Friday, 8 April 2011

Halfway hall

Halfway Hall is how students in Cambridge celebrate the mid-point of term, so in that jubilant spirit our most recent meetup marks Thing 7-and-a-half of our 13 curriculum design Things programme. It was great to catch up with six of our busy participants face to face.

Halfway hall in one of the newer colleges?

This was a informal meetup and the aim was to catch up on each others' thinking about the Things so far, let everyone know what's coming up next, and to get some feedback ourselves the programme so far.

There was a great discussion about the Things so far and how they might work at Cambridge, and we heard many things we haven't seen in the blogs yet, probably, it was suggested, because being able to discuss them face to face is much more stimulating.  If you're reading this and wondering whether to come to the next meetup, this is your notice that the meetups are the most useful bit!

We'll be including this feedback and discussion in our summary of feedback at the end of 13Things.

In terms of the pace of the programme so far not everyone has had time to keep up with two things a week, so we're going to add some extra time at the end so that there's a chance to catch when exam season is behind us.

Keep it up, and we look forward to more fascinating posts!

1 comment:

  1. The two visualisation tools have been quite popular, whereas the two professional practice banks have been less so. Participants said they appreciated the quick return on investment of the visualisations, but were much less prepared to invest time in exploring the practice banks which they regarded as of uncertain quality.

    There was a lengthy discussion of a common issue with the visualisations: the origin of their categories. Participants recognised the categories but were frustrated by having to accept them, asking "are these really the right categories?" Participants felt the need particularly to customise the Pedagogy Profile’s categories, but that the obvious ones of "lecture", "seminar", "practical" and so on be so banal as to provide no useful insight. An alternative set suggested for the Course Map was Aims & Objectives, Assessment, Teaching Methods, Synopsis.

    Course Map was felt to be of particular value to students; less so to colleagues. In course design it is necessary to present changes to faculty board for consideration, but the boards don't work to a standard script: "People are very vociferous on course management committees". One dissenting voice held that "Our [students] don't need this kind of prescription"

    Established teaching methods were felt to be time-proven, but it was recognised that students are in large part selected on their ability to prosper with these teaching and learning methods. Still, it was necessary not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" when acting on these visualisations.

    Cambridge teaching and learning is distinguished by its small-group supervisions, which provide formative assessment, forums for discussion and opportunities for further exploration, so there is perhaps less need for complementary online provision. Creating blogs, discussion boards and the like in the VLE was regarded as potentially of limited benefit, because of this existing good provision for these kinds of learning activities: "We've got so much face-to face, we don't need this".

    Some people felt the LTS database and Cloudworks didn't have enough subject-specific material, and that apparently non-disciplinary ideas and resources often are disciplinary at a less obvious level, so these shouldn't be suggested generically. Both were felt to be more about the hows than the whats of curriculum design, i.e. about delivery not content. Generic ideas also tend to have been more abstracted, so it was felt that case studies would be helpful. The currency and curation of resources was felt to be important, even for pedagogic principles. Both tools need more lists and hierarchies - you need to know something exists before you can search for it. Cloudworks in particular was felt to suffer from quantity over quality as a resource. It felt complicated and overwhelming, could be more personalised.

    In fact, a feeling emerged that meeting up and talking is sometimes the most useful interaction that can be had; “it makes things actually happen”.

    Including Blogging as a Thing was in hindsight not an excellent choice - our participants expended put quite a lot of effort on this but it is clearly never going to be an important curriculum design tool. It was felt that blog readership was unknown, and the reflective benefits of blogging could be accomplished equally as well solo. Even if Cambridge colleagues read a design blog, they would not, it was felt, interfere with a colleague’s teaching. The only incentive for sharing your thinking in such a way would be personal interest. "Yes you do want to improve teaching, but you can only be the best teacher you can be within the time you have". Reading other people's blogs was felt to be inefficient.