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Posts tagged ‘self-efficacy’

Teaching like strawberries

They grow

and run

and make fabulous fruit

This morning I was mentioned in a tweet by Simon that pointed me to this post by Autumn. We are connected through a filament in the ether.

Her post was written as a prelude to #Rhizo16 and this is a big collective that is hung together by emergent themes- and I followed it a bit last year, but didn’t get too involved exactly for a reason that Autumn mentioned. She called it IMB –

Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB) it is a simple equation – the more voices you add to a synchronous conversation the more you see a reduction in intimacy in that conversation.

I find that very difficult. I find small talk very difficult exactly for that reason. I am interested in what makes people tick. I want to know and be known. Connection is so fulfilling.

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Feedback is all around us: SEDA Workshop 2016

Linking Skills, Feedback,

and

Assessment to develop Student Agency and Achievement

 

That was the title of my workshop at the SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) Conference on Assessment & Feedback and I had great fun. There were 40+ in the room and the plan was to talk to them for the first bit, presenting core ideas and a context for assessment. Then we broke into five groups, around tables and I gave them the brief to write an essay based on the information given so far…

What happened next was very interesting indeed. Everyone did something very different to what I expected. In my naive mind, I imagined that people would ‘get on with the task’ and just write an essay.

This was the beginning of a fantastic lesson for me. I know I was presenting, but I was learning. Read more

California Dreamin’

I’ve had another adventure in learning and teaching… and sometimes when things are so good, it is hard to begin to put them on paper. This post is a glimpse.

I’ll call it: ‘Part 1: Of Many’

I know that my students will have to carve their places in the world of music- that there are few traditional ‘jobs’ that exist anywhere. Graduates don’t walk out of education and walk into a single full time secure job in music. Part of what I do is work to develop experiences that hold a bank of skills so that as people progress they can build their metaphorical pantry. …With shelves full of ingredients someone can make more than a PB&J sandwich in the restaurant of their musical lives. I like (and feel the need) to grow and develop my repertoire of musical skills and experiences. Read more

I got something to say.

Every day is a journey in learning and life and this past year has been no exception. I remember starting a conversation in January with ‘what if…?’ – having no idea how things would take shape. Everything was a question, from funding to how the collaborations would spin out. At one point I found myself in California last May in a breakout group of a dozen people – age 9-45, students, professionals, -a real mix of life, in the middle of Yosemite National Park and one of those people was Nik Koyama (who is someone also fuelled by the same passions and cravings for life, growth, and connection). As we walked, Nik asked me about the collaboration that was happening and unfolding and Nik asked: ‘what do you want to do with this? where is it going? what are your goals? … for a couple of months or next year?’ and I without hesitation I said that it wasn’t about then, about where we haven’t yet arrived, about where we’re going – what I really wanted was to be here right now and to let that happen.

All we have is now. Each now, one after another, and there is magic in that. It goes back to so many things- belief (self-efficacy of course!), permission to learn, to experience, to explore, awareness, attention, reflection, connection, and all of these create value. Educationally as a teacher I continue to learn to trust my students and I give them more and more freedoms. Freedom to design their assessments, choose their focus, make collaborations, reach out and go beyond what I can conceive. Read more

Live music + cupcakes + David Preston = my book launch!

It’s all about that #YesICan. Self-efficacy. The book. This Tuesday 5:30-6:30 GMT is the time to share and celebrate, and yes, the event will be live-streamed.

I’m not so good at celebrating or accepting compliments of any sort, and somehow I have managed to make this event into something that I am really looking forward to and am so excited to share – and, no, I am not going to stand on a soap box and talk at people. I am going to do the book –  show you what it says on the tin. The event is to celebrate and launch my book  Fostering self-efficacy in higher education students and it has also been billed as a Learning & Teaching event by the University of Chichester, where I work. I love that – it is absolutely lovely, and makes me feel valued and supported ‘at home’. I am very grateful. There is a very special guest coming to say a few words – My good friend and colleague David Preston (He founded the Open Source Learning Foundation and I am pleased to be able to say I am also one of the co-founding members of the OSLF, which is in it’s infancy yet, but international links and projects are springing up already) is on the plane at this very moment winging his way from LA to England (the land of tea and cakes that I call home). Read more

Yes I Can: Self-efficacy

‘Yes I Can’ is about having that growth mindset. More than that, it’s what happens when you have it. There are huge differences between fixed concepts of ability and the expanding conception of capability. There are reasons for fostering beliefs about capability, self-efficacy beliefs, in people. Self-efficacy is about having a growth mindset for a specific task. Actually we need it for so many different things everyday, but it isn’t a blanket belief that covers all. ‘Yes I Can’ in one setting doesn’t necessarily translate to another. And why not? Maybe you were one of the kids who was lucky enough to have a fantastically supportive environment where YES was the default, or maybe you had a more typical experience where there was at least one thing in life where some unthinking grown-up told you that you would never do that… whether it was singing, acting, public speaking, spelling, or even wearing that shirt in public. These things have an impact.

‘Yes I Can’ doesn’t happen overnight, and to make it last takes more than a reading of the well known story The little engine who could.

2290311284_9fcb47c167_zImage CC BY-NC-SA by Viki

I was talking to my students about teaching (I lead a degree in Instrumental / Vocal Teaching for musicians) and we got to thinking about the differences between school learning and university – and then of course compared these to music learning. In school, at least in the UK, currently there is a strong trend to teach to the test. When children approach the final years of school here, they take big end of year subject exams that have a huge impact on university entrance. It is different to sitting an SAT test on a Saturday, because most of what you do in school is geared toward that final assessment. Even at 15, the coursework counts toward the grade that determines which three or four subjects a student can specialise in for those final two years of school. There is huge pressure, and huge formula. My own teenage children come home and I say things like-‘ Can I see a draft of your essay?’ and just last weekend I was met with the retort ‘Why would I show it to you? Do you know how we are required to structure the essay?’ -I felt like I didn’t have a good reply. Sometimes when you’re in a horserace, there are hoops to jump, but that doesn’t mean that they are the defining factors of your learning. I hope we can all go beyond, and learn because we want to, and because we can. But, grades, rules, exams, these things all impose restrictions and as much as any teacher would like to say it doesn’t happen, there is teaching to the test, at any level. It is simply that our students have a lot of it in the final years of their schooling.

What happens next is a shock to the system.

At university, there is a strong push to develop autonomous learners, to develop people who will make a lasting contribution to society, to guide those who will change the world. Individual differences are valued and encouraged. The skills that were honed to write just so, to answer with the correctly phrased re-articulation of the definition of a plate tectonics are no longer being asked for. I am not saying these activities are useless. That foundation of factual knowledge and the understanding of how to follow rules is essential and is one of many skills needed as people navigate life. I love how Stravinsky found freedom in the confines of rules. He was known for pushing boundaries in his music, not through anarchic daydreaming, but with an extremely high level of skill, careful compositional planning, and precisely notated instructions. He said:

349px-Igor_Stravinsky_LOC_32392u“Well, in art as in everything else, one can build only upon a resisting foundation: whatever constantly gives way to pressure, constantly renders movement impossible. My freedom consists in moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned myself for each one of my undertakings.” (Stravinsky, 1970, p.65)

Photo by George Grantham Bain Collection – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ggbain.32392. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

The foundational knowledge learned through the final school years is useful, and forms a base from which people move forward, but students can be unprepared for the dramatic change in tack of methods of learning and expectations they meet as they begin their university education.

A growth mindset is definitely needed, but there is also a need for transitions to be facilitated, and for the positive ‘Yes I Can’ self-efficacy beliefs to be developed and enacted. There has been a growing awareness of practical links between university learning and achievements and professional life, with the rise in vocational courses and the emphasis on embedding employability.

Self-efficacy is about the ‘Yes I Can’ and teachers can do a lot to help foster this.

Self-belief is at the core, but is not enough. It is backed up with skills and the practical accomplishments that demonstrate the reality that actually, yes, you can do something.

This morning, mid typing I read Alan Levine’s Tedx talk about +/- memory and how that relates to teachers you may have had, who makes an impact, and what you remember, and he recalled the positive impact of various teachers throughout his education. I thought, yep, I was really lucky to have a few of those teachers who really made a difference because they showed me how to develop that belief. It takes work for an educator and it is not something that can come from an extra assignment or additional research. The teacher has to start by believing, and continue, even when the student doesn’t. The rewards may not be immediate, and might not come until much later, sometimes years after the students have left and they come back and say how that thing you encouraged them to do was really useful and led them on to something else – because they knew they could do it. I realised the impact of one of my teachers and thanked him decades after leaving school. Sometimes educators never see the direct results, but it is important to believe in people. It takes a commitment from the teacher and even some risk, as this is a different perspective for some, and it requires that you are willing to learn yourself.

For me knowing that I can, and the possibilities brought about through having the self-efficacy to put that first foot forward have led to great connections and opened doors, and I want to pass that on. I wrote the book Fostering self-efficacy in higher education students, because I believe in students, I believe in teachers, and I believe in the power of education.

#YesICan

Featured image CC BY-SA by Chris Gilmore

Fostering Self-efficacy… book out next month

This book has been a year in the making and a longer time bubbling away in the back of my mind. It is a book for all teachers, and for students too – across all areas of learning (it is not a music book). I cannot promise any instant solutions to cure all self-efficacy issues, but I can give insight into the construct of self-efficacy, why it is important, and how to build it through practical, everyday means. At a time when students, their opinions, experiences, and ultimately achievements really do matter, self-efficacy is something that needs consideration, because at the end of the day it’s you and only you who know what you can do, how you feel about it, and whether or not you actually can and will see it through.

In the book I use my research and the foundation of research that has been built over the past 30 years, plus my own experiences and the experiences of other teachers across fields of study to demonstrate self-efficacy in action.

It is something that I believe in wholeheartedly. I hope you find it useful!

The book can be found via Palgrave Macmillan or Amazon. Any questions, please ask! Either email or comment…

LRitchie book flyer

 

Reflections: My learning wall

(2 min read) This morning I woke up to someone posting one of those motivational phrases, or something that was supposed to be motivational about how ‘tomorrow is everything’ …and I thought, hang on, nobody ‘gets’ tomorrow, all we have is where we’re at, right now. I’ve been working on the now, my now for some time, (that in itself sounds like a paradox, but I mean over the past 6-12 months really) and I decided that this morning I would get stuck in to my wall. I sometimes do big DIY projects while thinking about academic writing.

This wall made me think about learning.

How does stripping wallpaper in ‘the hallway from hell’ make a good analogy to learning?

As a learner I have certainly been in the position of wanting to do something and really wanting to do something and plugging away at it and seemingly making no progress.  That was also how I felt a few minutes ago. I thought:

  • When learning how do we know we are making progress?
  • Where’s the evidence?
  • What do we use as markers?
  • Do we do this when we learn?
  • Do we help our students to do this when they learn?

Ah, there are in-built systems, you might say – with tutorials, and assignments, and feedback, and and and, but are these telling the students about what they are learning or how they are performing? Perhaps a bit of both.

The most important thing is that the student can recognise the evidence of their learning and know what they, personally, are aiming for.

This morning I almost got lost in the ‘wallness’ of my current project and couldn’t see what I was doing, why, or how far I had come – and for a fleeting moment it was depressing. IMG_4139

 

Then I looked down. It was that fleeting moment when the thought of failure crept in, but somehow it turned into an moment of enlightenment. IMG_4136When I looked down and I saw all the rubbish I had scraped off the wall – I saw the evidence of my progress. It had not been easy, scraping off this stuff, but I have made progress. (by the way who in their right mind wallpapers a wall, plasters over the wallpaper, puts *more* wallpaper, and then paints over that?!?! – this is no easy task.) That was when I started to think about learning and this process made me think about how learning works.

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There is no machine that will do it for me, no quick fix. It
takes patience, and grind, and work. Not necessarily rambunctious effort or gung-ho enthusiasm, but gentle, careful, considered persistence. Learning is like that. Sometimes the dirt gets under your fingernails, and sometimes it seems you get nowhere, but then there are times when something goes right and where there seemed to be no progress, something happens.

 

 

Even if this is a slow process, I can see the value in completing it,

and I’m going to keep plugging away.

Instrumental Disruption

Reflections on my surprise visit to the two-day Expo at Coventry’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab. I presented a session over the lunch break on day two that truly disrupted people – we did an orchestral flash mob, and although they (mostly staff) could see the instruments arranged and on display all morning, they were completely unaware that they would be the people playing them.

Throughout the morning people became curiouser and curiouser, and watching their reactions was lovely.

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As I wasn’t on the printed programme, I had a sort of secret license to not follow traditional rules – this was a conference and speakers were respectfully introduced for other sessions, but it was also in a place that was actually named a ‘Disruptive‘ Learning Lab. So when Kate Green, who was coordinating my visit began discussing how I might be announced or how to let people know what was going to happen, and I said that I would just disrupt whatever people were doing and announce that there was something happening now…. *that was fun! 

I walked into meetings and said ‘excuse me, please may I disrupt you?’ (good thing I have no clue who most of the people were or I am sure I would have been daunted) I invited them all to take part – invited the IT man, the cleaner, the Deputy Dean, staff, staff’s bosses, and their bosses, and the students. See, in this session, in my flashmob, we are all in it together and it’s about working together to realise yet untapped capabilities. I don’t know who you are, and I am not going to pre-judge what you can or can’t do. My job is to give you a chance, believe in possibilities, and show you that you can believe in yourself too. I hope that came across to the people there on that bean-shaped ‘hill’.

Everyday, as teachers, we put our students in situations where we want and expect them to learn, and that means they are vulnerable- vulnerable to failure (both public, and private failure). With a clear approach that fosters achievement and supports their beliefs that they CAN do what is being presented or asked, then somehow they (and we) tend to exceed expectations. In short we learn not to get in our own way. So in this very short 45 min session, I presented a full version of a pop song that we as a group would play, gave them a whistle-stop instructional tour of the basics of holding the instruments, gave them graphic scores for the song with their parts on it (we divided into sections, like in an orchestra). They were responsible for 5 different parts, and I took the remaining two parts, with the help of my loop pedal.

We only had time for one full run through of the song, but it worked! Along the way there were some supremely good ‘failures’, which after all is what happens when we learn. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT mean they actually failed, but in music the act of creation is something that is ‘out there’, it is sound, and unlike thoughts or even typed text, that can be kept private until polished, sound is obviously exposed. Certainly in this group setting, all of the initial workings-out and explorations were very public. Those who sat there and did it, the bosses who willingly found their notes and squeaked alongside the students and their other colleagues, they deserve a HUGE well done. It takes guts, and it was exposing and it was a risk – and the joyous thing is that they all did it with a smile. There was a sense of I CAN, and there was laughter, and they were playing – both in terms of violins, violas, and cellos, but also in terms of playfulness. It is a real privilege that I was allowed to bring that in the middle of a very nice buffet lunch.
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I won’t pretend we produced a concert performance, but I thought everyone did really well, and did achieve. Afterwards I told them they were both brilliant failures and brilliant successes. I sincerely hope they understood that I meant they were great learners, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to learn, to co-learn, and to be open, and as a result they were able to grow and achieve.

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Many thanks to Crostóbal Cobo for the short video clip and the group photos.

Connecting, allowing, and learning

Over the past month I have had the privilege of going to both the University East Anglia and the University of the West of England to speak and give people the experience of learning through doing something new – playing music. The f2f interaction and the tactile experience is magic. I love it and would go anywhere to share this with people, as the smiles and laughter that follow the initial reactions of ‘I can’t do that’ ‘I’ve never done that’ ‘I don’t do that’ make it all worth while.Screen shot 2014-09-27 at 10.33.04

It still amazes me how people say these things and effectively, not purposefully, qualify themselves as failures before they have begun, and this is not just in music but in anything that is new or perceived as daunting. In learning, having a fixed conception of ability is so limiting, (see the difference between ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ by Frank Pajares here) and if our students thought in this limiting way then what a battle we would have! We must not allow that unbounded sense of growth and achievement that allows a young child to really believe they can do anything – touch the moon and change the world- to disappear completely. I am not advocating that we all become completely unrealistic, but as Tali Sharot says in her TED talk on optimism,

“to make any kind of progress we need to be able to imagine a different reality, and then we need to believe that reality is possible.”

I work to keep that tethered to the ground, but I like to fly like a helium balloon with my dreams.

Music is my way in to share that feeling of you can in a way that people can accept it, where are neither expecting it nor resisting it. With so many new (and even developing) pursuits there are barriers, both external and that we place for ourselves. Sometimes these are in reaction to assumed societal norms, social groups, or even just a sense of self-doubt. I find that being given permission is liberating and sometimes that is all people need to take that first step. That permission can come in various forms, whether a comment on a blog, a telephone call, or a reassuring glance from someone you trust and believe in. I am certainly not immune. Even in typing this, it has taken me several revisions and thoughts of doubt kicking around before I dared to press ‘publish’.

…back to the story….

Screen shot 2014-09-27 at 10.22.51When I visit people and bring my car or van-load of instruments, I tell them at the start – this is not about the music. (I am not sure if at that point they realise what it is about, but that is for another time) It is not until afterwards that they realise they have accomplished things – both musical and extra-musical, and I love that. Permission to experience, permission to do, permission to learn, and permission to be. They don’t even notice that they are problem solving and making all sorts of mistakes – in public, and without fear – because, like I said, it’s not about the music.

Recently there have been a few posts in unconnected places about failure and how that leads to learning, on Flickr by Sheri Edwards and on a blog by a former schoolmate of mine Lisa Chu who went full circle from classical musician, to Harvard graduate, to MD, to partner in a venture-capitolist firm, to improvising/art-making/people-connecting coach. Again, we don’t all want to go out there and fail, but it takes a lot of falling down before a baby walks, and I hope that my not-about-music sessions show people that they don’t need to get in their own way and that they are allowed, certainly in my learning environments- to fall down, and I will be there to pick them up.

What’s the down side? I don’t really know. I guess it’s the traffic in getting from A to B, and I really wish I had a transporter to avoid that. Screen shot 2014-09-27 at 10.22.38