Games club

At a local games club, I found myself introducing new players to Dungeons and Dragons. Something I have done many times before. After the session, though, I found myself reflecting on the experience as teaching adult learners. What was motivating them to engage with the complexities of the game? Where were the barriers to their learning and what helped enable it? How did their experience reflect theory? It was arguably situated learning, as they were new to this kind of game, undergoing the peripheral experience and became part of a community of practice and shared experience. There was an element of Connectivism in a player whose knowledge of D&D came from memes she had seen online – those prompted her choice of role, and her in-game learning experience made connections between the half-understood jokes and the game they were based on.

The phenomenon I have seen and try to encourage in teaching people new to a subject of learners interacting and supporting each other was certainly something that occured with these player-learners as they cohered into a group, learned how to play, saved the day and had fun.


Third module

I submitted the third module of the PGCPHE on December. On my birthday, as it happens. I received my mark and feedback a couple of months later. I had done well, despite feeling at the time that I was closer up against the deadline than I would have liked. my best mark so far. Why was that? In part, I think I am seeing how to put a portfolio together so that it has a coherent structure and isn’t just a set of disparate documents all saved as one pdf. There was a certain narrative there, and the evidence from the different elements supported each other and the portfolio as a whole.

Also, this module revisited the theory I had encountered in the foundation module but asked me to evaluate it critically and use it in my reflection. Which I found interesting – in many ways, I was reflecting on my own learning process in this teaching programme as much as I was on my learners’.

The theme of technology suited me as a teaching librarian – learning technology i something which informs a huge part of what I do, and evaluating user experience of it is something we do constantly as librarians.

Finally, the theme –  student learning and support – is easy to relate to HE libraries. It permeates our role, and transcends disciplines. As one of my team said the other day as we were discussing adjustments and the additional effort we needed to make to help a student having difficulties engaging with technology: “we support people; it’s what we  do”. That simple, sincere comment was a reminder to me of why I have chosen this career.

A teachable moment about teaching within a game

“You useless dogs! It’s simple! Simple! You’re useless, all of you!”
Saer turned his back on the bewildered Zelvorian volunteers he had been trying to train and stomped off angrily.
Ph’woar saw what had happened, asked his own class to keep up the swordplay exercises they’d been doing, and casually wandered over to his crewmate.
“Having trouble teaching them?”
Saer scoffed. “They know nothing!”
The Deltan thought, remembered his own training in his youth by the finest swordmasters his parents could afford, then asked: “did you always know what you do know about fighting? Do you remember what it was like to be like them?”
Saer would not have taken even this constructive criticism from many, but for all his foppish ways he respected Ph’woar for his ability to handle a blade.
He watched the Deltan as he worked with his class of novice warriors for a while. Saw how he used their eagerness to learn to fight, how he had them work together, how he explained and built each step in their training on what had gone before. Then he sat and thought how he himself had gone from an eager stripling to the seasoned warrior he was now. He reflected on how his knowledge and skill had been constructed out of his experiences, and how he had learned from others in his time. Thought about how he could help these Zelvorians do the same.
He got up. Stomped back to his rookie soldiers.
“Right, you lot! Who wants to put a bullet in a slaver? All of you? Great! And how do you think we are going to get ourselves ready to do that? First, we get comfortable handling weapons! Form up…”
The above is from my write-up of a scene in a science-fiction RPG I play in. I found it fascinating. “Saer” (or rather, his player) had failed a die roll to train some rookies. “Ph-woar” was played by a senior academic, a SFHEA, and his intervention was both in and out of character – I don’t think he could see a failed teaching without wishing to support his (fictional) colleague. I, being on my path to PGCPHE and FHEA, found myself relating the fictional scenario which had arisen to my reading and understanding of andragogical theory.

Teaching games

I met an old friend yesterday, and we played a few board games. The discussion turned, as it often does, to teaching. We have both become aware of a shift in how we teach games – from explaining mechanics to explaining concepts, engaging new players, and also how with more in-depth games we employ audio-visual resources like play-through videos, and work with players’ motivation to engage with the learning process in order to enjoy the game. But many of the games we play, we play for fun with less hardcore players. And we have noticed changes in our thinking about these. A move from “is it easy to play?” to “is it easy to learn?”, then “is it quick to teach?”. Then “is it easy to engage interest while teaching?”, which has now become “how do I engage interest while teaching?”

Second module

The second module of my PGCPHE to be completed was on quality assurance and enhancement, feedback and assessment. This proved the most challenging so far for me. Simply because as librarians we often teach outside the departmental frameworks around QA and QE, and especially lack input into module design and assessment.

I learned a lot from it, particularly in becoming more aware of the demands placed on full-time teaching staff and the work required to develop models of assessment. The portfolio required me to take part in peer observation as an observer. Watching a colleague in the health school work with a class I saw and understood more of how my own teaching followed or diverged from hers. One of the takeaways was that I do not have the luxury of forming an ongoing relationship with a cohort of students.  Each group might have only one session with a librarian teacher.

Thinking about the above, I have wondered how this impacts on teaching. We are dropped in as specialists, often outside the framework of the curriculum. We are not always embedded in the teaching team, either for delivery of teaching or for course development. Should we be? Is this something we should advocate for more strongly? This is an area I would like to explore in my final module research project.

“Somewhere in between”

The above being the title of a book chapter that my former colleague, learning technologist Chris Rowell, invited me to contribute to his work on social media in higher education. The submission and editing process has taken some time, but the finished book is looking to come out later this year.

I was happy to contribute. Part of the project involved an interview, discussing my chapter and my own relationship with social media. both writing the chapter and discussing it for the interview helped me think how it has formed a part of my development as a librarian and as a part of the community of higher education practitioners. I chose the title (from a Kate Bush song) for how social media positions itself in the spaces between personal and professional, and even between the physical and online world. How it can help us make connections with our peers and colleagues across disciplines and HE specialisations, start a virtual discussion and response to events, build a community of practice. Social media, Twitter in particular, has certainly helped me in my professional development.

First module

I received an email this morning saying that I have, subject to confirmation of marks by exam board, passed my foundation – the first of four modules of my PGCPHE.

Good news, but also a good time for reflection.

I have learned a lot already on the course. The theory of pedagogy and andragogy was new to me, and has given me grounds to think a lot about how people teach and learn within different contexts – my students, and myself. I have also learned a great deal from self- and peer observation. More, if I am honest, than I expected. I have come to think about how I teach, and how learners interact with me and with each other. I have already made some changes to my classes, and am developing further in this area.

My peer observation, from a former colleague, was an eye-opener. It made me realise how I have been hiding behind my “librarian” identity, and not thinking – or always acting – like a teacher. Addressing classroom talkers, and how to tactfully and effectively do so. Not being afraid to use my own experiences to relate to the teaching, to let my personality emerge in my teaching (“put a bit more of you in the room”).

Feedback, too – this was more than an empty exercise when you feel you have the agency to change how you teach in response to your learners’ responses.

As a piece of study, I found it harder than I would have liked. Portfolio assessment was new to me, and I was unsure how effectively I was evidencing the learning outcomes asked for. It was an interesting process though, as I read and reflected and wrote, records playing as late winter snow fell outside.

Now I am ready to engage with the next module. Which is on assessment, something we as librarians tend to be less involved with.