2b) An understanding of your target learners

As an educational practitioner I have taught across a range of ages and learning abilities including; adults returning to learning, students with moderate and severe learning difficulties, post-16 learners, Undergraduates and Postgraduates. Within my current role, my target learners are predominantly staff, though I often have the opportunity to work with undergraduate students too.

I am part of the PGCHE course team at Falmouth and advise, guide and teach around virtual learning environments, digital capabilities, creative education and open educational practice. I also develop a range of online resources to support use of the VLE which is open to staff and students.

Working in arts based disciplines where staff are predominantly art practitioners presents a variety of issues and opportunities. A large number of staff are associate or hourly paid and as such not often on campus. Equally, academic Staff in arts based practice are slow to adopt new technologies, but compared to other disciplines technology is in mainstream use (Anderson et. al). This means that whilst technology is widely used as part of artistic practice, this doesn't necessarily transfer to the learning environment. This contrasts with school tutors, where technology is embedded during PGCE or training.

Whilst Knowles characterises adult learners as self-led and self-motivated this only really applies to subjects they are invested in and technology in HE teaching is not always one. The principles of Andragogy remain though and if learning is problem centred, immediate and learners are involved in planning and evaluation, they are often more invested in the outcome.

As learners will have varying digital practice informed by previous teaching roles and exposure to technology, it is important to understand prior knowledge and assess and make modification to the teaching based on understanding during session times, eg Lectures/Tutorials.

In order to do this, I employ entry/exit tickets (Fisher et. al, 2004)to measure understanding. Often this can be through use of technology such as self-assessing confidence in using machinery through Google Forms, sent to a bar chart displayed on a screen. Or it could take the form of in session polling via Socrative/Kahoot, a Twitter conversation with a session hashtag or the opportunity to ask questions via a link in a Google presentation. Use of technology to provide an additional channel of communication can enable learners who don't often put their hands up or are less vocal in sessions to ask questions. In the example of the Twitter backchannel it also means that the conversation can continue outside of the physical and temporal constraints of the teaching session.

When mobile technology is unavailable or inappropriate, i will substitute it for post-it notes and collect these at the start/end of a session. All of these methods allow me to react to learners immediate needs and adapt my approach in future. Often I will use the entry/exit tickets to modify the session plans, so there is a cycle of transformation within my teaching.

Anderson, T., Varnhagen, S. and Campbell, K., 1998. Faculty adoption of teaching and learning technologies: Contrasting earlier adopters and mainstream faculty. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 28(2/3), pp.71-98.

Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fisher, Douglas B, and Nancy Frey. Improving adolescent literacy: Strategies that work. Prentice Hall, 2004

Evidence

  • Feedback from last year's PGCHE Cohort:

    Support and expertise has been absolutely invaluable...their subject knowledge is extensive...an absolute pleasure to collaborate and work with...feedback from the sessions has been great...a clear reflection of their skills and knowledge.
  • Lesson plan for 2016 PGCHE group

  • Knowledgebase article on timing the release of feedback, aimed at teaching staff
  • Example of Google Forms as entry/exit ticket method

Reflection

Being involved in the PGCHE at Falmouth, both as student and teaching staff has been an enlightening and fulfilling experience. It is great to participate in a critical discourse around Learning Environments,and some staff have adopted some of the principals and themes in their teaching; mapping web residency, SAMR methodology and digital capabilities. Using the PGCHE as the vehicle, it has enabled staff to understand the function of the educational technology team and the pivotal role of the Learning Technologist in learning and teaching development.

I recently completed an evaluation of the knowledgebase, which suggested that students value online support more than staff who like face to face or email response. This supports the characteristics of the adult learning in expecting an immediate response to the problem at hand. 121 support is resource intensive though, so I will be looking at ways such as video tutorials/webinars etc to make sure we can include our large number of associate staff and respond to common queries more widely.

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