Gauging student learning in an online environment

In this final FDOL blog post I will be reflecting upon my involvement in a group PBL task that required us to design a learning activity in which our class would participate. My group decided to design an online quiz using Kahoot around the subject of semiotics, an important topic within the proposed online module our first PBL presentation was based on. My reflections led me to consider two aspects of my current teaching practice; how I gauge my students’ understanding in an online environment and encouraging discussion within an active learning scenario that will lead to a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

With only a short video explaining the basics of semiotics preceding the task, there was some concern raised within our group as to whether participants would have developed enough of an understanding to undertake the quiz, so we were pleased the percentage of correct answers indicated there was a good level of understanding and it was enlightening for me to experience first hand the insight into student learning that student response systems (SRS) technology can provide. With having the intention of delivering more online content in my teaching it’s important that I have strategies for assessing my students’ understanding of topics in this environment; I often rely upon verbal questioning in my small group face-to-face teaching so the use of SRS quizzes provides a good alternative for online teaching (UKPSF A5, K4 & K5). Kearns’ (2012, para.28 ) study into student assessment in online learning highlighted quizzes as an effective method to “informally assess students’ understanding as well as supply feedback to help them correct misconceptions”; this adds a research-informed rationale for my plans to introduced this pedagogical approach (UKPSF A5 & V3 ).

My PBL group opted to use Kahoot as its features were able to adequately facilitate the task we had planned and it was familiar following a demonstration earlier in the semester. We were also introduced to ‘Socrative’ through its use during an FDOL lecture which I personally found to be a more versatile SRS as it also allows for students to post responses to questions that can subsequently be viewed by the rest of the class. This feature in particular has great potential to encourage discussion and active participation in online learning as Awedh, Mueen, Zafar and Manzoor’s (2014, p.23) investigation ascertained: “We conclude that Socrative improves students level of interactivity, which helps students to be active in class and have collaborative learning, which also increases student engagement in the learning process.”

I intend to start using Socrative to run quizzes that will allow me to judge students’ understanding of theoretical topics and also post questions that will encourage students to debate the ‘affective outcomes’ of their work that “seek to address the subjective dimensions of the musical experience…among the categories of affective outcomes are student relations (to the music, to each other or the world, to himself or herself) which build community and the composer’s craft” (Sindberg, 2012, Chapter 2, para. 18-19). Using Socrative’s question and response features in his way will help to build the relationships that Sindberg describes through evaluating musical performance and composition, this approach can be used in an online environment and also in the classroom using commonly available mobile technology (UKPSF A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, K1, K2, K4 & K5).

 

Awedh, M. Mueen, A. Zafar, B. Manzoor, U. (2014). Using Socrative and Smartphones for the support of collaborative learning. International Journal on Integrating Technology in Education, 3(4), 17-24. Retrieved from http://airccse.org/journal/ijite/home.html  

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Kearns, L. R. (2012). Student Assessment in Online Learning: Challenges and Effective Practices. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 8(3). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/index.html

Sindberg, L. k. (2012). Just Good Teaching: Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) in Theory and Practice. Plymouth: Rowman & LittleField (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How do I support my students and what are the opportunities for further improvement through digital technologies

When I think about how I support my students, the issue of mechanisms and methods for providing feedback are relevant; my recent experience of being a student again has reminded me of the anxiety that students face whilst preparing their assignments. Creating the opportunity for regular formative feedback is a fundamental aspect of any pedagogic design and will “explicitly help students complete summative assessment tasks” (Bloxham, 2015, p.112) without compromising learning, as there is often a reluctance amongst students to expose and therefore address holes in their knowledge when high stakes summative assessment is involved (Bloxham, 2009). Carefully constructed formative feedback can also help with motivation when you consider “The effort that students make towards achieving goals is affected by how they feel about those goals and how they perceive the likelihood of achieving those goals” (Irons, 2008, p.36). The positive comments I have received from students through MEQs indicate my students feel supported and motivated by the feedback approach I use in my face-face teaching but I have yet to explore the possibility of adapting/enhancing my methods in an online environment; this provides the focus for this post and resulting actions (UKPSF A3, A4, A5 & K5).

Because of the practical nature of my teaching almost every session involves me providing formative feedback; currently my only use of the VLE for feedback is to produce written summative reports at the end of semesters so I feel there is scope for me to further engage students through feedback using technology and the VLE medium. Mcarthy’s (2015, para.30) study into providing a variety of feedback methods to a group of 77 visual ‘Design Language in Media Arts ‘ students concluded that,  “For the students participating in this study, video feedback was viewed as the most beneficial because it provided more in-depth analysis of their academic performance in assignments, which were largely visual-based. The feedback model matched the format of the assessment.” A key point to note here is that the visual element of the video feedback was highlighted as a very efficient way to address the visual nature of the assignment. Given that most instrumental technique issues related to music performance require a visual demonstration for corrective measures to be fully understood, there is a strong argument for me to start to provide formative and summative video feedback through the VLE (UKPSF A3, A5, K1 ,K2, K3, K4 & V3).

I intend to integrate video feedback into my practice in conjunction with screen capture software, this will allow me to simultaneously demonstrate and refer to a musical score or assessment criteria whilst incorporating the principles of effective feedback for music teaching outlined in Harris’s (2009) ‘taxonomy of response’ (UKPSF A3, K1, K2, K4 & V3). The ‘diagnostic’ and ‘making a suggestion’ aspects of Harris taxonomy are much easier to communicate by providing very specific demonstrations using an instrument and the audio-visual capabilities of video. I also aim to channel the completely affirmative, qualified enthusiasm, question/discussion and observational responses to performances he outlines in positive way through the feedback. With students able to see my gestures and hear the tone of my voice, they will be able to clearly gauge my reaction to their performances; by maintaining an awareness of this connection I can use it offer encouragement and highlight positive aspects of their work (UKPSF A3, A4, K1, K2, K3 & K4). Seeing a teacher diligently reviewing work in this way can lead to a feeling of proximity with students;  Mathisen’s (2012, para.44) investigation into the use of screen capture found that “There is reason to claim that through the use of screen capture as a medium of feedback, a closeness desired by students is created with their teachers. This experience, combined with a feeling of capturing their teacher’s attention and becoming involved in their work, leads to motivation and effort.” With this clearly identified link between technology enhanced feedback and increased student motivation, I anticipate the introduction of my video feedback approach will increase the amount of support I offer my students in relation to assessment and motivate them to engage with a regular practice regime (UKPSF A2, A3, A4, A5, V3, K4 & K5).

 

Bloxham, S. (2015). Assessing assessment: new developments in assessment design, feedback practices and marking in higher education In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge & S. Marshall (Eds), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Oxon: Routledge

Harris, P. (2012). The Virtuoso Teacher: the inspirational guide for instrumental and singing teachers. London: Faber (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Irons, A., & Exely (Ed). (2008). Enhancing Learning through Formative Assessment and Feedback. Oxon:Routledge

Mathisen, P. (2012). Video Feedback in Higher Education – A Contribution to Improving the Quality of Written Feedback. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7, 97-116. Retrieved from https://www.idunn.no/dk

McCarthy, J. (2015). Evaluating written, audio and video feedback in higher education summative assessment tasks. Issues in Educational Research, 25(2), 153-169. Retrieved from http://www.iier.org.au/iier25/mccarthy.html

 

How I extend collaborative learning using digital technologies

Encouraging collaborative learning through technology is an important part of any online or blended teaching approach. In this post I aim to examine the potential for development in this area of my practice. Swann, Garrison & Richardson (2009), identify social, cognitive and teaching presence as the three key elements in their ‘Community of Inquiry framework’. When evaluating how I might foster more collaborative learning through my teaching and environment design I must consider these three areas in relation to the way musicians learn. Green (Chapter 3.2, para.1) explains the ways peer learning can take place between musicians:

“it can arise in casual encounters or organised sessions; it can occur separately from music-making activities or during rehearsals and jam sessions. The different settings in which such learning takes place are liable to flow into each other. For example, a member of one band can show a new lick or chord to a member or several members of another band; a player may learn something by watching or listening to another player, who remains unaware of the fact that any learning is taking place; members of a band are likely to have casual learning encounters outside their rehearsals, the results of which are then consciously or unconsciously brought back into the rehearsals”.

I try to instigate these kinds of transfer in my face-to-face teaching through the curriculum design; my ensemble musicianship class requires all students to provide feedback to their peers following performances, the quality of the feedback they provide is a consideration within the marking criteria (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, K1, K2 & K3). Necessitating peer-peer evaluation in this manner results in all kinds of interesting discussion arising, allowing learners the opportunity for effective expression that will lead to reflection and discourse overseen by the teacher. According to Swann et al. (2009), this type of pedagogy requires a social, cognitive and teaching presence which indicates a Community of Inquiry is established (UKPSF A2, A4, K2 & K3).

Moving forward, I must focus on establishing similar collaborative practices in an online environment. When formulating an action plan in this regard I think it’s important to consider the role technology could play in the three potential types of exchange highlighted in Green’s (2009) description of music related peer learning: demonstration, appropriation through audio/visual sources and verbal or text conversation. In an online environment demonstration could be facilitated by the uploading of videos explaining specific techniques or approaches; the use of forums, webinars and blogs would allow for the appropriation of new influences through sharing media and also facilitates academic appraisal of discipline specific practices. All of these media are contained within, or easily signposted inside, the university’s Blackboard VLE. I intend to utilise all of them to complement my classroom teaching with the aim of encouraging entire cohorts to adapt the available technologies for their own learning styles, in similar way to members of an ‘Old Time’ folk music online community of practice that were the subject of Waldrens (2009) study (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, A5, K1, K2, K3, K4 & V1).

Although peer learning is at the heart of an online CoP or CoI there is sill an important role I need play as teacher in such environments. Ritchie’s (n.d., pp.8-9) approach to fostering collaborative learning through the online content of a HE music module demonstrates how learning can be guided around a particular subject matter:

“satellite topics are presented which allow people to investigate the components and processes involved in musical learning…each week’s online content gives a mix of a theoretical base or historical background, cites and discusses some key references that have been chosen to make students question and give them a different insight into the topic, and has accompanying tasks that allow for experiential learning and a practical demonstration of the underlying skills”.

I feel it’s necessary that I have a presence within any online community related to my teaching to ensure interactions are directed towards achieving the learning outcomes of the module. I think the discipline specific methods used by Ritchie (n.d.) will also be effective within my area of music specialism and will form the basis of my pedagogic approach within online environments (UKPSF A5, A4, K1, K2 & K3). Establishing online communities is particularly important within large music departments where one is likely to encounter diversity in terms of stylistic preferences, which is also closely linked with cultural and social diversity. Given the size of the Salford University Music Department (400+students) I think it is important to be aware that “Failure to provide learning opportunities that address the extramusical aspects of stylistic diversity, and embed the normative behaviors and expectations of those communities within degree programmes, risks failing to engage students in the learning process. It risks failing to produce employable graduates who are accepted and competent members of professional communities of practice” (Hewitt, 2009, p.8). Considering this point highlights how my plans for developing CoPs will help students with similar interests and backgrounds find each other amongst large cohorts, the intended result being increased participation in collaborative practice amongst a diverse learning community  (UKPSF A4, A5, K2,V1, & V2).

 

Green, L. (2002). How Popular Musicians Learn: A Way Ahead for Music Education. Aldershot: Ashgate (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

Hewitt, A. (2009). Musical styles as communities of practice: challenges for learning, teaching and assessment of music in higher education. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 8 (3), pp. 329-337. doi: 10.1177/1474022209339956

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Ritchie, L. (n.d.). Embracing open learning in Music. Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/laura_ritchie_final.pdf

Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In C. R. Payne (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. (pp. 43-57). doi: 10.4018/978-1-60566-654-9.ch004

Waldron, J. (20o9). Exploring a virtual music community of practice: Informal music learning on the Internet. Journal of Music Technology and Education, 2(2-3), 97-112. doi: 10.1386/jmte.2.2-3.97_1

Opportunities and benefits of FDOL

For our 1st PBL task my group decided to formulate an online version of the level 4 performance module ‘Critical and Contextual Studies’ that aims to address ‘the ways in which we analyse and discuss the performances we make and see’. We decided the module could be delivered in conjunction with ‘The Lowry Theatre’, an existing industry partner of the performance department. The module would be offered to all their staff and associate artists as a career development opportunity in exchange for discounted tickets being offered to our students, an arrangement of mutual benefit. This led me to reflect upon how I could work with existing or potential industry partners of the music department to deliver an online course and enhance teaching through digital media in a constructive relationship. Embracing the differing priorities and perspectives of industry partners can be very beneficial for music pedagogy as Zeserson (2012, Chapter 14, para. 36) describes:

“Tensions between different and shifting viewpoints (both pedagogical and musical) can be destructive or dynamic. Bringing practitioners into the school environment, whose practice norms are aligned to community contexts or the professional music industry, or even just to a different kind of school, can challenge both the culture of the school community as well as that of the guests. This dynamic tension between perspectives can, however, be enormously productive through stimulating debate, the exploration of new ideas and creative invention.”

With these potential benefits in mind, colleagues and I are currently developing a technology-based module in conjunction with ‘Music Group’ – the 4th largest audio company in the world. As well as introducing some ‘dynamic tension’ into the curriculum, association with their global brand has huge outreach potential (UKPSF A1, K1, K2, K4 & V4). It has been agreed that an online version of the course would maximize the benefits of our partnership and help us to contribute towards the ‘our partners-making connections’ aspect of Salford University’s strategic plan that encourages us to “Expand our network of regional, national and global partners. Work with them to enhance learning outcomes of our students and, through collaboration around research, professional development and community benefit, increase our impact on society and build mutual reputational force for the long term.” (Salford University, 2016) (UKPSF A1, A5, K4 & V4).

The possibility of working in partnership with a MOOC provider such as Coursera, Futurelearn or Edex in delivery was also discussed amongst my PBL group. Although this idea was eventually dismissed, I personally felt that our course was well suited to being delivered in conjunction with a provider. The delivery approach we decided upon of a 1-hour lecture followed up by small group seminar discussion and asynchronous learning activity encompasses the values, skills and literacy dimensions of a ‘cMOOC’ (Downes, 2015, 5:13) – an open access online course that is structured to encourage a ‘connectivist’ approach to learning.

Considering this, I would conclude that our course could be offered as a cMOOC without compromising the pedagogical approach and would raise the reputation of our teaching practices. It is just one of the areas of institutional enhancement gained through offering MOOCs Jenner (2014) highlights alongside Innovation, Delivery, Infrastructure and Student Outcomes. There are many music technology and musicology modules within the programmes I teach that could be offered as online courses through adopting a similar pedagogical approach, with the potential benefits Jenner outlines I feel it’s a worthwhile endeavour that warrants the required resource. I intend to present a proposal to my line manager in the near future based on a very similar rationale outlined for the hypothetical PBL module (UKPSF A1, A5, , K2, K4, V3 & V4).

We decided it was important to include a slide in our presentation that discussed the benefits of online learning for the student in comparison to the face-to-face module; three aspects were focused on – interactivity, passive to active learning and communication. Interactivity and active learning are two areas that I feel are closely related and important to my practice – with all the technologies commonly used by students, the possibility for active learning activities are endless.

To ensure the activities are serving with the learning outcomes I found the five considerations outlined by Brenton (2015) a useful framework – People (Who?), Shared Purpose (Why?), Locating framework/social conditions (Where?), Method (How?) and Activity (What?). Using this thought process I have designed an activity my LV6 students will undertake to help them frame their final recital project. It involves answering a series of questions that aim to help them understand their strengths as performers; they will discuss their answers in groups and consider how each others’ strengths could be highlighted through repertoire choice before feeding back to the class. This method helps them work collaboratively towards the learning outcome of devising a programme that allows them to address all aspects of the criteria (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, A5, V3, K1, K2 & K3). An online version of this task could be completed using wikis, discussions boards and breakout rooms in collaborate ultra. In a blended version of this module I could ask students to complete this prior to the face-to-face session to allow more time for discussion and individual focus. I intend to experiment with an online version of this task next academic year, I will gauge its effectiveness by monitoring the communications that take place thorough the previously mentioned technologies and judging the level of engagement and quality of discussion (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, A5, K1, K4 & K5).

My PBL group conversation around the issue of communication in online education triggered my curiosity and instigated reflection upon how I transmit information to my students in online environments, I found that Betts (2009, para.44) raises some interesting points in this regard:

“It is clear that nonverbal communication in a face-to-face classroom, including visual cues and vocal cues, can affect how a message is conveyed by the sender/receiver and interpreted by the receiver/sender. Even when words are not being used, communication is still taking place in a face-to-face classroom. However, in an online classroom, there is a shift and increased emphasis on words, particularly with written communication. Lexicon, semantics, and syntax can greatly affect how a written message is conveyed and interpreted.”

I have never really given much thought into how writing style and grammar might affect the way my communications are interpreted. Upon reviewing my recent Blackboard announcements I was surprised by the stern the tone of my writing when considered from a student’s perspective. Betts (2009) also suggests developing a more nuanced approach to communication with students through introspective examination of email communication style and diversifying communication strategies. I intend to consider both these points in my future practice through firstly giving more thought to appropriately articulating emails and undertaking some professional development to improve my ability to do this. I will also endeavor to use a wider range of media such as video and audio, especially when delivering online courses as hearing and seeing an instructor will feel more personal (UKPSF A4, A5 & K4).

When deciding how we were going to utilise technology to deliver the course there was a lot of focus on how we could support students during the second stage of Salmon’s (n.d.) five-stage model where the focus is on socialisation. During this phase of their learning students must become familiar with technologies that establish channels of communication and facilitate collaborative activity. We felt that social media could play an important part in enabling the students to engage in active learning as “the focus is on ensuring that anything created can be added to, shared, followed, and more. Mobile tools can support all these capabilities and can allow a virtuous cycle of learning, creating, and providing feedback” (Quinn, 2012, p.82). These attributes can be used to effectively enhance peer learning within the Music discipline as Albert (2015, para.8) describes: “Music educators can use social networks to create online communities of practice that support student learning within their classes and ensembles. Social networks such Facebook Groups, Edmodo, and Google Classroom can host videos and audio files recorded by a member of an online community – a music class or ensemble –with the purpose of soliciting supportive and constructive feedback.” These two viewpoints provide a strong rationale for using social networks to support the collaborative ensemble projects I oversee. I would probably opt for using Google Classroom over the other platforms as its features allow more control over student interactions, an important consideration to prevent issues arising from cyberbullying, ethics and privacy (UKPSF K4 & V1). I would use the network to encourage discussion and sharing of relevant audio/video recordings for critical listening and also to ensure that all students are responding to communications relating to rehearsal times – a common issue with the module (UKPSF A4, K3 & K4).

 

Albert, D. J. (2015) Social Media in Music Education: Extending to where students live. Music Educators Journal, 102(2), 31-38. doi: 10.1177/0027432115606976

Betts, K. (2009). Lost in translation: Importance of effective communication in online education. Online Journal of Distance Education Administrators, 12(2). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/

Brenton, S. (2015). Effecive online teaching and learning. In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge & S. Marshall (Eds), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Oxon: Routledge

Downes, S. (2015, 15 September). MOOC: Stephen Downes and George Siemens Connectivism [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SuHW69VcWM

Jenner, M. (2014, 25 March). What’s the benefit of MOOCs. [Weblog] UCL Home Digital Education Team Blog. Retrieved from http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2014/03/25/whats-the-benefit-of-moocs/ [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Quinn, C.N. (2012). The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Salford University. (n.d.). Our Salford-Strategic Plan 2014-2018. Retrieved 12 April, 2016, from http://staff.salford.ac.uk/cms/resources/uploads/files/Strategic%20plan%20PDF%20file%20redesigned.pdf

Salmon, G. (n.d). Gilly Salmon- The Five stage Model. Retrieved 12 April, 2016, from http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

Zeserson, K. (2012). Partnerships in music education. In C. Philpott & G. Spruce (Eds), Debates in Music Teaching. Oxon:Routledge. [Kindle reader version 4.15.1] (Chapter 14) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

My digital teaching practice and opportunities for change

In this post I aim to discuss how I will use digital technologies to enhance learning within a flexible curriculum that encourages students to learn through relevant practical experiences and assignments. In my last post I explored the importance of encouraging creativity and the scope to focus on personal interests within the curriculum in terms of developing digital literacies; these factors are also important when considering the ‘constructively aligned’ (Biggs & Tang , 2011) tasks students undertake when working towards learning outcomes. I feel it’s important to first consider the design of my curriculum before contemplating how technology can be used to enhance what should already be a pedagogically-sound approach, prioritising in this manner is important as Casey and Wilson (2005, p.14) point out :

“people often turn to technology for solutions to problems that are not really technical, but rather managerial and educational. We introduce the notion of the need to develop ‘educational expertise’ which should lead to the correct use of technology. At present, many people seem to hope that the reverse arrangement will work, despite ample evidence otherwise”.

The module ‘Session Musicianship’ is good place to start when evaluating my practice in this regard; it’s an ensemble class that involves 5 learners working under my direction to produce a finished recording of a song within a 2-hour time frame. I provide guidance throughout the session whilst the students work collaboratively and interact during the rehearsal process; they are also encouraged to make creative inputs as specified in the assignment brief (UKPSF A1, A2, A3, A4, K1, K2 & K3). After considering this lesson design in relation to the learning outcomes, I conclude that the social and informal learning activities within this class meet many of the Enhancement Themes’ (2016) indicators of a highly flexible model such as active learner participation, problem-solving, collaboration and creative dialogue (UKPSF A1, A5, V1, V2, K2 & K3). Although I feel confident about the overall effectiveness of the pedagogy employed in the module I still see some students with fundamental flaws in their instrumental skills drawn into an insular focus whilst trying to rectify them in the classes, hence preventing them from fully participating in active learning. I feel technology can help address this problem and cater for diversity in terms of pre-existing skill by using video to adopt a ‘flipped classroom approach’. Bridgstock (2012, cited in Grant, 2013, p.6) discusses the benefits of incorporating this method into tertiary music education:

“With contact lecture hours directed to activities that consolidate and apply knowledge, the flipped music classroom holds far greater potential than traditional lecture formats to foster authentic and creative student learning activities, for example by incorporating practice- and performance-based learning tasks. More than the traditional lecture format, it can engage students engaging in real-life problem-solving in areas relevant to their future careers as musicians, and develop the entrepreneurial skills that are increasingly needed to build a successful and sustainable career in the arts.”

The videos I would post prior to the start of the session will demonstrate instrument-specific techniques that will be used in the following weeks session. This will allow students with technical limitations to focus their practice on very precise points, resulting in their being more prepared for interacting creatively with other students (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, A5, K1, K2, K4, V1 & V2).

When I reflect upon the activities students undertake in this class, I realise the fast visual processing required for sight reading sheet music could potentially disadvantage some students, particularly those with the disability of Dyslexia, a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010). To ensure that no student’s learning is hindered I will make sure the music is available for download through the VLE a week in advance of the class, allowing students time to process the information at their own pace. The British Dyslexic Association Music Committee (2016) highlights some other issues Dyslexic music students face that I need to be more aware of. I intend to further support students encountering the following difficulties using appropriate technologies as described:

  • Work in music theory: understanding/de-coding information and organisation of examination answers: Use interactive websites such as musictheory.net for revision tasks, colour-coded digital flashcards in lessons and quizzes using Socrative or Kahoot.
  • Organisation of personal practice and rehearsals: The VLE will be used to set up personal practice diaries using wikis that I can use to monitor the effectiveness of practice routines. Reminders about lessons and rehearsal can also be sent straight to their phone apps via blackboard announcements.
  • Music analysis and understanding of written material: I can record any aural explanations that take place in the lessons on my phone then email recordings to the students, video feedback will also be offered as an alternative to written. Notation software such as ‘Sibelius’ can be used to change colours and highlight patterns.

By using these technologies to introduce different methods outlined in Fleming’s and Mill’s VARK modalities (“Vark-Learn”, n.d.), I aim to create a more inclusive environment. As well as the ethical reasons for doing this, the changes made to DSA funding as of September 2016 will require all academics to develop more inclusive pedagogies as the government “will look to HEIs to play their role in supporting students with mild difficulties, as part of their duties to provide reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act” (Willets, HC Deb 7 April 2014, c 1WS) (UKPSF A1, A2, A3, A4, V4, V2, K1 & K4).

 

Biggs, J.B., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University (4th ed.). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education

British Dyslexia Association Music Committee. (n.d.). Music and inclusive teaching: information from the British Dyslexia Association Music Committee. Retrieved 27 March, 2016, from http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/common/ckeditor/filemanager/userfiles/Educator/Music/BDA_Music_information_booklet.pdf

Casey, J., & Wilson, P. (2005). A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education. Enhancement themes. Retrieved from http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/docs/publications/a-practical-guide-to-providing-flexible-learning-in-further-and-higher-education

Enhancement Themes. (n.d.). Design curricula with a significant focus on technology-enhanced learning (TEL). Retrieved 20 March, 2016, from http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/toolkits/flexible-curriculum/2-anytime-anywhere-learning/2-3-design-curricula-with-a-significant-focus-on-tel

Grant, C. (2013). First inversion: A rationale for implementing the ‘flipped classroom approach’ in tertiary music courses. Australian Journal of Music Education. 2013 Edition (1), 3-12. Retrieved from https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=194668467340281;res=IELHSS

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

The Equality Act 2010. (c.1). London, The Stationery Office.

Vark-Learn. (n.d.). The VARK Modalities. Retrieved 27 March, 2016 from http://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/the-vark-modalities/

Willets, D. (2014). Higher Education: Student Support. House of Commons Library Written Statement. HC Deb, vol 597, col. 1WS, 7 April 2014.

 

The digital student: potential benefits and drawbacks for students and academics

As part of my role as a lecturer in music performance I am in involved with teaching over 300 students. When I consider my students from a digital perspective there is huge amount of diversity in terms of how they engage with technology. I have noticed this is quite often related to other strands of diversity, the most common being age. We have a number of mature students enrolled on the course who generally aren’t as comfortable with various ICT and music technology hardware operational skills as students who have progressed directly from FE. To a certain extent I can see the generational divide between learners that Prensky (2001) describes although I feel his definition of ‘Digital Natives’ and ‘Digital Immigrants’ is too simplistic and there are often crossovers and exceptions; I routinely see mature students with an industry background in music recording/production who are just as comfortable with technology as their younger ‘native’ peers.

Helsper & Enyon’s (2009) analysis of this issue adds relevance to my observation as they conclude there is no evidence that can clearly define someone as being digitally native or immigrant based on birth date and highlights exposure as an important factor when it comes to digital competency. The majority of my students swing more towards being ‘native’ so I’m always trying to integrate the latest software and technology into the curriculum but whilst doing so also being mindful that Helsper & Enyon’s (2009) findings indicate that potentially students of all ages could need extra support with technology (UKSPF A1, A2, A4, V1, V2, V3 & K4). The Jisc (2014) guide for digital literacy support and development lists some points I feel are important in this regard that I intend to address in my own practice through the following actions:

  • Working collaboratively with support services – I will make sure all my students are aware of the courses and 1-1 support the IT and digital skills team offer. I will also aim to arrange some bespoke training sessions that focus on digital literacies relevant to their area of study and liaise with ICT services if a student encounters a problem that is beyond their level of competency to resolve (UKPSF A2, A4, K4 & V2).
  • Encouraging informal support networks between peers – during personal tutor sessions I suggest that members of the cohort who are confident with technology volunteer themselves as approachable technology champions. I will also point out the potential for seeking peer support and exchanging IT skills when channels of communication are maintained through digital media. Having this kind of support network available will be particularly beneficial to the more ‘immigrant’ students as Helsper and Enyon (2009 p.4) describe: “exposure, experience or expertise with new technologies, is an important question for policy and practice…if being tech savvy is determined by exposure and experience then collaboration and learning is possible in environments where younger and older generations interact” (UKPSF A4, V1, V2 & K4).
  • Create opportunity to appropriately assess the digital capabilities of students – I will aim to evaluate my students’ digital skills through the informal assessment that takes place in the small group composition seminars and ensemble performance classes I teach; there are various types of ICT and music technology skills used in these classes so I will be able to identify individual students who are having difficulties and offer additional support or direct them to the university’s digital skills services (UKPSF A2, A3, A4, V1, V2 & K4).

 

I also tend to see variations in digital literacy relating to the different areas of specialism I teach. There is a particular contrast between classical performance and specialist music technology students, with the latter being more intrinsically motivated when it comes to acquiring digital skills as it’s fundamental to their area of interest. Belshaw (2012, 16:55) considers personal interest and motivation to be significant when it comes to developing digital literacies so I feel it’s important to consider how to motivate my students across all the areas of specialisms to develop their digital skills, not just technology-focused students.

A motivating factor that unifies all music students is a desire to realise their creative selves. As Barnes (2011, p.97) explains this can be used as a driver to encourage the development of other skills – “The encouragement of creativity in any subject is more likely to engage our individual learning styles, different intelligences, imaginations and bodies.” To use creativity as a vehicle for developing digital literacies I will be evaluating my entire curriculum to ensure that the development of digital literacies most relevant to creative practice within music are covered (UKPSF A1, K1 & K4). Jisc (2015) supports this kind of discipline-specific action when it comes to developing digital skills – “digital practices in the learning environment are shaped within their programme of study where they tend to look to teaching staff for guidance on recommended technologies or adopt those required by the curriculum. Embedding digital capability into the curriculum aligns with their educational aspirations and helps make sense of the tasks and technologies in use”.

 

Barnes, J.M. (2001). Creativity and Composition in Music. In C. Philpott & C. Plummeridge (Eds), Issues in Music Teaching. London: Routledge

Belshaw, D. (2012). The essential elements of digital literacies: Doug Belshaw at TEDxWarwick [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8yQPoTcZ78

Helsper, E., & Enyon, E. (2009). Digital natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal, 36(3), 1-18. doi: 10.1080/01411920902989227

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Jisc. (2015) Curriculum change. Retrieved 1 March, 2016, from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies/curriculum-change

Jisc. (2014). Support and development. Retrieved 1 March, 2016, from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies/support-and-development

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. Retrieved from www.marcprensky.com

Professional Conversation 6/6

IMG_1437

This Lego model is a symbol of how I view my development through activities and research undertaken as part of the PGCAP course. The figure on top of the tree exemplifies my feeling of empowerment. The trunk represents the growth of my teaching skills as a result of implementing my initial action plan and the branches emblematize areas of development resulting from my participation in the different aspects of the course. In this post I will reflect upon how my own pro-active approach and engagement with the LTHE module has enhanced my practice and provided me with ongoing areas of development.

The area I felt was in most need of development was delivering lectures to large numbers. In previous posts I have focused on elements of my presentation skills and methods for evaluating student understanding that require improvement. However, I also feel that ensuring there is opportunity for formative feedback and assessment is important when dealing with a substantial class size as Gibb, T. Habeshaw and S. Habeshaw (1992, p.135) describe:

“With increasing numbers it is becoming impossible to give individual feedback to so many students. And yet feedback is crucial to formative assessment: students need to be given information about their performance so that they can learn from the experience.”

I can identify with this problem as this semester I was faced with a situation of supporting 50 elective performers within a 1-hour timetabled class each week. I decided the best approach for providing formative feedback in these circumstances would be to schedule the students to perform individually in the class time. This would allow me (plus the rest of the class) to critique the performances in relation to the assessment criteria. It would also facilitate peer directed learning – an important part of the learning process for musicians because “performance, composition and improvisational abilities are thus acquired not only as individuals but, crucially, as members of a group.” (Green 2002, Chapter 3.2, para. 17) (UKPSF A1, A2, A4 & K3). In the modern HE environment it is becoming increasing problematic for academics to provide quality formative feedback outside of taught sessions as Irons (2008, p.9) explains:

“There is currently an environment of mass higher education, there are staff student ratios (Sirs) of 27:1, 35:1 or even 45:1, there is an increasingly diverse student body, there are many teaching pressures on staff, there are all sorts of bureaucratic demands and there is an expectation that staff participate in research. How are formative assessment and formative feedback going to fit into a very full curriculum and a very full schedule?”

Considering this sector-wide problem of academics’ time becoming increasingly stretched, I feel that creating opportunities for formative feedback and assessment within my lesson design is important, so I intend to integrate opportunities for this as much as possible (UKSPSF A1, A3 & V4).

I have also evaluated how I approach teaching large classes that involve practical work, as there are a number of sessions I teach that involve large ensembles. These sessions often involve delivering theoretical content as well as directing a rehearsal whilst simultaneously trying to address the needs of individuals with varying performance ability. When planning a class of this nature I have adapted Sindbergs (2012) planning model of ‘Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance’. The model focuses on five key factors including music selection, analysis, outcomes, strategies and assessment; it aims to embed further musical understanding in performance teaching though supporting cognitive, affective and skill development in the planned activities. Since implementing this approach I feel the students are engaging more with the music they are performing because they are also developing harmonic knowledge, stylistic awareness and aural abilities. I find this encouraging, as making these kind of connections with other areas of study is an indicator of ‘deep learning’, (Biggs & Tang, 2011) (UKPSF A1, A5, K1 & K3).

The feedback following my mentor observation suggested I need to be more sympathetic to diversity amongst learners; teaching a large music ensemble is a good place to put into effect a more considered approach to diversity as differentiation in terms of ability, prior experience/knowledge, learning styles, individual technical ability and interests is always pressent (Harris, 2012). With varying technical abilities and prior experience, it is unavoidable that at some point an individual must be given some brief 1-1 support as not being able to understand or play a particular passage will hinder their progress. Harris (2012, Chapter 13.2, para. 3) offers a strategy for doing so without disrupting other students:

“Occasionally, a particular pupil may need some individual help. Another pupil may be able to demonstrate, or the teacher may take that pupil aside for a minute or two. In this case the remaining pupils could, for example, improvise on particular ingredients, make a note in their notebooks, clap some rhythms, explore a technical point, or read some notation silently.”

By using this approach I have been able to offer support to individuals without interrupting the flow of a rehearsal or lesson (UKPSF A2, A4 & K2). When it comes to learning styles within a pop music ensemble it is important to consider peer directed learning again, as associated methods are long established and native to pop musicians as Green (Green 2002, Chapter 3.2, para. 1) states, “solitude is by no means a distinguishing mark of the popular music learner… for example, a member of one band can show a new lick or chord to a member or several members of another band; a player may learn something by watching or listening to another player, who remains unaware of the fact that any learning is taking place”.

Through becoming more aware of this important factor when pop musicians are working in a group-learning situation, I will occasionally take a step back if I see there is the potential for these kinds of exchange to take place. Sometimes I will also actively encourage peer directed learning in this way by asking students to demonstrate something of interest to the rest of the group (UKPSF A4, K1 & K2). It is also important to consider that “members of a band are likely to have casual learning encounters outside their rehearsals, the results of which are then consciously or unconsciously brought back into the rehearsals” (Green 2002, Chapter 3.2, para.1). Where appropriate, I will allow students to influence the content of a lesson by selecting repertoire that focuses on a style or technique they have been exposed to through a ‘casual learning encounter’, I find this helps inspire groups of students with a variety of interests and diverse stylistic preferences; it also ensures the teaching and subject matter is in line with industry developments (UKPSF A2, A4, K1 & V1).

I found the ‘learning through play’ experience very enlightening, it really got me thinking about the issue of fostering creativity when teaching music performance as -“The encouragement of creativity in any subject is more likely to engage our individual learning styles, different intelligences, imaginations and bodies” (Barnes, 2011, p.97). I take a Jazz Improvisation ensemble where the nature of the music requires students to spontaneously create melodies and with this in mind I started to reflect upon ways in which I might be able to enhance creativity through my teaching. Robinson (2011) discusses how generating ideas and creativity in some contexts has to adhere to certain conventions, this is also true of the Jazz idiom so I can identify with the view that, “the creative achievement and the aesthetic pleasure lie in using standard forms to achieve unique effects and original insights” (Robinson, 2011, p.152). Using this idea to encourage creativity within the context of my improvisation class, I would provide students with the limitation of focusing on a particular harmonic musical device thus necessitating them to be more inventive within the confines of these resources to keep a listener engaged. This eventually leads to them using rhythms, articulations and phrasing they wouldn’t have imagined in normal circumstances and “as compelling melodic ideas are created with only a handful of notes, and used effectively via repetition, students will experience the compositional ‘truth’ that sometimes less is more” (Watson, 2011, Chapter 7, para. 17) (UKPSF A4, A2, K1 & K2).

I have found there is a role technology can play with instigating creativity in improvised music, particularly within the elements of rhythmic and sonic experimentation. Watson (2011) believes that the presence of technology – such as synthesizers, drum machines and samplers with intuitive interfaces – incites experimentation; the variety of potentially appealing sounds and pre-programmed rhythms can be very inspirational and their ease of use means that improvisational creativity isn’t inhibited by technical limitations on instruments. Through incorporating this kind technology into my teaching I can identify with these benefits as I often hear clear signs of innovation; an indication that original ideas have been developed through a creative process (Robinson, 2011). Technology also has the ability to engage a wide range of learners as Watson (2011, Chapter 7, para. 9) explains: “all the keys, buttons, sliders, and wheels invite tactile learners; all the evocative sounds engage auditory learners, visual learners like exploring the display and/or listings of sounds I sometimes hand out as a guide”. For these reasons I have really come to value the use of technology in performance classes and intend to keep abreast of industry relevant technological developments I can bring to the classroom (UKPSF, A1, A5, K4 & V2).

The use of technology was also a point of discussion during my professional conversation, when describing my use of ‘instant questionnaires’, it was suggested I should investigate how mobile learning devices might be able to assist with this method of gauging student understanding. It is a fair assumption that all my students will own a mobile device or tablet of some description, yet I have never really given much consideration into how their interactivity might be harnessed for learning. “Interactions are, at the core, the presentation of a choice to the learner, the learner’s response, and, ideally, feedback to the learner” (Quinn, 2012, p.66), so mobile phones or tablets are an ideal medium through which to communicate in this way and there is lots of software available to do this with. The classroom response system ‘Socrative’ was recommended by a peer; it enabled me to create quiz questions that students can answer via an application on their phone, responses are then sent back to me live. The big advantage of using this method to gauge students’ understanding as opposed to hand written questionnaires is that it allows me to instantly assess their level of understanding of a topic then immediately provide feedback and address any weak areas of knowledge. I have compiled quizzes for all my lectures next semester and although I have yet to use Socrative in a lesson I am confident that it will be an efficient means for gauging student understanding (UKPSF A1, A3, K4 & K5).

From the PGCAP sessions themselves, I found the lecture on assessing and feeding back to be very interesting and a prompt to think about how I approach assessing within my discipline. Kleimen (2015) lists two challenges associated with assessing performance I find familiar: the need for assessing process and product and benchmarking the work against appropriate professional or educational standards. I would identify process and product as being the rehearsal period and final recital in music performance. To ensure both these aspects are acknowledged in assessment I now award two distinct grades – a continuous assessment mark and a practical assessment mark – they have an equal weighting towards the overall final mark. This allows me to reward improvements or learning gains made during the rehearsal period as well as judging the final performance. In terms of making sure the work is judged with the correct level of expectation it is important to adhere to set standards sector wide in your discipline. Through discussion with colleagues and external examiners I have agreed that in music performance LV6 work falling into the 1st class honours category should be described as ‘approaching a professional standard’. Following this agreement, I ensured the language used in the grade descriptors clearly communicated this benchmark for the purpose of transparency with students and quality assurance (UKPSF A3 & K6).

Overall I feel I have benefitted a great deal from undertaking the PGCAP. Engaging with UKPSF framework as described in my posts and understanding its relevance to my practice has served as the main driver for the improvement in my practice. Becoming familiar with pedagogical approaches to HE music teaching through reading recommended texts has also been of great benefit and resulted in my methods being better informed. The course lectures, observations and activities with my action learning set have encouraged me to reflect on lots of aspects of my teaching and instilled the good habit of constant reflection. Not by any means do I now consider myself the complete educator, I will aim to look for further areas of development beyond those discussed in this blog.

 

References

Barnes, J.M. (2001). Creativity and Composition in Music. In C. Philpott & C. Plummeridge (Eds), Issues in Music Teaching. London: Routledge

Biggs, J.B., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University (4th ed.). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education

Gibbs, G., Habeshaw, S., & Habeshaw, T., (1992). 53 Problems with large classes. Bristol: Technical and Education Services Ltd

Green, L. (2002). How Popular Musicians Learn: A Way Ahead for Music Education. Aldershot: Ashgate (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

Harris, P. (2012). The Virtuoso Teacher: the inspirational guide for instrumental and singing teachers. London: Faber (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Irons, A., & Exely (Ed). (2008). Enhancing Learning through Formative Assessment and Feedback. Oxon:Routledge

Kleiman, P. (2015). Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines: Dance, Drama and Music In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge & S. Marshall (Eds), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Oxon: Routledge

Quinn, C.N. (2012). The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Robinson, Ken. (2011). Out of Our Minds: Learning to be creative. Chichester: Capstone

Sindberg, L.k. (2012). Just Good Teaching: Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) in Theory and Practice. Plymouth: Rowman & LittleField (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

Watson, S. (2011). Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity. New York: Oxford University Press (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Through Play 5/6

In week 4 of my PGCAP course I took part in the ‘Sell your Bargains’ game. We were tasked with finding an object that could assist us teach a topic we would consider to be a ‘Threshold Concept’. Our objects could not exceed a budget of £1 and I was given an additional requirement of it needing to contain primary colors. Meyers & Land (2006) explain that the transformative aspect of a threshold concept can involve a performative element, so I considered the time–rhythm subject of ‘Note Placement’ to be suitable. There are three ways of playing in relation to a metronomic beat – dead centre, a bit ahead or a bit behind (Goodrick 1987). Once students are able to understand and apply this idea practically it will allow them to bring an advanced level of expression to their performances. After discussion with Dhang Zalu (my peer partner for the task), we decided that the three primary colours could represent the different aspects of playing involved in note placement, so I bought a pack of felt stars that were red, yellow and blue. The stars could be placed against a horizontal line divided into three sections, also colour coded by primary colours to symbolise the periods of time involved in note placement (centre, ahead and behind) then moved to different points along the line to provide a visual representation of grooves or time feels associated with various styles of music. The stars also gave me the idea of giving my lesson the fun astrological themed title of ‘The Groove Universe’ with each of the visually represented time periods being a ‘Galaxy’ (UKPSF A1 & K2).

The lesson for which I used the object and theme was a performance workshop delivered to five students. The first part of the class focused on me explaining the topic, I questioned the students regularly to check their level of understanding and concluded that as a class they seemed to grasp the main concept quicker in comparison to my prior experience of teaching this subject. I felt the visual metaphors of the groove universe were a real asset, the students seemed to engage with the theme of the class and having a visual representation was useful when clarifying any points of confusion. Until now I have worked under the assumption that audio examples are the most useful aid when teaching music students, but through the experience of teaching this class I have realised one can’t presume the best approach to teaching music topics is always using auditory methods, as Brookfield and James (2014, p.73) state, some students with a high visual intelligence learn best when visual representations are used:

“Visual learners think in pictures, respond to things being presented in image or diagrammatic forms, like to draw their developing understandings of new ideas, and maintain attention through visual stimuli. They are likely to be adept at creating visual representation themselves and have “an eye” for visual composition in whatever form”.

In consideration of the learners who might respond better to visual stimuli I will start to include visual represtations in my lessons whenever possible (UKPSF A1, A2, K3 &V1).

The second phase of the lesson involved two games that focused on practical application of the theory covered in the first part and again utilized the ‘The Groove Universe’. In the first game I would play them some audio recordings of different styles of music then ask them to place an appropriately coloured star at a point within a ‘Galaxy’ they felt reflected the time feel of the song they were hearing. The second game involved them playing a repeated figure on their instruments then adjusting their timing accordingly when I moved a star to different places along the horizontal line. I felt slightly apprehensive about how the students would respond to these games so I was pleased to discover that they fully engaged and there was a real sense of enjoyment from everybody involved. Because of the positive outcome from this class I feel that I can identify with the potential benefits of incorporating games and unusual methods for students’ learning. As (Lucas 2007, p.2) describes, “you will find the use of novelty, fun, eustress (good stress) caused by time and other challenges, props, colour, music, incentives and various environmental elements crucial in helping the brain grasp and retain concepts. Eric Jensen of Jensen Learning (formerly The Brain Store) often suggests using such strategies and tools to better engage learners and enhance the learning process.”

As a result of the insights gained through my participation in ‘Sell your Bargains’ I now view game-based learning as a valuable learning tool that I will definitely consider incorporating into my practice more often (UKPSF A5).

 

References

Brookfield, S.D, & James, A., (2014). Engaging Imagination: Helping Students Become Creative and Reflective Thinkers. San Francisco: Jossey Bass

Goodrick, M. (1987). The Advancing Guitarist: Applying Guitar Concepts & Techniques. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Lucas, R.W. (2007) Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People. San Francisco: Pfeiffer

Meyer, J.H.F., & Land, R., (2006) Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. Oxon: Routledge

 

 

Peer Observation 4/6

Peer Pre-Observation Form

For my peer observation I chose to observe Dhang Zalu teach a session on the fixed rate exchange system to 43 learners. In my action plan put together at the start of the module I aimed to research methods for delivering theory based lectures to large numbers so I thought observing this session might provide me with some focus in this area (UKPSF A5). Dhang wanted me to concentrate on his talking speed and clarity of explanations so I paid particular attention to these points. He spoke with confidence and a clear projection during his introduction, I was sitting at the back of a large classroom and could still hear his speech clearly. The students were talking amongst themselves prior to the start of the lecture but became instantly attentive as soon as Dhang began speaking in a commanding but not overbearing manor. This made me reflect upon how I use my voice when teaching, Exely & Dennick (2009, p.50) describe the importance of considering this aspect of our delivery:

“It remains our most valuable lecturing device and tutors need to learn how to look after their voice, project properly and consider how we choose to use it to best effect in the lecture. Too quiet, mumbled and poorly articulated, too fast, monotone – the common criticisms relating to voice use are easily recognizable.”

This the first year that I have taught large classes (40 +students), most of my teaching up to this point has been in small groups where my talking style is more conversational and informal. When I think about how I use my voice in lectures it’s possible that I have been using an inappropriate style of delivery based on my small group teaching as Gibbs, S.Habeshaw & T.Habeshaw (1992, p.53) explain:

“The informal lecture, with its impromptu explanations and humorous asides delivered in an intimate tone, is wasted on a large audience. Students at the back of the room are not able to assimilate – or perhaps even hear – what is being said. As classes increase in size, so lectures need to be modified. They need to be structured more thoroughly, scripted more carefully and delivered more formally.”

The use of voice will play a big part in adapting my approach for large lectures so I decided to undertake some research in this area, through this I became aware of how the following factors can have a negative impact on teaching: using a monotone and flat delivery that doesn’t hold attention, the volume and clarity of intonation dropping off, the failure to use emphasis and pauses to stress important points and reading from notes whilst looking away from the students (Exely and Dennick 2009). I audio recorded myself giving a lecture and discovered that some of these traits were evident in my own delivery, as a result of this I now practise how I intonate important passages of speech and try to be more conscious of how I’m using my voice during a lecture (UKPSF V3 & A5). It was noticeable that Dhang stood in front of the projector screen and didn’t use notes throughout the lecture, his body language was relaxed and exuded confidence. Sometimes I feel more anxious when giving large lectures and this is probably reflected in my movements. Knight (2002, p.114) points out why body language should be considered when delivering a lecture:

“Students are sensitive to the teacher’s enthusiasm, something that is carried by gesture, inflection, eye contact, posture and appearance, as well as by the words we speak. An implication is that if we wish to be rated as a good presenter, then we would do well to work on voice, posture and body language in general.”

I intend to video record some of my larger lectures so I can analyse my body movements and maybe start to approach my lectures as a performance in some regards. Commonly used methods by performers, such as Alexander Technique, may help improve my presentation skills as Knight (2002, p.113) states, “Alexander Technique, which is widely learned by actors, singers and other performers, attends to the bad habits we have developed in holding and moving our bodies” (UKPSF A5 & V3). The extra consideration I will afford to my presentation skills as a result of this observation will hopefully help me keep students more engaged in larger lectures.

 

 

References

Exley, K., & Dennick, R., (2009) Giving A Lecture. Oxon: Routledge

Gibbs, G., Habeshaw, S., & Habeshaw, T., (1992) 53 Problems with large classes. Bristol: Technical and Education Serives Ltd

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Knight, P.T. (2002). Being a Teacher in Higher Education. Buckingham: Open University Press

 

 

 

 

 

Mentor Observation 3/6

Mentor Pre-Observation Form

Delivering lectures to large numbers was an area of my practice I identified as requiring development at the start of the module; as part of my action plan I felt it was important that I was observed teaching a session of this nature. Fortunately, my mentor was available to observe me teach the LV 6 class ‘Performance Skills’ to 50 learners. Its purpose is to help LV 6 elective performers devise a programme for their recitals that will highlight their strengths and fully address all aspects of the marking criteria. My mentor is Tim France who has prior experience of teaching this module so I was hopeful that he would be able provide an insight into how effective my methods were at dealing with the subject matter.

The majority of the feedback from the session was positive. Tim felt that through my teaching methods and delivery the learning outcomes were achieved, but he did highlight a few issues relating to my use of video in the class. I thought it would be a good idea to see how the assessment criteria had been mapped against past student performances, so I selected a range of video clips that would allow me to make some important points (UKPSF A1, K4). Tim felt that the clips I used were unnecessarily long and in danger of becoming ineffective. Race (2001, p.135) offers some insight as to why, “The act of watching material on a television screen is not one of the most powerful ways through which students actually learn, unless the video extracts are carefully planned into their learning programme.” Considering this point helped me realise that it’s not the video that is facilitating learning but explanations and activities based around it; the length of video clips must not exceed the minimum amount of time required to establish subject matter. Race (2001) also outlines some ideas for maximising the student’s learning from the video such as setting the agenda before each episode, giving the students things to do while they view the video, providing tasks after viewing and using printed support material. I have started to incorporate all these suggestions into my teaching when using video and also audio, as the same considerations will apply (UKPSF A1, K4).

Tim also thought the examples of past work I used focused too much on one style of music and didn’t cater for the diverse stylistical preferences of the learners in the class. This led us onto a wider discussion about teaching with a consideration for diversity within the classroom and the many factors to consider such as level of development/expertise, prior knowledge, age, gender, learning approaches and styles, metacognition, motivation and self-esteem (Susan Hallam 2001). As a result of Tim’s observation I am evaluating all my lesson plans to ensure all delivered content, video/audio examples and tasks consider the diversity within the group (UKPSF A1 & V1). Hallam points out the scope for, and importance of doing this within music teaching:

“Music offers a very wide range of learning opportunities. Tasks can be found that will provide reward and fulfilment for everybody. The diversity of tasks is sufficient to match the diversity of skills which the pupils may have and provide opportunities for their further development. Because of this possible diversity, to ensure a sense of coherence, teachers need to identify their overall aims in teaching music and develop a curriculum which will satisfy these aims .”

My mentor observation turned out to be very good developmental experience, as I have unexpectedly been made aware of two areas that I can develop and have a clear direction in how to go about doing so (UKPSF A5).

 

References

Hallam, S. (2001). Learning in music: complexity and diversity. In C. Philpott., & C. Plummeridge (Ed.), Issues in Music Teaching (pp. 61-75). London: Routledge Falmer

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Race, P. (2001). The Lecturer’s Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Learning, Teaching & Assessment (2nd ed). London: Cogan Page Limited