My PhD study needs you…

Recruitment Flyer

Do you work in a Leicester school that caters to 11-16 year olds?

I am looking to work with school staff who engage with Secondary age learners, though the school itself may also cater to other age ranges (e.g. 4-19).

Do you work in a role that directly supports learning?

I am looking to work with senior leadership with a teaching role, teachers, classroom assistants, specialist provision and library staff.

Have you, at some point in your career, had an experience of professional learning that related to your use of technology?

Then please consider participating in my PhD research Рwhich aims to investigate how current professional development strategies impact on the development of staff digital literacy.

What is digital literacy?

“Digital Literacy refers to the skills, attitudes and knowledge required by educators to support learning in a digitally-rich world.

To be digitally literate, educators must be able to utilise technology to enhance and transform classroom practices, and to enrich their own professional development and identity. The digitally literate educator will be able to think critically about why, how and when technology supplements learning and teaching.”

(Hall et al 2014)



Beginning to teach in Higher Education

Last week I took a short course in Beginning to teach in Higher Education; an introductory course for PhD students who are interested in a career in teaching. Here are some of the things that I found interesting from the session:

Core Teaching Skills
We were asked to begin by considering what makes a good lecturer, based on our own experiences. It was interesting to see what qualities where common among everyone’s experiences, and which were more specific to individuals – this highlights the subjectivity of what makes a good teacher, and in that sense the importance of getting to know your learners and the kind of teacher who can help them to thrive.

This point was further developed through watching a Ted Talk from Benjamin Zander, a British composer. He has a very distinctive style of presenting, which involves a lot of humour and interaction with the audience (including physically touching them) and after watching the video below we had a discussion about everyone’s reactions to him. Interestingly, he seemed to have an effect similar to marmite – I’d love to hear what you think of his style.

Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

Micro Teach
At the beginning of the second day we each gave a 5 minute presentation on a chosen topic. We gave the presentations in small groups with each member taking a different role:

  • Presenter
  • Recorder – filming the presentation
  • Timer – keeping the presenter to 5 minutes
  • Observer 1 – giving feedback on the use of visual aids, language, structure and body language
  • Observer 2 – giving feedback on general strengths and weaknesses

Through recording the presentation, the presenter was also encouraged to self-review. The purpose of the exercise was to allow each member of the group to experience both presenting and assessing someone else’s presenting skills. I chose to give a short introduction to Augmented Reality:

AR presentation SS

As peculiar as it may sound, I have been looking for the opportunity to review my presenting skills for some time. I often feel as though When I present I speak very quickly and often worry that this effects how well my audience are able to follow my presentation. Being able to watch my presentation back and get constructive feedback from my peers was an incredibly useful task and really put my mind at ease about how I present.

I also found the opportunity to give others feedback helped me to think more clearly about the qualities of a successful presenter, and therefore what I could continue to work on to improve my own skills. For example, through feeding back to the other members of my group I was able to identify strengths in storytelling, use of slides and taking a lower tech approach.

Assessment and Feedback

“Assessment, rather than teaching, has a major influence on students’ learning.” Boyd and Falchikov, 2007

The final portion of the course focused on Assessment and Feedback and began with a slide showing the quote above. Having worked and researched in compulsory level education, I am all too aware of the issues around teaching to test and clearly this has had an effect on my overall opinion of assessment as this quote surprised me at first. It wasn’t until we began to discuss assessment in more detail and think about what constitutes effective assessment that I began to see just how true this quote this. The video below, from the University of Nottingham, has some useful pointers on what makes good assessment and feedback:

Chris Rust on Assessment

I particularly liked Rust’s murder mystery analogy (and not just because I have soft spot for Murder She Wrote). He argues that feedback should have

motive – students should have a reason to want to engage with it, to know that it will be beneficial to them.
means – feedback should be delivered in a way that is easily accessible to students, in a format and language that is clear.
opportunity – there should be an opportunity for students to make use of the feedback they receive in future assessments and work

Somewhere towards the end: beginning my PhD


Image shared under a Creative Commons license by Pete

On the 1st October, I finally began my PhD journey. Having worked on a very ambitious research project for the last two years, the change in pace has been quite a shock to my system and I have found that whilst only a week or so in I’m already feeling the need to be busy and get some routine back into my life. I could be described as something of an obsessive compulsive planner, so perhaps unsurprisingly, I spent the majority of my first week as a PhD student organising my time and workload for the future.

What I hadn’t expected to be thinking about quite so much, was the end of my PhD – I know what you’re thinking – there’s nothing wrong with being organised, but surely 3 years away is taking it a little far, even for you Lucy?!?

Well it would seem not, I have read about and been advised on the need to start thinking about what I want the end result of my thesis to look like – as I start chipping away at my block of marble today, what do I envisage the final sculpture to look like. This is a useful task, not only in the sense of guiding the methodological route that I might take, but also more practically, in helping to plan out my time and workload. If I know what general form my marble will take, I can start to build in checkpoints for when the component parts need to be completed.

Obviously, I have not decided in the space of one week what I will write my thesis on – for one thing, I’m not going into this with a hypothesis so the results of my research could take me anywhere – but I have been thinking a lot about some of the key things I want to achieve and I want to share them here.

1. I want to share, and perhaps justify, my belief that Digital Literacy is critical to supporting staff in their use of technologies for all teaching and learning purposes. That through a focus on developing confidence and a general attitude towards working effectively with technology in the classroom, we can build a foundation upon which more specific educational technology skills can be developed.

2. I want teachers to have an active role in my research, for them to work alongside me as co-researchers, rather than subjects. I do not want to underestimate their knowledge and expertise in this area.

3. I want to develop something which is of practical use – rather than theory alone. This may take the shape of a policy document, a training programme, etc.