Continuing to reflect

This is the 14th post in Over a Cuppa, a series which offers prompts to reflect on learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Cross-posted from Teche blog with an original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

Here is a short video from Fidel Fernando on how he flash brews his cup of coffee, initially created to demonstrate an example for participants in the Beginning to Teach program. So sit back, take a sip and enjoy the opportunity to reflect on your teaching practice.

Last semester, these reflection posts were published weekly with approximately 300 words based on scholarly reading and an accompanying original artwork. Reflecting in a hurry felt rushed and unsustainable. This semester we return to teaching online and balancing work with coping and/or caring or schooling from home. This context has prompted a slower schedule for these reflection posts and a loosening of the word limit, akin to the comfort of elasticised clothing during lockdown.

The starting point remains the same: a belief that reflective practice is a learned skill that is invaluable for teachers and students. The Professional Learning and Capability Enhancement (PLaCE) Framework outlines what reflection looks from Foundational to Expert levels:

• Articulate the principles of, approaches to, and the values of, reflective practice.
• Reflect on own teaching, learning support and/or curriculum/assessment design practices.
• Explain actions taken in response to reflection on, and in, practice.
• Engage in sustained reflection on own educational practices and critique actions taken in response.
• Implement strategies to promote a culture that values reflective practice.
• Develop and support the strategic and systematic embedding of reflexivity into educational practice.

Reflection can be challenging, but a month into semester is a good time to consider what is working well and what needs rethinking. The prompt for this week is: How full is your cup?

This image has been created and shared on Twitter by Susan Wardell (@Unlazy_Susan), an Anthropology academic from New Zealand. It is a crowdsourced diagram of ‘What a lecturer does’ which has been liked 1400 times and counting. If this reflects your work, it might explain why you are feeling overwhelmed. You can likely add additional responsibilities as well. For the purposes of this post, the image offers an opportunity to reflect on the tasks listed for teaching.

Your time and energy are finite, so think about the activities you need and want to focus on. What do you value most? What makes you feel energised? What needs concentration and what can be done while distracted? What demands immediate attention? What do your students need right now? What tasks can be shared? What can be managed with limits and rules? Where can you ask for more time or additional support? What can wait?

When asking myself questions of this nature, I often think about an article published in a special issue of Australian Universities’ Review on Activism and the Academy that I co-edited with Karina Luzia and Kate Bowles. It was Niki Harré, Barbara M. Grant, Kirsten Locke and Sean Sturm’s The University as an Infinite Game:

In the university, as in life, there are two kinds of games. One is the infinite game, the purpose of which is to keep the game in play and invite others in; the other is finite games, in which the purpose is to win … The infinite game is a symbol of our potential as people living together to be open and inclusive, and to promote the life, and growth, that helps us flourish as individuals and communities. This game imagines a world in which our heartfelt, personal response to life, our deep listening to others (especially those who don’t fit in), and our careful observations and thought about the social, natural and physical world come together to create and recreate our institutions.

At home, in lockdown, my children schooling from home, I like to think I am sometimes choosing the infinite game.

Next post in the series (deadline undetermined): Connecting through reflection.

What makes your teaching shine?

This is the 10th post in Over a cuppa, a series which offers prompts to reflect on learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. I have set myself the challenge of keeping these posts to 300 or so words. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

I have an earworm, a line of a song stuck in my head. Thanks to my son’s listening habits, it’s the first line of Tones and I’s Dance Monkey: ‘They say, oh my god, I see the way you shine’.

It’s not a shiny time right now, but having the line on continuous loop prompted this reflection. At this stage of semester, you and your students are probably feeling tired. This interesting post on teaching tiredness was written pre-pandemic:

With multiple courses to teach, we do get tired, but I think we regularly confuse physical fatigue with the more serious emotional tiredness that comes from a heavy workload of always being there, always giving, and always juggling multiple balls in the air…

This post on Zoom fatigue offers a contemporary update. The author describes her teaching:

Over my decades of teaching, I’ve learned to read a room pretty well: the harmonized posture, the breaths, the laughter, the eye gaze. My classes are successful when everyone is so excited that they want to speak over each other out of sheer exuberance. When people sit up straight and say, “Wait! Do you mean …?” because they have a brand-new way to understand the world…

It can be difficult to push though the tiredness. The advice offered can be helpful but is likely familiar: change, refresh, pause, collaborate, celebrate. It is important to note that this reflection is not a response to the emotional, physical and mental exhaustion of prolonged stress. But if you feel a bit flat at this stage of the semester, consider what makes you shine in your teaching. What do you enjoy?

I am inspired by Maggie MacLure’s thoughts on wonder in research:

I have called this intensity that seems to emanate from data, a ‘glow’. But here, I want to think of it again as wonder … Wonder is not necessarily a safe, comforting, or uncomplicatedly positive affect. It shades into curiosity, horror, fascination, disgust, and monstrosity.

What animates, surprises, delights, refreshes you and your students?

Here’s one suggestion for waking up teachers are students alike: take your teaching into the wild (weather permitting) or bring the outdoors into the classroom.

Thank you to Professor Ronika Power for talking through the ideas in this post and sharing her fabulous teaching practice.

MacLure M. (2013). The Wonder of Data. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies 13(4): 228-232. doi:10.1177/1532708613487863