Epic Blog Fail and Reflections on Bioscience Teaching

So, another epic blog fail…I blame being too busy, wine, Xmas, wine, family commitments, wine…ok, so it’s mainly (probably) wine’s fault! (Who is it, where do I find it and what can I do to stop it?!).

Actually, I have had a busy few months, jetting around the country (ok, so it was National Rail, not BA) attending training and conferences on this that and t’other, just generally being a busy librarian-bee! Add to this the heavy teaching load at work, and then lots of committee meetings and this adds up to me not being able to keep on top of reflecting on my experiences…

So, here are just a few musings on teaching on a subject that I have never covered before and is very different to how I teach now and in my last job…

Teaching on Bioscience isnt covered by our IL framework, and so the teaching methods are different. Also, there is different content to be delivered, owing to the module make up.

So I have been teaching content I have never taught before, which is very new to me as a teacher but obviously concepts I have encountered in my own research. The two sessions I have taught so far have been quite different: a one-hour session on journal critique and a one hour lecture on how to turn a presentation into an essay. The IA responsible for the subject put the material together; it was just up to me to deliver it with the proviso that I made it work for my own style and pace.

The first session, a one-hour session on journal critique (delivered twice), is something the level 5’s have to do for part of their assignment (500 words critiquing a particular journal). It’s very different to the information seeking skills I normally teach as it focuses on one particular journal article. I gave out three different types of journal (article, systematic review and review). They all covered the same content but with different methodologies and results (looking for inconsistencies). The session went well – I prepared a little and, although I was nervous to begin with, soon got into my stride.

The class were good for the main part, although one group had to keep having their attention bought back to the tasks in hand. However, they did the work and the evaluation at the end was positive. I believe they met the learning objectives set out at the beginning of the session.

The second session, how to turn your presentation into an essay included investigating authoritative material, mostly focusing on finding and using journal articles. There were activities included in the lecture, which is very different to anything I have done/encountered before, either in my work or as a student! They worked really well though and it was very interesting to deliver something that was so far removed from our traditional teaching. I feel I managed to acquit myself well – large lecture theatre, approximately 90 attendees who all congregated at the back (thank goodness for mikes!), no behaviour issues and they were very engaged. It was amazing how they all went immediately quiet when I began speaking, as I am used to having to quiet a noisy class of nurses/AHP’s who tend to be more active learners!

It was good also to show how this learning was relevant to the previous piece of work by making the students reflect on the research process for that assignment.

I always struggle with delivering material that I haven’t put together myself, so the second session went better than the first (in the first teaching activity). I learned how to pace myself as I ran over in the first session by 15 minutes; fortunately the students didn’t have anything afterwards and the room wasn’t booked! Also, I was more familiar with the material and had an idea of where the pinch-points for the students would be. I could then focus on those parts of the session that they struggled with, rather than worry about time.

With hindsight I think I needed to allow more prep time than I did. That said, it was an interesting session to deliver as it deviated away from the traditional lab sessions we run, with no work on the PC, no searching databases etc. With such a specific focus it was possible to talk through the content and relating it to students’ course work is always really good. I tried to reinforce this as often as possible.

I have some more sessions to teach for Bioscience in the near future. I think I will definitely prep more with not being familiar with the subject area. Also, there are things that I can take into my own teaching potentially (critical appraisal checklist? pointing out that conclusion can be positive or negative) to give more meaning to my sessions. After all, we show the students how to find the material; shouldn’t we also start them on the path to knowing what to actually do with it?Also, I will investigate whether any of my modules have this critical appraisal element in them and offer to do some support for that if necessary.

I really like the idea of embedding the learning in something they have already experienced as this is something I learned while doing my PGCE. This will definitely form part of my feedback in our teaching sessions as I can bring this experience of teaching something different into our team.