Tuesday, September 9, 2008

e fest and an ethical dilemma

Here I am pecking away in a somewhat sumptuous room at Sky City hotel in Auckland – assured that the organisers of this year’s e fest have negotiated a great room rate. I sure hope so!
Anyway, I came to e fest to co-present with my TANZ colleagues Pamela Simpson and Keith Tyler Smith on the experiences of TANZ with collaboration in the ITP sector, and e learning collaborations in particular. My part was to talk about why TANZ has been so successful ( relatively speaking) with its collaborative activity, and where we saw things developing in the future. Pamela provided the background to the TANZ collaboration, and Keith outlined our current project which is a pilot in co-delivery of the NZ Dip Bus through our “My Learn” interface.
I was a bit disappointed with our presentation, which was conducted as a plenary session, because it did not spark the dialogue I was hoping for. Of course, it could have been that we were down right boring and the conference attendees were anxious to move on to the next session!
After the presentation I spent some time “networking” ( the real reason we come to conferences, of course) and it turned out that there was some interest in what we had to say. Or were people merely being polite? I was asked if my notes could be distributed, but these were a barely legible scrawl penned during my nearly three hour journey from Dunedin to Auckland – with lots of thought, of course! I must say, I would rather have stepped off the plane in Rarotonga or Melbourne or anywhere else other than Auckland that a three hour journey can get you to. Have you ever reflected on how Air New Zealand scales down the size of the plane so that any sector you choose to fly takes at least an hour. I am sure there is a strong economic justification for this, but how I long for a Lear jet service!
But I digress. I resolved to post my notes on this blog ( cleaned up a little) and to email the link to those who were interested in the TANZ experiences. First of all, I backgrounded where TANZ had been and where it was going – pretty much what I wrote about in my last blog posting. In short, TANZ is moving from a project oriented approach to collaboration to one which will embrace shared services, a common programme portfolio, co-development of programmes and co-teaching/co-delivery. Of course, this will not happen over night, and not without a lot of energy, focus and compromise. More importantly, it will not happen if we do not get a high level of buy in from our respective staff. That is the essential difference from our project driven approach, whereby projects could sit alongside our core business, rather than being an integral part of how we operate.
I then outlined why TANZ has been so successful (relatively speaking) with our collaborative efforts to date. Collaboration is simply not easy – it costs in terms of time, energy and resources. In my view our success can be attributed to:
-shared values. Whilst each TANZ organisation has its own organisational culture we all believe that we will all be better off from collaboration rather than competition .And so will learners! Some ITPs just do not see it this way!
-a willingness to give up some institutional autonomy, and to compromise on our preferred ways of doing some things. Our academic harmonisation project is an example of this, and a specific instance is our approach to recognising prior learning. At Otago Polytechnic we are prepared to accept that someone could have learned all that we have to teach in a particular vocational area through their various life and work experiences. Others do not currently accept our view and place limits on the proportion of a qualification that can be gained through RPL processes. In a collaborative model we will find common ground, which means someone has agreed to give up their position. Not easy!
-an openness and transparency about what we are each doing and what we are planning on doing. This means sharing our organisational strategy – not a smart thing to do if you are competing.!
- and this means that there must be a very high level of trust –trust that information shared will not be misused.
-a willingness to share. The TANZ creed is “ what is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine”. We willingly hand over our programmes, courses and resources to our collaborative partners. The benefits are obvious.

There is a point to all of this, of course ie our policy makers need to take on board that we are not going to create a “network of provision” over night. Collaboration is not a quick route to some efficiency nirvana. The chance of some mega sector collaboration are about zero. What we need is a policy and funding framework that supports multiple collaborations like TANZ, and which facilitates the sharing of what such collaborations learn, and the benefits which accrue.

My final points were about the future of TANZ in a world characterised by more and more e learning – whether that be through pure on line learning approaches, or those involving various delivery blends. Currently we have a policy nonsense in my view – one which seeks to restrict e learning to regional delivery. The simple truth is that ITPs are not permitted to enrol learners for on line delivery if they are not resident in the particular ITP’s region. Surely this misses the point about the value which on line learning can bring to tertiary education? I ask how a learner’s choice to enrol with a provider in another region is any different from that same learner packing his/her bags and moving to another region to study?
Putting aside whether or not the policy makes sense, it is none the less TEC policy. The TANZ approach is not to compete with each other and to work within policy where we can. To that end we are evolving a shared delivery model whereby we agree either to support a partner institution delivering in our respective regions because that makes sense eg if total volumes of learners are low, so it is efficient for there to be only one provider; or to share the enrolment. Our model is based on sharing revenues according to the value which different players add to the delivery value chain. This chain has three broad components: teaching (approx 60% of value), enrolment and admin ( approx 20%) and learner support ( approx 20%). An approach like this allows for two or even three providers to be involved, and to be rewarded for their particular contribution. Of course, where the e learning market is of sufficient volume our TANZ protocols may well see each partner delivering exclusively in their own region.
There is much food for thought here for our policy makers to contemplate, which brings me to my final point – about how policy is formulated. Right now we have officials in the central agencies devising policy and putting it out to the sector for feedback. Unfortunately that approach inevitably comes with a high level of central agency ownership of what they have developed, with a reluctance to change. How good would it be if we developed policy collaboratively? This would require quite different ways of working than we have now, but worth a try I believe.

Enough of e fest – time for the ethical dilemma. At Otago Polytechnic we have a requirement that our lecturers get feedback on their teaching from students each year. Ours is a development focused model, which leaves the lecturer in charge of the feedback data. Our belief is that our staff are professionals and they will take on board “negative “ feedback, and act to improve their practice where it is apparently wanting. I like this model!
Our process is centrally supported ie we use standard on line feedback questions which are automatically summarised and analysed . Staff are guaranteed confidentiality. But recently the administrator of our on line service came across feedback that was dreadful to say the least – a lecturer with poor skills but apparently terrible attitudes to learners. He raised the case with his manager, taking care not to reveal any details which would identify the lecturer. The manager has discussed the situation in principle with me. Hopefully the dilemma is apparent. Should any action be taken? Two principles are in conflict – the rights of the lecturer versus the rights of our learners. It is probable that the lecturer is doing harm to the classes he/she is responsible for! The case has exposed a flaw in our model, and I am inclined to adjust our policy to allow action to be taken – not retrospectively of course. I am interested in hearing what others think about this one.


Leigh Blackall said...

Interesting dilemma Phil.

When I was in primary school I used to get into an average school boy number of fights. Many of them were at the instigation of the usual boys asserting themselves through learned violence. To e, it was obvious that the fights were started by 'bullies' and I was always dismayed when the principal who intervened would ask, "Leigh, what did you do to start this fight?" At first, I hd no answer except to say that I did not start the fight. But he persisted, as he required one answer from me - one of reflection beyond just-us justice.

I guess to some level it is inevitable that some teachers in our org will cross the line from time to time. It could be that the teacher in your dilemma is in the middle of some terrible personal business, or is simply going through one of the many "rights of passage" that our less than perfect education sector tends to put people through. There are a few good support services available to employees that could probably be promoted more - such as free counseling services.. and there are some professional training opportunities available through EDC, but I'm afraid to say that undertaking teacher training (and in this case it might be quite basic training needed) during periods of work stress can only add to the problem, because we require our teachers to undertake their training and fit it in with everything else - despite the official time release accounted for individual development. Would be great if our teachers got more opportnities to be put up in SkyCity rooms for a night or two :)

To my mind, if the situation is cut and dry requiring disciplinary action, then it should be taken. But there is no feedback system that will capture the full story, or workplace that is genuinely interested in the full story. But a slow and careful process of inquiry and reflection should be undertaken, perhaps engaging all relevant services. My personal goal would be to bring the teacher (and student perhaps) to a point of self discipline. "What did you do to start this fight?"

Just an opinion.

phil said...

Thanks Leigh for your views. The lecturer in question clearly now has the feedback that his/her behaviours (mainly) and skills (in part) are unacceptable to the learners on the receiving end of the "teaching". But the teacher's manager does not have that feedback, and the learners remain in the hands of the lecturer who is currently letting them down.The lecturer may seek help and guidance and effect positive change in his/her practice. Then again, he/she may not. What harm is then done before students complain and thereby trigger a management intervention.
The dilemma here arises because we have a lecturer feedback model that does not allow for intervention by the head of school unless the lecturer shares the feedback data.
I agree with you that a careful enquiry of the situation is needed, and I do not see this as a disciplinary issue. My concern is to help the lecturer change, so that our learners get a good service. And I take issue with you that there is no workplace interested in the full story - Otago Polytechnic definitely is!!!
By the way, I am not that enamoured with "training" fix ups in situatiions like this. Rather, I favour a coaching/mentoring approach which does not overload the lecturer in the way you describe.

Leigh Blackall said...

Yes, training is not ideal I agree, but then mentoring and coaching takes a lot of time when e factor in the trust needed to be built before such a interaction could be effective.

It is great to hear that Otago Polytechic is interested in the full picture that may underlie a situation, but policy and implementation can be miles apart. Genuine interest in a full picture to any situation once again requires trust for it to be effective. But is is good that there is no policy in the wy of people resourcing such support for each other.

I am aware of situations as you describe - mainly because I read student blogs from time to time. Apart from the idea of decentralising teacher responsibilities and their students expectations of them, perhaps we could offer more than one channel for feedback. Student blogging is one informal mode, ratemyprofessors.com may be another informal. I think the student association offer formal channels for both negative and positive feedback, and there have been instances of students arranging their own forum with the HOD.

But the defensiveness if many teachers, the under exploited student resources that could help fix the problem, and the risk of undermining trust between staff and between staff and students when acting on feedback can all be barriers to improvements.

It is very difficult to tease this out with out talking about specifics - but that's my own short coming.

In relation to the general scenario you put up, it seems to me that part of a solution is to address the idea that the teacher needs or should be the expert. If our teachers were encouraged to network - and where necessary had resources to call in experts, then I think the role of our staff will shift to facilitator, and feedback will be more about their ability to facilitate access to experts when needed.

willie campbell said...

thjis business of hidden feedback is of concern.
IF a lecturer is getting consistently poor feedback in a praticular area, then something positive is needed. where that lecturer is keeping all this quiet, nothing that can move foreward is liekly to happen and it becomes a them and us situation.
I suspect also that where students take their concerns and perceptions to another part of the polytechnic such as opsa, or the mature student support group, the dilemma there is how to bring the perception if strong enough into a more open forum where thos inline of "complaint" can at least look at the statements and consider their response.
In either case, hiding is tantamount to conspiracy and may lead to a witchhunt.

Anonymous said...

ethical dilemmas alright

The administrator has definitely crossed a line. I hope they don't have access to other confidential data and needs to have some serious training.

no - I am not kidding

phil said...

In response to anonymous, the administrator has definitely not crossed any line. Indeed, his behaviour has been highly ethical - raising a matter of concern but doing so in a way that has not breached the confidentiality of the lecturer concerned. I think that anon could benefit from a little professional development him/herself - in ethics!

And I must say I prefer not to engage in dialogue with anonymous contributors to this particular blog - I have already provided a forum for that type of communication ie Polyears.

And Leigh, I feel I must respond to your second comment as well - you do seem to hold somewhat mistrustful views of management . Why is that? The world certainly needs its critics, but if we are to improve it we also need critics who will be party to the improvements. As a staff developer in our Educational Development Centre how do you think EDC could help staff, knowing that the situation I have described is probably not an isolated situation? How could EDC be more proactive?
I do agree that we should have multiple channels for students to give feedback, but I am not convinced that rateyourteacher type websites are an improvement on what we have got. The potential for the disaffected to do enormous damage is high - both to the esteem and the reputations of teachers who might be unfairly "bagged". And here at OP we very much appreciate the role which our students association (OPSA) plays in helping students provide feedback. Also, students organising their own feedback processes would be great.

Sarah Stewart said...

The whole issue of student feedback really interests me. I would be really concerned if the mechanism for feedback was changed as a knee-jerk reaction to one or two isolated cases. I must admit that I do not support your idea of ratetheteacher.com, Leigh. I don't think that is a constructive way of giving feedback. At the same time, lecturers can be very vulnerable to student feedback - much rides on it including promotion. But students can be one-eyed at times - I've done it myself - they can give very destructive feedback based on nothing more than what than they hate your dress sense. Yes, I absolutely agree that students must have a voice, but at the same time, we must make sure that teachers are not being penalized for feedback that can be the result of other things going on for the student. I am really interested to hear what others think.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

Thank you Phil for sharing your notes and insights about TANZ which you prepared for the eFest plenary. I totally agree about the silliness of policy which restricts eLearning to regional providers. It would be good to see the ITPNZ forums - eLearning and Academic - and TANZ groups working together with the University eLearning Directors Group to lobby MoE about this policy.

A collaborative open education model would get round this to some extent - people "taste before they buy", then enrol in their regional institution to obtain credit. All participating organisations get a share of the $.

your post about the ethical dilemma is very interesting. There are several things at stake here:
1. students must have an avenue to give formal feedback about the teaching they receive and know that if something is not good it will be fixed.
2. Our annual performance review process should pick up the chinks in a teacher's performance.
3. In which case if our system is working, there was no need for the administrator to alert a manager who may now be causing problems for any lecturer he/she suspects does not "cut it". Hopefully the said manager is very effective and does regular performance reviews.
4. If we have all our teachers engaged in an inquiry-based model of reflective practice (good points Leigh) the poor feedback can be turned into something positive (as Willie says)but this can only happen if the lecturer feels supported.
In which case mentoring and coaching (as Leigh suggests) is more likely to be accessed.

I would not like to see a situation such as one which occurred for many years at a university where I studied and then worked. Each new batch of students was subjected to dreary, boring and incomprehensible lecturing by someone who was brilliant in the discipline, but had no interest in being a good teacher. The lecturer consistently got poor feedback every year and no-one ever did anything about it.

I think our students will formally complain if nothing happens esp if they fail, which is a pity because then the person's teaching will be subjected to disciplinary action and there will be no hope of getting the teacher to engage in reflective practice.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

here is a good book I recently came across about how to promote reflective practice. What is good about it is the activity sheets and the classroom examples (creative writing)of how reflective practice helped improve teaching and learning. .."Practical activities promote authentic, active learning through inquiry, peer interaction and reflection." It is available from the Bill Robertson library.

McCann, T., Johannessen, L., Kahn, E., Smagorinsky, P. & Smith M. (Eds)(2005). Reflective teaching, reflective learning: How to develop critically engaged readers, writers and speakers. Heinemann:Portsmouth, NH. Call no. (EDU) LB1631.R332 2005

phil said...

Bronwyn's first comment has made me realise that I was not clear about who the administrator alerted about the "ethical issue". He did not alert the lecturer's manager, and to do so would be, I agree, an ethical breach. Rather, he alerted HIS manager ( a member of our Leadership Team) who discussed the matter with me as an important policy issue. I trust that clarifies.

Leigh Blackall said...

Well Phil, what can I say? I'm pretty sure I am party to improvements and try hard to correct the things that I criticise.

Mistrust? Not really. Almost all the managers I know are quiet trustworthy people, but I do distrust hiearchial and silo systems that tend to over write such personal attributes at times, and evidently lead some of us into political scheeming and closed communications, or at least disconnectedness. I wonder why someone felt the need to comment anonymously?

How can EDC be more proactive?

What we do already is monitor all staff blogs and pick up on any student blogging, as well as the various online courses as much as we can (closed courses are not possible). If we see anything that looks amiss, we offer assistance or bring things to the attention of others who could or should take notice. Until we have a general practice of openness and safe disclosure, it is hard to intervene on things we only hear about through whispers.

We also work hard at developing trusting relationships with staff (to such a point where we sometimes witness inappropriate or confusing action by managers) so that we may be a go-to person at any time staff need help. To that end, I get phone calls at all times of the day and night, and Instant Messages at any time I am online. Thanks to this form of communication, I have been able to collect all manor of feedback that shows this.

We run an email forum that to date has been quite successful for a relatively small number of staff - we could carefully grow this so that it is useful to more staff, but it doesn't take long before we land a couple of trolls who tend to ruin the constructivness of the forum - such as anonymous could do.

What could we do more of? Well, there isn't much free time left, but Mike Wardell suggested that EDC make ourselves known to staff through the various department meetings. I think this would be worth doing, but I wonder why department heads and group managers are not inviting us if they know of a need? Certainly there have been instances of individual staff initiating it for their colleagues.

What do you think we should do more of? How do you think we could help in this situation?

phil said...

Thanks Leigh for clarifying that it is systems rather than managers that you see as the problem - that is am important distinction. I would have to agree with you that we should hold a healthy mistrust of systems, and to recognise that they are usually designed for the "masses" and do not always serve individual needs, the latter being so diverse. Actually, the worst systems are those that are designed for the lowest common denominator, and are usually characterised by requirements that imply a low level of trust.I think we have some of these and would be keen to hear where people think they are!
So, if it is systems that are the problem, then how do we improve them, and in particular the one we have for student feedback?
What more could EDC do to help teachers who might be struggling, or who get poor feedback? I nreally need to know exactly what it is you do now, but does it include "advertising" your services to lecturers eg along the lines of " so your student feedback isn't so good, we can probably help". This could be done quite publicly, and that would be a signal that it is OK to talk about these things. Your services could be promoted by direct marketing by sending a flyer to every staff member who is about to get student feedback, or after the fact just at the point in time that a lecturer might be trying to come to terms with what students have told them. All this would require is some coordination with the feedback administrator.I think EDc could also set up some peer coaching groups, initially facilitated but with a view to becoming self managed.and I hope when you witness either lecturer or management behaviour which you feel is not right that you do something about that! I see EDC as a potentially pwerful force for building a more open culture at OP.
I am keen to hear other views on all of this.

Clare Atkins - NMIT said...

thank you Phil for this posting. Air New Zealand chose to cancel my flight from Nelson even though the journey usually fits nicely into your one hour average slot :) Consequently I missed your plenary and so it was really useful to be able to read your thoughts on TANZ.
I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the nonsense of restricting online learning to regional provision. Clearly this is constraining the sector in fully exploiting the potential collaboration that blended delivery can bring. As the use of virtual environments for education grows this impossiblity of the current constraints will become even more obvious I think. I find it quite strange to consider that if I was offering a course fully delivered in Second Life (and that time may not be so far away!)that I would have no problem enrolling a student residing in China or the UK or Kaikoura but be unable to enrol one from Gore!
Keep up the blogging and I shall look forward to keeping up with your thoughts.

Terry Marler said...

Great debate here and thanks Phil for setting the ball rolling. I'm sure that you are aware that the staff developers in EDC do quite a lot of one-on-one mentoring of individual lecturers, sometimes at their own request and sometimes at the instigation of their manager. This process usually begins with a facilitated discussion with all three parties which results in an agreed plan of action over the next few weeks or months. The results of this plan will often affect the outcome of a performance review.
I'm not sure if we are mature enough for complete transparency. A poor evaluation is difficult to separate from personal issues for many of us. But I do agree that EDC could be more upfront about the services we offer, and "iterating towards open-ness" can only be a good thing. But I would be sad to see the individual lecturer's right to seek help - or not- taken away. Surely most teachers are in it because they love teaching, and if it's not going well would choose to seek help. Or am I being naive?
Cheers, Terry

phil said...

Good to hear from you Terry and Clare.
Terry - yes, I am aware of all of the one to one work EDC does, and the feedback that filters up to me says you all do a very fine job.
I am appreciating this discussion around teacher feedback, but I hope new contributors follow the whole thread - else it is easy to misconstrue what we are each saying, or not saying!
I am not advocating a move away from teachers taking responsibility for their own feedback processes, and for any action that such feedback suggests should be taken. Rather, I am thinking aboiut how we might address those situations where the teacher should change, but chooses not to, or where the feedback is so poor that there might be an unreasonable risk in doing nothing. I do not think anyone has a right to continue to practise poorly!And what I am in favour of is trying to head problems off at the pass, so to speak. Which is why I have raised theoption of greater visibility for this issue, and more proactivity by EDC. Also, we will only have a more open culture by being more open. We have to live it, not talk about it.

Rae hickey said...

Re: student feedbaqck / ethical dilemma:
The positive aspect of the student feedback process is that it supports us in taking responsibility for managing our own professional development and I really appreciate that level of autonomy over my work. It makes me feel valued and sends a message that I am a competent self manager. I am assuming that the majority of staff would be uncomfortable enough with negative feedback to want to take action to improve? Can we not be trusted to do that?
Could there be other processes that capture bad practice that is ongoing? Seems a shame to close off the positive aspects of treating us like professionals in one forum - to deal with or manage the few(?) who may need intervention.
How else can poor performance be observed? Aren't there other indicators too to balance the student feedback against? It will be part of a fuller picture. Perhaps if those indicators look suspicious - the student feedback could be requested by the manager for review? This would need to be a documented step in the process so staff are aware it can be used in this way.
I don't think it fair to initiate this step without prior notice that it may occur - you would risk losing the trust of too many staff.
Perhaps what this has shown is that there needs to be a new step in the process?

Sarah Stewart said...

Phil, have you spoken to students about what they feel is an effective way to give feedback?

Glenice Mayo said...

As a first time reader of your blog Phil, and a first time contributor to any blog! I have really enjoyed the dialogue which has been promoted. The student feedback issue is one which has always been really important to me and is a huge contributor to a reflective learning environment, for both learner and teacher. One of the strongest statements I remember from early in my teaching career was that it was a sign of strength to be able to acknowledge that something needed to be improved and to ask for help. Identifying that something needs to change, then talking and sharing that something in a reflective and positive way with colleagues can enhance the capability of all involved. What a great learning environment we would have if we could talk with each other about ways to do things differently.
While I have plucked up the courage to enter something into your blog, I want to thank all the people who have been involved with the Quality Improvement Team presentations - they have been prepared to talk about and share experiences with others - the energy which has come from these sessions is great for Otago Polytechnic learning environment and I am sure is on its way to improving our teaching and learning capability.

Leigh Blackall said...

Agreed Glenice, the presentations are having an impact. Well done with that and keep it up. I hope it will grow to encompass as much as interesting stuff as possible.

It would be great if the presentations could be recorded and documented ofr those like me who never seem able to make it. Perhaps a job for a marketing unit person to capture the stories as best as possible.

Next you'll be telling me that is already happening and that there is a blog and Youtube channel for it! That'd be right, I am having trouble keeping up with all the good stuff happening around the Tech

Sarah Stewart said...

I am really enjoying the sessions, Glynis. As much as anything, they are a wonderful opportunity for getting to know people you wouldn't normally even meet.

Glenice Mayo said...

Thanks Leigh - yes - Marketing are writing up each of the presentations, also audio and video clips are available. At the moment they are stored on Polybase and can be accessed by any staff member. We are looking forward to Polybase developments to make these more visible.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Glenys, could these resources be put in a more open forum like wikieducator - I'm sure there'd be teachers all over the place who'd appreciate such great resources.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

I am impressed with the interest people across disciplines are showing in the presentations organised by the Quality Improvement Team as well. People essentially do want to be good teachers and really care about their students. Putting the emphasis on teaching rather than specific areas such as eLearning or flexible learning is far better - it gives people permission to get involved.

I too would like to see the events available afterwards and some collegial discussion around the topics being shown continuing.

There is already a collegial network which people can join called networked learning - to subscribe go to - http://groups.google.com/group/

It will not suit everyone of course but it is a lively forum about teaching and learning using networked technologies. People share ideas and help each other.

Lest we forget, however, I would like to remind people about the energy a lot of people put in to the elearning and flexible learning forums, although the numbers showing interest was smaller than for the current teaching forums, there was enough of a critical mass to forge the way for our organisation's current status in the sector in online and flexible teaching and learning.

And lets not forget the departmental forums which have been running for years around teaching and learning - perhaps these could be made more open so more people participate.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

I would really, really like to see people having to provide evidence of reflective practice in their teaching by developing an e-portfolio (blog, wiki, whatever)which is used in performance review AND demonstrates critical reflection.

Yes we need to move away from the box under the bed to the e. EDC can certainly help with this, and already there are people doing this and others thinking about it.

How great would it be for Otago Polytechnic if people looking at what we are doing could explore people's e-portfolios rather than just look at a list of publications.

Leigh Blackall said...

Agreed Bron (of course).. Personally I am hoping that as Phil's blog matures it will serve as a significant reference point and role model for those who look to the CEO for leadership. Having just been through a salary review, all I can say is - what a broken process that is!

phil said...

I have really enjoyed and appreciated the discussion on this blog, which has helped to clarify my thinking. I absolutely agree with Rae that we should not lose the essential element of our current feedback process, which is the underpinning assumption that teachers are professionals and will do the right thing. And we will not be changing that. I agree that there is scope for an additional and separate process.
In reply to you Sarah I have not personally asked students about the feedback process, at least not since I have been at OP. However, I am in the process of setting up an email feedback channel for students to communicate directly with me and our Leadership Team. This will be the student equivalent of Polyears, and I have chosen this medium for now because we are keen to encourage students to use their emails, which will be an increasingly important means of communication with them. Over 80% of our students are using the new email system, which is really heartening. I will also encourage students to engage through this blog.
It was a great privelege Glenice that your first ever contribution to a blog was to this blog - and can I say publicly that the work you and your Quality Improvement Team are doing is fantastic. Thankyou!!
Finally, Bronwyn, I would like to pursue the e-portfolio idea a little more, perhaps a lot more. I think I know what you are referring to, having used paper portfolios in teaching for some years, but do you have a link to a teacher's portfolio that is in the public domain?
Thanks everyone for the dialogue.

Sarah Stewart said...

I have made a start on an open ePortfolio: http://sarahstewart-eportfolio.wikispaces.com

But to be honest, I have got a little behind with it recently, and I haven't included much about my teaching. My aim is to use my blog for my reflections and incorporate people's feedback, and then link it into my ePortfolio.

What sort of things would you like to see in an ePortfolio, Bron?

Sarah Stewart said...

Phil: don't forget to add the widgets that help people subscribe to your blog. If you need a hand, just give a shout.

phil said...


Bronwyn hegarty said...

hello Phil
yes Sarah has a good example of how an e-portfolio can be put together using a blog and a wiki. Leigh also has one which uses a wiki and a blog (http://wikieducator.org/User:Leighblackall). I am working on mine.

Here is an example of a basic e-portfolio - no reflection: http://www.cust.educ.ubc.ca/wstudents/

Also one which has a personal narrative, however it is not relfective: http://www.west.asu.edu/icaxn/

They comes from quite a good site:

e-portfolios started out being places where information was stored for others to see, and little reflection on practice occurred.

Through the use of a blog as part of the portfolio, there is an opportunity for more reflection to occur. However it is not something practitioners do naturally to a deep/metacognitive level. Hence...

As part of my Doctorate research I am presently analysing the use of a reflective framework I developed to help people write more reflectively when preparing evidence for e-portfolios. See: http://wikieducator.org/

The framework is based on the raft of reflection research available.

Helen Barrett has also done a lot of work on setting up e-portfolios but does not really address strategies for writing reflectively. See:

Sarah Stewart said...

This whole business of feedback has been bugging me for days & I am coming to the stage where I am thinking that all feedback should be owned by the person giving it ie feedback given by students and colleagues should not be anonymous. If we are trying to encourage an open learning environment (in the very general sense), and open reflective practice, then I am not sure where anonymous feedback has a place.

Merrolee said...

Hi all
What a great post to get some interesting discussion going.
I've skimmed most quickly - but Sarah your final comment I can't agree with more strongly...

If we all were expected to 'own' our feedback then we would consider more carefully about what we put.

Students (not necessarily the youngest).. also need support/coaching on how to provide quality feedback (something we work on with students when providing feedback for the therapists who have supervised their fieldwork placements). Having seen a huge range of student feedback to supervisors over a number of years in the programme I can quite strongly assert that while most provide good feedback, others have needed to understand the difference between 'offloading' and providing quality feedback such that the recipient can make good use of it. And unfortunately, I have also seen this as a manager - in that I have seen the feedback provided by some students on course feedback forms which is not at all been constructive and thus useful for the lecturer(s) concerned.

So, if students owned their feedback and it was constructive this would make it easier for the individual to read, process and then utilise. Surely students should feel 'safe' to provide good constructive feedbac as we have good processes to ensure that students are not penalised for their feedback (moderated assignments, appeals for marked assignments.

And like the 360degree process... hopefully there are a number of mechanisms in place that would enable the lecturer's manager to know if one of their staff is a less than effective facilitator of learnign?

Leigh Blackall said...

Yeah, well, I don't know about this. If the power was balanced in the relationship between student and teacher - then I'd agree. But, for an under grad at least (and I have witnessed this) when they give feedback that is less than positive, they can all to easily suffer at the hands of a disgruntled teacher. I agree that anonymous feedback is unfair to a teacher - but as long as the teacher has control of the assessment and certification of a student, then I can't really see how else to go about it. Perhaps if the teacher was seperated from the assessment so that feedback could be mutually beneficial... (?)

meegs said...

I have been reading this debate and am finding it really interesting, I am really enjoying everyones views on different feedback strategies. The feedback situation is something that I also have an interest in, I agree that the students should have ownership of the feedback that they give, it would give some transparency to the whole feedback process. I also agree that some if not all students need to be taught about what constructive criticism is, I would also go so far as saying they may also need to be taught 'common house rules'. However at the same times can it be totally guaranteed that all staff are able to accept constructive criticism? Maybe that is something that needs to be taught as well. If a tutor has shown to the class that they are unable to accept any type of constructive criticism, what will endorse them to put pen to paper, or their name to it either, it would feel like putting a bullseye on your back.
Is there a middle ground here of putting the feedback forms online, and having the students sign in maybe their student ID? that will give them the ability to go home, to the student centre or open access suit and write up the forms. maybe close the loop on their as well for those who have participated in the feedback will then recieve the results of the feedback loop?
just a thought, not sure if it would be viable though.

phil said...

It would be great if students could "own" their feedback, but I agree with Leigh on this one - the power imbalance between lecturer and student is just too great. I have even heard OP staff complaining about their teachers ( in courses they are taking elsewhere) but adamant they would not identify themselves in the feedback process - because they did not want to put their grades at risk!
If we want an open culture we really will have to work very hard at it. That will include staff owning their feedback to colleagues and managers!! Is this really possible?

marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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