CRITICAL APPRAISAL: MY TEACHING AND LEARNING METHODS

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.

Kenny MacGlashan's powerpoint on Learning Styles
Kenny MacGlashan’s powerpoint on Learning Styles, RCS, April 2014

If I’m teaching postgraduates research and bibliographic skills, then it is possibly quite likely (although not inevitable) that they too will favour the lingImageuistic 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.

I have reflected at length about teaching in the library context, in my blogpost, Contexts for Learning, and Positive Changes, 5 April 2014.

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.

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Khan, S. (2012). The one world schoolhouse : education reimagined  (London : Hodder & Stoughton, 2012

An Evening of Quiet Reflection and Consolidation

Bass Culture at Musica ScoticaQueen's College Camb

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!

 

Self-Assessment of my Online Discussion

Online Discussion Assessment Karen McAulay (pdf file)

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.

Evidence that Learners Have Learned

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:-

  1. “Create opportunities for learners to demonstrate … question …. and set [further] goals, eg by
  2. “Reflective Journals” [we can use these to assess learning and guide students further]
  3. “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” …
  4. 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.
  5. 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 …
  6. 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.

Reflecting on my Teaching Practice as an Academic Librarian

Much of my ‘teaching’ is not what you’d call teaching – but I author many library guides on different aspects of our service provision,  to provide information and instruction, ie, not only what we offer, but also how to use and get the most benefit out of those resources.  And upon reflection, I decided that this was indeed part of my teaching ‘practice’.  Reflection’s a good way of owning and identifying what you do as part of your professional practice, and in a sense, validating your decisions for what you do.  I don’t just “happen” to write these guides – they’re written intentionally and for specific purposes.

If you’re a student or teacher at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, you’ll be able to log into Moodle and Mahara, and see all the guides we offer – I authored all the music and most of the general ones.  Here.

If you’re an external reader, you won’t be able to see my guides, but you’ll be able to access the lists of all our electronic resources via the Library and IT webpages. Here.

We’re very keen to get our e-resources exploited as much as possible, so that our readers get maximum benefit out of them, and that way we’ll get good value for our subscriptions. This is why I’m producing little bite-sized chunks of training that I shall share first with my colleagues, and then ultimately with our readers.  If I can find podcasts – eg YouTube clips – that can be repurposed, then I’ll share them.  Otherwise, I’ll be devising my own using an app like Jing. (It’s a screen-capture technology with the option of recording your own voice narrative to describe what you’re doing. TechSmith describes Jing as, “a free and simple way to start sharing images and short videos of your computer screen. Whether for work, home, or play, Jing gives you the ability to add basic visual elements to your captures and share them fast.”)

I’ve done two of these “Essential Training” e-resource guides so far – if I upload too many at a time, my colleagues might be less keen to look at them!  I have about ten resources on my list, and I began with British Library Sounds, then Classical Music Online.  If you’re part of the Conservatoire community, here’s the Mahara link.  If you’re not a registered Conservatoire IT user, that link won’t work, but I can show you some screen-shots, below.  First, the Library homepage on Mahara, and then a shot of my first two guides:-

ImageImage

The ‘Essential Training’ page won’t necessarily stay in that format once I’ve done all ten guides, but for now, it keeps them together so my library colleagues can dip in and explore resources that they’ve maybe not looked at for a while.

Concurrently with this project, I’m also preparing for my “Research Skills and Bibliiographic Software” seminar with our research students.  That’s “real” teaching, of course – I’ve posted my lesson plan, contextual study and theoretical paper on the homepage of this blog.  Yesterday morning, I conferred with one of our research lecturers to ensure she was happy with what I was proposing to offer in my seminar.  And yesterday afternoon, after a session getting updated on the Scran database by one of their educational officers, I decided to try composing an invitation to our research students, using one of Scran’s “Create” formats.  I’m not sure about the image I’ve chosen, though.  Scran has a lot of historical images, and I found a couple of pictures of early computer technology, including an early computer at the University of Glasgow.  It took me as long as my subway ride home last night, to decide that I didn’t like one of the images, and I didn’t want TWO separate pages of invitation.  This afternoon, I fiddled some more, and came up with a single page that is closer to my intentions:-

  • Date, time, place, and purpose must be clear
  • Students must be asked to look at some e-resources beforehand
  • Students must be asked to bring laptops, ipads, or whatever handheld devices they normally use
  • I was tasked with producing a single-sided pdf, so all this info must fit onto an economically-worded poster!

My second draft, then, looks like this:-

Image

I had another attempt at making a pdf invitation, subsequent to this.  You can view the PDF here:- Research Skills Invite

 

Too Tired to Type?

Today, I’ve admitted to myself I’m overtired, something I very seldom admit to.  I should explain that in the past fortnight I’ve given a paper and two quickfire sessions at the IAML (UK and Ireland) music librarians’ annual study weekend in Cambridge; attended my first IAML Exec meeting at the British Library in London (also fitting in a trip to the Tate, for the RuinLust exhibition); and given a scholarly paper at Musica Scotica in Aberdeen, finishing up with playing at a church dedication service this morning.  Oh, and I’ve spent a few days at work in both my library and research capacities too.  So finally, on Sunday evening, I find I can’t think straight – not a good time to tackle the Teaching Artist backlog of reading.

Karen has met the new Tate Britain

However, I have been reflecting about giving research papers.  In March I gave a talk, with absolutely minimal notes, at an RMA (Royal Musical Society) Colloquium. I was pleased with it, and peer comments were very favourable.  And yet yesterday’s talk, written a full three months earlier and revised this week, was so densely packed with facts and figures that there was no way I’d be able to stand and just “speak” the paper. I was talking about a number of 18th century music books, precise dates (down to the day and the month), and commentary from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – it was very detailed!  I looked up at different areas of the audience, a lot. But I freely admit I “read” much of it.  I’d marked it with highlighter pen, gone over it several times – but I didn’t have time to reduce it to skeletal form, which is the only way I’d have stood a chance of a freer, less constrained delivery.

This Teaching Artist course has made me much more aware of good pedagogical practice.  I suppose it’s fair to point out that giving a research paper at a conference is NOT teaching in the conventionally accepted way.  Sharing research findings is a different activity from preparing to teach a class, involving them, getting feedback and monitoring whether they’ve learned what you set out to teach them.  But I’m now rather perturbed.  Because my delivery of yesterday’s paper, which my research Principal Investigator says was good, and which received favourable comments from several delegates, leaves me feeling flat and disappointed.  There was nothing wrong with the content, or the structure of what I said.  But I was deeply envious of a colleague who just stood, and delivered, seemingly without notes at all.  What is WRONG with me?!

I wondered if perhaps the answer was that the paper would have been better as a publication – something that might yet happen – and maybe I need to produce something more discursive for research presentations.  At the same time, what do scientists do?  They quite possibly have even more detailed, fact-and-figure-heavy findings than my own.  And what about mathematicians, or statisticians?

Context Setting Study (Academic Librarian)

Karen McAulay Teaching Artist: Context Setting Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the educational policies, strategies and initiatives influencing how, where, and what I teach, both within my own work setting, and in the wider higher education environment.

My own teaching practice

My teaching practice differs slightly from that of most teaching artists, in various ways. Whilst I am a practising musician in my own right, and currently seconded for 40% of my working week as a postdoctoral researcher to a music research project, the greater proportion of my working week (60%) is spent as Music and Academic Services Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. My workplace teaching generally takes the form of providing library and information support and training to staff and students at all levels from undergraduates to researchers. Occasionally my teaching is more closely aligned to my own subject specialism, when I am invited to provide a Scottish music-related lecture or information skills training to students on the BA in Scottish Music course. In either circumstance, my teaching is primarily of information skills or musicological context to performing artists, rather than teaching performance skills myself. Continue reading Context Setting Study (Academic Librarian)

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.