Friday, 23 April 2010

LJMU Learning and Teaching Conference 2010 - Wednesday am

So it was back to a chilly Marsh for day 2. Coffee and biscuits on arrival helped a bit. First session was led by Phil Carey and Pat Eastwood and I liked the title of this one "Developing inclusive teaching and learning - a tortoise, mouse or dragonfly?" was interested to see what that was all about. They were looking at inclusivity in teaching and learning and certain metaphors kept reoccurring during the project, that of the tortoise, mouse and dragonfly. They were defined as this:
  • tortoise - tenacious but slow (perhaps a little dull), ability to see the long game, willing to get things done - in some ways it reflected some of their concerns (especially in relation to speed)
  • mouse - scurry around, very busy but not many people notice them, quick, adaptable - could the mouse frighten the elephant of the institution?
  • dragonfly - captures you imagination but can be quite fleeting - was what they were doing sustainable?

Higher Education still excludes lots of people so we need to look at widening participation and enabling access for people with disabilities. We have equality policies, procedures, action plans, assessment principles in place already so we are demonstrating some direction of travel but how we progress this further?

They wanted to include all areas of inclusivity not just disability and raise awareness across the university. Their focus was on the faculty of health and they worked exclusively in the faculty - so it needs to be looked at how this can be disseminated across the university.

We then did a task taking one of the metaphors and considering the qualities that are needed for change in relation to those metaphors, which was interesting. Our group chose the tortoise and focused on the need to see the long game, be tenacious and stay on track, to appreciate that things can take time and not be swayed.

The next session looked at assistive technology and was run by Phil Bakstad and Max Fossard. They talked about technology that can assist students with a particular need but argued we should be promoting inclusion in a general sense. Many of these technologies can be used to help all students not just those with a disability. Inclusive teaching isn't just about satisfying legislation - we have students have individual needs and are from diverse communities and we need to take this into consideration. They demonstrated a couple of pieces of equipment, stressing that there was much more they could show us. We got to play with tablet PCs, drawing on screen with a pen, they could then display all four of the individual displays on the main screen split into four. It was possible to focus in on a particular groups work.

Throughout the presentation they used a microphone and there were speakers located at the back of the room as well as the front. This is really helpful in drowning out background noise for all students. I think we should have employed this technology for the whole of the conference and any future conference. I don't have a particular hearing problem but do find some speakers harder to hear than others. I know using a microphone is a bit daunting for some but to encourage inclusivity we should be doing this as a matter of course, rather than singling out those with hearing difficulties, which can cause embarrassment or make people feel uncomfortable. They also passed around a portable hearing loop kit, which was really discreet and I thought would be useful for staff in meetings as well as for students in user ed sessions. It can be set up in advance so is discreet. Multiple receivers can be plugged into one transmitter.

Recording sessions was also discussed as a really useful way for students who missed lectures to catch up.

I thought this session was really good and gave practical demonstrations of how this technology can be used to help everyone.

After coffee I went to a session by Carol Maynard and Claire Milsom "Great teachers: how shall we know them?". They said that we are not good at evidencing our excellence relating to teaching and learning. They talked about student evaluations of teaching and how we need to be aware of what they are judging good teaching . Student evaluations are important but we need to add our own ways of evaluating what is good teaching - to support and encourage best practice across the institution. According to the research good teaching is

  • developing critical learners
  • student-focused
  • scholarly - researching your own teaching and your subject area
  • set of virtues - teaching attributes like respectfulness, openness, pride etc.

We engaged in a task to look at what we should be doing to evidence good teaching as an institution, as a team and as a individual - I found the task quite hard not coming from a teaching background but it was interesting to hear what was already in place and what staff thought should be in place.

The final session of the morning was about teaching with twitter by Maria Barrett - Maria used twitter in to different ways for two off her modules. For Music Theatre and Entertainment Management, in the module The Producers she used the twitter community to gauge what the industry looked for in a good producer to bring this into her teaching. She found when she asked a general question she got no response. When the question was directed at specific people more responses were given. She got some responses from key figures in the industry thereby giving some authority/credibility to the answers. Graduates also responding, which was encouraging. the almost liveness of it was a big advantage, rather than refer to something written in a book 10 years ago this was what was needed now. The disadvantage of something like twitter is that's it a public space and views are subjective.

Maria then went on to talk about how she used the for the Contemporary Issues in Arts Management level 3 module. This is a speaker module where various external speakers come in to present to the students. The final assessment is presentation of a paper at the student-led conference. The presentation is 80% and continuous assessment is 20%. Maria offered the opportunity for the continuous assessment to be assessed by engagement with social media (including twitter). The students used twitter in lots of ways from general questions - help anyone got any ideas, to setting up study groups, providing moral support and sharing resources in a public space. The conference communication was also put out via twitter and it was used at the conference, with groups of students tweeting as the students presented their papers. A big advantage of using this was that there was much more awareness of what was happening across the college, others attended the conference from within the college and some "real" guests as well (this was unusual before). Also the Daily Post got in touch via twitter to ask if they could do a feature on the conference.

The advantages is that it allows students to contribute in their own time, in their own place., they could keep connected to the module whilst on placement and it makes continuous assessment more tangible. The disadvantages are that it can be distracting, time-consuming and does need some caution, with regards authority and veracity. Also its not a private site and there are ethical issued of privacy for students information, but we should be teaching them this anyway.

And then it was time for lunch.....

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