Tag Archives: Lectures

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

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‘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.

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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.

The RMA Presentation

The Glasgow end of the Bass Culture Research Project is doing a presentation for this week’s Royal Musical Association meeting at Glasgow Uni.  After the team-leader introduces the project, we’re each talking for ten minutes about an aspect of the project that we find interesting.  This is presenting, not teaching – it can be attended by RMA members or staff and students at the University, but it’s not part of a curriculum.

I’m puzzled, now.  The format is essentially, a progress report focusing on the interesting bits.  I don’t need anything written down apart from key names and dates.  Discussion may well arise after we’ve each presented.  But I can’t see a way of making an individual progress report anything other than me, talking.  Really not a flipped classroom opportunity!