IUT conference

The last few days have been spent attending the IUT conference (Improving University Teaching). Yes university teachers do care about good teaching! I went as a Doctorate in Education student and because it was nearby at the University of Otago. There were some interesting sessions on offer, and it was a different conference to the ones I normally go to - not eLearning but education.

The highlights were hearing Tom Angelo (University of Victoria) speak again and seeing him in action using interactive methods in a big lecture theatre. The man is magic...and he gets the audience to think and do!

Kathleen Weigert, Georgetown University USA was intriguing when speaking about justice. She asked us to define justice and then talked about three kinds of justice - commutative (fairness in exchange), distributive (allocation and how things are shared), social (contributive - contribute to common good and remove barriers e.g. education).

My definition was: "Doing the right thing to serve the needs of people". She mentioned the importance of policies in institutions matching their practices, and whether the mission statements in our organisations had included statements about justice. I was interested in the Community-Based Learning programme she teaches in where students undertake community-based work to complement their academic learning. For example, students taking courses about homelessness actually work in the community with people experiencing homelessness.

Another speaker, Bland Tomkinson, spoke about the integration of interdisciplinary topics, sustainable development and global citizenship. Although he wasn't a particularly receptive speaker when I approached him afterwards, and and there wasn't any discussion about his topic, he had some good ideas. I will have to read his conference paper.

The first workshop on Teaching Philosophy (Elaine Laflamme) was partially useful in that it made me think about to which category of teacher I belong - my result from the inventory is that I am a humanist, progressive teacher.

I also found Robert Aitken's presentation about using audio journaling techniques with students very relevant - he believes that people think while they talk so the audio recordings demonstrate more thinking about the process whereas written journals tend to be censored and the actual process is rarely documented. The session I was particularly interested on metacognition was presented by someone who didn't know the subject very well, a co-author, so I will have to read the paper.

It was also good to meet up with friends and colleagues from my past biology life, and find out about Rob Wass and his research topic of looking at the Zone of current development (ZCD) and how it moves to the zone of proximal development (ZPD) during study in Zoology.

The podcasting and vodcasting workshop was okay, particularly because I was able to promote Leigh's courses. A little bit was covered on good practice so this was good. A bit gobsmacked to talk to someone who was planning to record biology lectures and put them up on Blackboard. Good for review I suppose. but the idea of taking them down if people stop coming to lectures is ludicrous. surely the measure would be if students liked them and actually learned better.

And the worst presentation by far had to be Gerrie Jacobs and his Powerpoint Karaoke. some good messages about integrity and credibility but too many flashy bits and not enough substance. good lessons for what not to do to an audience.

There were some very good posters - eportfolio at Massey university in an engineering programme, Rob's research study about Learning in the Zone and another one about pharmacy and experiential learning in the curriculum. I also got a couple of free books - one on Curriculum transformation and disability: Implementing universal design in HE and effective tutorial teaching. The former book also had a poster about their work. Oh yes the workshop where L Meyer used a questioning instrument to stimulate self-questioning was very useful. Qs such as how, why etc matched with other words which could be attached to a statement about a topic to get a class to generate their own questions to go away and research and think about. we had to throw a dice and choose the words which matched each number. The game aspect instilled a bit of fun, and the class shared the questions they came up with.

The next step is to look at some of the conference papers, especially the sessions I missed because of the flexible delivery operations committee inaugural meeting - papers on transformative learning - a subject close to my heart.