Nov 20 2014

Can conveying your research visually help your teaching?

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As the call for submissions to LSE Research Festival Exhibition 2015 is launched, several of the School’s academics who exhibited photographs and films last year tell us about the benefits for their teaching of communicating research in visual form.

Sylvia Chant, Professor in LSE’s Department of Geography and Environment, has submitted photographs to two Research Festival exhibitions and is a great believer in visuals being able to tell a story just as well, if not more effectively, than the written word.

Our daughters, Wassu

Our daughters, Wassu

New era at Wassu

New era at Wassu

Her photographs for the 2014 exhibition were of adolescent girls at a ‘Dropping of the Knife’ celebration in Wassu in the Upper River Region of The Gambia, in April 2013, at which thirty circumcisors pledged to abandon the practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. Professor Chant observed and spoke at the event as a guest of GAMCOTRAP, an NGO with which she became involved as part of her work on gender and poverty and which has been campaigning to eliminate the practice since the early 1980s. ‘From my experience, it is the anecdotes about the lives of people who have formed part of one’s research, how one went about fieldwork in different localities, the stories of what you, as a lecturer, have done in the public and policy domain Continue reading

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Nov 19 2014

Workshops for LSE teaching staff

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LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre is running two workshops this week for teaching staff. The links below will take you direct to booking pages.

Planning your teaching for the new academic year structure: Thursday 21 November, 12:30-14:00

The change to the structure of the new academic year creates opportunities to introduce different kinds of study tasks and new ways of using assessment to develop students’ learning at both the departmental and course levels. This session will give you the chance to consider a range of options for how the extra term time weeks could be used as well as an opportunity to discuss the implementation of existing plans.

Giving effective feedback: Friday 21 November, 14:00-16:00

This workshop will explore the role of feedback in supporting student learning. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their approach to providing feedback to students and discuss various ways to improve its effectiveness.

 

 

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Nov 13 2014

Formative evaluation of teaching and learning at LSE

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Today’s post develops the theme of Monday’s resource on evaluating teaching and learning and seeks to answer questions such as ‘How can I know that my students are learning what I want them to learn?’ and ‘What is the best way of teaching substantive content to this year’s students?’

These questions are worth asking because we all have habits in our teaching. We have ways of explaining particular ideas, stories we can tell that demonstrate the processes and events that we teach students about. A good question to ask ourselves, though, is whether these habits work in communicating ideas effectively to students. Are we teaching based on what makes sense to us, rather than to them? And/or are we teaching some students effectively, but not others?

Considerations of this sort prompt reflection on the diversity of learning styles and responses to teaching that different groups of students have. And that diversity in turn means that any review of our teaching, and the best way of answering the questions at the top of this post, is best done through the adoption of various types of formative evaluation, of which there are several examples in common use at LSE.

Peer observation

Teaching observation is commonly used at LSE, and a good moment for it to happen may be around the time of the Michaelmas Term TQARO student survey of class teaching, the results of which will offer a chance to review how your students feel things are going, and enable you to reflect on any changes you might make in Lent Term. The LSE100 course, for instance, uses peer observation by mentors. Teaching fellows observe all GTAs each term, and often GTAs observe fellows in return. The ‘collegial’ nature of these observations lends itself to productive discussions about how LSE100 content can be framed for particular groups of students..

Naturally occurring feedback

Naturally occurring feedback arises in the ways that students behave and perform on your course. While their behaviour will reflect a range of influences, one of these will be the guidance and teaching that you offer.

There are three main kinds of natural feedback that teachers can review. The first is student behaviour around their study. This includes attendance, submission of coursework, attending office hours, punctuality, etc., and is the kind of information often captured in the termly summary section of LSE for You. Noting these elements will tell you which students are studying well and which may be struggling or need prompting. This, in turn, can guide you in looking into why these behaviours are being adopted.

To do this, a second kind of behaviour can be observed: that which students adopt during teaching. This can include noting those who come prepared for class, what questions they ask, where their attention runs out, what mistakes they make and how they respond to the coursework tasks and feedback. Reviewing the information you gather will allow you to make inferences about their learning and where they’ve succeeded, or not, in acquiring the substantive knowledge of the course. Knowing this can inform you of what seems to work for a particular group and what seems to be less effective.

The final, and richest, source of natural feedback is student behaviour in their coursework. Rather than simply looking for whether they submit the work, this approach requires seeking information about how successfully students complete disciplinary tasks, and thus how they demonstrate the kinds of reasoning associated with your discipline. As with watching them in lectures and classes, judging students’ progress through their coursework can provide the most direct feedback you can get about their learning. To make the most of that opportunity, you might, for instance, alongside giving them a grade and feedback, think about how accurately what they have written reflects what you’ve told them or set them to read or work out. That way, each set of coursework submitted becomes evidence for the appropriateness of what you are doing with the group. If the students’ coursework is what you were hoping for, then you have confirmation that your approach holds with this particular group.

Minute papers

Minute papers are very short questionnaires that take a minute to complete. They usually contain only two or three questions on either substantive content or students’ experiences in class.

With the questions on substantive content, you can gather feedback in the same way as looking at student coursework for how well the students seem to be learning.

With those on students’ experiences in class, you are aiming to get feedback on what sorts of teaching approaches work best for the students’ learning. Useful questions for eliciting this kind of information are ‘Which activities used so far did you get most out of? Why was this?’ or ‘What class tasks have helped you learn best?’

An important aspect of any ‘minute paper evaluation’ is to tell students how you will act on what they’ve told you, and then obviously follow through on the action. This open approach may well lead to the kind of dialogue about studying your discipline through which you can make a real difference to the students’ understanding and approach to their study.

With thanks to Dr Neil McLean in LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre for contributing this post.

 

 

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Nov 10 2014

Resource of the week

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Week 6 of Michaelmas Term is just over a quarter of the way through full unit courses, making it a good moment to take stock of how students are progressing. Evaluating learning is not a straightforward process, however. It requires us to draw on a range of sources of feedback that allow us to make judgements about students’ progress and how teaching contributes to that progress. The first of this week’s resources, The Reflective Institution: Assuring and Enhancing the Quality of Teaching and Learning by John Biggs, puts this evaluation of teaching and learning within the wider context of the ‘reflective university’ and makes the case for evaluation of this ‘prospective’ kind being essential to notions of quality in higher education teaching.

More pragmatically, an article by Professor Ronald Berk, Survey of 12 Strategies to Measure Teaching Effectiveness, outlines a range of options faculty can use to evaluate their students’ learning and their own teaching in real time. These methods allow us to make adjustments where needed for particular groups of students – a type of ‘formative’ feedback which will be the subject of Thursday’s post, in which examples from LSE100 and departmental practice will feature.

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Nov 7 2014

News and events

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M&C curriculum mapping word cloudLSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre is running an event for academic staff wishing to design a new course. New course design, on Thursday 13 November, 12:00-14:00, is a practical session that will give participants the opportunity to explore the building blocks of course design (learning outcomes, assessment and teaching and learning activities) in the context of the pedagogy of constructive alignment. Find out more and book a place at New course design.

 

14_0965 355 X 266 banner for intranet home FINALResearchers interested in submitting posters, photographs and short films to LSE Research Festival Exhibition 2015 are invited to attend any or all of several free workshops that will facilitate the preparation and production of exhibits. Each delivered by a practising photographer, film-maker and graphic designer, they will encourage consideration of how research can be communicated in ways that are visually compelling and open up dialogue with visitors to the exhibition. See LSE Research Festival Workshops for more information and links to booking pages.

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