Long time no reflection

Well it has been a while since I have posted here. There have been a number of contributing factors. I have been busy volunteering, developing new online materials, completing the SEDA course – Supporting and Leading Educational Change (SLEC) and submitting my application to become a Senior Fellow of the HEA. It does not mean I have not reflected but more my notes have not translated to a more coherent digital form!

Certificate for Supporting and Leading Educational Change course

There is another reason I have delayed posting; I wanted to understand more about some of the longer term implications of the staff development and other activities I reflect on. In the past I have often reflected just after something has happened and I make conclusions about how I think it will change my practice in future. Completing the portfolio for SLEC made me think about the longer term implications of the activities I undertake and do I make all those changes that I intended to when it is all fresh in my mind?

In essence I think I do make the changes I set out to, or at least some of them and of them adapt and change as I try them out. From the point of view of recording my reflections in future I think I need to continue with my immediate reflections but return to these to ensure that I have put the changes into practice or at least tried them out. Watch this space to see how it all works out….


Professional identity – something to think about

On Monday I took part in the Teaching and Learning Conversation facilitated by Paul Orsmond and Rachel Forsyth titled Capturing learning: beyond the acquisition metaphor. A partial recording of the webinar can be found on the TLC webpage.

The main thing that I took from the webinar was that I need to investigate the idea of professional identity further. I am familiar with the idea of professional identity as a teacher but had not considered how the student sees it as they move through university to become a professional. At what stage do they develop their professional identity and what impact does that have on their learning? Does developing a professional identity help communities of practice to form?

It was the first time I had attended a TLC webinar and now I just need to find the time to delve a bit deeper into some of the questions that came out of it.



Really short CPD sessions

I have recently started delivering 30 minute technical training sessions on different apps and software that can be used to support learning. These have included GradeMark, PeerMark, Socrative, Kahoot and Mahara. They seemed like a really good idea at the time as staff kept asking for training on using technology but were having difficulty finding the time to attend sessions. When it came to the first session I was  a little more worried about what I had let myself in for. Would I be able to keep to time? Could I fit in pedagogy and technical in 30 minutes? So timing was one issue I needed to consider and pedagogy was another one and finally I wanted staff to be able to have a go, after all this was supposed to be a technical training. This is why with 15 minutes to spare to the start of the first session I was waiting with a feeling of trepidation. I felt I needed to start on time, 3 minutes late would be 10% of my time gone.

For the first PeerMark session I chose to set the participants an assignment (100 words about PeerMark). The idea was that they would then PeerMark each others. This turned out not to be one of my best ideas. Only one of the eight attendees submitted and although I uploaded something for them to PeerMark they did not have time to complete it. I decided the next time I would do the submission and the PeerMark in the session. I had originally discounted this idea as too ambitious because of time constraints. However, I repeated my PeerMark session yesterday, we did the PeerMark in class and yes I did have to amend the hand in time by 5 minutes but apart from that it worked a treat. Having a go at uploading and using PeerMark from a student perspective appeared to be really useful to staff. Providing this insight should help staff provide the appropriate support to help students use PeerMark successfully.

Bearing in mind my recent reflections on Kirkwood and Price (2013) I felt that it was imperative that I included some of the pedagogy relating to the benefits of using peer assessment. One way I chose to do this by focusing on thinking about how you would set the questions in PeerMark to help students engage with the assessment criteria. Another element that was discussed was how many pieces of work a student should review. I suggested reviewing work of multiple peers and my reasoning from personal experience is that if they only review one piece of work and it is a weak piece they will not get the same benefits as some of their peers. When thinking about it from the receiving feedback perspective Cho and MacArthur (2010) students respond best to feedback from multiple peers so another reason for reviewing two or three pieces of work.

Reflecting back to Kirkwood and Price (2013) again, I wanted to look for the evidence for impact of peer marking on outcomes. When searching the literature I found little evidence for peer marking improving the grades of students, which was the direct finding of a study by van den Berg et al. (2006) but this study also found  teachers were positive about peer assessment and felt it improved students interaction and involvement in the course. This is an experience mirrored in my own practice where I have seen increased engagement and dialogue around assessment, which I see as something very positive.

In conclusion, I am happy with how my quick CPD sessions are going. Having short sessions mean they are easy to repeat and therefore a great opportunity to tweak and refine. Obviously one of the things I need to do now is look at the impact that these sessions are having on lecturers practice. Initial responses from staff have been good and I was copied in to a lovely email from one participant, following a Socrative session, sent  to his colleagues summarising what we had learnt in the session and ending with ‘Thank you to Isobel for an interesting session’. It is the emails like that, which make the trepidation before a session all worthwhile.


Cho, K. and MacArthur, C. (2010) Student revision with peer and expert reviewing, Learning and Instruction, 20 (4) 328-338

Kirkwood, A. and Price, L. (2013) Missing: evidence of scholarly approach to teaching and learning in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), 327-337

Van den Berg, I., Admiraal, W. and Pilot, A. (2006) Design principles and outcomes of peer assessment in higher education, Studies in Higher Education, 31, 341-356

HEA Virtual Reading Group


Last week I took part in my first virtual reading group run by the HEA. It was much like the journal clubs I had taken part in face to face within my discipline but this just happened to be online. The paper we read and discussed was:

Kirkwood, A. and Price, L. (2013) Missing: evidence of scholarly approach to teaching and learning in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), 327-337.

I enjoyed reading the paper in preparation for the webinar. For me it raised a number of important points. The first relates to staff development sessions I provide on technology. Staff have been very keen for me to deliver sessions on how to use technology in a practical sense and so this is what I have given them. The paper prompted me to reflect on this. It made me question do I just provide technical training on how to use the technology or do I include the scholarly background to using the technology, do I include the pedagogical principles that should underpin the decision on how or if the technology is appropriate to what the teacher is trying to achieve. Luckily I think the answer is yes, but it is something I will give greater consideration to as I plan my sessions in future.

The second point that jumped out a me related to undertaking research. Having completed both a PhD and 5 years as a post-doc doing arthritis research I sort of assumed I took a scholarly approach to research. This paper made me question this. When I have done educational research how did it build on previous research? How much did I use previous research in planning the methodology? Or did I just create my hypotheses out of what I was interested in and wanted to see? Did I just design my methodology based on what was available to me at the time without giving further considerations to improving the experimental design? I am not sure if these questions have binary answers. I feel I have used research to plan and design my educational research but have  also used hunches and what was easily available to me at the time. Having reflected on this paper through the reading group I will certainly take a different approach to future research.

Sally Bradley from the HEA did a great job at leading discussions around the paper. One of the areas that particularly interested me was how if you are teaching centred in your general approach to teaching you are likely to be teaching centred in your approach to technology (PowerPoint, webcasts) whereas if you take a more student centred approach to your general practice you are more likely to use a different range of more interactive technology, such as students creating content, producing reflective portfolios and so on. Again I don’t think you have to fall solely within one of these categories. For example, although I use webcasts which are quite teacher focused broadcasting knowledge these are often backed up with students having to respond via a forum to questions or relating to their thoughts on the webcast.

Overall, I found the virtual reading group useful and the paper has provided me with a number of elements to consider as I move forward in my practice. I am looking forward to the next reading group on 22nd March. For more detail see the HEA website.



#LTHEchat – Using Visual Media

This weeks #LTHEchat was all about visuals. To be precise the title was: What do you see? Using visual media to communicate our teaching and research. As some of you may know I like taking photos and I like to use those photos in my teaching and research. In my PhD I made all my own diagrams so they could look exactly as I wanted with all the same typeface and font size. Anyway this meant I went into the tweetchat feeling fairly confident I could contribute.


One of the first conversations that got me thinking was a discussion about images in the VLE. Are they really helping teaching or do they just make the page look pretty? I have added more and more images to my Moodle page. They are all relevant to the topic but do they really teach students anything? No, probably not but they do appear to hook the students, make them delve deeper into the page probably partly just by breaking up all the text! In this case does it matter if they are not teaching per se, if they are engaging students with learning?

Musings on a busy Thursday

Well today has been busy. I started off visiting a local school promoting studying veterinary science and all the associated animal related courses at university to year 11 and 12 students. I love sharing my own experiences of studying at university and providing advice I never got when I was their age. Having just read the editorial in this weeks Times Higher it got me thinking about how important universities are, not just to society but to our own personal development, making lifelong friends and connections, building relationships. It made me think how my own university experience had shaped me. In this rapid and unknown period of change as the Higher Education and Research Bill marches on and universities have to change to meet societies needs I do hope those opportunities aren’t lost. Meeting all those enthusiastic 16 and 17 year olds has provided me with some new determination to ensure that I am doing everything I can to ensure my students are getting all the possible benefits they can out of being at university…

Then this evening has been spent taking part in not one but two tweetchats. The first was part of the Sheffield Hallam Online Open Course or SHOOC on Mentoring (#MentorSHOOC1). Tonight the focus was on the differences between mentoring and coaching. Some great food for thought on my journey as I mentor a number of colleagues through their PG Cert in HE Practice. Starting to think how will I ensure that there is mutual trust between my mentees and me? How will I ensure that I am providing guidance and support whilst letting them work things out for themselves, ensuring they stay motivated and aspire to improve their practice? The plan is to help them become more reflective, the details of which I am still pondering but I will let you know how I get on.

The second tweetchat was actually the fourth of five tweetchats of the BYOD for Learning open course (#BYOD4Lchat). Tonight’s theme is one of my favourites: Collaboration. One of the things I find most satisfying as a teacher is seeing students learn from each other. There were some great discussions about the differences between collaboration, cooperation and cocreation. For me collaboration is something that you feel positive about, that you are motivated to do and that it usually involves learning via bouncing ideas of each other. Maybe, just like mentoring ,for it to be really successful there also needs to trust and respect. There was also the point that collaboration is closely linked to the other Cs of the 5Cs framework that the BYOD4L course is based upon. Effective collaboration needs connections, communication and curating to enable creation, whether of knowledge or something more tangible. We also got onto discussing tools that we can use both with colleagues and students to help promote collaboration. Some were old favourites such as via Google Drive whereas there were some new ones in too, ready for more investigation (watch this space once I have tried them out)…

Reflections on Learning and Teaching