Mark Alexander Williams

Teaching obs.

by Mark Williams

For the last few years, I've had the opportunity to present sessions to our BA (Hons) Fine Art cohort around digital capabilities and building up an ecosystem of tools that support their professional practice. I've always invited lesson observation from other staff members; partly because it's a requirement of the MA, but also because I think it's a really useful CPD opportunity to learn from other educators on things like use of resources, style of delivery, assessment of understanding etc. Most of the time, it's an exchange and I can go and watch them and we compare and contrast notes.

The session is aimed at 3rd years, but this year I was asked to deliver it to 1st and 2nd years too, which prompted me to review the material and think about what is appropriate for students at that leavel, who wont neccessarily be thinking about their end game in terms of prof. practice.

I tend to use a default session plan and presentation format and license everything through Creative Commons, so people can reuse if they like.and I added a few contextual notes to the presentation recently, so if anyone looks at it then they know a little bit more about where I'm coming from.

The two observations are available at the following links 1 and 2, but I'll summarise and reflect here.

Strengths were identified as being clear with aims and objectives and relating information back to these as I went along. Using topical resources like the internet in real time helped contextualise the talk. Involving students in the session aided a rapport. In fact, as I had the benefit of feedback on the first session, I altered the second one to extend the 'show of hands' activity to one where the students shared a social media profile/email address with each other (or discuss why they might not) and this seemed to generate a buzz in the room.

Familiarity with the 'lecture' style approach was also praised. I've been teaching in FE and HE for 15 years and I wouldn't say I enjoy presenting information in front of people, i much prefer a smaller group/seminar approach. However, I was thrown into delivering this lecture a few years ago as my colleague was unavailable and it's since become an area of interest for me. As such, I feel much more confident now in the subject matter.

Weaknesses could be seen as not having a coherent online presence. Ironically, though I'm teaching this stuff, I don't have access to a VLE area to populate resources and I'd like to create a blended approach for professional practice.

Using voice amplification was also suggested; with a background in music performance, I'd be happy with a mic if needed.

Also noted was getting the audience more involved; getting them to put post-it notes up with unfamiliar terms. I like doing this sort of thing and have written before about entry/exit tickets , but the lecture theatre is a hard environment in which to facilitate this, so perhaps next year we can go for seminar rooms.

Both observers said they enjoyed the session and I think there's some great stuff here to reflect upon in developing further.

I've also spoken with in the organiser of the prof. practice series to review the online presence and I'm aware that one of my PgDip colleagues is researching this topic for the Illustration subject area.