Part time lecturer at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology; Learning and Innovation Skills module; Manager of the Academic Writing Centre (Letterfrack campus).
By the time they finish the modules I teach, I want my students to have acquired a new body of knowledge, the attainment of which benefits the student and, hopefully through that student the wider world. Not only will this knowledge help the student get a job and succeed in future courses, but my hope is that they would have obtained critical thinking skills useful throughout life.
I want this to be the start of a journey where they never close themselves away from learning and are open to new ideas, to asking questions and applying this to themselves and their expectations of the world. In third level education students should develop research skills and knowledge: the ability to write convincingly, to reason more clearly, to offer decent presentations, to think critically, to find effective research sources and to understand academic integrity. My values are that as an educator we provide learners with a service. But I also see education as a reciprocal relationship; I teach by example in that I show academic integrity and expect students to follow.
My teaching methods involve clarity. As educators we need to de-mystify aspects of formal education and make it as transparent to learners as possible. We should use no unnecessary jargon and instead show students a clear path toward finding and understanding information. I do this by one to one tutorials, by making available educational resources, research sources, and have clear material available to access for registered students online.
I believe in contextualising education for learners. For example, as a teacher of Learning and Innovation Skills I aim to make the module as relevant as possible to a large body of students whose primary interest is furniture design, making or teaching. I assign projects relevant to their interests: for example, a LIS report will test the students’ academic writing skills while fundamentally dealing with furniture as a core topic. I also work with other lecturers / modules to further contextualise content. I try to centre lessons with real life examples, of how content might be applied to the ‘real world’ of work. “Education […] must begin with a psychological insight into the [learner’s] capacities, interests, and habits.” (John Dewey “My Pedagogic Creed” in School Journal vol. 54 (January 1897), pp. 77-80).
I believe we are continually learning and that this is good for society overall. We should be continually open to learning new things and that this starts in the classroom. Passing on this love of learning to my students is my own way of being a catalyst for change in education and making them ‘lifelong learners’.
There have been great technological advances in education in recent years and I am fully on board with, and utilise, many aspects of technology for learning. But we must not forget the fundamentals of an educational environment. I continually advocate basic ‘library study’ to students, using and working with our college libraries to advise them on new content, encouraging students to use the library both virtually and in-person. Educators owe it to students to be as informed as possible about current events in the field. As students should be open to new theories, so too should teachers. As educators it is our duty to keep ourselves up to date about new publications, new ways of thinking, new theories and incorporate this into what we teach and to pass these on to students, so that they may begin their learning journey. I find that my published work, ongoing learning and my blog and my interactions on social media assist this.
Critical reflection On consideration, undertaking the teaching and learning e-portfolio has allowed me to reflect on my teaching practices sufficiently in order to review and develop them. Self-reflection is said to be a cornerstone for reflective teaching and allows the teacher a ‘lens’ with which to view themselves and is important in order to be more responsive to students’ needs (Brookfield, 1995). By applying a similar ‘lens’ to my own teaching practice I have been encouraged to take into account the experience, emotions, or consequences of my actions to improve and develop it for the future. As someone trained primarily in the field of art history, my thoughts on education invariably return to the words of the art theorist John Ruskin (1819-1900): “Education...is a painful, continual and difficult work to be done in kindness, by watching, by warning [...] by praise, and above all -- by example.” My teaching and learning e-portfolio showcases my own writings which I invite the students to read (as an example of good practice) but also to critique (so that they can test the theories I teach them against my own example). This at best can be constructive but has the potential to be what Ruskin describes as ‘painful’: forcing me to reflect on my own practice. The feedback I received from my students about the e-portfolio and some of the content in my e-portfolio has been wholly positive however. Developing the e-portfolio has bolstered my confidence and introduced me to technological innovations that I can use in my teaching practice going forward. The theorist David A. Kolb (1975) proposed a reflective model which entails a teacher reflecting on their experience, gaining a general understanding of the theories encountered, and testing these in original situations. In this way, the knowledge that is formed from a situation is mean to be continuously applied and reapplied, building on a practitioner's previous experiences and knowledge.With these theories in mind, and as a result of my completion of the e-portfolio, I intend to transform my teaching practice by testing the theories I have encountered in new ways in the future. My e-portfolio is representative not only of my work at GMIT but of my whole range of academic research interests. My students and colleagues and the wider professional community have reviewed my e-portfolio and their response has encouraged me to reach new heights in the future development of my online platform. I have worked to direct traffic to my site via social media, Twitter and Instagram and in doing so I positively promote GMIT as a whole. In providing the impetus for me to catalogue and list my academic and professional achievements, it made me realise the learning and teaching skills I have obtained. It has encouraged me to review my personal growth and development and has provided a forum for me to continue to do so. References: Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San-Francisco. Kolb, D. & Fry, R. (1975) "Towards an applied theory of experiential learning" in Theories of Group Processes (Cooper, Cary L. ed) New York, pp. 33–58. Ruskin, J. (1873) The Crown of Wild Olive. London.
Additional skills and Teaching Practice: Technology: Apart from this website, I have used Moodle (Learnonline), MSWord, MSExcel, MSPowerPoint, MS Outlook, MS Publisher, YouTube, Mikogo, Photoshop, CorelDraw. Academic Writing Centre: As manager of the Academic Writing Centre at GMIT Letterfrack I produced a booklet Getting Your Head Around Harvard (2017) which aimed to simplify academic writing and referencing. I also liaised with our library to create a quiet space for academic writers and held academic writing workshops which were positively received by students. Placement Supervision and Distance Learning: I have supervised 3rd year students as part of their 6-month work placement. This involved my visiting the students on their placements. I liaised between student and their work placement supervisors to ensure the placement was rewarding to both parties. Placement companies included Flannery’s in Buncrana Donegal; Allwood, Portlaoise; MJM, Newry Co. Armagh, UCD Architecture Department and many others in Ireland. For students in placements further afield, such as Australia, Vietnam and the USA, site visits were not possible therefore I used a variety of online media to supervise the placements (such as Skype and Mikogo) taking into account the time and cultural differences. In addition, 3rd year students were required to undertake the Commercial Projects module while on their placement. I used Adobe Connect to deliver lectures at a set time every week to students on their placements and maintained one to one tutorial contact with students. Research supervision: I have supervised students on the 3rd year Commercial Projects module and on the 4th year Major Project module (final year research project). These modules required the student to undertake exclusive research on a brief / chosen topic and usually resulted in the manufacture of a working prototype. Some examples of previous Major Project research supervision: Outdoor sensory activity stations; the use of concrete in furniture; classroom furniture; packaging of furniture; the use of alternative materials such as cardboard for furniture and sustainability in manufacturing. Undergraduate Awards: In addition to basic teaching practices, I have been a judge on the Undergraduate Awards. I encouraged students at GMIT Letterfrack to take part in this. A student that I supervised for the Major Project ‘Design and Manufacture of Ergonomic Primary School Furniture’, won the Undergraduate Award in 2013 in the Engineering & Mechanical Sciences category, against international competition. The paper was subsequently published in the Undergraduate Award Journal (2013). http://www.undergraduateawards.com/alumni/katharine-griffith/ Critical Reflection - original: This Learning and Teaching E-Portfolio has been beneficial in many ways. Combining the E-Portfolio with deliberate self-reflection has been a powerful process in encouraging me to bring my work together in a multimedia context. This has produced an artefact that goes beyond the realm of a basic CV. It provides students and prospective collaborators evidence of my work and outputs, a sort of ‘one stop shop’ that can be further developed by me going forward. This makes me better prepared for the demands of continuing progression and career development. It has also provided me with the knowledge and impetus to showcase my own academic skills and write a blog, which I promote on social media. The use of Twitter with this has enriched my contacts and provided connections to future collaborators. The blog can be utilised for teaching and research, and has provided a powerful reminder of the research interests and vocation that drove me to teach in the first place. I now have a structured mechanism to reflect formally on my work. The process has encouraged me to analyse and reflect on personal, career and academic development, and provided a platform to integrate my research interests. The process has allowed me to highlight learning opportunities within the academic programmes on which I teach. It has given me a platform on which to develop my identity regarding my academic, professional and personal progression. This process has encouraged me to develop a vocabulary to communicate my teaching development and achievements. Taking part in the Teaching and Learning E-Portfolio has allowed me to recognise, value and evidence my teaching and ongoing research and to be more aware of how the parts connect to each other. It has also encouraged me towards more effective monitoring of my progress. This has allowed me to recognise and analyze any strengths and weaknesses and identify ways in which my work might be improved.