Pedagogical and professional development

I have been to a few great conferences on pedagogical development, which has given me ideas in my role as business manager for online learning. We have talked within our unit here on several occasions, different ways of improving pedagogical development and to enhance student learning.


Why do we teach?

Hybrid pedagogy and an interesting newsletter I read frequently has a good article written by Chris Friend (@chris_friend) on just this “The purpose of education”

Overall, students must have a say in the decisions that affect their learning. For, as Freire says, “to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.” Academia must hold as its objects its studies, not its students. To do otherwise diminishes the value of education because the student is being asked to buy into someone else’s idea of what is worth studying.

With this in mind that the student should have a say in their learning one of the most interesting conferences I went to this year was about Active Student Participation developed at Uppsala University and also in the process of development here at The Teaching and Learning Unit at ECE school..

Alison Cook-Sather from Byrn Mawr College in the USA was the conference’s keynote speaker in October 2015 and shared her experiences on how students and teachers can work in partnership.


“A collaborative reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally, although not necessarily in the same ways, to curricular or pedagogical conceptualization, decision making, implementation, investigation, or analysis.” – Cook Sather, Bovill, & Felten, 2014, pp.6-7

Faculty and students can’t be equal but they can contribute in ways that are equitable. Give and take with equal amounts of respect and responsibilities in teaching and learning.

She goes on to tell us a few of the outcomes of Facultly partnerships.

  1. Engagement – enhancing motivation and learning
  2. Awareness – developing meta-cognitive awareness and a stronger sense of identity
  3. Enhancement – improving teaching and the classroom experience

So if I were to create a personal educational development project plan I would try to implement this way of thinking in my courses.

Prioritizing time

Trying to prioritize time in all the other daily activities is very hard and very difficult with pressure to get those grant applications in and be a great teacher.

I would try and create some sort of project plan with my course and get a good Gannt chart going with activities and tasks by using my favourite tool Projectplace to keep track and be transparent with my colleagues.


  • Brief definitions of student engagements:
    • The opposite of alienation (Mann 2008) (engagement rather than alienation)
    • Layered and meaningful participation in and commitment to learning (kuh et al.2010) (it is not a simple process)
    • Involvement, excitement and persistence (Ahlfeldt et al. 2005; Schelecty, 2011; Nygård et al, 2013) (You need to be able to carry out engagement over time)
    • Critical participation as opposed to compliance and questioning as opposed to answering (Nixon, 2012) (about not just excepting things at face value)
    • Emotional as well as intellectual investment (Cook-Sather, 2014) (Not just about the brain but the feeling as well.)

Designing courses to facilitate meaningful learning

Education is about conceptual change, not just the acquisition of information, the acquisition of information in itself does not bring about such a change, but the way we structure that information and think with it does.

(Biggs what the student does 1999).

It has been a while since I taught so I chose the 2 activities that I used with my students previously. After reading John Biggs “What the Student Does teaching for enhanced learning” It’s not what teachers do, it’s what students do that is the important thing. I can see now when I taught that a lot of the time the students didn’t always have a clear picture of what was expected of them. If I was to design the activities differently now in the role play activities I used in classes:

  • I would have considered them to re-act the role-play in their own language.
  • Have them maybe modify the role play activity themselves instead of me feeding them with the content and situations


Teaching and learning activities – 2 of the activities I used a lot see picture below 

What the teacher does

The activity

What the student does

  • Decide which reaching materials are to be used
  • Select a situation
  • Dialogue initiation
  • Evaluate effectiveness

Role plays

  • Interact
  • Decide on the roles
  • Improvise a dialogue
  • Listening to each other
  • Create a situation

What I wanted

  • Enable the quieter students to be heard
  • Listening, and understanding
  • Practice applying their new knowledge before they have to face the real world.


  • Set the writing task
  • Walking around
  • Observing
  • Encourage
  • Relate the students ideas to topics learnt

Group activity

”Think, Pair Share”

  • Make notes
  • Share ideas with each other and eventually to all the groups
  • Give feedback to each other


What kind of TLAs (Teaching & learning activities) is required for students to learn the desired outcomes effectively?


Various routes can be taken to reach a particular goal and students do not start from the same points of departure (P 190 in Academic Teaching) is a good start in defining the activities, learning activities are chosen both according to the outcomes and according to the students personalities.

“We have first to be clear about what we want students to learn, and then teach and assess accordingly in an aligned system of instruction” (Biggs, 1996), 

He then goes on in his article to talk about assessment is needed to address the objectives to see if they have learned what they are supposed to have learned. The assessment in a blended learning environment could come already within the lecture. Something that is close to my heart is blended learning. By using technology enhanced learning tools like clickers we can assess the situation on the fly, ask the student if he/she has understood by getting them to click yes or no during the lecture. The teacher will then know to move ahead with the lecture or go back on some points. Biggs call this network constructive alignment.

“There have been many valuable applications of constructivism, particularly to science and math teaching (e.g. Cobb 1994, Driver & Oldham 1986, Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer & Scott 1994, Scardamalia, Bereiter & Lamon 1994, West & Pines 1985), but there have been few attempts to provide a framework that would generalise beyond the contexts or topics for which they were designed”.

If I were to design a course now I would try to use the technology available alongside face-to-face learning with the Intended Learning Outcomes.

Defining this course we would have to think about:

  • What are the intended learning outcomes?
  • Which would be better to do online and which are better doing F2F
  • What Learning activities should we use for online versus F2F
  • Online discussions as part of the learning activity? What challenges are there? We need to know how to facilitate and assess online discussions.
  • How will we structure the courseware what will be integrated and connected?
  • How will we decide the % of F2F and online?
  • Some students can have problems with the new technologies how will we address this problem, how can we support them?
  • How will we assess and evaluate in a blended environment?
  • We have to discuss with the students why their course is being taught blended and prepare them for their role in it


Active learning

TLA’s some ideas taken from Academic Teaching books chapter 7 on Teaching & Learning activities which I have connected to technology enhanced learning ideas to make the students more active in their learning.


Learning outcomes


Activities – How

Technology to use

Getting Information,

Digital literacy

Finding resources & techniques,

 Referencing & managing information load

Connecting with outside experts

 Sharing and reviewing online resources

Google scholar
BlogsOnline articles
You Tube

Taking own responsibility of learning

Reflection (p205)
Learning together

Giving and receiving feedback
(p214 & 257)


Reflection on learning

As a group exercise to improve group problem solving

Problem/case based learning (p253)

LMS groups
Concept mapping

Online Quiz
Video with recorded lectures

Online resources
Mobile learning bringing tablets & smartphones to class

Giving and receiving feedback

Working in teams


Critical thinking

Performance feedback

Collaborative writing
Group negotiations

Assessment of team work


Discussion forums in LMS
Group web

Peer review in LMS


Let students teach & present assignments (p209)

Oral communication

Presentation skills


Sharing audio/video material

Presenting Audio/video
Discussions and feedback

Adobe connect

Slideshare/You Tube
Video tool



The role of the teacher

Howard Gardner’s blog “Disciplined mind” Gardner eloquently argues that the purpose of education should be to enhance students’ deep understanding of truth (and falsity), beauty (and ugliness), and goodness (and evil) as defined by their various cultures.

I would like this to be my pedagogical philosophy as well. Thank You Howard……

Education most of the time concentrates on how we are going to deliver learning when we should be concentrating on the process of learning. Learning is a change in something, a new skill, new facts that we didn’t have before. People learn differently, some visually, some listen better than others, some need to read and write it down all this needs to be taken into consideration as an educator.

learning style

It would be good to map out what sort of teaching objectives I have and this would have to be “a work in progress” I’m afraid as I no longer teach but my previous objectives were for the students to have fun whilst learning, to feel confident, that they do their own critical thinking and come away with problem solving strategies. The main principles would have to include active learning activities.

How would I do this?

I would certainly take into consideration the different learning styles that my students have and develop the course using different techniques both online and face to face, exercises both individual and in groups/workshops and peer to peer, (having students interact with other students). I would try to form connections between the students and myself by using my previous knowledge and personal experiences and listening to their own personal and classroom experiences.

Measure effectiveness

I would want to measure the students outcomes, say if problem solving skills is one area that I think is important for them to learn then I would test their skills in this area.

Why a teacher?

Sometimes when the course planning nights were long and wallet short of the green stuff what kept me going was the odd student or even parent that thanked me for the lessons learned or the fun homework that I devised which involved the whole family, this gave me back the energy and passion to carry on.


The social media natives have arrived

The students that spent all their teen years using Facebook have just graduated this year so the first true “social media natives” have arrived at our higher education faculties and they are very different from previous generations. 

socail media natives

Photo source: The Atlantic

Motivation is the key in keeping the learning process alive.

The key skills I learned myself as a teacher in keeping a student motivated in the classroom were giving them a good structure, a process view of what was expected from them with goals at the end. Even today this is still an important basis and also as Turner & Paris (1995) present in their six Cs we need to think of other ways to keep them motivated.

The 6 c’s by Turner & Paris (1995)

  • Choice – Students being able to choose assignments based on their own interest
  • Challenge – Setting the right challenging targets, not too easy and not too hard
  • Control – Handing over control to the students own learning
  • Collaboration – Learning from others peer to peer as well as peer to teacher
  • Constructing meaning – so the students regard knowledge as valuable
  • Consequences – positive effects from positive feedback

“If a student can’t learn the way we teach then maybe we should teach the way they learn” (Ignacio Estrada) I believe that teachers have the duty of preparing young minds to learn and grow into successful adults. Not all students learn the same way and we have to meet the needs of each student. Finding different ways for them to learn to meet all these needs could include

  • Working in Groups in the classroom – makes them interact with each other, think independently as well as working as a team.
  • Presentation skills – Enables them to work with their oral skills first in smaller groups and then in front of bigger classes, giving them confidence in themselves and also receiving feedback from their peers.

Activities that we should have in the classroom should include:

  • Interaction
  • Discussion
  • Reflection
  • Games
  • Peer review
  • Project form

Students arrive in our classes with prior knowledge, beliefs and attitudes from their lives so far. They will automatically connect their ideals to the learning. Wenger (1998) highlights the significance of students’ active commitment when reflecting on learning, identity and development. (Academic teaching). This idea is taken one step further where the student acts as co-creators of higher education. It is being developed today at our department (Teaching and learning in Higher Education) and already in Uppsala University they call it “Active Student Participation”.

Reference articles:

Learning and learning environments

You Tube video from Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Paradigms 

It struck me whilst sitting in a class meeting that most of us taking a course have different cultural backgrounds and each one of us have different experiences of how we learned. In my case streaming the students was used to pick out the “good” ones from the “bad” ones, which meant that the students that didn’t get the recommended grades at the yearly exams were automatically put into a lower grade class. Obviously this didn’t do too much for the student’s confidence let alone the teacher’s expectation on the student’s performance and this prehistoric method is still a big part of the education system in UK schools today.

School streaming helps brightest pupils and nobody else

So my concept on learning was disillusioned at a very early age of 13 when I didn’t pass those exams I was expected to (I must add like many of my peers, not from my lack of intelligence but mainly because of personal reasons at home), I got separated from my group of friends and made to feel like a dunce by being put in a class that was known to be full of trouble makers, so I did as most teenagers would do and gave up on academia and chose Immediate personal experience as my concept of learning.

Kolb’s theory ” Experiential learning” is a process by which knowledge results from different combinations of grasping and transforming experiences, was what I chose to pursue by active experimentation. I worked at the age of 15, became an actress for a short while then I was off to Australia at the age of 18 and basically didn’t stop travelling and learning. In all these ventures I progressed through the four stages over and over again.

  1. Having a concrete experience followed by
  2. Observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to
  3. The formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then
  4. Used to test hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences.