Tag Archives: Pedagogy

Class attendance in the shadow of Covid-19

At the end of the 19th and start of the 20th Century, there was considerable concern about student attendance at school. To encourage good attendance many education authorities awarded medals to students with exemplary attendance records. This was particularly well developed in London, where from 1887 the London School Board (and later London County Council) awarded medals to students with near-perfect attendance. The medal pictured here was awarded to G. Orbell in 1899, for six consecutive years of good attendance.

School Board for London attendance medal (1899) awarded to G. Orbell for six years of punctual attendance.

As schools were run on a grant that was calculated on attendance figures, schools realized it was in their interest to award medals as there was money attached. The down side to this was that sick children (with diphtheria and the like) would be encouraged to attend school – with devastating consequences for the health of their classmates. After a break for the First World War, the scheme was abandoned after the 1920 school year.

Of course, classrooms were very different when G. Orbell was at school. But after over 120 years of educational research, we would now not expect to see classrooms in schools (or universities) where students were sat passively in rows, receiving the wisdom from the teacher who was standing at a lectern. We wouldn’t expect to see rote learning on a large scale. To continue to teach in this way would be a betrayal of a generation.

But bringing us up to date – attendance is again a hot topic. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have closed our classrooms and largely stopped face-to-face teaching. We now have the benefit of digital technologies to keep us connected and allow teaching to continue. But the big question is how to achieve this without reverting to the Victorian model of transmitting content. How do we maintain the dialogue? How do we engage with our students? How do we maintain our professional integrity and our professional values?

Covid-19 has forced our hand on this somewhat. But it will give us an opportunity to reassert what is important in our teaching. As my son recently told me, “it’s not about the content – I can get that anywhere! It’s about the experience.” So how do we promote the university experience online? Probably not by just stuffing our VLEs with content. The online world does free us from some of the constraints of the physical world. For example, there is no reason why lectures should be one hour long – that is just an artifact of the timetable and the issues of moving students in and out of classrooms. We don’t need to do that online. Perhaps shorter and more focused ‘lectures’ would be better? But our energy has to be spent on developing the experience – not developing ever more content. So the question is – what experience do we want to offer?

Pedagogy Trilogy

TRILOGY

2016                                            2017                                           2018

 

This set of three books provides a comprehensive introduction to the application of concept mapping to reveal the knowledge structures that need to be explored in the examination of pedagogic frailty (2016), the exploration of the theory underpinning pedagogic frailty and how this relates to other areas of educational research (2017), and a series of practical case studies of academics from across the disciplines who have used the frailty model as a framework for their own reflective narratives (2018).

 

Reviews of the 2018 volume:

 

Concept mapping and the pedagogic frailty model form a powerful combination to drive reflection upon professional development, which is critical to respond rapidly to changes in the higher education system. This book is a must-read for any academic who wishes to become a resilient teacher.

Prof. Paulo Correia (University of São Paulo, Brazil).

Increasing pedagogic frailty is one of the biggest risks for academic quality in universities. This book gives a systematic, compact and research-based view about contemporary issues related to university teaching. It helped me to see the problems in my own university, and more importantly, it gave me ideas for solving them. I recommend this book to everybody who is involved in teaching at universities – from novice teachers to professors, administrators and senior managers.

Prof. Priit Reiska (Tallinn University, Estonia).

 

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Pedagogical Peculiarities – New Book

BOOK COVER

 

CONTENTS

  1. Pedagogical peculiarities: an introduction
    Stephen Brookfield                                                                                                                  
  2. Redefining professionalism through an examination of personal and social values in veterinary teaching
    Karen Young and Simon Lygo-Baker                                                                               
  3. ‘Messy and precise’: peculiarities and parallels between the performing arts and higher education                                                                                                                         
    Emma Medland, Alison James and Niall Bailey                                                         
  4. Research as pedagogy in academic development
    Ian Kinchin, Martyn Kingsbury and Stefan Yoshi Buhmann  
  5. The vulnerability of a small discipline and its search for appropriate pedagogy: the case of medical physics
    Anesa Hosein and Jamie Harle                                                                                        
  6. The marketization of pedagogy and the problem of competitive accountability
    Richard Watermeyer and Michael Tomlinson                                                           
  7. Strategic pedagogic management
    Gill Nicholls and Simon Lygo-Baker                                                                       
  8. Building and agenda for academic development on the peculiarity of university teaching.
    Paul Ashwin
                  

 

Digital technology amplifies the obvious

Digital technology in various forms is now well embedded into teaching at university. The use of PowerPoint seems ubiquitous – barely a lecture goes by without the support of a slide presentation. And what is interesting is the way in which the projection of PowerPoint slides also projects the lecturer’s views on teaching. It bares all, whether you intend it or not.

Lecturers who claim to be interested in student engagement have their bluff called when they then have a slide presentation without any room for questions because they are so full of content. The structure of the knowledge within the presentation is also transparent, with linearity usually dominating (Kinchin et al., 2008). Use of technology gives signals about you as a teacher that will be interpreted by students.

It is also interesting to see how practices that are self-evidently sensible suddenly become ‘innovative’ once they are set in the context of “flipped classrooms” or “lecture capture technology”. For example, we can find  recommendations such as ‘keeping on-line pre-class videos short – about 20 minutes to maximize student engagement’. Well this is surely also a good idea in the analogue classroom too. We know full well that students find it difficult to remain engaged for a full 60 minute lecture, but the logistics of timetabling 20 minute lectures on campus means that in the analogue world it is just not practical. The digital environment enables us to do this in practice.

So too comments such as “sequence your materials logically“, “offer support to colleagues“, or “manage your students’ expectations” are all quite sensible as guidelines for the digital world, but are equally well suited to the analogue teaching environment too.

I think we have to be a little wise to the re-invention of good practice. Maybe some of our younger colleagues are hearing these things for the first time. That’s fine, so long as they do not walk away thinking that all these valid classroom tips are uniquely valid for the digital teaching environment. The digital-analogue divide needs to be bridged. Good teaching is good teaching, whether you are using a VLE or a chalk board.  But if the application of technology is helping to push these ideas to the fore, that can only be a good thing – surely?

Reference

Kinchin, I.M., Chadha, D. and Kokotailo, P. (2008) Using PowerPoint as a lens to focus on linearity in teaching. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 32(4): 333 – 346.

‘P’ is for ‘Pedagogy’: The missing term in the university lexicon.

When designing a curriculum, a focus on content as a starting point tends to be objectivist and considers knowledge as external to the student – as a fundamental ‘truth’. This resonates with many colleagues in the sciences. A student focus tends to be more constructivist and considers knowledge to be internal to the student, as a personal and idiosyncratic construction. This may resonate more with colleagues in the Arts and Humanities.

As the pendulum (figure above) has swung towards the student in recent years, there has been an emphasis on student learning needs and student diversity. However, Simon (1999: 42) has argued persuasively that ‘to start from the standpoint of individual difference is to start from the wrong position’. This is not to argue against a focus on the needs of the student, and the support they need in order to gain expertise in their chosen field. Far from it. But surely the starting point should be the discipline – that central point in the pendulum where the pointer swings fastest.

However, when learning about a new discipline, the specialist terminology of the field can sometimes create a barrier. This is part of the process of learning and engaging with the culture of the discipline. When learning about education, the term ‘pedagogy’ can have the effect of causing panic among academics, and is often confused with the more familiar term ‘teaching’. So why use the term pedagogy?

Simplifying the terminology of education projects an over-simplistic view of the ideas being discussed and results in the complexity of the situation being lost. This can result in a lack of engagement with the topic that appears to offer no challenge. This is what many colleagues within the disciplines would characterise as ‘dumbing down’. So why should we dumb down the discourse on teaching and learning?

For such reasons, it is important that ‘pedagogy’ finds its way into the lexicon of the university teacher as it means so much more than the related term, ‘teaching’. Teaching tends to focus on the ‘what?’ of the classroom, whereas pedagogy offers a focus on the ‘why?’. Only with an appreciation of the why can evidence of teaching effectiveness be contextualised and developed.

Inertia within the pendulum has developed as academics can feel alienated from the discourse on education that is increasingly scrutinised through the lenses of accountability and managerialism. But to regain control of their discipline, rather than pull back from discussions of teaching, academics must engage more fully with that aspect which intersects with student engagement – the pedagogy of their discipline. This is central to the function of the university of they are to avoid becoming centres of non-learning (Kinchin et al., 2008).

The difference between teaching and pedagogy, click on link: pedagogy vs teaching slide[1]

References:

Kinchin, I.M., Lygo-Baker, S. and Hay, D.B. (2008) Universities as centres of non-learning. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1): 89 – 103.
Simon, B. (1999) Why no pedagogy in England? In: Leach, J. and Moon, B. (eds.) Learners and pedagogy. London, Paul Chapman, (pp. 34 – 45).