For my tutor observation I was observed teaching a small ensemble performance class called Session Musicianship. This kind of class accounts for most of my teaching so it was useful that Sean Walton was able to observe this session. In my lesson design I tried to incorporate concepts derived from research into teaching methods, I was pleased to discover my feedback from Sean was almost entirely positive in every aspect, so most of my reflections on this observation focus on how to apply pedagogy I used successfully in this session into other areas of my teaching (UKPSF A1, A5, K2 & V3). My plan for the lesson was based on ‘Constructive Alignment’ – “Well defined learning outcomes that are acquired via a set of appropriate learning experiences” (Exely & Dennick, 2009, p.2). Sean thought that the lesson was well designed in this regard as all my learning outcomes involved some sort of activity (UKPSF A1, A2, A4 & V3). Biggs and Tang (2003, p.97) describe the importance of this:
“The intended outcomes specify the activity that students should engage if they are to achieve the intended learning outcome as well as the content the activity refers to. The teacher’s tasks are to set up a learning environment that encourages the student to perform those learning activities, and to assess student performances against the intended learning outcomes.”
I was pleased my lesson plan worked well in this session but the positive outcome did lead me to consider my learning outcomes for other classes and whether they include activity. Upon examining my lesson plans completed prior to this academic year, I found that they didn’t all contain activities and often used the phrase ‘demonstrate an understanding’, something that Biggs and Tang (2003, p.119) warn against, “Defining that standard of the outcome of learning is important. Verbs like ‘understand’, ‘comprehend’, ‘be aware of’ are unhelpful in ILOs because they do not convey the level of performance we require if the ILO is to be met.” I have tasked myself with re-writing all my lesson plans to ensure the learning outcomes contain some sort of activity (UKPSF A1, A2, A5 & V3).
Sean also provided me with written feedback, this included two comments I considered to be significant, “Paul checks the understanding of the students at regular intervals. The atmosphere is focused but relaxed and the students are not afraid to express ignorance or to ask for help,” and, “Paul asks questions throughout the session and the students remain focused on the piece of music being studied and on Paul’s instructions” (UKPSF A2 & A4). When structuring my lesson plan and teaching approach I felt there was an important consideration in relation to the students’ learning –“How can I find out whether they have learned what I hoped they would?” (Ramsden, 2003, p.120).
As Sean’s feedback implies, I chose to do this through verbal questioning and requesting isolated performances of specific passages (UKPSF A1 & A2). These methods are easily applied in small group settings and there is also the option to engage in conversation if necessary, but gauging students’ understanding of a topic whilst teaching a larger class is more difficult. I decided to investigate methods used to gauge students’ understanding that I might be able use in larger, theory-based lectures. The most appropriate idea I came across for my lecturing was ‘The Instant Questionnaire’ (Gibbs, S.Habeshaw & T.Habeshaw, 1984). Leaving some time aside in lectures for students to complete a short questionnaire will allow me to evaluate their understanding of topics without encroaching and on time designated for delivering content (UKPSF A1, K5 & V3). Gibbs., et al (1984, p.131) explain their value in lectures:
“An important characteristic of questionnaires is that they gauge opinion rather than measure things more directly. A test, for example, can measure the extent to which students actually know certain things or can do certain things, whereas a questionnaire can indicate their opinion as to whether they know or can do these things… Questionnaires offer a very quick way of getting feedback compared with tests which can be time-consuming.”
The tutor observation has been a very valuable experience for me, receiving such positive feedback has given me the confidence to apply new approaches in areas of teaching that I am less familiar with.
Biggs, J.B., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University (4th ed.). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education
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
Exley, K., & Dennick, R., (2009) Giving A Lecture. Oxon: Routledge
Gibbs, G., Habeshaw, S., & Habeshaw, T., (1998). 53 Interesting Things to Do in Your Lectures. Melksham, Wiltshire: The Cromwell Press
Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London: RoutledgeFalmer