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