A Critical Reflection on My Teaching & Learning Event

Introduction

As part of a constructivist learning experience, presentation of a teaching and learning event was set as my first assignment. The following critical reflection of my performance will also incorporate peer appraisals, a SWOT analysis and a discussion to relate how this new knowledge informs my anticipated learning goals for my TCEP and my role as a tertiary educator.

Reflections on my performance

I am happy that I provided a student-centered experience with my event, and I was rapt that the class interacted with me throughout the event. These are two critical feature of Biggs (2001) third level of teaching, as they show a focus on what the student does to facilitate their own learning. Aspects that I felt did not go as well was that my definition should have come earlier in the presentation, a video link did not work and I forgot to record it. However, I was able to maintain the flow of the activity and the students did complete the task successfully.

Analysis of Peer Review Feedback

Peer review indicated that I need to practice de-cluttering my work. Being autistic it was not surprising to me when I realised that I had misinterpreted part of the assignment rubric and gave numerous Theme 1 and or 2 justifications for each section of my presentation. My concept map used for planning the event should have alerted me to neural networks being in “octopus mode” (see Appendix). The overload of citations made the presentation confusing for students to follow. I was delighted though, to learn that my attempt to include multimedia was successful, and that my assessment ideas were fun, especially, “...the link from the beginning to the reflection at the end was well done”. Also, that students felt that they knew what to expect (Ragan, 1998), found the chunking of information on slide agreeable (Brehmer, 2007), http://www.recoveryonpurpose.com/upload/Memory%20Plasticity%20Across%20the%20Lifespan.pdf engaged with the tasks (Dougiamas, 1998), that the pace and tone were well liked and that using multiple modalities of communication was appreciated. And I was well pleased to learn that I was practicing reflection-in-action (Yoong, 1998).

To plan for improvement of my events as an educator I could next time send a more detailed outline to my lecturer, practice my presentation on another so I can better know where to chop and provide of more conceptual grounding of the topic with life and work relevant examples.

Analysis and Evaluation

A SWOT analysis is what I chose to help with my evaluation of my event, see Table 1.

Strengths of my event include my patient, “gentle” approach with a topic that is perceived by many students to be difficult (Sowey, 1995). Flow was maintained when a video link did not work and when responding to student feedback which was verbalised as frustration and or confusion. Student-focus was exhibited by allowing for feedback throughout the event.

Reflection in action (RIA) was how the material delivered linked to Theme 1 and 2 theories. My creative, interactive and engagement Strengths were reflected in multimodal delivery choices and the choice of a haiku problem-based learning activity. Although one student felt this activity was not suited to an online classroom, I found that the results did not support this conclusion; students engaged in the task, often humorously; made use of verbal/chat options to collaborate; and the task was successfully completed in less than two minutes. This shows a drawing on cognitive and constructivist teaching approaches to facilitate learning and group work (Biggs, 2001; Schmidt, 2002).

Weaknesses were that I can overcomplicate things and so convolute my goals, days pruning whilst collaborating with peers and my lecturer. In the role of the educator I could use the concept stage as an opportunity to negotiate curriculum with students. My limited conceptual grounding during delivery could also be an Opportunity to collaborate with peers and or students to negotiate the curriculum and narrow my focus.

Table 1

SWOT Analysis of Teaching and Learning Event

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Opportunities have been touched on in Weaknesses. I could also draw on my Strengths, for example creativity/engagement and take a programming course to add glitter and star tools for to an online environment. Prompted by a student’s feedback to “consider how to encourage students to engage in RIA.”

External Threats includes my career work load as the number of clients I have will impact on the time available to draw on Strengths and to turn Weaknesses into Opportunities. So, I need to prioritise needs to determine what is more important at the time. An external factor I do not have much control over is a student’s perception that they already know a topic and that new knowledge presented may intimidate them and so hinder learning (Sowey, 1995). For example, a student stated that they knew “...about the normal curve and that” and “I am familiar with M, M & M but ... first slide had me expecting something else” (the first slide was the title: Central Tendency Rings My Bell). However, reading their first reflective task the student’s response to a definition of central tendency was, “I have no idea what it is”. The student’s final reflection exercise showed that they remained unclear about the concept; “[Central tendency] is the tendency for markers/assessors to group marks into a bell curve”. This provides an Opportunity to facilitate accommodation of existing schemas to new knowledge (Piaget, 1972), more discussion time and conceptual grounding to “hunt assumptions” could remedy this (Brookfield, n.d.).

I also do not have much control over student’s choosing not to complete their assessments. One student emailed both their reflective tasks (only the final one was for assessment) but neither student wrote questions for the other or emailed answers to me. However, one student had stated that they wanted to, “do things my way” and had questioned my motives, “...so you’re a dictator?” Perhaps not adhering to the assessment was part of a revolution. This provides an Opportunity to relate their constructed reality to the new knowledge (Heimbecker, n.d); one can know a person misunderstands the definition of a concept when they are unable to see the contradiction in how they apply that concept ~:-).

Completion of my SWOT analysis informs me that my objective to attain a third level teaching style is obtainable. I know now that I continue to be “too much” at times when delivering information and that I need to invest more time in preparation, collaboration with colleagues/negotiating curriculum with students. Overall, I feel more confident about aligning with a constructivist teaching and learning approach, and drawing on behavioural and cognitive strategies to enable reflection-in-action of myself and students.

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Conclusions: Enhancing My Teaching Capacity

Whilst my background in psychology has given me exposure to learning theories my exposure to teaching theories has been limited. This GTT&LC course is my first formal step in professional development as an online tertiary educator. The new knowledge about myself, such as RIA, encourages me to use my blog more as part of my professional development as well as a portal for delivering material and interacting with students. Also, I find the SWOT a clear and simple method for identifying internal and external factors that contributed to or hindered my goal to present an event that aligned with Biggs’ third level of teaching. And from this analysis and evaluation I can see a logical link to plotting out the steps to aid planning my TCEP for Assignment 2 and thus my role as an educator.

Overall, the reflective and peer-review elements of this assessment have highlighted the importance of critical reflective practices and of collaborating with peers (or students) to negotiate goals and or curriculum (Biggs, 2001). As a TCEP requires a process of critical self-analysis that draws on elements of what is effective or challenging about me as an educator, I have found the assignment, informative, confronting, encouraging and insightful.

The outcomes of this assignment can inform the development of my TCEP for assignment two in provisioning me with steps to achieve my goals as an educator and ongoing learner. Thus, I am feeling very confident about the prospect of planning my future professional development activities with regards to learning and teaching. The present assignment has prepared me for understanding the difference between reflection and critical reflection (Brodie, 2005); how to approach my knowledge, skills and practices as developmental activities; being aware that an understanding of teaching theories relevant to my discipline are as necessary as knowledge of teaching theories in general (Tsao, 2006); and that I have a bit of work remaining to develop into a third level educator.

Continuing to journal via my blog will aid me to maintain critical reflection practices and to discover the specific skills, knowledge and competencies I will need to construct and effectively implement a TCEP. For example, I want to be able to more adept at using online resources for negotiating, delivering and assessing curriculum as well as encouraging student interaction amongst themselves and with me. Courses in Moodle, Wiki Educator and Second Life would enable me to achieve this. Use of analysis and evaluation tools such as critical reflection, peer review, SWOT and (soon to learn) the T-Deploy model will aid me to slow down and unpack the details of what I want to achieve as an educator and how to go about it most effectively. Particularly, this assignment has shown me that to, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” (Drucker, n.d.; http://www.druckerinstitute.com/2011/02/high-time-for-think-time/). Thus, a-blogging I must go...

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