Friday, July 30, 2010

Using Video to Relate Research to Service Teaching

Professor Les Kirkup (UTS) talked on "New Perspectives on Service Teaching" at the Australian National University in Canberra today. He related his work on how to make service teaching of physics to life sciences students. His work with video I found very useful, but the remainder of the presentation seemed to be stating the obvious: courses should be designed around to what the student is learning to do.

As an ALTC Fellow, Professor Kirkup observed what actually happened in the classroom, rather than just reading the course description. The aim was to see how service teaching courses could fit with the degree program the student was studying at UTS.

Labs were also identified as an issue. A framework was developed for creating a laboratory program. This first trialled experiments, had a review by independent experts, trial by demonstrators and finally try with students.

I had difficulty understanding how much of what Professor Kirkup was describing was an area for research, was new or novel. When I am asked to design a course I am required to start from the requirements of the discipline it is for, usually based on a formal document issued by the relevant professional body. I then have to look at typical tasks the professional carries out in practice and then design learning materials based on these. There then has to be assessment which demonstrates the link between the learning materials and the skills the professional is required to have. I find it hard to believe that course designers would not be required to do this in credible educational institutions. But perhaps if Professor Kirkup needs to explain the process in such detail it is not as common as I had assumed.

Professor Kirkup described a process of designing experiments relevant to the student's future work. This also seemed to me to be stating the obvious. The course designer would obviously work top-down, stating from what the professional is being trained to do and turning that into something suitable for a student at the level they at. If teaching aeronautical engineers, the experiments would then relate to aeronautics, if teaching medical students, the experiments would relate to medicine. To do anything else would seem to be a waste of resources and be unlikely to pass the course design review process.

One aspect of the presentation which was useful was the idea of inspiring undergraduates with research. teaching research nexus One idea is to use "personal response" by using professionally prepared interviews with researchers. A two step process was used, with an audio interview first. This was used to gauge the value of the interview and also train the researcher in how to give an interview. A five minute video interview was then conducted. To encourage researchers to participate, versions of the interviews are made public to promote the research. This sounds a good approach: audio is much cheaper and easier to make than video. The videos are not simply entertainment for the students, they are given assessable questions to answer based on the video.

One issue is that video is expensive to make (about $1,000 per minute). The solution to this might be to have the video funded by the university marketing department, but have the content designed to suit education.

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