Reflection of cohort seminar 2 18th Feb 2019

Our second session was completely different to the first.  It was interesting session with more tasks and interactions ‘like a classroom’ for us to consider.  Initially I didn’t realise that all of cohort A would be together.  So the group was much larger, and the room much smaller! I also sat with my back to the door which made me feel more uneasy.  It’s surprising the impact the environment has on your psyche.  This is something we can’t control and yet can make such a difference.

I like the interactive parts of the session with specific tasks, and spent more time considering how and if I could use some of these methods within my own teaching practice.

Initially we were asked the question ‘How do you behave in groups’ and each time we spoke we needed to collect a playing card.  It was interesting how playing cards added a different element to the discussion and changed the dynamic of the group. I found it made me start contributing much earlier than I would have ordinarily.  It focused the engagement of the group and ensured each of us contributed. It encouraged everyone to take an active role in asking questions to the whole group. At times it stifled the conversation. The focus shifting from the conversation to remembering to pick up the card. It wasn’t as naturally free flowing as a group of friends just ‘chatting’. If I were to implement this I think you need to know your audience and pick a comfortable topic for discussion. My students may find this quite challenging esp. in a group of people they didn’t know very well.

Moving on we played a variation on this game where by we were then dealt five cards and asked to play a card each time we spoke.  We need to discuss an extract of the pre-reading.  With us now on a level playing field 5 cards a person, the dynamic shifted again.  Personally it allowed me to stay much quieter, although by this point I started to feel more unsure of my interpretation with the reading.

Like the first discussion it had good and bad aspects.  It allowed us to consider our thoughts before speaking.  It made us more aware of allowing each member to finish before moving on. It could also discourage more developing conversation from taking shape. Before playing I think you need to make sure that you don’t; have one dominant student in the group who could just talk without giving others a chance!

The third exercise involved a price of string that we handed on to each group member as we spoke. Discussions were based on the text we had been given.  I liked the idea of the string creating something visual and to me represented this act of play, interaction of subject and subject matter within the text. It was freer flowing than both of the previous playing card activities and allowed space to open up and the subject matter to be unpicked.  As students we were learning though the doing and not the presenting.  How long is a piece of string there was nothing to quantify!

All three methods involved participation. We couldn’t be on our phones / laptops during these exercises.  I have written before about the desire to open up my sessions to more discussion – this gives that discussion a focus. The string signified who you were speaking to and the connections you make.  It recorded the physical connection, the generosity of sharing and equal participation. Whilst I found this the most interesting it also allowed the quieter member of the group to be less involved and the more confident to dominate.

During all three of these activities I was contemplating how and if these ideas could work within the sitting of my class room and students? I am aware that some of my international students might find this difficult.  Those with fluent English could take over.  Those more reserved and less sure with their language could find it tough. (they generally don’t like working in groups of people they don’t know very well)

I have some revision sessions planned for next term so I might give out some string to see how it works.

Whilst we were planning the games, I was also watching what the tutor was doing with my observational feedback in my mind.  In my observational feedback Lindsey had suggesting just going and sitting / listening in to group discussions. I noticed that she was dropping in on groups in this way.  I became interested. She used this as a steer when requesting feedback from particular groups or individuals. She edited the feedback based on her listening.  Thus providing a summary of several comments she heard and wanted to share with the group to summarise.  A consolidated the view from the group, without going around each group which takes ages!

I have already started to sit with groups of students in my teaching practice.  It is not as intrusive as I originally thought it might be. It offers a chance for questions and It works as a way of understanding the group’s dynamics; injecting for those looking disengaged.  I have yet to master the feedback part!

I didn’t get the poem, but instead had a lovely conversation with another of the students with whom I had been paired. We both felt equally lost by some of the group discussions taking place over the pre-reading text!

Next we completed a marking matrix around the Learning Outcomes (LOs) for the module.  I had completed a similar exercise with my undergrads in Brighton, asking them to consider the module learning objectives in relation to their coursework and exam. I had given them a similar template to complete suggesting what adequate, good and excellent might look like for each LO. I collected their responses and made adjustments to my marking criteria before issuing to all the students. A recent tutorial with a student showed it had some resonance with them.  It allowed the group to focus; understand specifically what they will be assessed on and how they can make improvements.  It provides some transparency around the assessment marking criteria. It took longer than I had allowed but it is something I would repeat and do again.

We moved on to discuss the TEF framework of which I had some basic knowledge.  This was the more ‘presented’ part of the presentation.  I guess my outtake was: Don’t be afraid of voicing your own opinion as long as you give some balanced arguments. There were clearly parts where disagreements around the policy and procedures are encountered.  As a rule I try and remain natural in my disagreements over of policy and procedures.  It means that sometimes I avoid discussions around certain topics.  I guess I need to be more open to a variety of opinions of ideas around you?

Lastly we considered our ‘knowledge’ and’ values’ as teachers.  Groups were divided and assigned one or the other topics to consider. I had undertaken some preparation around this given how unprepared I had felt during the last session.  This helped me feel more confident in the response that I gave. Groups were split and we swapped work adding the HAE framework to the notes.

I found this a muddled framework to understand with areas I considered to be values in knowledge and vice versa.

It felt rushed, and I would have liked some more time to discuss this framework further in the groups.

I need to go back and re-look at this to consider, how these feed into my specific practice? How can I show evidence of them in the final written outcomes?

I would have also liked some more time to reflect on individual ideas for the micro teach next session. Personally I would have liked to spend less time on the philosophical pre-reading discussion at the start of the class.

Note to self- this entry is too descriptive an long.  Need to make more of a summary.

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