As of March 2017, I have over 10 years of experience as a lecturer and senior lecturer (including an external examiner’s role) and 2 years of combined experience as instructional designer and academic developer. This experience has given me a broad understanding of teaching, learning and assessment processes.
I have both experienced and experimented with various teaching and delivery methods that utilise learning technologies to enhance learning and teaching: most of them are mentioned throughout this portfolio (e.g. 1a, 1b, 2b). I also have extensive experience of using or supporting the use of various formative and summative assessment methods (an example is discussed in 4).
With regard to formal training and qualifications, I hold a Postgraduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I also hold three SEDA certificates: in Web-based Learning and Teaching, Applying Learning Technologies and Facilitating Online Learning and Collaboration. Evidence for the above can be found on this page.
While gaining experience in teaching and learning, I have become aware of a shift in both my teaching and a more general understanding of the role of teachers and learners. I realised quite quickly that the “sage on the stage” approach to teaching did not agree with my teaching style or personality and was at odds with current pedagogic research too. I very much prefer to be a “guide on the side” and I find this approach much more effective. In this sense, I agree with Bill Pelz (2004) who noted that one of the most important discoveries for him as an educator was that it is the learner who is, “for the most part, in charge of what gets learned”. As Pelz puts it, “a lecture is the best way to get information from the professor’s notebook into the student’s notebook without passing through either brain” (2004: 33): I fully agree that the teacher’s role is primarily to create an environment that facilitates independent learning and enhances motivation to learn rather than unidirectionally (attempt to) transmit knowledge to students. I am a great fan of interactive teaching and active learning and I found it significantly increases student engagement and the perceived relevance of the content.
I captured some of my reflections on how learning technologies can be used to support this kind of learning in my contribution to a chapter on blended learning (click link to access) in Enhancing Teaching Practice in Higher Education (Fregona with Sadza in: Pokorny and Warren eds., 2016). A lesson I have drawn from this experience is that technological interventions in teaching processes need to have a purpose: while designing and implementing teaching and learning activities I made sure they resembled real-life tasks students were likely to be faced with in their careers. In this case, the blended mode proved very effective and students enjoyed out-of-classroom activities where they needed to use online resources to find solutions to real-life problems, as this gave them the freedom to explore areas of individual interest and work at their own pace. I learnt from this that it is useful to give students more control over their learning and that the results often exceed initial expectations.
All in all, my experience in teaching and learning technologies has given me a clearer understanding of how to apply various teaching and delivery methods effectively and how to decide which methods suit which context better. While learning about and trying out different approaches, I have realised how important it is for learners’ motivation to see the relevance of the learning experience to their future professional lives. The concepts of experiential learning and reflective practice immediately come to mind, especially in more vocational contexts, and that is what I try to apply in my teaching, both as a lecturer and academic developer.
I am currently exploring the concepts of flipped classroom, peer instruction and team-based learning with a view to facilitating the implementation of these techniques with a course team of academics, administrators and learning technologists, and I am really looking forward to this opportunity as I am hoping to learn a lot about the challenges and benefits of active learning.