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teaching workshop

CHEC course: teaching and learning (day 4)

Yesterday was the final day of the CHEC short courses on teaching and learning. While the whole module was useful, I found each day to be difficult in the sense that we were trying to cover some really big topics (e.g. reflection, educational theory, etc.) in a very limited set of time. I think that the course would be more valuable if we could set aside 2 or 3 full days to have some time to grapple with these ideas. Anyway, the workshops are over now and it’s just the assignment to complete. I’ll blog about that later. In the meantime, here are the notes I took today.

The reflective practitioner

Difference among teachers allows you to benchmark yourself against others, you can situate yourself, there’s no one “right” way to “be” a teacher

“Teaching is a science”…but it’s also an art

Teaching is about creating a space where students can learn, but we can’t make anyone learn anything

“The teacher, as the speaker of the specialist discourse, is able to “lend” students the capacity to frame meanings they cannot yet produce independently” – Northedge, 2003

Teachers can’t “make meaning” for students

Dimensions of tertiary teaching (Kane, Sandretto & Heath, 2004):

  • Reflective practice
  • Subject knowledge
  • Peronality
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Research / teaching nexus

What evidence can we provide for the quality of our teaching?
How can this evidence be presented?

What is my philosophy of teaching?

After a lecture, ask:

  • Was I on time?
  • Was I prepared?
  • Was I compassionate when dealing with students?
  • Was I trying to do the best for the students?

Reflection is “active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends” – Dewey, 1933 (there are many other definitions of reflection)

Reflective practice needs to be systematic, built into your workflow

Content reflection: description of the problem / context / situation (what happened?)
Process reflection: strategies and procedures (how did it happen?)
Premise (critical) reflection: question the merit and functional relevance of the issue (why did it happen?)
(Mezirow, 1991)

When our belief systems are challenged, it forces us to reconsider our understanding of how the world works → new understandings and meanings → change in behaviour and practice

“Reflection is what allows us to learn from our experiences; it is an assessment of where we have been and where we want to go next” – Kenneth Wolf

Everyday reflective teacher → Reflective practitioner → scholarly teacher → teaching scholar (van Schalkwyk, Cilliers, Adendorff, Cattell & Herman, in press)

Categories
education ethics learning students workshop

CHEC course: teaching and learning (day 3)

Image taken from YMCA cultural diversity office

Yesterday’s CHEC session was presented by Jeff Jawitz from UCT, who looked at tools for addressing diversity in the South African university classroom. I’ve seen Jeff present before at conferences and he’s got a really relaxed way of introducing and working with often highly controversial topics, like race and gender. I was especially excited to have the opportunity to learn more from him during this session. Here are my notes.

———————–

In what ways are students diverse? Which of these matters?

There are many different differences, and any one of these might be highly significant for one person, but insignificant for everyone else → we can’t take all of these into account when we’re working with groups. Yet, we must be aware of all of the differences nonetheless

No single aspect of diversity addresses all of the issues

What does diversity mean in a South African context?

Diversity enriches the classroom

Learning styles (e.g. Felder-Silverman) can be used to change teaching practice to take diversity into account, rather than categorising students. Bear in mind that the most aspects of diversity in education deal with the issue of cognitive diversity i.e. ways of learning, but there are others e.g. language

Language can be used to communicate effectively, but also to engage deeply with the academic discipline. These are two different things and can be developed in different ways (See Cummins, 1996)

“Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the particular ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding and arguing that define the discourse of our community. He must learn to speak our language. Or he must dare to speak it or to carry off the bluff, since speaking and writing will most certainly be required long beofre the skill is learned” – Bartholomae, 1985, 134-135

Discourses are ways of being in the world, which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes and social identities, as well as gestures, glances, body positions and clothes…a sort of identify kit” – James Gee

Where do discourses come from (Gee, 1996, p.137)?

  • Primary – acquired early in life within the socio-cultural setting of the family
  • Secondary – learned / taught as part of socialisations within schools, religious communities and other local, state and national groups

How do discourses cause discomfort among others?

Socio-cultural dimensions of diversity:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Class (“income diversity”)
  • Religion/culture

What resources do students need in order to complete a task?

How comfortable are you using race as a descriptor?

What are the problems with using race as a descriptor?

What is the value of using race as a descriptor?

“Am I a racist if I think about race in my courses? Shouldn’t I treat all my students equally?” – Milner, 2003, p.176

How does one address the significant difference in retention and graduation rates between black and white students at university in South Africa without reference to race?

When discussing diversity in the classroom, it’s as much about who we are  (i.e. teachers) in that discussion

Authority doesn’t only come from what you know, but also from what you look like. The notion of authority has huge racial overtones in South Africa

Knowledge in the blood” – Jansen

“Race reflection” – Milner, 2003

  • How might my race influence my work as a teacher?
  • How might my students’ racial experiences influence their work with me? What does it mean for a young black student who has never even had a conversation with an adult white male, to be told to come and see the teacher anytime, when that teacher is an adult white male?
  • How do I negotiate the power structure around race in my class to allow students to feel a sense of worth?
  • Am I willing to speak about the injustice of racism in conservative spaces?

“We are a nation struggling to come out of our history”

References

  • Bartholomae, D (1985). “Inventing the university”, in Rose M (ed), When a writer can’t write: studies in writer’s block and other composing precess problems.
  • Cummins J (1996). Negotiating identities: education for empowerment in a diverse society
  • Felder, RM (1993). Reaching the second tier – learning and teaching styles in college science education. Journal of college science teaching, 23(5):286-290
  • Gee J (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: ideology in discourse
  • Milner HR (2003). Teacher reflection and race in cultural contexts: history, meaning and methods of teaching. Theory into practice, 42(3):174-180

Additional resources

Categories
learning teaching workshop

CHEC short course: teaching and learning (day 2)

Yesterday was the second day of the CHEC short course for Teaching and Learning. Here are my notes:

Teaching teaching and understanding understanding (Google video, I’m not sure how much longer it’ll be available on that service)

How do you create an environment in which students are engaged? What does it mean for students to be “engaged”?

If / when students are disengaged, how do we “bring them back in”?

Many students practice “ritual engagement” or “passive compliance”, few students “rebel” (is it because of unequal power relationships and the fear of “punishment”?)

South African Survey of Student Engagement” (SASSE)

  1. Students need higher levels of challenge
  2. Active and collaborative learning (is this the same as groupwork?)
  3. Student – staff interaction
  4. Enriching educational experiences
  5. Supportive campus environment

Points 1-3 are often resisted by many students

How do we create “memorable teaching / learning moments” in the classroom?

If you don’t know your students (and they don’t know you) then your attempts at facilitating active learning may appear forced and awkward

Matching student activity to teaching intention is hard

Can skills (research, critical thinking, problem-solving, techniques, etc.) be taught or do they have to be practised?

I don’t think that good teaching is about manipulating student activity so that they cannot but do what you want them to do. Isn’t it about the student actually wanting to do it? It’s not about training the student how to move through the system.

We need to design learning activities in which the benefit of engaging in the activity is greater than the risk of not engaging. Missing a lecture isn’t a big deal if I can get the content anywhere and the assessment is based on content. However, if the “lecture” is about learning how to solve a problem, and the assessment is based on problem-solving, the risk of not attending is greater than the benefit of not attending.

“Speed dating” for concepts e.g. you are a muscle, move around the room and find the muscle with the closest function / position / share innervation / insertion / etc. Can be used to find / explore relationships between concepts.

Don’t make the assumption that what you have to say is of any real interest / relevance to anyone else in the room. You are not entitled to anyone’s attention just because you’re standing in the front of the class. You need to work for their attention and then work to hold it by being interesting and relevant.

Categories
assessment assignments learning teaching workshop

CHEC short course: teaching and learning

Today was the first day of a short course looking at teaching and learning and is pretty innovative in that it is co-ordinated by, and open to, academics from several higher educational institutions in the Western Cape. It’s being organised by the Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC). The course runs for the next month, during which we attend a session a week, and includes an assignment component. In this case, the assignment is to develop and evaluate a teaching activity using principles from the course.

The content of the course is aimed at new lecturers or those with experience who’d like to explore new ideas in their teaching practices. I thought it’d be interesting to engage with people from other institutions and see what I could learn from them. The sessions are really short so there isn’t much time to cover a lot of ground. However, the interaction seemed pretty good today. Most of the notes below were thoughts I had that were inspired by what was said, and not really content from the session.

What do teachers and students do to create learning spaces?

Students’ learning behaviour is a response to the education system they’re a part of

Perceived relevance influences participation (it’s not necessarily about actual relevance)

Challenging boundaries can develop critical thinking

Definitions of learning are context dependent i.e. it’s hard to pin down a definition of what it means “to learn”. Remembering a fact is different to more efficiently performing a task, but both are “learning”

Bloom’s taxonomy implies that certain “types” of learning are more developed than others, but “Evaluation” can be done at a basic level, and “Remembering” can be complex

How do you enable self-expression as a means of developing creativity / engagement?

When we mediate teaching and learning experiences with technology, are we producing a fundamentally different thinking process? If we are, then “e-learning” isn’t just about using technology…then it really is something different that should stand alone

How does “what students do” impact on how they think? How can I make better use of our learning spaces to change students’ thinking?

How do you get students to prepare for class, engage during class, and follow up (reflect) after class, in order to reach specific learning objectives?

If you give homework, do you need to make sure that students do it? If the homework task is designed to develop thinking, and then you assess the students’ ability to think, doing the homework task stops being work for the sake of work. Completing the homework then has a real positive outcome in terms of facilitating deeper understanding, which increases the probability of the student being deemed “competent”, which makes them more likely to do the homework.