Further to my last post, this is the current draft of my application, and I would welcome feedback on it. Generally when doing these things, I find other people remind me of stuff I have done which I have forgotten about, but it is also possible that someone out there might challenge aspects of this. I am open to suggestions on improving the wording or any other aspect as well! I've got about another 2000 words I can use, so there is plenty of scope...
The criteria for assessment can be found here
1. Background / Introductory information
I am a Research Assistant in the School of Systems Engineering, working mainly in the areas of eLearning and social software, and I am a part-time PhD student researching in the field of caring learning agents.
I taught in primary and secondary schools as a teaching assistant (natural history) for a year for the South Oxfordshire Countryside Education Trust (SOCET), taking children out into the field and encouraging them to observe, record and discuss what they experience. I designed and taught beginner level computing short courses at Reading Adult Education's Wilson centre to people from widely different cultures, and ranging in age from 16 to 87 for 3 years. I mixed an exploratory approach encouraging peer support with instructivism when someone wanted to know about something 'technical' (but not practical), and always put myself in the minds of the learners, learning with them - no matter how many times I had done the class before. We learned together how to fix mistakes, and which problems were better avoided than fixed by breaking the computers together in the classroom so they had confidence to try things out - but not too far - when they got home or back to the office.
I designed and taught courses on basic 'office' software (Word Perfect, Lotus 123 et al) to colleagues at Thames Water over a 5 year period, and was involved in training the trainers, as well as the staff, when we rolled out Windows 95, Lotus Notes and Office - focusing on making sure people not only knew the basics, but knew who to turn to if they had problems. I advocated facilitating local experts (the team who trained the staff) to be the first point of call, and by doing so cut help desk calls to about 30% of their original levels. I also trained new staff in the survey department at the National Rivers Authority (Thames) practical use of the quality assurance procedures, and the associated survey techniques in use there.
I have mentored a number of undergraduates as an academic tutor at the University of Reading for two years, and as an undergraduate in the School of Systems Engineering I ran tutorial sessions for two modules (Cybernetic Analysis and its associated maths module) where the attendance was higher than the corresponding lectures. I also took every opportunity to run labs for the lower years, enthusiastically providing support for people struggling with learning programming (Functional Programming and Programming modules). I also taught Research Methods and Informatics to MSc students (single term courses) when I first started my PhD in the Informatics Research Centre.
I team teach our Business Programming module with Prof Shirley Williams and Ken Boness. For this module I have not only provided hands on support in the lab work, but devised exercises to introduce students to concept mapping and more recently a scheme where the students develop 'Tutorial Sheets' as they work. These sheets serve as a record of their starting and finishing points on their learning in each session, but also allow for expression of windows of opportunity that they see ('questions for the reader') and have to be expressed in a way that a novice to programming would understand. Being able to explain what you have just learned to a beginner, I find, really helps you understand it. The students are allowed to do this work in groups, allowing a constructivist approach, and also facilitating a level of peer support.
I would like to extend my understanding of teaching and learning to other domains, and work with other experienced educators to develop the ideas of open learning and student led learning within the institution and beyond. Achieving the Fellowship would enable me to spend some of my time doing this, as well as contributing to my future employability. I believe the Fellowship would also support me in being more effective in developing teaching and learning practice at a local level in my School, the broader institution and beyond.
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2. Individual excellence:
I am dedicated to teaching and learning and its support, in the classroom, the institution and internationally. I continually review my teaching practices, through self-reflection, and conversation with students and colleagues. In our Business Programming module, where I team teach , I design, recommend and introduce new ways of facilitating excellent learning such as the use of concept maps and student-authored Tutorial Sheets, based on a blog post I wrote on learning landscapes in 2008 (http://brains.parslow.net/node/1468). I also supported the Moodle learning environment for the EU MuveNation project, enabling students on the course to engage with content even following an unfortunate ‘hack’ of the server which required many out of hours work to rectify. I have provided one to one mentoring for disabled students, mainly those on the autism spectrum, but also with other impairments, seeking new ways for them to work which allow them to explore and manage their own learning, as well as ‘tutorial’ sessions for large classes where we engaged in lively discussions about the topic areas.
I stimulate and inspire learning, receiving positive comments on module feedback forms, and having the pleasure of students approaching me outside of the classroom to explore their topic areas more fully. I encourage students, and educators, to think about how they learn, and I blog about new ways of teaching and learning, as well as presenting papers at teaching and learning related conferences (e.g. Plymouth eLearning Conference 2009, 2010, Durham Blackboard Conference 2008) and events.
I recognise and support a diversity of student learning needs, taking in to account different motivations for learning as well as cultural and other differences. In addition to having mentored disabled students, I am always keen to engage the less confident students with content which moves in small steps but provides an immediate ‘feel good factor’, and the more confident ones with longer term explorative work they can get their teeth into.
I am keen to adopt good practice and innovative approaches to teaching and learning and its support. I discuss approaches at the local, classroom level with my team, which includes the students, and at conferences and on social media. I seek out more experienced educators’ advice, and evaluate their methods to improve my own practice. The Tutorial Sheet technique has been markedly improved, for instance, by adopting Prof Williams idea of using the outputs as a portfolio of assessed work.
I also try to ensure that I am up to date with the legal and ethical issues surrounding, in particular, the use of cloud services and social media in education (e.g. http://brains.parslow.net/node/1583), an area which is, in my view, too often side-lined by educators and support staff.
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3. Raising the profile of teaching and learning:
I contribute to the development of colleagues at an institutional, national and international level in teaching and learning through my development of the This Is Me learning materials to promote learning about Digital Identity. I also engage with educationalists through blogs and other social media, helping develop and build on ideas and practices such as Connectivism (e.g. within the CCK08 course http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=711#3885 where I was also exploring the meaning of learning, knowledge and communication) or on providing scaffolding for learners (e.g. Prof Wheeler’s blog http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/2009/11/youve-been-framed.html ). Additionally, I try to raise awareness of the similarities between research and learning (http://brains.parslow.net/node/1602 ) to encourage the research community to consider their teaching practices alongside their research. As detailed in section 2, I develop and evaluate new teaching methods as part of my work in our Business Programming course, always trying to find better ways to help students learn and I disseminate these findings at conferences (presentation on the Tutorial Sheet method is submitted for Plymouth eLearning Conference 2011).
I have been very involved in teaching and learning initiatives involving use of 3D online worlds (the local CoP3D initiative, and EU projects MUVENation, LLL3D), engaging in both technical support roles, curriculum design and teaching activities. I have engaged fully with every aspect of the This Is Me project, initially funded through EduServ and subsequently by local CCMS funding, researching, developing and delivering well-regarded learning materials which have been re-used internationally.
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4. Developing excellence:
I am committed to my individual professional development, as evidenced by my successful application for the Certified Member of ALT (CMALT), my active engagement with trans-national educators world wide, attendance at multiple conferences and personal development and growth which I try to openly describe through my blog posts as well as my life-long approach to learning. This attempt to be open about my learning and development experiences is based on the concept of educating by example – leading learners through the process of developing their skills by demonstrating your own experiences, warts and all.
I demonstrate a reflective approach to teaching and learning through my blogs, with posts on how I manage my learning (http://brains.parslow.net/node/1630), my experiences of teaching This Is Me materials to 600 school children (http://brains.parslow.net/node/1631) as well as consideration of the nature of reflection itself (http://redgloo.sse.reading.ac.uk/sir06pnp/weblog/2259.html). Additionally, I engage with other members of my teaching team to discuss what has gone well, or badly, in the Business Programming module, as well as more theoretical aspects (such as discussions in CCK08 as above).
I try to maintain an awareness of teaching and learning initiatives both within the University and at a national and international level. I keep track of internal communications, such as Teaching Matters, and regularly search the Web for information from organisations such as JISC and until recently, BECTA. I also engage with educators and education researchers via Twitter, which provides an opportunity to keep track of breaking ideas and new research outputs in the field.
The team teaching in Business Programming provides me with the opportunity to experiment with new ways of teaching which can be evaluated against my senior colleagues experience before being tested on the students. Additionally, it enables me to observe their choices in curriculum design – as well as contribute – and their teaching practice on a regular basis. These aspects enable me to continue to develop my teaching practice in a controlled environment where I also benefit from immediate feedback from the students themselves.
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