Reflective Teaching by Dr Natasha Barrett

Completing the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) portfolio provided the perfect opportunity for me to reflect on teaching and learning and how my approach has developed over the years. I was surprised at how well I mapped onto Kugel’s five ages of a lecturer (1993). I certainly started out at stage 1 (self) where the focus was on surviving each session with my dignity intact. I then started refining the content of my lectures as I gained confidence and moved to stage 2 (the subject). The transition from stages 1 and 2 onwards has gradually occurred with experience, but several of the PGCAP workshops really helped me move forward. Stages 3 (the student) and 4 (student learning) are very apparent to me at the moment and it is here that I have tried to apply some of the learning theories introduced in the PGCAP workshops. I’ve tried using Bigg’s (1999) constructive alignment theory, where learning outcomes dictate what is taught and assessment (particularly marks) can be used to drive the student to meet the outcomes, with pretty good success. I’ve also tried promoting active student learning (eg Kolb’s reflective cycles). Many students will readily “experience” and “conclude” teaching, but engaging the students in reflection and planning is not an area that I’ve had great success with (yet). I guess that this challenge will take me forward into Kugel’s 5th stage (student as an independent learner) and I look forward to applying some of the strategies to achieve this as I review my teaching material over the summer. I was really pleased to be awarded with the runner’s up PGCAP portfolio prize and would like to thank the CSTD, CDoTL and departmental staff for all their support.

PhD student wins 2012 Teaching & Learning Support Programme Portfolio Prize

I’m surprised and thrilled to have won the University of Reading’s Teaching and Learning Support Programme Portfolio Prize! I’m looking forward to attending the Teaching and Learning Awards ceremony on the 18th September, where Professor Gavin Brooks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), will make the presentation. Let me explain…

I’ve had the privilege of contributing to the BA English programme during my PhD, by leading a seminar group on the Part One ‘Researching the English Essay’ module in 2010/11. I was keen to get focussed training and feedback as I took on this new responsibility, so I enrolled on the University’s Teaching and Learning Support Programme (TLSP). This 20-credit Master’s level module is accredited by the Higher Education Academy, and designed for postgraduates and staff involved in supporting student learning.

Throughout the year I attended a number of TLSP workshops run by enthusiastic and experienced trainers; I was particularly inspired by sessions on pedagogical theory – ‘how students learn’ – and on creating synergy between research and teaching. I also attended various Higher Education Academy events across the UK, which offered a valuable opportunity to learn from other teaching professionals on more specific topics like teaching performance poetry and post-millennial literature. I took part in reciprocal teaching observations, and was even filmed giving a practice presentation. I reflected on these many activities in a written portfolio, where I articulated my student-centred approach to teaching and learning.

I was delighted when my portfolio passed with Distinction, and honoured when it recently won the annual TLSP Portfolio Prize for the best portfolio submitted in 2011/12. This recognition is especially encouraging so early in my career, and I’m thrilled to receive £1,000 towards continuing my professional development.

So, big thanks to those students in my first seminar group, for their willing participation and thoughtful feedback. I’m grateful, too, to my PhD supervisor and teaching mentor, Professor Alison Donnell, for her constructive observation of my teaching practice. Many CSTD staff, faculty members and fellow graduate seminar leaders have shared creative suggestions for seminar activities with me. It’s great being part of a University that’s so committed to enabling effective learning and rewarding good teaching. I’m hoping to be back in the classroom – as both teacher and learner – again soon!

Nicola Abram