Here are my thoughts on one of the sessions I attended at the SEDA conference 2012 held at Aston University a couple of weeks ago. The theme of the conference was “Excellence in Teaching: recognising, enhancing, evaluating and achieving impact”. The Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI) has spent the last few months exploring the concept of inspirational teaching hence this particular SEDA conference was of great interest to us.
I enjoyed Anglia Ruskin University’s Jaki Lilly and Mark Warnes’ session on the “The good teaching project: making good teaching explicit”. They interviewed Heads of Departments and Deans at the University in an attempt to identify their definition of good teaching. All the responses on good teaching were based on the teacher’s personal characteristics which are quite difficult to teach others. Lilly and Warnes were keen to move the focus of excellent teaching from a personality perspective to an action perspective which is easily replicated by others. Hence they shifted the interviewees’ focus from a good teacher to good teaching practices.
Lilly and Warnes examined the University’s NSS scores and identified 17 teachers who scored over 85% in certain categories – teaching, assessment and feedback etc. They contacted these individuals and asked to film one of their teaching sessions in an attempt to identify clips or vignettes that captured what made their teaching inspiring or excellent. They also got the filmed teachers to watch and reflect on their videos by providing a commentary on what informed their decisions and actions during their respective teaching sessions. Some of these videos and commentaries are on the Anglia Ruskin University’s website and are worth watching.
I am of the opinion that teachers should occasionally record their teaching sessions in order to view themselves objectively. Film footage allows you to identify things that you miss during a live session. This is a practice used a lot in sports. The act of watching yourself helps you to reflect better on your teaching practice. It also helps you spot the things that you do that enhances student engagement and the things that hinders student engagement. I believe the filmed teachers at Anglia Ruskin University would have learnt a lot about their teaching practices as a result of watching themselves on tape and reflecting on what informed their teaching decisions and actions. It is easy to become blind to one’s teaching habits once it becomes default behaviour hence the act of watching oneself will help teachers see themselves anew from the outside.