More Reading – Bloom’s Taxonomy

Chapman, Alan – bloom’s taxonomy – learning domains

http://www.businessballs.com/bloomstaxonomyoflearningdomains.htm (‘Benjamin Bloom’s and others original concepts as stated in material; Alan Chapman contextual material, review, code, design 2006-2009‘)

The key points to take from this reading are that the ‘taxonomy’ is a classification of learning types.  Near the start of the article, its author explains the classification of learning into three types:- Cognitive, Emotive, and Psychomotor, ie intellectual, feelings, and manual or physical skills:-

Bloom’s Taxonomy model is in three parts, or ‘overlapping domains’. Again, Bloom used rather academic language, but the meanings are simple to understand:

  1.  Cognitive domain (intellectual capability, ie., knowledge, or ‘think’)
  2. Affective domain (feelings, emotions and behaviour, ie., attitude, or ‘feel’)
  3. Psychomotor domain (manual and physical skills, ie., skills, or ‘do’)

We progress through different levels (capabilities) in each domain as we acquire any new learning.  A number of tables follow, along with expansion upon Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy, and some discussion of how his successors developed the theories.

Another, shorter piece of writing on the subject can be found in a document, ‘Writing Learning Objectives at UKCLE‘, which practically addresses which verbs, objects and conditions to use when framing learning objectives.

The key question is, how could I use this analysis in my role as teaching artist?  My initial reaction is that, in my forthcoming lesson on research and bibliographic skills, I almost need to engage the students’ affective domain before anything else.  It’s very difficult making bibliographic skills seem appealing!  By way of a parallel, I remember classes on Dewey Classification at library school.  It was such a tedious topic that our lecturer’s lilting Welsh accent was just about the highlight of each lesson.  We didn’t blame him, or consider him boring – it was just a very hard topic to get enthusiastic about.  And keeping accurate records for your bibliography is a similarly dry subject.

Therefore, If I can get research students to recognise that they need to acquire these skills, then I hope they’ll be more willing to engage with the subject.  So, as I see it, the emotive or affective element is recognising the need to learn.

The cognitive learning element is understanding HOW to keep an accurate bibliography and redeploy it into subsequent writings.

The author of the article admits that Bloom spent less time on the psychomotor learning.  In truth, how do you separate out learning how to create a bibliographic reference, into its cognitive and psychomotor components?  Keeping your grasp on a mountain of paperwork and physically filing it away logically does have a psychomotor element, I suppose, but I’m more concerned with digital applications than with filing papers!

At the moment my lesson plan is in my head.  I may well have an opening powerpoint image of a pile of books and papers, messed up and apparently in no order (plenty of examples upstairs in my house!), so that I can make the point that there’s a fine line between ‘organised chaos’ (a euphemism if ever there was one), and total confusion. I am  hoping to begin the session by encouraging the research students to discuss their own record-keeping and note-taking practices, so I can find out what they already know, and get them to share ‘best practice’ before I wade in with a bunch of good suggestions of my own.

I am intending to email them – and maybe use our Whittaker Live blog and Twitter, before the session with the dual purpose of reminding them to turn up, and getting them to start thinking about the topic before they arrive.

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A Reflection on Boys and Exams

This has nothing to do with my journey as a teaching artist!  I sit, a solitary woman in Testosterone Towers, facing the start of the school Easter holidays.  We have the following:-

  • A final year undergraduate writing a computer science dissertation
  • A would-be architect taking Highers and Advanced Highers, with portfolios, paper and paint everywhere
  • a National exams guinea-pig, in a state of total panic

Each is totally focused on his own worries/challenges, and the sympathy gene is the only thing in my house that has been ironed and put away.  As Mum, all I can do is make soothing noises, which themselves meet with disapproval.   Moreover, have you tried making soothing noises to a snarling tiger?  Or a hamster refusing to leave its nest, come to that?  (I won’t divulge which …)   And then, we have Mr Black-and-White.  Oh, dear me!

Why, you might ask, am I putting further pressure on myself by taking a course at the same time?!  (It’s okay, you can ask me.  It won’t be the first time I’ve been asked!)  It was an opportunity I could not resist, and I could not let it go by.  If a chance comes my way, I grab it with both hands – it’s just my approach to life.  Still, sitting wringing my hands won’t get my own assignments done, so having got that off my chest (not to mention too many metaphors, sadly mixed),  I must get on with some reading.

Constructive Alignment – a logical teaching theory

As long as we were in March, ‘April’ seemed a long way off.  I opened my folder this morning to realise that my theoretical account and lesson plan have to be drafted by 11 April, which is now not far away!  Time for some serious reading – or should I add, some more serious reading, since I did spend yesterday evening reading and then writing about learning contexts.

However, knowing about learning contexts is not enough – I need enough theory to be able to write a theoretical account.  I see my learning has been sneakily ‘constructively aligned’ behind my very back, since I can’t complete the assignment without doing the work, and I have to be actively involved in selecting the reading that will be most useful to me.  No spoonfeeding here, folks!

I began by reading John Biggs’ ‘Aligning Teaching for Constructing Learning’.  I now know about ILOs (Intended Learning Outcomes), the place of Assessment, and choosing TLAs (Teaching and Learning Activities) that will enable the students to learn what I intend them to learn, and demonstrate it so that I can assess they’ve learnt it.  I’ve also learned that it’s good for students to be actively involved in their own learning, rather than passively being fed information, which may not be absorbed and processed as effectively.  A student should not be a parrot, nor should they be able to pass an assessment merely by parroting.  Further reading on this topic filled me in on a few more details, including Biggs’ notion of ‘backwash’ – the tendency of students to learn what they think they’ll be assessed on.  (University College Dublin’s teaching paper, ‘Using Biggs’ Model of Constructive Alignment in Curriculum Design’, cites Biggs (2003) at this point – Teaching for Quality Learning at University.)  This is a clever idea, because I know myself from experience that we do tend to mug up what we think we’ll be tested on.  At one point in my early professional training, I learned and was able to reproduce pretty accurately, an entire lecture on bibliographic databases.  I saw this as tactical exam preparation – if I knew my facts and could parrot them, then I was sure to be able to answer the question – as indeed I did.  However, I see that from Biggs’ point of view, it would have been cleverer on the part of the examiners to have forced me to think a bit more, rather than regurgitating what I’d heard in a lecture.

I have a tendency to persist in reading up a subject, when in reality I have probably absorbed what I need to know.  I did it again!  I’ve read ‘Constructive Alignment – and why it is important to the learning process’ (2004, the third article downloaded from Higher Education Academy Resources), which includes an illuminating concept map about Curriculum Design Process, and a table adapted from Biggs (2003), showing a constructively aligned assessment scheme.  However, I also glanced at an abstract for another paper in the Higher Education Academy Resources, which suggests that not all educators concur entirely with Biggs’ theories.  Loretta M. Jervis and Les Jervis’ article, ‘What is the Constructivism in Constructive Alignment?) (2005) appears to suggest that constructivism and instructional alignment don’t always sit comfortably together.  With more reading to do, I’ve decided not to follow this thread, but simply to note that Biggs’ influential theories clearly aren’t universally accepted in their entirety.

Old habits die hard – I am keeping a note of all reading done, together with their hyperlinks, on my own Resources page on this blog.  You can’t keep a good bibliographer down – I am somewhat obsessive in trying to get as detailed and accurate a citation as possible. All in a good cause, though.  And in this case, it just illustrates one of the points I’ll making in the lesson I’m planning.  You have to be able to cite what you’ve read, and retrieve it again if necessary!

Tonight’s Reading: Contexts for Learning

Mary has just blogged about this abstract, so it can be my reading for this evening:-

Edwards, Richard; Biesta, Gert and Thorpe, Mary eds. (2009). Rethinking contexts for learning and teaching: Communities, activities and networks. London, UK: Routledge. http://oro.open.ac.uk/17118/  – Mary’s the link is just to the abstract.   However, a preview of the book – the Introduction – can be read in Google Books, here:- http://tinyurl.com/phm7gqb.

Richard Edwards’ Introduction begins by defining contexts for learning and teaching, explaining that we can imagine “context” as soup in a bowl – where the text (the soup) is confined within the bowl.  Thus, we extrapolate that learning takes place in different formal and informal contexts, particularly in the present emphasis on lifelong learning.  We can imagine the learning context as being various strata, or levels, and it follows that learning can be formal or informal (along a continuum), personal or in an educational system, and perhaps situated in communities of practice.  The boundaries can be fuzzy, of course.  When my mother hosts a gardening club or attends a patchwork club, it’s not a strictly educational setting, but learning (and teaching) certainly take place – the passing on of information between individuals or small groups.  Members of such groups may also learn at home, whether by books and magazines, broadcasts or internet searching.   If one of these individuals then chooses to attend evening classes or a college course, then obviously the context will have changed again, as indeed will the homework or self-directed learning taking place between formal classes.

Reading on, I am introduced to the notion of purification (separating out practices), translation (‘relating together’) and naturalization (both purification and translation:-

Purification, Translation, Naturalizing Contexts

I have to confess that this is getting a little complicated!  For my practice, I’m inclined to think that I don’t really need to know about the metaphors of purification, translation and naturalization.

Let’s think about Mary’s questions to us, then:-

  1. What constitutes a context for learning?  Very many different situations can be perceived as a context for learning, as I’ve suggested above.  It follows that our learners will probably be learning in many of these contexts, and as lifelong learners in particular may be learning in a variety of less formal situations in addition to, or in place of, the classroom environment.
  2. How do we engage the full resources of learners for learning? This is dealt with in Part 2 of the book (as we find on p.10 – still the Introduction).  Google books doesn’t allow me to find Part 2, so I am left asking myself whether by ‘resources’, we mean learning resources, or mental capacities and learned educational skills.  Amazon also offers previews, so I move across to Amazon at this point:- http://tinyurl.com/oedmf8s.  I deduce that the resources alluded to are texts in all their variety and differing presentations, whether a book, article, web-based resource or whatever.  My instinct tells me that we need to engage learners with a variety of different resources, since we know that different learners prefer different learning resources.
  3. What are the relationships between different learning contexts?  I wasn’t able to find the part of the book dealing with this area.  I imagine the relationships between them can be many and varied, and that boundaries are perforce blurred.  If I am studying at home for a course like this, then the relationship between my “home, internet” context and the classroom physical context is fairly clear-cut.  However, if I were studying at home but with no formal learning structure, then this would be a different context.
  4. What forms of teaching can most effectively mobilise learning across contexts?  A multimodal approach involving different kinds of texts and activities would, I imagine, offer the widest opportunities for the learner to make the connections between different resources, but it behoves the teacher to ensure that texts and resources are chosen specifically to allow these connections to be discerned.  (Eg, it would make no sense to offer a music student a book about Wagner, and a CD of music by Debussy, expecting them to make the comparisons between these composers, if no comparisons were made by the author of the book, and the CD was of Debussy’s piano music – a genre not generally favoured by Wagner.  Conversely, a selection of books and audiovisual resources about orchestral music by both composers would afford the learner opportunities to detect or make connections for themselves.)
  5. How do we methodologically and theoretically conceptualise contexts for learning?  I cannot read the initial chapters which seem to cover this topic, but I have glanced at the contents pages in Part 1 of the book, and the answers to these questions would appear to lie in ‘theorizing learning by looking at genre and activity’ (David R. Russell); ‘taking an actor-network view of the classroom’ (Steve Fox); ‘looking at learning and context from the perspective of complexity theory’ (Tamsin Haggis); whilst Gert Biesta writes about the value of pragmatism in understanding ‘learning in context’.    However, I feel handicapped here by my lack of knowledge of the psychological and philosphical vocabulary employed in educational theory.  Perhaps, in a course of this length, it suffices to get an overview; clearly I can’t absorb and assimilate this theory to the same depth as I have studied within my own subject speciality.

‘One of your best ever learning experiences’

Strange to say, I am struggling with this.  Perhaps it’s because so much of my learning has been self-directed as an independent researcher, and I haven’t been in a classroom situation for a while.  I’ve twice attempted to learn Gaelic in a class setting, once joining in BA Scottish Music students, and once at local authority evening classes at the Gaelic School – but neither of those experiences would make it into my “top ten” of learning experiences.  The first was, unfortunately, just a more conversational approach than I have been used to for learning languages – that, combined with the fact that it meant studying through my lunchbreak once a week, which wasn’t ideal.  The second attempt would have been okay if there hadn’t been a succession of teachers, and some very icy weather at night.  And in both instances, although I really did want to learn, I think my timing was bad.  I should have known that my learning goes in waves, and after I’d just finished the PhD, perhaps it wasn’t the best time to start learning a language.  Maybe I’ve learned several lessons from all this, but more about how I don’t learn, than how I do.

Image
Christine Lagarde official portrait, from Wikipedia

On the other hand, a few weeks ago we watched Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, give a televised speech.  Despite the fact that I have no interest in the IMF and had never heard of Christine Lagarde before, her public speaking was electrifying.  It was her delivery that so impressed me – to be so fluent, and so able to command attention, is a great gift, and I would love to watch some more of her presentations for that alone, quite apart from talking about the IMF!  Her timing was incredible. She looked all round her audience.  There was no hesitation, and if she had notes, you would never have known.  So, it was unintended learning for me, and if I was to think about the learning context, it was probably this: I had the time to listen and pay attention.  The speaker was excellent.  And probably most importantly, from an educational point of view, she was doing something that I was motivated to learn – I’m very interested in public speaking.  Clearly, the best learning is going to take place when the learner has a need to learn. As Phil Race says, two of the five factors underpinning successful learning are wanting and needing to learn.

However, I have to concede that this was probably not the kind of learning experience that I have been asked to reflect upon, and I would need to study her delivery in more detail to learn more from it.  Also, Race’s other points of ‘learning from feedback’, and ‘learning by doing’ were not present, though the fifth one, ‘making sense’ was arguably there, because I have attended seminars about public speaking before, and Lagarde did demonstrate many of the best practice principles that I already knew about.

And now some more reflective reading!

This article comes from a Newsletter published by Newcastle University: Newsletter 01.6, specifically written for MEDEV, School of Medical Sciences Education Development, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, NE2 4HH.  I’ll print it out so that I can refer back to it.

Focus: Becoming a reflective practitioner

Reflection and reflective practice are two of the key buzzwords in professional and education practice at present. But what exactly do we mean by these …

http://www.medev.ac.uk/newsletter/article/32/Authors: Prof. David Brigden; Mr Nigel Purcell.

The authors cite S. Atkins and K. Murphy’s ‘Stages in reflective practice’, which go into a little more depth in defining the process of critical incident, reflection and ultimately changed practice:-

1. Self awareness

2. Description

3. Critical Analysis

4. Synthesis

5. Evaluation

Conclusion

 

Time for some Reading

I did manage to read Paul Warwick’s ‘Reflective Practice: some notes on the development of the notion of professional reflection’, during today’s lunch-break. However, I’ve wasted quite a bit of my free time feeling ill with migraines this past week, so I haven’t read as much as I’d intended.  I’ll write a few thoughts about the Warwick reading and then maybe I’ll find time to look at some of the other materials tomorrow.  (I’ve found the Reflective Practice wiki – the ‘What is reflective practice’ topic looks relevant, though the sheer extent of it is a bit mind-boggling – and I thought I’d also look at the link, ‘Focus: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner’.  If I get through all that, I’ll be doing well!)

So, first to the Warwick article:-

Warwick, P. (2007) Reflective practice: some notes on the development of the notion of professional reflection

Available at  http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/3573.pdf

The e-tivities for this week ask us to consider Zeichner and Liston’s 5 key features of reflective teaching (1996), which Warwick summarises  in his chapter.   These are just two of the more recent educators whose work is summarised, for Warwick begins with J. Dewey’s theories from the early 20th century.  Indeed, the overview examines so many authorities that it is a little overwhelming for the emerging teaching artist!

I found it a little difficult relating some of the more philosophical elements of classroom teaching (eg, “moral purpose”) with the kind of teaching I’ve been involved in.   My problem is that there is little continuity in the kind of teaching I am asked to do:-  one-off guest lectures (eg the Scottish song transformations lecture that I did last week); or the bibliographical skills session that I did for the PGCert students last session; or indeed the initial library catalogue and database training sessions I provide for new students at varying levels.   The only continuity I experience is with my church choir, where I have no curriculum development to worry about, and the ‘institutional and cultural context’ is our Christian faith, discussion of which does not form part of my duties as a choir trainer.  Training a choir of adult volunteers is not quite the same as having responsibility for a class.

A reflective teacher examines, frames, and attempts to solve the dilemmas of classroom practice.  I understand this point.  I need constantly to endeavour to involve and engage the class, and to seek to find ways of getting greater participation wherever possible.   I can understand this in the context of my one-off teaching engagements.  (It’s harder when you’re taking a choir-practice, as you can’t rehearse the sopranos and give the rest of the choir something else to practise while you’re listening to the ladies!  You generally don’t want them singing something else while you’re trying to correct or shape one particular vocal line.  The dilemma here is in trying to convince them not to talk amongst themselves when you’re listening hard to identify where something could be improved or corrected!)

A reflective teacher is aware of and questions the assumptions and values he or she brings to teaching.  I see what Warwick (quoting Zeichner) is saying.  If I’m training a class in information-handling skills, I need to take care not to assume that everyone will search the same way as me, or bring the same level of expertise that I’ve acquired over many years.  I need to be aware that there may be issues, eg, dyslexia or visual impairment, making students have to work much harder or try different approaches to achieve the same results.  Or, in the case of the Scottish musicology lecture I did last week, I need to question and challenge my interpretation of the sources and be open to alternatives, notwithstanding the research I’ve spent many years refining.  Again, however, it’s hard to apply this same ideal to choral training.  The closest parallel I can offer, is that I am conscious of my greater musical experience, and I do instinctively seek constantly to ensure that everyone understands what I’m asking them to do on a practical level.

A teacher is attentive to the institutional and cultural contexts in which he or she teaches.  I can’t help thinking it must be easier to understand your context when you’re delivering a larger part of a formal curriculum.  For me as a librarian, being attentive to the institutional and cultural contexts means being aware that this is a performing arts institution, where performance has a greater emphasis than it did in my own university experience, and where research itself is practice-based.  Hardly a day passes when I don’t remind myself of this, so I do think I’ve got a realistic grasp of this concept.   Certainly, I remembered it when giving the Scottish song lecture.

A teacher takes part in curriculum development and is involved in school change efforts.  As subject librarians, we were involved in the curriculum reform process, but because my teaching role is in a ‘one-off’ capacity, in reality I have less involvement in curriculum development than the average part-time, hourly-paid lecturer.  I truly don’t want to seem negative about this, but I would currently struggle to discern a way in which my occasional contributions could be considered in any way to be developing the curriculum.

A teacher takes responsibility for his or her own professional development.  At last, here’s something where I can proudly state that I do, both as a librarian and as a teacher, seek any available opportunity for CPD.  After all, that’s what I’m doing in attending this credit-bearing course.

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.