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5 October: Microteaching on stereoscopy, and the nature of reflection

6 October 2010

Thanks to Paul C for kicking off the micro-teaching at a high standard.

I had intended that we should spend some time reviewing the observation form, because in particular a number of the items overlap in practice and there were some things not covered. In the event we didn’t get around to it, and since you handed the completed forms to Paul you won’t have a copy. You can download a blank one from here, and it would be useful if you could give some thought to how it might be improved in time for next week. You could even email me with recommendations so I could amend it in time for the next session.

A couple of things stood out from the discussion. One was the debate about announcing objectives or outcomes at the start of the session, particularly in the light of Alex’s experience. The key question, I think, is “what does this look/sound/feel like to the student?” Obviously you do want them to understand what is going on and what they are supposed to be learning–but telling them in teacher-speak is not necessarily (or even plausibly) the best way to do it. Paul did a good job of explaining how his session would have linked to its predecessors and subsequent sessions, and that is one very effective way. Ask people about the previous session, for example, and what they learned (or “covered”, at least) in it, and then pick that up and explain where you are going with it in this session. That kind of thing sets up a dialogue (as well as giving you some feedback about what they remember), rather than announcing the objectives in a ritualised fashion, perhaps with them set out as bullet-points in a presentation, which will in all probability mean absolutely nothing to them.

That approach, too, constitutes a form of “advance organiser“, as Ausubel (1968) calls it. So would asking the class if anyone had seen “Avatar”, or even “How to Train your Dragon”. He argues that the most important determinant of learning is what the learner already knows. He’s wrong, according to the research (Hattie, 2009:167), but it is marginally influential and very easy to do, so why not?

Taking this a little further, Hattie discusses Advance Organizers (with a “z” of course, since Ausubel was American) alongside behavioral (no “u”) objectives, and gives them together an effect size of 0.41, which is almost precisely the mean of all interventions (compare with d=0.73 for feedback). For more on this, in very practical terms see Petty (2006, 2009) chapter 16.

[Full citations for Hattie and Petty are in the “Introduction to the Units” section of the Handbook]

Another aspect of the SMART objectives issue we also discussed concerned how far you can go with them; see here for a discussion.

After the break we turned to the Professional Practice Learning Contract, which I encouraged you to complete so we can discuss it when we start the tutorials shortly, and to the Reflective Journal.

“Reflection” is ubiquitous jargon in education and various other spheres; it has become so dilute as to be almost meaningless, and it needs to be examined carefully if it is to regain some usefulness as a principle. So we brainstormed the term and this is what we came up with;

You clearly made the connection between reflection and action–or at least planning for it. We discussed whether reflection was confined to reviewing when things had gone wrong (sometimes it’s more difficult to reflect on what went really well), and whether emotion was an important part of the process or something to be avoided.

As a form of scaffolding, we looked at three approaches to the reflective process;

The first is Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (which for all its limitations is recognisable and usable–we’ll look at it in more detail in Unit 2). Here, “Reflective Observation” is about what an experience means to me, and that’s about it. It needs to be tempered with other more objective knowledge before it is used.

Next came Gibbs’ model, which unpacks the process in rather more detail; more about it here. It needs to be undertaken systematically and is not really something it is easy to carry round in your head, but it is an excellent framework for structuring a reflective conversation. This prompted some discussion of engaging in reflection with someone else–such as a mentor or a “critical friend”, and the possibilities of “co-coaching” and other approaches. And given that Gibbs explicitly includes reference to feelings, we looked to at how the actual process of writing helped to clarify and filter extraneous thoughts.

But in terms of a “quick and dirty” method which could be used as a simple check for reflection in action as well as more leisurely reflection on action, here is Rolfe et al’s (2001) take;

And just to end with; given that some of you were discussing visual illusions at tea before the session, you might enjoy this (scroll down to “Visual Illusions”).

See you next week, when Jackie P and Alex are micro-teaching. (The week after, I shall be away; I hope Peter W will be able to cover but I haven’t asked him yet!)

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