We want more, We want more!

We want more, we want more! That was the overarching theme from results of  evaluations from recent participants on the Assessment and Feedback module I’ve been teaching on.

I have been teaching on short modules* that offer opportunities to staff to explore teaching and assessment practices at DCU. Unique to the Irish higher education setting, these academic development modules are delivered almost entirely online, providing opportunities for both DCU staff and teaching staff from other HEI’s to engage in developing their skills and capacities as teachers.

What I’m really excited about is that outcomes of the module have been extended further than the module itself. Five of the participants have disseminated their assessment related  work in through blogs https://facultydiary.wordpress.com/ and  http://www.libfocus.com/2016/04/peerwise-social-platform-for.html

One staff member  has been invited to speak about his innovations with PeerWise:


DCU staff seem to be hungry for more professional development in the area of teaching and learning. At the moment these short modules  offer [5 ECTS]  opportunities for staff to ‘propose’ changes to teaching/assessment

…..but wouldn’t it be great if we could extend our work** to support staff in implementing changes to practice, thus supporting them in researching their practice as teachers!

* Module design was competed during a DRHEA project, curriculum designed by Jean Hughes, Morag, Munro, Leone Gately and Eloise Tan

** Qualifications in teaching and learning to PG Dip, and Masters level can be attained from other HEI’s for example from NUIG, DIT, UCD

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How I create podcasts for student feedback

Some of my students have been asking how I feedback podcasts

So here goes: No theory about feedback cited here, just the practical stuff that I think of and apply when creating podcast feedback for students

Firstly I read the assessment piece and compare it to the assessment rubric criteria

I make brief notes (aka messy scribbles) about what I liked about the piece and what I think could be improved into the future

Then I use QuickTime player on my MacBook Air to record ‘audio’

I record once only and try to make the audio file max 3 minutes long

I do not edit out my uhms and ahs, I think that it adds authenticity and shows I am a real-thinking-human-being!

I save the audio file and then upload it to Google drive from where I share it privately with the student

Here is a short screencast to show how I record the audio in QuickTime player and upload to Google drive.

I found these brief notes on composing feedback useful (Staff 2016)

  • Be kind – celebrate what is great about the assignment.
  • What is my favourite part – be specific.
  • Be helpful and specific when providing feedback.
  • What could make this assignment even better?
  • What would you like added or taken out to make the piece even stronger?

What the research says:

For literature in this area I suggest reading Hattie & Timperley (2007). They assert that feedback needs to answer 3 questions

  1. What do I have to do? – clarifies goals for student
  2. How am I doing? – helps close the gap between current and desired performance
  3. What can I do next?

This video from John Hattie on ‘Learning Intentions & Success Criteria’ discusses helping students achieve success through feedback and transparent assessment processes.

An Irish research project on enhancing feedback practice with 1st year students has just published a synthesis of literature http://y1feedback.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/SynthesisoftheLiterature2016.pdf


Hattie, J., Timperley, H. ( 2007) The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research Vol. 77, No. 1, pp. 81–112

Staff, c. (2016) Assessment Webinar. Retrieved on March 31st from https://prezi.com/_sfxahw-grjx/assessment-webinar/

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Can we really consider Twitter a learning tool?

This gallery contains 2 photos.

For the past 18 months I’ve been engrossed in the research topic of how Twitter is used by professionals for learning. Finally I’m nearly there, tomorrow I will present at a doctoral conference at UCL Institute of Education in London. Creation … Continue reading

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I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff..

Yesterday I came across the following quote via Infed.org. I need to read more Carl Rogers work after my doctorate – I feel completely high when I read these views of learning – The freedom that learning can be, the curiosity that it should be, the love for life and being in the world that learning is. Learning is an embodied life-giving  experience, it is lifeforce. Often I forget this when I am talking about important but more formal curriculum planning like constructive alignment to academics, but I hope in formal curriculum we can aim to keep this sense of discovery and joy alive for students.

I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed into the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds  of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING – the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his ‘cruiser’. I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!” Carl Rogers 1983: 18-19


Accessed on http://infed.org/mobi/learning-theory-models-product-and-process/ 17th Dec 2015

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#Day100  – Celebration, my voice, and  becoming a reflective practitioner 

Day 100 of Writing – I decided to celebrate with a video. Today a light bulb was switched on, I love days like this helps me love my job, love my research and lets me fall in love with learning all over again 🙂

In short I have just realised that my perspective of reflective thinking, writing and practice have changed since my Masters. Eureka.   I have developed a ‘voice’ (somewhat!) so video seemed the most suitable way to demonstrate this.

This video is 11mins in length, so it’s kinda long, but if you can endure my reflection on my own learning, please listen in.

Ciao for now


Reference: Smith, E. (2011) Teaching critical reflection. Teaching in higher education.211-223, Vol 16, 2

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#Day65 Exploring identity – the importance of social interaction

I presented my research at the #DRHA conference in September and this was a point of realisation about my findings. From the data analysis I found it interesting that while all the participants claim to use Twitter as a tool for professional development, not all participants are engaged and interacting discursively within the social network of Twitter.
In describing this finding, I had portrayed participants as novices, as lurkers, competent and expert users of the social network. However these terms were not describing the situation or the actions of the participants accurately.

The penny dropped when in preparation for the #DRHA conference, I returned to the literature on professionalism and on identity. I realised that a better explanation of  participants’ use of twitter was related to identity. I started to reflect on the data and how the participants perceived themselves as part of the social network that Twitter provides.

Anyway to summarise my current understanding of identity I believe that identities are multi-layered, Our identity within the home, in leisure pursuits can differ mildly or greatly from the identity that we have in a professional context.

Focusing on the workplace or our professional contexts, other professionals see us through the behaviors and the actions that we exhibit. We also shape our identities by interacting with other professionals in our professional arena, through others we shape and change who we are. We become the professional, we identify our roles with certain tasks, values, knowledge and skills.Identity formation is a continuous evolution; it is a growth process and a reflective learning process.

While in many cases interactions with others can be a pleasantly stimulating experience, occasionally we can find ourselves deeply challenged by interactions with others. Tensions can arise among professionals and between professionals and the organisations within which they work. This tension can be a cause of external demands placed on the individual; and these demands might not align with the values of the professional. In some cases this can cause the professional to reflect and examine the cause of the tensions and to reexamine their internal value systems compared with the values of the organization .

These tensions or incidents instigated by professional or life challenges can instigate transitions and in some cases can trigger major metamorphosis, such as what Jack Mezirow proposes in his theory of transformational learning. Through critical incidents in social situations such as workplace or society at large we redefine ourselves and create our identities.

But when we think about identities in the online space, things are ultimately more complex. How can we start the process of negotiating our identities when we can’t easily see or connect with a person or community? How do we find the best communities in the online space that will help us professionally?

Eraut (2008) considers that professional development in the workplace happens informally and socially with other professionals. He established 3 factors needed for informal professional learning in the workplace, these are: challenge, support and confidence. Eraut’s research focused on a traditional workplace within which workers met one another in the physical space and exchanged information and discussion in a face-to-face way.

I think that these 3 factors are also important to consider in the online space. Professionals often feel challenged by situations and by incidents in a workplace.  Online communities are a means to discuss professional issues and come to solutions through discussions ti others. But in order to have a challenge addressed by the online community it is vital that we feel supported in a community. To feel supported we need to know and trust other members of a community, we need to participate and feel part of a community. In the online space it is more difficult to become part of the community without the scaffolds of support, the onus is on the person to reach out and ask for support, and this takes confidence. For professionals at the early stage of their careers confidence might not be that well developed, and often early career professionals have established a social support structure around them to help them participate.

Finally Eraut’s factors are linked to identity, a lack of challenge, support and confidence contribute to a lack of professional engagement within online communities, thus the professional does not engage in online discussion and in turn this inhibits the development of their online professional identity.

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#Day51 – Getting to know myself better

Well I am just over half way in the 100 days of writing, still trying to forge ahead, even though I have been  feeling very off-form over the past 10 days.

So here is what I have been doing, thinking and writing about over the past 2 weeks:

After reading They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing I returned to my literature review and started to use  templates resommended by this book to reshape aspects of writing, trying to bring more argument and voice into my writing (I love this book for that reason!)

Also I’ve been visiting and listening into the MOOC How to Survive Your PhD discussing the topics of confidence, frustration and loneliness. The most interesting thing for me has been the discussion about supervision and relationships with supervisors. I have supervised Masters students over the past 5 years and from my experience I think that while it is important to provide dialogue and questions to a student to ensure a rigorous research approach, it is equally, if not more, important to establish positive relationships with students, establishing trust is very important. As a supervisor I am interested in getting to know the students from a professional point of view but also I believe that is important to listen and hear what is going on for students in their lives as from my experience this has an impact on their studies and research.

Furthermore I value interpersonal relationships and getting to know others and acknowledging how they see and understand the world. The ‘How to Survive Your PhD’ MOOC really highlighted that as a student I do not have this type of relationship with my supervisors, but I acknowledge a number of reasons for this: I am a student working at a distance, we don’t share common research interests, possibly different outlooks on what a supervisory relationship is, power relationships and undoubtedly other reasons…

However the process of doing this EdD has helped become more aware of what I need as a learner and as an apprentice researcher.

If I was to embark all over again I would have that conversation at the beginning to manage expectations better, although I acknowledge I don’t think I would have been able to set out my expectations at the beginning, because I have only identified my needs through the experience of being a research student.

As a supervisor myself into the future I will make to sure to outline expectations that I have with as a supervisor and encourage open conversation in as much as possible with students.

Finally while ‘The How to Survive Your PhD’ MOOC emphasizes the emotional rollercoaster of the Doctoral journey I think challenges will always be present despite models of supervision.

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#Day35 Break On Through To The Other Side

Since I got draft 1 feedback I have been trying to dive into parts of the dissertation and make improvements. I want I enhance ‘my voice’ within the thesis, and while I can chat with others about what I think about informal learning, about social networking as part of learning, I’ve been finding it hard to transform thinking into meaningful words on the screen.

So to solve my problem I turned to ‘They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing’.

What I like most about the introduction of this book is that I feel the authors already know me! They recognise where I am coming from and agree with me on the issue of finding Voice, many students have this problem. This book feels like a someone holding out their hand to me, and reassuring me that I am cognitively able, I just need a bit of compassionate support in my critical writing.

I find writing hard work. And I am not alone. Kathy Charmaz, the renowned grounded theory researcher and author of multiple books is very open about how she finds the process of writing difficult. Rowena Murray and Lynn Nygaard also mention that writing is not innate to us, but it can be learned and practice helps this learning process. So here I am blogging, helping my writing practice. Rowena and Lynn both mention other reasons that writing can be a challenge. My biggest barrier to my writing practice is my own internal critic – the critic that says constantly that I am not good enough, the critic that says that I am not part of the community, and who am I to think I can join in?

For the moment I have chosen to not listen to this voice, and just write…. write on this blog some days, and write directly on my thesis on other days.

So this morning I had breakfast with ‘They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing’. I felt I had the 2 authors in the room, empathizing with me as a student, trying to read vastly, coming to know myself as a professional in my area of research, coming to know what I value and believe in and how these values and beliefs fit with current literature.

I feel I need to make a huge jump so that I can better represent my position as a researcher and Graff & Birkenstein provide a bridge to that gap. This bridge is in the form of templates. Sentences that can help critically argue the case for my research. Graff & Birkenstein describe research as part of an ongoing conversation and it is the researchers job to state what others say, and then state my own opinions on these statements. This model is helping  to scaffold my voice and research and is helping me get over the daunting feeling of putting my words out there.

It is claimed that templates curb creativity but in this book the authors maintain templates support creativity and my thinking on it is that these templates can help me with the threshold concepts of writing. The templates can help me to express my informed thinking, leapfrogging me across the threshold into the research community.

But I have another fear  – that I don’t know enough and that I keep forgetting what I have read and who said what…… Graff & Birkesntien come to the rescue on this as well stating that “Good arguments are based not on knowledge that only a special class of experts has access to, but on everyday habits of mind”.

Also I feel hugely vulnerable in saying that I disagree with other author’s findings, and the authors reassure that this is the natural course of the apprentice researcher/writer. On reflection I feel that if I was firmly established in myself, in my values, beliefs about learning; if I understood and accepted my own epistemology then it I could be more secure and in moments of disagreement with others. This is part of my own professional development and identity development.

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#Day29 Falling in love again

Part of the Doctoral process is to turn the person into a skeptical, grumpy AKA critically conscious aware human being. It’s also associated with walking in The Valley of S**t phase, where a student loses interest and confidence in the topic

In the last 2 years I have become acutely aware of my use of social media to the point that I wanted to completely disband social media tools. I had lost deep interest in my topic.

Originally I had thought that learning activities occurred on social media, but after data collection and initial analysis I entered into a phase (data informed!) of thinking that social media use is just a whole load of fakery, branding of ourselves as commodities in an increasingly commercialised educational environment, where we try and leverage the next gig/job via social media!

But after a thought provoking DRHA conference last week and a keynote given by Sue Beckingham on social media at DCU yesterday. My curiosity, confidence and engagement with my research topic (Twitter for professional learning) is back.

My research explores how higher educational professionals use Twitter for professional learning. My participants describe Twitter as useful to their learning, but they make use of Twitter in different ways; some ‘listen’ while others are more engaged as ‘contributors and collaborators’. While all participants ‘listen’ to the Twitterstream certain factors enabled or disabled these tweeters from contributing publicly on the Twittersphere. I refer to some of these factors as the 3 C’s: confidence, courage and caution. These factors indicate the feelings that tweeters of this study have about their professional voice on a public Internet tool such as Twitter.

Keeping  ‘voice’ in mind, I am returning to the literature on ‘identity’ and I want to see if I can make sense of those who have a voice and contribute on Twitter, and how that compares to their professional identities. Some of the participants seem to have established/mature professional identities, whereas others have not yet found their voice, or perhaps found how they belong to professional communities, which could indicate that their professional identities are less mature.

At DRHA I loved Steve’s Dixons keynote referring to ‘cybernetic existentialism’. By using technology how we are prompted to think about ourselves, our place in the world, our place in the digital world? Colloquially it is said that ‘our tools create us’, so by finding a voice online on social media, can we begin to know ourselves in a better way, can we become better professionals?

Does social media enable expression, dialogue between professionals? Can this in turn enable reflection on the self, leading to enhanced professional voices and identities?

These questions are sparking my curiosity and I have fallen a little bit in love once again with my topic and the potential of technology 🙂

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#Day24 Experiencing the tingle in threshold crossing – DRHA conference

cybernet ser

This was one of the slides presented by Steve Dixon, which expressed how I felt at the DRHA 2015 conference this week at DCU, fascinated and in awe but completely out of my depth.

The conference was at the threshold of different worlds, a meeting of tomorrow’s world intermingled with art, drama, explosions of creativity mixed with scientific purpose. Check out Tweets from the conference.

I felt uneasy in my seat, I wondered what these people were talking about from worlds of education, art, technology and drama. I felt myself panicked trying to analyze and understand the avalanche of new terminology and meaning ‘cybernetic existentialism, post humanism, vibro-tactile devices’!

But all I could do was surrender to being in that space, listening and trying to relate information back to my own experiences as a learner, as n educator as a technology user.

Many presentations were fascinating and here are some examples:

Vibro-tactile feedback devices for performing arts, sensory feedback was given to actors through vibrations. It seemed like a great devices for actors with other potential applications to people who are visually impaired.

Eyetracking software for identifying reader connection to poetry
These researchers used eye-tracking software to generate heatmaps of types of poetry. The heat map of a Shakespearean sonnet was produced from a comparison of 20 readers of the poem. The hotspots showed where reader paused and reflected on meaning. However in contrast the postmodern poem showed no significant hotspots. The researchers concluded that the readers had disconnected from the postmodern poem and that postmodern poetry was not enabling reflection for the reader. The researchers felt that this could have further meaning. They questioned the accessibility of the themes of the postmodern poetry.
Perhaps a less knowledgeable/educated audience could not connect with postmodern less accessible themes. The Shakespearean sonnet may have more common themes, that more the majority of people understand
So in conclusion with postmodern poetry people disconnect, rather than connect with it.

Deirdre Gribbin’s Keynote was emotionally powerful, an account of her musical compositions influenced by politics, social world and culture. She spoke about research into music in collaboration with medicine to calm anxiety problems, and her research with geneticists. But what was most powerful for me was her story about incorporating lambeg drums from the Protestant marching band tradition into her compositions, how this came aboaut, what it meant to the drummers and that tradition involved. Gribbin made the point that music communicates more than words and that it unlocks and embraces paths for process. I felt that by acknowledging the culture of drumming in northern Ireland she had given people a voice and those people felt acknowledged and felt understood, a powerfully healing experience for a community.

Nora Murphy posed questions about the openness and participation on the Internet. She described a romantic relationship with the Internet, where anything is possible, that we all have a creative voice. But she asked if this really is the democratic world we think it is? She urged the audience to think if openness was really available on technology that was owned privately. We think that the Internet is a playground when it is really a factory. She claimed that we are all working for Facebook, our labour creates big data, which in turns feeds economic goals of privately owned commercial internet. Democratization is an ideal rather than a reality.

We were invited to critically think about our participation on the web, do we genuinely possess an authentic voice online, and can we have an authentic voice without causing implications for others. I was inspired by Nora’s words as they relate to my research on social networking and Twitter and how we use these tools. We need an awareness of current state of our networked technologies and not to be so blind to their usage

I think that this conference has been the most significant conference for me this year. It stimulated my thinking, kicked me out of my comfort zone, enabled me to see technology from other perspectives.

It was a challenging experience not being at ease in the usual habitat of teaching and learning. But to present on my research and get thoughtful questions and ideas from others at a different conference was a great learning opportunity. It got me thinking about bigger implications of using suppose public tools such as Twitter.

I have summarized some of the keynotes and presentations that I found interesting but overall I progressed my own understating of the potentials of technology; that technology can extend and contribute social relationships with others.

Importantly technology can be involved in a reflective process with the self, increasing our own self-awareness, helping us understand who we are in the world. Use of technologies (in mindful ways) forces us to understand who we are in the world, understand our identities as human beings in the online social world. I can take this expansion on my thinking and bring this into my EdD research and also my own practice as a professional where I advocate technology for learning.

I am left with the thoughts that ultimately technology can be an enabler for human and social progress.

This was a mind blowing, emotionally explosive and creatively challenging conference – if you like the sound of this conference  I would advise you to participate in the Bristol conference next year.

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