It’s a week after the 2nd run of the “Roles and Expectations” session and I thought it a pertinent time to share what took place and what was discussed. I hope this will be a useful summary for those who attended but also show how reflective review is a useful tool for educators.

The session began with some serious furniture moving, turning the rows of forward facing chairs and tables into small group clusters – this was important as the workshop was based on peer-mentoring and facilitation. Perhaps not exactly what those attending expected to be doing in the first 10 minutes of the session but it demonstrates an important fundamental of teaching.

The environment in which you teach needs to match the way you intend to deliver the session and the learning objectives for the students.

If you want to know more about learning environments you might be interested in this post by Mark Philips, a teacher and educational journalist “A Place for Learning: The Physical Environment of Classrooms”not least his final reflections:

  1. Classroom physical environment affects morale and student learning.
  2. The environment should match your objectives, both in terms of human interaction and your instructional approach.
  3. The arrangement of seating is one major variable.
  4. Including students in creating the physical environment can enhance that environment, increase the feeling of classroom community, and give students a sense of empowerment.

We started with a warm up exercise which got everyone talking and recalling prior understanding of the key themes of the session. This warm up served several purposes. It was a cold day and we had all had the distraction of arranging the furniture; so by doing something simple but focussed, I hoped we would get on task. Because the warm up required everyone to speak to each other but also concentrate on which word I shouted out it meant focussing on both each other and me, as the facilitator, at the same time; getting us ready to act as a group.

Now I am not suggesting that this warm up exercise is right for the types of teaching activity you are involved in but I hope it demonstrates two fundamentals of a teaching activity: 1) it’s important to get your audience switched on to the activity; 2) recalling is one of the 1st steps  of constructing learning.

By providing early teaching activities centred on the fundamental learning objectives (recalling, revising, etc.) you can both engage your audience in the task and develop a platform for higher level learning (discussing, evaluating etc.).

One method for thinking about constructing learning is exemplified in Bloom’s taxonomy; a widely accepted approach to building successful learning. There are lots of easily digestible sources out there: for example, Vanderbilt University present a summary of both the original and revised taxonomy on their webpage “Bloom’s taxonomy”  and if you want to read more I would recommend “A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing : a revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives” (New York : Longman, c2001).

During the session, we discussed the roles of the GTA and the expectations placed upon the GTA by the students; individuals came up with their own suggestions and then we prioritised them as a group. Finally, we used these maps to explore some of the problems that might arise from the role of a GTA not matching the expectations of the students.

The roles of GTAs identified during the January training session. When matching the expectations of students to these roles, the group identified some potential problems.
The roles of GTAs identified during the January training session. Attendees felt there were two different roles with different priorities. When matching the expectations of students to these roles, the group identified some potential problems which could arise.

I tried to take some “time out” moments to explain what I was doing and why, or to elaborate on points that the group raised. I wouldn’t normally do this in my day-to-day teaching but I hoped it would be informative for you, as GTAs. For example, someone commented on the difficulties of monitoring and engaging students. I thought this was a very pertinent point and took a moment to explain how I was monitoring the group by looking at what you were doing or listening to the level or topic of conversations. Doing this helped me respond to your engagement; I could keep the pace of the session matched to the levels of engagement and understanding in the room.

Being responsive to what’s happening in the room is a key to creating successful learning environments.

Finally, I shared a reflective form with you to summarise some of the problems you see arising in your own roles. We discussed using SMART objectives to make turn these into points you could take action on.

The reflective assessment form shared at the end of the session
The reflective assessment form shared at the end of the session and the SMART objectives you can use to write yourself some “action-able” tasks.

After the session, I completed my own 5 minute reflection on what had happened, focussing on what went well, what wasn’t quite right and what was interesting or surprising. I used a Touch Point Review to do this; it’s a simple method of reflecting on a session. I completed my review before looking at your feedback, so that I could then gauge whether what I thought happened matched your experience of the session. Doing this has helped me develop the session and identified things which could be improved in the future. You can see how attendees feedback has impacted the structure and the content of the session through my previous blog post Setting Expectations

My reflective evaluation has also formed the basis of this blog!

I’d recommend spending 5 minutes, over a coffee, carrying out a review of your own teaching activity; it’s a powerful way of engaging with practice.

You could revisit the form I gave you or you could use a tough point review; see the example below:

The touch point review form.
The simple touch point review form, developed by SEERIH, which I used to reflect on the January training session.

I wish you all the best in your role as a GTA – it’s not a simple job but I hope you will find the challenge enjoyable and rewarding. Please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss anything about the session, your role or indeed the topic of this blog post.

Thanks for reading.

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