In early June 2020, Jesse Stommel, Sara Camacho Felix, Lee-Ann Sequeira and myself held a participatory workshop where we thought through our assumptions around what it means to design for learning and teaching in digital spaces especially in current circumstances. Due to the participatory nature of the workshop, admission was limited to 100 people with additional …
Keep an open mind Given the sudden shift to digital education that Covid19 has caused during the first half of 2020, we have now an opportunity to better understand digital education in order to prepare for autumn teaching. However, first we might want to appreciate and understand how much Covid19 has affected and continues to …
Originally posted on Amandeleine:
The first thing I ever made completely by myself (meaning my mom wasn’t allowed to help beyond answering the occasional question) was a chocolate chip banana bread. My high school sweetheart was a fan of the chocolate and banana combo and my mom made a mean chocolate chip banana muffin. I…
A colleague asked about holding virtual office hours. The question entailed both how to do this in terms of the pedagogy and the technology. So, I drafted a document that addresses some suggestions around holding virtual office hours (and tutorials) which can be found here: https://sway.office.com/yqhBJFryvfm46a5e?ref=Link as a Sway document that can be printed and shared.
The purpose of this post is to shed some light on some thoughts to consider, good practices and tips for moving from face-to-face teaching to digital education.
NB: These are suggestions to help you to move to digital education. These solutions depend on your own abilities, desire and time. You have the support of your colleagues both in-intuition and beyond – you only need ask. The solutions here are informed suggestions.
No perfect solutions exist.
I’ve decided to quickly write up some thoughts on getting students to use new apps for learning and teaching as a reflection on what I’ve observed over the last few years and more recently. It’s safe to say that I approach this post from the point of view that there are many opportunities for digital …
I recently participated in a study on mental health among English language teaching professionals. The findings have recently been released and I highly recommend that colleagues read the study and its results. Managers within ELT and EAP (English for academic purposes) might benefit from reading the results of the study. Mental health is a serious …
I am taking part in a pilot offered by the Association for Learning Technology that aims to support people in obtaining Certified Membership, or CMALT. In order to obtain CMALT, you have to reflect upon your experience to date and how it relates to the dimensions set out within the frameworks of CMALT. These dimensions, in many …
I think this article is well worth a read for those of any political persuasion. The author makes several well-supported points. Dialogue is crucial if we are to understand each other and anyone with a view different to ours. The left believe that in order to address prejudice and discrimination, it’s important to address …
Repost – #15toptips for Student-Centred Teaching 7: Build peer mentoring into your students’ higher education experience
This is a good post about how to build peer mentoring into university courses. With growing numbers of students studying, the value of having experienced students support first-year students is also increasing.
Shazia Ahmed and Sarah Honeychurch from the University of Glasgow have also done quite a bit of work on peer assisted learning (PAL), and I’ve often referred to their research/scholarship when making the case for PAL. One of their latest papers can be found here.
Thoughts on ‘Why Believing in Your Students Matters’ by Katie Martin
Today I came across this succinct article by Katie Martin on why believing in our students matters, as this can have a significant impact upon a teacher’s practices and students’ uptake of learning regardless of where learning and teaching that takes place – whether face-to-face or online.
While I have known about the need to wait for responses from students for some time, and I value this approach, sometimes one can wait a bit too long. UK universities have had high and growing numbers of students from China for a while now. Some universities throw their doors open to International students since they pay higher fees.
One such university near London where one Master’s program of 150+ students has well over 95% of its students from China. At the same time, some of these same universities that seek to recruit large numbers of International students, often heavily reliant upon specific markets such as China, can, at times, lower the bar in terms of language requirements. From my own experience of observing and delivering teaching, this situation, which isn’t unique to the aforementioned university, creates a number of issues since the students often:
- come with different levels of language readiness for an intensive postgraduate level of study;
- are not or may not be used to interacting and socializing with those from other countries;
- are unlikely to work outside their ‘peer’ group of compatriots due to shyness, peer pressure or do so begrudgingly; and/or
- lack confidence in their own abilities and are perhaps not provided with enough motivation from teaching staff to instill a positive, ‘can-do’ attitude to learning.
The result of any or a combination of these is that lecturers, academic tutors, learning developers and tutors of English for academic purposes are frequently put into tricky situations: the content has to be delivered, but if students are struggling to understand, what is to be done? Too often I have heard over the years, from staff at various institutions, similar negative remarks that Katie mentions in her article. I’ve always found these types of comments particularly demotivating and, silently, I ask myself upon hearing sustained negative comments “Well, why the hell are you in teaching?!” It is as if those making such comments were perfect students who always worked hard.
On the flip side, the best colleagues I’ve had have always been positive, supportive and empathetic to the student journey. This empathy seems to set apart the negativity of the moaners from the teachers/lecturers whose lessons that we would always look forward to when we were once students. I think part of this empathy that some educators have is at least partially informed by the works of the Brazilian educationalist Paolo Freire, among others.
Going back to Katie’s article, I think one solution is creating a positive, welcoming environment that seeks to recognize the students as intelligent participants who are able to interact at Master’s level successfully with regular, positive support that seeks to push the students’ boundaries and to modify our teaching practices to engage the students in such a way that might tease out from them meaningful participation.
One way, I believe, is to have a meaningful, welcoming induction to a program that gets students involved in getting to know their peers and teaching staff beyond the polite formalities of titles and names (think: basic teambuilding activities that get students to solve real problems related to their studies and/or life within their new educational setting). Oftentimes, I’ve seen inductions that were so superficially boring, stereotypical and/or dry that it immediately set the wrong (superficial) tone for the program of study in question.
Another solution is to embed positive thinking throughout a program. As Katie says in her post:
… when we believe we can learn and improve through hard work and effort we can create the conditions and experiences that lead to increased achievement and improved outcomes.
In terms of learning and teaching, this is particularly powerful for our students. If they feel the above, they can and will improve in their learning journey. We, as educators, have a responsibility to instill these ideas into our students, especially International students who might genuinely need extra support, encouragement and motivation in order for them to become independent learners. Part of ensuring the success of our learners is to change our thinking – to think more positively, and to believe in our students.
This also means we might need to change our approach to learning and teaching. So, for example, imagine you have a session of 15-50 students and they don’t volunteer answers without being called on and prefer to stare at their phone or laptops (or both!). If our students are quiet and reticent to raise their hands to volunteer an answer, then there are some easily-doable solutions.
- Creating regularly-spaced questions to gauge/engage/formatively assess learning can significantly help improve participation, and these can be easily delivered via a response system such as Mentimeter or similar as students only need to use their mobile phone/phablet/tablet/laptop.
- Implementing a Twitter feed so that students can engage during/after a teaching session can also foster learning by using a module/course specific hashtag. These two blog posts have a range of good ideas:
Apart from those small solutions, I believe that part of ensuring the success of our learners is also to change our thinking – to think more positively, and to believe in our students. So, for example, rather than immediately assuming that most, if not all, International students are likely to plagiarize essays, we can set the stage from the start by building a positive, supportive environment that seeks to educate rather than pontificate. Another quote from Katie’s article below underscores my message:
“When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur. (Rosenthal and Babad, 1985)”
Let’s take plagiarism. I’ve often heard from colleagues both genuine concerns and negative comments/expectations of students in terms of plagiarism. This, in turn, leads to plagiarism being approached in an almost compelling manner within course materials: plagiarism is bad, and therefore if you plagiarize you are bad and so if you plagiarize, you will fail, etc.
Using the above example, one relatively simple way to embed a positive approach to learning and teaching is to change the negative, hellfire-and-damnation discourse on plagiarism often present within course materials to one that offers an open, frank discussion on attribution and giving credit. One such way I have done this is by getting students to look up and understand attribution through discussion, and then following this up by reading an in-depth report on a politician who plagiarized a paper for a Master’s degree. From what I have observed, these combined approaches give students a chance to explore the issue of plagiarism through a more empowering lens while exercising their academic literacies (digital and information among others).
From what I have observed, these combined approaches give students a chance to explore the issue of plagiarism through a more empowering lens while exercising their academic literacies (digital and information among others). It gets them thinking and talking amongst each other rather than being spoken [down] to in terms of the issues of plagiarism. Along with the teacher creating an empathic, positive atmosphere, this also makes students feel part of the discussion and (more) part of the academic community as they seek to understand expectations that may be new and/or alien to previous educational experiences.
Ultimately, the choice lies with the teacher in question to change their practices or not. There is always an element of risk to transforming teaching practices. However, without taking risks (even small ones) to innovate, one will simply never know how effective the changes to might be. Mulling ideas over is a good way to get started, but as with anything, mulling ideas over for an extremely long amount of time can kill ideas and innovation. Staff who have ideas should be allowed to experiment, and line managers should be proactive in supporting staff who are enthustic about learning and teaching.
If things don’t entirely work as planned or expected, well, at least learning has occurred on the part of both the learners and the teacher(s) in question. The light bulb and radio weren’t perfected within a day’s time, so why should a new teaching approach be perfected before trying it out?! Just do it!
Just do it!
Reflections on an article on Bakhtin & digital scholarship I’ve recently read an article from the Journal of Applied Social Theory called ‘Bakhtin, digital scholarship and new publishing practices as carnival’ which discusses how digital scholarship causes disruption to traditional academic practices (Cooper & Condie, 2016). The authors theorize the issues by using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts on language and …
Are we OK, you and I, after you voted to destroy my dreams? — Andrew Reid Wildman, artist, photographer, writer, teacher
Reflections on the EU referendum result I came across this moving post which was written as a result of the EU referendum that appears to be causing deep fissures across the UK to surface. Increasing numbers of reports are coming in of xenophobic and racial slurs being hurled against ordinary people going about their daily …
Designing and Conducting a SoTL Project using a Worksheet: A Baker’s Dozen of Important Sets of Guiding Questions — The SoTL Advocate
I came across this post from another blog that I follow. The post has a few ideas for scholarship and some guiding questions that can help teaching staff identify potential areas for scholarship/research. Read more below at the original post. Written by Kathleen McKinney, Professor and Cross Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University Many of …
Today I gave a presentation in which I shared scholarship that has been done by Shazia Ahmed, Sarah Honeychurch and Lorna Love from Student Learning Service and the Learning & Teaching Centre of the University of Glasgow on virtual peer assisted learning groups organized on Facebook. Project background & issues The groups support first year undergraduate students, …
Event overview I attended an event called ‘How we answer the questions’ on the ALDinHE mailing list and though that it would be a good event to attend in order to get insight into how staff at other programmes address the issues related to questions that students bring to tutorials and also for me to better understand …