Course Development and Reflections on Course Work
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This is a reflective paper on the writing of the The Masters in Education (Med). It is a course designed to provide an opportunity for academic practitioners working in the Higher Education (HE) context to engage in continuing professional development in teaching and supporting learning in HE. Successful completion of the course also leads to professional recognition with the Higher Education Academy.
I will be focusing on the team-work challenges and strengths; the quality of the paper and the feedback received via online from the mock CDAR committee. The paper will reflect on my personal input as well as the dynamics of the group work and critical analysis of how Team Orange performed.
Designing a HE course is a challenging task for a group especially in view of a team that was obliged to meet on the exceptional circumstances of lockdown and social distancing. The Orange team decided to write a Level 7 course which is designed in three distinct, but interrelated, stages:
• At Certificate level, the academic practitioners explore and reflect on theirs and others experiences/practices and develop skills around learning, teaching, assessment and course-based design.
• At Diploma level, there are various pathways where practitioners can specialise, based on their interests in Higher Education.
• At Masters level, practitioners develop their research skills build their specialist knowledge and undertake a substantial research project.
The course is designed to enable HE practitioners to be better prepared and equipped for the ongoing changes and demands in the HE context. In particular, the recent Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) recognising the importance in excellence in learning and teaching and the need for CPD in teaching professionals. Coventry University has been awarded GOLD status in the TEF (the highest of the three status) in 2017, demonstrating our commitment and standards in teaching excellence. In addition, the University has a clear vision in our 2021 Corporate Strategy and the CU Education Strategy 2015-2021 to deliver a transformative learning experience for our students. This course provides a dedicated space for colleagues to develop, share and explore diverse and innovative learning and teaching practice both across and outside the Coventry University Group.
Team – work
Reflection is a complex process that involves a particular professional self-criticism which can be found as threatening (Ghaye & Ghaye, 1998), not because of the lack of personal and process knowledge (Taylor, 1997) but because of neglect of the importance of time management and commitment especially when there are outside influencing factors.
I was part of the Orange alongside two other colleagues from CUL. member of the team had specific tasks and a particular role within the group. Reflecting on my role and my task, I felt that, although I had the knowledge of writing a course and managed to get that across the group, we failed into delivering a quality material.
Time management was the most difficult aspect to meet as all members online and with time differences in between. The fact is that we haven’t managed to have a meeting where all of us were present. Looking back, we have had disputes with individuals not being able to attend meetings, although their reasons were fair. To reflect on this, it seems that there was a need for commitment from each team contributor as to be a key of change of the situation (Atkins & Lowe, 2011). Because of those misunderstandings, tasks were allocated and communicated via email. Reflecting on our group dynamics, we should have made more time for our task and made sure that the communication is effective among ourselves.
The course design was based initially as I declared in the meeting on the Lattuca and Spark (2009) academic plan and informed by the consideration of external, institutional and unit level influences. Firstly the external influence of government societal goal was on the equality and diversity aspects of our course. This was planned to meet part of the government commitment to target gaps in education towards achieving equal attainment and opportunities for all (OECD 2019) through giving access to disadvantaged learners with diversified backgrounds and under-represented groups (BIS 2015).
The consideration on designing the course was also informed by another external influence of market forces (Lattuca and Spark 2009) where graduates would need to meet the demands of future workforce, hencereducing graduate employment gaps as well as better management of diversity for the benefit of the organisation through more committed, better satisfied and better performing employees (Patrick and Kumar 2012).
Another influencing point in my view was on equality. However, in my opinion the course seemed to lack a social constructivist descriptor. In a sense, social and peer interaction are not clear from the proposed self-learning and one on one process in this course.
Another reflective thought is upon the Coventry University Group’s 2025 aim to provide equal access to the wide curriculum across the diversity of students. Therefore characterising the course so as to align with one of the CU’s sixth pillars of education strategy on ‘Multicultural and international Engagement within the education strategy (CU Education Strategy 2021) was essential. Another consideration central to our course design was on quality assurance informed by the institutional influences as Lattuca and Stark (2009) proposed in an academic plan. As emphasised by Forheringhamel al (2012), the institution agendas are fundamental for consideration in a course design and therefore the relevance of a courseis of interest to institutions. Based on this, it was essential to align the course to CU regulations on Quality Assurance processes. In this case, the learning and assessment instruments can be checked through the institution quality assurance process to verify if the curriculum design aligns with a list of competencies it is supposed to achieve in order to improve it. Additionally the quality assurance will also ensure constructive alignment of course module content, learning outcomes and assessment(Biggs 2003). We also considered feedback on our new course from internal and external stakeholders to inform course content for quality
We have had an initial meeting which helped us establishing the topic and the title. Apart of that, our communication was not effective. Nixon (2014), Johnson and Wigs (2011) mentioned that effective communication within the team is essential. Team members need to have open dialogue and have clear tasks (Wu and Xiao, 2011). Reflecting on my communication with my team, I realise that I was
Quality of course and CDAR Feedback
Schon (1983) specify that one of the most important characteristics for professional practice is to reflect at your work and, therefore to learn continuously. When applied to educational practice, reflection has the ability to improve the quality of our teaching and learning (Ghaye & Ghaye, 1998).
The course was designed to have specific learning outcomes that respond to challenges regarding accessibility, diversity, and inclusion equality in UK HE Sector. The (Orange team members) discussed on several occasions the appropriateness of adopting a blended learning approach for teaching and learning this course. There were no reservations regarding using technology in delivering the course online as self-learning or on one-to-one due to its connection with the Coventry Pillars for Learning. Changes in choosing the delivery strategy did not cause any significant impact upon deciding the learning outcomes for the practitioners (Gold, 2001), therefore we focused more on the pedagogical initiatives within the online learning environment during course development (Ladyshewisky, 2004).
Unfortunately the final draft of our paper was not as good as I personally would have liked. This was due to poor communication within the group due to the lockdown, social distancing and the stress associated to it. Some of the learning outcomes were repetitive and not necessarily focused on the social impact required. Another improvement that needed to be made is reviewing the LO’s as per some opinions, including mine. We should have offered more clear details regarding forms of assessment as we have decided to have two summative assessment per entire course and rest being assessments and feedback.
Because we have had different tasks, unfortunately we did not succeed in communicating well within ourselves on vital issues such as assessments and objectivities. Ellis (2012) specifies that delegation can provide significant time saving when accomplishing group task, however for us was not as beneficial as the final draft that has been submitted was not reviewed by all members of the team. This is an aspect that will have to be improved in the future and making sure that all members of the team have a final saying in accepting the final version of a paper.
Considering all of the above, the feedback received from the mock panel was fair, although the experience itself was highly stressful and frustrating.
Personally I felt that the panel was pointing out the negatives of the paper, without making useful comments and without focusing on the improvement of the paper. I felt that the situation was conflictual and I actually learnt very little in terms of improvements for the paper. Although we have mentioned and even outlined our weaknesses for the paper, the panel members kept focusing on the same weaknesses without any real questions. Because of this situation, all my team members decided to stay quiet and I felt that all questions were directed to me. Unfortunately, I was not always able to respond well and help my team due to me being confused by some questions asked by panel. That being said, it has been an interesting experience as it taught me how to defend my ideas and to stand up for my team.
In conclusion, to reflect upon my role within the team Orange, I believe there is a great deal of changes that need to be made in the future including time management, better and more effective communication and more resilience form all team members. Personally, I believe I should be more confident on my knowledge and make sure that my voice would be herd and taking into consideration. Considering the team dynamics and the academic literature provided for us on Future Learn, it can be argued that a new and very useful set of knowledge has been created. It has been a very interesting experience and I am very happy that I have been part of it.
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