Exercising extreme self-control here, I’ve only listed things that I either published or had accepted, revisions and all, in 2014. A couple of the papers that I read at conferences may yet appear in print, but hey, I have to leave something for 2015, don’t I?
You’ll see from the pages on this website that I’m very enthusiastic about social media, and I author several other blogs. However, they’re not all equally active. At the same time, though, they all represent different aspects of me.
The successful performing arts blog, WhittakerLive.blogspot.com, which I author for the Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will, of course, be unaffected. You’ll recognise my blogging “voice”, but it’s done in my daytime professional capacity.
I’ll maintain my Academia.edu page – it’s not a blog, and I think it’s worthwhile – but I intend to do a radical pruning of my LinkedIn pages. They are beginning to look cluttered.
I can also be found tweeting @Karenmca. However, I generally use Facebook only for family and close friends. That’s my personal choice.
Looking at my career, and my published output, it’s clear that I have a wide range of interests. I’m an academic music librarian and a musicologist in equal measure. I’m a musician, an author, a teaching artist and a public speaker.
And in my spare time, when having fingers in so many pies makes me think my head will surely explode, I chill out by doing dressmaking or patchwork, or sometimes arrange music for choral or instrumental ensembles. I might tweet about that, but I don’t need to blog about it!
All these activities make it hard to decide what my USP (Unique Selling Proposition) actually is! Chameleon-like, I profile different aspects as the situation requires. I’ll revert to this topic another day!
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.