PCAPHE Success!

PCAPHEAfter 2.5 years, I have finally completed my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education!  I am beyond happy: not only did I pass, I received an overall grade of Merit, far exceeding my own expectations.

It all began back in February 2013, when I started Module A, a double module on teaching, learning and assessment, which also led to HEA Fellowship.  I then took 2014 off for maternity leave, and returned in February 2015 to complete Module D, a single module on elearning, which completed the credits required for the postgraduate certificate.

The course was hard work: it was academically challenging, and hard to balance with my normal workload and family life.  At times, I found it difficult to understand and apply the academic theory to my library practice. Over time, I began to redefine myself as a teacher rather than a librarian.  The course was also very enjoyable and inspirational.  It has sparked my interest in teaching and learning, and certainly improved my own practice, and therefore hopefully my students’ experience. It has also opened the door to many new opportunities including collaborative presentations with academics at the HEA teaching workshop and librarians at the BIALL conference.

Would I recommend the course?  Yes, definitely (but maybe not the year off)!

Am I going to do another course? No, it’s time for some ‘me time’, no more study (for a while at least)!


Module D: eLearning

After a 1 year leave of absence (maternity leave), I have restarted my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, and am now undertaking an optional 20 credit module on eLearning: Resource Development and Student Support.  The aim of the module is to ‘design, develop, implement and evaluate an interactive online learning resource’.  I am required to produce a 3 hour online learning resource, write 2,000 words on my project plan, design and implementation, and another 2,000 words evaluating my project, all by Monday 15 June!

I have chosen to create an online learning resource to support the OSCOLA referencing style used by the School of Law.  I currently run a 2 hour OSCOLA referencing workshop once a term, where I have developed the speed referencing learning activity.  However, many students are unable to attend the workshop, either due to timetabling issues or to them being distance learning student, so I have a lot of individual OSCOLA enquiries too.  I have been considering developing online resources (beyond adding my teaching materials to SlideShare) for some time.

There are only 6 face-to-face classes in this module, with a lot of additional learning resources being available online – as we experience online learning as well as design online learning.  We are already at the half way stage (the 3rd class is tomorrow), and I a am still only at the design stage.  Only 12 weeks to go – so I’d better get a move on designing and developing my resource, or there will be nothing to evaluate!

Module A – Result!

I have spent the last year studying Module A of the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education. This included around 15 taught sessions, 3 formative essays, 2 teaching observations, and a final formative essay and portfolio. There were many stressful days and nights, particularly over the Christmas vacation, as I finished my final essay and portfolio. I have at times found it difficult to relate the academic theory to my practice, and I was concerned that my essay and portfolio would not make the grade. However, after a nervous few weeks, I am very pleased to say that I have passed, and passed with a merit! This also means that I will become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy! The course has been both interesting and challenging, and I can see how I have developed as a teacher. I plan to continue my studies, complete Module D in eLearning, and gain my full postgraduate certificate qualification. However, these plans are going on hold for a year, as I will be taking maternity leave at Easter. I will be back – in 2015!

2nd Teaching Observation

I completed my second and final teaching observation in mid October.  I was observed delivering a library and legal research induction lecture to 450+ first year undergraduate law students by my Pg Cert tutor.  I am a guest lecturer on the Introduction to Law module, and so have some claim to being embedded in the curriculum.  While I am very confident with my subject matter; I am less comfortable with lectures as an effective method for teaching information literacy skills.  However, it is not currently practical to deliver the session in 10 x 2 hour small (50 student) group seminars.

The lecture theatre was full, and the students a little rowdy – it was a Friday afternoon, and I suspect many were either going to or coming from the pub!  I had to make use of all my classroom management skills to take control of the lecture theatre and manage the students behaviour.  At times, I had to interrupt myself to ask for quiet in the lecture theatre, which did disrupt my flow.  I also suffered the indignity of my mouse falling off the lectern, and having to put it back together, while remaining composed!  However, I was pleased when my observer commented that I managed the difficult situations well, and the disruption did not show in my lecture.

The first half of my lecture followed a standard library induction script. This is new for 2013/14, and is delivered by all liaison librarians at the university.  The focus of the script is to provide general information about the library, and how the library can support students in higher education, rather than the detail about opening hours and borrowing rules.  This included a live demonstration of a new interactive library map in Prezi format.  I have had varied success with this, because the Prezi refuses to display in selected teaching rooms, but I was pleased that it worked in the large lecture theatre!  My observer commented that I used different media formats well in my presentation.

The second half of my lecture enables me to deliver subject specific information.  For example, finding books, journal articles, cases and legislation on a reading list.  I was able to use real examples from their curriculum, which hopefully made the demonstration more immediately relevant to the students.  I was also able to talk to students about the research they would need to complete for their forthcoming workshops and assignments.  I then demonstrated Westlaw and Lexis Library, two of the key legal research databases.  In a 1 hour lecture, there is not time to teach students how to use these databases, but I was able to show them how to access online training tutorials, and obtain certificates in database research skills.

In an ideal world, I would like to have a follow-up session with students in IT classrooms. I do this with other departments, for example criminology, and it is an effective way of assessing student learning, and providing feedback on any problems encountered. I have been surprised at the number of students who can not distinguish books from journal articles, let alone find them in a library. However, the size of the law cohort makes small group sessions like this impractical at the moment. I have since been invited to attend and present at a HEA workshop on Teaching Legal Research Skills with academics from the School of Law. I am keen to get involved, and find more effective ways to deliver legal research training, perhaps with the aid of technology.

TeachMeet Leicester (1 October 2013)

I attended my first TeachMeet at New College Leicester one dark night in October.  TeachMeet is a forum for teachers to share ideas and good practice.  I attended as an observer only – not quite brave enough to present!  The evening comprised about 12 short presentations – either long (7 minutes) or short ( 2 minutes).  The event was organised by Dan Williams (@danwilliams1984), and it had a wild west theme: presenters were awarded sheriffs badges and/or shot with a (toy) gun if they ran overtime!  As a librarian from higher education – I was in a minority of one.  Most of the teachers were from primary or secondary schools, with a few from colleges of further education.

There were some excellent presentations – I was particularly struck by the imagination and enthusiasm that some teachers have for their both their teaching practice and the pupils in their classroom.  For example, at one primary school 4 year olds in reception class learn computer logic and programming on iPads using apps.  Other schools use Skype to connect with schools across Europe and America, and the children learn about different geography and languages by peer-to-peer learning.  It certainly made me question if I can do more with technology to connect with my distance learning students!

My favourite presentation was about using Twitter to teach Spanish in secondary school.  @wrennmfl encourages students to communicate in Spanish via social media.  Students are asked to summarise learning, ask questions, and comment on news items in 140 character tweets.  Students are also encouraged to follow the Twitter accounts of Spanish speaking role models including Cesc Fabregas, Rafael Nadal and our own Gary Linekar.  Twitter has increased student engagement with learning, both inside and outside the classroom, and helped to foster a sense of community among the students, particular among ‘hard-to-reach’ teenaged boys.

I also enjoyed the presentations and discussions about using Skype in the classroom.  Some teachers had paired their classes with others around the world, and used Skype as their primary form of communication, taking the concept of penpals a stage further.  A primary school had exchanged Christmas cards and shared traditional Christmas carols; and a secondary school had arranged an international dance competition as part of a PE class.  Others had used Skype to invite experts into their classrooms.  This ranged from getting guest lecturers, to watching a behind the scenes tour of the British Museum.

Finally, there was some interesting work with Google Drive and the use of Google Forms to assess learning (diagnostic, formative and summative) in a further education college.  While I am cautious about pushing Google as a learning platform, many of the ideas could be replicated in Blackboard or other virtual learning environments.

The TeachMeet lasted about 2 hours in total, with a break for cowboy themed refreshments (wagon wheels and strawberry shoelaces/lassos) at half time.  Also in attendance was a Clive Francis a conference artist, who made a visual cartoon record of the evening.  At the end of the evening, we voted for our favourite presentation (with cowboy stickers), and a prize was awarded to the winning speaker.  The TeachMeet was not always directly relevant to libraries or higher education, but has certainly opened my eyes to new possibilities in education.  I would like to attend another, and also maybe try a LibTeachMeet …

Pg Cert: Element 1 Feedback

I recently submitted my first academic essay in 15+ years.  It’s the first of four formative essays forming part of my HEA fellowship portfolio.  I received feedback on my essay this week, and have to admit to being rather disappointed.  I think C for confused would be the most appropriate grade.

I clearly misinterpreted the question! I did not relate the teaching and learning theory to my practice.  That said, the question did not refer to practice – only theory.  I also appear to have over-simplified some of the theory. Perhaps in attempt to make sense of alien and abstract concepts?  I was criticised for not reading enough literature.  Absurdly, the more I read, the more confused I became!  I also found it difficult to apply the theory to my practice in a positive way.  Perhaps my (lack of) enthusiasm for theory comes across in my writing? I must try to be more positive in the rewrite.

I need to learn the Pg Cert writing style.  There is little guidance in the module handbook, and we are told to follow the styles in our own discipline.  Unfortunately, I support 7 disciplines, incorporating 3 different referencing styles!  Much of the feedback focused on my language.  It is now clear that I need to use the preferred terminology, and learn the technique of referencing ILOs and UKPSF values, if I am to be more successful.

The ‘good’ news is that I am not alone in receiving disappointing feedback.  Two of my colleagues were also rather downhearted.  We met for a consolatory coffee, and exchanged essays and feedback.  Interestingly, we had all taken a very different approach to the essay, and were able to compare the rare ‘good’ comments!  So far, I have found this group support, and the micro-teach in particular, to be the most useful part of the Pg Cert course.

Finally, I am livid that the feedback criticised my referencing!  I would argue that my referencing is superior to most academics!  I feel the criticism is incorrect and unfair – something to follow up with my module leader.  I have experimented with using RefWorks referencing software in my writing.  I teach RefWorks to students, but without any personal experience of how it works in practice.  In my undergraduate days, computers were a fairly new idea, and my reference management system was a box of index cards!  Perhaps I was destined to be a librarian?