During February-May 2014 I undertook UCT’s Learning and Teaching in Higher Education course which aims to introduce lecturers to key issues and theories in teaching and learning. We were encouraged to interrogate aspects of our teaching practice and to reflect on this using a range of theoretical tools in order to formulate ways of improving our practice. The assignments for the course were highly engaging, although somewhat difficult at times. For me this was largely due to my involvement in a range of contexts, rather than being a lecturer in a more traditional sense (i.e. being responsible for course/s in a specific discipline and teaching students). This diversity is reflected in my approach to assignments, as they all deal with different contexts. (View course assignments outline here)
The first task required us to choose an experience from our teaching context that we felt illustrated the challenges and/or opportunities posed by diversity in higher education. We had to use academic literacy and Gee’s notion of Discourse to analyse this experience. I chose the second year Architecture Studio course and I discussed how the interplay between the Discourses identified here intersects with disciplinary preparedness and other dimensions of diversity in complex ways. (Download Task 1) I am currently co-authoring a paper with Architecture lecturers on design thinking in student projects and found that approaching the topic from the perspective of Discourse may be more accessible to Higher Education scholars than multimodal theory which is quite niche and depending on how it is used, can be quite dense.
For the first assignment we had to critically reflect on a specific assessment task in our own or another course (with permission of someone else’s course/teaching activity) in relation to a teaching activity and one learning outcome and discuss the extent to which this assessment embraces (or not) some of the conceptions, approaches and perspectives on student learning that LTHE promotes. The task had to include the alignment criterion in relation to the intended learning outcome and the assessment task we chose. We had to critically analyse the assessment of only one learning outcome of our course/teaching activity and demonstrate an understanding of the concept of validity as it applies to this assessment. As I was not currently involved in teaching a course at the time of this assignment, I did it on someone else’s course. As I was quite critical I do not wish to share it here. This assignment helped me to identify the lack of fit between the current emphasis on summative assessment and transformative approaches to learning in an essay writing task and the overall programme which aims to foster reflection among students. Thus, I was able to identify salient features of the alignment gaps (using theory to back it up). The concept of alignment is really useful and this task helped me to start developing a vocabulary to assess a course outline in terms of student learning. I find myself returning to alignment in my work on ePortfolios where I encourage lecturers to consider the learning outcomes and the assessments in their courses before considering the technology involved in implementing this tool in their curricula.
There was some literature in the course which mentioned the use of learning portfolios, so I found that I gained a better understanding of my approach to ePortfolios where it is actually less about the technology and more about the pedagogy. The course conveners shared a framework for assessing critical reflection from Hammersley which I will definitely be using in my future work. I intend on creating an online course and OER on ePortfolio adoption in Higher Education.
Assignment 2 (Download Assignment 2) relates to my past and current teaching practices, particularly the workshops I do with academic staff on educational technology. With reference to the resources provided in the course such as Toohey (1999) we had to describe the curriculum ideology with which we feel most comfortable. We had to discuss critically the level of congruence (or incongruence) between various perspectives and our actual teaching design and practice. We had to draw on some of the key aspects listed in Toohey’s comparison of philosophical frameworks to provide a few practical examples that illustrate the level of congruence or lack thereof. I compared the socially critical model which informed my Media Studies tutoring to the experiential or personal relevance approach I use with lecturers and staff in teaching with technology workshops and courses. I discussed the CHECET course I co-facilitated recently as an example of congruence between this perspective and my actual teaching practice.
For Assignment 3 we had to write a short report and present an analysis of a planned teaching activity. I completed the report first which we were told should be a short (max two pages) description covering this assignment and not be the actual presentation, but rather a brief write up of what we did and some key points of what we learnt. As a student and reflective practitioner, this assignment showed the different kinds of knowledge I was able to communicate depending on the mode (typed report, PowerPoint presentation, sketchnote). For example, I found that when I reworked the presentation as a sketchnote (my own choice), I was much more aware of how time was the largest challenge. I think this is a wonderful visual thinking aid for reflective practitioners and will definitely make more use of it in the future. This assignment also made me realise that sometimes the written mode is not the best mode for reflection, as well as considering that when it comes to assignments, students need to be told explicitly that they can use any mode they please. As students on the course, I think the majority of us were preoccupied with assessment and having our teaching assessed that when it came to offering an analysis, we immediately went for PowerPoint over more creative modes. Making a video instead of presenting did cross my mind, but thought that maybe it would be a bit too radical and I doubted whether opting not to present physically would be an option.
As we had to video record and review our teaching event, we were literally forced to hold up a mirror to our own teaching. While I felt the workshop went really well and the participants were excited and high-spirited, a lot of the communication during this teaching event was mediated via Google Docs. The video seemed ‘dead’ compared to the actual teaching experience. However, watching it helped me realise how much time I spent demonstrating or explaining, whereas my aim (working from an experiential / personal relevance approach) was to get my participants ‘learn by doing’ and experiencing more. Here are some clips from my Google Drive workshop:
Assignment 4 continued with the thread of the reflective practitioner. Here we were required to reflect on our development through the course. For me the greatest value has been the introduction to the language of Higher Education (types of assessment, evaluation, etc), how I view the relationship between teaching and learning and how this has impacted on my ability to engage better with lecturers in my role as a facilitator and consultant on ePortfolio integration.
I have also used the course as a way to reflect on what it means to be a student when one is a digital scholar and how I can make use of an ePortfolio myself to model various practices and genres, from showcasing to reflection.