Reflecting on 16T2 – the findings of this reflection, and what actions I have done as a result
Note: an abbreviated version of this blog is available as a powerpoint presentation.
It is currently the week following SAE Institute’s Trimester two (16T2) grading fortnight. I am clearing my desk and organising my electronic folders of the last fifteen weeks of teaching resources and administration, and saving required items to the post-Trimester folder. Whilst I am in this process, I find myself reflecting on the Trimester in terms of:
the results students within my modules had achieved;
my perception of their learning experience within those modules;
my interactions with those students throughout the Trimester – their behaviours, comments and any feedback I received;
the resources I had provided them, and;
my education and learning approach – what approach I had taken, what I felt went well, and what with hindsight I would change if I had another opportunity.
16T2 was a particularly challenging Trimester for a number of reasons, and my thoughts were now on my preparation for another Trimester – 16T3 – due to start next week. In 16T3 I will again teach on three of the same modules, two of which I also coordinate (administer and am fully responsible for) – a Trimester two (2) module Production I, and a Trimester five (5) module Final Project.
In 16T2 both of these modules were populated with February intake students: 15T1 and 16T1. The February intake at SAE Institute is largely made up of school leavers, having graduated their Australian high school in the proceeding November, made decisions regarding their immediate tertiary study choices, and been accepted into those respective undergraduate degree programs. Whilst there are usually a few other students within this cohort who have had some life experience since graduating school, I have observed that the February intake usually has considerably less mature age students than the other two (2) yearly intakes of May and September.
Professional Development Program
As a Senior Lecturer for the global Creative Media Institute, SAE Institute I am required to engage in their internal professional development program. A minimum requirement is to undertake three online programs per year. The topic selection is from a range of disciplines such as soft skills, education, supervision, management and compliance. These MaxKnowledge courses take approximately four (4) hours to complete, and are assessed progressively throughout the program, as well as upon its’ completion. Given I had not yet completed any courses, I decide to do these as part of my unwinding of one Trimester, and preparing for the next. Looking through the large list of course options, I highlighted a good number of potential topics. The two courses I finally decided upon were ED117 Teaching Gen Y Students; and EDN112 Influencing Student Motivation. The reason I chose these two particular topics of the many topics available were two-fold:
I often observe peer Lecturer’s getting frustrated with certain cohorts of students for demonstration of qualities and characteristics that I believe could in part be examples of generational gaps;
As a mature Senior Lecturer in a Creative Media Institute a large portion of the students I interact with either school leavers or recent school leavers. Born approximately two decades earlier, they are from Generation Y – the Millennials. Whilst I believe I have maintained currency with contemporary educational practice including learning theory [Educational Philosophy – Part 1], following my particularly difficult 16T2 Trimester with two groups of students with an approach to life, learning and engagement, that was at times at odds with my expectations of tertiary level study; I decided it could not hurt to hear another point of view regarding one of our Institute’s primary learner groups.
General Characteristics Generation X
As outlined in Educational Philosophy – Part 2, I was born into Generation X (Gen X), the son of two parents of the previous generation, Baby Boomers. In Australia at that time, the resources boom was at its height, providing great levels of economic growth, and surplus levels of disposable income. Many Baby Boomer parents took advantage of riding this wave of opportunity, especially as many of them had grown up as children in the previous veteran generation where they had experienced war or post-war economic hardship. The result of working long hours for economic gain, was that in general Baby Boomer parents had less time for their families and children’s lives.
Simultaneously, technology was developing rapidly including space travel, telecommunications, computer technology and media. Social and cultural norms started to change with people questioning their values and beliefs – particularly the youth – motivated by political decisions that affected everyday citizens. Ongoing participation in the Vietnam war was protested in most developed nations, with popular artists and musicians using their popularity to express their anti-establishment views, and alternative life philosophies – be it drug-culture or alternative Eastern religious views. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix used the popular cultural stage to express their art in influential ways to the global youth market. All of these events influenced Generation X (MaxKnowledge 2016).
Gen Xers grew up to become self-reliant, due to often having absent parents with either organisational or social commitments. Gen Xers therefore learnt that for something to be done, they had to do it for themselves. I recall many a times when my parents were away on business trips for a week, and my siblings were looked after by a live in carer, or as we got older, fended for ourselves. Because of this I became quite independent, in my choices of interests and thought processes. I also noted that I was shy to request assistance, a trait that according to MaxKnowledge is inherent with Gen Xers (MaxKnowledge 2016).
As a result of my upbringing, I have consciously sought balance of lifestyle and work in my adulthood. I like flexibility, and work well in non-traditional structures and times. Whilst I ensure I meet my responsibilities and accountabilities, where and when I actually do this work is less of a priority. Such work needs to be balanced around my family commitments. I have developed strong connections with my family – both my direct and my extended family. Whilst I have not been blessed with my own children, I have a god-daughter and nephew who I provide much attention and guidance to. It is also not coincidental that I have chosen careers across a range of industries which has allowed me to guide and mentor younger people in their education and learning. In many ways, this path has allowed me to address an aspect that I recognised was missing within my development – support, guidance and advice. I am comfortable with and quite technically proficient given my experience with the broad and rapid change of technology within my lifetime.
General Characteristics Generation Y
In contrast to Generation Xers, Generation Ys (Gen Ys), have in general been raised by Gen Xers. Gene Xers have tried to correct history by providing total attention to their Gen Y kids, in many ways making up for the lack of parenting they received as children to their baby boomer parents. No question was too small or unworthy. Due to the attention provided by their Gen X parents, Gen Yers have grown up in a heavily structured life. Gen Y’s lives have been planned down to the hour in a very busy daily schedule of school, sports, clubs, family and friends’ activities. Gen Yers have been engaged by their Gen X parents in discussing all aspects of their lives – their views, thoughts, feelings including social, cultural and political events. Gen Yers have in general received very tangible guidance and direction. As a result, Gen Yers have become used to receiving instant feedback in regards to their many activities, thoughts and contemplations. Gen Yers have very high expectations of what they choose to focus on, and yet, do not cope well with outcomes less than their expectations. This is a trait that according to MaxKnowledge is inherent with Gen Yers (MaxKnowledge 2016).
Due to the attention and guidance Gen Yers have received over their lives, along with the social network opportunities for posting comments, photos and videos on line, it is not surprising that Gen Yers are a very ‘me-centric’ generation. They do however like to operate within social groups – family or friends – enabling them for more instant direct feedback from within their groups (MaxKnowledge 2016). Gen Yers have a high level of connectivity – connected at all times to all forms of social media and networks. Gen Yers are at the centre of the ‘like-generation’; following social media and liking people and their social media posts is a Gen Y activity. MaxKnowledge noted that Gen Yers – unlike other generations – did not distinguish between activities at school, home or work (MaxKnowledge 2016). This is very apparent in contemporary learning environments, when a student is usually seen with a mobile device – laptop, mobile phone – within their reach at any time during the class.
Reflection: what I observed in my 16T2 Production I module
This Trimester two (2) undergraduate Production I module is a group project-based learning module. My aim for the module is to provide an opportunity for the students to apply their developing knowledge from the first seven (7) modules into this particular module group production project. Learning by proposing, receiving feedback, negotiation, exploring, trialling, failing, reflecting, correcting, researching and experimentation. The module is conducted primarily in the learning spaces of both a forty (44) seat theatrette & a number of audio studios. The weekly module content is very specific to their production projects, guiding the learners in their project-based learning experience. I have observed over the course of five (5) Trimesters coordinating this module, students generally need assistance with their time-management. The 16T2 cohort was no different, with the clarification that they probably had more challenges with their time-management than any proceeding cohorts I have been involved with. I observed that students developed little of the required group production project documentation outside of class, leaving it to the last moment, or being less than the required standard, requiring redrafting post my formal feedback. In general, the standard of their audio session management was poor relative to previous cohorts, especially surprising given that much time was spent on this aspect within another module that I also taught. The final observation I had regarding this cohort in the module was that the students’ expectations of their Production Projects outcome (three songs recorded as a group, and mixed individually) were very high. However, given their (in general) lack of demonstrated competence regarding time management, their lack of development of the required documentation, and their poor attention to detail such as with their session file management, the students completed their production projects very late in the Trimester, leaving less than one (1) full week to attend to one of their largest learning opportunities in that module, their individual mixes. In contrast to some previous cohort who have spent up to four (4) weeks in the individual mixing stage of their productions, having spent less than one week meant that their Final Product were not only going to be less than my expectation; but perhaps more importantly, less than their expectation.
Reflective practice: could I have done anything differently in my 16T2 Production I module?
Considering my knowledge of a range of education and learning practice theories and approach options, could I have used alternative approaches and methods to that which I did use in the Trimester two (2) Production I module?
Given my understanding of the generational differences, was my approach that more aligned to a cohort of Gen Xers, rather than Gen Yers? Could my approach have been less of a holistic view and more hands-on? Perhaps I could have utilised a more focused education and learning theory and approach such as scaffolded learning? Perhaps I could have provided more opportunity within the learning sessions for the students to develop their project plans, rather than expecting them to develop these outside of class?Perhaps I could have provided more specific focus on having the learners develop their project schedules within the learning sessions with the Gant charts I had provided them as an out-of-class resource? Perhaps more of the learning session time could have been allocated to the development of their data and session management? In 16T2 I initiated weekly group debriefs in front of the group. I had thought it would allow a greater sharing of knowledge and experience amongst the whole cohort. Whilst this may have been useful, perhaps it may have been more useful to break into their production groups, and allowed for more group-based discussions over the class-based based debriefs I had organised? This may have allowed for more specific progress debriefing, reflection, discussion and forward planning. However, logistically this would have meant that I had less time per group, and less comments across all groups. But in terms of learning theory, this may have been more productive in the long run.
In terms of the large groups, perhaps I could have more consciously applied questioning techniques within the group discussions. As discussed in Layer 9: My approach in the learning experience perhaps I could have been more active in using a range of concept checking questions (CCQ), instruction checking questions (ICQ), and in general more focussed questions? In terms of the learners expectations of the level of their Final Product expectations, I am clear I needed to address this in more detail, with more specificity. As trimester two (2) aspiring audio engineer students, their expectations of the standard were unrealistic, and should have been more specifically addressed throughout the trimester. I am unsure as to how much difference this would have made given the particular learner’s personalities and attitudes, but I am confident it would have made some difference within at least several of the learners. I also acknowledge that I could have been more proactive in changing the learning space to other locations, to allow for more group-based discussion. A lecture theatrette does impede effective education and learning irrespective of the experience of the learning facilitator. I find it is too easy to slip back into a teacher-centred learning approach due to the learning environment and layout. As several of my learners have noted: the theatrette style chairs are very comfortable and very easy to lie back, disengage, and become passive.
I would also consider that by following the department’s request to include more signal flow testing, my approach to this was quite focussed, and this was perhaps not the best approach for this particular Gen Yer group. Having used this approach with other cohorts that included other generations such as Gen Xers has proved successful in the past; but with this particular generational group, in hindsight I think it was too much for me to expect that of them.
Reflective practice: how I have responded, and what I have implemented in 16T3.
This trimester I have ensured from the outset that I have been more thorough in my pre-assessing phase with the 16T3 trimester two (2) Production I learners. I hadn’t met any of them previously due to me not having contact with any of the trimester one (1) modules in 16T2. Therefore, I needed to get to know each one of them from week 1. Prior to week 1, as per Layer 8: My approach in preparing for learning practice sessions, I gathered their 16T2 trimester one (1) assessment tasks that had relevance to this particular module. I ensured I was extra thorough in perusing their student files (electronic), and talked with their 16T2 learner facilitators for their perspective of each of the learners. In the week 1 introductory learning session I was very deliberate in discussing generational gaps, reviewing the learning styles they had learnt in another trimester one (1) module, and introduce myself in terms of these, as well as my relevant discipline practice experience.
In terms of my approach to the learning session – preparation and delivery – I have adopted this trimester a:
Less holistic learning approach, and a more detailed focus on specific content
More focused approach using a scaffolded learning approach
More in-class work, developing project plans in class. I have provide more specific examples and links to instructional blogs than I have previously.
More focus on Gant charts and project schedules. I have provide more specific examples than I have previously.
More class tasks specific to data and session management. I have provide more specific examples than I have previously.
I have consciously focussed more on providing small production group-based discussions, over whole class-based discussion. That is not to say I have omitted class-based discussion, but more so balanced this with more group-based discussions as well. Whilst it may be too early to tell [as of this update, it is week five (5) of a thirteen (13) week trimester], following such an approach appears that it may have allowed for more specific progress debriefing, reflection, discussion and forward planning within each of the production project groups.
I have more consciously questioned all learners throughout their lecture format, small group discussions and their practical studio sessions, to ensure I am optimising the effective student learning experience of the particular learners during a learning practice session.
I have already introduced more open discussion as to the current learning cohort’s expectations of their Final Product expectations, and how to be more realistic with this.
I have negotiated with another Lecturer in another module to remove the formal Signal Flow component from my Production I module, but still reinforce the cohort’s development of signal flow within my module’s learning sessions as much as I can. This will leave the formal assessment of this function to another learning facilitator in another of their trimester two (2) modules.
I have consciously refocussed the way I use and interact with the learning spaces for this module. I have more consciously changed the learning space to another learning space when I require more discussion. i have done this as often as possible.
What I learnt as a result of undertaking the required professional development, and then from engaging in reflection of my practice experience.
Reflective practice: reflecting on my education & learning practice last trimester (16T2)?
I had overlooked the thorough pre-assessment of the learners (Gen Y)
I mistakenly expected students to be self-reliant – even though as part of that self-reliance approach I had created and curated an enormous amount of resources for the learners to access outside of class)
I overlooked the need for scaffolded tasks for this learner group
I possibly reduced my focus on questioning with this group
Concept checking questions
Instruction checking questions
I was accepting of the provided learning space
I did not consciously engage reflective practice of my education and learning practice as much as I could have across the Trimester
I did not consciously proactively pursue research of my education and learning practice during that trimester. Perhaps due to my current pre-occupation with my Doctorate in Creative Industries, I did made time to maintain my research in education and learning in 16T2.
Reflexive practice – how have I changed my education & learning practice this trimester (16T3)?
I have consciously returned to reading education and learning approaches and practice. I have returned to Millwood’s learning theories chart to review a range of learning theories, approaches and methods; and I have spent time reviewing recommended higher education education and learning text books such as:
Knowles, Malcolm S, Elwood F Holton III and Richard A Swanson. 2012. The adult learner: the definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. 7 ed. New York: Routledge.
Light, Greg, Susanna Calkins and Roy Cox. 2009. Learning and teaching in higher education: the reflective professional. London: Sage.
I have consciously returned to my roots to remind me of my practice. I have a large range of resources and past experience to draw upon, but I needed to re-familiarise my self with my philosophy and approach to education and learning. In order to develop my current understanding of education and learning practice, I have now planned more blog titles in my series, understanding this will assist in keeping engaged and proactive in terms of developing my self and my practice.
I have returned to conscious engagement of reflective practice of my teaching practice. Acknowledging Boud’s (2001) view of the use of journal in reflective practice, I am more consciously and routinely taking notes of my practice. This blog is an example of my formalising many hours of recorded data about my practice over the past six (6) weeks.
I no longer accept the limitations of the provided space. I have changed spaces numerous times this trimester to optimise learning opportunities.
I have included a more scaffolded learning approach in my learning experiences in 16T3.
I have facilitated more small group work opportunities, allowing more individual assessment and engagement
I have more consciously included a deliberate focus on questioning
Concept checking questions
Instruction checking questions
Where to from here, in terms of my education and learning practice, and my research practice?
As outlined in Educational Philosophy – Part 2, an analogy I have of my self and my practice is that of an onion. I as a practitioner, irrespective of my practice, have layers of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and bias. One of my beliefs is that it is up to me as part of my professional practice to embark on a journey to reveal who I am – both in terms of my self, and my practice.
There are two focal points that I choose to inform my practice – the theory generated from the field and discipline, and the methodology of my research practice. The figure below shows the relationship of these two foci with in my music practice (see figure ii below).
Figure I Page (2015f)
The breadth of contemporary education and learning practice
However, the field of education and learning practice is developing inline with the needs of social and cultural needs. As Light et al (2009) outlined, the landscape of higher education education and learning practice has developed greatly in the past ten (10) years. My role as an education and learning practitioner now includes the functions of:
As a professional education and learning practitioner, I am expected to perform diligently and competently across all four (4) areas as part of my professional practice. I am now expected to administer all aspects of learning programs within my responsibility and accountability effectively and efficiently, maintain a conscious eye over the progress and welfare of the learners under my responsibility, and deliver a learning experience in an engaging and verifiable manner (qualitatively and quantifiably). I have taken figure i (above), and overlain Light et al’s four functions (see figure ii below).
Figure II Page (2016)
Given my experience as a professional educator and learning practitioner over a number of decades, I do however need to consider Light et al’s (2009) use of the functional term student services. I believe that this term is very broad, and therefore could be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Student services essentially consists of all functions outside of academic functions. The term student services usually includes the functions of the higher education organisational processes of recruiting and enrolling a student, registering them within a program, missing them with a student number, an ID card, an email address, allocating them into a class in order to allocate a timetable, arranging and advertising on student activities, and possibly assisting the learner with arrangement of suitable housing for the duration of their studies. However, a key area of student services that is central to my role as a Senior Lecturer in a Higher Education Institute I am employed here in Brisbane Australia, is specifically that of, pastoral care.
Pastoral care is beyond the range of functions that I have described above, as the term student services implies. Pastoral care includes the oversight of the learners in terms of their general health and welfare. The concept of pastoral care acknowledges that learners need to have balance in their greater life, in order to perform well in education and learning: in their family life, their social life, and in their mental and physical health. I suppose I could summarise pastoral care as being the oversight of learners in their everyday life to ensure they are in a position to maximise their education and learning advancement. In contemporary higher education practice, with all institutes answerable to government for effective education outcomes – ie pass and/or completion rates – such oversight is ann important aspect of the contemporary education and learning practitioner. , it is a different function to both of these (see figure iii below).
Figure III Page (2018)
Theories, approaches and methodologies of contemporary education and learning practice
As a professional education and learning practitioner, I know I need to read broadly and be clear on the theories, approaches and methodologies that I can draw on in my daily practice. Millwood’s Learning Theories ‘HoTEL’ (2013) chart (see figure ii above) is an excellent starting point for me to return to and re-familiarise my self in a range of education and learning theories, approaches and methods. It is holistically presented, and comprehensive in detail, easily enabling my further research into theories or approaches as a constantly developing education and learning facilitator.
Figure IV Millwood’s Learning Theories ‘HoTEL’ (2013)
By proactively researching and experimenting within my education and learning practice over time, I have been able to develop my content, information knowledge and skill gained across a wide range of experience in different learning theories and approaches. I accept that my practice is dynamic and in need of constantly revisiting, re-appriasing, and developing.
As outlined in Layer 7: My approach to educational practice I am fundamentally predisposed to a andragogical approach to education and learning practice. However, such an approach does not exclude instances where I consider a pedagogical approach to be more appropriate in order to optimise the effective student learning experience of a particular learner or learners at that time.
Figure V – Pedagogy vs Andragogy Chart (2015)
In figure v above both of these approaches are laid out in a transparent manner, allowing my self as an education and learning practitioner to consciously choose the most appropriate approach for the specific learning experience. As I have yet to find one theory or approach that that is optimal in every contemporary adult learning practice context, I draw on multiple theories, approaches and methods that I consider to be appropriate in the particular learning context.
Reflective and Reflexive practice
Following my completion of each of the respective professional development courses I had undertaken, I received the following automated email from MaxKnowledge (2016).
Dear David, Training is ineffective unless the desired behavior, knowledge and skills are transferred to the workplace. Applying what you’ve learned from your training will help you maximize your performance results. Please take a moment to reflect on what you’ve learned and how you intend to apply what you’ve learned in your workplace environment.Yours in learning, MaxKnowledge Support
This email reminded me as a practitioner, that there is little point in being proactive in professional development research or learning, unless we take the process one step further and reflect upon what we have learnt, considering the possible application to our particular context; and then step two, to then decide for change, and implement that change into our practice. The first step is referred to as reflective practice. The second step – that of implementation – is referred to as reflexive practice.
Figure VI – Reflective Practices Summary (Anderson et al 2015)
Lawrence-Wilkes and Chapman (2015) notes the importance of reflective practice for practitioners in their development “by enabling insight and assisting learning for new understanding, knowledge and action” (see figure iv above). There is much written of the benefits of reflective practice, along with many models for practitioners to engage in Reflective Practice.
Gibb’s (1988) model is perhaps one of the best known, cited in numerous texts and websites globally (see above). It is a relatively straight forward model for aspiring reflective practitioners to guide themselves through the six (6) step process by asking six (6) questions:
Description – what happened?
Feelings – what were you thinking and feeling?
Evaluations – what was good and bad about the experience?
Analysis – what sense can you make of the the situation?
Conclusion – what else could you have done?
If it arose again, what would you do?
Figure VII – Reflective Practices Summary (Anderson et al 2015)
However, perhaps a more applicable model for education and learning practitioners is that of Brookfield (1995). Brookfield’s model asserts that as an education and learning practitioner and reflective practitioner, one needs to broadly and thoroughly gather data from a number of sources in order to gain a truly balanced perspective of the practice being studied. Brookfield outlines four (4) ways a practitioner can gain perspective regarding their practice (see figure v above) – through what he refers to as four (4) lenses:
a lens of their own eyes;
a lens of their learner’s eyes;
a lens of one of their peers – referred to as a critical friend – and;
a lens of their field or discipline – through literature
I will note that in my diverse education and learning practice, I have applied Brookfield’s approach over many years. I have found one of the most significant lenses to be that of number three (3), critical friend; interacting with peers who are engaged and proactive in their development of their education and learning practice. Irrespective of such interaction being informally in faculty staffrooms, and formally as an organised de-briefing session, I trust such engagement has provided me opportunities to enhance my “professional practice and my self-development by enabling insight and assisting learning for new understanding, knowledge and action” (Lawrence-Wilkes and Chapman 2015). I am grateful to those fellow practitioners and for those opportunities over the course of my professional life.
Figure VIII – Reflective Practices Summary (Anderson et al 2015)
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Reflexive Practice. Reflexive Practice is the process of developing my practice based on my gathering of, and analysis of the data from my research into my practice (ie: from my reflective practice). Haseman (2015) proposes that for reflective practice to be of a robust and valid form, the reflective practice must necessarily include the two steps of reflective and reflexive practice. Forensic Reflective Practice demands that the practice is (see figure vi above):
Reflexive , as well as Reflective Practice;
Include all three dimensions of practice in the research: the field, the site of the practice, and the actual practitioner them self (inclusive of their experience, background, paradigms, values, beliefs and bias), and;
that the practice of reflection and reflexive practice is not by accident. It is a deliberate practice that is scheduled regularly and routinely into one’s practice.
Given my approach to practice [seeLayer 5: My approach to all forms of practice], I am of the belief that there is little point in being proactive in professional practice, without engaging in professional development research or learning. Further, having engaged in professional development research or learning, I need to take the process one step further and reflect upon what I have learnt, consider the possible application to the particular context I am engaged in; and to then decide for change, and to implement that change into my practice. Yes, being proactive in professional practice, means engaging in professional development research – that of reflective and reflexive practice.
I trust this blog has outlined an example of my engaging in professional development research practicewith regard to my education and learning practice.I hope to have illuminated my experience as both a education and learning practitioner, and a research practitioner over the past six (6) weeks. As a result of this exercise, I am reminded of the value of professional practice, and the need to maintain currency of that practice, irrespective of how much experience one has. I am reminded that to be able to conduct one self at a professional level, there are certain disciplines that I need to maintain. Ongoing development of my education and learning practice is one; and ongoing research practice is another. Life is dynamic, and therefore I accept that as a professional practitioner I also need to be dynamic – proactive and engaged in the development of all forms of my practice. Listed below are some of the resources that I have embraced over the course of this experience. Perhaps others may similarly find these to be useful in their journeys of ongoing development of their education and learning practice; and their ongoing research practice. Irrespective of the field or discipline they may practice within, I wish fellow practitioners well in their journeys.