Professional Conversation 6/6

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

Tutor Observation 2/6

Tutor Pre-Observation Form

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.

 

 References

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

References

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. 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: Kogan Page Limited