Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Teaching Portfolio

A Teaching Portfolio
Cecilia Boklin
School of Life Sciences and Chemical Technology
Ngee Ann Polytechnic 535 Clementi Road, Singapore 599489

This teaching portfolio is intended for my professional development in education. In this portfolio, I will share my teaching philosophy and my approaches in lesson delivery. As this portfolio showcases my development as a lecturer, it will be updated as and when I discover, experiment and reflect on new teaching strategies and approaches. This portfolio also includes the student feedback as the outcome of the effectiveness of my teaching method. I also present my teaching goals in this portfolio. 

Teaching Roles and Responsibilities
I am currently teaching Veterinary Bioscience diploma students in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. To date, I have been teaching for approximately 8 months; since December 2, 2013. My students are animal lovers and enthusiasts. They have very strong interest in the well-being of animals and most of them inspired to pursue Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) bachelor degree after completing the diploma in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The modules that I teach are:
  1. Animal Welfare, Behaviour and Handling (Level 1.2, 23 students)
  2. Animal Developmental Biology and Genetics (Level 2.2, 25 students) 
  3. Wildlife Conservation and Biodiversity (Level 1.2, 23 students)
  4. Clinical Diagnostics, Surgical and Veterinary Practices (Level 2.2, 25 students)
The module syllabus are as followed:

Animal Welfare, Behavior and Handling

Animal Developmental Biology and Genetics

Wildlife Conservation and Biodiversity

Clinical Diagnostics, Surgical and Veterinary Practices

Student Development and Support Activities
  1. Advisor to two batch of students (2V02 - 25 students and 1V02 - 23 students)
  2. Veterinary Bioscience Final Year Project supervisor for 3 projects (Level 3 - 6 students)
  3. Internship Coordinator for Veterinary Bioscience 4-month Local Internship Program
  4. Student Development Workshop Coordinator - Currently organizing two workshops for Veterinary Bioscience students (Study Skills Workshop for Level 1 Veterinary Bioscience students and Customer Service Workshop for Level 2 Veterinary Bioscience students)
  5. Educational Trip Coordinator for Veterinary Bioscience Year 1 students - Currently organizing the study trip to Malaysia on 7 to 10 October 2014.

Other activities that support learning and teaching
  1. Presented a talk in School of Life Sciences and Chemical Technology staff session during the safety week - "Safety With Animals - We Don't Bite".
  2. Interviewed in Mediacorp ScienceQuirks TV program entitled "The Digestive System of A Snake".
  3. Veterinary Bioscience representative for the Compulsory Student Orientation Program 2014.
  4. Veterinary Bioscience representative for the Scholarship and Awards Panel 2014.
  5. Veterinary Bioscience representative for the Open House 2015.
  6. Veterinary Bioscience representative for the School of Life Sciences and Chemical Technology Red Camp 2014.

Teaching Philosophy and Goals
I strongly believe that it is my responsibility as a lecturer to nurture the students' potential by providing a positive environment for them to develop an open mind and grow their knowledge and skills.
Well said, Mr. Forbes. -A photo by TakePart.com
My goal is to equip the students with both support as well as positive challenges in my teachings. Ultimately, I desire to see the outcome of my teachings, not just in the form of feedback and examinations or assessments, but mostly their further achievements in university and future career. I believe that the success of a teacher is reflected by the success of the students.

What motivates and inspired me to be a lecturer?
My previous job as a veterinarian (Wildlife Veterinarian for 4 years and Small Animal Veterinarian for 3 years) has equipped me well with interesting experiences, knowledge and stories that I can share with the students in the modules that I teach. During my previous job, I did many conservation programs and also supervised veterinary research students as well as veterinary internship students. I managed to build good rapport with these students, and this motivates me to believe that I can do the same with a larger number of students and on a daily basis. Hence, I choose to become a lecturer.

What is my personal definition of a great lecturer?
A great lecturer is able to convey a clear, confident, effective and engaging lecture, as well as able to generate curiosity in students for any topics to be taught. A great lecturer is a teacher who can provide information that the students could not learn from simply reading up on the lecture topic. Practice and experience are important to become one.

What do I believe about learning and teaching?
I believe that as a lecturer, my ability to teach should be judged based on students learning. Having said this, some students can, and will learn in spite of having a bad teacher. Some students will not learn even with the best teacher around. From my point of view, learning and teaching are two complementary processes that require some amount of effort by both learners and teachers.
Google image

What does learning look like when it happens?
During my previous job, I spent a lot of time interacting with animals and learning about them. In animal kingdom, when learning occurs, interaction takes place, a set of behavior or task is shown based on their needs and may be culturally transmitted in the animal group or population. When learning happens, the set of behavior can be expressed by many individuals within the same population (within and between generations). Now working as a lecturer, I find that the interaction (or communication) is more towards effective sharing or imparting of knowledge and skills that I have learned to the students that I teach. When learning occurs, I can see the eagerness of the students during the lesson and even after the lesson ended, especially when I can relate the essential and interesting part of the lesson with the application in veterinary field.
Dog handling practical. A Veterinary Bioscience Year 1 student is restraining a small dog while the other students are commenting on her techniques. 

When learning does not happen, what has gone wrong?
As learning and teaching requires both interaction and engagement, I would think that when learning does not happen, the communication between teacher and learner is not mutually established nor it is effectively working. It needs to be revamped.

What do I want my students to know and be able to do when they leave my module? What changes do I hope to see in students after taking my module?
A continuous keenness and positive curiosity for learning further about the related topics. I always tell my students that the Veterinary Field is vast, learning the modules that I teach is only a small effort compare to what awaits them out there. After learning my modules, I hope my students will explore the field and learn something new. Still about animals, but something new. It may open many doors for them.
Surgical Asepsis Practical with Veterinary Bioscience Year 2 students.

Teaching Approaches, Methods and Strategies
  1. I do incorporate conservative approach especially during tutorial where I have prepared notes and write important key points on the board. This approach is actually good as I can set my pace while the students are taking notes and thinking while writing. I ask questions to check if they understand what I teach. I also ask the students to give comments and prompt them to ask questions once in a while.
  2. Technology. For lecture, I use Power point presentation, MeL and relevant videos to enhance the students' understanding and also to provide interest trigger.
  3. Mini Project Experience. This experience will give students a shared responsibility as it involves mainly group work. I believe that this is essential as students can learn concepts better by carrying out the task on their own. However the projects must be relevant, integrated and hand-in-hand with the course material. I have a currently ongoing mini projects in two of the modules that I teach, Wildlife Conservation & Biodiversity and Animal Developmental Biology & Genetics.

Other strategies are included in my lesson plans as followed:

Animal Welfare, Behavior and Handling

Animal Developmental Biology and Genetics

Wildlife Conservation and Biodiversity

Clinical Diagnostics, Surgical and Veterinary Practices

Monday, June 2, 2014

Micro-teaching Reflections

April 3, 2014, the day I did my first ever micro-teaching. The task was rather daunting for me, as I have never actually taught adult group of students before. I received good feedback from my micro-teaching peers and a lot of ideas for improvements as well, most of which are suggestions on using more creative interest trigger and approach. I really value the comments they gave. Here's a screenshot from my micro-teaching video.

As I remember it, during the session, I was able to convey my content well. My pace was slow and easy to follow, and my voice tone was friendly and I showed my passion in the subject that I presented. I used a blank screen as a trigger to capture the attention of my students (my topic was extinction, the blank slide was just to symbolize it) and I thought that worked well. But during the feed back session, some of my micro-teaching peers actually mentioned that they thought the blank slides were unintentional technical problems and helping me to sort that out was what they had in mind.

Looking back at the video, I realized that my language command was not good, in fact it was far from good. I stuttered multiple times. There were times when I was out of words mostly due to nervousness. My pace was actually very slow in the beginning. I could have created a more interesting interaction with my students if I had delivered my lecture faster.

My experiences so far with the English level of my real students
Most of my Veterinary Bioscience Level 1 students have very good command of English. Some students actually volunteered to rephrase my questions during the lecture to help their classmates to come up with the right answer. When I paused to search for proper words to better explain a concept, my students sometimes ask questions or attempted to guess the words I was looking for. I find this helpful as I was able to grasp the attention of the class when their friends actively participated. They tend to give more input as well.

Attempts to improve my communication with my real students
I always started my class by asking my students, "HOW ARE YOU TODAY?". It helped me set the mood for the lesson. I also share interesting news of the day that I can relate to the lesson, if there is any. I am also teaching a Level 2 module (Animal Developmental Biology & Genetics) and another Level 1 module (Animal Welfare, Behaviour and Handling). I showed them videos on the histories of both topics during the break time (around 5 minutes break) and it really helped in setting the mood and grasping their attention for the following part of the lecture.

I also watched YouTube videos on lecture presentations related to my module and learned from the examples they used to clarify the important concepts. By watching the presentations, I learn to pause when necessary, walk around the class to interact with my students, have more eye contact, try different types of voice tones when I can, and try to improve my English by practicing proper diction.

Students' prior knowledge - "fake students" vs actual classes
My actual group of students have about equal knowledge when compared with my "fake students" when it comes to the wildlife subject despite the age gap. This is most probably because of the actual students' high interest in animals, so they tend to have the initiative to read and hence know more about this topic. I conducted the same micro-teaching lecture (but in 1 hour duration) to the actual students and when I asked them the same questions I asked during micro-teaching to my "fake students", the answers they gave were more or less similar. This showed that both group of students (fake and actual) were actually able to grasp the concepts that I delivered.

Students' command of language
I perceived that my "fake students" have very good command of language as they are adult learners. True enough, they actually are very good. For my actual students, I knew that their English is good (based on their O level results). As I have stated earlier, some of them are able to rephrase or rather simplify my questions to ease their friends in answering the questions.

Quantity and depth of contents
In my micro-teaching, the content that I delivered was rather small and was not covered in detail. I only managed to define some important terms and outline the key concepts, but no discussion was done due to time constraint. For my lecture with the actual students, I was able to create small discussion topics about each endangered species, and even showed more interesting and inspiring short videos about wildlife conservation works and we discussed as well as had healthy arguments based on that. Students were able to throw ideas about the ideal and the real-world wildlife management issues. I realized that by doing this, they were able to understand the concepts better and also analyzed the approach first before they discussed.

Tone and variation of voice
During the micro-teaching, I thought I was clear in my pronunciation. After watching the video, I felt that I was too slow in delivering the content especially in the beginning and if I had done it faster, I could have elaborated each key concept.

Confidence level
During the micro-teaching, I was very nervous. But in the video I actually looked more confident. In my actual class, I think I am more confident and able to project my voice (speak louder) when the need arises.

Body language
I moved my hand a lot while speaking, and it really shows in the video (refer to photo above). I do not know if this is good or should be avoided as I have no one commenting about this to me, as yet.

Use of humour
I am not good at cracking jokes as I am naturally a quiet person. Most of my jokes are in written form (as shown in my slides), but I only use this when I think it is appropriate. I need to improve on this aspect.

In my micro-teaching, I received good response from my "fake students". All of them actually participated. In my actual class, I received good response as well, and a student actually requested me to share my work experiences (I worked as a wildlife veterinarian before), which I did and I think this was a good interest trigger.

Percentage of times "students" spoke during the class
About 30% of the time in my micro-teaching (approximately 3 minutes out of the 10 minutes) - when I asked them questions. In actual class, my students were more interactive, they raised their hands and stopped me in the middle of my lecture whenever they have questions. We also have group discussions towards the end of each lesson.

Overall, I think I did well during the micro-teaching but a lot of things need to be polished too. I plan to improve by practicing before lecture, be more well-prepared, be more confident and lecturing in a slightly faster pace. I would also like to try to do more creative approaches of teaching (using props or tech aids).
Creating more learner-centered approach is also one of my aims and I will start by finding activities that can be suitable for the contents. My other aims are to improve on time management, language skills and to build closer rapport with the students.