Teaching and Learning - Final Reflection
Updated: May 13, 2020
The following is a reflection on my experience of the Certificate in Teaching and Learning as a whole. I have decided to use the Brigg’s Reflective Cycle (Briggs, 1988) to complete this final reflection. Throughout the course, I have found this approach very beneficial to reflecting on my lesson plans after delivery, as well as on new material I have learned myself.
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Before undertaking this course, I had little understanding of concepts like teaching philosophies, pedagogy and critical reflection. I knew it was important to try and engage my students and that active learning was how students learned best. I had picked up a couple of ill-defined methods and techniques for this, but having limited experience (3-4 years part time) in lecturing in Higher Education Institutes, I was largely improvising. My digital teaching resources included blackboard and moodle, but not using them to their full capacity – putting up lecture notes, some brief discussion forums or links to YouTube videos were the extent of my digital teaching capabilities. Like many third level lecturers, I have no formal teaching qualification. I was focused on getting through the required course material instead of what strategies, assessments, and feedback would most benefit my students and myself.
This course has definitely been a journey of self-discovery. I feel that it has not changed my teaching philosophy, rather it has given me the tools to articulate my own teaching style, my preferences for teaching methods and my professional beliefs and goals. I have discovered that I favour the student-led approach wherever possible, providing guidance as scaffolding for students to gain knowledge and skills, withdrawing it when they have mastered them.
Constructivism and Humanism are two teaching philosophies that I feel the most affinity with while teaching. Humanism allows for student-led learning, while Constructivism involves building each layer of new knowledge on the solid foundation of the previous layer (McLeod, 2019). These methods can be seen in my Lesson Plans where I allow students to take the lead in experiments and construction tasks before guiding them along the optimum path. I enjoy using Vygotsky's "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky, 1978), allowing students to progress from what is known to what is not yet known by providing “scaffolding” for a student to progress from one stage to the next. The scaffolding or support can be reduced gradually as the student becomes more comfortable with the skill or knowledge, eventually being withdrawn completely as the student masters it.
I feel that identifying my favoured teaching philosophies has been a big step in discovering what it is about teaching that appeals to me the most. Inspiring students with an interest in and a passion for the course material and stimulating a joy in learning.
There has been a wealth of material on this course, all of it very helpful for improving my own teaching and helping me grow in confidence as a teacher. One such example is the plethora of new teaching strategies to actively engage students. Strategies like “think, pair, share”, “predicting test questions”, “mind-maps”, and the benefits of group work and group activities during class time are now clear to me, and have become commonplace in almost all of my lectures.
Although most of my teaching thus far has been based on filling someone else’s shoes for brief periods (a semester or a year at a time), I now feel confident with module design.
I have learned the importance of matching assessments to learning outcomes, and the myriad of different methods and reasons for assessment. This was something I had never thought about previously, just following the usual “2 pieces of CA and 1 exam” format laid down by my predecessors. Since starting this course, I have adapted my teaching methods and tried many different assessment types and feedback methods. My eyes have been opened to the benefits of peer assessment. For my students it is an opportunity to observe someone else’s work as well as get feedback from a peer instead of a teacher, helping to set up discussions amongst one another which is a very valuable learning strategy. Adding extra assessments need not mean an extra load for the teacher to correct. For myself, we worked in peer learning circles throughout this course that were very useful for discussing progress, reviewing one another’s work and forming a network within GMIT which will no doubt prove beneficial in the future.
Technology Enhanced Learning for me is an ongoing process. Over the past year I have introduced padlet to my classroom and used online moodle quizzes for my students. More recently, the teaching environment has had to adapt to Covid-19 related closures. Lectures had to be quickly adapted from classroom environment to online based. While I had a little experience of this in the past, I quickly had to learn how to use Microsoft TEAMs, and record sessions and powerpoint presentations for my students. I found using Epigeum to be a valuable resource. Many of the tasks were a little time consuming but it was useful to be able to spend a while on it, and return to where you left off. The quizzes at the end were a nice way of wrapping up and summarizing the content therein.
Thus far it has been a steep learning curve, but I am getting more familiar with learning resources and strategies provided to us on this course. I am engaging more with digital tools such as PowToon and Sway – tools for making videos and animations that can explain theories and complex concepts to students in a way maybe not fully possible using a power point slide or a whiteboard. If there is one thing I will take from this lockdown it is the benefit of making short videos and animations for my students. Putting up lecture notes online may have benefits, but these digital resources that can be viewed at any time are excellent at getting through to and engaging with students. Animations are automatically assumed to be “fun”, as such, students are more likely to access these resources than read through pages of notes. Far from being “extra work” for me they are now re-usable digital resources I can use as part of my lectures. They are excellent for engaging different learning domains and different student learning styles.
I have become more comfortable using the valuable teaching strategies in my own classes, and will continue to try and implement as many of them as I can to see which ones are best suited to my teaching styles and student types. My main focus for the immediate future, especially looking forward to September is the creation of an online story board learning tool. I plan to learn H5P to create a storyboard similar to Epigeum on the T&L course for my Materials Science and Processes course which is run on the weekends and online. I have booked in to a H5P workshop which will allow me to create such a resource in Moodle for next September. It would be massively beneficial both to me and to my students to have a resource like this for recapping, working through and having activities to work through problem based material that was covered during classes.
Gibbs, G. "Learning by Doing" Published by Oxford Polytechnic, 1988
McLeod, S. A. (2019). Constructivism as a theory for teaching and learning. Simply Psychology.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.