Educatiobal Autobiography 1/6

My approach to learning during my time at school was based around doing the bare minimum to achieve a certain grade. I developed a real passion for music at an early age so pursuing my musical interests took priority over my academic studies, hence most of my learning during this period could be described as ‘surface’ (Biggs & Tang, 2011). This left me with a lack of understanding in a lot of key subjects, something I had to rectify to allow some aspects of my FE and HE learning to progress. Because of this experience I can identify with the limitations of surface learning Biggs & Tang describe (2011, p.25):

“In using the surface approach, students focus on what Marton calls the signs of learning: the words used, isolated facts, items treated independently of each other. This prevents students from seeing what the signs signify, the meaning and structure of what is taught.”

In contrast to my time at school, my learning experience at FE level was very positive. I studied at a specialist music college where lots innovative methods were employed in the teaching. There was a strong emphasis on practical application of all theory that often resulted in concepts being used in a native fashion during performance, an indication that ‘deep learning’ (Biggs & Tang, 2011) had taken place. At the time, mature students could also study at the college and there were many with significant industry experience enrolled on my course. I feel that my learning was enhanced throughout this period by interacting with my senior peers in group work; this helped me really appreciate the value of peer learning. I try to facilitate peer learning in my teaching through small group activities carefully aligned to learning outcomes (UKPSF A1, A4 & K2), Race (2011, p.140) captures the importance of this approach:

“The human species has evolved on the basis of group learning. Learning from other people is the most instinctive and natural of all the learning contexts we experience, and starts from birth. Although learning can only be done by the learner, and cannot be done ‘to’ the learner, the roles of other people in accelerating and modifying that learning are vitally important.”

When I entered HE as a leaner I had a clear vision that I wanted to be a professional performer so I felt intrinsically motivated towards the performance aspects of the course but didn’t really engage properly with the more academic areas. This makes me aware that you can’t always categorise students as being generally unmotivated or motivated – ‘Roberts & Susans’ respectively (Biggs & Tang 2011) – towards all areas of their studies as they may feel motivated in varying degrees to different aspects of courses. Through my teaching I have noticed that music students are less motivated with the academic elements of the course, so considering what Bligh (1998, p.65) describes as a “desire for relevance”, I always try to reinforce the ways in which theory can help develop artistry in performance and composition (UKPSF A1, A2 & K1).

I pursued a career as a professional performer before I started teaching in HE and an important part of my teaching involves passing on industry relevant skills gained through my experience. Simulating industry scenarios is required to allow this to happen whilst also being aware that although a student might be experiencing, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are learning. Boud, Keough and Walker (1985, p.7) explain the danger of presuming experience is automatically conducive to good learning outcomes, “experience alone is not the key to learning. Too often we have seen students subjected to half digested (and half baked) practical work or work experience and to inappropriate academically oriented learning under the guise of professional education and training”.

Because I am still an active performer I regularly collaborate with different areas of the music industry through practice based research so I consider designing lessons that encourage relevant experiential learning to be one of my strengths; I constantly evaluate this area of my teaching to make sure it’s aligned with current industry practice (UKPSF A1, K1, K2 & V3). As part of my PGCAP qualification I intend to take the following actions to improve the quality of my teaching:

  • Research methods and concepts for delivering theory based lectures to large numbers
  • Become more familiar with the research and theories behind teaching and apply to my practice
  • Use the observations of teaching practices in other disciplines to inform new approaches my own area
  • Take calculated risks whilst endeavoring to incorporate more interactive learning into my teaching
  • Research the role motivation can play in encouraging deeper learning
  • Benchmark all of my practical teaching against current industry practice



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

Bligh, D. (1998). What’s the use of Lectures. Exceter: Intellect

Boud, D., Keough, R., & Walker, D., (1985). Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. London: Kogan Page Limited

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education.

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




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