Friday, January 25, 2013

Teaching and Learning in Further Education

Today I attended a short Conference at NCI on teaching and learning in the FE sector in Ireland. It is not a sctor that I am very familiar with, so I was keen to learn more about the sector and meet some of the teachers and practitioners that are the educators in this space.

Image source: The Hindu.
The first presentation was by our own Dr Leo Casey who got us thinking about learning as participation. He also decided to to talk to us about theories of learning, but instead of boring us to death with a re-telling of the established theories he spoke about the fact that "we all have theories of learning", and gave his his own take as a "lifelong stance" where we learn to remember, think, act, and participate. He also gave us an interesting thought about how "Alienation" and "Participation" actually feels, and how prior knowledge can help and/or hinder education. He finished up with discussing Communities of Practice, with a desire to set up a CoP for the FE sector.

The next speaker was Rory O'Sullivan from Killester College of Further Education who was both entertaining and informative. He gave us a great insight, backed up with s loads of statistics, about how the sector is structured and provided a fascinating look at the breakdown of student profile. He also spoke of the "language of unemployment" and how it must feel for the unemployed going "back to school". Rory was followed by Dr Arlene Egan who got us thinking about "Thinking", and who asked the question "How much space is available for thought to happen". Key to her discussion on participation was "mastery" and "autonomy" over a subject. Arlene is also an excellent speaker who did not use any notes or PowerPoint slides throughout. She also gave us a good tip at the end where she suggested we never say "but", say "and" instead.

The final presentation was a series of four short sessions on "Innovative Approaches" to T&L, in which I participated myself. First up was Tina Reddin who gave us some great ideas for using augmented reality (AR) in education. Frances Sheridan summarized a great initiative that she is involved in at NCI with first year students, and getting them to cope and participate more in their transition to third level education. I spoke about YouTube, and the session was brought to an end by Susan Duggan who told us about Service Learning, and in particular emphasized that we should look for evidence of "Reflective Learning" in student feedback.

Overall a very enjoyable half-day.

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