College Teaching: How to let go of PowerPoint

It started as a means to an end. You wanted to do well in class but felt you couldn’t cope without additional support. “Don’t worry” you told yourself, “I can manage. I’ll just use a few. I’m not really dependent on them.” So you start with five, and then it becomes ten and before you know it your on 30 or more slides per class. Deep down you know you’re addicted.   College teachers – you may have PTS!  You may have full-blown PTS! Powerpoint Teaching Syndrome. Here are five indications to help your self-diagnosis of PTS: Preparation for each class is devoted exclusively to preparing powerpoint slides. You even say things like “that’s the first five lectures in the bag” as you complete the slide banks.You consider cancelling the class if the projector is broken or unavailable.You read all the text from each slide.Your rush through the last ten slides saying something like “I don’t have time to go through all of this so here are the slides”.Your students explain they won’t be in class next week but they will read the slides instead.You’re constantly asking other teachers for their slides.  If you answered ‘yes’ to more than one Read More …

New to college teaching – here are some tips to get you going.

Well done! You’ve been appointed to teach a college module and you’re really looking forward to the experience. You know your topic and whilst you’re very confident about your expertise in your subject or discipline, you’re a little more apprehensive about your ability to teach. Like many other competences, effective college teaching involves a mix of knowledge, skills and disposition. There is certainly a continuum between the novice teacher (albeit subject expert) and the more experienced and accomplished teacher. The good news is that you have a lot going for you from the start. Subject expertise is a necessary but not a sufficient qualification for good teaching. Your in-depth understanding of your topic is a stable foundation upon which to build your repertoire of abilities as a teacher. The first tip is really an imperative and it’s perfectively captured in the phrase “It’s not all about me”. Many novice teachers naturally focus on their own performance. They prepare meticulously for what they will cover in each lecture. They design an extensive bank of slides for each class and they organise tasks for the students to complete between each session. Sounds like ideal preparation! And yes, all teachers should be encouraged to Read More …

New to College Teaching

Today more than ever, students of all ages are attending college to achieve higher qualifications and fulfil their work and life goals. Colleges, such as NCI, continue to change and evolve in response to these needs. Yet despite numerous innovations in policy, infrastructure and technology there is still one simple truth that underpins our education system; it is that the quality of learning depends essentially on the quality of teaching.

What makes a good teacher?

One of a series of questions to be explored at Essential Questions for Educators Everywhere open summer course National College of Ireland 26-30th of June 2017 eqfee.org ‘What makes a good teacher’ seems a simple question and you might expect a straight forward answer. However, the more you think about it the more you will realise that it is not so simple after all. NCI Staff at a Learning & Teaching Development Event For many years now, I have worked with students and teachers in different sectors and contexts. Over time we have developed an exercise to interrogate this question. The exercise is worthwhile for learning professionals everywhere. You can try this yourself. Start by thinking about your own experiences as a student and ask yourself who was the best teach er you ever had. Go on think about who that might be now…. Have you identified someone? Good! Let’s presume you can picture that person in your mind. Write down, or make a mental list, of the top qualities you associate with them. Keep that list handy and read on… OK, I’m going to have to introduce some theory before we proceed. Let’s assume the basic task of a Read More …

Essential Questions for Educators Everywhere

‘Essential Questions for Educators Everywhere’ is a summer course over five days at National College of Ireland in association with Mercy College New York between the 26th – 30th  June 2017 . As the title suggests, the goal is to interrogate essential ideas that underpin our understanding and practice of what it means to teach and learn in the world of today. You can get further details at www.eqfee.org The programme is designed for qualified and aspiring learning professionals in areas such as early childhood education, schools, further education, college, university and adult learning settings. Through debate, discussion and critical dialogue, participants will explore issues such as the nature of learning, the purpose of schooling, the goals of lifelong learning, the qualities of teaching, and the relationship between democracy and education. These questions are relevant for teachers everywhere – regardless of country or context – all the more so for the changing times we live in. The history and evolution of Irish education, including the influence and involvement of religious institutions will also be explored. Participants will be encouraged to ask questions, compare systems and discuss alternatives throughout. As teachers everywhere, we have much in common and it is natural Read More …

Skills of Teaching

When it comes to teaching we often make the simple mistake of reducing all that matters into one specific skill. For example, if someone is very good at explaining things we might say they were a good teacher. Likewise, empathy for students is often regarded as an essential quality for teachers. I like to talk in terms of ‘skills for teaching’. In the approach two points are emphasised  – firstly, teaching is multifaceted and involves clusters of abilities rather than one single isolated skill and secondly, when I say skills of teaching I do not put ‘the’ in front, in other words, I mean to say “here are some skills of teaching and there are likely many more”. However, the framework provided below is derived from a series of workshops developed by my colleague Dr Arlene Egan and I. We have used this framework to support improvement in college teachers and in our Post-Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching at NCI. We we have devised an activity for each of the skills involved. For example, we use an activity called ‘high five’ to support development of presentation skills. student-teachers are expected to make a presentation to their peers on a Read More …

The Troublesome Nature of Learning Outcomes

In higher education learning outcomes are part of the bedrock that informs assessment, qualifications and course approval processes.   They are important statements and as such we should give serious consideration as to the nature of learning outcomes and how we use them. I have a growing sense of unease that we have collectively bought into a set of assumptions about learning, teaching and the nature of knowledge that limits our understanding of the processes involved.  Most particularly, I am concerned about poorly formed and limited thinking that surrounds the conceptualisation and use of ‘learning outcomes’ in third level teaching contexts.There is an instrumental view of learning is dangerously simplistic.  It regards education in industrial terms and hence learning outcomes constitute the produce. Unfortunately this view is pervasive as it seems to fit with the current obsession with economic rationality.  In this bizarre world-view learning outcomes are given numerical value, assigned to levels, added together, divided up, stated as percentages and generally treated as though they were clearly defined, uniform and self-contained entities. Much of the prevailing dogma and practice in higher education supports this commodification model of learning outcomes.  Some of the blame rests with the quality and regulatory processes.   There seems Read More …

Reflection and Practice

What is reflection? Adult educators like to use the term “reflection”. In class you are likely to be invited to “reflect on your own experiences” or, when tasked with an assignment, you are just as likely to be invited to reflect as discuss, debate, argue or critique. I admit that I also like the term and find myself encouraging others and often myself, to reflect on a particular issue or problem. What does it mean to reflect? And how does reflection differ from “thinking about”, “recalling” or just simply “lulling over” a situation? Useful insight comes from the work of Donald Schön (best known for his book The Reflective Practitioner) who discusses the distinction between “reflection-in-action” and reflection-on-action”. My picture from New Year’s Day 2010 Reflection in ActionThis is reflection on-the-run so to speak.  It is a form of self-awareness that is brought into play as we engage expert activities.  For example, a teacher may use reflection-in-action during a class to try out, monitor, evaluate and moderate various instructional strategies.  As Schön puts it: “The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, Read More …

Stream of my Blended Learning Presentation

I delivered the following presentation at the National Academy for the Integration of Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL) Conference on Flexible Learning held at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland on the 6th of October 2010.  Blended Not Scrambled: Pedagogic Design for the 21st Century Would be interested in any comments posted by Leo Casey

Learning from Experience: recognition of Prior Experiential Learning

Want to gain admission to a course but your qualifications do not meet the entry requirements? You may be able to use a Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning (RPEL) process Many people have asked for more information on Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning (RPEL). I have prepared a presentation that explains the process and how it works in National College of Ireland. Comments are welcome. posted by Leo Casey