Radiotherapy student researcher Katie Winfield observation cycle 2 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.

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