Student Learning/Mentoring and Teaching Development are the main themes of a series of professional development workshops and special programmes at Lingnan running throughout this semester for teaching staff. The themes coincide with the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC)’s new Strategic Plan 2012-2015.
Director of Teaching and Learning, Prof James Pounder, said: “Our workshops reflect two core aspects of the TLC Strategic Plan, namely a) to foster a culture of self-reflection among teaching faculty aimed at enhancing learning and teaching (Objective 2); and b) to define and promote a liberal arts culture and place teaching and learning developmental activities within that culture (Objective 3)”.
“In this context, this semester’s workshops have covered a range of topics under the ‘enhancing learning and teaching’ theme. Our presenters have been a diverse group, including Lingnan’s TLC staff, faculty presenting teaching initiatives via their Teaching Development Grants and speakers from outside the University and overseas. The workshops are viewed as relevant to the development of the University and directly related to the needs of teaching staff and students at Lingnan. They have focused on such issues as peer observation of teaching, a new in-house Learning and Teaching Development programme, and self-assessment of teaching practices (Dr John Robert Brown, Senior School Inspector for the government of Dubai); and the development of standards and rubrics (Prof Douglas Eder, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville).”
The latest workshop on 26 April featured Prof Rick Glofcheski, who is currently based at the Faculty of Law of The University of Hong Kong (HKU). Amongst various issues related to teaching excellence, he paid particular attention to the importance of assessment for learning. Prof Glofcheski was selected for the HKU Outstanding Teaching Award (2008), the HKU Distinguished Teaching Award (2009) and the inaugural Hong Kong-wide University Grants Committee Teaching Award in 2011, in recognition of outstanding teaching and his leadership and contributions to the advancement of teaching and learning. “This was an extremely useful workshop because we intend to enhance the reputation of Lingnan University locally and internationally in terms of the quality of student instruction it offers,” said Prof Pounder.
Prof Glofcheski’s workshop was the first in the “Teaching Excellence Demystified Seminar + Chat Series” and his words were most illuminating. “Back then, I had the top Teaching Feedback scores of the Faculty; I was very pleased with my teaching and I enjoyed writing mini case studies to assess my students. I have an entire book of those. And then I received a Teaching Development Grant to survey my Tort Law course students to gauge how well they were learning. I was ‘gobsmacked’ to realise that whatever I was doing was wrong. Instead of fostering deep learning, I was actually promoting rote-learning,” he said.
“I decided to re-design my course and include newspaper articles as authentic material in my tutorials. Tort Law cases are in abundance in Hong Kong newspapers and students now collect, analyse and discuss them and together we brainstorm in class how a Tort lawyer would actually deal with the complex cases” he said.
“Teaching is really a reflective but creative exercise and the most important component in my view is student learning. How do students use feedback to improve? How to promote feedback? These are central questions in my journey. I always try new things. Do I know in advance if they will work? No I don’t. But one of the key things is to include students in the development of the course as well as in its assessment. Before I try something I ask them,” he said.
Prof Glofcheski launched for instance a Reflective Media Diary, an Instant Feedback mechanism as well as a photo-taking formative assignment. He asked his students to photograph and analyse potential tort law cases in the streets of Hong Kong. “My law colleagues were absolutely shocked at first that I asked students to take pictures. My students loved it and came up with very impressive and thorough analyses. Some of my students told me that I had ruined their lives because they can no longer read a newspaper article without analysing it as a potential court case!” he said.
The TLC is now planning new workshops for the next semester, as well as working on other areas of staff /student development and various policies related to learning and teaching at the University.