Can students be mistaken about the efficacy of teaching?

At the November meeting of our Bioscience Pedagogic Research group I led a discussion of the recent paper “Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom“. The study, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Louis Deslauriers and was conducted on Physical Sciences programs at Harvard University.

Slides from my summary of the paper can be seen here

The principal take-home message from the study was that students learned more from active teaching sessions, despite feeling that they had gained more from passive lectures. It was a “cross-over study” (all participants experienced both teaching methods, but on different topics) and all had the same hand-outs and slides, in either the ‘active’ or the ‘passive’ sessions. As the authors point out “The crucial difference between the two groups was whether students were told directly how to solve each problem or were asked to try to solve the problems themselves in small groups before being given the solution” (p19252). Continue reading

Why I take exception to “Exceptional”

Emerging from our University library a few days ago I was struck by the sunshine glinting off a vinyl banner located near the main entrance. In keeping with many institutions, our campus and nearby roads, are home to many such signs used as opportunities to convey motivational messages to current students or to celebrate past successes for the benefit, primarily, of applicants we are hoping to persuade to make us firm choice for their education from the start of the next academic year.

sign

The observant will note: (a) this was not taken on the sunny day mentioned in the text and (b) my thumb is intentionally obscuring the name of the student quoted

As I looked more closely, I registered the phrasing on the banner – “The teaching is exceptional”, it declared, attributing the quote (by first name only) to a recent graduate. I recognised the name, she is a studious Asian woman, who had completed one of our bioscience programmes a year or two ago. Continue reading

Where’s the flippin’ flipping?

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment around the notion of “flipped teaching” or the “flipped classroom”. The common thread is the requirement (or opportunity) for students to do some kind of course-related work on their own, away from the classroom setting.

LCnotFC

However, there’s a problem. Some people may think I’m being picky, but I believe that sloppy usage of the phrase “flipped teaching” is significantly muddying the waters. Specifically, I worry that the notions of flipped teaching and “lecture capture” are being conflated, to the detriment of careful examination of both.

In recent days I’ve had cause to read two different articles purporting to be about flipped teaching. In both cases, the work described a comparison of attendance at a live lecture versus watching a recording of the lecture. These are investigations of the potential impact of lecture capture, but they are NOT flipped teaching. Flipping the classroom requires that there is still some face-to-face classroom task. Advocates for this approach, of which I am one, would argue that the point of moving some of the activities out of the face-to-face session is to require (or at least encourage) students to have engaged in some preparatory work that makes the subsequent contact time richer and (probably) more interactive than a traditional lecture would have been. But there has still got to be some real world encounter between an academic and their students.

Now there is clearly overlap between lecture capture technology and flipped teaching. Tools such as Panopto can be efficient ways to prepare short videos to be watched before the face-to-face session. But not all flipped classroom preparation is necessarily video based (it might, for example, involve reading something instead). Equally, giving students the opportunity to watch a recording of a lecture they missed is a valuable catch-up tool, but this is not flipped teaching per se.

 

What characterises “quality” in ethics education?

I recently read Ercan Avci‘s 2017 paper Learning from experiences to determine quality in ethics education (International Journal of Ethics Education 2:3-16). Avci, from Duquesne University, conducted a literature review looking for shared characteristics in peer-reviewed, full text articles with “ethics education”, “ethics teaching” or “ethics learning” in the title and “ethics” or “ethics education” in the keywords during the period 2010-2015 (which the author describes as the “the last five years”, though it looks like six years to me). A total of 34 papers were examined, drawn from 11 academic disciplines and 10 countries (plus 3 international studies). As one might anticipate, the USA was the most represented geographical context, and healthcare (Nursing, Medicine, etc) was the discipline with the highest number of studies. I was a little surprised to see that none of the reports were from the UK.

As the author himself points out, this is a rather eclectic mix of settings. This might be spun either as an advantage (e.g. capturing diversity) or as a limitation (when it comes to drawing universal lessons). Notwithstanding these issues, Avci makes a number of important observations, some of which resonate with my own experience (e.g. see the Notes for the Tutor section, p16 onwards, in my contribution to the 2011 book Effective Learning in the Life Sciences).

AVCI

Taking a step back, there is an initial question before examining the quality of any ethics programme, namely is ethics being taught at all? It is apparent that many courses – even in Medicine, even in the States – do not include a formal ethics component. However, a broad range of subjects are now including some ethics in their teaching. Continue reading

Some tips for developing online educational repositories

As part of my work enthusing about the use of broadcast media in teaching, I am in the process of writing a guide to the use of Learning on Screen’s Box of Broadcasts resource. However my reflections on this project, coupled with the development of other blog-based resources such as Careers After Biological Science, set me thinking about some more generic recommendations for anyone thinking of setting up an online collection of educational resources. These crystallised quite naturally into a series of questions to ask oneself about the purpose, scope and authorship of the materials.

On the advice of a couple of colleagues, I submitted this to the Association for Learning Technology blog. I was delighted when they accepted it, since members of that community are likely to be developing similar resources. My self-check questions can be found via this link.

altcblog

 

“Please send a photo”

streetrunning2

One recent email exchange related to someone else’s order for running shoes, sent to me in error

I’ve recently had cause to contact three different companies about inadequacies in their service. The reasons for doing so in each case were very different, but there was a common thread to their replies: “Please send a photo of the [relevant item]”. When the third request came in, I started to see a pattern and this set me ruminating on why they were adding this extra step to dealing with my query.

And then it struck me, that this was exactly the reason – it was an extra step. It is part of a filtering process. It is easy enough for all and sundry to fire off email requests willy-nilly. As a mechanism to weed out the serious appellant from the time-waster there needed to be an additional hurdle. [I have vague memories from school history lessons that monasteries used to offer a similar process. Potential novices were never admitted at their first attempt, they were required to return on several occasions before securing entry into the monastic life.]

I mention this here, on my education blog, because I actually operate a similar system when it comes to requests from students. If you are involved in academia I am sure you recognise emails, particularly as exams loom, that go something like: Continue reading

Biosummit 2017

The University of East Anglia (Norwich) was the venue for the annual Biosummit, a gathering of UK bioscientists with an active interest in pedagogic research. As usual there was much to reflect upon. A summary of the event is captured in this Storified summary of tweets. My own formal contribution was limited to reflections on the value of using the Royal Society of Biology’s CPD framework as a valuable mechanism for capturing the evidence of activity, and reflection upon that activity, which is increasingly required for appraisals, accreditation and applications. The slides from my talk are available below (and via this link).

This continues to be a bona fide “Community of Practice”. One of the highlights is seeing like-minded friends and catching up on what they’re doing in their lives as well as in their work. The content of the conference, however, remains central. This year there were a number of highlights for me. Continue reading

  • Awards

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