Informal? Well, should I just say, this posting concerns normal teaching opportunities rather than events deliberately set up for my PGCert studies. In the past week, I’ve spoken to our research students about bibliographic referencing tools and general good practice – that turned into a great discussion lasting just under and hour – and two groups of first year undergraduates (one surprisingly large class and one small), about useful online resources for their first proper essay assignments. Even the course-leader was gratified by the turn-out for the first session, and although I only had 10-15 minutes, I thought I got quite a lot across.
I’ve also done two 1:1 sessions on citation and referencing for an undergraduate with particularly challenging reference sources, and a distance-learner on one of our taught postgrad courses. These were more like tutorials than lessons, obviously. The students provided details of the materials they needed to cite, and I helped them to format them. We encourage students to use the Harvard system at the Conservatoire – it’s not the system I use myself, but hey, it’s just a question of formulating the citations and bibliography in accordance with a set of rules. I’ve spent decades with cataloguing rules, so citation and referencing really isn’t a problem for me! Hopefully I’ve made things a bit clearer for our students.
Hopefully the title of my latest paper will attract some interest (though I fear there may be disappointment in some quarters)! Since I like to retain a little mystery, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about – you’ll have to wait until it’s published. However, the keywords will give you a clue. The issue apparently went to press today.
Recent training sessions that I’ve received and given, have prompted me to ask myself whether I actually practise what I preach. (Most of the time, I do …) I pitched a session at the second Glasgow Library Camp today, which provoked quite a lot of discussion.
I began by describing the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Teaching Artist Course (in the Short Course form that it adopted last session), which took place 12 Feb – 28 May 2014. Do I count as an Artist? Yes, I think I do. I may not teach performance at work, but I am a church organist and choir director.
Why I did it? To gain theory about pedagogy, teaching and learning, current best practice …
There was a wide variety of recommended readings, and a mixture of virtual and physical meetings.
The idea of reflective practice featured very prominently. Therefore, from the beginning, we had to keep a blog. This is it; I’ve continued to post on it since the course ended.
Outcomes: we had to produce written assignments; an E-Portfolio (one of the tabs above); and a Bibliography. Mine is in my E-Portfolio, but there’s also a web version as a separate tab.
I recently gave my first distance learning user education session to PGCert students. I had half an hour on a Thursday evening, and had to get used to using a headset and webcam with Adobe Connect.
I talked about our library service, holdings, e-resources, and good academic practice. Bearing in mind I hadn’t got long in which to cover the topic, I briefly covered referencing, avoiding plagiarism, keeping a bibliography, and annotating it for one’s own benefit. Bibliographic software. Mendeley, Zotero, Endnote, Word.
Remembering the Teaching Artist course, I sought feedback afterwards, so I could reflect upon how it went, what went well and not-so-well, and what I’d do another time. Talking about reflective practice over coffee, we asked ourselves the question I asked LibCamp delegates today: Do we reflect adequately on what we do? Do you?
For myself, I certainly do keep a bibliography, use bibliographical software, and Diigo for useful websites. To be fair, I do a lot of writing, so it’s particularly important for me. And this blog is still a place where I can reflect on what I do, whether as a librarian, a researcher or a musician.
This blogpost was a ‘pitch’ at Library Camp Glasgow 2014, which took place on Saturday 8th November.
I also did a quick-fire rant (Minute of Madness) about the extreme usefulness of Diigo. Since we were a power-point free zone, I made a low-tech poster for each presentation. So this was the Diigo one!
Actually, I’ve written at least a couple of dozen articles and published my thesis as a book, but this weekend I decided to write an article for submission to the Scottish Journal of Performance. I started roughing it out yesterday, and sat down to work at it properly, late this afternoon. Suddenly, a light went on. Hang on, hadn’t I written an article about library ‘user education’ once before? Sure enough, there it was in my CV: ‘But how do I tell them?’, in the librarianship journal, Personnel Training and Education 8.3 (1991). I was fascinated to discover that not only had it been cited in a lengthy Australian study, but I was even quoted as observing, 23 years ago!, the lack of pedagogical theory in librarianship writings on user education!
Emboldened by my early success, I’m now feeling much more optimistic about the paper I’m working on today. Today’s effort is so very obviously better – I can tell that my writing has matured – although, after 23 years, I shouldn’t really be surprised.
However, this is interesting: Peacock quotes me noting the absence of something that I’ve only just, THIS YEAR, had the opportunity to make good. The wheel comes full circle, you could say! Except that, in one sense, it’s like looking down the other end of a telescope. 23 years ago, it was six years since my postgraduate diploma at library school, four since I’d reluctantly abandoned the PhD that I’d set aside during my librarianship training, and electronic resources consisted largely of databases for scientists and lawyers. Now, having completed a PhD on a totally different subject, and gained Fellowship in my professional body (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), I’m in the mature years of my career. E-resources are for everyone, and I’ve finally had the opportunity to do the Teaching Artist short credit-rated course that occasioned the writing of this blog. In the article I’ve been writing,I’m addressing the same subject again. But it’s like standing outside the Conservatoire knowing the land was once occupied by tenements. Same territory, but completely different environment!
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.”
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.