What’s your university story?

This is the 6th post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching to prompt you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

Did you start an undergraduate degree straight from school, complete in minimum time and go on to further study? Or was your pathway more rocky? If so, you’re in good company. Your classroom has students who are first in family, underachieved at school, have had interrupted education, manage learning difficulties, are studying part-time, and a myriad of other factors that make up a university story. Your story shapes your implicit understandings, and questioning these is Schön’s (1983) definition of reflection.

Another way of framing this question comes from sociologist Pierre Bourdieu: what is your educational capital? Rowlands (2018) defines it as the “various inherited and acquired resources that students bring to bear upon their education” (p 1824). Are you aware of a gap between your education capital and that of your students, or between students in your classroom?

I have previously shared this checklist on white privilege by Peggy McIntosh (1989) which focuses on race, but can be adapted for class, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, age, employment, indeed any social, cultural or symbolic capital.

Here are some of those statements applied to privilege in the university:

  • I will be given curricular materials written by and representing people like me
  • I feel welcome in this institution/ discipline/ department/ classroom
  • I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps professionally
  • My chief worries at university do not concern others’ attitude towards me
  • I can go home from most meetings of organizations/ groups/ teams I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

Take some time to reflect on your responses, your university story and your educational capital. Enjoy your cuppa!

Rowlands, J. (2018) Deepening understandings of Bourdieu’s academic and intellectual capital through a study of academic voice within academic governance. Studies in Higher Education, 43(11), 1823-1836.

Schön, D. A. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

What’s in your reflection toolkit?

This is the 5th post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching to prompt you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Cross-posted from Teche. Original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

There’s one tool that Stephen Brookfield still uses regularly 25 years after the first edition of Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher: the Critical Incident Questionnaire. The CIQ invites anonymous feedback from students in response to five questions:

  • At what moment in class did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
  • At what moment in class were you most distanced from what was happening?
  • What action that anyone (teacher or student) took did you find most affirming or helpful?
  • What action that anyone took did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  • What about the class surprised you the most? (This could be about your own reactions to what went on, something that someone did, or anything else that occurs).

The CIQ is included in a comprehensive scholarly practice guide written by Marina Harvey, Kate Lloyd, Kath McLachlan, Anne-Louise Semple and Greg Walkerden for AdvanceHE. The short evidence-based activities are designed to support reflective practice for student learning. I highly recommend this as the go-to resource on reflection for learning.

The brief of Over a Cuppa is to focus on your practice as a teacher, rather than your students’ reflections for learning. With this in mind, we will revisit many of Harvey and colleagues’ ideas in future posts (storytelling, feeling, listening, exploring, dreaming). Of course, many practices apply to students and teachers, such as:

Give your brain a break: Instead of checking email between classes, spend some time watching out the window or mindfully walking with senses open to notice sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.

Here are two other tools I regularly recommend and have revisited many times (free but login required):

  • Teaching Perspectives Inventory – a 45-item instrument that explores your orientation to teaching.
  • ImaginePhD – designed for humanities and social sciences, three assessment tools – Interests, Skills and Values – offer an excellent tool for reflection.

Wishing you many happy reflections.

Intentions

This is the third post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching. Once a week during Session 1 and Session 2 I will publish a short post (250 to 300 words) which prompts you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

You’ve put on your teaching cloak and taught your first class for the semester. How did it go? What did students enjoy and what did you enjoy? Is there anything you would do differently? Your students are on track with learning outcomes and assessment tasks, but what are your intentions for teaching?

Setting intentions is a type of reflection for action (recollecting the modes for reflection covered in the first sip). Harvey, Coulson and McMaugh (2016) define reflection as:

A deliberate and conscientious process that employs a person’s cognitive, emotional and somatic capacities to mindfully contemplate on past, present or future (intended or planned) actions in order to learn, better understand and potentially improve future actions.

I feel like an imposter writing about planning since this is not my superpower. (Take a look at Janet Dutton’s post on lesson planning). In fact, every day—weekday or weekend, work day or holiday, ordinary or significant —I hold onto the same goals: Join an interesting conversation, Eat something good, Spend time outdoors, and Enjoy reading. Most of the time this works fine, but 2020 prompted introspection (and triggered a craving for novelty). To my daily goals I have added two intentions which I integrate in my teaching: amplify others and practise self-care.

Your intentions might look very different. Focussing on teaching: are you seeking to improve your online lectures? Experiment with something new? Create informal evaluation opportunities? Practise feedback strategies? Apply for a teaching award? Focus on embedding Indigenous knowledges? Connect with practitioners? Something else?

Here are some questions to guide your thinking:

  • What did you want when you were a student? How are your students similar to or different from you?
  • How are you feeling about teaching? What’s your top priority right now?
  • How will you gather evidence of your practice?

Harvey, M., Coulson, D. and McMaugh, A. (2016). Towards a theory of the Ecology of Reflection: Reflective practice for experiential learning in higher education, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 13(2). https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol13/iss2/2