Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Connecting Classes’ Category

The Practice of Praxis

The practice of praxis. Are we asking the right questions?

Every year with my students I discuss what is curriculum and how does one create it? We go from didactic situations through to praxis, reading and then discussing, and this year something hit me. In learning I believe that only the person can learn, e.g. no teacher can ‘learn you’ as one of my great uncles claimed ‘that teacher learned me good’… or maybe not. People can teach but learners are the ones doing the learning for themselves – along with, despite, and sometimes beyond the scope of the teaching. I come to this from the point of view of the teacher, the one responsible for designing the setting and choosing the core methods and content, the one shaping interactions and advising engagement. One of my goals is to build toward co-facilitation, co-engagement and even co-development.

I asked one of my students, so how do you create a student-centred environment? I ask this in all sorts of learning environments and generally get the same answer: #ff6600;">Ask the student.

This is the right answer and the wrong answer. Let me demonstrate.

Imagine learning a new instrument. You are learning the bassoon. Fantastic! You go to your first lesson and have no clue how to assemble the instrument. It isn’t because the instrument is actually new, as in a bookshelf that comes from the shop in pieces. The bassoon has to be physically assembled and disassembled each time it is taken out of the case. Your teacher wants to create a student-centred learning setting, so when you turn up for the start of your lessons they start by asking, ‘what do you want to learn? I want you to guide the learning.’ (Cue an astonished and blank look on the student’s face, with a touch of possible panic) um….. How could the student be expected to answer the question?

Consider another example where the student has perhaps more knowledge: singing. If you were studying singing and we’re asked what you wanted to learn, you may well have a favourite song. This is a start, but there is still a good chance that you are not aware of the voice as an instrument. Even when it seems that someone might have experience of the task, or know something of it, they may not know enough to answer the question in terms of being the complete creator of their learning path. Where speaking is commonplace, and people often match pitches, and sing along with songs, but the voice is an instrument too and singing takes careful technique just like the bassoon. Someone untrained is not likely to have the physiological and technical knowledge necessary to make an informed decision.

This scenario is true of any topic. For me to consider how to involve my students in the lecture-based class on classical music in the late 1800s, the best path is not to directly ask ‘what do you want to learn’ simply because they may not have the baseline knowledge to answer that question. The thing that hit me was that this is not just the wrong question, but it is the wrong SORT of question. Perhaps a better question is not what, but how. People do know what they enjoy doing, whether that is sitting and listening, chatting, walking, exploring, reading, making- and these are the sorts of things that can easily be answered and folded into the curriculum to begin to create praxis.

When teaching Class X there are core tenants that need to be introduced and understood. Asking how do you want to learn can open doors to engagement even if it seems like a little step at first. Going back to the music lesson scenario, I teach all my students that in lesson situations they need at least three different ways to explain a concept or technique. One way might be good for one student, but it will not work for everyone. That is not to say that in large scale teaching someone would or could have multiple modes of engagement, because – …. well actually why the heck not?

I had the pleasure of taking a class with Howard Rheingold and he set down rules for expectation and engagement, and yes, there was an imbalance with engagement. Convincing people to actually participate was a challenge. That is something to be aware of in life- now more than ever we are schooled to be complicit and complacent. He also allowed people to choose suggested roles for their engagement, and encouraged people to take different roles throughout the different topics of the course. Someone might be a scribe one week and work on collecting external sources related to the topic the next week. A third person might be working on a communicable lexicon resource by defining terms that co-learners were interested in or unsure of.

He did not just ask, ‘what do you want to learn?’ As that is too far a leap for most. It takes years of study to learn to be your own teacher and even then, if and when you are proficient at teaching yourself, there is definitely still the need for others. Learning does not happen without connection- internal and external.

I’ve been writing this on the plane and we’re about to land, so it’s time to put this away. A final thought: do you ask what, do you ask how, do you ask at all, and are you willing to receive and act upon the answers from your learners to create praxis.

Teaching learning, teaching for learning, or teaching learning through living?

Learning and understanding learning is one of my favourite topics and I love tinkering with how people think and what it means for learning and life. This post is a short reflection on a conversation between Stephen Downes and George Siemens as a part of the open connectivist ‘class’ #el30.

George began with a lovely sentiment that we as humans learn. As long as we live, we learn- whether as intentional, sub-conscious learning or otherwise – we learn.

I do believe that is a truth. He then went on to ask a valuable question:

Why are we teaching in a way that is counterintuitive and not personally satisfying to students? 

-What should we be teaching in our school systems.

(As an aside, I have an issue with the ‘system’ – the first time George said ‘school system’ far earlier on in the conversation, I twitched and thought – oooh a Freudian slip there- why would he call it a ‘system’ when school and learning should be anything but ‘systems’. A system makes me think of flow charts and expected outcomes, pre-conceived and defined content, outcomes, answers, and worse – commercialisation. I’ll leave that thought in brackets so it doesn’t pollute the rest of this post!)

I prefer learning as part of a journey. I might go a bit down the road and then perhaps for the course I’m on, I look around and document my journey so far. For me there is no ‘arriving at the answer’ even if there is an externally observable outcome like a performance. That is a stepping stone and I stand in that place at that moment, it is not an answer. If there was an answer to have, I promise I would have put my money where my mouth is and bought that one already.

About an hour before this George-Stephen chat, in Stephen’s conference presentation, he asked:

Why would we employ tests and quizzes ‘inside’ the learning environment when the learning [we aim for] is intended for use ‘outside’ the learning environment – in life & work? It’s about application in context, not memorising content.

For me the bigger question is about the purpose- both the personal, community, and collective perceived purpose and meaning of being, action, and interaction (what we think, what we do, and how we internalise one another).

George commented:

There is something about those things that aren’t measured by our university or school systems today, and yet end up being the most consequential in a societal or work-based environment.

And Stephen added in summary:

It’s precisely in the things that can’t be measured where we have the greatest potential of being what computers aren’t.

Yes. and more yes. and how funny that George asks for an accurate depiction for how to develop learning…. but that is an in-built oxymoron. You can’t have the answer. 🙂 …it takes me back to your meditating monk – the answer will come, but depends on the individual and their purpose and perspective – and that answer changes with time (and I don’t mean age or the passage of time, but simply with the orientation in the now and how that relates to the rest of the now around us).

Featured image CC BY-NY-ND by James Laing 

(I liked it so much I put it at the bottom here too, so it could be bigger 🙂 )

Linking Skills, Feedback, and Assessment to develop Student Agency and Deep Learning

After giving a workshop it was suggested I write an article based on the principles. I have submitted it to present at the 2018 Learning and Teaching Conference at my university. There is not proceedings or publication from it, so I am sharing here. Slides are embedded below the text.

Abstract

This article examines the concept of constructive alignment in learning (Biggs, 2005) and how integrating reflective practice throughout teaching and learning, encourages deeper learning experiences. Teachers are encouraged to aligning learning outcomes, activities, feedback, and assessment to benefit students as they progress from learning and preparing for assessment to achievement. Recognising and understanding the student perspective is essential to understanding the balance of how taught material, experience, and avenues for application of learned skills can impact student engagement. The principles of student self-efficacy beliefs (Bandura, 1986) and the influence these have on student’s self-regulation of their learning behaviors (Zimmerman, 1998; Schunk & Usher, 2013) is explored. The importance of integrating feedback in accessible ways and providing opportunities for students to develop their agency throughout learning is highlighted and presented alongside practical suggestions for teaching.

Keywords: feedback, assessment, learning design, student agency, reflection

 

Across higher education there is great variety and diversity in the spaces used for learning, from the indoor traditional lecture hall with one teacher speaking to hundreds of students, to small-group seminar or lab type environments, to one-to-one teaching or tutorial sessions, to the on-site placement learning that takes students into the professional workplace. Each affords different dynamics and possibilities for skills development, interaction, and feedback. The size, shape, and context of teaching and learning spaces impacts how teachers structure content and how students approach learning. Read more

Goal: To Connect

Last week some students and I got together to record an initial hello about goals to a class in California. We are studying psychology of learning and teaching and how that relates to music learning and teaching.

On a practical note, we are interested in how people connect with one another, all the variable factors, and how we can do this across continents. A great way to learn is to actually do the thing for yourself… so …..

Below is a very short audio recording where everyone said a sentence about how they make or deal with goals. Anytime people meet, there is some kind of initial hello, and we thought that having a topic for discussion might just break the ice.

We’d love to connect! Feel free to leave a comment or record a message of your own. Your message might be a statement or it might be a question.

We would love to hear how you approach goals. The audio was specifically aimed at a class of students on California, but anyone is invited to respond, whether you are old, young, musician, plumber, mum, dad, or any walk of life!

  • Did you have any goals for today?
  • Do you write down your goals?
  • Did you set your own goals or are they something imposed on you, that you just have to do for school or work?

The ball is in your court.

Featured image CC BY-NC-ND by Geckoam

Meeting people: On all sorts of levels

I attended #OER17 with many different goals and hopes, but all were surpassed and I came away having learned a most valuable, topical, and poignant lesson about our world and how we interact. I met people. Meeting people is something that we do and teach, or at least teach about, in so many ways. In my Psychology of Learning and Teaching class I even teach about meeting people – the value of social interaction, social context, the self, how children develop, but this day was a landmark revelation for me. I was aware not of teaching through the rear-view mirror of McLuhan but of not realising we are riding bicycles while others are driving on the same road with us. It is challenging to verbalise. This is a personal reflection with pedagogical implications.

Read more

Internationalising the curriculum

This post is a transcript of my speech at the Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar:  Innovation in curriculum design – internationalisation, employability and inclusivity, December 7, 2016

(5 min read)

My Lord, ladies and gentlemen, respected colleagues,

Twenty years ago as a student at university I experienced two types of curriculum: one stemming from a traditional textbook and a sage-on-the-stage, and the other based on praxis which was completely bespoke and co-developed. Perhaps I was lucky that this was not an uncommon feature of studying music performance.

Then in 1999 the Boyer Commission produced an Academic Bill of Rights. Its preamble states that a college or university should provide ‘maximal opportunities for intellectual and creative development’ of its students (p.12). The first right is that students should have ‘opportunities to learn through enquiry rather than simple transmission of knowledge’ (p.12). These are both essential.

Since that Bill of Rights, enquiry that crosses intellectual and physical borders has become an everyday reality at our fingertips, and Internationalising the curriculum is one way to expand our student’s experience, encourage and develop connection, and prepare our future graduates to successfully meet the demands of a continually developing workforce.

I will outline how I do this in my own practice as Teaching Fellow at the University of Chichester, and present various methods and tools that can be embedded within your own curriculum, no matter what the discipline.

Definitions of employability have expanded from the outdated view that simply developing the required skills or knowledge is enough, to now include an array of wider, and less discipline-specific qualities: from organisational and management skills to self-beliefs.

The ‘USEM’ model of employability: (Knight and York, 2004) includes

  • Understanding
  • Skills
  • Efficacy beliefs
  • Metacognition

And it reinforces the importance of enabling student experience and engagement with applied processes. It reframes knowledge as understanding and recognises an element of deeper learning. Metacognitive processes underpin many aspects of strategic and self-regulated learning, and without efficacy beliefs these could not be combined into successful self-management, academic achievement, or eventually into effective employee performance. (see Brigstock, 2009; CES, 2009; Pegg, Waldock, Hendy-Isaac, & Lawton 2012)

The Institute of the Future, a California think-tank, recently published an article containing this infographic about emerging ‘new’ types of jobs, born out of our on-demand economy. These resonated with me, as in music, graduates seldom have a singular fixed professional destination.

I use internationalisation in a way that amplifies individual creative development and intellectual enquiry, addressing:

  • Gaps between institutional life and the working world
  • How students transfer their knowledge…into something relevant to their professional lives
  • How to develop employability and entrepreneurial thinking

These are derived from benchmarking goals in the Polifonia Handbook: Combining a research orientation with professional relevance, published in 2014.

I embed teaching methods within the curriculum that foster international interaction between and across disciplines, such as using technology to connect to other learners and teachers. I believe it is essential to engage with students, peers, industry partners, and the wider community across the globe. Specifically in my teaching I use:

  • screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-09-07-41Public outreach and engage students via Twitter,

    because it is a platform well populated by professionals, and allows students to engage either as themselves or with a pseudonym of their choice.

Connecting Classes began with Jonathan Worth and his use of the hashtag as an educational tool for his photography class #Phonar. With this methodology, short videos or audio are shared online and people are invited to use a specific tag for discussions. Students Tweet their notes, comments, and questions, and often draw other professionals into large-scale group discussions. This provides students with a rich resource for further research.

  • I also use webinars and hangouts featuring student-led discussion with international practitioners.

An excellent example of this practice established for the educational community is Virtually Connecting, which brings keynote speakers from international conferences into contact with other teachers and students across the world through live, online hangouts. Maha Bali co-founded Virtually Connecting. She lives in Egypt and recognised the need to connect and the practical limitations of travel and cost that affect educators and learners.

Virtually Connecting sessions include people ‘on-site’ as well as a virtual room full of guests- teachers, students, people from across the world. This real-time interaction and engagement with professionals across disciplines is invaluable for all involved.

  • And finally an example of a change to the curriculum itself is my International Experience Module.

This development was driven by students. They wanted to go beyond technological connections, and formalise these interactions, making them face-to-face. Students led the first iteration of these trans-continental experiences, and that trip served as a proof of concept and model for the module that now runs as part of the undergraduate Music with Instrumental or Vocal Teaching Degree.

Students are responsible for the details from planning the logistics of travel to the content of what happens with partners when abroad. Moving away from a textbook based curriculum, they now have to consider, plan for, and anticipate aspects of inclusivity, communication, and cultural sensitivities they might encounter in practical settings. My current group includes a blind student, others with dietary allergies, and of course, musicians from different stylistic backgrounds. There is a host of planning and management skills on top of the musical preparation required, and the students relish it.

Stepping outside the classroom provides immersion and means that:

  1. Students have ownership of their learning and actions
  2. Learning is integrated into life, where theoretical knowledge is applied and tested through experience
  3. Students actively reflect and practice real-time accountability as they learn.

Although when my students travel with me to America, English is a common language, there are distinct cultural differences when traveling to any other country, and effective relationships and communication take forethought and sometimes situations required careful navigation. Embracing differences of those beyond your ‘home’ community can facilitate promotion and reflection on civic agency, another important quality for us and our students to develop.

Not every programme can be expected to include a full international experience module, but there are certainly elements of both cross-discipline and cross-cultural communication that can be embedded into any curriculum, whether through a project like Connecting Classes, using hashtags on Twitter, or through other bespoke online projects.

Connection, communication, and learning all encompass far more than theoretical subject-knowledge. Within music, sound, and playing the instrument is a small part of teaching and professional interaction. Music requires confidence – self-efficacy beliefs, communication, everyday organisation, management, and interpersonal skills. By building and applying transferable skills alongside the discipline-specific skills, students are more prepared to step out and carve a niche in their future professional world. What better way to do that than as an active participant in various international fora? It does mean that we the teachers need to do significant networking, learning, and groundwork in order to fully participate and keep abreast of the changing landscape. It is worth the effort.

The world is a constantly developing place and even those we perceive as most distant to us are actually closer neighbours than we know.

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-09-15-39

Romantic composers and conductors: #CClasses

Join us this week as we talk to a composer, conductor, and then listen to what notable Romantic composers and conductors had to say about thier experiences in the 1800s. This is our last official session in this semester’s Connecting Classes project. I say official, because this session where we tweet our notes is part of a research project that focuses on three session, so the project will end, but the methods… Well, we will keep using them as we continue to learn and meet as a class throughout the semester.

This week you are invited to listen in with us this Friday and tweet comments, notes, and questions. We will be listening live at 10:30 am GMT, and I very much hope that will be the start of an ongoing conversation. Whether you join in with the live discussion, or you listen later, share your thoughts on Twitter by using the hashtags #MUL316 and #cclasses .

I have prepared three audio files (~18 min in total):

  • We begin by examining a conductor’s approach to Romantic music and the orchestra in an interview with conductor Christopher Slater (4 min 35)

  • And move to a compilation about the Romantic composers on conducting and approaching the music. You will see that I have used as many actual quotes as I could, and these are represented by other voices. 🙂 (8 min 47)

  • To an interview with composer and conductor Adam Swayne about his own approach to the score and conducting as a composer. (4 min 43)

I would like to thank the many volunteers who read the words of composers and their friends to help make the audio more engaging and easier to follow. References used to source quotes in the second audio file are listed below…

5528712669_0e0f77d1c5_zImage above, CC BY-NC by James Savage, Featured image CC BY-NC by Penn State

  • Bamberger, C. (Ed.). (1965). The conductor’s art. McGraw-Hill.
  • Biba, O. (1979). Schubert’s Position in Viennese Musical Life. 19th-century Music3(2), 106-113.
  • Komorn, M., & Strunk, W. O. (1933). Brahms, Choral Conductor. The Musical Quarterly19(2), 151-157.
  • Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 10:47 (1839)
  • Wagner, R. (1887). On conducting. W. Reeves.
  • Walker, A. (1987). Franz Liszt: The Weimar Years, 1848-1861. Cornell University Press.

Romanticism: It’s happening! #CClasses

This is session two of three in this round of the Connecting Classes project. What’s happening here is a different sort of teaching where actually you control the pace, and how and when you pause, reflect, and interact with both the content and with others. For this class, we have core lectures like many classes, but we do various things alongside this project as well. I record/archive all my lectures so that students can look back for a particular reference or find a bit of analysis that they might have missed or not quite taken in during the class. We use of an interactive reading list, so they can click straight through to the university’s subscription material and have the references I’ve used at their fingertips. This Connecting Classes project is one more way to engage, and for me it is possibly the most fun.

The idea (for those of you not in the room) is that we, who are in the room will all be listening and commenting on the three interviews below. We will use our own devices to listen. That means the room will look odd to a passer-by. They might peep in and see a room full of silent people with headphones on who are tapping into computers or their phones. I promise we are all on task! As we listen, we take notes and all our comments, ideas, questions, are typed and shared as Tweets. The tiny detail that makes this useful and a pedagogical tool is that we TAG our notes with both the project hashtag and the class hashtag:

#CClasses #MUL316

The beauty is that you (who could be across the world) are also welcome to join in when and where ever you can. The value of using Twitter is that anyone can join in, and with the tags, we can add your comments to our group notes. The live event is happening today, 4 Nov. 2016 at 11 am GMT, so you will see lots of activity then…

Let’s get to it!

Today we are listening to three interview with professional musicians on the topic of Romantic Music. They total 30 mins, and I suggest you give yourself an hour to listen and comment. If you can look on Twitter for the hashtag #MUL316 you will see other people’s comments too and maybe you can reply to someone – you may have the answer they are looking for! Enjoy!

  • 25961d_6941cf070a1542ae927abe640afaa362-jpg_srz_325_257_85_22_0-50_1-20_0Our first musician is Katherine Schultz, a cellist from Portland, Oregon. She speaks to us about practising and approaching this music in the following 10 mins. of audio.

  • 2bii-j-plowright-photo-2-reduced-for-web-page1Next Jonathan Plowright, concert pianist and Head of Keyboard at the University of Chichester, speaks about understanding and context within this music. He himself is preparing to record the complete piano music of Brahms:

  • 0lb7vgkcFinally we hear from a vocalist. So much of the great Romantic music literature is for voice. Mezzo-soprano and Head of Voice at the University of Chichester, Susan Legg (@susanlegg) takes us through the first song in a song cycle Frauenliebe und-leben by Schumann, identifying key features and explaining how the voice and piano work together with the words. She finishes the interview by performing the song. Beautiful!

I am hugely grateful to our musicians for allowing me to interview them, and for their willingness to share their expertise and knowledge with us.

Please keep listening and adding comments. This is meant to be a catalyst for further discussions and is by no means limited to the 11am time slot. If you tag them #CClasses and #MUL36 I will be able to find them and add them to the story! (I will share that via this website, so the public can see)

 

Join us next week as we hear from composers and conductors on their views about having their music performed and performing the music of others (relating of course to Romantic composers!). I am telling you the topic in case anyone would like to do some prep homework and come up with a spectacular reference to the views of a known or unknown Romantic composer on this topic for our discussion next time!

Laura

Featured image CC BY-NC by Smackfu

Romanticism comes to life with #cclasses

I am genuinely very very excited for this Friday’s session in my Romanticism lecture. Really. In it we’re joined by three distinguished guests who each bring Romantic music to life through their experience, understanding, and advice. Three perspectives by hugely respected professionals. wow.

It will all make sense on Friday.

For now, just mark your calendar for Friday 4 Nov. 11am GMT. Whether you are a performing musician or not – this is something that especially musicians, but anyone interested in learning, connection, and personal perspective will find fascinating.

Join us on Friday as we listen to

  • Portland-based cellist Katherine Schultz take us through aspects of preparation and practising.
  • UK concert pianist Jonathan Plowright discusses interpretation.
  • UK mezzo soprano Susan Legg takes us on an in-depth exploration of the first song of Schubert’s Frauenliebe und-leben, and finishes her interview with a glorious impromptu performance of the song.

They each bring the topics we have been studying to life. I interviewed them all – Today I conducted the final interview and am in the process of uploading the audio to archive.org (now) all ready for Friday’s session.

If you cannot join us exactly at 11 am (for example if you live in America and you might be sleeping!), it is perfectly ok to listen later and still join in our twitter conversation. Just tag your tweet with #CClasses and #MUL316 . People will tweet back and I genuinely look forward to the conversation unfolding.

I created this content because of the research project Connecting Classes, but it has become much more a way of learning and teaching for me than a ‘project’. The other day it dawned on me just what is possible with this Connecting Classes project. As a common theme in all connecting classes session, there is some sort of pre-recorded content that the live class focuses on during the session. They engage with it and tweet their notes. (We will be using the project tag #CClasses and our class tag #MUL316 ) In the original version by Jonathan Worth, he used audio content, but others have used video, and I don’t see why a text couldn’t be used – these things are made to be sprouted, riffed on, and remixed. Last semester, I created my own content (with the help of the students) and we used the pre-recorded aspect of the project as a springboard for what we were studying, to focus discussions and to lead us to external connections and resources, but also to connect to our individual interests.

That connection is key in my view.

Take our class for example. In this historical period, Romanticism, there is SO much variation and such a sheer volume of music. One composer wrote 600 songs and another wrote an opera that literally takes close to 24 hours to perform. As a teacher I know it is important to study a topic and all around the topic. How important it is to understand the application of the topic, and digest the topic, and then put that knowledge to use – but sometimes it all takes years to realise and internalise, and it can be hard going as an undergraduate. Sometimes, just sometimes, (just saying), studying the music of bygone times is not the most thrilling aspect of a young performer’s education….

UNLESS IT RELATES TO YOU PERSONALLY.

and oh my goodness, this does!!!

As a student it can be difficult to study the music of an instrument you do not play, read, and analyse, and somehow have it inspire and move you. I want to be inspired and I want my students to be inspired. Textbooks aren’t always the most inspirational, but people and stories, now I love them. Please don’t get me wrong – I am not skimping on the content one bit, and I am a big advocate of research, journal articles, and primary source information. In fact the short interviews that we will listen to Friday morning will supplement and point to further resources and inspire people to make connections. Perhaps it will lead listeners to have an ‘a-ha’ moment of really find meaning in the detail and the process….

Mark your diary. This Friday, 11 am. I will post the content here and will tweet the links. I promise you are in for a treat. You will find beauty, simplicity, and wonderful musical insight.

I am very grateful for the generosity of my guests.

14529016997_cdd00c4057_z

 image CC BY-NC-SA by philHendley

Featured imageCC-BY by Alan Kuruz

Reflecting on CClasses: We learn differently

It’s 3:15 am and I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about and reflecting on how we learn and what we want to get out of our learning. I am thinking about my Romanticism class that is taking part in the Connecting Classes project. What do we want… Perhaps that is the greatest starting point – to want to get something out of it. In my teaching, in my life, I admit to starting from my own perspective (I suppose in psychology terms each person’s perspective is the ultimate starting point) and then I work out to see how I can understand an experience and best shape it for my fellow learners. What can I use to supplement or enhance? How can it be relevant to that person’s driving passions in music? How can we engage in learning together? How can we amplify each other’s experience? Read more