Tuesday, May 22, 2012

#fslt12 initial thoughts & reflections

For my inaugural "assignment" post for #fslt12 I thought I would use one of the reflection templates, specifically the "areas of expertise" one. It's interesting to think about my teaching experience thus far. Initially I was tempted to say that my teaching experience extends back to February of this year; this is when I started teaching a college level course (graduate level) in research methods for instructional design. Thinking about it a bit harder though, my teaching experience goes back further.

A couple of years ago I volunteered to guest-host a learning module on communities of practice for one of the courses that a friend a colleague teaches. Sure, it was uncompensated, but it was a teaching experience nevertheless. This learning module was for graduate students in instructional design as well. I've also taught non-credit workshops when I worked for the library (Microsoft office, RefWorks, and on rare occasion how to use the to do library research), and when I worked as an instructional designer (educational technology of different sorts).

Granted, the duration of this teaching experience is all over the place. Some were 1 hr workshops, others were 1 week modules, and my most recent experience was a 13 week course; however I did pick up different skills and experiences from each, and I figured out things that I like (and things I don't ;-). ) one of the things that I really enjoy in teaching is problem solving. This was much more the case with workshops, where you needed to figure out what the learner needed, what the use cases would be, and tailor the instruction around that.

So, now, some initial thoughts on the standards:

A1 Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
Coming from an instructional design background this seems like a no-brainer. Instructors/facilitators/teachers/professors (no matter what you call the person in that role) needs to be able to both design and plan learning activities and programmes of study (I assume that this is the British English way of saying "curriculum"?  if not, can someone kindly correct my mis-assumption :-)  ); and they need to be able to modify existing learning activities and programmes of study to suit the specific learners in their course.

A2 Teach and/or support learning
This too seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me. It is the role of a teacher to teach and support learning by picking the appropriate teaching methodology and the appropriate for the subject matter, level of learner, and learning material available. It is a balancing act, and sometimes you need to apply (what I have heard termed as) the goldilocks principle - not too hot, not too cold...juuuussst right!  In teaching, as with other non-structured activities (in terms of time), the instructor can fall into the trap of spending way too much time on preparing, giving feedback, and so on.  While this is done out of love of teaching, it may burn the instructor out, and it may overwhelm the learner - so you need to find the right balance.

A3 Assess and give feedback to learners
Again, another no-brainer :-)  My instructional design program did not require an assessment course as part of the program, but I took one anyway.  Assessment is quite important because you don't know if your learning intervention was successful without an assessment - and a good assessment at that! Feedback to learners is also important, so that they know how they can improve, however as stated in A2 you don't want to overwhelm them.

A4 Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
This, too, is quite important, and I think that it is a no-brainer, but not everyone things about it.  I think that this particular standard is something that you pick up with experience, through professional development, and through constructive critique (and sharing of notes) with colleagues.

A5 Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices
Personally I think that this is important.  I know that others in the instructional design field may stop their serious career development after a formal degree, but professional development is important. It's not just important for you, but for the people in your classroom - your gains are their gains.  My one stumbling block is time.  Where does one find enough time to develop professionally - especially in the US where many instructors are contingent labor, cobbling together a number of jobs at different institutions to make ends meet - or teaching 4 courses per semester as a full-timer at teaching colleges? Faculty at research institution have built-in professional development: research and publishing; but what about those at teaching schools? :-)


Notes to myself at the start of the course
At the end of this MOOC, you will be asked to reflect on what you have learned from the course. Are there any aspirations, reminders or thoughts you have now as you embark on the course that you might find useful to record in order to have them for later review? 
I am curious to find out more about the different levels of "fellow" in the HEA classification.  Do all faculty in UK institutions get this sort of license?  Or is it not a license?
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