Thursday, 30 October 2014

Professional Values: the video(s)

Photo: Sarah Metherell

I have taken a new approach to my final year module (Leading Teams) this year. For the past 4 years that I have taught it, I have used a project based approach which has multiple facets.

First the students must work in teams of 6-8 students to develop a digital artefact (a website or wiki most often) which has as it's theme the leadership characteristics of the protagonists in a popular film. Over the years the students have analysed Avatar, The Lion King (twice), Toy Story (so many times I had to ban it last year), Twelve Angry Men, and even Matilda.

Theoretical underpinnings for the artefacts are generally drawn from lecture material I produce, seminar discussions and of course text books and articles highlighted in the module reading list. However, a great deal is based on the independent research that the students carry out themselves.

The artefacts produced have ranged in levels of sophistication but generally there has been enough complexity in the task to ensure that all group members get to use their individual talents: some taking on the "techy" roles, others researching or writing, and some surprising themselves as they have emerged as leaders through the process. The students' own reflections on these projects (part 2 of the task) have been an eye opener for them as much as for me.

Student feedback over the years indicates that, increasingly, the students find this less and less challenging technically - and intellectually - so this year the assessment will be based on student-led learning activities. Groups of 5 or 6 have been formed and each has selected a topic which they are going to teach to their fellow students. Apart from two mini lectures introducing the module themes, my input has been minimal. My lecture material and the references are available, but the emphasis is on student-directed research. When students do the teaching  is a short and helpful post about peer to peer teaching (with a great student-produced maths video!).

A more academic discussion of the approach can be found here: David Boud , Ruth Cohen & Jane Sampson (1999) Peer Learning and Assessment, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 24:4, 413-426,

As a warm up exercise this year, I gave the students the task of creating short slide show videos - using Photopeach - on the values of a health and social care professional (as I have for the first year students see: Reflection on Professional Identity). The purpose of this was to prepare them to a) learn how to source copyright free images b) create impactful presentations using few words and strong images c) articulate their own values in relation to potential career options on graduating. (This final point relates to the part of the module that looks at career planning and job applications).

All groups approached the task with commitment and there have been some outstanding results.

Here are some of my favourites:

Health and Social Care Values (created with students' own photos)

Social Work


The difference we wish to make 

Why we chose this course..

(with thanks to Gemma Tur Ferrer for the original idea!)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Digital by design

The first two weeks of term have flown by already and the digital story telling project is underway. Using Photopeach to create a simple video with music and captions, the students are busy creating a digital essay on "professional values".

Last year I spent a lot of time explaining the importance of digital skills to my students and pointedly taking them step by step through a number of tools and processes. This year I am adopting a more immersive approach.

In the process of creating this digital essay, students are indirectly learning a number of other skills  - from searching for, downloading, saving and uploading images, to understanding Creative Commons licenses and avoiding copyright restrictions. They also learn how to: access and edit Google Docs to enrol themselves in project groups, share ideas on Discussion Boards, familiarise themselves with the Mac keyboard layout and touch pad gestures, create and save office documents and send them as attachments to emails, take a photo of their whiteboards and upload these to the Facebook group page etc.

We sometimes blithely assume that most students can easily tackle all of these processes, but I have spent a lot of time in the workshops sitting alongside some as they struggle with these tasks, often for the first time.

And let's not forget the really fundamental skill of learning to work together in groups - something that is fraught with anxiety for most students. Even if, as in the case of this project, groups are self selecting and based on early friendship alliances, there are still some students who find it hard to easily fit in a group and, once there, understand how they could or should contribute.

The positive thing for me about the Scale Up workshop is the space it gives me to move around the groups, checking on progress as needed - especially now that I have a two hour workshop with fewer students (well, there are still scheduled to be 60-70 in each workshop, so "smaller" is relative!)

For the first three weeks I also have the luxury of a co-tutor which really helps when students are asking for support on technical issues. 

Well.... so far, so good. I can't wait to see the outputs from this first assignment and to follow up with students on how they see their progress in developing their digital skills.