When I decided to try and gain the higher education academy fellowship, I found myself quite lost. Even though the academy provides you with some useful guidelines on how to compile your application, I always felt like seeing a full example would have been very helpful. Searching around the web, I stumbled across two complete examples by Suzan Koseoglu and Dr Ellie Mackin Roberts that were extremely helpful in the drafting and succesfull application of my own reflective account.
Because I found Suzan's and Ellie's application so useful, I decided to share my own to enable future applicants to have even more examples. At the end, you will also find a summary of the comments provided by the board following the acceptance of my application.
Since my SEDA Associate Fellow accreditation in 2017 and the exposure to the concept of Authentic learning (Herrington, Reeves, & Oliver, 2010), I have strived to make this framework the core of my teaching strategy. Authentic learning allows students to interact not only with the taught content, but most importantly with real world problems connecting the concepts of learning and doing at a deep level. Making this framework my own was particularly easy due to the creative and applied nature of my area of expertise and the modules I teach. Moreover, after a year of a global pandemic where remote delivery is the only teaching method allowed, authentic learning is even more important. In these trying circumstances, being able to take advantage of emerging technologies to deliver authentic content to students is key (Herrington & Parker, 2013). I recently applied this framework to the CMP3013 Audio / Video Fundamentals (CMP3013 hereafter). CMP3013 is a Foundation course, comprising students looking forward to studying in a variety of different courses, all pertaining under the digital media technology or digital media computing umbrella. One of my main goals was to make sure each and every one of the students could get something out of the course, no matter their subject area. This was extremely challenging and involved not solely focusing on delivering the content, but rather abstracting the core fundamentals of the syllabus. Having to deliver the module to students with varying interests (from Cybersecurity to Sound Engineering and Production) I focused on making sure that the skills taught could be applied to any area of interest. [K3] [V1] [V2]
Due to the current pandemic, the first half of CMP3013 was taught completely online and subdivided in three 2-hour sessions each tackling a different aspect of the module: theory, audio and video. It was essential for the success of this module to tie the core skills of audio and video editing to real-world scenarios that would apply all the students. These scenarios ranged from academic ones (recording a video for an assessment, presenting a project remotely) to work ones (recording a video for a company, explaining a concept to stakeholders). This was challenging considering that this module contained students that ranged from Cybersecurity and Networking all the way to Computer Programming and Sound Engineering. To achieve this, my first goal was to push for students to participate in class and partake in every single aspect of the course. From simple gamified quizzes used as an icebreaker via Sli.do, to the use of polls and word clouds to engage with student opinions, all the way to allocating time to discuss with the students where they would have liked the class to go and what topics they wished would be covered, giving them effectively control and responsibility over their own education (Albano & Sabena, 2020). Using universal design concepts (Dell, Dell & Blackwell 2015), I strived to make this class accessible especially focusing on the way students could interact with me. For this I provided different channels that ranged from synchronous spoken interaction all the way to textual interaction via chat or asynchronous textual interaction via email. As personally experienced in previous circumstances, this variety of methods enabled most students to find the most comfortable mean to get in touch, thus increasing the level of interaction. The heavy use and understanding of technologies of each individual student was essential in the creation of this module and the mid-module reviews given by the student spoke in favour of this method, making the module achieve a global score of 4/5. [A2] [K4] [K5]
Whilst authentic learning has been especially useful in CMP3013 due to the content and level of the students, applying concepts from the same framework has been essential in non-remote courses too. In DIG6111 New Interfaces for Musical Expression (DIG6111 hereafter), I taught final year undergraduate students using a mixed delivery methodology keeping lectures online and tutorials in person. Even though in this case the assessment was individual, I used group exercises to build rapport between the students who had seemingly gone out of the habit of working together since the lockdown (Frisby & Martin, 2010; Oliveira, Tinoca, & Pereira 2011). Moreover, the module was redefined in order to build on existing knowledge learned by the students in the prior two years allowing the whole cohort to focus on higher level concepts such as creative development for research application, practice-based learning and application of theoretical concepts in a practice-based scenario. [K2]
I have always seen higher education teaching as something more than a simple transfer of knowledge. My goal in class is always to create a fertile environment where bi-directional knowledge transfer is welcome and creative spark is encouraged and seized to make classes more interesting and more useful both for my students and myself. This has also been aided by the fact that the modules I have been teaching until this moment are grounded in practice and include creative-driven assessments, but I firmly believe that this concept can be broadened to any sort of class. [K3]
In CMP3013 the creation of this fertile environment was essential for the successful delivery of the module. When teaching a topic like “video editing” it is easy to fall into a tutorial-like rhythm where the focus of the content is lost, and what is being taught is the tool/software in question. At the beginning of the semester, I told my students that the module would not be an Adobe Premiere tutorial, but rather use some basic editing skills to learn more about the world of video editing and production. By doing so and shifting the focus of the module to the application of basic skills rather than the basic skills themselves, I reduced the amount of lecture style content increasing interactive tutorials and thus reducing transactional distance (Chen, 2001) typical of remote learning environments. The basic skills were then informally tested in tutorials, where class exercises prompted students to interact with the video edits both in group exercises and class exercises, where the class as a whole was puppeteering me through a video edit. This technique helped me scope the general understanding of basic concepts whilst at the same time serving as a recap for students that maybe had not grasped certain concepts quite yet. [K3] [K4]
The DIG6111 module was instead designed differently due to the different nature of the course and level of the students. A more hands-on approach in the first six teaching week was essential to make sure high-level concepts were explained and applied together in class, whilst a progressively more independent class was implemented in the second half of the module to give the chance to students to work on their assessment in class and identify issues and overcome difficulties in their projects. In a similar fashion to CMP3013, the problems found by individuals in their personal investigations were then used as case studies in class to explore topics that might have been left out of the syllabus, or simply as a group problem solving exercise. [K2] [V1] [V2]
Both CMP3013 and DIG6111 suffered from issues tied to the assessment which I plan to adjust in the next module iteration. In CMP3013, the creativity and openness of the assessment that was expected to be a desired aspect (Lynam & Cachia, 2017) turned out to be a negative. When creating the assessment brief, me and my colleagues supposed that an open-ended assessment would have helped the students apply the audio and video editing skills learned throughout the module to whatever topic they desired. Unfortunately, this openness led to confusion and stress on behalf of the students. It is now clear that a more guided approach would have been more suitable and provided a clearer path to submission. In DIG6111 the assessment instead suffered from a similar problem that yielded a different outcome: students were confident but marking was hard. In trying to keep the brief generic (Build an interface for musical expression that aligns with the themes seen in the NIME conference of the past) to enable students to work on a variety of different creative submission, it became extremely difficult to grade the submissions referring to the brief and marking scheme. Whilst I knew why one submission was better than another, and I could justify my choice if I were prompted, I couldn’t always refer to a specific line in the marking criteria that supported my claim. For this reason, I decided to to strengthen the research component if DIG6111 and modified the brief accordingly to aid me in the marking process. Next year, students will be graded both on the interface produced and the research grounding the interface itself. [K2] [V3]
In the modules I teach, I always provide a mixture of formative and summative assessments (Burke, 2010) to make sure that my students get feedback both during the module itself and at the end of the module. The formative feedback provided during the module is meant to support them in their learning and make sure they reach the assessment deadline with a solid understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, in order to provide them with the best chance of achieving a good result in the module. The summative feedback at the end of the module is split between feedback and feedforward to make sure that the comments on the assessment can be easily generalised and applied to future modules. I find continuous feedback (whether formative or summative) to be essential in establishment of a modern class. My goal as a lecturer is to guide the students in their own learning journey providing them with feedback to help them reflect on their learning journey (Daloz, 2012). This can of course be done with different levels of depth depending on the size of the class and easiest to implement in one-to-one tutoring. In one-to-one tutoring, at any level, continuous constructive feedback is essential to develop a relationship of trust and respect between the student and the mentor (Liang, Liu & Zhao, 2021), and to provide support in what is being created: whether this is an undergraduate project or a master’s thesis. [A3]
Formative assessment was never built into the modules I taught. In almost every instance, courses were set up to provide multiple instances of summative assessment throughout the year, but this was always feedback tied to high stakes (it contributed to the final mark) and did not provide the chance for the students to freely discuss their learning journey without pressure. For this reason, starting from the first module I taught, I always based my lesson plan to include time for formative assessments. The time devoted to summative assessment usually varies depending on the size of the class and on the number of students, but I always have the students’ need for balanced, well-thought-out/carefully considered and detailed feedback in mind. Formative assessment, in combination with summative checkpoints, is essential for the benefit of the students and to understand at each and every step of the way if the content being taught is being assimilated properly (Irons, 2018).
Formative assessment takes a different form for every module I teach and adapts to the needs of the class. For Computer Programming (CMP4266 hereafter) the formative assessment consisted in weekly homework tasks that were then solved in class the following week, prompting the class to intervene and show the progress they made at home as a group. In DIG6111, considering the age, level and number of students, formative assessment took the form of a one-to-one chat where students were able to discuss the idea that they would have liked to develop for the module throughout the semester with me. These one-to-one sessions also helped uncover areas that hadn’t been clear in class and guided me, as well as the students, in the following lectures and tutorials. Finally, in CMP3013 with the introduction of Sli.do, formative assessment was gamified at the beginning of each lecture making informal assessment, learning and revision a game that everyone could join (Filippou, Cheong & Cheong, 2018). The more the module went on, the less need there was for this game to be included and the time was slowly shifted to one-to-many sessions where workgroups could discuss their ideas, doubts and struggles with me or my colleagues. [A1] [A2] [A4]
Throughout the year I have also taken part in multiple marking exercises with colleagues of mine to make sure our marking criteria were aligned in light of the upcoming final year project marking. These marking exercises have provided excellent feedback and helped me understand how my marks stacked against the ones of my colleagues, making me adjust my criteria and reflect on my marking practice. Whilst marking exercises can seem to be time-consuming considering the amount of time already spent marking, they have actually sped up my marking process made me more confident in my decisions. [K6]
I decided to bring the past year of teaching as an example of developing effective learning environment and novel approaches to student support and guidance. The surge of the COVID-19 pandemic put a lot of pressure on academia as a whole to rethink and develop effective learning environments that are suitable under the current circumstances. The pandemic also made academia envision a future where remote learning would become an integral part of the curricula. I decided to play a key role in my faculty not only in developing effective learning environments for these exceptional circumstances, but also in becoming an advocate for this paradigm shift and help colleagues and the wider staff cohort transition to an online learning experience. There are a few key aspects that were essential in the making of this new learning environment: technological tools and the effect of these on teaching, implementation/inclusion of said tools in teaching, and managing stress during these challenging times. [V4]
The first and most practical aspect to develop this novel environment was not only a shift in tools, but also an adaptation of the content to be delivered via these novel means. It became quickly clear that what was previously possible in person had to be re-imagined for an online delivery as simply translating face-to-face classes to an online medium (using any video-conferencing tool) wouldn’t have been enough. The first thing I helped define together with a few colleagues of mine was a framework for pre-recorded lectures and live online classes. This distinction was essential to provide students with the flexibility to consume content at their own pace and provide them with the ability to take regular breaks, essential to avoid encountering stress issues discussed in a later paragraph. Pre-recorded lectures were set-up to be provided on a regular schedule, were produced using high quality gear provided by the university, and I strived to keep consistency in the materials within my faculty providing templates for the slides and video editing software. [K2] [K3] [K4]
Even though new tools were put in place to engage with this new way of teaching and learning, it was clear that the delivery mode also had to change. One of the most necessary changes was that of pre-recorded lectures. Lectures that in-class could go on for one hour uninterrupted were restructured, and I suggested my colleagues to do the same. Lectures were split up in multiple smaller chunks, no longer than 20 minutes, and due to the inability to interact with the class, the content was condensed to the essentials allowing students to pursue the in-depth exploration of the area independently. This allowed classes to be slimmer and easier to digest whilst still allowing for the content to be delivered and the progression to be formatively assessed in the live tutorial sessions. [A1] [A2]
The final aspect of this effective environment was the understanding that the exceptional circumstances that we had to deal with as academics were affecting students even more. I personally strived to provide more pastoral care than ever because I felt that many students were struggling through these trying times. This effort of mine took different shapes but was always devoted to lending more support to students that needed it the most. In DIG6111, where mixed learning was implemented, I put in place extra hours for students who weren’t able to attend the in-person tutorials to make sure that they could get at least one hour a week of interactive tutoring just like their classmates. In the case of one-to-one teaching, an always-on chatroom was set-up on Microsoft Teams alongside the weekly meetings to provide support throughout the year, and to make sure the students felt like they were taken care of and were never alone. Loneliness during the pandemic was the most common issue that I encountered with students, and I feel that using technology at its best to provide support was the least I could do as a lecturer during these times.
Albano, G. and Sabena, C. (2020) E-learning for fostering the growth of students responsible for their own learning: didactic organization and theoretical reflections. Quaderni di Ricerca in Didattica, 8. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1768353 [Accessed 16 April 2021]
Burke, K. (2010) Balanced Assessment: From Formative to Summative. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.
Chen, Y. (2001) Transactional Distance in World Wide Web Learning Environments. Innovations in Education and teaching International, 38:4, 327-338. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14703290110074533
Daloz, L. A. (2012) Mentor: Guiding the Journey of Adult Learners (with New Foreword, Introduction, and Afterterword). Hoboken: Wiley.
Dell, C. A., Dell, T. F. and Blackwell, T. L. (2015) Applying Universal Design for Learning in Online Courses: Pedagogical and Practical Considerations. The Journal of Educators Online (JEO), 13:2, 166-192. Available at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1068401 [Accessed 16 April 2021]
Filippou, J., Cheong, C. and Cheong, F. (2018) A Model to Investigate Preference for Use of Gamification in a Learning Activity. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 22. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3127/ajis.v22i0.1397
Frisby, B. N. and Martin, M. M. (2010) Instructor–Student and Student–Student Rapport in the Classroom. Communication Education, 59:2, 146-164. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/03634520903564362
Herrington, J. and Parker, J. (2013) Emerging technologies as cognitive tools for authentic learning. British Journal of Education Technology, 44:4, 607-615. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12048
Herrington, J., Reeves, T. C., and Oliver, R. (2010). A Guide to Authentic e-Learning. New York: Routledge.
Irons, A. (2008) Enhancing learning through formative assessment and feedback. Abingdon: Routledge.
Liang, W., Liu, S. and Zhao, C. (2020) Impact of student‐supervisor relationship on postgraduate students’ subjective well‐being: a study based on longitudinal data in China. Higher Education. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-020-00644-w
Lynam, S. and Cachia, M. (2017) Students’ perceptions of the role of assessments at higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43:2, 223-234. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1329928
Oliveira, I., Tinoca, L. and Pereira, A. (2011) Online group work patterns: How to promote a successful collaboration. Computers & Education, 57:1. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.01.017
K5 was identified as one of the weakest areas because it was not explicit how I formally evaluated my teaching. However, the narrative clearly indicated that feedback from students and the self-reflection was central to further developing my practice.
Moreover, I was suggested to insert the short designation for dimensions (for example [V1]) at relevant points in the narrative, rather than lumped at the end of a sentence or paragraph, and to use these in moderation.