Last week I was down at our London Campus for block teaching of my module, Designing Learning and Assessment in Higher Education. Last year our students at London were part of the main cohort, but this year due to numbers we arranged to deliver the PG Cert as a ‘block’ over a couple of weeks. To share the workload, teaching was split between myself and my counterpart of the other module who travelled down for a few days, and teaching staff at London with relevant experience. It was interesting for me to see different perspectives as a result of London staff picking up some of these sessions. On one of the sessions, ‘Academic Identity and Everyday Writing in the Workplace, I learned about the concept of teaching journals, a reflective exercise to capture “observations, reflections, and other thoughts about teaching” (Richards and Farrell, 2010). Interestingly, I find that on reflection I have been doing this all along without realising it – for every occurrence of every module I have taught, I have kept a running list of things which I have learned, reflections about things which worked particularly well (or didn’t), and ideas about things to change to improve the module for future cohorts. However, in the spirit of the concept I am attempting to put this into more formal practice with this post.
In additional to discovering this concept and getting to see some of my London colleagues in action, I also learned about Class VR which is a virtual reality system they have bought. The headsets are a little basic, but the key concept here is that you have a managed service which can push content to all of the headsets in the class. It’s a great idea, I really liked it. Unfortunately their experience with it has been more miss than hit, with headsets often failing to connect to the server and requiring a reset. Indeed, for our demo all three of the headsets they brought along failed to connect.
Of the sessions I taught myself, ‘Gamification and Game Based Learning’ went well. I’ve ran this for a number of years now as part of different modules, and I feel like it’s well polished and we always get good feedback about this one. The screenshot above is the final scoreboard from Keep the Score, one of the supplementary tools I recommend. The session around assessment and modern forms of academic misconduct (inc. generative AI) also ran well and provoked some interesting and lively discussion. Finally, ‘The Biscuit One’. Adapted from the work of Sambell, Brown and Race (2012), this was a highly impactful activity for me when I was a student on the PG Cert in 2017 and one I pushed to include when this module was revamped and I took over as module leader. The central idea is to teach people about creating rubrics and exploring some of the difficulties in marking, such as grade boundaries, using the metaphor of ‘what is a biscuit?’ The academic who used to run this at Sunderland left us last year, so for the past two iterations of the PG Cert I’ve ran this session myself. It’s been okay, but I don’t think I do it as well as they used to. In both occasions I feel I’ve been rather unlucky in having two groups come up with a definition for a biscuit that was so broad and encompassing that virtually all of the biscuits provided were included. I haven’t worked out how to deal with that yet, but I’ll need to think of something for February.