Pedagogy

Yet another great pedagogical course at Uppsala University

Blåsenhus

During spring 2017 I wrote blog posts about pedagogical courses I took on supervision of oral presentations and methods for activating students as well as a leadership course – all given by Uppsala University. This blog post is about the third pedagogical course I took during the spring term – assessment, grading and feedback. This was a 1.5hp course which included four scheduled days, which mostly focused on group work, and one day devoted to own work with developing a course of one’s own choice.

In the individual work I once again chose to focus on developing the communication course for first year computer science students at KTH – the course I worked with for almost a decade before I started my postdoc in Uppsala. The individual task was to go through everything related to assessment, grading and feedback, starting with refining the intended learning outcomes. I thought everything was already in place regarding the learning outcomes, but when considering the big picture I suddenly realized that one of the most important aspects covered in the grading criteria – the ability to adjust the content of the reports to a particular target audience – was not brought up in the intended learning outcomes. There was also an intended learning outcome about being able to use different text production tools, but the only tool used in the course is Latex. After adding a new learning outcome about target audiences and narrowing down the learning outcome about text production to focus only on Latex there was a much better constructive alignment – clearer connection between assessment tasks, learning activities and intended learning outcomes. Constructive alignment was one of the key principles in the course and I can really see why it’s important.

After considering the intended learning outcomes, the next step in the individual task was to look over the assessment tasks – in my case different versions of the report and a critical review of another student’s report draft. When it came to this part I came to the conclusion that everything should be kept. Almost an entire day of the course was devoted to discussing means of providing feedback and peer feedback and assessment was brought up several times as highly beneficial especially when handing in different versions of e.g. a text while working towards a final deliverable. This was exactly the way we did it in my communication course – the students handed in different versions of reports which were discussed in small groups.

The last part of the individual task was devoted to refining the grading criteria and making sure that they were relevant with regard to the intended learning outcomes. This was probably the part where I learned the most from this course. I started out with qualitative grading criteria, regarding several aspects (e.g. content, structure, language,…), for each grade A-E. In most cases, the only thing that differed between different steps was a single word (e.g. ok, good, very good, excellent,…) and hence I used continuous grading criteria. I learned from the course that continuous grading criteria are often hard to relate to actual achievements and they are also hard to measure. Due to this I tried to change to discrete criteria in as a large extent as possible. Thus, instead of just varying single adjectives I tried to describe what they should actually do for a certain grade (e.g. instead of just writing “very good” I made it more explicit what should be accomplished).

One part of the course which I especially enjoyed was that we, several times during each of the scheduled days, left our groups to have a discussion with our “critical friends”. Before the course I had never heard about this concept. A critical friend was in this case another course participant who worked at the same department (in my case IT). The reason why we should discuss with our critical friends was that we should get the chance to discuss different problems with someone who is teaching within the same subject area. Quite often after a new topic had been introduced by the teachers, we discussed with our critical friend how the topic related to our area and our respective courses. Most of the time these discussions focused on the course we had chosen to focus on (in my case the communication course discussed above) and I definitely got quite a few ideas which I continued to work with in my individual assignment. The concept with critical friends was great and I’m quite sure that it can be used in quite a few courses on different levels. I will definitely try to incorporate the idea in my own courses when relevant!

I really enjoyed this course and once again I learned a lot. I definitely think the communication course is better now, especially when it comes to the grading criteria. I also think that I’m now well equipped for defining course plans and designing courses from scratch. I can definitely recommend this course both to inexperienced and experienced teachers!

 

Leadership · Pedagogy

Recently cleared a course in group leadership!

As I have written in earlier blog posts, I took three pedagogical courses this spring to get closer to the associate professor goal (15hp). I wrote about the course on oral presentations here and the course on methods for activating students here. I will soon write about the third course on assessment, grading and feedback. Apart from pedagogical courses I also took a group leadership course, which ended Wednesday last week with a full-day session about how to detect and handle conflicts. 

During the scope of the course a small group of researchers/leaders, with varying backgrounds and positions at the University, met about once a month for full-day sessions on different themes related to group leadership. Lunch was included every time. Even though theory was provided through short lectures, the focus was on discussions, role play and other leadership exercises. Since quite a few of the discussions and exercises were based on the course participants’ own experiences, I will not give any concrete examples here. We decided at the first session that we should not talk about the issues discussed during the course with people outside the group. 

The course covered a wide range of topics and the common theme was active listening. The course covered establishment of norms, listening strategies, reflective teams, positive and negative feedback to colleagues and private talks, just to mention a few of the themes. 

One of the most challenging themes was the one about providing negative feedback. It is really hard to give someone negative feedback on their actions, while at the same time framing the feedback so that 1) it will lead to a change in behaviour and 2) it will not have a negative impact on the work relation between me as a leader and the co-worker. Another one of the more challenging topics was private talks initiated either by me as a leader or by a co-worker, with the focus of discussing some problem encountered at the workplace (often focused on someone’s behaviour). The most challenging part in this case is that the problem that gave rise to the meeting is often not the big issue. In these talks it is up to me as a leader to ask open questions and search for “free information” in order to get the whole picture and find possible underlying problems that are much more important to deal with. If you are not good at active listening techniques during these meetings you may end up focusing on a minor problem instead of a major one. 

I really enjoyed each and every session of the course and I can really recommend this or a similar leadership course to persons in any kind of leadership position! I really think that I will be able to approach my colleagues in the groups I’m leading in a better way now and I hope I will also be better at spotting potential problems early on and taking measures to handle them. 

Academic writing · communication · Council · DOME · eHealth · Pedagogical development · Pedagogy

Recently applied for an associate professorship in implementation research

Last Sunday, I finally submitted an application for a position as associate professor in implementation research (didn’t have much of a choice since that was the last day to submit)! One positive outcome, apart from the obvious, is that I really had to think through what different roles I have and how I can make use of them. Since I have not written about all of them on this blog, I will list the different roles I came up with here (some of them will have follow-ups in more focused posts):

  • Researcher in multimodal communication and interactionI have already written about my thesis and quite a few other blog posts about haptics as an interaction modality. My main focus in this role has been to study how different modality combinations affect collaboration and communication in collaborative virtual environments
  • E-health researcherI have already written quite a lot about the studies I have been leading, regarding patient accessible electronic health records, since I stared my postdoc. What I have not yet written about is my earlier contact with healthcare – a quite intense collaboration with physicians at the Gastro department at Karolinska institutet during about two years of my doctoral studies. I will definitely write about that project later on.
  • Pedagogical development researcherA role I have not written that many posts about yet. During an extended period of time I e.g. took part in a study about Twitter use in a higher education course. I will come back to this when a paper has gone through the review process.
  • TeacherAnother role I haven’t written that much about. My teaching has focused on written and verbal communication in engineering sciences, haptics and human-computer interaction. I will definitely come back with blog posts on this topic, especially when it comes to master’s thesis supervision – my favorite teacher role.
  • Software developerI have not written that much about this role either, since it was quite a while ago that I actually developed an application. My focus in this case has been on haptic interfaces and haptic collaborative functions.
  • Member of eHealth councilThis is the newest role, which I wrote a blog post about a while ago – I represent “Education” and “patients” in the eHealth council at the The National Board of Health and Welfare.
  • Research network memberI have written about the DOME consortium several times, but I have not yet written about my participation in the “Nordic Network for ICT and Disabilities”, which specializes in assistive technology for people with deafblindness. I will introduce that network more thoroughly in its own blog post.
  • PatientI am a regular patient since more than a decade ago, and I have already used that in my own research on eHealth at e.g. conferences. This is why I add it as a “role” in this list. There will be plenty of blog posts from the patient’s perspective on this blog – that’s for sure!
  • BloggerNo comment…  🙂

I might have missed a few roles, but I think these are the big ones at least for the moment. As I said earlier, not all these are relevant for the position in implementation research but I started thinking about all of them as I was writing the quite extensive application. Writing this type of application forces you to really think about what you have done and what types of roles you have taken, and I really found it rewarding to reflect on this.

Earlier when I had written these kinds of applications I let them rest in peace and just waited for the decision, but this time I’m not going to leave what I wrote behind me and just hope for the best. This time, I will try to transform my sketched research ideas into funding applications as soon as possible. There will surely be more posts about that process!

conference · Pedagogical development · Pedagogy

Paper on unexpected student behaviour and learning opportunities accepted to FIE 2017!

FIE_accept

Late last week it was confirmed that a conference paper I was co-authoring has been accepted for publication and presentation at the 2017 FIE (Frontiers in Education) conference! Åsa Cajander (lead author), Diane Golay, Mats Daniels, Aletta Nylén, Arnold Pears, Anne-Kathrin Peters from the IT department at Uppsala University and Roger McDermott from the School of Computer Science and Digital Media at Robert Gordon University are the other authors on the paper. The title of the paper is “Unexpected Student Behaviour and Learning Opportunities: Using the Theory of Planned Behaviour to Analyse a Critical Incident”.

In the paper we are using the Theory of Planned Behaviour to analyze a critical incident that occurred at the end of a course at Uppsala University. The incident relates to students refusing to present at and participate in a voluntary “design final” at the end of the course, where an external jury should choose the best project. During the course, project groups presented their work a couple of times in seminar groups and after each presentation the groups were awarded points by both the peers and the teachers. After the last presentation, the project groups with the highest number of points in the respective seminar group (three in total) were given the opportunity to present during the final.

The main idea with introducing the point system and design final was to add an engaging gamification component, providing an extra incentive for performing well during the entire course. The reactions from students, however, were unexpected in that some groups refused to take part in the design final and quite a few students did not see the point of the gamification related components.

Here is the paper abstract, outlining our main approach in analyzing the critical incident (I will come back to this topic and write more about the results and outcomes when the paper has been published in the conference proceedings):

One of the challenges in being a teacher is to set up an educational setting where the students receive relevant learning opportunities for the specific course, the students’ education in general, and for their future. However, efforts to create such educational settings do not always work in the way that faculty has intended. In this paper we investigate one such effort seen from a critical incident perspective. Central to the analysis in this paper is how the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) can provide explanations for the incident. The critical incident can be summarised as students refusing to take part in a non-compulsory, but from the faculty perspective highly educational, activity. We describe the incident in depth, give thebackground for the educational intervention, and analyse the incident from the perspective of TPB. This paper makes two major contributions to engineering education research. The first is the development of a method for analysing critical teaching and learning incidents using the TPB. The critical incident analysisillustrates how the method is used to analyse and reason about the students’ behaviour. Another contribution is the development of a range of insights which deal with challenges raised by Learning interventions, especially those involved with acquiring hidden or ”invisible skills” not usually seen or acknowledged by students to belong to core subject area of a degree program.

The tension between the teachers’ expectations and the students’ reactions is very interesting from a pedagogical point of view. In this particular paper we analyze a critical incident using a specific method (Theory of Planned Behaviour), but we are planning broader articles on this subject as well. One interesting aspect to delve deeper into is the difference between universities – one of the main reasons why gamification was tested at Uppsala University was that it had been extremely well received by students at another university taking a very similar course with similar gamification components!

 

 

 

communication · Pedagogical development · Pedagogy

About activating students at the university

Blåsenhus

About two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about a pedagogical course I took, which focused on supervising oral presentations. The fact is that I finished another pedagogical course the week after. That course, (held in the Blåsenhus building seen in the image above) focused on different methods used for activating students in the classroom as well as methods for making sure that the students really engage with all course material. The name of this 1.5hp course (given only in Swedish) is Aktiverande undervisningsformer and it included three whole course days filled with a mix of activities and lectures, and about two days of own work.

During our own work we should come up with a new way to activate students in one of our own courses. I will just provide a short version of my individual assignment solution here. In this case I chose the communications course, given to first year computer science students at KTH, since I have worked with it for almost 10 years and developed most of the content in it during the years 2008-2015. The students have always liked the practical exercises on oral presentations and Writing (the core parts of the course), but they have never really appreciated the more theoretical lectures. The course literature has never really been appreciated either and most students don’t by the course book. During my individual assignment in the pedagogical course I therefore focused on alternative ideas to present the theoretical material and I think the course inspired me to find a good solution (or at least a better one compared to lectures). My new idea is that some of the lectures should be transformed into literature seminars to which groups of students are given a chapter in the course book, and a scientific article related to the chapter, to present to the others. A few open-ended questions could be given to each group to help them prepare and to make sure that the most important aspects are covered in the respective presentations. Since students are already divided into exercise groups of about 25 students each, the same groupings could be used for the seminars. I also proposed a short quiz handed out at the end, with a few questions from each part covered during the respective seminars. This setup would force the students to read the course book and they would most probably engage more with the material. They would probably also learn more when being forced to explain the material to the others. The quiz at the end, which could add bonus points to the final grade, will hopefully make sure that everyone will listen actively to all presentations.

I’m not sure that the idea presented above is feasible and appropriate, but during a presentation at the end of the course, where all participants presented the main points of their individual work, both other course participants and the teachers thought that the idea was  good and should be tested in practice.  I’m not working with the communication course any more, but I will definitely forward my idea to those who are!

I thought I had tried the most when I entered the course, but even when it came to this course I left it with a lot of new insights. I especially enjoyed the parts about problem based learning (PBL) and flipped classroom, since I had never used those methods in practice. The course was very well structured and we were given a lot of time to practice quite a few methods while working in groups we were assigned to at the start of the course. The course really inspired me to rethink my own teaching practice and the transformation of lectures into literature seminars (where the students present theory and practice oral presentations at the same time) is an example of that. Now I just need to find a course where I can implement the flipped classroom approach, because I’m very curious about that method!  🙂

 

Oral presentation · Pedagogy

Some thoughts on supervising oral presentations

I just finished an intensive course (“Oral presentation – in theory and practice”), in supervising oral presentations, given by the council for educational development at the faculty of science and technology at Uppsala University. The course started on Wednesday last week and ended last Friday. I took this course mainly because I had actually never taken a course especially aiming at oral presentations. Even though I had a lot of prior knowledge when entering the course, due to my many years of working as a teacher in a communications course for first year computer science students at the Royal Institute of Technology, I got quite a few new insights from the course.

One of the most interesting parts was a practical exercise in which we presented something (free topic) during five minutes while we were being filmed. After all presentations, we looked at the videos and thoroughly discussed and gave feedback on the presentations. I actually learned a few things about my own presentation skills from this and I assume the same goes for everyone who took the course. I have filmed student presentations before (provided students accepted it), in a basic communication course at KTH, but only to make it possible to discuss the grading afterwards. After taking this pedagogic course, I’m seriously considering filming to enable student self-assessment and possibly also to enable group discussions on presentations made. You can obviously learn a lot from watching yourself present so this can be very helpful especially if there are several oral presentation exercises during a course so you can continously improve!

We were also engaged in role play in one part of the course, where one person acted supervisor and one the student. It was a whole lot easier to be the supervisor in a case when a student’s self-esteem needed a boost than in a case when an over confident student needed to understand that everything was not perfect. In the latter case it is very important to try to avoid emotions and look at the facts.

We also talked a lot about group dynamics and how to actually examine oral presentations – a big challenge, if you do not film the presentation, is that you have only one shot at making an assessment. This is even more of a difficulty if you are several teachers assessing different students. One interesting idea brought up to discussion in this respect was that you can film students and then look at some of the films in the teacher group to make sure that everyone agree on how to apply the grading criteria for those students. I have not used this method before (i.e. in the communications course at KTH), but will definitely consider it if I in the future will be responsible for a course having oral presentation in the course goals.

The course ended with discussions about how to handle difficult situations. I found the discussion about students who do not want to present orally most interesting. Normally, you cannot make exceptions if there are course goals related to oral presentations, but it turns out that there are special training courses for students who experience difficulties with talking in front of an audience. If the students are taking the special courses they do not have to present orally in ordinary courses (this is at least the case at Uppsala University). I think this is really good!

Overall, I’m very pleased with the course and I learned a lot despite my earlier experience in teaching both written and oral communication skills. I can really recommend the course!