Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Initial reflections on Interviews filmed

Last week I interviewed 13 students in total.
I filmed them in groups or pairs, to make sure they were comfortable.
In fact, one of the students had to be filmed alone and that was the least successful.

For the most part each 20-30 minute interview was very interesting.
One of the principle challenges was keeping the student responses as broad as possible without focusing too heavily on individual lecturers.
But it seems when a group of students have had a bad experience they need to vent their frustrations, no matter how much they are steered away!
I guess its a testament to the relaxed nature of the interviews that the students found it a forum to air their views in such a full and frank way.

The questions i generated created useful prompts and kept the conversations steered in the right direction, so no one area of study became too dominant.  (Such as the faults of lecturers!)

Inevitably, when seeking personal perspective you will get a mixture of differing viewpoints and experiences, but equally there were some fairly consistent patterns that emerged easily.

For example, when talking about the "teaching persona" and specifically the qualities that students seek in their tutors, it seems the common element in all of the interviews was that students need a tutor to "care".   Expertise, teaching ability etc all come a distant second place to the idea that the students need that caring and nurturing atmosphere. To know their best interests are being taken of.
Students become almost hostile when they feel a tutor doesn't care or isn't invested in them, and this in turn affects attendance, engagement and their creative output.

There is a lot of material to watch and collate and then to place in a wider context, but its fascinating stuff.

One anecdotal response that came out of he interviews that made me smile, and pause for thought, was the fact that I fell victim thru trying to create my own teaching persona.
Apparently, the first year students had created a false impression about me due to the fact that I started the academic year in my new lecturer position wearing a tweed suit.  As a result, many of them were anxious and even disappointed that they had a "boring' or "square" lecturer.  
By trying to create a "look" as a lecturer I inadvertently sent out the wrong message to a class of first years who were already full of nerves and anxiety!

Lesson learned...

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Unit 2 begins: Filming

And so begins Unit 2 of the PGCERT, after seemingly navigating the first unit successfully!

My research project has been in development for some time now and today I am beginning the first stage of the project in earnest.

I have around 14 students attending the film studio at the university to talk about the nature of teaching and learning, and have devised a series of questions (or prompts) to keep the discussion on topic.

The idea is that it I enter this project with no preconceived ideas, or agendas.
Hopefully I will acquire a diverse series of responses that i can then sit and review at a later date and look for patterns and areas of crossover that will form the basis of a one hour film that I will edit together.

Building on these responses I will then look to place them in context of a wider educational research to take forward for unit 2.

Its quite a daunting prospect to enter this project with such an open mind, but equally its absolutely essential to do so.
I feel i have to allow the answers flow without prejudice and then begin the second part of my own learning journey as a teacher.

The purpose of this project was to look at teaching and learning from the students perspective, having already covered my own thoughts and feelings in Unit 1.

I hope to learn as much as I did in the previous unit and hopefully provide a useful resource for people to watch also.

Ive selected a diversity of students from years 1 and 2, because these students are still in the formative period of their university experience.
I think if I had gone into third years then it would be more androgogical in nature, so not as relevant.

Questions are detailed below:

  1. Tell me about the differences between your previous education and NUA FMIP
  2. How have you found being more of an independent learner (from the more hand-held nature of school)?
  3. Tell me about your feelings when you first entered the classroom here
  4. tell me about a moment during a lecture where something clicked for you.  has there been one?  not necessarily at NUA.
  5. Tell me about what makes a successful lecture for you.  what are things that work (for you?)
  6. Of the best lecturers/teachers you have had to date, what qualities have you enjoyed or responded to?
  7. Of the lecturers or teachers who didn’t connect with you, what are those elements that have made learning difficult.
  8. Tell me about a situation where the lecture/lesson wasn’t working for you and maybe the reasons why?
  9. What brings a lecture or a session to life for you.  what are those moments when it comes alive?
  10. Have you found it possible to translate what you have learned into practice.  How has this been possible.  Examples of were it works?
  11. Tell me about your ideal lecture…
  12. What makes a good teacher?  What personality traits?  is personality important?  
  13. Are you able to “read” a teacher/lecturer and tell if they care?  
  14. Are you aware of a “persona” that a teacher may employ?  Does this matter?
  15. How important is the learning environment? - class sizes, facilities etc?
  16. Why do you study? go to Uni?  
  17. Whats the end result?
  18. Where does the pressure come from to do well?  (fees, peer pressure, parents, self)
  19. Is higher education still relevant?  - What does it do for you?