In lockdown, I have found myself with time on my hands and confined to the home pretty much. For the past four years I’ve been teaching a weekly year-long course, Press Play, for Spike Print Studio at Spike Island, Bristol. In the first year of lockdown it was moved online. I pondered long and hard on whether or not to teach a fresh intake online in September 2020 and decided against it. Instead, I went online myself and found a PGC(H)E (teaching qualification suitable for higher ed.), which began in January 2021 and is just now in its last few weeks.

I have no idea how many of us are enrolled on this course delivered by Falmouth Uni. because some people ‘lurk’ preferring not to make their contributions public. I’m on the other end of this particular spectrum of course and want to share as effectively as I’m able with my peers in Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Devon.

I thought the course might help me contextualise my existing teaching practice in relation to pedagogy. Here, I’m going to indulge myself by reflecting on some of what I’ve learnt in a more academic style than I usually use.

In the first half of the course we engaged with pedagogical theory; critiqued recordings of one another teaching online; and contextualised the entire experience using the newly acquired theory; designed assessments to suit our real-life subject areas. 

From the recording and the feedback of my peers I learned I was a teacher with a Humanistic approach and my confidence grew (Rogers, Knowles, Lave and Wenger).

Engaging with the pedagogical theory accessed through the prescribed reading and discussion forum entries uploaded by my peers I learned what Humanist and Constructivist approaches were, how they differ and how they can complement one another. I learned about the work of Mezirow, Bandura, Maslov, Biggs and Tang, Bloxham and Boyd.

Subsequently I found researchers who are writing about teaching artists, which was incredibly motivating – Orr, Day, Shreeve, Blair and Tangney. I was able to scaffold their writings onto what I had read by James Elkins and Sarah Rowley and talks by Threads of Kent and the artist Matthew Burrows. Particularly Tangney and what she says about ‘learning circles’.

Puzzling over how people differ in their approaches to learning, so obvious on the weekly fora, and how this relates to my own course material was particularly exciting. I realise I create content for learners of my own type (‘accommodating’ – Wolf & Kolb 1984) and needed to balance this with approaches which would work for other people. I need to slow down my delivery and build in time for deeper reflection. On a positive note however, I recognised I was creating ‘Communities of Practice’ (Lave and Wenger 1991) opportunities for group-led ‘experiential learning’ (Kolb) and ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ (Cooperrider).

For the first time I also saw the correlation between the individuals I choose to collaborate with and the phases of learning I find hardest to stick at i.e. I prop up my practice and my own development with individuals who have strengths where I am weaker i.e. ‘diverging’ or ‘assimilating’ learner types (Wolf & Kolb 1984).

For whatever reason, I’m not a person who reflects deeply without a structure and addressing this issue in particular has been well supported online by the course staff and the course design. Metacognitive activity is promoted by the tasks we are set: preassessment; identifying confusion or difficulties; retrospective post-assessments wherein we recognise conceptual change; the use of fora and critical reflective journals to reflect upon and monitor our own thinking (Weimer 2012 and Tanner 2012).

I would like, in the future, to embed this degree of reflection and deep learning into my practice, both as an artist and as a teacher, two roles which I am beginning to understand and accept as mutually beneficial. It’s an aim. That’s all.

REFS not done to any standard as I’m out of time… sorry

Cooperrider & Whitney (1999) Appreciative Enquiry: a positive revolution in change.

Rogers, C. (1969). Freedom to Learn

Tangney, S (2014). Student-centred Learning: a humanist perspective

Tanner (2012). Promoting Student Metacognition

Wenger, E (2004) Communities of Practice: Learning Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Weimer (2012) Five Characteristics of Learner Centered Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/five-characteristics-of-learner-centered-teaching/

Wolf and Kolb (1984) Experiential Learning Cycle and Learning Styles