Archive for the ‘6/6 me as a peer observer’ Category

The fourth and final observation experience as part of this PGCAP module required me to observe a peer on the course. I observed Carlo. He had not given me a pre-observation form in advance, so I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of session I was walking into – Carlo had however ensured that I knew exactly where I needed to go.

The class was made up of 3 masters level students, who had chosen to attend Carlo’s option module on ‘EU and US competition law’. Carlo introduced me and then got going with his lecture. The first thing that struck me was the fact that I was in a room with 4 people for whom English was not the first language, yet they were going to teach and discuss some really complex aspects of law. I was so impressed!

Feedback and discussion

Carlo gave a verbal overview at the start of the session, and gave students the handout of the slides he had on PowerPoint. I wondered how Carlo would know whether students have covered the material he wanted them to cover. My recommendation was to provide specific aims and objectives at the start of the session, that he can then return to at the end and check that student’s feel they have learnt about all that was intended, which Carlo thought was a good idea. D’Andrea (2000) presents the pros and cons of making teaching and learning objectives explicit, and goes on to posit that this approach is often described as more ‘teacher-centred’ – as opposed to ‘learner –centred’. This is an approach that I commonly utilise as it provides structure and focus, and gives students a clear outline for the areas that are intended to be covered. But one of the criticisms cited by D’Andrea is that it ‘limits opportunities from spontaneous unintended outcomes occurring during learning experiences’ (p43, 2000). I believe that a skilled teacher can allow those ‘spontaneous unintended outcomes’ to still take place, ideally embracing them, but can still cover the planned work. And if time runs out and the outcomes have not been achieved, then a confident educator will be able to see that not as a negative, but a positive, and hopefully be able to schedule in any missed learning outcomes within another session. One of my PGCAP classmates Becci, talked about ‘unintended but beneficial learning outcomes’ in our session on 8/3/2012 and I do feel that it is imperative that we as educators should be able to recognise these and allow them to flourish.

During the session Carlo asked a question that provoked some discussion – he drew a diagram on the board to help people remember the point he was trying to make, thus giving students some visual imagery. He gave positive feedback and good non verbal cues when a student started to answer, therefore encouraging her to keep going. Throughout Carlo responded well to questions asked by the students, and they seemed satisfied with the answers. They clearly felt comfortable to ask at any time. The session was very much about passing on fact – there was little room to ask learners for their opinions as the subject matter is so black and white. This led me to wonder how students could play a more active role? I wondered if it might be useful to set them a task as a group – for example to provide a critical analysis of the public versus private enforcement. It would encourage them to think independently within the classroom, plus give them a chance to try and get under the surface of an aspect of law that exists, so that they can develop deeper understanding of the topic (Light and Cox 2001)

Carlo used a good example when getting learners to consider the ‘prisoner dilemma strategy’ – he related it to popular culture (the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’) which was interesting for students and helped make a point. Jennifer Moon discusses how the arts can be used as a medium with which to ‘make sense, or better or broader sense, of experiences’ (p 173, 2010) and herself uses a quote from ‘Harry Potter’ to aid understanding about reflective practice.

My final recommendation for Carlo, was for him to consider brightening up his PowerPoint presentation with pictures or colours, as it was a little dull to look at – for those students who are more visually/spatially intelligent – (the learner who has capacity to learn by visualising, whose mind is best stimulated by visual images (Jacques and Salmon 2007)) a brighter PowerPoint might provide additional stimulation.

On the whole I really enjoyed observing Carlo – he made good eye contact, had open body language, he moved about, he had a good relationship with his students, and they were all very welcoming of me. Carlo seemed to appreciate my feedback and suggestions. I have been surprised when writing this up at how much richer my feedback appears now I have been reading the theory to support my recommendations. I am encouraged that my instincts are right. But on the other hand, they are far more than instincts – they are the (usually subconscious) product of experience, trial, error, and success, all mixed together with a generous sprinkling of knowledge of interpersonal skills and humanistic  psychology.  But the question is how we ensure some sort of standardisation of the above, without losing individual creativity, for quality assurance and quality enhancement in academic practice? (A5; K3; K6; V1)

D’Andrea V-M (2000) Organizing teaching & Learning: Outcomes based planning in Fry H, Ketteridge S and Marshall S A handbook for teaching and learning in higher education: enhancing academic practice Kogan Page; London.

Jacques D and Salmon G (2007) Learning in groups: a handbook for face to face and online learning environments Routledge; Oxon.

Light G and Cox R (2001) Learning & teaching in higher education: the reflective professional Paul Chapman; London.

Moon J (2010) A handbook of reflective and experiential learning: Theory and practice RoutledgeFalmer; Oxon.


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In memory of an inspiring young doctor who mused about life & death through her terminal cancer illness. Her husband, Chris now keeps the page updated.


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