Category Archives: Teaching

Slow Teaching: Jamie Thom’s Philosophy

Slow TeachingI found educationalist Jamie Thom on Twitter a few weeks ago.  I was actually searching for helpful hints about how to revise for exams – I can’t remember the exact route by which I found Jamie, but I immediately recognised this as a book I had to read:-

Thom, Jamie, Slow Teaching: on Finding Calm, Clarity and Impact in the Classroom (2018)

It’s £15 on Amazon, where you can “look inside” the book, and sure enough, there’s a chapter on revision. But the whole book is worth a look.  It’s written from the stance of secondary education, whereas I’m working in higher education, but good pedagogy is good pedagogy, and there is much to benefit from for anyone involved in teaching.  The author had a fairly rapid rise into school management, experienced burnout, and is now a classroom teacher in the North of England.  Novice teachers will find plenty of advice about how to avoid overdoing things and setting impossible targets for oneself!

Website: Slow Teaching

Twitter: @TeachGratitude1

UPDATE: I wrote a mini-review for Times Higher Education, and it appeared in the issue for 16 May 2019.  You can read it here:  you don’t have to be a subscriber to access this link, but you may need to register for your three free articles a week.

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Student Reactions to Assessments – and how to Respond

40 percent

Here’s a blogpost I spotted on Twitter, shared by educationalist Phil Race.  It’s by Suzanne Fergus, who is Associate Professor of Learning and Teaching @UniofHerts. National Teaching Fellow, SFHEA.

It offers many practical suggestions as to how a lecturer might effectively, sympathetically – and constructively – respond to a student’s disappointment about an assessment grade that they feel does not reflect their efforts.  Well-worth reading!

“I am not happy with my mark” – Tough! 

by Suzanne Fergus

Knowledge Exchange: a Busy Week

“Join us on the afternoon of Tuesday the 20th of November to share best practice in teaching and training with other information professionals. You’ll hear from a range of speakers about their experiences and innovations in teaching, training, and delivering information skills in academic libraries, with the opportunity to ask questions and participate in discussion. Refreshments will be provided.”

glasgow
Glasgow University Library (image from Copac website)

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW – SCOTTISH LIBRARIANS

This week, I attended a TeachMeet at the University of Glasgow, organised by ARLGS (Academic and Research Libraries Group Scotland).  One of eight speakers, I spoke about the very successful two-part seminar that I and a teaching colleague ran for third year B.Ed students last session, contrasting it with a slightly less successful Mendeley installation session a couple of weeks ago!  (The Mendeley demo went fine – it was installing it onto a myriad of different devices and operating systems, during a seminar in a tiered lecture theatre, that was the problem …!)

There were plenty of new and innovative ideas at the teachmeet – ways to teach students about referencing, literature reviews and similar topics – an afternoon well-spent.  I must remember to go through my notes, as I always remember more if I revisit what I’ve written.

SORBONNE, PARIS – MUSICOLOGY RESEARCH

I returned to my desk to find an invitation to speak at a seminar at the Sorbonne in Paris next May, this time about one of my research interests – I shall have to go back to my notes and see what more I can add to the information that appeared in my thesis and subsequent book!

ICELAND UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS LIBRARIANS

And then this morning, it was my turn to exchange knowledge with visiting librarians from Iceland University of the Arts – as always we found much in common, although it was also interesting to spot the differences in provision, too.

Suddenly, here we are at the end of the week again.  It has been a busy one!

Librarians: Part of your Learning and Teaching Strategy

We’re having a three-day Learning and Teaching Conference here at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this week.  Today, Information Services department gave some quick updates.  Here was my invitation to teaching colleagues to make the most of the skills that we Performing Arts Librarians can share with students at appropriate points in their courses.  I am quite keen on the Biteable format – it’s quick and snappy, and it seemed to go down quite well!

Librarians as a Learning and Teaching Resource

3 Hats: Librarian, Musicologist, Teacher

Happiness is hats
The Three Hats!

A query in the cafe-bar yesterday concerned how to write a research proposal.  I gave a few quick hints and promised to investigate whether we had anything in the library that might help with this task.

On Thursdays, I’m a researcher in the morning and a librarian in the afternoon.  It wasn’t until I got back to my library desk that I started to think about the query properly.  We do a lot of practice-based research at the Conservatoire, whilst my own PhD (now some years ago) was plain musicology, so I wanted to ensure that my advice suited the enquirer.  Then I remembered – when had I last written a research proposal?  Well, I’d done my successful application for an AHRC Networking Grant, of course – but I had also written a research proposal for my PG Cert project.  To my delight, when I retrieved the appropriate documentation for the latter, I discovered I had used tracking on my Word document to keep myself right at every point of the process.  There were my headings, and margin comments amplified what I should be doing under each one.

Then I turned back to the library catalogue, and tried a couple of searches, one of books and e-books, and the other using our discovery-layer, Catalogue Plus. This was looking promising.  Finally, I put all my advice into a blogpost on the library blog, Whittaker Live. If I was giving a serious bit of guidance, I thought, then I might as well make it available to anyone else with the same question!  I had actually worn all three of my “hats” whilst answering this query – librarian, musicologist and teacher.  Some HE establishments have the role of “tutor librarian”.  That’s not my title, but it’s one of the areas in which I feel most effective.  That, and my research existence!

Writing a Research Proposal (blogpost on Whittaker Live)

Retrospective? Introspective? Prospective?

elderly-woman-311971_1280As a rule, I tend to think I’m too old to wax all introspective about my career trajectory.  So, why the sudden bout of introspection?  I’m about to celebrate my sixtieth birthday.  I don’t know how most people feel about the event, but for me, it leaves me questioning what I’ve done with my life, and whether I’ve fulfilled the potential I might once have been thought to have had.

I’ve written often enough about how I chose music librarianship before completing my first attempt at a PhD (a big mistake!  It never got completed).  I’ve been a music librarian for 33 years, but 19 years into the long haul, I registered for another doctorate.

The maths didn’t really stack up.  First time round, it was full-time research, then a diversion via a library graduate traineeship, followed by a postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship – with a Distinction in the Diploma, but no PhD.  Second time round, I was working full-time whilst raising a family, but I did complete the part-time PhD in five years, and I’ve since attained a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education, along with a couple of Fellowships.

The student who was expected to get a PhD in some aspect of mediaeval English music at the age of 24, never did.  To be honest, I had spent a summer teaching English at a language summer school immediately after getting my first degree, and after that experience, I couldn’t imagine myself standing in front of a lecture theatre, leading a seminar or taking a tutorial.  (Teaching English to a lively mixed assortment of teenagers and adults who were combining a foreign holiday with language classes, bore no resemblance to any kind of learning experience that I myself had ever had!)  And during my mediaeval scholarship years, I never wrote an article, gave a paper or had the chance to try any kind of academic teaching.  I do regret that these opportunities never arose.  On the positive side, I became the first music postgrad to collaborate with the Computer Science department in terms of a statistical analysis of some plainsong repertoire.  That felt quite good.  And I did a one-week course in Basic – an early programming language.  That was quite fun, too.

Academic librarianship seemed a good way to continue a career that was at least related to subject specialism.  But it didn’t take long for me to realise that someone who once might have completed a PhD, was actually just someone without one.  It didn’t compare with those of my peers who had actually gone and got one, and no-one was remotely interested in the polyphonic cantus firmus research that never got completed!  (Indeed, my first music librarianship post was in a public library, where I suspect I might not have got the job if anyone had asked just what my later university years had actually been devoted to.)

‘What does a librarian want with a PhD?’, someone once asked in a meeting.  I wasn’t at that meeting – I was told this years later, after I’d successfully completed my second attempt at the age of 51.  I just wanted to do research again, and most of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a PhD!  The subject seemed relevant to the institution where I work, and I could achieve most of my research without leaving Scotland. That was important, given the other pressures on my time.

Second time round, I’ve published a book and a number of articles (not to mention the social media and blogging); I’ve given papers on my subject specialism, I’ve talked about various aspects of the research process – and I’ve done no end of sessions about online-searching and bibliographic software!  The PGCert was the final validation for the timid music graduate who couldn’t see herself teaching in any kind of group situation.  Stand up in front of a group?  Well, yes – no problem!

Right now, I’m combining librarianship with a second postdoctoral research secondment, so I’ve moved in the right direction.  I successfully applied for a research grant – my first attempt.  I’m achieving quite a bit.  But a little voice inside me still nags at me.  Could I have achieved more?   I stayed in the same library job.  A colleague who didn’t stay long, said that you weren’t successful if you didn’t keep moving onwards and upwards.  Does that mean I failed, spectacularly and resoundingly?  Juggling working parenthood and other responsibilities, staying put seemed both pragmatic for myself, and fair to the family.  Someone else without those responsibilities really has no idea of the way one is tugged in all directions as a working mother.

I haven’t make it to a full academic position.   Does that count as failure?  I’ve got three music degrees, but the only performance I do is as a church organist.  That might be seen as failure, too.  Am  I even entitled to aspire to achieve greater things?  Does anyone expect me to?

A stupid, trivial occurrence yesterday was the final straw.  I went to see about getting a concessionary bus-pass, and that meant getting a photo.  The photo-booth didn’t seem to be working, and the enquiry desk man was derisive.  “Do you want me to come and look at it for you?  Sorry, folks, I’ll be back in five minutes. THIS LADY can’t work the photo-booth.”  So that’s it, is it? A wee, late-middle-aged lady who can’t even take her own photo, fit only to be humiliated in front of a queue of people?  Is that who people see?

Deflated, I took a little perverse satisfaction in the fact that THAT YOUNGER MAN couldn’t work the spanking-new, just-installed booth either.  (Truth to tell, I should have looked round the back to see if it was even turned on, but by this stage I was just a little irritated!)   I did manage to work the second photo-booth (I’m good at second-time-around opportunities, after all!).  Indeed, the machine refused to take payment – how good is that?

My concessionary bus-pass might even lure me off the trains and onto the buses for future research trips – I won’t be going on pensioners’ mystery trips “Doon the Watter” for a good while yet.  Bingo on the way to Blackpool? Not on your life!  I’d sooner spend a summer picking strawberries!

Meanwhile, folks, please don’t write older colleagues off as finished just because we’re sixty.  You might be surprised by what we achieve in the years that the government has determined will still be our mature working lives.

 

 

Writing, writing …

temporal-distance-917364_640I’m playing the waiting game – I have had a veritable splurge of writing, and now I have to wait to see if anything is accepted.  I sandwiched two Georgian-era musicology pieces with a couple of pedagogical ones about teaching online research skills – this is what happens when a music librarian does a musicology PhD then a postgraduate certificate in higher arts education!

  • Earlier this Spring, I collaborated on an article about women and music in the Napoleonic era.  We’re waiting to hear …
  • More recently, I wrote up and submitted my PGCert project as a rather long article.  Again, I’m waiting for feedback.
  • I immediately followed that up with a shorter, more informal article about a recent teaching session I organised for our B.Ed students.  To date, this latter one has been accepted, so it should appear later this year.
  • And lastly, I wrote and submitted a book review over the weekend.

More news in due course ….