For my CMALT I was a developer who had no direct teaching experience, so knew that this section would prove difficult but I drew on the content that led to my gaining an internal teaching award. It was awarded Adequate.
2a: An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes
My overall teaching philosophy is that of a critical constructionist approach. Committed to creative pedagogy firmly rooted in educational theory, I have embedded LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP), already popular in other tertiary education and corporate settings, in the school and beyond. I also specifically encourage creative approaches to problem-solving and learning where possible both for students and staff.
In the period since my last portfolio, I completed the Diploma in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh and gained Senior Fellowship of the HEA. In addition, I facilitated two different undergraduate modules (Digital Doctor and Digital Citizenship: Wikipedia in Medicine). This gave me the opportunity to gain experience of writing handbooks, designing assessment, planning the face to face teaching sessions and meeting the students in a small setting rather than in a 250 filled lecture theatre. Both of these modules were a collaboration with colleagues and meant I learned as much from their input as the students did. In addition, for the latter, I reached out to the Wikipedia community and had the joy of having Rebecca O’Neill come and speak to the students about the history of Wikipedia. This session inspired them and opened their eyes as to the process.
I utilised alternative assessment to standard essays and multiple-choice questions. These include Pecha Kucha presentations, reflective diaries, creating online learning resources, discussions around a digital story, editing Wikipedia and interactive tutorials. These assessment methodologies differ from traditional essays, based on what is sometimes called non-disposable assignments. Where possible, I aim to afford students autonomy to choose their topic for maximum motivation and challenge. Creating a fully functional learning object or a published Wikipedia article can be a significant challenge for a three-week full-time module. Therefore, I included reflective diaries to capture their learning journey that otherwise would have been lost in the assessment process with the grading final outputs rather than including the process, whether it led to success or not (Fawns & O’Shea, 2019).
In my new role at Ulster University, I became a teacher on the eTutor course which runs approximately twice a year. Whilst the majority of our students are staff members, the course is open wider and there is such a rich mix of learners in each cohort. This is a fully online, three-week course, based on Gilly Salmon’s work on e-tivities. We blend asynchronous with one or two synchronous sessions. Assessment includes a range of tasks in each week, a total of fifteen is required to pass the course. Examples are contributions to discussion forums, reflections, video submission.
Fawns, T., & O’Shea, C. (2018). Evaluative judgement of working practices: reconfiguring assessment to support student adaptability and agency across complex settings. Italian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1)
Salmon, G., 2014. E-tivities. New York: Routledge.
#mscde #diploma a privilege to be in McEwan Hall to graduate this morning and meet so many fellow students in person #Congratulations #GoodLuckForYourNextStep #EdinburghHospitality pic.twitter.com/X7PA2012nD
— Clare Thomson (@slowtech2000) November 28, 2018
Student Feedback from the Wikipedia module:
“We were given a lot of freedom to choose the topics which I liked. Also we learned a lot of skills which are very important but we never usually get properly taught e.g. learning how to do research properly”
“Really enjoyed the module the use of collaborative space teams was nice”
It was such a joy being involved in the design of teaching for undergraduate learners, starting with a blank sheet and building each element. Reaching out to the subject librarian to co-facilitate the module meant a new collaboration, which is so meaningful when often within professional support departments there are walls between us and we work in the main in silos. The challenges were that as teaching was on my work schedules I had to work carefully around my busy calendar and ensure that other objectives and deadlines were not adversely affected. This was especially difficult for the September iterations of the course as this was my busiest period.
Teaching on the etutor is just as much fun. Being in an online space is my favourite way of interacting with people and I enjoy seeing people begin tentatively and then getting to know each other and find the benefits of learning online and pacing themselves to match their busy lives. I draw on many of the skills that I developed and enhanced during my studies on the Digital Education course at Edinburgh.
Whilst valuing this teaching experience it remains a frustration that academic colleagues do not consider learning technologists (or even professional services colleagues wider) as educators. I love seeing peers get their HEA fellowships and other teaching awards in the hope that one day we will be widely considered equal partners in the teaching and learning sphere.
2b: An understanding of your target learners
Over the years my ‘target learners’ have included undergraduate medical students, medical educators (including clinicians), higher education staff across many disciplines and beyond. This has spanned formal teaching as well as what is more generally termed staff development. Regardless of the setting my approach is one of care and I ensure that I tailor each session to meet the needs of the learner.
With regards to the modules that I taught at undergraduate level I incorporated as many different digital skills into the teaching and assessment that students would be able to draw on throughout the rest of their studies as it wasn’t something that was given focus in the medical curriculum. For example, adding in a workshop on referencing and reference managers into the Wikipedia module, was something that by third year they hadn’t had formal experience of.
Working to Universal Design for Learning I ensured that students had autonomy to choose the topic and approach to their assessment. In the digital learning module they could pick any software they had access to create their learning object but I provided advice and support throughout. In the Wikipedia module they could choose any topic to research within a medical sphere. Each student was then able to bring their own skills and strengths; the variety included scientific, people, charities or hospital buildings.
With regards to teaching staff, having a flexible and calm approach was something that I employed in every interaction. For example, the need to assure that the problem can be solved and not to worry, that I tailored the use of technical language as overly technical terms could cause added stress, and listening carefully to their needs to ensure that the solution I offered was appropriate to their skillset. Another approach, that was crucial to ensure care was to time sessions carefully, if possible not going over an hour and if so then adding a break. If a break was not possible I suggested that people got up and stretched and stood for a bit while I was talking as a reminder to have a screen break.
Etutor module feedback:
“Thought everything was so well laid out and delivered with excellent communication from Clare”
“thanks once again for a really fantastic course- it was one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve ever been a part of.”
— Andy Jaffrey (@andyjaffrey) January 12, 2021
Differentiating between teaching and support in CMALT portfolios is often difficult for those learning technologists who do not do any formal teaching so having had formal experience since my last portfolio has been really valuable. However, the lines are still blurred for me and I increasingly see how my values and approaches are the same for both. However, I love the experiences of formal teaching and want to continue to develop this aspect of my role. Being responsive to individuals and groups, with the ability to provide a flexible approach is something that I have seen highlighted in student feedback. For example, knowing when a cohort requires me to continue to contribute to each discussion forum contribution and when another have bonded quickly and the discussion is flowing naturally, only needing me to add summary contributions less frequently.
I bring these same values to my role as a CMALT assessor; providing constructive feedback, highlighting the positive areas and if required giving specific information as to what needs changed/edited for resubmission. I always learn a lot from each portfolio I assess and it is a privilege to see the commitment and diversity among our community.