Ready for Half Term!

So it has been a roller coaster of a few months with ups, downs and a near constant speed that makes you feel slightly giddy. Everything in my life seemed to climax in May whilst I am still getting to grips with a new job. The last two weeks have been tough, I have been exhausted and it showed. I am very much ready for half term.

This feels like the right moment to reflect. Or at least ask the questions and identify the puzzles that need solving. I’m not very good at thinking when I’m at work or when I set myself a task that requires new ideas. Forcing it seems to make my brain close down a little. Hopefully I will get a little inspiration over the next week which will include visits to the Olympic Park, the Natural history Museum and a play about a library book that hasn’t been returned in over a hundred years! Plus two small, inquisitive children tagging along too!

Generally speaking, I feel a little at sea at the moment. The momentum of my PGCE work seems to have given me purpose and a sense of direction. Now hand in date has gone by I feel rather flat. I know there are things I can be getting on with (and that I need a rest) but I’m finding it difficult. I feel very aimless. This is coupled with a downturn in the number of teaching sessions booked in at work as the academic year draws to a close. We have lots to be getting on in terms of designing e-learning but I’m at rather an impasse with that too until I can get into the recording studio to do the narrations.

So I need a bit of a summer plan. There is some reading for my PGCE I can get on with and there are lots of development opportunities coming up, but I need something slightly more concrete and structured to get me through my days. Part of this is thinking about my teaching in greater depth. Being in a new job, has sort of set me back in some ways, with my attention taken up with understanding a new organisation and its culture. I have also had to spend a huge amount of time and brain space getting to grips with new knowledge. This is still ongoing!

I now have the bedrock of knowledge I need secured. But I want to know more about systematic reviews and critical appraisal. My lack of confidence in my knowledge of these two areas is affecting my confidence as a teacher and hampering my ability to teach engaging, dynamic sessions. I co-taught a critical appraisal session yesterday and although I felt it went well, there were moments when I simply felt like I was winging it. I have a degree in social science so I can blag it with the best of them, but this time was too close for comfort.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about a systematic review session I co-taught earlier this week. This is a long session at three hours and has to cover a huge amount of ground. I’m teaching one element of systematic review but lack knowledge of the rest of the process. This needs to be addressed. I need to work on the session too. Reflecting on the session this week, there are problems.

Firstly, I have issues with co-teaching and would prefer not to. That’s probably a whole reflexion in itself! There was a lot of anxiety in the session about what we would and wouldn’t cover. I sensed the students wasted a lot of energy on this and timings slipped because of constant questions about if we were going to cover a particular topic or not.

This was down in part to quite vague stated objectives. I think having more detailed objectives listed on the whiteboard permanently through the session would have helped. Perhaps also having an opening round would have helped. Missing out on my usual opening round and introductions meant we didn’t create or build rapport. I never felt I had the whole group’s attention on me at any point and we definitely failed to build a learning community. This felt like the ultimate “consumerist” session where individuals had signed up to receive specific items of knowledge and were largely disengaged from the learning as a whole. There was a terseness amongst them, a bit like a queue in a shop, as they waited for their turn to talk to us or for their bit to be covered. This could be a sign of things to come with the consumerist ethos currently enveloping higher education, but I hope not.

There was a definite lack of ease, both on my part and the students’. I forgot basic principles like explaining instructions for activities clearly enough and giving time limits for activities. Questions went unanswered with no one willing to break the silence. I need to think about bell hook’s concept of a learning community and how I can encouraged that using Nancy Kline’s Time to Think methods. I have seen them work in the past, so I need to make time in this session to cover them.

I also need to think about how I respond to pushy loud attention seeking students, who don’t listen to answers and then ask the same question repeatedly. there were two students in the session who continually interrupted to ask for information to be covered that I had either covered or had said we will cover. They questioned everything I said that they found inconvenient. In my head I christened them the “me me me girls” who ignored my advice throughout and then complained the systems didn’t work… I managed to suppress an I-told-you-so but it was very difficult!

Some key things to think about for my summer plan:

Lesson planning:

  • Discussion skills for critical appraisal
  • Eliciting responses to questions
  • Revisit bell and Nancy, and incorporate into systematic review sessions
  • Creativity
  • Re-plan systematic review

Subject knowledge:

  • Critical appraisal stats
  • Systematic review process

Developing my niche:

  • Equality, diversity and identity
  • Include this in student engagement role

Preparing for PGCE next year:

  • Curriculum reading list

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