Adult nursing student Oliver Suppiah Cycle 2 observation reflection

At the beginning of the second semester of my second year, I found myself at a level of positivity that I had not reached since I first started Nursing. This is not to say in any way that the course or anything solely involved with the course was causing the turbulent feelings I had in my first year, but that the success of both my Nursing Practice 2 Exam and my placement with District nurses changed the outlook I had of my future trajectory.

I can not point directly to where the model for learning I am about to refer to comes from, as there is contention about who its creator was, but it applies to the new outlook I have.

The four stages of learning, mentioned maybe twice or three times so far between school and university, talks about transitioning from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. The two stages between portray the way we change how we analyse what we have learned. I know there is still a lot for me to absorb, and I still have a long journey ahead before I am qualified, but there is far less doubt in my mind that I am capable and passionate enough to succeed above and beyond what will be asked of me.

Despite how metaphorical and abstract my explanation is, the feelings that the new perspective brought have change the way in which I behave and react to situations. And this is important during cycle 2, as we moved into a module that was very focused on our professionalism and our ability to juggle being task-motivated as well as people-centred in healthcare.

Our first observation took place in a session where we were asked to role play a conversation with a patient, and this was a day where I was alone and without anyone to talk to near me. I let my anxiety about what I might say guide me to volunteering for the first role-play, one which took me out of my comfort zone entirely.

A 19-year-old boy who had just tested positive for chlamydia came into the imaginary clinic I was working at, and the conversation that followed I can honestly say shook me, but also gave a foundation of confidence talking about a difficult subject involving both personal and ethical aspects. Projecting this onto the wider trajectory I talked about earlier, I had the capacity to reserve judgement and remain professional through a conversation where I felt the patient was both stubbornly unaware of the safe sex and offensive towards women. Starting with this example, I have started to build a positive reflection catalogue of situations where I know in the past I have removed myself from a position of judgement and instead provided a supportive environment with open conversation.

The next session in the study, coincidentally, was about sexual health. I had spoken with Lee, who was running this session, about what he would like us to focus on; as I knew from our own version of the session that in this session he involved mixed teaching methods. We decided that the group-based problem solving would be most beneficial to the study and our learning/teaching experience, so during the session I approached a group of child nursing students who I had never met and set upon developing a plan for how we would talk to a 15 year old girl about her first sexual experience.

Now If the first session observation did not provide enough awkward conversations, then this one certainly did. As a perceived male adult nurse, who has no children or younger relatives, this case study was a maze built on a mine-field. Despite both this and the fact I was a stranger to the other students I sat with, I was welcomed into their conversation and listened intently to their ideas. Stepping back and approaching the problem from a different angle to how I would as an adult nurse was obviously made easier by being given a chance to speak to child nurses about their experiences. The emotional intelligence it must require to be able to care for individuals that range massively in their developmental stages is staggering, and in a future situation I can see myself looking for a resource or helpline to gather different fields opinions whenever the need arises without hesitation.

A major benefit I have taken away from both cycles is the chance to have an informal meeting with the people providing my education, and have an entire hour set aside to talk about my experience. I was both contributing to and benefiting from the best part of a new model of student-teacher collaboration. It felt like a team-based approach, and I had a Jay as my constant peer and colleague to give me a chance to listen to the way other students experience, perceive and evaluate the same things I have.

I believe that in practically every situation in life, collaborative problem-solving involving direct interactions between people from different backgrounds is the most comprehensive and usually most successful way to achieve a positive result. I am incredibly happy to have been part of a study that will go on to help show this, and I am grateful for the chance to evaluate my learning experience outside of simply successes and failures.

Adult nursing student Oliver Suppiah Cycle 1 observation reflection

As Nursing students, we were asked to observe two sessions run by one of our lecturers, Lee Roberts. One session was on chronic wounds, and the other was about living with a disability. The first session, chronic wounds, was a session heavy with physiology going into detail about the process involved in normal wound healing and how this can be disrupted. The second session was much more discursive, with a focus on understanding an empathising with the problems facing an individual with a disability.

During the sessions, me and my colleague sat in the lecture theatre near the back and timed our observation, so we had 30 minutes of note taking. Before the sessions, we met together to discuss the way in which we would set out our observation tables, as well as what categories we could use to streamline our notes. Additionally, we met with Lee and the lecturer also taking part in the observation, Dion Smyth. We met Lee and Dion twice, first to talk through what our expectations of the study were and what factors influence our own learning experience, and then a second time to reflect upon the observations and how the study affected our metacognition of the learning process.

I approached the study with the idea that I would be able to get an insight into my own experiences of learning, and with that in mind, I was anxious about what I might uncover within myself. My attention can stray with very little provocation, and having already experienced university once and deciding to leave that course, I wanted to know what changed in my attitude that has made me more engaged and successful on the Nursing course.

While reflecting on each aspect of my observation table in turn, I realised that there was a constant flow of question and answer within my own interpretation of the information presented. The disruption of this flow can be caused by my own preoccupation with questions I pose in my head, but more often is caused by my fixation on the distracting behaviour of other students. This led me to feeling disappointed with both my own ability to concentrate, and other students’ lack of awareness for their peers learning. Despite this, there was a sense of achievement gained by completing this cycle of the study through a positive approach shared by me and my colleague.

Instead of focusing on superficial aspects of the way the lecture was presented, like the nuances of how Lee spoke or whether the content was noteworthy, we primarily noted the diverse ways the information was structured and how the audience and Lee responded to this information. This meant that we moved away from subjective judgements, which can only be used to infer our individual personal opinions.

During our training session for the study, we also had a question and answer style interview that was recorded. These recordings were sent to us via email, and listening to these proved incredibly helpful when identifying the parts of our own history of learning that relate to studying nursing. This gave me the idea of working backwards from my own cognition of the learning process to develop a table with categories of observable aspects, which could then be used to organise the points noted during the sessions. This led to a more objective approach to the observation, but also revealed a specific benefit I found in both visually presented processes in flow charts and the benefits of linking theory and practice through case studies.

Before our first scheduled observation, Jay and I met to discuss the tables we prepared using our practice observations and our initial interview recordings. By connecting the innate observations while taking notes in our own lectures with the conversations we had about how our own perceptions change the way we process information, we helped each other vocalise our expectations of lectures and what could be done to avoid assessing the content of the lecture based on these. Through doing this though, we also began discussing criteria for observation.

With this idea of criteria, there became a way of fixating on aspects of the session that were best to reflect on, and this lead to the learning experience being treated in a reactive way. Straying away from non-biased reflection post-observation and putting more effort into immediately reflecting on the session was a poor choice, and as this was my own mistake it became difficult to shift the reflection back to the topic of future learning experiences and how to improve them.

To have made a more positive difference in my own learning and reflection, I could have spent some time with my colleague Jay discussing the feelings and benefits that came from the experience. We could have recorded this meeting and used it as a debrief, therefore giving us the opportunity to go over the specific aspects of the sessions that we felt aided the learning process and used this to add to our reflection.

However, by designing my observation table to give me a category specifically focused on personal experiences and situations encountered in practice, my reflection revealed an important learning outcome in our course related to imagining a case study and assessing the patient. This involvement of visualisation of a real-life scenario changes the way information is managed and further committed to memory. A poignant example of this was when Lee discussed the idea of how a student nurse is made to feel empowered when on placement, or rather the lack of empowerment we usually experience. As students we are often referred to as simply ‘the student’ without attention paid to our names, and the expectations on us are continually shifting while our locus of control is no longer internalised. This was then translated over to how a patient feels when in our care, and how if there is a hierarchy of control with students lower down within it, then patients that are stripped of their individuality and placed into an environment they have little to no control over must be the lowest tier of this hierarchy.

The awareness that this study will provide of the factors affecting nursing students can be used to assess the formation of new programmes for the nursing course. There are links that can be made between the practical applications that a nursing programme must include and the lectures that discuss them in a beneficial way, through case study prompts and the occasional theatrical presentation.

It would have been advantageous if the study could have recruited more student observers, as this would have led to a wider range of perceptions of the sessions, as well as further evidence that there is a massive benefit to promoting reflective writing as a tool for improvement of both academic engagement and practical skills development.

Coincidentally, our timeframe for completing this cycle of the study coincides with the end of our module, which also means that our module assessment is imminent. This comes in the form of a summative exam, and I can certainly see the benefits of the self-discovery I have encountered during this observational study. My revision is now more tailored towards visualising physiological processes and breaking these into staged systems that I can follow, almost like a fluid narrative story.

Unfortunately, I was not able to apply any of my categorising techniques to my notes as it would not work very well retrospectively. However, in the future I will organise my post-session notes into separate text and images, with flow charts and prompt questions to summarise and jolt my revision. For this exam revision though I have fashioned my own key word flow charts to use as flash points.

As a final point, the results of this study should be able to help influence the changes that will be made to the new Nursing programmes for all the fields being designed for September 2019. I am proud to be part of a course that pays close attention to the feedback given by students. With this in mind, I hope that the extent of the data and reflection given by the students that took part across the fields can further the awareness the faculty staff have of the student experience, and the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that are involved in this experience.

Adult nursing student Jabar Hussain Cycle 1 observation reflection

Students were selected to participate in a research project funded by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to develop experimental innovations in learning and teaching for either undergraduate or postgraduate taught provision. The research was an insight into education comprehension by learners and the methodology used by lecturers to edify students on that level of education.

Our team of researcher included; Jay (me), Oliver (peer), Vanessa (research leader). Me and my colleague Oliver had to liaise and acquiesce with two selected lecturers Dion Smyth (senior lecturer) and Lee Roberts (new lecturer), agreeing on the observations and which lecturers we can observe. We also highlighted issues that would influence our learning and recorded our meetings on a dictator for reflection purposes.

As well as being a student and preparing ourselves for an upcoming exam on Nursing Practice 2 and our placement we had to selectively decide on criteria to base our observations on and have a pre and post meeting to address any concerns.

The sessions which were to be observed were; Chronic wounds and Disability, which were delivered by Lee Roberts. Disability was a lecture which me and my colleague had previously attended and were familiar with the presentation but the chronic wounds session was going to be our first attendance.

Prior to the first observation on chronic wounds I decided what I would like to observe and listed the sub headings in order to populate with my findings. I tactically positioned myself to the back of the class to get a clear view of student interaction as well as lecturer presentation.  The session was a follow up from a previous chronic wound session already delivered to the taught students. There was a lot of long term memory stimulating activities which were rewarded on the basis of a correct answer interaction. I found that incentive pretty encouraging as well as fun. The session continued with heavy physiology and large revision content.

The second session which was on disability was a session that had a lot of interruption. There were many influencing factors such as; the last session of the day, the encouragement to liaise with fellow students to acquire information which increased the noise levels beyond adequate. The educational aura had seemed to be disconcerted with the level of disruption to the point where I found myself looking around towards students responsible for the session debacle.

The first session I enjoyed due to the engagement of the eager students to acquire knowledge leading up to the anticipated exam. I found myself content with the session structure and impressed with the style it was delivered. The method of recalling information by asking questions and especially rewarding students for the interaction with goodies was exceptional. The only downfall to this lecture was the room temperature which was uncomfortably warm, and the fact that the break was delayed as well as me sitting in the middle of the row. I would have had to ask a lot of students to get up and let me pass in order to get up and leave the session to get fresh air and cool down. Since I did not want to disrupt their learning I decided to wait till the break, which was delayed.

I was thinking of what I need to cover after the session and which sources I could utilise i.e. library, Moodle and add more to my notes. This is the type of lectures that gets me thinking, makes me want to search for new sources to emphasise on the information I noted during the session.

The second lecture, which was a session I have previously attended, was not a positive one on my preference list of classes. I could not focus neither could I hear Lee, I found Lee’s continuous prompting of the students to quiet down a little disrespecting towards Lee. As I couldn’t concentrate I left the session to document and record my findings in the library.

The timing of these sessions was critical due to the exam one month away and the coverage to be extensive. I have previously failed an exam and an assignment which was more the reason why I wanted to pay close attention. In my usual classes I situate myself in the front rows, just so that I do not miss anything. I cannot fail and to address that concern I re-write information in order to memorise it. I utilise many methods so that I can recall information.

The content I found heavy on certain factors such as physiology, where the process was listed and we were prompted to remember for the exam. The other type of information which we were given such as the disability lecture where we were told not to memorise the actual current statistics for disabled people or the percentage of the types of diseases due to the exam not having to question the students on specific topics yet we were questioned and told to seek the answers in the actual lecture.

There was a lot of confusion with students on the content of the exam due to the coverage being; multiple sclerosis, diabetes, cancer and acute abdomen, which then had cells, mitosis, bloods and blood transfusion. Every word in this content opened a new route of knowledge and it is quite easy to drift into irrelevant territory.

I personally experienced this on my last exam and this is one of my main weaknesses that when I sit to revise, I would search external material on a topic such as cancer and come across ‘proto-oncogene’ I would then drift into a totally different category on mutations and genetics, DNA etc. by the time I look back and realise I just wasted an hour.

Sessions should be delivered addressing the actual requirements from the student. I disagree with the onerous of the student to acquire useful material. Adult nursing is about delivering holistic healthcare; mistakes can cause deaths, i.e. giving the wrong medication, not understanding the implications of contraindications, the severity of allergic reactions.

The overall perception on Bachelors in Nursing is currently stigmatised by the difficulty faced by newly qualified nurses, I have even heard nurses stating that they would never undertake another nursing course again. When this is mentioned to lecturers they jump to the ‘we don’t spoon feed’.

Through my participation I gained an insight into my learning style and yet still feel that no matter how hard I try to learn and how much effort I apply there will always be a hidden agenda in the examinations and the content delivered. I would like to see transparency and fairness for future students which can only be attained if a major reform takes place within universities leadership.

Many would disagree with my views, at the age of 41 I have had my fair share of life experiences to identify that it is a financially driven society. If a questionnaire was prepared asking all qualified nurses when have they utilised the knowledge and education on mitosis or the axon, etc. I wonder how many would say they do.

Adult nursing staff Lee Roberts Cycle 1 observation reflection

During the Chronic Wounds session, I felt comfortable and confident with the content.  I was mindful that this group had last received a wound session two weeks earlier than planned due to unforeseen guest lecturer absence. As such, I wanted to recap key learning from the previous wound session to ensure they felt prepared to further build upon theory. I felt the quiz at the start of the lecture was successful, and students appeared to enjoy the challenge of answering questions for prizes. I observed students, who do not often speak during large lectures, raising their hands to answer questions, and I was mindful of encouraging their engagement. On reflection, I feel this approach was beneficial in creating a safe learning environment where students felt comfortable to contribute to the session. This element of the session was met with laughter also, which I felt suggested students were beginning to relax before I moved onto more complex theory relating to chronic wounds.  My observer suggested that this approach was effective in encouraging students to contribute, but also acknowledge that answering questions appeared less pressured through humour and prizes.

Throughout the session, I explored anatomy and physiology relating to chronic wounds. I was concerned that this more complex information may be more difficult for some to grasp. I deliberately provided a flow diagram to break down the steps. Additionally I utilised the case study approach for students to try to apply this theory to practice. I continuously asked questions for the audience to clarify the groups understanding. On reflection, I still recognise the difficulty some students may have in admitting they do not fully understand the content covered when they are in large groups. I have concerns they are less likely to ask for clarification in these situations. Whilst my observe suggested that my encouraging responses to questions may support learners confidence, even if their questions are “off point”, I would still want to consider how I can confirm all students in the group have truly understood the content. Perhaps in future, tools such as online anonymous quizzes could alleviate this pressure for students, allowing them to record honest questions and answers. Due to room availability, it is difficult to remain behind following the session to clarify any points with students one to one. As such, I will consider inviting students to email me any questions / queries following sessions, to allow for this dialogue to continue.

I felt the use of media such as video clips and photographs were beneficial to clarify points discussed within the lecture. These were placed after the delivery of theoretical content to allow the students to better apply this new knowledge in a practical way. Following these, students appeared to relate to images / videos, confirming that they had “seen this in practice” for example.

I recognised the difficulty in delivering sessions utilising other lecturers teaching material. As a new member of the teaching team, I would be keen to change future presentations to suit my style of teaching and delivery. Due to these restrictions, I deliberately edited some information from pre-session slides from students to allow for greater discuss during lecturers. Following the session I released the post session slides to ensure students were provided with all of the information required. My observer suggested that this was an appropriate method in engaging learners, as answers were not provided in advance. When considering meeting students learning needs, I was conscious that those with learning disabilities would be required to receive content in advance. To achieve this, pre session slides and appropriate pre session reading material were provided one month in advance of the lecture to allow learns to complete preparation for this lecture. I recognise that some students will not complete this pre reading however; I am therefore giving consideration to alternative approaches such as online lectures and audio material, in the hopes that this is more readily accessible for learners from home, instead of attending the library.

On reflection of the peer observation process, I felt my observers support was incredibly valuable. I have a comfortable working relationship with my observer as he was my mentor during my initial probationary period. He allowed me to explore my findings of the lecture, and encouraged me to consider other points for future development. We discussed learning needs of students, but also considered the use of technology in sessions to aid the learners’ experience. We agreed that ownership of teaching material will also support my ongoing professional development, and I look forward to amending further module content to contribute to its development.

Following my post-observation discussion with my observer, we had the opportunity to meet with two students who observed the chronic wounds session also. I was excited to hear their perspective, and felt that it would be beneficial to explore students’ reflections on their learning during sessions. This would support my further development, and encourage me to consider lectures from another point of view.

During this open discussion with students and my observer, it was identified by students that the room for this lecture was too warm. They both explained that due to the heat in the room, they felt this impeded some of the learning experience. During this meeting, I reflected on how I may have manage this concern if it was raised to me during the session, however my actions would be limited due to room capacity, air condition control being in on a different site, and lack of windows in the room. This has encouraged me to consider how I assess student comfort during lectures. Whilst I am keen to ensure they are in a safe learning environment, and feel able to contribute, I could also consider asking about their comfort levels, perhaps asking for a “temperature check” during sessions. Such an approach may also allow me to address alternative needs such as longer or shorter breaks, and opportunities to move around the room (where space allows) to ensure these needs do not distract from the learning experience. This was not a point I was expecting, and initially I felt this session was not as positive as I had first hoped. However, on reflection I feel their perspective has allowed me to consider the overall experience of a two hour traditional lecture in such large groups, and I believe I will be able to make immediate changes to my teaching style as a result.

Stephanie Reynolds – pre observation reflection

Initially I was really quite excited by the prospect of having this particular session evaluated and observed by students and staff. Health Promotion simulation is a new session we have introduced within the module and this will be the second run having trialled it last year and initial evaluations proved positive. This particular session will be the 5th lecture delivered in this way.

The style of this lecture which is predominantly simulation was born out of recognition that students find the concept of practising health promotion awkward, they don’t know how to, and rarely do they see it done well.  With Health promotion being such a big part of a nurses’ role in accordance with the NMC and National Guidance, it should not be overlooked, nor side lined as an ‘add on’ to practice.  The addition of health promotion to any nurses’ practice to me is associated with high quality care and confidence, where a nurse is comfortable in role and communication with patients in order to be able to offer choice. Therefore reflecting on previous delivery of this subject, talking to students about the importance of health promotion is really not enough if we are to demonstrate how it is to be done and thus practising it and reflecting on individual practice or performance.

The session is structured by first having a half an hour talk on how to deliver health promotion including reflecting on good or bad experiences, then offering 3 scenarios where students can interact with an actor (another lecturer) and have a go using the principles taught.

The session delivered this way is risky as owing to large class sizes the luxury of making the environment comfortable is limited.  When we ask students to volunteer to practice, we not only expect them to be vulnerable within that learning, but to be observed and critiqued by their peers of which there can be up to 100 in number. My role as facilitator I feel is to make the environment as safe as possible by being encouraging and adopting a reflective style.  I have decided this time around not to pick on students to undertake the task, but to ask for volunteers only, encouraging where necessary some of the interaction to tell me answers but to direct that line of thought to the patient actor.

For the observation, I want feedback from the colleague observer on how I made the environment safe, if there are any ways to improve, and what to do particularly when students weren’t successful in their efforts.  I have in previous sessions been very tempted to steer the outcomes of the scenarios and tell students the answers rather than allowing time for reflection and development of their own thinking. A previous session to this worked well, where students were excellent in drawing out and empowering the patients, thus getting the point of the learning outcome. If students don’t get the learning outcome, I’m not sure where to go with it, e.g do I tell them eventually or do I leave it for them to reflect….does it actually matter if they don’t achieve the learning outcome?  Sometimes it feels like I am hosting a guessing game as one of the scenarios in particular can be drawn out as students list a number of things they can do for the patient and miss the point of empowering the patient to do it for themselves.

It would be good to get both student and staff perspectives on this learning in particular and also gauge whether large groups inhibit the participation, or widen the possibility of observation.

Another aspect of learning or feedback that would be useful to know is what to do when students don’t readily volunteer as the silence can often be uncomfortable. Should I wait? Should I pick on people or should I do it myself?

From a student perspective I would like to know what learning was achieved from participating, and what learning was achieved by observing.  Could they relate back to the aspects of a health promotion model as they observed, and or reflected on their learning? And would they feel more confident in applying this to their practice and their care planning? To further expand this observation further it would be good if students could reflect how this session has influenced their practice?

Early Childhood Studies staff Zoe Lewis’s Cycle 1 observation experience

Being invited to join the project was exciting and we were keen to learn more about how the students viewed the programme, the lectures and the activities that we asked them to engage in. However, having received other types of feedback from the NSS and observations in my teaching career, I was a little nervous about the responses that we might receive and the potential for being judged negatively by the students. The training that both staff and students received went some way towards allaying these fears and it was good to know that this was intended to be a more open dialogic experience in which staff and students are able to learn from each other. My overall experience of cycle 1 has shown this to be the case and when I came to teach the observed lesson I found that I was not nervous in the way that I might have been during a traditional teaching observation in the past.

The first meeting with my teaching colleague and the researcher was a helpful opportunity to reflect on our aims as lecturers and what we were hoping to achieve in the first year of the degree programme. I learned more about my colleague’s philosophy and the ways in which our different approaches to learning and teaching were based on very similar values and beliefs. This has been an important guide for the rest of the project because personal circumstances meant that I had to complete the rest of cycle 1 on my own.

The two students were self-selected and this enabled different voices to be heard rather than those of the students who are already involved in other feedback forums etc. I think this has been an important factor in the findings from cycle 1 because these students are more representative of the cohort as a whole and they were able to offer some interesting insights.

Having completed their training the students were very keen to attend the first meeting and they had prepared a lengthy series of questions for me to answer. I was happy to follow their lead and their questions provided the structure for our discussion, although it was difficult to arrive at a focus for the first observation. They seemed to be more interested in me and my teaching rather than their learning or the activities that they were being asked to complete. As a result, I returned to the discussion that I had with my teaching colleague and ask them to focus their observation on the previous directed task and group discussion that was intended to be an opportunity for reflection on their prior reading.

The observation itself took place in a week that had particularly poor attendance from this year group across all of the modules and students has just been reminded of the importance of engagement for their future success on the programme. As a result, the attendance for my session was much higher than usual with a number of students who were there after several weeks of absence. Therefore, these issues of engagement were at the forefront of many students’ minds when the activities were taking place.

During the lecture, I was aware that the two students were observing and making notes, but I felt that it did not really impact on my teaching. This seemed to make the observation a more authentic record of the event, particularly as their fellow students were unaware that the observation was taking place. However, it does raise some ethical questions about those people who were included in the research without their consent and it would be helpful to address these issues in the meetings that take place before cycle 2.

The post observation meeting took much longer than planned because the students had prepared another lengthy set of questions for me. This felt rather like an interview, partly because my teaching partner was unable to join us, and the dynamics of the relationship were affected by the imbalance. However, both students were keen to find out about the ways in which I managed challenging behaviour and encouraged group members to engage in discussion. This topic of engagement and managing relationships within the teaching and learning context became the main focus and it fitted well with the original focus for cycle 1. The students were able to contribute some helpful suggestions about the best ways to encourage their peers to undertake directed tasks and wider reading. They highlighted the importance of their own relationships with their fellow students and the ways that these can impact on their learning. This helped me to reflect on the ways in which we might build a more active community of learners within the programme by concentrating more effort on those students who, like these two, are keen to engage and develop as effective practitioners.

After the meeting, I reflected on the positive relationships that I had built with these two students and the ways in which they felt that they had contributed to the teaching and learning on the programme. This was a rewarding experience and I am keen to develop it further during cycle 2. However, I am also aware that these students have now submitted work which will not be assessed anonymously and I am conscious of the ways in which my role on the project could potentially influence my opinions as I approach the marking task. It will be important to seek the support of my colleagues to manage this imbalance and ensure that I am fair and consistent with all of the students as their assessor.

Back to Early Childhood Studies case study

Early Childhood Studies student research Burhana Khanum cycle 1 observation reflection

During this observation cycle I have gained a better understanding about the teaching at Birmingham City University and the amount of effort and work which goes into it. I am appreciative for having this opportunity to carry out observations and getting to know a lot more behind the scenes actions, of the planning processes of our lecture and seminar sessions.

Taking part in this project enabled me to grasp a better insight about my lecturer and the planning and ideas, which she brings together in order to make our learning experiences fun at University. A better relationship was built throughout this project cycle, which allowed me to get to know her a lot more and put myself in her shoe as a lecturer. From this, I learnt that being a lecturer is not easy and planning for all students can be quite tricky, due to the diverse range of personalities. Therefore, considering all needs and abilities of students is vital whilst planning lectures and seminars.

By working closely to my lecturer I have seen that a lot of emotion is put in when planning sessions and sometimes the way certain students respond can affect both lecturers and students. As a student myself, it made me open my own eyes and made me a lot more considerate towards my education. It also encourages me to take part in more projects like this, in order to influence other students like me to do the same and appreciate education and learning just a little more.

Although I have observed before as part of my course, taking part in this project enabled me to pick up new techniques whilst observing, some things which I was not completely aware of. The training sessions beforehand was very useful in doing this. For instance in the past I focused only on the individual and I had a list of things I was looking for in my observations.  This created restrictions because I was not able to give my complete judgements and opinions. However, this project enabled me to be freer whilst observing, as there was not any specific targets, set which I had to reach during the observations. I think this was a great idea because it enabled me and the other students in this project to explore our own minds and give only our individual thoughts and opinions.

Comparing the observations with a peer from the same course was part of the project. This was very interesting because it allowed us both to compare similarities and differences we gathered. I learnt that sometimes studying the same course can build in the same thoughts amongst ourselves and have the exact same view about the teaching and learning in sessions. However, there were also some points which were completely different and as a result made me learn a lot more about my peer and her view about the teaching as a whole.

This I believe is significant because the whole aim is to improve the teaching and learning at Birmingham City University. Therefore, by gathering information from a range of students who have different views and personalities, will allow us to see everything in a bigger picture and from all angles. This will make the process easier in improving the learning and teaching at BCU.

Back to Early Childhood Studies case study

Radiotherapy student researcher Katie Winfield observation cycle 1 reflection

As part of my role as a student researcher for the learning and teaching project, I observed the teaching, lecturers and student response in two of my lectures. The first lecture was an anatomy recap and practical activities based on what we learnt in the previous lecture. The second lecture was a ‘hands on’ session on the Virtual Environment Radiotherapy Treatment (VERT) computer where we were working on our personal presentations for our end of module assessment. I observed 40 minutes of the anatomy lecture and 20 minutes of the VERT session whilst my partnered student researcher observed the other half of the lectures to ensure we did not jeopardise our own learning.

Prior to my observation of these lecturers; myself, my fellow student research and my two lecturers had a meeting where we discussed the aims of the lecturers and to receive an insight to reasons why certain techniques are implemented. Both lecturers’ main intentions in their lectures are to link the information provided with clinical practise in order to contextualise our knowledge and to prepare us for clinical placements. The majority of our Radiotherapy University course is spent on clinical placement meaning it is just as important as academic exams; my lecturers made it clear that they do not teach with the objective to get us as students to pass our exams.

The anatomy lecture was a very relaxed, relatively informal few hours which worked positively as students became more engaged and were full of laughter; this builds a more personal relationship with the lecturer and is more enjoyable for all. We were split into groups of approximately 4 people per table, with a different task at each table; these tasks include a wide variety of practical or theory based activities, using print-outs, models, laptops or scales. By using these props, students maintained stimulated and it also accommodated to different students strengths giving students the opportunity to learn from each other on things they’re not as confident in. The small groups per task also encourages course mates to talk to those who they wouldn’t normally talk to, and increases confidence levels as they’re not having to share their knowledge or ask questions in front of a whole class. Teamwork is also a principle factor in the radiotherapy profession, so mixing between ourselves and bouncing off of one another’s abilities is teaching us some people skills that we also need to enhance in clinical practise. The lecturer was extremely consistent in circling around each group to encourage, challenge and check everyone understands the task. Any queries were answered in depth and made very question seem important. The lecturer would try to judge the responses of the students and would sometimes sit down and go through the tasks in more depth at a slow pace to ensure they understand the tasks; this also showed the knowledge the lecturer has which further enhances the trust from the students to listen to what they’re saying. The tasks were all relevant to the previous lecture, and extremely relevant to our clinical practise; for example one task was to identify the organs or structures on a CT scan slideshow on the laptops which we are expected to be capable of doing in clinical practise every day. Therefore in terms of the content of the lecture, the lecturer was successful in aligning our knowledge to clinical practise.

The VERT session was extremely interesting to observe as it is a very non-traditional lecture. We were in groups of 4 which we were able to book on the Moodle website to allocate our own timed sessions and also who we will be in the sessions with. This worked extremely well as we were able to tactically choose who we want to work with based on who we would be comfortable with, who’s strengths we may learn off of and also see each other’s ideas that makes us think outside the box to make our presentations more interesting. Within the hour session we had 15 minutes each to work independently but voice our ideas if we wished to, due to the presentation being part of our final module assessment the lecturer was not able to share knowledge based on content, however he was extremely insightful on how to make the most of the VERT technology. The lecturer would also challenge students to make hints and guide as much as he could; for example by asking what we see while on our clinical placements and to bring that routine and knowledge in to our academic studies as part of our presentation. The lecturer also gave hand-outs of a breakdown of the marking criteria providing further support on what sort of things we should be including in our presentation but also what we should be thinking about when planning a treatment which we will be required to do in our profession. Some students were clearly more confident in their ideas and contextualising their knowledge, however those who were not so confident the lecturer could recognise and would accommodate for this by working at a slower pace and breaking down ideas into ‘bite-sized’ pieces. Again, the session as a whole was very relaxed and informal with jokes and laughter throughout, relieving stress of the upcoming assessment but had a good balance of the importance of the work.

The student observer process so far has been extremely insightful and made me think in more depth why lecturers do things in the techniques they do. It has made me understand that one technique is not suitable for all aspects of my course; for example being taught anatomy purely through powerpoints and books would be extremely difficult to absorb and would not put the knowledge in to context however the human models and practical tasks gave a more natural way of learning. Observing my peers has also made me appreciate the different ways students learn and how group work can benefit education in the sense that a student may understand a task better if a peer explains it to them rather than a lecturer. I am looking forward to see how the second academic year differs in the way lecturers may present a lecture or how students may obtain information; I believe dynamics may change due to second year being more in depth and a step-up from the first academic year as we are now in full swing of university.

Back to Radiotherapy case study

Primary Education student Emily Gay’s reflection on collaborative observation

The Process

Upon starting this project, I could immediately sense the immense organisation of the process to ensure each stage ran as effectively and efficiently as possible. As a result, I did not feel at any point that I was unsure of the focus of the research and consequently, had greater understanding of my observation duties. This enabled my observations to encourage reflection without posing a judgement, a key skill that I was not confident with prior to this project.

This skill was developed during training sessions and regular meetings with the project team, thus showing the support offered to all members of the project team to aid them at each stage. The large amount of support involved in this project is, in my opinion, the biggest strength of the process. I believe this support derives from the overwhelmingly sense of collaboration that is constantly encouraged throughout the process. For example, as myself a student researcher as opposed to a staff researcher, I felt it extremely reassuring that there was another student researcher to share and discuss ideas with in Stage 4 of the observation cycle prior to meeting as a larger project group in Stage 5.

In the future, I will strive to regularly meet colleagues of the same job title in order to promote a collaborative discussion in which thoughts, ideas, problems and worries can be discussed and resolved. Therefore, an individual’s stress will be reduced, colleague relationships will be enhanced and a better output of work will be reduced.

My Lecturers

Whilst myself training within the education sector, I had not fully appreciated the wider considerations that need to be taken into account when delivering a lesson/lecture. However, this observation encouraged me to reflect on these considerations.

For instance, I observed the struggle for my lecturer to adapt different roles depending on the situation. Often my lecturers do not wish to adopt an authoritative teacher role due to the age of the students they are teaching and instead encourage positive relationships with students to restrict potential barriers to learning. However, after reflection on my observations it has come to my attention that it is not always a role that can be taken by lecturers as the role they take is greatly affected by the role the students are adopting. It is sometimes apparent that a teacher role must be used to tackle potentially challenging student roles. Therefore, I have learnt that whilst a positive and free learning environment is encouraged, certain situations force the lecturers to adopt a less favourable, authoritative approach. As a result, I am conscious to maintain a role as a student that does not alter a lecturer’s preferred role.

My Peers

During the observation, I noticed how different situations caused different peers to respond in different ways. For example, whilst certain students favoured particular teaching techniques, others did not seem to welcome them as much. Following reflection, I believe that this is most likely a result of the understanding between staff and students. This is because I feel that a student who understands the actions of staff and likewise staff who understand the actions of a student helps to combat the staff student divide that can be present in a learning environment. This is particularly important due to the nature of my course as often clarity is required as to whether a teaching technique is a natural style for the lecturer or is an example of a style we could use ourselves.

This reflection has further proved my belief that every action will be perceived differently depending on the relationship you hold with that person and the personality of the person.

Myself

The observation process as a whole has taught me that I am capable of reflecting deeply on a situation in which I can ask meaningful and thought-provoking questions in order to encourage myself and others to reflect on situations.

Furthermore, whilst I was aware of my ability to work independently and collaboratively, as result of this cycle I have concluded that the feeling of belonging within a wider team is a personal motivator as the pride and support that is involved with being part of a team helps maintain my enthusiasm even when a problem occurs.

My Emerging Teacher Identity

Finally, and potentially the most prominent lessons I have learnt as a result of this process revolves around my emerging teacher identity. I have concluded that my teaching style will accommodate for different pupil’s personalities and needs whilst maintaining a balance between teacher authority and approachability. This is because I feel it is vital that my students feel they can approach me with a problem yet also see me as an authoritative figure.

Moreover, I will ensure communication is to a high standard between myself and my teaching assistant(s) in order to promote a happy working environment in which teaching and learning is a priority. I also wish to involve parents as much as possible in order to create a collaborative effort to support a child’s learning and development.

Most importantly, after observing the benefits my lecturer gained from reflecting on their own teaching, I will reflect on my own teaching as a way of identifying strengths and weaknesses in my teaching style and continuously improve in order to be the best teacher possible.

Back to Primary Education case study

Primary Education student Charlotte Ralph’s reflection on collaborative observation

Classroom pedagogy is often understood through the method of formal observation as part of a summative assessment, however the experiences that I have dealt with by taking a collaborative approach have proven to provide a wider insight to the concept of observation. Although assessment is often circulated around the production of static results that are to be measured against a framework, collaborative observation can remove this idea of ‘meeting expectations’. Collaborative observation allows access to a broader insight that cannot be attained through sole opinions and views, through this, observation can become a much more effective tool to be used within educational settings. However, something which is to be considered is that observation is a fluid transition of stages and cannot be taken with a direct and rushed approach.

Before observation can begin, the outcomes need to be considered, as discovered, this largely effects how the observation will take place. All elements including both practical and analytical need to be considered for this can shape the structure of the observation. What was identified in our pre-observation meetings was this idea of not being able to observe everything, which is a very real issue that must be accepted. Having focused time slots and areas allowed for us to analytically observe the session or candidate in a way that is systematic. Only through the collaboration of multiple observers can nearly most aspects of the session be observed, as multiple views and opinions can be contrasted, compared and considered.

As a trainee teacher, the methods used that I observed within the classroom by a well experienced teacher have changed my viewpoint about some approaches to learning and teaching. Being situated in a role that is somewhat foreign to most learners involved reverting from my typical dispositions in a classroom setting and facing ideas that were somewhat unnatural to me. However, what made the process somewhat more accommodating was the idea of posing questions rather than statements about the nature of the lesson that I was observing. This method of forming questions allows for a more reflective viewpoint from the both the observer and the observee, something which should be at the focus of any observation. The session itself forced me to the realisation that collaboration can be a real tool for learning and teaching, as having always been someone who likes to work alone this project encouraged me to stretch out of my comfort zone. During the observation incidences occurred where my interpretation proved to be different from that of my other colleagues, as a result discussion and reflection evolved as to why this might be and how much even a basic idea of positioning within the classroom can affect perception.

The findings from the observation have affected my views in regards to observation, as I have been able to see first-hand the benefits that arose from this style of learning. Collaborative observation gave a portal to the idea of ‘not being able to observe everything’ as it was interesting to see which factors I considered to have little impact compared to that of what my colleagues thought. Furthermore, the view of the lecturer conducting the lesson shed much light onto how different situations can be interpreted and understood, through discussion of our views compared with his, it became clear that our roles within the education system had had a great impact onto our understanding of educational situations. It was apparent that the lecturer wanted to shy away from the idea of hierarchy and the concept of ‘you vs. them’, however what was identified is that having been brought up in education system revolving around hierarchy this was no something that could easily be ignored.

Something that arose from our post- observation meeting was the idea of a ‘teacher identity’ and through collaborative observation, this has become a point of reflection for me. I have come to the realisation that collaboration is a tool that should be incorporated into most aspects of my teaching and something that is ultimately used in life on a day to day basis. The drawing below is of two children in the Victorian era working in the coal mines, although this situation is somewhat unheard of in the modern day, it represents how valuable the contribution of others can be. I think this image creates a powerful message of how collaboration is sometimes a necessity in life. This idea can be transpired into the classroom, for the input of multiple views can lead to a wider understanding of concepts, it is something I will focus on in my teaching as it has proven to be a valuable tool.

Victorian coal mine

Back to Primary Education case study