I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the student researcher cycle again this year. After the intriguing findings we established after last year’s cycle, it was interesting to compare the conclusions I have made between each half of the project. The first cycle my colleagues and I were focussing on the teaching style, techniques and delivery of our lecturers and how this engaged the students; this cycle we were focusing on the students, how they interacted with one another, with the lecturer and the lecture content.
Much like the previous cycle, we underwent a workshop on how to observe these lectures and techniques to undertake to ensure we do not impose on our learning. Prior to the observations, we met up with our lecturers to discuss what it was they would like to find out, their methods of ensuring engagement between staff to pupil and pupil to pupil. Our lectures already had concerns about our cohort interacting effectively with one another, and the observations enforced that. The lecture we were observing of Nick’s module was a PowerPoint lead anatomy lecture; Mark’s lecture was a VERT interactive support towards our planning module presentations.
It was fascinating the details you notice when looking across your peers and reflecting their techniques of learning or engaging compared to my own. As I recorded in my notes, it was common for some students to not take many lecture notes, or if they did, it was notes from the PowerPoint which would waste time as the PowerPoints are made available to us all online. Perhaps this technique helped them remember the content better; however Nick would be saying vital information that was not included on the PowerPoint which those students were missing out on. I found I would take notes on everything Nick says and nothing that is on the PowerPoint until I come round to revision; I have concluded that I am also a very independent student as I do not tend to revise or work in groups, or ask my peers many questions.
Also, there seemed to be a definite divide between the class; people would sit within their friendship groups leaving extremely limited interaction about debate topics within the lecture. As a student within this cohort, I have noticed this in all lectures; it is particularly evident when we are set group work to complete. A happy, friendly environment contributes to learning dramatically; being able to bounce off each other’s ideas, various strengths and weaknesses within a population can be beneficial. The lack of friendship across the class may also affect the confidence of students to answer questions in front of each other, I noticed some students would whisper answers to their friend next to them. By doing this, they are not receiving the positive reinforcement of praise when they answer the question correctly, possibly prohibiting their ability to learn or remember that information.
Some students responded better to the use of hand-outs in comparison to others. For example some students would look at the hand-out, and put it to the back of their books; some would engross in the hand-out and make notes on it to refer back to and some would leave the handout in eye-view to refer back to mentally as the lecturer talks through it. This shows variation in style of learning which I believe is majorly important as feedback to lecturers to maintain diversity in styles of teaching within one lecture. Some students may be interactive learners, some physical and some passive. After doing the observations last year on teaching techniques I believe Nick is aware of this.
Towards the end of the lecture students were beginning to struggle to maintain enthusiasm and attention; we had a full day of lectures and tiredness was starting to overcome. Nick responded to this observation himself and called for a 15 minute break; after the break students were perkier and Nick maintained this by consistently asking questions, saying jokes and emphasising on vital sections of the lecture by saying it is “important”.
I found this observation more difficult in comparison to last year in the sense of keeping up with the lecture content. I found myself focussing on what my peers were doing in order to acquire sufficient notes for this research rather than writing down lecture content and focussing on what Nick was saying. Looking back, this was to be expected and I realise I did not experience this issue in cycle 1 as we were focussing on the lecturer anyway. In future I would suggest choosing a lecture that is not so ‘content-heavy’ so that it is easier to keep up. I have also noticed my observations are relatively negative; as mentioned in my reflection of the first cycle, year 2 has been more intense than first year causing stress and perhaps tension between some of my peers, but hopefully everyone has found their own way to cope and pass this academic year.
I was unwell the day of Mark’s lecture, therefore I was unable to come in and observe.