Who Shares Wins: 5 Good Reasons to Take to the T&L Stage

By Clare Gormley

As the so-called “quiet time” of the academic year draws to a close, and the chilly winds of autumn snap at inappropriately sandal-clad feet, thoughts turn to the upcoming semester.

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A big gig for our Teaching Enhancement Unit in September is the Dublin City University Teaching & Learning (T&L) Day, an annual conference where up to 100 staff members converge to seek inspiration about effective teaching and assessment practice. Like similar events at many institutions this provides a valuable forum for staff to share their experiences and knowledge about teaching. So if you’ve been thinking about responding to a call but are still somewhat ‘undecided’, here are five reminders about the sometimes forgotten benefits of sharing that might spur you on to proceed:

1. The “This worked, it really worked” Effect

There is something incredibly refreshing (dare I say it heartwarming?) about paying forward good ideas, particularly if they solve problems that you know many of your colleagues also struggle with. Who has not lamented a disappointing lack of class discussion or frustrating attitudes to group work, for example? What works for you is often good for your colleagues and we’ve seen several examples of this at gatherings over the years. Sometimes these suggestions involve technology e.g.  highly usable peer review tools or effective uses of audio feedback. But sometimes they don’t require any tech at all: simple but powerful ideas such as getting students to stand more closely in groups (rather than in circles) was one proven technique for supporting active class participation that went down a storm last year. Hearing a colleague from your institution talk about what worked for them is one of the most persuasive forms of professional learning there is.

2. The “It seemed like a good idea at the time” Lesson

Ah yes, the innovation that didn’t quite go according to plan. It takes real bravery to admit professionally that the inspired plan to enhance student engagement did not succeed as one might have hoped. True, you might have learned from the class, the assessments, and the subsequent student evaluations that something was amiss. But as well as reflecting on it yourself, have you ever experienced the cathartic effect that sharing the experience with colleagues can have? Instead of the misplaced tendency to think it was entirely your fault (an impression that student evaluations can all-too-easily promote), your colleagues could help to put it into perspective and give you constructive feedback that might encourage you to make adjustments, reconsider your audience, and perhaps try again. So when it feels right for you, share those stories of experimentation and even failure, please, we can all learn from them.

3. The “I’m really not doing so bad at all” Insights

Closely related to 2 is the idea that oftentimes we can be our own harshest critics. It is also possible, however, to experience a moment of quiet triumph when you realise you are actually more experienced/creative/technologically-adept than you had given yourself credit for. One way to achieve this is to share your work with colleagues and let them know what you are doing  in the classroom and/or lecture hall. Quite often the feedback and questions you will hear after you’ve presented will highlight that not everyone is doing what you’re doing and your unique insights are of real value to fellow professionals.

4. The “I have to get this on paper” Opportunity

Have there ever been times when you’ve missed and regretted a promising opportunity because you have not yet written your ideas up? The blank page fills many of us with dread so any chance to describe your teaching approaches and position them within the literature could also prove very useful elsewhere. Getting an abstract or proposal in for an event at your local institution could be the vital first step towards initiating a collaborative research project, a publication opportunity or a response to a funding call. Carpe Diem, get started, and you are very unlikely to regret the time spent.

5. The “Who are all these people?!” Moment

Your local T&L event offers an opportunity to meet and get to know your teaching colleagues better. There seem to be relatively few chances to do this in higher education, which is one of the reasons why The Sipping Point was set up at DCU. Sometimes informal learning happens over coffee or lunch conversations on the day. It can also come about through follow-up emails and approaches by colleagues afterwards. Whatever way it occurs, the sense of community and solidarity that emerges from a common understanding of challenges (and indeed solutions) can foster connections that stretch well beyond the day itself. On that note, put your best foot forward and get your thinking from your head to the page at the next possible opportunity.

If this post has whetted your appetite to either share your practice or attend the event itself, make sure you sign up for DCU T&L day today: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/dcu-teaching-learning-day-2018-tickets-49086468950

This post was originally published by Clare on her personal blog.

Does History Matter in the Digitally Connected World of the 21st Century?

By Orna Farrell

The short answer to the above question is yes! History still matters. This message is evident in President Michael D. Higgins speech earlier in the month where he voiced his concerns about the downgrading of history to an optional subject at secondary school in Ireland. The President stated that history is:

 “Intrinsic to our shared citizenship, to be without such knowledge is to be permanently burdened with a lack of perspective, empathy and wisdom”

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Studying history enables people to think and write critically, be aware of source quality and effectively interpret information. These are highly desirable skills according to the GradIreland 2015 survey of Irish employers, amongst the skills they highly prize are communication, analysis, working independently and the application of knowledge. In fact, the Irish National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 describes critical thinking as one of the key characteristics of future graduates. This clear statement poses the question why are we downgrading school history in Ireland?

0-1.jpegIs History Stuck in the Past?

The digital revolution has not bypassed history which has embraced the potential of digital technology to democratise access to primary sources. In fact, the impact of technology, in particular, the digitisation of artefacts and historical sources has influenced and changed how we learn about the past. Over the past 30-years millions of primary sources have been digitised by libraries and archives and made available online. From an Irish context, in the lead up to the commemoration of the 1916 Rising, there was a major drive to survey and digitise relevant archival material.

These digitisation projects share a common ideal to make Ireland’s cultural heritage widely available to everyone and to enrich the historical narrative. The Decade of Centenaries has contributed archival developments such as the digitisation of the Bureau of Military History Military Service Pensions Collection.

The History Lab

These digitisation projects share a common ideal to make Ireland’s cultural heritage widely available to everyone and to enrich the historical narrative. The Decade of Centenaries has contributed archival developments such as the digitisation of the Bureau of Military History Military Service Pensions Collection.

The History Lab

0.pngThe recent digitisation movement has created a wealth of rich content for historians and history students. However, the sheer scale of online materials, websites and questions about source quality make it a challenging research environment for students. In response to this challenge, a team led by Orna Farrell and Conor Curran from the BA Humanities offered through the DCU Connected platform at Dublin City University (DCU) designed an open education resource (OER) called The History Lab.

The aim of the History Lab is to support and foster university students’ digital historical skills, with a particular emphasis on online primary sources. The online resource is made up of four elements: an A-Z guide of historical online sources, video tutorials, add to the A-Z, and student voices on historical research videos.

New Online Study Options

You can learn more about history and the “History Lab” by studying for a BA in Humanities online with DCU Connected. In our degree programme(s) students can explore a wide breadth of Humanities subject areas such as Psychology, History, Sociology, English, and Philosophy, while also specialising in at least one of the subject areas you find most rewarding and professionally valuable in a flexible part-time undergraduate degree. This new resource means there are relatively few barriers to enhancing your careers prospects through the range of opportunities available with a BA.

To Recap

History is still very much relevant in the 21st century. As President Higgins made abundantly clear in this response to the demise of the subject at secondary school level, historical skills such as analysis and an awareness of source quality are becoming more valuable, particularly in this era of fake news.

If you want further information about our DCU Connected online courses and programmes, then please contact us.

This opinion piece was originally published by Orna on her personal Linkedin site.