Archive for the ‘Jo Blog’ Category

Are we missing reflection in learning?

February 12th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

I have recently been looking into reflection within learning and was writing out some notes on this when I found myself tying in Vygotsky. Reflection within learning is something I do not feel is currently supported by the current education system, and when looking at the reasons why I found myself referring to the model of the Zone of Proximal Development, which is where Vygotsky comes in.

The ZPD is seperated into three stages:
1.Learning through assistance
2.Repeating without understanding
3.Repeating alone and understanding

Stage number three is what I understand to be the reflection process, the thinking through something you have learnt initiating full understanding. This is a bit like when learning something, running through the key points in your head so you dont forget important information. This running through information in your head is an active process: reflection, and its the most important part because its the part that makes sense of everything you have done. This process needs to be something that is supported and integrated to learning.
However within school education I feel this reflection stage is restricted to individual revision outside of class. As a general rule, particularly at higher stages of school education where the aim is for students to pass exams, maybe due to limited time for a large amount of content, information is presented but not analysed. Students get information and processes thrown at them to achieve the results required, whilst the most important stage where students understand and truly learn in a way that will stay with them is left for home revision. In school I remember being given many information sheets that when it came to revise I struggled with as I did not truly understand. Reflection to initiate true understanding is pushed to one side if you like.
For me this is clearest from my maths classes. The teacher would show us how to do a sum, and then we’d do it ourselves and she’d support us in this process. Often what was missing was summing up the key points, ie. what we had learnt, and the theory behind the mathematics. That was left to us in revision or in seeking our own understanding and we’d move onto the next topic and repeat the first two stages. In my mind this is not a flaw in the teaching but in the curriculum of maths in particular as we were simply required to answer questions not understand the reasons for the answers.
There are so many easy and interesting ways that reflection can be integrated into education. Discussion, debate, or simply summarising can contribute to the reflection process. In addition this process can be encouraged by Technology Enhanced Boundary Objects. A good example of this is the example of Video Editing explored in the Tap Into Learning newsletter Action+Reflection=Learning, as editing work requires not only revisiting the work done but cutting it into key information. In addition social networking and forum discussion systems when used in an educational context can allow students to discuss ideas from wherever they are and in ways where the conversation can later be revisited.
Reflection is concept that I feel is essential within education and can provide a richer learning experience to many students.

Online meetings, good or bad?

February 4th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

The best technology and most useful technology I have come across whilst working at Pontydysgu is probably the use of porgrammes such as skype and flashmeeting to support online meetings of more than one or two people. It was not until my Mum called me to ask good programmes to use that I realised the real value of this technology. She was having issues as some of small companies she worked with were required to attend meetings that they couldn’t afford, as travel costs were too high. Using a programme such as flashmeeting meant that these companies big and small could be involved without huge cost. This led me to more questions however of whether this could really replace physical meetings and whether online meetings were really the same. With so many advantages, low cost, time saved, making more regular meetings possible they certainly seem to solve a lot of problems. However it seems to me that online communication can prevent a proper working relationship being formed as all of the informal conversation and time spent getting to know each other is lost, and it is often that it is only when people meet in person that they get a real idea of who they are working with.
I think this is something that could become in important question in the future as more people work from home and international connections become even more common.

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    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information


    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


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