Beginning to teach in Higher Education

Last week I took a short course in Beginning to teach in Higher Education; an introductory course for PhD students who are interested in a career in teaching. Here are some of the things that I found interesting from the session:

Core Teaching Skills
We were asked to begin by considering what makes a good lecturer, based on our own experiences. It was interesting to see what qualities where common among everyone’s experiences, and which were more specific to individuals – this highlights the subjectivity of what makes a good teacher, and in that sense the importance of getting to know your learners and the kind of teacher who can help them to thrive.

This point was further developed through watching a Ted Talk from Benjamin Zander, a British composer. He has a very distinctive style of presenting, which involves a lot of humour and interaction with the audience (including physically touching them) and after watching the video below we had a discussion about everyone’s reactions to him. Interestingly, he seemed to have an effect similar to marmite – I’d love to hear what you think of his style.

Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

Micro Teach
At the beginning of the second day we each gave a 5 minute presentation on a chosen topic. We gave the presentations in small groups with each member taking a different role:

  • Presenter
  • Recorder – filming the presentation
  • Timer – keeping the presenter to 5 minutes
  • Observer 1 – giving feedback on the use of visual aids, language, structure and body language
  • Observer 2 – giving feedback on general strengths and weaknesses

Through recording the presentation, the presenter was also encouraged to self-review. The purpose of the exercise was to allow each member of the group to experience both presenting and assessing someone else’s presenting skills. I chose to give a short introduction to Augmented Reality:

AR presentation SS

As peculiar as it may sound, I have been looking for the opportunity to review my presenting skills for some time. I often feel as though When I present I speak very quickly and often worry that this effects how well my audience are able to follow my presentation. Being able to watch my presentation back and get constructive feedback from my peers was an incredibly useful task and really put my mind at ease about how I present.

I also found the opportunity to give others feedback helped me to think more clearly about the qualities of a successful presenter, and therefore what I could continue to work on to improve my own skills. For example, through feeding back to the other members of my group I was able to identify strengths in storytelling, use of slides and taking a lower tech approach.

Assessment and Feedback

“Assessment, rather than teaching, has a major influence on students’ learning.” Boyd and Falchikov, 2007

The final portion of the course focused on Assessment and Feedback and began with a slide showing the quote above. Having worked and researched in compulsory level education, I am all too aware of the issues around teaching to test and clearly this has had an effect on my overall opinion of assessment as this quote surprised me at first. It wasn’t until we began to discuss assessment in more detail and think about what constitutes effective assessment that I began to see just how true this quote this. The video below, from the University of Nottingham, has some useful pointers on what makes good assessment and feedback:

Chris Rust on Assessment

I particularly liked Rust’s murder mystery analogy (and not just because I have soft spot for Murder She Wrote). He argues that feedback should have

motive – students should have a reason to want to engage with it, to know that it will be beneficial to them.
means – feedback should be delivered in a way that is easily accessible to students, in a format and language that is clear.
opportunity – there should be an opportunity for students to make use of the feedback they receive in future assessments and work

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