What do you get if you put together a group of academics from various disciplines who’ve never met before than ask them to design a degree course for the future? Not a degree in space tourism, intergalactic communication or hoverboard design, but a course which addresses a very immediate concern – that of the global ageing population. That was the challenge for our multidisciplinary group at the recent University Alliance ‘sandpit’ event at Nottingham Trent University.
Not for the course we designed!
I will not get into a discussion about whether our present degree courses, bound largely in ‘disciplines’ which emerged in the latter quartile of the nineteenth century are fit for the present, let alone the future. Our brief was to cast off our collective baggage and come up with a degree programme which would somehow address a present challenge –namely that people are living longer and an increasing proportion of the world’s population consists of older people.
The only real rule in our brief was that the programme had to be at undergraduate level degree. We didn’t have to worry about whether the programme fitted in with any existing (real or imagined) institutional regulations.
The degree my group designed was called ‘BA (Hons) Lifelong Learning and Consultancy’ – I’m sure that given more than a two days, we would have been able to come with a catchier title for the programme. The proposed programme is aimed at older learners, possibly those who have recently retired from the police or armed forces, have been made redundant from ‘traditional’ industries or are just wanting a new challenge. Is was envisaged that learners would use their existing skills and experience to assist younger students on ‘traditional’ degrees and to work with community groups. The assessments would be largely project-based and by the end of the programme graduates would be able to facilitate learning and change in range of organisations as well as being able ‘deliver consultancy at a professional level’ (a direct quote from our programme proposal form!).
At the end of the two days the facilitators expressed excitement that each group had managed to produce a plausible degree programme. The question then arose about why these things take so long in real practice. On this occasion we had the advantage that we had all allocated two days to this exercise, and by our very attendance at the event we were sufficiently open-minded to believe that something could be achieved. Unbound by the fetters of our institutions’ rules and regulations, no ideas were rejected on the grounds that our plans would be unacceptable to some committee or would violate institutional rules about contact time or assessment regulations and there was no reason to concern ourselves with the requirements of a professional body.
After attending the event and speaking to others afterwards here are a few thoughts / observations:
1. Is quality assurance (in all its local and national forms) inhibiting innovation in the design of courses, modules etc.? Too many conversations in universities revolve around what is allowed, rather than what is good.
2. Can more be achieved, faster, if we simply had the time and inclination to all get together for a day or two and focus on a particular task?
3. As a group we were unburdened by hierarchies, disciplinary traditions and a desire to preserve ‘our bit’ of the curriculum. I had not met any of my fellow group members before and did not know their ‘rank’ or standing in their disciplines.
4. This might be controversial, but would higher education be better served if everybody in academia was as open minded as the people who attended the sandpit?
5. A conversation which arose at a subsequent meeting considered issues of agility. Are our courses too slow to change to meet new challenges and the development of new technologies? Are our graduates equipped for the future or merely for the recent past? We sometimes moan about companies only seeking ‘oven ready graduates’, but does our lack of agility mean that we are serving graduates who have been the oven and are now going stale?
The idea of passing on skills from one generation to another is one which I think is very important and formed a key idea in our planned degree scheme. I’m not thinking solely about passing on the skills of a dying local craft, but broader skills which seem to be disappearing like the ability to put up shelves or a saw a piece of wood in a straight line. I’ve learned some of these skills from books and from YouTube, but a lot of people my age have never felt the need to acquire these skills. It would be a shame if they were to become restricted to a small group of professionals.
Dilly Fung (2017) A Connected Curriculum for Higher Education UCLPress
I'm pleased to see that this new work by Dilly Fung is available as open access in .pdf format (paid for .epub and print versions are also available).
The Additional Guidance for Year 2 of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) was published earlier this week. In many respects the TEF is very different to the Teaching Quality Assessment of the 1990s, but it has been interesting spending time this morning reading two articles from that period. I was starting my undergraduate degree when the first article was published and working on my PhD at the time of the second.
To quote Cicero:
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?
Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?
Variant translation: To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child.
Chapter XXXIV, section 120 Cicero Orator Ad M. Brutum 46BC
And a few quotes from the articles in question:
Nevil Johnson (1994). Dons in Decline: Who Will Look After the Cultural Capital? 2Oth Century British History 5 (3): 370-385
Measurement has by now become an obsession of the present government, a litany recited with unreflecting dogmatism day in, day out. (p.378)
It no longer really matters how well an academic teaches and whether he or she sometimes inspires their pupils; it is far more important that they have produced plans of their courses, bibliographies, outlines of this, that and the other, in short all the paraphernalia of futile bureaucratization required for assessors who come from on high like emissaries from Kafka's castle. (p.379)
Cris Shore and Susan Wright (1999). Audit Culture and Anthropology: Neo-Liberalism in British Higher Education. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 5, No. 4 pp.
Thus, even though the audit explosion has encouraged cynicism and staged performance, it is very hard for individuals or institutions to escape its influence. (p.570)
Anthropology's predicament recalls that of Joseph K, the protagonist in Kafka's The Trial. Part of the reason he was so powerless was because he was unable to identify and therefore challenge the reason for his arrest. And because he never understood the system of power to which he was subjected, all his resolve dissipated and he eventually went meekly and willingly to his own execution. The lesson for anthropology in the new neo-liberal 'trial' is that we have become the agents through which power operates and unless we wish to follow in the steps of Joseph K, we would do well to engage in more political reflexivity (p.572)
Reading Foucault today the following passage struck me, although it was little to do with the reason I've been reading Foucault.
The organisation of serial space was one of the great technical mutations of elementary education. It made it possible to supersede the traditional system (a pupil working for a few minutes with the master, while the rest of the heterogeneous group group remained idle unattended). By assigning individual places it made possible the supervision of each individual and the simultaneous work of all.
(M. Foucault 1977, Discipline and Punish, London: Penguin p.147).
Every Saturday morning I take my son to his beginner swimming lessons. The approach taken by the swimming teachers at our local swimming pool is very different from the approach taken by my own swimming teacher at the same level. At my son's lessons the teacher is in the water and she spends a few minutes with each while the other groups members talk, splash each other or practice putting their faces in the water (the traditional method in Foucaultian terms). When I learnt to swim, the teacher did not come in the water at all. He stood at the side of pool giving instructions to the whole group then altogether, then we all did as as said (or at least tried). I never actually saw my swimming teacher swim-- he used the discipline approach.
I have no view on which approach might be better in terms of teaching someone to swim. Perhaps there is a debate in the swimming teaching community about which approach to group teaching is best. This post is pure observation and not an opinion!
My article on metrics and the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework now appears on the Guardian Higher Education Network website.
I've come to love this poem by Tom Wayman 'Did I miss anything?'.
Developer, Financier, Designer: Building Hybrid Projects outside the University documents and reflects on my experiences of building the open access website YazikOpen. The article focuses more on the processes and issues about conducting a project outside the ‘official’ university than the technicalities of building the website, on modern languages or on the open access debate.
I wish to encourage others (in and out of academia) to take a look at the Hybrid Pedagogy online journal. I wanted to write this piece for some time, but was unsure where I could find an outlet to publish it. In my experience traditional journals don’t tend to be good outlet for reflective pieces, so I took to google and found out about Hybrid Pedagogy. Knowing nothing about the journal beyond what I saw on the website I took the plunge and submitted a short piece for consideration.
Hybrid Pedagogy is not only different in the sorts of article it publishes. Its peer review process is different from other journals I’ve published in. Rather than getting comments from anonymous reviewers, two editors from the journal, Sean Morris and Chris Friend, worked with me to bring the piece up to a publishable standard. They made suggestions, asked questions, asked me to expand certain sections and said what they thought was interesting about the piece and what they thought its shortcomings to be.
Hybrid Pedagogy is not only an open access online journal, but a different method of publication altogether. I would urge those with an interest in pedagogy or pedagogic research to take a serious look at the articles and consider contributing. There is even a section called 'Page Two' for non-peer reviewed contributions.
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Today I have been thinking about lecturing. A couple of years back I was struck by Chekhov's short story “A Boring Story”, (1889) a first person account of an elderly and unwell medical professor, which includes his reflections on lecturing, which he regarded as something of a trial.
This morning I came across A Critique of Poor College Lecturing (1937) in which a psychology professor asked 300 students how he could improve his lecturing. The students came up with over 100 questions the lecturer needed to ask himself. Although somewhat daunting and clearly from a previous age of higher education there is much of value here. (The figures at the beginning of each point indicate the number of students who suggested this question or something like it).
James D. Weinland A Critique of Poor College Lecturing (1937)Journal of Educational Sociology , Vol. 10, No. 5 (Jan., 1937) , pp. 307-315 Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2262152 Not open access 🙁
Regarding Subject matter
10. Do you wander?
5. Do you stick to the subject?
5. Do you talk over the heads of the students?
3. Is your treatment too complicated?
3. Are you always talking of general theories, never specific?
2. Do you lecture too technically?
I. Is your subject matter poor?
I. Do you believe in making your explanations brief ?
I. Do you lecture continually on the same thing?
I. Do you give constructive information or do you tend to confine your criticism to destructive ideas?
I. Do you sometimes fail to speak about the assigned lessons, allowing the class to wonder what it's all about?
I. Do you arouse curiosity about the next lecture?
i. Do you talk more about the subject matter than about yourself?
i. Are you original?
i. Do you understand the subject matter yourself ?
CLARITY AND CONSTRUCTION
I4. Does your lecture have unity and plan?
I4. Is your emphasis on the correct or wrong part of the lecture?
8. Are you clear on the points discussed?
4. Do you connect your topics?
2. Do you make clear the chronological order?
2. Do your statements have clear antecedents?
i. Do you clear up each topic before attacking the next?
I. Are your phrases jumbled, incoherent?
i. Are notes to be taken down announced?
I. Do you repeat conclusions, if any?
I. Do you repeat too often?
I. Are you too slow in making headway in presentation?
i. Is the discussion of important topics too rapid?
I. Can your class keep the pace you set in covering the work?
ATTITUDE OF LECTURER
12. Are you enthusiastic?
I2. Do you show an inferiority complex?
8. Do you have a feeling of superiority, swelled head?
8. Do you show force and vigor?
7. Do you talk hesitatingly, too many pauses?
7. Are you overearnest and overemphatic, too serious?
5. Do you speak with notes, as though reading?
4. Do you speak in a formal manner?
3. Do you speak directly to the class?
3. Are you friendly?
2. Are you interested in the subject?
2. Do you speak to the group as a whole or a selected few just in front of you?
2. Do you adapt yourself to your audience?
I. Are you so interested in the subject that you expect everybody else to be?
I. Do you act as though you wish the lecture were over?
I. Do you make yourself one of the class or a mere talking machine?
I. Do you feel at ease and make the class feel at ease?
I. Do you act as though you were very clever and your class very dumb?
I. Do you smile?
I. Is your appearance correct?
I. Is your bearing sloppy?
I. Do you have some dignity?
I. Do you look asleep?
I. Are you absent-minded?
I. Do you take yourself too seriously?
I. Are you in too much of a hurry?
I. Is your manner indifferent?
VOICE AND EXPRESSION
58. Is your voice monotonous?
28. Do you talk too fast?
23. Do you enunciate clearly?
i6. Is your voice loud enough?
I2. Is your voice too low?
8. Is your voice too loud?
7. Is your voice raspy, harsh?
4. Is your manner stuttering or uncertain?
4. Is the tone of your voice unpleasant?
3. Do you have vivacity of tone?
2. Is your voice shrill?
2. Do you lack articulation?
2. Do you control your voice?
2. Are there too many extremes in the pitch of your voice?
2. Do you fail to open your mouth in attempting to speak?
I. Is your voice weak?
I. Do you show emphasis with your voice?
I. Do you speak too slowly?
I. Do you speak through the side of your mouth or swallow your words?
I. Are your words too drawn out?
I. Do your words run into each other?
I. Do you have an ascending or descending inflection of voice?
I. Do you always emphasize the same part of every sentence?
I. Do you speak with feeling?
I. Do you speak continuously without a break?
I. Do you "hem" and "haw"?
VOCABULARY AND VARIETY
7. Is your pronunciation correct?
7. Do you use big words?
7. Do you slur difficult words?
5. Do you have a large vocabulary, variety, and can you find the right word?
2. Do you say "ah" and "ugh"?
I. Do you use flowery, literary language?
I. Do you repeat pet phrases?
I. Are your sentences too long?
I. Do you use many big words?
I. Are you wordy?
I. Does your vocabulary distract the listener from the subject?
I. Do you have relevancy in word power to situation or mood?
I. Are your lectures always started in the same humdrum manner,
such as: "The lecture today will be on
I. Are your lectures memorized or the result of a thorough knowledge of the subject?
23. Do you use good illustrations-in place?
4. Do you use new examples or stick close to the book?
3. Do you make statements of fact without illustration?
2. Are your lectures stereotyped and monotonous or do they offer an interesting story ?
I. Are your examples clearly given; i.e., their connection to the principle explained?
I. Can you write legibly on the blackboard?
I. Do you rehash the book?
I. Do you use blackboard illustrations?
I. Are your blackboard illustrations clear?
I. Do you keep illustrations up-to-date?
I. Do you bring in curious information and the odd?
I. Do your statements leave doubt or questions in the minds of your audience?
I. Do you ever relate any personal, outside experiences of your own?
II. Is your body position correct, head erect, do you speak out, use gestures?
6. Are you nervous or shy?
6. Do you fiddle with objects, twirl your watch chain around your finger?
3. Do you move around during the lecture and thus keep the student's
eye occupied? (Best to move around)
2. Are your actions such that interest follows them instead of the lecture ?
I. Do you look out of the window for inspiration while lecturing?
I. Do you stand in one corner of the room?
I. Do you have disconcerting habits of walking about?
I. Do you walk up and down and so disturb the attention of the class?
I. Does your constant playing with chalk distract attention?
I. Have you irritating habits, do you look at your watch too often?
I. Do you have a mental handicap?
25. Do you use a little humor?
3. Are your jokes poor?
3. Are your attempts at humor painful?
I. Do you try to be too funny?
4. Can you keep order?
2. Are you irritable at small noises?
I. Do you become impatient and sarcastic?
I. Have you noticed the temperature of the room?
I. Are you extremely stern in disciplining your classes, thus making the students feel like kindergartners?
I. Do you scold too frequently?
I. Do you sound irritable?
I. Are you fairly strict with the class?
I. Do you continually call down students for their lack of cooperation?
I. Do you lean toward favorites?
I. Are you too lenient?
I. Do you give too much "blarney"?
ATTITUDE ON QUESTIONS
5. Do you ever call for discussion?
5. Do you give an opening for questions?
2. Do you question and get reactions from the class?
2. Do you hesitate in answering questions?
2. Do you answer questions immediately or wait until the next class?
I. Do you allow any one person to ask too many questions?
I. Are you frank?
I. Do you try to answer a question when really you do not know the answer yourself ?
I. Do you have an antagonistic attitude toward questions?
I. Do you refuse to explain points unless the whole class so asks?
The following list is ten things I believe it is particularly useful to remember when applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, through the Professional Recognition Route. My thoughts are focused particularly on the Associate (D1) and Fellowship (D2) levels though they apply to Senior (D3) and Principal (D4) as well. Here at Brighton it is our aspiration that all teaching staff have, or are working towards, a recognised teaching qualification by 2015, and the HEA's Professional Recognition is likely to be the main route for more experienced academic staff.
- Remember the Fellowship is a teaching and learning in higher education award, not a qualification in being an academic. The Fellowships of the Higher Education Academy are concerned with teaching and learning in higher education. Other aspects of the academic role such as research, involvement in academic societies, administrations etc., may be relevant to the Fellowship application, but only in as much as they relate to learning and teaching in higher education.
- Remember the Fellowship is a teaching and learning in higher education award, and not a recognition for a long career. It is tempting to include everything you have done over the course of your career, but it is not a recognition for everything you have done over the course of your career. Teaching outside higher education and other work/ or outside work experience may be relevant, but only insofar that it relates to learning and teaching in higher education. This may involve leaving out the achievements of which you are most proud.
- Remember the Fellowship is a teaching and learning in higher education award, and not a reward for good character. Getting on well with colleagues, being liked and appreciated by others and being a helpful person are all good qualities. However, fellowships are not awarded for being a nice person or having people say nice things about you, but showing evidence of your learning and teaching practice.
- Remember to focus on teaching and learning in higher education. Other qualifications are awarded for teaching in (or learning to teach in) sectors other than higher education. These experiences may be relevant to your practice of teaching and learning in higher education, but they are not substitutes for learning and teaching in higher education.
- Remember that teaching and learning in higher education takes many forms. Academic development, developing teaching materials, pedagogic research in higher education and designing and delivering workshops are all suitable examples of teaching and learning and in higher education and supporting these activities. Assessment can be formative, as well as summative. Students can be colleagues or professionals as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students.
- Remember to explicitly reference the professional values, core knowledge and areas of activity in the UK Professional Standards Framework. These three areas of the UKPSF are central to the process and should be explicitly referenced in your application. Do not rely on the assessors to spot the relevance of each activity or case study to the UKPSF.
- Remember to be reflective. The fellowship application is not just about what you have done, but what you have learnt from that experience, and its impact on your future practice.
- Remember to demonstrate that you are familiar with literature or theory on teaching and learning in higher education. Like any other scholarly field, there is a vast literature around teaching and learning in higher education. You don’t need to be an expert but evidence of engagement with the literature is important. This literature can ‘generic’ and/or specific to your discipline.
- Remember the Fellowship is an individual award. Teamwork is good, but the HEA fellowships are awards for individuals. If describing a team activity make your role clear. Be careful how you use the pronoun ‘we’ and how you write about “The department”, “The centre”, “The project team”, “My colleague” etc.
- Remember the references are an important part of the application. The referees you might choose when applying for a job are not necessarily the most appropriate for commenting on your teaching and learning practice. Think about which colleagues are best placed to provide your reference.
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