff and students to disseminate good practice and to engage with their peers on academic cultural critique or areas of research that they find interesting. With the increased focus on ‘teachers as researchers’ in the sector, many qualified teachers are expected to publish the outcomes of any action research projects they undertake. The WJETT blog can be the first step on your journey towards publishing and enables you to experience publishing and reviewing in a friendly and supportive environment.

Can I write about anything in my blog post?

Yes pretty much. Academic cultural critique (Thomson and Mewburn, 2013) is always a good source of content for academic blogs. This can include (but is not limited to) comments and reflections on funding; higher education policy or academic life. You might also want to consider blogging about:

  • Academic practice (Saper, 2006)
  • Information and/or self-help advice
  • Technical, teaching and careers advice
  • Your research or practice
  • How you’ve undertaken research
  • The impact of research on your practice
  • An area of research/practice that interests you
  • Your teaching experiences/reflections

How long can my blog post be?

Each individual blog post should be no longer than 500 words. Long blocks of text are sometimes hard for readers to digest. Break up your content into shorter paragraphs, bullet points and lists whenever possible. Also include a list of keywords or tags as this makes it easier for Google to find your work.

Do I need to use citations?

No, this is a reflective piece so it does not need to include citations (but you obviously can include them if they are relevant).

Can I include links or images?

We would encourage you to include links to any articles that you have considered whilst writing your blog post. We also welcome the use of images (as long as you have permission to use them) as they can often help to illustrate a point and obviously will not be included in the word limit. Please remember this is a public site so if you want to include images of your students in your classes then you will need permission to do this.

What is the process for submitting a piece of work?

Your blog post should be emailed to me at A.Ball.1@warwick.ac.uk. Once the submission has been reviewed it will either be uploaded at the beginning of the next available week or sent back to you for editing if it requires amendments. You should then send the amended work to me once again and I will then upload it onto the WJETT site.


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