Lecturer in Social Care and Early Childhood Education and Care
Dip in Child Care; Cert in Montessori Education (age 0 – 8); Diploma in Jungian Sandplay Therapy; Cert in Choice Therapy; BA Applied Social Studies, MA Social Studies; PG Cert Third Level Teaching & Learning; PhD candidate
"I believe my educative role is not just to deliver knowledge in a classical lecture format, but to support students learn to access meaningful, quality profession relevant material beyond the confines of the lecture. "
My teaching interest has several foci: • teaching theory & policy associated with ECEC & SC practice • placement preparation, on-placement support and post-placement learning • supporting students transfer theory concepts and policy into practice in a evidence informed way • Develop students research interest, skills and capacity to undertake desk-top and field research Underpinning these three aspects of my lecturing role is students’ information architecture built through strong digital literacy, thinking skills and verbal and written communication skills. My site of practice is Wexford Campus, one of IT Carlow’s multi campus ventures. Established in 1996 to redress the educational disadvantage experienced in Wexford county, my student cohort is diverse in terms of socio-cultural and age variables. Registered as first years on an eight semester BA (Hons) Applied Social Studies (Professional Social Care), the cohort for whom I created a repository on IT Carlow’s VLE are a mix of school leavers, mature students, those living with neurodivergent processing, international students for whom English is a second language. As a non-standard student, I experienced many of the transition challenges identified by Denny (2015). This experience gives me compassion for the position my first-year students find themselves in and encourages me to develop resources to assist their transition to learning and assessment on an initial professional education programme (Billett, 2006; Eraut 2010) delivered in a higher education context. IT Carlow’s curriculum design and assessment policies are informed by Biggs and Tang’s (2007) constructive alignment. Explicitly outline the learning outcome and assessments required at the start my lectures carries constructive alignment through to my teaching practice. In-class and out-of-class learning activities support the acquisition of cognitive material and academic skills required to successfully complete assessments to evidence student achievement of the module learning outcome.
It’s no surprise that as lecturer on an initial professional education programme, my teaching philosophy centres around skilling graduate to adapt to the world of work. In addition to 78 other proficiencies, recently published professional proficiencies (CORU, 2017) require all social care graduates to use canonical knowledge (Billett, 2009, p.832) to underpin their engagement in evidence informed practice, and be digitally literate (CORU, 2017). Beginning the task of gathering the canonical knowledge associated with a profession is a daunting task for newcomers (Dreyfus and Dreyfus, 1986; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Holland and Lave, 2009; Newton et al, 2009). Creating the repository, helps students access this knowledge at a time that best suits their learning. As an educator on soon to be regulatory approved education programme, my core belief is that canonical knowledge must be re-structured (Eraut, 1994; 2010) and personalised (Sheppard, 1995; 2007) so as new to practice professionals, graduates can use it to understand service users life context (Trevithick, 2008; 2012) and use it intentionally when responding to routine, complex and esoteric situations that emerge from service users life context. Discussion boards presents case studies and gives students the opportunity to consider how knowledge can be used in social care practice. Completing the on-line discussions help to re-structure canonical knowledge as ‘knowledge for use’ (Trevithick, 2012). I believe my educative role is not just to deliver knowledge in a classical lecture format, but to support students learn to access meaningful, quality profession relevant material beyond the confines of the lecture. Assigned learning activities, posted as announcements on Blackboard, flip students into out-of-class learning. While some of the material I use, originates in books identified as ‘essential reading’ on my module descriptor and are available in the library, much more information is available on-line – information that overtime students need to learn to access independently. The repository helps students begin to engage in on-line resources. By completing reading connected and discussion-board tasks associated with class-based learning activities students begin the process of re-structuring conceptual knowledge associated with their profession. Creating such a learning-loop depends on students begin familiar with material recognised in the profession and academia as of being of an adequate ‘scientific’ quality. For me, Blackboard is essential for me help first semester students access quality online material. By providing some classroom-based supports, I can help students develop both digital literacy skills and discernment about the material they access. Discernment is important as the material upon which they build assignments is that which becomes the foundation of their professional decision-making. By providing access to quality online material through the VLE, I am assured first semester students access relevant material to use in their first semester assignment. By using the material provided in the repository in their assignment reaped benefit for students in terms of grade and for me in terms of reassurance about students building their canonical knowledge.
I used a range of information technology systems in my lecturing role with IT Carlow. I use the institute’s email system, MS OneDrive, and Blackboard (IT Carlow’s VLE) for assessment submission, discussion boards, and online journaling. I also use YouTube, Ted Talks, Google Docs, Mentimeter, and MS PowerPoint, to engage students in cycles of learning, formative and summative assessment and feedback. My engagement with technology has increased yearly, as IT Carlow increases its access to screencasts and training opportunities. In addition, technical and digital supports from the Teaching and Learning Centre advance my use of technology in my work. Learning outcomes and teaching and learning activities associated with initial professional education can make demands on students that stretch their motivation and study capacity (Newton, Billett, and Ockerby, 2009; Richards, Sweet, and Billett, 2013). While I have a level of influence optimising student social and cognitive engagement in face to face teaching & learning strategies I chose, I have lesser influence over engagement with out-of-class learning tasks assigned. To counteract this deficit, I make material accessible through IT Carlow’s VLE the base for class-based questions and answers session. I allocated in-class time to ‘training’ students how to access and navigate the module page on the VLE. In the class-based question and answer sessions, students used me as the ‘expert’ and asked me clarifying and analytical questions about the assigned reading. This led to discussion about the interconnections between modules on the programme and to social care practice. In addition, I was able to access repository resources in class time and explore with the class reasons for their academic credibility. I was able to contrast credibility with open access online material accessed through a general online search. A colleague who teaches research skills to the same cohort of students discussed with me the benefit this practical approach had for supporting students learn to discriminate between the quality of on-line material.
My technology focus in the last year is twofold, increase first year social care students’ skills in digital literacy and to provide an easy access pathway to online sources of conceptual knowledge which is of adequate academic standard to support the assessment work. To support the ‘flipped-classroom’, I exploited Blackboard’s repository feature to support students access material for their first assignment. The repository provided electronic pathways to on-line resource material. The repository only helped reduce first-year students’ anxiety about accessing online material of adequate standard for their first assignment, it helped increase engagement in directed learning activities. By giving students off campus access to course content the advantage of Blackboard as a learning tool facilitated a-synchronistic independent learning at a pace and time-scale that suited individual students. Over the summer of 2018, I built a repository of online resources complimenting the learning outcome, and indicative content associated with the first continual assessment. The repository included links open-access publications and reports, others were links to specific journal articles and other to other data bases. While I am comfortable using Blackboard, and many of my students are familiar with social media platforms, I was concerned that this was the first time many students used a VLE. To overcome this barrier, I demonstrated how to access Blackboard and the menu item by which to access the resources associated with the first learning outcome in my first class and invited student to bring laptops or smart phones to my second class where students engaged in experiential learning, while I moderated this activity. With numbers of less than 40, moderation was successful, and as students became familiar with the VLE system they supported each other with access difficulties. In the latter part of the year, students used material from the repository to complete online discussion boards. I made on-line groups involving 4 students for the discussion board. After posting an initial thread related to a resource from the repository, students responding to it using the resource as the main information source for the discussion. Only when a student posted their response to my thread, did they get to see their group members contribution. Once seen, the group members comment on any reply to the thread that had become visible to them. Since social care work has a requirement for evidence informed practice (CORU, 2017), each contribution to the discussion board requires citations and systematic reflection.
For me, the most significant advantage of using Blackboard’s repository function was providing students with pathways to quality online material associated with programme content which had high academic quality suitable to warrant (Wallace and Wray, 2006) assignment content. Supported by Cottrol’s (2013; 2017) texts, I simultaneously introduced students to skills required for reading in higher education. Closer to the submission date, I provided a structure to the assignment and encouraged students to use other writing supports available on Campus. In comparison to previous years, students used material of good academic quality to support the content of their first assignment. The most obvious reason for this is access to and engagement with resources I placed in the repository. The benefit of cognitive skills training and writing supports was also evident in students’ assessment work. During the year colleagues, who were involved with the SPEEDS project supported by Damien (Teaching & Learning digital pedagogy support), suggested that my online repository as a pathway to quality academic material could be suitable for the SPEEDS project. Therefore, an additional, and unintended benefit of my project, is deeper relationships with colleagues and involvement in the SPEEDS project.
The main disadvantage was the time-consuming nature to setting up the repository, and the reallocation of lecturing from content to the VLE, however when completed over the summer, this did not add to my weekly term-time workload. The uncertainty of students engaging with the repository material was another disadvantage. In the main, this uncertainty was unfounded, however, statistics gleaned from the tracking feature of Blackboard demonstrates several (8 out of 46) students did not access the repository, and analysis of grades indicate they achieved lower grades than those who did access the resources due to poor quality reference for their list and unwarranted statements in the assignment content. Perhaps next academic year I need to incentivise students to access and read material held within the repository. Although students engaged with pdf and specific article links, an additional disadvantage was limited engagement with the links to open access journals. From discussions with students, they felt over whelmed with the amount of resources available in these journals and felt they lacked capacity and confidence to identify suitable articles for their assignment. Perhaps, providing access to ‘search required’ data-bases is too much for first semester students and have relocated these links into a menu item called - data-bases. Even though students are introduced to on-line searching by library staff, next academic year, I will co-ordinate with them to create screencasts and set up follow-on face-to-face sessions that focus on increasing students’ capacity in more complex on-line searching.
I have completed the Technology in Education module of the HDip in Teaching and Learning and I gained an appreciation of the benefit technology the Institute’s purpose. For this initiative, screencasts and video clips available through the TLC staff hub of the Institutes’ VLE was the training resource I found most helpful. The resources support both basic and advanced navigation of the VLE. I regularly attended a CPD workshops offered by IT Carlow to lecturers about exploiting Blackboard to it best teaching and learning advantage.
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