All entries for April 2022

April 25, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Kun Sze Wing Jacqueline

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?

Learning is a lifelong journey and teachers are in a unique position to model this for children. Many children are naturally curious, but whether their thirst for knowledge is carried beyond their schooling years depends greatly on the encouragement and engagement they receive during those years.

As a child, I had many questions. Keeping me entertained in the doctor’s waiting room was a simple yet gruelling task: I wanted the medical posters on the walls read and explained repeatedly. This task often fell to my mother, who happened to be an educator. She gave me the impression that teachers were patient, encouraging, and knowledgeable role-models. I looked forward to going to school, which I associated with the knowledge I thirsted for.

Unfortunately, I was quickly branded a “trouble child” with “too many questions” by my first kindergarten teacher. This taught me that wonder and expression came at the expense of being harshly told off. As a result, I developed a fear of school and dislike of learning, attitudes I carried into early Primary. Gradually though, through the encouragement and patience of many more primary and secondary school teachers, who were open to questions and failure, and themselves demonstrated a love for learning, my thirst for knowledge was rekindled and I still enjoy learning new things and skills just for fun.

The contrast in these approaches allowed me to appreciate how teachers impact students beyond the classroom and shaped my aspirations for the kind of teacher I want to be. Though teachers are usually the “more knowledgeable other” (Vygotsky, 1978) in the classroom in terms of subject knowledge, I view myself and my students as equals in the sense that we all have knowledge to impart and gain (Fenton, 2013). Furthermore, since children often learn through modelling and “adult-watching” (Bruner, 1973), I believe making the love of learning visible to students is vital in cultivating a mindset for lifelong learning, that gaining new knowledge is not only a necessary but enjoyable aspect of life. As such, I encourage my students to ask questions, voice uncertainty, and frame mistakes as positive parts of the learning process (Donaldson, 2020).

With Primary 1 and 2 students, I emphasize the importance of their voice, encouraging them to share their wonders and experiences, intentionally turning moments of confusion to “let’s find out together” moments. For Primary 5 and 6 students, I directly highlight in the beginning of the year that learning is a journey we embark on together, that though I may not have all the answers, all questions are welcome. Google Classroom is also utilized for question submission without peer pressure. In all year levels, I take time to acknowledge and correct my own mistakes in front of students, showing that making mistakes is normal.

Ultimately, I believe that making a classroom a place for discovery and curiosity, while also demonstrating the eagerness to learn and view the world through different perspectives, will help foster a continued thirst for lifelong learning and growing independence—and that for this stretch of their journey, like my own, students will have their teachers walking alongside with them.

References

Bruner, J. (1973). ‘Organization of Early Skilled Action’, Child Development, 44(1), pp1-11.

Donaldson, M. (2020). ‘Everything Go Upside Down: Navigating Mistakes in Early Learning and Teaching’, Schools: Studies in Education, 17(1), pp70-91.

Fenton, S. (2013). ‘Great Teaching in the 21st Century? ... it’s a Partnership – a shared journey of growth & learning’, Ethos, 21(3), pp13-17.

VYGOTSKIĬ, L. S., & COLE, M. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


April 11, 2022

Creative Projects and the ‘state of play’ in diverse assessments – Lewis Beer

As a member of the newly formed ‘Diverse Assessments’ Learning Circle in WIHEA (led by Leda Mirbahai and Isabel Fischer), how have you engaged with this topic during your time in Higher Education, and are there any lessons for the future?

Back in 2015, while teaching on a Shakespeare module in Warwick’s English Department, I worked with several students who chose not to write a standard academic essay, but instead to submit a Creative Project – for instance a painting, an animated film, a screenplay – accompanied by a reflective essay. Students were advised to centre their project on a clear research question, and were also told that the project would be assessed not for its artistic quality but for its achievement ‘as a piece of intellectual exploration’.

None of this was my idea, and frankly it made me nervous. But when I saw the students’ creative outputs and accompanying reflections, and read the feedback my colleagues gave them, I could see the unique benefits of this assessment method. One student, Amy Brandis, produced a 55-minute documentary called Lady Macbeth: From Stratford to Stage. She sourced A/V equipment, enlisted the help of students, staff, and people outside the university, and developed filming and editing skills to a high standard. She also reflected incisively on the intellectual exploration entailed by this process. Amy has since pursued a career as a writer, film-maker, and script consultant. For students like her, the Creative Project opened up types of intellectual discourse, and levels of insight, that fall outside the scope of a ‘standard’ essay. It also enabled students to explore topics in a way that fed into their broader development goals: not just academic development, but also personal and professional.

Five years later, compiling the Student Innovation at Warwick report during my time in Warwick Enterprise, I spoke to over 120 colleagues across 33 departments about the myriad ways in which Warwick students can ‘engage with innovation’. One way is through innovative pedagogy, and especially through non-standard modes of assessment that encourage students to be creative and take risks. Not only in the English Department, but also in Engineering, Psychology, History, and many others, academics model the risk-positive mindset they want to foster: it’s no mean feat to overcome the administrative and pedagogical challenges of creating new assessment schemes, getting them approved, and introducing them to curious but anxious students. In my current role, supporting Warwick’s involvement in the EUTOPIA Alliance, I see this spirit of pedagogic experimentation playing out on an even larger scale. It’s wonderful that there is so much interesting work being done in this area, but more than a little overwhelming.

The WIHEA-funded project we will carry out in the ‘Diverse Assessments’ Learning Circle, between now and the end of 2022, is an opportunity to explore these issues more deeply, and with a sense of focus that makes the exploration feasible. The Learning Circle members are now pooling their knowledge and experiences to understand the current ‘state of play’ regarding diverse assessments at Warwick. We look forward to consulting a wider range of staff and students to understand the benefits and challenges of diversifying assessment schemes, and to help shape Warwick’s future vision regarding diverse assessments.

There’s still room for more people to join our circle! For further information, please contact the co-leads: Leda Mirbahai, Warwick Medical School (WMS) (Leda.Mirbahai@warwick.ac.uk) and Isabel Fischer, Warwick Business School (WBS) (Isabel.Fischer@wbs.ac.uk).

Link to blog one: Interested in diverse assessments?

Link to blog three: A Student Perspective on Assessment Diversity and Strategy


April 05, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Hayley Juniper

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?

My teaching philosophy is centred around providing students with the skills and knowledge to find and pursue their passion and interests. This is strongly related to creating a unique individual rapport between students. As educators I feel it is our responsibility to allow students to flourish, through their studies and beyond.

Reflecting upon my own experience growing up, I wasn’t particularly academic on paper, but I always felt confident and succeeded with practical activities. I was a very outgoing and adventurous child; I always wanted to try new things and go to new places. I loved wildlife and knew quite early on what I wanted to do in the future; conservation and environmental studies. My parents encouraged me to try everything I could and pursue any passion or interest I had. Through this support and the voice of my mother, “the world is your oyster”, I achieved my passion and from that I have experienced some amazing events in life and been to some remote places around the world studying conservation.

From this original path, life took me in a new direction where I started teaching environmental education to local schools in Thailand, which then took me further into becoming a qualified TEFL teacher.

“Since the dawn of time, people have thought differently, acted differently, and fared differently from each other” (Dr Dweck, C S, 2017, p.5) and this could not be more apparent than walking into a classroom with 30 students in front of you. As teachers we need to be adaptable to the unique individuality of students with an approachable mindset. I feel my travelling experiences have helped shape my ability to relate to different people, cultures and upbringings. I believe this enables me to adapt to students’ needs, interests, and personalities on a wider scale. Which therefore helps me to create a unique rapport between different students.

As teachers we are more than merely academic educators; our role includes providing students with the skills needed to continue through life. As stated by OECD (2015), “social and emotional development of students is as important as the acquisition of subject-specific knowledge.”

Therefore, in reflection of this and from my own personal experiences, I believe I strive to provide students with the environment and skills that would allow them to develop as they continue through their studies and beyond. More so, guide them down the right path as to how to pursue any interest or passion they have, just as I was as a child. Since “students spend about a third of their waking hours in school during most weeks of the year” (OECD, 2015), it is our role to inspire them to find their passion and unique interests. Therefore, creating the right learning environment and building a strong rapport with students is key to igniting their passion and drive along with helping them succeed through their academic journey.

References

Dweck, C S. (2017) Changing the way you think to fulfil you potential. London: Robinson

OECD. (2015), Do teacher-student relations affect students' well-being at school?. PISA in Focus. 50.


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