Supervised Professional Practice Coordinator and Associate Lecturer in Social Care and Early Childhood Education and Care
Noelle Reilly is Supervised Professional Practice Coordinator and Associate Lecturer in Social Care and Early Childhood Education and Care in IT Carlow.
"I believe that true learning will only occur when students are actively engaged, are agents of learning, and are motivated to engage with the material. To this end, I strive to create an environment which empowers students to develop their professional skills. "
I have a range of teaching interests and teach to a diverse cohort of students. As part of my role as placement coordinator I prepare students for professional practice – a role which encompasses both workshop and lecture style teaching strategies. Students are prepared to work in social care settings which can be extremely diverse and can be personally as well as professionally demanding. Therefore, students are prepared both from a self-awareness and self-development perspective as well as academically. I also have a cohort of students who are off campus, on placement, in both Semester 1 (2nd years) and Semester 2 (3rd years). A key challenge is to maintain contact and communication with these students whilst they are out on placement. I also provide training to placement supervisors regarding their role in the both the education and assessment of our students whilst on placement. This training is delivered through a combination of workshops and tutorials. I am currently working on screencasts to support this training further. This type of teaching brings with it its own set of unique challenges. Many of the practice educators are not particularly digitally literate, and would not always have access to good quality broadband or equipment. Yet, much of the support that I offer to them is online. I also work as an associate lecturer with our Life Long Learning students and teach 4th year level 8 students. These are mature students who returned to education as adult learners. I am new to IT Carlow and this is my first complete academic year. Therefore, all the technology I have utilized this year has been used for the first time.
My approach to teaching is informed by my personal values and beliefs. I believe that true learning will only occur when students are actively engaged, are agents of learning, and are motivated to engage with the material. To this end, I strive to create an environment which empowers students to develop their professional skills. Therefore, the focus in my classroom is to create opportunities for students to draw on the knowledge they have garnered in other modules, in their personal lives and in workshops, and apply this knowledge to case studies, scenarios and ultimately on placement. Informed very much by the socio-cultural perspective, as developed by Piaget and Vygotsky (Palincsar, 1998), my approach is to encourage learning through enhancing students current understanding, creating discussions and supporting their development as reflective practitioners (Fry, Ketteridge and Marshall, 1999). I see my role as alternating between facilitation and knowledge sharing. I conceptualise teaching as utilizing strategies to support the development of mastery, critical thinking and engagement in reflective practice. The workshops are carefully constructed to develop these skills incrementally over the students three years programme. Oko, (2008), points to the shift towards understanding knowledge as process as opposed to knowledge as product. As a teacher, I wish my students to understand knowledge in such a way that they can internalise knowledge and will draw on it to inform their practice (Yilmaz, 2011). I aspire for my students to see knowledge as a solid foundation which will inform their practice. As a teacher, my style is learner centred. Gibbs and Coffey (2004) suggest that teachers who adopt a learner-centred approach in the classroom support students understanding of material and their capacity to apply their knowledge. Therefore, in order to develop student’s capacity to link theory to practice, my approach is to explore the practical application of content to case studies or to students’ own experiences. Stassen Berger (2002) believes that such an approach will create debate and provoke emotion in students, thereby pushing students into the zone of proximal development, a key tenet of the Vygotskian inspired approach to learning. My aim is to support the development of deep meaning by encouraging students to engage with the knowledge, to tease it out through discussion and to apply to scenarios (Ramsden, 1992). Critical thinking skills are developed using reflective writing and challenging student’s world views. Students are supported to think about their thinking, to question their opinions and to enhance their self-awareness (Fewster-Thuente and Batterson, 2018). The challenge I face is the reluctance of some students to engage in discussions, a challenge explored by Ramsden (1992). I use multiple strategies to support student engagement. Every student has a workbook which echoes the content of each module. Therefore, I can use subgroups, they can work as one large group, they can watch a YouTube clip (Burns, 2016) or a Ted Talk and take notes individually, or can read a case study and consider the best option. I alternate between using white boards to brain storm, large sheets of paper for groups to put notes together and so on. I am also experimenting with the flipped class room as means to support student engagement (Fulton, 2012). I get students to move around and will often use ice-breakers to reengage if I observe that students have disengaged. Reece and Walker (2006) suggest that through the engagement of multiple senses, perception and understanding will be enhanced. To this end, Quizlet is an excellent technology which I have used to engage students in an alternative manner to the traditional methods (Quizlet, 2019). While my workshops are planned, and each module is supported by PowerPoint presentations, I do not use them except to keep myself on track. Readings are posted in advance utilizing a virtual learning environment (Blackboard) thereby providing students with the opportunity to be informed prior to each session. As a novice teacher, the PowerPoints provide me with confidence that if an approach is not working, I can return to the PowerPoint, even if only for a couple of slides to give myself an opportunity to regroup. As I learned early on, there is nothing worse than encountering a group of students who will not engage in the discussion, who have not read the accompanying readings and the room is filled with awkward silences. I find that I switch strategies depending on the needs of the group. I have five groups of first years who all receive the same workshop on the same day. Even though the content is the same, I tailor how I deliver it depending on the dynamics of the group. I find that I am developing what Weimer (2018) referred to as a critical eye – which involves noting events that occur in the classroom and thinking about them later in order to further develop my teaching skills. My teaching style is evolving. My groups contain a mix of school leavers, mature students, and a cohort who were educated abroad and for whom English is not their first language. I have learned that multiple strategies are needed to keep students engaged, to stimulate their minds and emotions and to create a curiosity in the students about the topics we are exploring.
I have used a diverse range of technology over the last year as I have explored the different systems, strategies and options available to me as a teacher in IT Carlow. Over this current academic year I have utilized the institute’s VLE (Blackboard), coupled with email, MS OneDrive, YouTube, Google Docs, Quizlet, MS PowerPoint, mobile phone technology to share video clips which the students had made, and Turnitin Feedback Studio. My exposure to digital technology was limited in the past and this year has seen my skill level and engagement with technology greatly improve. In IT Carlow there is unlimited access to a range of screencasts and online training opportunities which means that nearly every challenge with regard to using technology can be faced through accessing the digital supports from the Teaching and Learning Centre.
The VLE technology utilized in Institute of Technology, Carlow is Blackboard. The advantage of Blackboard is that students can access course content from any location with a connection to the Internet. This enables them to undertake independent learning at their own pace and time. Blackboard has a range of functions including course and content information, communication and assessment (Scott, Lyne and Pink, 2003). Within the Blackboard suite, one of the technologies which I found very beneficial was the use of online written feedback in Turnitin Feedback Studio. The reason why I decided to utilize this approach to feedback was because I had a cohort of ninety students who were out on placement. The students have three reflections to write whilst on placement. I was cognisant that students would not be on site to submit samples of their work or to receive feedback in the time between writing the first and second reflection. These are final year students and I believe that it is important that students have an opportunity to learn from any errors made in the first reflection before writing the second one. I spoke with Damien (digital pedagogy support for the SPEEDS project) about what options were available to me to utilize technology to support the 3rd years. Damien demonstrated how to provide online feedback to students through the use of the Turnitin Feedback Studio. I also spoke with a colleague who utilizes audio feedback for her students. One concern I had was that the students were already on placement and I would not have an opportunity to explain to the students how to access the feedback. However, my colleague had already provided audio feedback to these students so the students were used to using Turnitin Feedback Studio to access their feedback. As a novice there was definite comfort in knowing that the students were already comfortable utilizing this technology. Damien also demonstrated the audio feedback option to me. However, I did not feel that I had achieved the level of confidence in my own feedback style to make an audio recording. The written feedback felt safer, particularly as the technology was new to me, even though the students were already familiar with it. Damien was very supportive throughout the process which gave me the confidence to try to utilize the technology knowing that the back-up support was there if I experienced any difficulties.
For me, the most significant advantage to using this technology was that I could provide timely feedback to the students in a manner which they could easily access and could then utilize to support their subsequent submissions. Without this technology the students would not have had the opportunity to benefit from feedback or to improve their work. Students could read the feedback at a time which suited them, and were in the position to take on board the feedback provided.
The main disadvantage was that I did not know if the students would engage with the feedback or not. To create an incentive for the students to read the feedback, I did not release the grade for the work until after the bulk of the class had read the feedback. I informed the students that they would not receive their grade until after they had read the feedback as the feedback and grade were being released at different times. I also explained to the students the reason why – in that when grades and feedback are provided together people can have an emotional reaction to the grade which impacts on their capacity to relate to the feedback. Another challenge I faced was that it took me some time to get all the feedback up on the feedback studio. Personally, I found the process very slow. However, I was also cognisant that the students needed the feedback before they could commence the second piece of work so I felt under pressure to get the feedback completed. This was as much my own inexperience as anything else, I do not think that I will have these concerns next year. As I progressed through the process I became more efficient at providing the feedback as I got used to the system, and as my bank of phrases (QuickMarks) grew. One challenge the students faced was that many of them could not access their feedback on their mobile devices. Therefore, they needed access to a PC or laptop in order to read their feedback. Some were also displeased that they had to read their feedback before getting their grade.
I used a diverse range of training resources to develop my digital skills. My initial port of call was the TLC staff hub, a resource which is available in the Institutes’ VLE. Within the hub, screencasts and clips are available which address nearly every issue which comes up on a day to day basis. Through the use of the hub I was able to learn how to navigate my way around the systems at a basic level. I also attended a number of training workshops offered to support new lecturers within the Institute. These sessions included some training on Blackboard and Grade Centre in addition to Web for Faculty. There was also a training workshop on the upgrade to PowerPoint which was very beneficial. All of the above gave me an understanding of, and a functional capacity to utilise, the day-to-day technology. However, it was when attending technology training days whilst working on the masters in teaching and learning that I gained a real understanding of the technology which is available to workers within the Institute. These workshops were delivered by Damien and it was through my contact with Damien that I began to experiment with different technologies and to try things out. Damien directed me to the online resources Transformation through Collaboration (http://www.digitalchampions.ie), TELU (http://telu.me), All Aboard (http://www.allaboardhe.ie) and Y1Feedback (http://y1feedback.ie). I have dipped in and out of the different resources over the last year and envisage that I will become braver in the next academic year as I become more comfortable with the various technologies.
Burns, M. (2016), Harnessing the power of YouTube in the classroom, [online], available at: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/harnessing-power-youtube-in-classroom-monica-burns [accessed 28th March, 2019]. Fewster-Thuente, L. and Batterson, T., (2018), Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory as a Theoretical Underpinning for Interprofessional Education, Journal of Allied Health, v27 (1) [online], available at: Supplemental Index, [accessed 8th January, 2019]. Fry, H., Ketteridge, S., and Marshall, S. (1999), A handbook for teaching and learning in Higher Education, Enhancing academic practice, London: Kogan Page Limited. Fulton, K., (2012). Upside down and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning. Learning & Leading with Technology, v39 (8) P 12-17. [online], available at: ERIC. [accessed 28th March, 2019}. Gibbs, C. and Coffey, M. (2004), The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills, their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students, Active learning in Higher Education, v5(1), pp 87-100, [online], available at: ERIC [accessed 4th January, 2019]. Palinscar, A. (1998), Social constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning, Annual review of psychology, v 49(1) p. 345, [online], available at: Business Source Complete, [accessed 4th January, 2019]. Quizlet. (2019), [online], available at: https://quizlet.com [accessed 28th March, 2019]. Ramsden, P., (1992), Learning to teach in Higher Education, London: Routledge. Reece, I, and Walker, S., (2006), Teaching, training and learning, A practical guide, Great Britain: Business Education Publishers. Scott, B., Lyne, C. and Pink, C., (2003), The virtual learning environment Blackboard: Uses and limitations in the teaching and learning of four languages, Centre for Languages Linguistics and Area studies, [online], available at: https://www.llas.ac.uk/resources/paper/1422.html [accessed 01st April, 2019]. Stassen Berger, K. (2002), Theory and Practice: Teaching in the real world, Theory and Practice: Teaching in the Real World. Thought & Action, v17(2), p107-16 [online], available at: ERIC, [accessed 4th January, 2019]. Weimer, M. (2018), Content knowledge, a barrier to teacher development, [online], available at: www.facultyfocus.com [accessed 4th January, 2019]. Yilmaz, K. (2011), The cognitive perspective on learning: its theoretical underpinnings and implications for classroom practice, The Clearing House, v84, pp 204-212, [online], available at: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, [accessed 12th December, 2018].