My session with the research students went well last night. There were six students, a few apologies, and the course leader was present.
I had been asked to cover research skills using electronic databases, and also to talk about bibliographic software. My one-hour lesson-plan accomodated all this, but in retrospect, it was all rather tightly packed in. The feedback afterwards was practically unanimous in this regard; and it has been suggested to me today that it would have been good to have had a similar session, or two similar sessions, at the start of the academic year in September. I’m inclined to think that we could have occupied two, two-hour sessions, perhaps a week or two apart.
My major change to the session, which I’ve now given several times, was in endeavouring to embrace constructive alignment theory, and to have the students much more involved. I was delighted how successful it was, to divide the students in pairs, getting them to ask each other three simple questions and then to report back to the group (a) what their partner found to be the most useful e-resource; (b) how their bibliography was progressing; and (c) whether there were any aspects of digital resources that they found challenging. Discussion was frank and animated, and I partnered with the course leader to talk about similar questions meanwhile.
I took notes as the students shared each others’ answers; some were quite surprising to me. The students make much use of the University of St Andrews’ e-resources (being far more numerous and interdisciplinary than we, a small institution, can afford); they also make quite a bit of use of Google Scholar. Naxos and JSTOR featured, not surprisingly, and also a couple of unique resources suiting the researchers’ own subjects – one from the Piobaireachd (Pibroch) Society, and the Chinese National Library. We don’t have a large enough research cohort to expect every e-resource on offer to be mentioned; it obviously depends on postgraduates’ research subjects as to what they will find useful.
More students had encountered Zotero, but were interested in what Mendeley could do; and the less technically-adept students were content with their Word document bibliographies, but again, hopefully emboldened to experiment with bibliographic software once they’d heard me and their peers talking encouragingly about their advantages.
The students’ course leader talked a little about Prezi as an alternative to PowerPoint, and one of the students engaged in dialogue with me about Scrivener as a writing tool for constructing and envisaging large pieces of written work.
Surprisingly, out of six postgraduate students, two had learned the hard way about the urgency of backing up documents and preferably keeping a copy on a USB stick, or using some kind of cloud storage. That’s 33%, which I found quite a worrying percentage!
FEEDBACK FROM THE RESEARCH AND BIBLIOGRAPHIC SKILLS SEMINAR
Peer-review from the course leader: “Many thanks for a lively and helpful session last night, I am interested to view the feedback
I was keen to get feedback from the students themselves, and decided that a simple 3-question survey would give the best chance of everyone completing it on the spot.
overall structure very clear;
hearing what my colleagues use to create their biblios and find articles;
lots of experiences about bibliography software. I haven’t used any before, but it sounds very convenient and easy to produce the thesis later;
hearing about Zotero and Mendeley;
the useful information about software of bibliography;
diversity of resources.
The timing – prefer stretch over 2 or 3 hours;
the session felt slightly rushed, but I would rather see a longer session than less content;
that it was so short;
too brief focus on each element!
Would like more of:-
Bibliographical information (Zotero, etc);
… this session! It was hugely helpful;
practical sessions or more longer session for experiencing softwares together;
details of bibliography (the way of how to use it).
The blog homepage is the reflective journal itself. Additional pages accommodate my e-portfolio and other relevant information about the various aspects of my professional practice, thus:-
Feedback – I have few opportunities for requesting feedback, but it is important to me that learner’s comments are gathered together to inform my future practice.
Music Librarian – ‘user education’ includes introducing readers to the library catalogue and relevant e-resources as well as encouraging good research and bibliographic skills appropriate to the individual reader’s context and level of study.
Musicologist – I give occasional lectures and seminars both within and without the Conservatoire in my capacity as a postdoctoral researcher.
Organist/Choir Trainer – the practical, artistic aspect of my profile.
PDP – my Professional Development Plan as a Teaching Artist
Personal CV – my scholarly writing and presenting are all part of my professional profile. (Besides keeping my CV up to date with recent papers and presentations, I also maintain an Academia.edu presence; and upload what I can to Research Gate, which is a good discussion forum.)
Resources – an almost inevitable outcome of my librarian/musicologist existence (not to mention a key focus of my present postdoctoral research) is that I have honed my bibliographic skills to a high level. The Resources page details my professional reading for the duration of the Teaching Artist course, with occasional annotations. Annotated bibliography is an art in itself; for day-to-day purposes, I only annotate occasional entries .
One of my main objectives in undertaking the Teaching Artist short course was to equip myself with more knowledge and understanding of good contemporary pedagogy. Starting this blog was part of our digital ‘orientation’, both to facilitate our own reflection and to enable us to share comments with our course-leaders and fellow creative artists. This latter activity thus constitutes peer-review, offering each of us the opportunity to make constructive observations about our colleagues’ practice.
As an experienced blogger, reflecting upon various aspects of my work is relatively second-nature to me, but the present subject matter – being a teaching artist and practitioner – was completely new. The 29 posts that I have made include the course assignments (lesson plan, theoretical account, contextual study, theoretical appraisal of my teaching and learning methods, and self-assessment of online discussion), and a few lighter postings when multi-tasking my daily existence threatened to get on top of me; but there are still a good number of postings about my course studies.
In general, the blog represents a series of reflections on recommended course readings; and on my own practice. I have sought to reflect upon ways in which the theoretical readings can be applied to my professional teaching practice. (There was a period of adjustment as I realised that my usual third-person, objective research mode of writing needed to be adapted to suit first-person reflection in this new ‘social sciences’ discipline.) I have had opportunity to reflect before, during and after teaching or presenting experiences, and hope to continue in this practice in the months to come, in order to build upon positive and lessen negative outcomes in the future.
Of all the readings that I have done, constructive alignment theory resonated the most with me, and I read various recommended articles by John Biggs before I wrote my blogpost about it on 2 April 2014:-
I had already read Salman Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse (2012) before attending the Teaching Artist course, so I have some familiarity with the concept of ‘flipping the classroom’. Even if Khan’s practice is primarily in the digital world, the idea that students make their own meaning in their studies by being more practically involved in them, is just as much applicable to face-to-face teaching. Many of my readings, but most particularly those by Biggs, made me begin to realise that I needed to make my teaching much more interactive, and my lesson-plan for a session on postgraduate research and bibliographic skills has been designed to take this into account. Once I had shared the lesson plan in our collaborative space, Steph gave me helpful feedback, reassuring me that I was thinking along the right lines:-
“Hi Karen, I like how precise and to the point your lesson plan is. Everything is described in a clear fashion that makes it easy to understand each activity. Do you find that 60 minutes is a suitable amount of time to teach the students what they need to know? The learning outcomes here would make this a very useful session to include at the beginning of a Higher education course, when research and bibliographic skills are expected to be used on a regular basis. I certainly felt/feel intimidated and unsure about the correct way to document references and resources, so it would have helped me!”
“It certainly sounds that you have quite a challenge on your hands delivering the amount required into the time you are given, and I think you utilise you materials and resources very well by exercises such as the emails beforehand and follow-up that you offer. Don’t worry about being a pain …”
Another problem that my reflections continually came back to, was the lack of context and continuity in the kind of teaching that I’m required to do. Again, with the abovementioned lesson-plan, I’ve tried to create context by contacting students in advance of the session (see the invitation HERE), and also sought instant feedback at the end of the session. The lesson took place today (19 May 2014), and I intend to follow up with an email to all students and their course-leader a couple of days later, once I’ve transcribed and summarised the feedback forms.
Reading about deep, surface and tactical learning was informative, and reinforced my long-held belief that students do not always see the relevance of information skills to their courses in a conservatoire. If learning how to access a particular database or format a bibliography are not directly relevant to, for example, learning the harpsichord, and moreover are not even assessed, then they are reluctant to engage fully – even tactical learning will not take place. I need to continue to work on ways of helping students see the connection between information literacy and academic success, and the major benefits for their future careers whenever information is needed for a programme note or other piece of written work, whether creative or perhaps linked to a business proposal.
Indeed, I can draw certain parallels between my information skills teaching and the sessions I have led on the Scottish music BA course. When I’m talking about historical Scottish song collections, my subject matter is at least pertinent to the degree course. However, my research was effectively a combination of musicology and cultural history, whilst student on the Scottish music course are primarily motivated by performing, composing and improvising it. My material is informative, and there certainly is the expectation that these students will have a thorough grounding in the history of their subject, but I have to accept that 18th – 19th century Scottish musical and cultural history may not have as much appeal as a series of gigs or a recording session. Again, I must continue to seek ‘hooks’ to draw them into my historical world, and find ways of demonstrating the relevance of the subject that I am teaching. This is definitely an area that I would like to continue to read and reflect upon, and I should like this to evolve into a more scholarly article in due course.
THE TASK ASSIGNED:-
“Having kept a journal for the duration of the course, you are required to summarise your key learning points from the course and post your summary to your ePortfolio. In your summary, highlight what/who has informed your learning and identify any changes you have started to make to your teaching practice. Where changes have been implemented, summarise the impact this is having on your students’ learning experience. Again, in your summary make reference to literature and dialogue with colleagues, peers and your students that are informing your learning and prfessional development . In your summary identify key areas, issues or opportunities you wish to develop following the course.
You should make regular entries into your Online Journal from 5 March to 5 May 2014. Your journal summary should be completed and uploaded to your e-Portfolio by 19 May 2014.”
The Plan is written, and similarly the Theoretical and Contextual Accounts.
Peer review took place, not only on this blog, but also in discussion with the research lecturer coordinating the session. The lesson plan was approved, and it was agreed that I’d mention the session to my colleague, to see if there were specifically drama resources that he’d like to talk about on a future occasion.
To create context, an invitation was sent to all research students, suggesting that they prepare for the session by looking at some of the electronic resources available through the library. Key resources were identified in the invitation.
The invitation itself was created using SCRAN, one of our e-resources. Recent training by a SCRAN education officer had alerted me to the facility to produce posters, invitations and other documents using images from their database, so it seemed fitting to use it!
After watching Howard Gardner’s video clip about multiple intelligences, I decided to do the quiz to find out about my own learning styles. Actually, it was both accurate and predictable. My principle learning style was linguistic, followed by musical and then interpersonal – the typical scholarly type, with a strong dose of music in there too! However, it was certainly interesting to read about other learning styles and intelligences. In the context of the kinds of teaching that I do, I am perhaps a little constrained in the scope of how I could address differing learning styles; school-teachers and teachers of undergraduates might have more opportunities to take these ideas into consideration. Additionally, whilst I fully embrace the aspiration to attempt to vary learning activities so that students with differing intelligences are not disadvantaged, that is easier in the context of broader module or unit design, than within one single computer-based seminar.
If I’m teaching postgraduates research and bibliographic skills, then it is possibly quite likely (although not inevitable) that they too will favour the linguistic approach to learning. Furthermore, anyone undertaking practice-based music research is probably quite likely to have musical intelligences, too. I find it more important that I should adopt the cognitive, constructivist approach to teaching, ensuring that students get hands-on experience of research and bibliographical resources, and the opportunity to learn from one another by interaction during and hopefully after the class. (My reflections on reading about constructive alignment can be found on my blogpost, Constructive Alignment – a logical teaching theory, 2 April 2014. I found this theory made good sense to me.)
The question of the formal lecture has occasioned reflective blogposts on several occasions during my Teaching Artist studies. If I am at a conference, then formal lectures are one of the main activities. (See my reflective journal posting, ‘The RMA Presentation‘, 17 March 2014). There may be other opportunities for more interactive work, but in a conference lecture presentation, I am not required to ‘teach’ the delegates as I would a class of undergraduates. There will have been no requirement for them to prepare beforehand, nor to provide any form of submission for assessment afterwards.
However, during the course of my regular employment, the situation is rather different. I now realise that some of the impediments to a successful outcome are entirely outwith my control; a one-off lecturing opportunity inevitably lacks much of the context that a series of classes will inherently have. (See my reflections on Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction, 4 April 2014, in which I identify ‘events’ that I can, or cannot influence.)
Furthermore, I cannot set assessed assignments; and lastly, drawing upon my understanding of deep, surface and strategic learning, (Lublin, n.d.) it is clear that students will pay less attention to a skill that they perceive as periferal. Students at a conservatoire are motivated to act, produce, dance, sing, play, improvise, compose, conduct or analyse, but undergraduates are unlikely to regards database use as high priority, unless their course leaders encourage it. (One would imagine that research students would be more aware of the important of research and bibliographic skills.)
Nonetheless, the more opportunity I have to contextualise my ‘lecture’ – and indeed to query whether it has to be a lecture, or whether there might be opportunities to ‘flip the classroom’ and make the session a more interactive seminar – the better for all concerned. (Khan, 2012) If I can avoid formal lectures and strive to get students more actively involved, then this will be all to the good. I can also email class groups in advance, or have their course leader contact them, to tell them what I’ll be talking about, and perhaps suggest some familiarisation action they might do beforehand. And I can also send follow-up emails urging students to let me know if they’d like to know more about anything we’ve discussed. Such ‘framing’ is a reasonable substitute for the kind of context inherent in a longer series of classes. Contemplating the kind of teaching I’ve done recently or am about to do, it is helpful to draw upon Bloom’s Taxonomy. I blogged about this in my post, More Reading – Bloom’s Taxonomy, 4 April 2014, observing that in something as apparently dry as research or bibliographical skills training, engaging the students’ affective domain first (ie, feelings, emotions and behaviour), might be the best way to bring them to a point of realising that there are advantages in adopting a systematic, and preferably digital approach.
The Teaching Artist course has given me much food for thought, and it is clear to me that, whilst my work with groups of students is certainly teaching (albeit more akin to study skills or academic knowledge than practical, creative artistry), my work with my church choir is rehearsing, or musical direction, but it is is not teaching in the classroom sense. (I began to reflect on being a reflective teacher in my own situation, vis-a-vis being a choral trainer, on 17th March in my reflective journal: Time for Some Reading.)
If I want singers to learn a choral piece, this is hardly the same as learning an intellectual concept or even a database-searching technique. Working with a group of singers with varying abilities at sight-reading and indeed, music-reading, means that repetition and a degree of learning by rote is wholly appropriate and almost unavoidable.
Khan, S. (2012). The one world schoolhouse : education reimagined (London : Hodder & Stoughton, 2012
After a hectic few weeks, I need to update my CV with recent papers and presentations. I maintain an Academia.edu presence; and since Research Gate is a good discussion forum, I upload what I can there, too. I want my research profile to be as good as it can be. I work full-time; while the boys were small, I didn’t do much scholarly writing or presenting. Since doing the PhD part-time in my spare time, I’m making up for lost time. None of this is directly related to my studies for the Teaching Artist course, but it is all part of the package that is me, so I wanted somehow to weave it into this e-portfolio. For that reason, I’ve given my CV its own page on this blog.
March 2014. ‘Scottish, Scotch and Caledonian: the many shades of Scottish Music’ – RMA Scottish Chapter, Colloquium, Glasgow.
April 2014. ‘Learning to Teach, and Teaching to Learn: is there a Place for Pedagogical Theory in Teaching Bibliographic and Research Skills?’ – IAML(UK & Irl)* Annual Study Weekend, Cambridge.
April 2014. Quick-Fire Session: ‘Effective Use of Social Media’ (ibid)
April 2014. ‘Scottish Airs in London Dress’ – Musica Scotica, Aberdeen.
And in July I’m giving a paper at the ‘big’ international IAML Conference in Antwerp – not my first paper at an international conference, but Antwerp feels more ‘abroad’ than Dublin, so it’ll be exciting all the same: ‘From Historical Collections to Metadata: a Case-Study in Scottish Musical Inheritance’
What else will I add to the CV? I’ve been given one of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland places to attend the 13th ELIA Biennial Conference (entitled, ‘Location Aesthetics’) from 13-15 November this year – an event which I’m eagerly anticipating, because I’ve thought quite a lot about Scottishness, Scottish places and origins and culture, in connection with my own research.
There are various other opportunities I’ve come across which would be useful in a research or a self-development context, and I recently submitted an abstract for another conference – about Scottishness in music – but I wouldn’t share these until, or unless, there’s a chance that they might actually happen.
I’ve published nothing yet this year. I have two encyclopedia articles pending publication, and I’ve submitted a substantial paper to a professional journal, but it really is time I started writing something else. I haven’t made things easy for myself by trying to be as professionally active a musicologist and librarian, as if I were two people doing these activities full-time!
We’ve all posted our lesson plans, our theoretical account, and our context setting study. We’ve invited one another to comment on these and suggest improvements, and now we have to complete a self-assessment of our online discussion. I completed the form and saved it as a pdf, and there’s a link to it above. I tried to complete it honestly – I don’t think my contributions were brilliant, though I endeavoured to be lucid and constructive.
However, I’d like to think that I also added extra value with the occasional links that I shared with my classmates. As a librarian, I’m very proactive in highlighting useful links and helpful e-resources with our teaching and learning community. I’ve tried to demonstrate that in the collaborative space too, because I feel that this to some extent compensates for what I lack in traditional teaching experience. Sharing and facilitating the exploitation of information is what I do naturally.
Janet Robertson, one of my classmates on the Teaching Artist course, posted to the class collaborative space on 24 April after a session on teaching styles led by Kenny McGlashan. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend that session – I was flying back from Luton at the time! However, reading through the comments, I realise there is quite a bit of discussion about deep and surface learning, and also about how we know our students have learned anything. The day after Janet’s post, course leader Andrew Comrie posted a comment about surface and deep learning.
I don’t want to quote his words verbatim without permission, even with attribution, but I’d like to make a note of his main points so that I can refer back to them. So here they are:-
“Create opportunities for learners to demonstrate … question …. and set [further] goals, eg by
“Reflective Journals” [we can use these to assess learning and guide students further]
“Set formative tasks in future lessons” [giving students a chance to show what they’ve learned] …. and “allow time to give formative feedback for learning” …
Getting to know about our students’ learning styles and preferences helps us cater for their various preferences. Again, we need to allow time to get feedback from students, to inform us of this.
People do learn at different paces – some during the class, but others “continue to process after class and use opportunities to discuss aspects of lessons with their peers and others to make sense of what is happening.” So …
If we can engineer opportunities for this post-class discussion to take place, it benefits all.
I’ve been mulling over how I’m going to construct my “digital artefact” to demonstrate my practice. This blog will be the main vehicle, but if I can, I hope to send a small survey to my postgrad researchers after the class I’m going to be leading in a couple of weeks’ time. It would be great if I could get some feedback and share it here.
I'm a musicologist disguised as a librarian. I've been writing this blog as part of my PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Arts Education, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.