Tools for Tutors



Tools for Tutors: How to Become a More Reflective Teaching Practitioner

Ellie Danak : March 10, 2019 2:49 pm : Learners, Tools for Tutors

In one of our previous posts, we encouraged educators to get outside the teaching box and try out new activities. We briefly mentioned the importance of reflections, not just for students but also for those involved in teaching. Reflective practice is an important part of our professional lives; however, in order to be effective, it requires a consistent approach, time commitment, honesty and openness to change. Being busy is not an excuse though! You can easily schedule a 15-minute slot in your working week to sit down somewhere quiet, grab a pen and notebook and write your immediate thoughts about your teaching experiences, what you think you have done well, could do better and will change next time.

By developing a regular reflective practice, you will increase your self-knowledge and self-awareness so that you can become a better teacher, as well as advise others on their teaching methods. In this blog post, we have put together a few practical ideas to get you into the habit of constructing meaning from your own and others’ experiences:

  • Before you start: Have a notebook and pencil at the ready! Keep it simple.
  • What should I write? Begin by asking yourself what teaching means to you and jot down everything that comes to mind. This will help you discover what is really important to you and what values guide your teaching.
  • Define success. How do you know your students have engaged with your teaching? Do you pay attention to their voices? Do you ask for feedback? Have you ever considered involving your students in shaping the content of your tutorials?
  • Explore challenges: what has been difficult? Why? Keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you have explored all options. Record all the steps you may need to go through to solve this problem. What can you learn from your previous experiences?
  • If you prefer other activities, instead of grabbing a pen and notebook, write a blog, or an interview with yourself. Write a letter to yourself or create a mind map where you make a list of connections between your teaching and students’ experiences and learning.

  • Learn with and from others: while self-reflection is valuable, it is a solitary activity. So, how about asking your colleagues to observe your teaching and offer you feedback? By introducing regular peer observation into your teaching practice, you will gain input from your colleagues, who as ‘critical’ friends will help you increase your confidence and deepen your pedagogical knowledge. 
  • Organise peer group reflection sessions in which you and your colleagues share your thoughts about your teaching experiences To help you structure these discussions, you could use action learning sets. Hearing about other tutors’ challenges and helping them to find solutions may inspire you to improve your own practice.

We hope these tips will encourage you to take a step back and consider what kind of teacher you want to be and what really matters to you. By constantly questioning and reflecting on your teaching methods, not only will you become a better educator but you will also influence the learning experience of your students in a positive way.

Remember that we are always happy for you to use this blog as a platform to share your experiences with others. If you would like to write a guest post for us, just get in touch.

Before you go:

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read
this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below.
This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an
action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Tools for Tutors: Get Outside and Learn – the Importance of Experiential Learning

Ellie Danak : January 27, 2019 3:19 pm : Learners, Tools for Tutors

First-hand experiences play a crucial role in developing students’ skills and knowledge outside the traditional classroom setting by exposing the learners to a variety of situations where they are required to apply abstract ideas to real-life problems and projects. When students temporarily abandon their desks and books in order to gain new insights and develop innovative approaches to their studies, their learning experience becomes transformational.

Below are some examples of the types of activities that academic staff can facilitate outside the classroom:

  • Field trips
  • Guided/discovery walks
  • Internships
  • Community-based projects
  • Cross-disciplinary projects
  • Shadowing professionals

However, just telling the students to get out there and learn is not enough, and tutors need to consider what guidance and support they can give to make sure these activities are truly beneficial.

So, inspired by Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, we would like to establish a simple framework for designing experiential learning activities and supporting students’ learning autonomy. Following the suggested format will encourage your students to trust their curiosity. Also, by asking them to critically reflect on what they have learned, how they could apply their newly acquired knowledge, and what they would do differently next time, you will help them place their skills and experience in a wider context and explore ways of showing the impact it has made on them. Moreover, we would like to add another dimension to the critical reflection and encourage you, the tutors, to reflect on the process as well: what went well, what you could have done differently, what you will change next time, your main learning points. With every new student cohort, you go on a learning journey too. Seeing problems and ideas through your students’ eyes can inspire a fresh approach to your own research and teaching practice.

How to design effective experiential learning activities?

  1. Design a concrete experiential learning activity: What is it? Why have you chosen this specific activity? Consider how you are going to ‘sell’ it to your students. For example, tell them what they are expected to achieve and how they can connect it with what they know already.
  2. Why should they care? As part of the ‘selling’ process, find reasons why your students should care about the project or cause. What can you do to make them want to engage with it?
  3. Build in interim reflection and self-assessment: Schedule prompts and activities for learners that will help them monitor their progress. How are things going? What impact have they made? What have they learned so far? How have they applied their learning to new situations and challenges?
  4. Tutor reflection: Don’t forget to reflect on your approach as well. Is everything going according to plan? How much support do your students need? Do they feel they can take risks and fail? Do you control their behaviour or encourage autonomy? What could you improve? What have you learned yourself?
  5. A final reflection on learning: Ask your students what they have learned and how they will apply this learning to future problems and projects. Make sure they offer specific and relevant examples. You could ask them to write a reflective journal or blog post.
  6. Learning shared is learning doubled: While personal reflections help learners to connect emotionally with their experiences, there is a great benefit in sharing one’s learning experiences with others while hearing how they may have approached similar tasks and challenges. You can facilitate this by creating a learning community as part of the experiential learning experience. How about asking the students to prepare short presentations on what their main learning points were. Be creative and ask them to represent their learning journeys through collages and mind maps.

To sum up, while the focus on attainment and exam results is important, it is equally crucial to remember that your students are individuals who are keen to pursue their interests, find practical solutions to great problems and want to get out there to learn by doing. For example, applying abstract concepts to current challenges facing society, such as combating the effects of climate change, will provide a lesson for life and connect the learners with their communities. So, by tapping into that individual curiosity and self-motivation, tutors can make a great impact that will last outside the classroom and may even change the world.

If you have facilitated experiential learning activities and would like to share your thoughts with others, please get in touch. We would love to write more about it!

Read this:

Watch this: 

Reflect:

Now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Tools for Tutors: Encourage Fresh Insights and New Knowledge

Ellie Danak : December 16, 2018 11:47 am : Learners, Tools for Tutors

In our last Tools for Tutors post we looked at working with feedback.  This time we would like to offer you some fun and unusual teaching advice. The process of teaching and learning, with its peaks and troughs, can sometimes be messy both for tutors and students. Sometimes it can be difficult to measure progress or excite students about certain topics. Sometimes it may be hard to translate ideas from abstract concepts to practical application or to find ways of getting students to generate fresh thinking.

Adaptability, thinking on one’s feet and creativity, alongside the thirst for lifelong learning, are often named as essential graduate skills. Today’s students are expected to be agile learners and skilled communicators, and universities play a vital role in equipping them with those skills. So, we have put together some ideas for lively and creative teaching that will bring new energy into your classrooms.

A word of warning: although we are passionate about creative approaches to education, please remember that some students may find it difficult to take these activities seriously.  Therefore, it is vital that you make the rationale for each task very clear by clarifying the expectations and learning benefits at the start of each exercise.

Try these activities:   

  • Lego (for the times when you hit the learning ‘brick’ wall) –use Lego bricks to teach referencing and storytelling and get the students to think about the consequences of their choices. Alternatively, ask them to represent their learning by creating Lego worlds. If you do not have access to Lego, you can use cardboard boxes!
  • Get the communication juices flowing and build great teams.  You will need 20 spaghetti sticks, a piece of string, sticky tape, one marshmallow and a stopwatch. 
  • Balloon towersthis fun activity teaches problem-solving and teamwork! If you do not have balloons, use old newspapers. Limiting the supplies and introducing competition will get your students to think on their feet and have some fun along the way.
  • Encourage creative academic writing through blogging or a regular learning journal so that your students practise linking cross-disciplinary ideas to their own research. They will also be able to practise communicating effectively and concisely about academic research. 
  • Pen, paper, scissors – how about drawing mind maps to summarise learning points? Or creating posters and collages to reflect on learning discoveries?
  • Boardgames – designing a board game can be a fun way for students to apply their learning and test the knowledge of their peers. Visit this website for some inspiration.
  • Top trumps split students into teams and get them to create Top Trumps cards. Great for teaching and debating history, politics, philosophy, and any other subject! 
  • Solve the mystery – how about coming up with a mystery scenario and turning your students into detectives? Use cards with clues and coded messages. Have a prize for the winning team!

Before you go: remember to add some reflection time, discuss insights and identify action points for your students’ learning at the end of each activity. The same should apply to your own teaching practice. While it is great to harness creativity and innovation in one’s teaching, it is equally important to make fun purposeful and effective. 

We hope that these tools will open up more opportunities for learning and generating new ideas in your classrooms. All activities can be easily adapted depending on the resources you have available. They are also widely  applicable, whether you teach business, literature or quantum physics.

Let us know how you get on! If you would like to write an article about your innovative teaching, just get in touch using the contact form. We would be delighted to share ideas and best practice. 

Read this:

Watch this:

https://www.ted.com/talks/ramsey_musallam_3_rules_to_spark_learning/transcript?referrer=playlist-talks_from_inspiring_teachers#t-300183

Reflect: take a few minutes and jot down your answers to the questions below. This will help you put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Tools For Tutors: Practical Strategies for Working with Feedback

Ellie Danak : November 4, 2018 10:14 am : Learners, Tools for Tutors

In our previous article, we offered advice on how to make the most of the feedback we receive from others. Here, the focus is on providing a practical guide to successful feedback practices for academic staff members who also have teaching responsibilities.

How do you know your teaching is effective?

There are many ways in which you can assess how effective your teaching methods are: your students not dozing off in your tutorials and good essay marks are some of them. But is it enough for you to know you have made their learning experiences stick?

Why do you need feedback from students and how can you get it?

Most higher-education institutions have formal processes in which they collect student feedback and analyse it. This often happens at the end of a course, programme or academic year, and means that students complete surveys and questionnaires that capture their experience. However, there is no need to wait until the end of your course to assess how the students have responded to your teaching.

Here are some tried and tested ideas we have put together so that you can get some meaningful feedback from your students:

Get creative – as a quick icebreaker, ask your students to list the most interesting ideas/concepts from the previous sessions – they can record these on a flip chart and present back to the group. Alternatively, they can draw a mind map or you can go round the room asking for a summary from each individual (just watch your time!).

Over to them – this is another favourite! Split your students into smaller groups and ask them to teach back various concepts/ideas you have been covering with them. That way you will see whether they have understood various concepts correctly and you can learn something from them.

Surveys – you can run more formal and informal surveys to get more detailed feedback on your teaching methods. Your institution may govern this. However, if you prefer more regular feedback from your students why not split a flip chart paper into these categories (use as many as you want)and ask your students to add comments: What went well today? What could I improve on? What would you like to see more of in my tutorials? What would you like me to do less of?

One-minute lectures – at the end of your tutorial/lecture ask your students to spend one minute writing down their personal and anonymous answers to one or two questions, such as:

– What was least clear in this session?
– What was the main point of today’s tutorial?
– What are the most important questions remaining unanswered for you?

Collect the scraps of paper with the responses and respond to them at the start of your next session. It is an easy and quick way to get insight into what has worked/ is still unclear.

Make your feedback count – help your students learn from your feedback

This is about the feedback students receive after an assessment. It is important to make it meaningful and get it right so that they can really benefit from the time you have put into assessing their work. It is not just about giving marks, but also supporting your students’ academic journey. Boud and Molloy (2013) suggest that feedback used solely by teachers as part of the assessment process is not enough anymore. With students becoming more engaged in co-creating their learning, the shift is towards more creative and participative ways of providing feedback.

Here are a few ideas from The Higher Education Academy to get you started:

Become a ‘feedback SNOB’ – encourage your students to reflect on feedback in a more productive way:

o   Strengths – what they do well and should continue doing
o   Needs – what they need to improve on before the next assessment
o   Opportunities – things they missed/got wrong and should pay more attention to next time
o   Barriers – what could prevent them from improving

 Ask your students to self-assess their work and then compare with your mark – this can be useful if you want them to understand the marking criteria. You can also facilitate peer-led assessments and feedback to offer your students as much opportunity as possible to practice both giving and receiving feedback.

Get them to act on your feedback – encourage your students to keep self-reflective logs of the feedback they have been receiving. They could use simple headings such us: What I Did Well, What I Need to Improve, Next Steps

Comments first, marks second – often students are so blinded by the marks that they ignore or forget to engage with and reflect on the attached feedback comments. Can you try to give them feedback first and encourage self-reflection to promote a growth mindset before disclosing the mark?

Reflecting on what one really hopes to achieve with feedback is an important part of a teaching practice. Think about what it means to you to be part of your students’ academic experience. What can you do to make sure they leave the university as more reflective and successful learners?

The best thing about the strategies listed above is that they are easy to adapt to your needs. Try them out and let us know how you get on!

Read this:
Feedback toolkit
Top tips for providing students with meaningful feedback
• More feedback tips here and here

Watch this:
What students say about feedback 

Bibliography:

David Boud & Elizabeth Molloy (2013) Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38:6, 698-712, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2012.691462

 

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Tips for Teachers

admin : January 17, 2018 11:48 pm : Learners, Tools for Tutors

This section on Career Development is not only useful to the students and alumni of Prowibo, but also to our teachers. Have a look at this inspiring article on tips for teachers written by one of Prowibo’s Research Fellows, Gabriel Inchausti.

Citizens of Solidaryland are known for their kindness and pro-sociality. One example will offer proof: their rate of organ donors is above 90%. The figure is seven times higher than their neighbours’ (the citizens of Egoland). Solidarylanders like to help others and they know the biggest way to do it is by giving the gift of life: donating to those who need it.

But what about Egolanders? Are they as cold, heartless, and individualistic as those figures suggest? Is it that they don’t care about others at all?

A small trick helped Solidarylanders to achieve such impressive rate of donors: all of them are automatic donors, unless they explicitly declare so. Can that seemingly innocuous fact be that important? Definitely!

Richard Thaler, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics , coined the term ‘nudge‘ to refer to those little elements in the context of a decision that have big impact in its outcome. We are not optimal, rational machines that make decisions always in accordance to our own benefit or our beliefs. We are just humans, and as Solidarylanders, we can use some help in the context to improve our decisions.

We know that education is very important. We are willing to put a considerable dose of effort to fulfil our academic goals. However, we rely on our human condition to make the right choices when the moment comes: Should I work now and finish this essay, or can I leave it for the weekend? In the end, my deadline is only next Tuesday. This is not an easy decision, and its outcome is not necessarily related to a specific academic mindset.

Professors can greatly improve the impact of their teachings if they become ‘choice architects‘. Lectures and course structure can have more effect if professors strategically place “cues” that condition students’ academic decisions in a good way.

Here a few suggestions:

Master the Deadlines.

Do students deliberately decide to rush during the last couple of days to finish their essay? Definitely not! But procrastination is one of the most difficult forces that students fight.

Although they know they tend to procrastinate, and they self-impose deadlines, they fail in building an effective mechanism to enforce their plan. Students may benefit more from externally imposed deadlines. (Ariely & Wertenbroch, 2002)

Help your students by splitting complex tasks into smaller ones with strict interim deadlines.

Build Habits.

We rely heavily on routines, in particular those that are proposed to us. Sometimes students build the proper ones, but sometimes they don’t. It is not enough to set how much time they should allocate each week in studying for a subject. They need to go one step forward. They need to specify when, where, and with whom.

The more specific the plan, the bigger the chances for them to follow it. As odd at it may sound, consider incentivising the first steps of your students’ plan. Incentives work great for short sprints and can be very useful when trying to build a routine.

Should your students earn credits just for showing up every Monday morning at 8 AM with their group? It may not be a silly idea.

Embrace the Golden Minute.

Other Nobel Prize in Economics, Daniel Kahneman said: “Our mind has a useful capability to focus on whatever is odd, different or unusual”. That useful capability can turn into something that is not always helpful, but professors can use it in benefit of their student.

Leave the last three minutes of your lectures for students to write what they have learned, what was most surprising in  your class and ask them to choose something they learned to tell to others.

These three questions activate  a mechanism that helps in retaining concepts. The “saying-is-believing” effect, (Hausmann, Levine, & Tory Higgins, 2008) refers to the influence in a communicator’s memories that has the process of tailoring a message for an audience.

When you ask your students to choose a single salient concept and to tell it to others they care about, the chance of them to fix it, increases.

Fight the Curve of Forgetting

Humans tend to forget, but they do it following a systematic pattern: we forget exponentially. Studies regarding the way we handle memories refer to the idea that the process of forgetting is linked with our growing inability to retrieve pieces of information stored. Memories appear to be gone because we can’t recall it, not because we lose it. (Anderson, Bjork, & Bjork, 1994) Mnemonic rules are tools to help in the process of information recovery.

Remind your students about the key concepts of your lessons the day after your lecture. Do it again in ten days. And do it a third time within a period of one month. This can help students  strengthen the “recalling procedures”, thus making the learned knowledge more available.

 

(1) Master the deadlines, (2) Build Habits, (3) Embrace the Golden Minute, and (4) Fight the Curve of Forgetting. These techniques won’t alter the beliefs of your students about the importance of education and the relevance of your lectures, but they will help them engage in behaviours consistent with high academic performance.

References

Anderson, M. C., Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1994). Remembering can cause forgetting: Retrieval dynamics in long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20(5), 1063–1087. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.20.5.1063

Ariely, D., & Wertenbroch, K. (2002). Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment. Psychological Science, 13(3), 219–224. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00441

Hausmann, L. R. M., Levine, J. M., & Tory Higgins, E. (2008). Communication and Group Perception: Extending the `Saying is Believing’ Effect. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 11(4), 539–554. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430208095405

 

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Our Teaching Tips

caro : August 1, 2017 9:41 am : Learners, Tools for Tutors

 

Click here for the teaching primer pack by Richard Adams.

Our lecturers have all been trained using this philosophy to best engage with students using the latest available research and technology. Please feel free to adopt, adapt and send us feedback.

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