This reflection completes the assessment requirements for the teaching observation element of this module.
My observer kindly offered extremely positive feedback about my approach to teaching and the positive impact this had on the students, and commented that he had been inspired to explore teaching using role play. We also discussed some practical issues around a technology failure and a cluttered and noisy room.
Thoughts and feelings
I was pleased to hear the positive feedback, but was concerned that I had compromised the student experience by omitting to have a back up plan for the computer outage (the session required powerpoint). I worried about this for some time afterwards.
I was over critical of myself in this instance. My back up plan was to know my material and be able to deliver it without needing the slides. Student feedback did not indicate any concerns in this area, and I did not feel their learning had been compromised. The slides were available on Blackboard for the students after the session. It was also not helpful to carry this worry forwards.
The pressure on UK Higher Education organisations to please students is immense and I have a definite sense that my job security rests heavily on National Student Survey scores and the various league tables that students will use to make decisions about where to study. Students = money = a viable University = employment for lecturers such as myself. One of the questions on the NSS asks the students to rate their satisfaction with their teaching and learning experience.
Despite teaching on programme which attracts mostly local students and is funded largely by NHS Northwest (and is therefore less vulnerable than many other programmes) I realize that I am significantly affected by the pressure to ‘please’ students in order to keep my job. Is it realistic though to expect students on a very demanding course to be happy all the time? Satisfied with their lecturers all the time? Satisfied with assessments all the time? And feedback?
Nonethless, the Universities buy-in to this system means I have to work within it and at times I find it stressful. Fry et al (2003) recognize the stressful nature of attempting to teach and facilitate learning, with maintaining academic rigor (and in my case producing capable occupational therapists) whilst managing external and sometimes apparently conflicting pressures and demands. Race (2010) suggests that lecturing is a stressful role and that lectures must take care of themselves. One of the strategies he suggests for this is reflection, however I think superficial reflection (Moon 1999) can encourage one to focus on negatives. To mitigate against this introspective approach and to develop a deeper level of reflection (Moon 1999) I have found discussing my thoughts with others in real time and using social media helps me to see alternative perspectives. In this case it as helped me to see that in order to maintain sanity I need to look at the bigger picture and recognize that most of my teaching is absolutely fine.
I began this process by discussing my reservations about reflection. My experience on this programme and particularly as I draw to the end of this module shows me that deep reflection, involving multiple perspectives, discussion, debate and reference to literature has a significant role to play not only in enhancing teaching and learning but also in relation to stress management. Being able to step back from ones own stress inducing assumptions, unpick them, discuss with professional networks (Bodell and Hook 2011), look at the evidence that supports or refutes them and formulate a more balances approach feels like a proactive rather than reactive stance. In this case, it doesn’t take away my anxieties about my professional securities, but it does mean they are not running away with me creating ever more dramatic images of myself as a destitute single mother. This can only be a good thing.
This module has allowed me to get into the habit of reflecting deeply and strategically on key issues and recording those reflections. My action plan now is to continue to do this which will also be useful if I am called for audit by the Health Professions Council. It is my intention to maintain this blog as a live environment for discussion of matters related to teaching and learning, with the aim of supporting my personal development and hopefully contributing to that of others. This account is liked to my Twitter feed, and I will also link it to Facebook, which is where I have found my online home amidst some wonderful occupational therapists, students and teachers.
Bodell, S & Hook, A 2011, ‘Using Facebook for professional networking: a modern-day essential. ‘, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(12), pp.588-590.
Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. & Marshall, S. (2003) (Eds). A Handbook for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. Enhancing Academic Practice. 2nd Edition, London: Kogan Page.
Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page.
Race, P. (2010) Making Learning Happen (2nd edition). London: Sage Publications