Posts Tagged CLB_018

A ‘rhizomatic’ take on Semester one so far

Last week I had the good fortune to hear Professor Diana Masny speak about her Deleuzian approach to researching multiliteracies theory (which she referred to as ‘MLT’). Masny is from Ottowa, Canada, and is an adjunct prof at QUT.

In this presentation I was returned to the idea of ‘the rhizome’, something that had interested me when I encountered the work of Deleuze and Guattari. The idea behind looking at things rhizomatically is that we can stop focussing on binary oppositions, or organising concepts into ordered taxonomies and such. Instead, rhizomatic analysis involves looking at things and ideas spread/propagate…and at where new possibilities ‘shoot off’ out of of what already exists.

A rhizome in plant form

A rhizome in plant form

This talk by Masny was interesting for a number of reasons to do with designing research methodology, as well as considering MLT from new angles. One thing that inspired me was the way that her presentation was organised around ‘entry points’ to her own topic as a rhizomatic collection of findings. This is in contrast to a presentation that tries to summarise ‘key findings’ or ‘ways forward’. Seeing as I most often use my blog to reflect on ‘findings’ and ‘planning’, I thought it might make a nice change to adopt Masny’s (after Deleuze’s) approach of exploring the ‘entry points’ into my practice so far this semester…

ENTRY POINT: Attendance

At QUT we have a policy that attendance is not to be counted in any way toward assessment, and that students choosing to catch up on their study from home are to be supported in that choice. I have heard some lecturers complain about this – they think students would learn better if they turned up to all the classes, and wish the university would enforce this. Most of us, however, respect the purpose of this arrangement, which is to provide flexible study options for the grown-up human beings that are our ‘students’, and cater for a range of learning styles. Personally I find it very motivating, as it forces me to think about HOW I can make my lessons “worth coming to”!

I’m really happy with the attendance rate in my classes at the moment. Out of the 110 students I have studying on campus, almost 100% turned up in Week one, and the students that were away mostly emailed in their apologies. In Week 2, attendance in tutorials and the lecture was down to about 85%, which is to be expected. What I am eager to see is that 85% attendance rate maintained for the rest of the 9-week semester, rather than drop of over time to 20-50%, as other lecturers often report. I’m pleased to say that in the past few years here, I haven’t noticed the same kind of drop of, and I like to think this reflects the usefulness of my classes.

ENTRY POINT: Engagement

As always it has been a slow start on Twitter…but as always, there are several students ‘coming around’ to the tool already and engaging with informal peer tutoring as well. Once again, I am glad I chose to persevere with introducing students to an unfamiliar (and for many of them, unloved) social media tool.

I had a really great out-of-context engagement moment as well last week, on Pinterest. I use Pinterest among other things to collect useful resources for English teachers, and one day I saw a collage about English teaching and ‘re-pinned it’ to my board. I thought (and commented) ‘wow…this is just like an activity I do in class!’. Then I realised that I was following one of my students already, and that it was her! Funniest bit was though, she had been following me too without realising who I was, or making any connection to out uni lives. Good times!

There has been a growth in socia media profiles and ‘chats’ that I can now connect my students to, and the most important of these is the #ozengchat that takes place on Twitter on Tuesday nights. Feeling like they are engaging with ‘real teachers’ seems to be helping with motivation in the class, but at the moment that’s just my anecdotal take on the situation.

ENTRY POINT: Assessment

In my class students undertake THREE assessment tasks:

  1. Personal essay on teaching philosophy and resource analysis (individual, 30%)
  2. Lessons plans for a junior English class (in pairs, 40%)
  3. Portfolio of completed learning ‘challenge tasks’ (individual, 30%)

What I like about what I have achieved with this set of assessments is that there is a balance of individual and group work, that there is a variety of tasks, and that no task is worth more that 40%.

At this point I’ll put myself out there to say I am disappointed to see how many uni coordinators choose to use just TWO assessment piece in their own classes. This is not good practice imo! Having less assignments does mean a smaller marking load for the lecturer, and less due dates for the student, but at what cost?

I really do believe that students in uni should not have assessments that are worth 50% or over, as this is too high-stakes to promote good learning. To do this, you must have more than two assessments for a unit in a semester.

FINAL WORDS: The CLB018 ‘assemblage’

In the theory of Deleuze and Guattari, the context of my CLB018 class provides an assemblage of bodies and things that can produce any number of effects. I hoe to keep reporting throughout the semester on the effects (and affects) of our assemblage!

In the meantime, any comments on these POINTS OF ENTRY are most welcome.

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Classes start tomorrow!

The week we’ve all been waiting for, week one of the university semester, is finally here!

This semester, I will be focussing on the following areas of my English Curriculum Studies unit for development:

  • Building in more support for student reflective writing. The design of my lesson planning assignment last year included a tutorial presentation of the key teaching strategies, but it didn’t really work that well. So I plan to change this element of the assessment to a written reflection, and add two targeted activities to tutorials in mid-semester to more constructively scaffold the task.
  • Finding places to make connections between English curriculum studies content knowledge and other professional frameworks. In particular I want to ensure that students understand how the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers can be used to self-diagnose areas of strength and directions for further learning, and are knowledgable about the Productive Pedgagogies framework that is advocated by Education Queensland.
  • Registration. After three years of running this unit it will be time to write up the final unit design, as well as a ‘scope and sequence’, so that the unit is ready to be passed on. At school we called this ‘registration’ – when the Head Teacher would check out your unit plans at the end of the semester and ensure you met your learning objectives. Here at uni there are other other mechanisms in place, but the Head Teacher check isn’t one of them. And official changes are made so sllllloooowwwlyyyy. So, for my own piece of mind, I’m going to put my own unit through a final tick-and-flick, then prepare my reflections and field notes for scholarly publication and sharing.

I’ve included below another classroom poster I’ve made, a visual resource to support my students’ engagement with the Productive Pedagogies – feel free to use and share (though note that the values/opinions expressed on it about alignment with ‘prac’ are only my own POV!).

Now…deep breath!

And once more into the breach!

Productive Pedagogies for Prac (image by Kelli, CC-BY-SA)

Productive Pedagogies for Prac (image by Kelli, CC-BY-SA)

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Why English teachers join professional associations

In 2010 the English Teachers Association (NSW, Australia) celebrated 50 years of operation and service to members.

A DVD was released to members, with reflections from past and present ETA leaders. It is an excellent record of the history of the association and provides invaluable insights for new teachers!

I was surfing YouTube when I found that the ETA had uploaded the first section from the DVD onto the web. Here it is, roughly 8 minutes, on a range of teachers’ first involvement with the ETA:

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Pedagogy or assessment – what comes first in PBL?

So many things to blog about at the moment…transmedia and transliteracy, the Gonski review of school funding…but in the thick of Semester 2 teaching I find myself inexorably drawn back to curriculum studies.

And goddess, please bless Bianca for coming through with a new blog post about Project Based Learning (PBL) to stimulate my thinking this week!

I have been trying to work out how to formally incorporate PBL into the structure of my unit English Curriculum Studies 1This week I think I have a solution, which I’ll outline below.  But first, to answer Bianca’s question: when I proposed this structure in a comment on her blog she asked:

Did you design the assessments or the pedagogy first?

And that question, RIGHT THERE, is our chicken and egg, am I right?

Because, as Bianca rightly points out, school teachers find it very challenging to engage in “inherent ‘assessment for learning’ within the rigid ‘assessment of learning’ framework already in place”.  So, while it might seem logical that your pedagogy will determine your assessment, the ‘reality’ of teaching and learning puts this possibility beyond reach for most. 

For some schools their ‘rigid assessment of learning framework’ is tied to NAPLAN exams, for others it is focussed more on Year 12 exit credentials.  And in schools that claim not to be driven by external assessments, rigid assessment frameworks can still be constructed by Heads of Department (or others) who seek to place multiple additional constraints on teachers’ planning (e.g. “you MUST have a half yearly exam!”, “every Year 9 class must write an essay in term 1″)

The curriculum places constraints on assessment and pedagogy too, and I could start talking about the Australian Curriculum here.  Instead I’ll show you what I built for the university semester context, and try to answer Bianca’s question from there.

Here is the draft outline for my unit in 2012:

  • Weeks 1-4 focus: Inquiry based learning (assessment = critical/reflective essay) assessment as learning
  • Weeks 5-7 focus: Project based learning (assessment = project + review of pedagogy used in class project) assessment for learning
  • Weeks 8-9 focus: Challenge based learning (assessment = make lesson plans for English) assessment of learning

I can safely say that for this unit, I started with the assessment.  Literally, I have adopted an existing unit with existing assessment pieces that take at least 6 months to get formally changed.  So, while I have been tweaking each assessment piece each semester, I’ve been teaching it for 18 months now and a full overhaul of the structure is now needed to fully incorporate PBL and other constructivist approaches.

Beyond that initial point of departure though, I have oscillated between a pedagogy focus and an assessment focus each time I plan and change something in the unit.

I would say my major points of development around pedagogy and assessment were:

  1. Reviewing the balance of assessment FOR learning and OF learning in the existing unit.  In the university context it is only possible to mandate summative assessment…so I had to reconsider my approach to build a learning environment where the learning process was valued.
  2. Reviewing the first summative assessment, which was a critical essay, gave me the idea to make the relevance or ‘connectedness’ of the opening weeks of the unit more apparent.  Students now do a range of inquiry-based activities to help them engage in the scholarly material, motivated by the need to interrogate their own perspective.
  3. Activities planned for the first few weeks of the unit were redesigned around a new assessment that focussed on the students personal teaching philosophy.  This increased the potential of the assessment to be FOR learning, I thought.
  4. Teaching the new opening to the unit was really affirming, but showed up the weaknesses in the pedagogy of weeks 5-7.  A PBL approach was therefore introduced to ‘liven up’ this part of the unit.  This coincides with the time in semester when students begin having heaps of assignments due, and I felt they needed a pedagogical experience that was less ‘intense’, and enjoyable enough to get them through the ‘hump weeks’!
  5. The PBL appraoch worked really well, but the students put a lot of work in that wasn’t rewarded in assignment grades.  So I am now redesigning assignment 2 to include ‘project participation’ criteria so students can get their work on this counted in their final grade.
  6. aaand…MOST recently: because the final assessment of creating alesson plans really has proven a ‘challenge’, I’m going to use this to explore Challenge based learning.  I see this as being the same as Project based learning, but where the outcome does not have to be presentation to an audience.  Instead, the project outcome must ‘meet the challenge’.  Think Mythbusters :)

You can see how thinking about assessment and pedagogy are totally bound together – thinking about one always raises questions for the other.  Or, it should!

I’m still searching for material that can explain the realtionship between Inquiry, Project and Challenge based learning.  I’ve tried to use them here in a complementary way, but tbh it’s been tough to find sources that relate the approaches to one another.  I started off this process thinking they were slightly interchangable.  Now I can see that each one is informed by a respect for ‘learning by doing’, but has its own unique flavour.  But are these three the only three?  Do they sit in a hierarchy of some kind?  Are there other ‘Something-B-Ls’ out there that I don’t know about??

Who knows.

If you do, please add a comment!  (I hope this helps someone out there!)

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EXCURSION!

I’m planning my first University excursion :D

With my small class of six students studying their Grad. Dip. in Education (secondary English), I will be heading into Brisbane city to attend events that are part of the Global Poetics Tour:


Slam poets Jive, Ken and Mahogany will be slamming into Brisbane for the Australian Poetry Slam competition, which has its second Brisbane Heat on Friday 9th September.  I think that’s the event we’ll be going to…although the Sunday event also looks pretty appealing: Black Star Tribute ‘Words or Whatever’ at the Black Star Cafe in West End.

I wonder what event my students will choose for the excursion – we make the selection in tomorrow’s tutorial!

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Challenges to developing a blended learning course

This extract is from the article Development and Implementation of a “Blended” Teaching Course Environment in the most recent issue of JOLT:

Roadblocks/challenges to Developing a Blended Course

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to developing a blended course is the student fear factor. Many individuals in my class had never crafted a PowerPoint presentation, much less navigated in an online
discussion. Despite their familiarity with Web 2.0 tools like Facebook, MySpace, and instant messaging, the thought of being graded for online participation was somewhat threatening and intimidating. It was also difficult initially for students to understand the rationale for some assignments (such as Second Life). In future classes, more emphasis on business necessity, future usage, and SL current applications will be incorporated into the course pedagogy. Because there were many different types of assignments in this course (including group work, both on and off line), some students also expressed dissatisfaction with having to rely on team members. Use of the Team Agreement did however help to coalesce groups, and to give members a framework for expected behavior. Instructor feedback on the Team Agreement is essential in providing guidance regarding conflict resolution, assignment schedule, and interpersonal interaction among members.

The blended model is a student-centered approach that allows the instructor to behave as a coach, a facilitator, and a cheerleader for his/her students. It is a way to let students lead in an environment in which they’re guided to success. In the words of Singh (2002, p. 476), “To be successful, blended [teaching]… needs to focus on combining the right delivery technologies to match the individual learning
objectives and transfer the appropriate knowledge and skills to the learner at the right time.”

by Jacqueline Gilbert and Ricardo Flores-Zambada

Development and Implementation of a “Blended” Teaching Course Environment
Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 7, No. 2, June 2011 pp. 244-260

This interests me because I have been considering including an assessment of online PLN participation in my unit next semester.

Given that this study found that “the thought of being graded for online participation was somewhat threatening and intimidating” for students, I’m going to avoid actually grading their participation per se.  Rather, I’ve decided that students must show (in an assignment appendix) participation in their online PLN for the unit to achieve a Distinction (Grade ’6′) or High Distinction (Grade ’7′).  That way, they either do it, or they don’t.  They don’t have to feel anxious about quality.

Has anyone else done something similar to this?  Making students demonstrate their PLN building?  How can I do it – get them to attach a screen shot of three blog comments and five tweets?  Would that suffice?  Hmm…

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List of Artistic Media

Some more thinking about what we mean when we say ‘medium’ in English curriculum…this list of artistic mediums has been helpful in contextualising English as a subject area within a broader notion of ‘arts’:

In the arts, a media or medium is a material used by an artist or designer to create a work.

  • Architecture
  • Carpentry
  • Digital
  • Drawing
  • Film
  • Light
  • Literature
  • Natural World
  • Painting
  • Performing Arts
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture
  • Sound
  • Technology
  • Textiles

Wikipedia ‘List of Artistic Media’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_artistic_mediums

Within that list, the medium of literature appeared with the following explanation and links:

Literature

Main articles: Literature and Writing implement

The art of writtenwords and typography is traditionally an ink and printed form on paper or is creatively written with many forms of media.

Common writing media

Common bases for writing

This is food for thought.

The investigation into medium continues…

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Media – Definition

Was looking for a good defintion for ‘medium’ in English and along the way have found my new go-to definition for media:

MEDIA as a word derives from the plural of Latin medium,  meaning ‘middle’ or ‘between’ (hence ‘mediator’ as a ‘go-between’, also medieval, coined in the nineteenth century to label the age between the classical period and the Renaissance).  From the early twentieth century, however, it has become increasingly common to talk of ‘the media’ (definite article and plural).  The media thus understood mean two interrelated yet distinct things:

  • those specifically modern technologies and modes of COMMUNICATION which enable people to communicate at a distance, characteristically through print (especially newspapers and magazines); the various telecommunications (‘tele-’ comes from the Greek word for ‘far’, hence telegraph/’far-writing’, telephone/’far-sound’, television/’far-sight’), as well as film, video, cable, satellite and the Internet;
  • by extension, the institutions which own and control these technologies as well as= the people who work for them (e.g, newspaper proprietors, TV and film companies, advertising agencies and governments, as well as reporters, camera operators, editors, producers, presenters, etc.).

Pope, R. (2002) The English Studies Book: An introduction to Language, Literature and Culture (2nd edition)Routledge, London. p.68

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Chat to Hemingway 0.5

Having the best time right now chatting to Simon Groth’s chat bot.

Hemmingway 0.5 is a chat bot based on the character in the eponymous short story. You can chat to him about anything you like.

Simon is a real find.  Made getting up today totally worth it!

Simon Groth is a writer and editor whose first two novels were shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and whose short fiction has been published in Australia and the United States. His co-edited collection Off The Record: 25 Years of Music Street Press (with Sean Sennett), was published in 2010.

Simon is the manager of if:book Australia, exploring digital futures for authors, readers, and publishers.

Do yourself a favour and go browse his site: http://simongroth.com/

At least go and chat to Hemmingway.

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Inquiry based learning

The more I delve into curriculum materials in Queensland, the more I find references to ‘inquiry based curriculum‘.

Does anyone have any materials that outline the relationship between (evolution from?) constructivism as a learning theory, inquiry based learning as a general pedagogic approach, and more specific approaches such as project based and games based learning?

Or did using the terms ‘learning theory’, ‘general pedagogy’ and ‘specific pedagogy’ just then pretty much do the job?

I desperately want to explain these ideas to students next semester, but am wary of leading them to believe that newer ideas are intended to replace the older ones, when my message is rather that they should be building a complex pedagogy.

Or is this wrong too…connectivism, anyone?

(This definitely needs some kind of graphic representation eh? Anyone up for a prezi collab?)

Inquiry based curriculum model: developing deep knowledge and understanding

Adopting an inquiry approach ensures that students have the opportunity to examine concepts, issues and information in a range of ways, and from various perspectives.

The inquiry approach values the skills of creative and critical thinking, informed decision-making, hypothesis building and problem-solving. As our society becomes increasingly complex and the role of the citizen becomes even more vital, these skills provide the foundation for discerning citizenship.

Students are encouraged to become active investigators by identifying a range of information, understanding the sources of information and looking for bias in it. They are thus better able to evaluate data and to draw meaningful conclusions which are supported by evidence. Rather than examining an issue from any one perspective, students are challenged to explore other possibilities by applying higher order thinking skills in their decision-making endeavours.

(QLD DET, 2008, ‘Implementing the QCAR: Curriculum‘ accessed today)

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